Despite my being a newbie here, yet a life member since 1997, I highly advise going the life member route. You can pay in installments which is hard but once you're a life member there are no more payments. I recall I had several payments of $75- but now being a life member the yearly hassle is no more. They print right on your card "Life Member".
Some posts will help pay toward this for new members which is worth looking into.