Do Home Gyms Actually Save You Money? Differences Between a Home Gym & Gym Membership

We all wonder at some point if a home gym will save you money over a membership. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like it would. However, the true cost shows differently.

A home gym can definitely be more cost-effective over the long term than a gym. This can depend on the type of items you own in your gym versus how much your membership may be, but it usually holds true.

How did we come to that conclusion? We researched it all and put the costs down on paper. You’d be surprised by the difference.

Why Home Gyms Are More Cost-Efficient- and When They’re Not

We know choosing a gym can be a big task. We try to demystify it here for you. To begin with, let’s take a look at Taylor. Taylor wants to get in better shape to both lose those 20 pounds and to improve her health. Taylor knows she wants to focus on cardio, her arms, and overall body fitness. She likes a sauna but doesn’t need one, nor does she intend to take any Zumba or Kickboxing classes. Does she need to pay that much for all those extra features at a gym?

Remember also the extra costs of a gym- startup costs, yearly fees, all the hidden things that aren’t advertised upfront. There could also be early cancellation fees if you need to break your contract. You want to make sure you are looking at the entirety of your financial options before you make a decision that isn’t what you wanted to pay for. At least you control exactly what you put in your at-home gym and in which order you get them. There’s not much unexpected in setting it up. You do it all yourself.

Taylor tried out a few gyms but didn’t keep it up. They were all too expensive and a long drive from home. She wants to workout healthily wherever she is. She finds a cheap store to get some weights, takes a yoga mat from her mom’s collection, and sets up the spare room at home. She wants to go kayaking when the weather gets warmer, so she focuses on a lot of different arm exercises she learns free from YouTube.
Cost savings? What she paid was made up for in less than a month of the $110 gym membership she almost tried next. She paid $65 for her supplies that will last for years. She could buy a rowing machine for $200 in three months and still be saving money over the gym cost.

Your home gym could range from weights and a yoga mat to a deluxe, expensive room with all the latest machines of every kind. The fact of the matter is that you will want to customize your room to you. Don’t like rowing? Don’t get a rowing machine. Can’t live without ab workouts? Make sure you have machines or accessories to target your abs specifically. You can have anything from a ballet barre to a Peloton bike to a set of weights and a treadmill- or all of the above! That’s the beauty of a home gym. It’s customized.

Your choices mostly do depend on what YOU are looking for. Try this exercise: what do you want to improve the look of? Does your doctor state any areas of concern or weakness in your body? Always been annoyed by your flabby arms? Make a list of these things and see how you can buy or find that works for these specific concerns. There may be patterns that come together like cardio and leg strength- a step machine or treadmill would be great for both while keeping the cost manageable.

This could mean getting a treadmill or elliptical where you can control the machine’s strength yourself. But you might only want to de-stress and get more flexible and a bit stronger, which would basically equal a yoga mat and video and a few weights. The combination is up to you.

Both a home gym and an established gym has special perks as well- one of these may occasionally matter more than money to you. A home gym is private and requires zero commute time. However, established gyms offer social perks and motivation, as well as helping change your mindset as you travel to a new location. Some people need that to workout regularly. Others do better in their spare room or garage alone where they can focus only on themselves and exercise when they have a spare 15 minutes.

Now that you have an idea of what you want, you can look at costs. If you only need a handful of things and an old treadmill you rescue from your extended family’s attics, a few hundred for a startup cost would outweigh a $100 a month gym. However, you can also find cheaper gyms for as little as $10 a month. If it turns out you LOVE the option of a new machine for every set of muscles, it would be way more than a gym membership to buy all of these and maintain them. Keep in mind that a gym would have pretty much of all these machines you could want plus extra benefits like a sauna and personal trainers. Do you personally need all those machines and features? Be honest with yourself. And if the answer is yes, you have your choice made!

At What Price Point is a Gym Membership Worth it?

When you won’t pay off your home gym costs in a few years as compared to the same few years’ cost of gym memberships, it’s likely not worth it (unless you have the money to spare or prefer to not workout in public).

If your preferred home gym would cost $3500 with the sauna and machines, it may be a better idea for you to get a gym membership for $70 a month. You could go for a whole 50 months at the gym (4+ years) before you pay off that $3500 home gym, not including any maintenance, replacements, or upgrades you’ve made in the meantime.

However, a cheaper home gym is always worth it. Even $600 on a home gym would pay itself off over a $70 membership in just 8.5 months, not including any startup fees for the gym contract and any hidden fees.

What about the perks like saunas or classes?

You do have options. You can use by-the-day or by-the-use passes to go to gyms for the sauna once a week and meet others who help you workout. You could also buy your own home sauna (it’s expensive but lovely) or join a neighborhood running group to meet others. Also utilize outdoor classes in the park your city or town may hold regularly for cheap or free.

Which is Better During Covid or Other Outbreaks?

According to the CDC, people in gyms can become infected with Covid, as it’s spread through the air or through direct contact where a sick person had contact with, such as a gym machine. This is no surprise after so long of Covid. You will need to see what the CDC and your doctor say for your risk of Covid and any precautions you should take.

How Can I Save on a Home Gym or on a Gym Membership?

For the home gym, look for free or thrifted items. Go to garage sales and secondhand shops or ask on social media if anyone near you wants to get rid of something that’s just taking up space. Five Below, a shop where most items are $5 or less, also has a variety of inexpensive fitness items. Use YouTube or Fitness apps. There may be a weekly fitness class offered at your local community college for continued education that only costs $150 for 8 weeks. Lastly, you can also find inexpensive fitness machines on Amazon or other cost-effective or discount sites.

To save on a gym membership, there are options. See if your work or health insurance offers discounts or if there is a public option nearby run by your city. If you don’t need a huge gym, find a smaller one that may be cheaper. Look at chains like Planet Fitness that boasts a “judgment-free zone” and starts at only $10 a month. It doesn’t include tanning or all of the features, but it’ll get you into the basic gym environment.


As you can see, cost is not the only issue involved in choosing between a home gym and a gym membership, but it is a big one. A home gym can pay for itself within 1 month to 2 years but what matters as much is that it’s customized to you and something you will continue to do and be able to afford. Plan the costs for a few hours or days and then make your home gym! Now you have everything you need to workout healthily and happily.

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