How to Evaluate a Membership

Most people get many offers for various memberships. Health clubs, warehouse clubs, hobby groups, country clubs, alumni groups, auto clubs, and professional organizations all want us to be members. Unfortunately, very few clubs are free to join. Many come with hefty dues. While you’ll probably get some benefits from joining the organization, the main question you need to ask is, “Are the benefits enough to offset the cost of membership?”

Warehouse clubs, for example, offer better pricing for buying large quantities. Additionally, they may offer deals on travel, pharmacy, insurance, or electronics. Do your homework before you join and determine whether or not you can save enough money by using the benefits of the club to offset the membership fee. If you won’t use most of what they offer or if you know you can get better prices in other ways, you probably don’t want to join. It’s the same with auto clubs, health clubs, and professional organizations. Find out what benefits come with membership and then figure out whether or not you can get your money’s worth.

Here are some other things to consider when evaluating membership offers.

Do you get the same benefits from another organization already?

Automotive groups like AAA can really come in handy if you get stuck somewhere. However, you may already receive this type of protection through your insurance company or another organization that you’re already a member of. I learned this the hard way. After several years of having both AAA and a similar service dedicated to RV’s, I read the fine print on the RV policy. Turns out that I was covered under that policy in any vehicle I was driving, not just the RV. I ditched AAA and now use just the one membership. If you’re looking into any membership, make certain you’re not already receiving the same benefits elsewhere.

Will you use the membership?

Warehouse clubs and health clubs have their place, but if you pay to join and then never go back, you’ve wasted money. Professional organizations may provide great networking opportunities, but if the events are always scheduled for a time you can’t go, you’ll never see the benefit. Before you plunk down the money, make certain you can and will use the membership and it’s benefits. Many clubs and organizations offer visitor’s days or trial passes so you can see how things operate before you join. Take advantage of this if you can.

Are there intangible benefits that should be considered?

You’re most likely to run into this consideration when evaluating professional and social organizations. While you might be entitled to some discounts with your membership, the biggest benefits are likely to be intangible things such as networking opportunities, status in the community, or the prestige of having the organization on your resume. These memberships hare harder to evaluate. Ask around in your field to find out if the club you’re considering is valuable. If you can, go along to a meeting as a guest before you join to see who’s there and whether you like what they’re doing. Non-monetary benefits may be valuable in the long run, but only you can judge whether or not the particular organization can help you.

Do the benefits work for you?

Marketing brochures tout a lot of benefits, but many of them may not be available to you. A club that offers discounts to various stores is only useful if you have those stores in your area. A membership that allows you to play unlimited rounds of golf at the country club but only between the hours of 9 A.M. and noon doesn’t help you if you have a full time job. A membership in a timeshare community where you get two weeks of use each year makes no sense if you only get five days of vacation per year. Make sure that the benefits are something you can really use. They may sound great on paper but in reality you may not be able to use them.

Memberships can be fun and rewarding. However, many people join organizations and then never use or receive the benefits they paid for. Many people have multiple memberships that they never use or that overlap. This is wasted money. Do everything you can before you join a club to ensure that you will get the full benefits of membership and that you’re not already paying for something similar. You’ll enjoy your membership much more if you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.

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