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Is it possible to get a gym-like experience at home on a budget? If you are one of many health-conscious people out there who, looking to cut back on costs, reluctantly canceled your gym membership, yes, there is a way to build a home gym on a budget.
First, let’s talk about the economics of paying for a gym membership and then we will dive into how to create that at home.
The costs of a gym membership
In my area, it’s not uncommon for a gym membership to cost around $35-$45/month for an individual membership and somewhere around $55/month for a family membership. According to other’s research, the average US gym membership is about $50/month. [source]
Let’s assume that average is a good statistic for where you’re at as well. Over a year, this means you would spend $600 to attend your local gym. Many gyms also have a sign-on cost (an unethical rip-off over nothing, in my opinion) of around $50.
So, let’s assume it costs you $650 to have a gym membership for your first year.
What about gas, though?
According to 2017 statistics, the average gym-goer travels 4 miles to get to their gym. [source]
We’ll assume that you’re paying $3/gallon in gas all year long and that you have a car that gets 30mpg. That means you’d spend $0.86 each round trip to the gym. Let’s also assume you go to the gym 3x/week. Now, each week costs you $2.40 in gas to get to and back from the gym. During the year (52 weeks), we’ll say you take two weeks off from the gym: one week for a vacation at the beach, another week for Christmas with your family. So, you’d have 50 weeks of gym travel, equaling $120/year in gas to go to the gym.
Add that to the yearly costs, and you’re looking at $770 for your first year at the gym.
So, how can I get a home gym on a budget?
You can save a ton of money by working out at home rather than working out at a gym. The catch here, though, is you have to have the discipline to work out at home. Too many people end up buying the gear they need only to let it collect dust in the corner of a room in their basement.
Self-discipline is necessary for at-home exercise equipment to be of any benefit to you. For those who have that discipline, here is a list of equipment I believe will give you the most bang for your buck for far less than $770.
Before investing in any of the following, be sure to check your local online marketplaces. You may be able to cut the costs of building your home gym on a budget even further.
A 20-30 lb. Kettlebell ($40)
A kettlebell opens up entirely new worlds when it comes to working out. Goblet squats, pistol squats, overhead squats, single-leg deadlifts, shoulder presses, kettlebell swings, floor presses, Turkish get-ups, and suitcase carries are just some of the options that a kettlebell will open up to you.
I typically recommend 20 lbs as a starting weight for females and 30 lbs as a starting weight for males. If you’re on the stronger side, you’re going to want to consider picking up a 40+ lb. kettlebell. There’s a bit of variety here, but a 30 lbs kettlebell costs roughly $40.
Below is a list of FREE workouts to help you get the “swing” of things:
- The 16 Best Kettlebell Exercises For A Total-Body Transformation
- 11 of the Best Kettlebell Exercises to Build Muscle
- Full-Body Kettlebell Workout for Beginners
- A Kettle-Bell Workout for Your Whole Body
Gymnastic rings ($30)
You will need something to hang these from, but these are one of my favorite pieces of gym equipment ever. There are very few other pieces of gym equipment out there that give you as many possibilities as gymnastic rings.
Ring rows, ring pushups, ring dips, pikes, Supermans, ring squats, assisted lunges, pull-aparts, bicep curls – all of these are options with an inexpensive set of gymnastic rings.
You don’t have to be a gymnast to use these! Never fear, below are a few links to FREE gymnastic ring workouts:
- Gymnastic Rings 101: A Beginner’s Routine & FAQs
- How To Start Training With Gymnastic Rings
- 14 Calisthenics Exercises on Gymnastics Rings
- Become a Ringer: Gymnastic Ring Training 101
A set of mini-bands ($18)
Perform Better is my favorite brand to use for these, and I’ve used them extensively with my personal training clients. I can do a host of glute workouts with banded bridges, clams, side steps, squats, fire hydrants, monster walks, and hip abductions with my minibands.
For the upper body, I mainly use them for triceps kickbacks and a limited range-of-motion band pull-apart. There are endless FREE resources on the internet for miniband workouts. Here are a few to consider:
- 10 Mini-Band Exercises for a Full-Body Workout
- The 21-Day Mini Resistance Band Challenge That Will Tone and Strengthen Your Entire Body
- The 15 Greatest Mini Band Workouts to Sculpt Your Physique
- The best resistance bands of 2021 — and a 30-day workout plan to put them to work
A quality jump rope ($8)
I steer clear of the weighted versions, preferring a high-quality traditional jump-rope instead. These take up little to no space and can give you a killer cardio workout in minimal time. If you use them inside, the only catch here is that you will need to have the ceiling space to get a full swing. For the most part, I use mine outside. If you are prepared and can handle colder weather, you can do it outside. A jump rope is an excellent piece of gym equipment to have.
Want to get jumping and skipping? Here are some fun and fantastic FREE jump rope workouts:
- 3 Jump Rope Workouts That Will Make You Love At-Home Cardio
- The Best Beginner Jump Rope Workout Routine
- The Best Jump Rope Workouts for At-Home Cardio
- Want to Lose Weight? Try This Jump Rope Workout for Beginners
(Optional) A stationary bicycle ($200-500)
Stationary cardio equipment is where the price of your at-home gym can fluctuate. There are several routes one can go with these. While rowing machines are an incredibly popular option, I would argue that the stationary bicycle and treadmill appeal to much of the population. I think the bicycle makes the most sense. If you have the money and desire to opt for a stationary bike, these can make an excellent addition to your at-home gym.
If you decide you want to add a stationary bicycle, I recommend looking for a quality brand. I’m a fan of Nautilus, Precor, Schwinn, and Life Fitness. These are well-known and respected brands. However, those can be quite pricey. There are several less expensive versions out there for around $200. Some of the cheaper versions don’t seem to hold up to heavy use as well as the quality brands do, but they get the job done. And again, a lot of cardio equipment is sitting in the basement of others gathering dust. You may be able to get high-quality gear at second-hand prices.
The final cost of a home gym on a budget
Without the optional cardio equipment added, an at-home gym costs all of $96.
That’s a one-time investment in gym equipment that will last you for a very long time. Compared to going to the gym for a year, working out at home with the above equipment can save you $674. Talk about a home gym on a budget!
And don’t forget that you’re not limited to what this equipment alone can offer you. You still have a wide variety of bodyweight exercises you can perform. Pushups, squats, bench dips, and bridges are just some of the options available to you. I’ve found no better book than Mark Lauren’s You Are Your Own Gym for those wanting to use their own bodyweight as a form of strength training. With the knowledge in that book combined with the above equipment, you have every thing you need to get that gym-like experience on a budget.
Are you ready to flex those money saving muscles?
It’s common knowledge that being fit and working out has many benefits, including managing stress. And, if you want to be fully prepared for what life may throw at you, being fit is one thing you shouldn’t slack on.
What are your thoughts on fitness at home? Are there other economical options you would add to your at-home workouts? Do you have anything to share about how working out at home saved you money? What are your tips for building a home gym on a budget? Let us know in the comments below!