Thursday, May 08, 2008

Avoiding Annual Membership Overload

Since our daughter joined our family, we've been consciously attending more local attractions (e.g. zoos, museums, parks) to provide a variety of experiences for her. As a rule, we will purchase an annual membership if the break even point is four or less attendances. However, this is causing us to grow the number of family memberships. Currently, we have annual memberships to the zoo, aquarium, natural history and children's museum, nature center, water park, a children's activity center, and Chinese adoptive family organization.

The annual memberships for the children's activity center and Chinese adoptive family group are low, at about $25 to $30, and covers only the initial membership. Optional activities are discounted for members and can be chosen on an individual basis. We will keep these memberships since the yearly cost is low and we usually do several of the additional activities.

The cost for the other memberships range between $58 and $123, for a total of $485. In ascending order of cost, here are the memberships: aquarium ($58, only for spouse and child), nature center ($70), museums ($115), zoo ($119), and water park ($123). Except for the aquarium, the memberships cover parking, which is typically $4-$6.

Here's how I had been thinking about the ranking the memberships:
  • Usage - All of the attractions get the minimum 2-4 attendances to payout the family membership with parking. The nature center membership gets the most use and the aquarium membership gets the least use. We have no data on the water park, since this summer will be our first year.

  • Quality - We think all the attractions cover their area well, both with regular and special exhibitions or events. The zoo, nature center, and museums have additional programs, which are discounted for members. So far we have only done the optional programs with the nature center.

  • Distance - All the attractions are within a 10 to 20 mile radius from our house, with the aquarium being the furthest and the water park the closest.

  • Enjoyment - We do enjoy the variety each of family membership provides. Each attraction offers different elements, which are educational, interesting or fun.

  • Overall, none of the ranking categories eliminated any membership. However, it still feels like five is our maximum number of memberships, and we may not be exploring other attractions as much. So we decided to take a very simple approach to managing the memberships by letting each membership expire, and then join again at the next visit. This has two benefits. First, we will have the opportunity to consider other attractions due to having a "membership slot" available. Second, if we rejoin, our membership time is extended since we won't be paying for the time between expiration and the next visit. Since there is no discount for renewing early, we are not penalized for rejoining later.

    For more on Crossing Generations, check back every Thursday for a new segment.

    This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

    Copyright © 2008 Achievement Catalyst, LLC


    marylandterps said...

    You should check to see if your zoo membership has reciprocal benefits.

    I have a $30 (zoogoer) zoo membership with the National Zoo in DC through FONZ and this gives me free or discounted admission to more than 100 zoos or aquariums. I don't even live in DC anymore and almost anyone can get this membership.

    It saves my family approximately $200 each year, depending on usage.

    Chief Family Officer said...

    I agree that too many memberships can be cumbersome, although if you really are using them all, they are really worth it. We have let a couple of memberships lapse because even though we got our money's worth from just a couple of visits each year, we really weren't enjoying the locations. Don't forget that if you travel, you might be able to use reciprocal membership to get in for free at museums, zoos and such at your destination.

    JHS said...

    Thanks for participating in this week's Carnival of Family Life, hosted at Write from Karen! Be sure to stop by on Monday, May 12, 2008, and peruse the other wonderful articles included in this week's edition!

    Super Saver said...

    @ Maryland Terps and Chief Family Officer,

    Thanks for the tip on reciprocal memberships. We'll be taking a couple trips this summer and will check if the reciprocal benefit is available for the destinations.