I don’t know about you, but when I think of summer, I think of swimming. I think of scorching hot afternoons spent floating in the crisp coolness of a pool, and I feel the tension melting away. Swimming and summer are definitely synonymous in my book.

Now that August 1st has arrived, many swim clubs across the country will be offering discounts for a pool membership. These prorated fees are designed to bring in new families with ultra-low rates, in hopes those who pay the discounted swim fees this year will become full-fledged members next year.

But with the end of summer fast approaching – I know, it feels like a blasphemy to even type that – is buying a pool membership really your best bet? Here’s the breakdown.

How A Prorated Pool Membership is Calculated

For years, I served on the board of directors for a private swim club in my area. Each August, we’d slash the pool membership price from $500 for a family pass to just a fraction of that. Here’s how we determined the prorated fees –

First, we’d look at the cost for the highest tiered family membership we offered that season – say $500. Then, we’d count the total number of days we were open that summer; this year, that number – spanning Saturday of Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day – was 101. We’d divide $500 by 101 to get $4.95 – that’s the average price per day of a family membership. Next, we’d multiply that by the remaining number of days in the swim season as of August 1st – this year, that’s 34 days, bringing us up to $168.30. Finally, we’d round that number up to the nearest $20 increment, giving us a grand total of $180 for our prorated pool membership.

Is That Prorated Pass Really Worth It?

By charging roughly $180 for the remaining 34 days of the swimming season, we’re charging each family $5 a day – but that assumes you’re going to come to the pool every day between now and Labor Day… and in reality, even the most water-loving family can get all pruny if they spend too much time in the pool.

Say instead you’re a family that likes to swim on the weekends and maybe one weekday evening a week – over the next five weeks, that means you’ll be hitting up the pool a total of 15 times, or about $12 per visit. If you can only make it to the pool on the weekends – for a total of 10 swims before Labor Day – it’ll cost you roughly $18 a visit based on that prorated membership.

Is that really worth your while?

Alternatives to a Pool Membership

If your family is one that enjoys a dip in the pool from time to time, but is unlikely to make it out more than two or three times a week, forgoing the pool membership and taking advantage of the aquatic options offered by many city park and recreation departments may be a better option for you.

For example, it’s easy to find a public park with swimming pool; in fact, the city I call home operates eight of them. The admission fees are broken down by age group and residence:

  • Youth City Resident (ages 5-12; kids 4 and under are free): $3/person
  • Youth Non-Resident: $5
  • Adult City Resident (ages 13-59): $6/person
  • Adult Non-Resident: $10/person
  • Senior City Resident (ages 60+): $4/person
  • Senior Non-Resident: $8/person

To take a family of two adults and two youths, it would cost a resident of my city $18 a trip to visit a park with swimming pool – that’s on par with the cost-per-visit of ten trips to the pool on a prorated membership. In other words, if you’re a family that only visits the pool twice a week, you’ll spend just as much on a standard prorated membership in my neck of the woods as you would to visit a city park and recreation facility.

When A Membership Really Pays Off

If you extrapolated these costs out over the entire swim season, you’d see that the family of four I used in my above example would see only nominal savings by purchasing a full-season pool membership as opposed to paying per visit at the public pool. Then what’s the point of ponying up for the membership in the first place?

There are several reasons why buying an end-of-season pool membership makes sense. Maybe your family will use the facilities three, four, five or more times a week, meaning you’ll save big bucks over daily admission rates. Or maybe you have a very large family, and having a family membership will reduce the costs of paying for every individual separately. Sometimes, pools offer discounts to returning members, helping you save money in the spring when it comes time to decide if you’ll be renewing your membership.

Reader, did you have a pool membership this summer? What did it cost you? Do you feel like it was a good value?