How to Build an Affordable Home Gym & Get Rid of Your Gym Membership

I’ve been to more than a few gyms over the years. I’ve never paid for a gym membership in my life and I don’t plan on it. Price is part of this, but even if it were free, I still don’t think I would have any interest.

The reasons behind my philosophy for this are:

  1. The more of a chore it is for me to go elsewhere (the gym) to exercise, the less likely I am to do it.
  2. I have no desire to use a bunch of complicated, unnatural equipment, covered in the sweat and germs of strangers.
  3. I’m already married, so one of the biggest benefits from a gym membership (meeting attractive, fit partners at a gym) is a non-starter.
  4. I have no desire to get totally “ripped” (mostly ripped would be suitable), therefore, most of my workout needs are met pretty easily in places other than the gym.
  5. I save money (the average cost of a gym membership is $58, while it’s estimated $39 of that goes to waste from under-use).
  6. I just don’t have the time: figure 15 minutes to drive there, 15 to park, 10 to change – that’s 40 minutes each way, and doesn’t even factor in waiting to use a machine.
  7. Gyms are disgusting germ factories – as we’ve seen with COVID-19 outbreaks.

Instead, I’ve opted for a combination of the following:

  1. While working, I was biking to work and back home (about 20 miles per week).
  2. I average 60 miles per week of biking from spring through fall.
  3. I spend at least 10 hours per week walking my dog. Adopting a high energy dog is about the best thing you could ever do for your health, I had found.
  4. I work out about half an hour, 3 times per week, using the 7-minute workout, that I highlighted plus some additional strength training.

The first three are fun and cover most of my cardio needs, at almost no cost. The last is the most challenging to get motivated for, but is needed to maintain and grow full body strength. And it’s the reason most people opt for a pricey gym membership.

If you absolutely love your gym, the price of membership, and how much use you get out of it, great. If you don’t, read on…

low cost home gym

Getting Rid of a Gym Membership

Justifying the price of something related to our health is fairly easy to do. Especially when it is something as wholesome as getting more exercise. For most people, however, I don’t think that is going to come in the form of a gym membership.

If I had a gym membership, for the reasons I’ve highlighted earlier, it would go to complete waste. Instead, I’ve created a tiny affordable home gym because it allows me to work out more and improve my health. It also saves me a ton of money, even with a bit of up-front investment.

A little investment in home workout equipment can go a long ways in getting you excited about ditching that pricey gym membership and getting an awesome workout at home.

Who needs a $58 monthly gym membership when you can get an awesome (albeit different) workout at home for the equivalent cost of a few months of gym membership dues – and then no more cost until you die or break the products you’ve bought?

Get ready for a rare occurrence on 20somethingfinance – me giving you some permission to spend (if you first get rid of your gym membership).

Building a Low-Cost Home Gym to Replace your Gym Membership

What kind of characteristics are important for piecing together a home gym? For starters, you need to be able to challenge yourself, yet have fun doing it, or you just won’t stick with it.

The items I’ll recommend, when paired with body weight exercises (e.g. the 7-minute workout), will present more than enough challenge for 99% of the population. And if you are under-challenged, you can simply do more reps or add more weight via one of the products I will highlight.

I also think it’s important that any purchases aren’t gimmicky. Part of that is finding products that are not refined to targeting just one body part. The more versatile, the better. Portability (so you can move it from one dwelling to the next or take with you on an extended trip), simplicity (goes hand in hand with durability), and of course – affordability – are also very important.

If you can buy this stuff used, great (I’ll suggest where to get them based on my experience in looking for these things on Craigslist, and when coming up empty, where you can find them at the best price). Products like these go quickly on the used market, so it may take some time. $300 (if you get all of these things new), although that is cheap, versus a gym membership, it is still an investment. So choose the items that best suit you and your interests. Buy them one at a time and make sure you actually use them!

Chin/Pull-up Bar: $57 (Amazon)

pull-up bar

I’m all for using a children’s jungle gym for pull-ups, but if you don’t have one of those around you, this will do the trick. There’s nothing that gives you quite the upper body workout of chin and pull-ups. And for anyone who has done them the day of or after ab exercises, you know how much of an ab workout they provide as well. The particular model here has three different pull-up exercises. It can be fashioned to ceiling joists (under a walkout deck or in the basement, most likely). If you don’t have joists, look for the wall-mounted pull-up bar. I don’t trust the door frame versions.

Weighted Vest: $74 for 40 lbs., varies by weight (Amazon or Craigslist)

weighted vest

The weight you choose may vary based on gender and how fit you are, but a good rule of thumb for those in good shape is 20-40 lbs. for females and 40-60 lbs. for males (if you get a vest that allows you to add/subtract weight, even better). Wearing a weighted vest makes body weight and other exercises discussed here, running, biking, or any other workout instantly more challenging. That’s what makes it the most versatile addition to any home gym. Plus, these things are bombproof.

Yoga Mat: $20 (Amazon)

yoga mat

I use a yoga mat for ab crunches, stretches, and planks to prevent myself from getting bruised from my concrete floor. A good yoga mat can last you a decade or longer. Some form of padded mat is essential to any home gym setup.

High density foam roller: $17 (Amazon)

high density foam roller

Not necessarily a workout product (although it can be used as one). I use a full-round, 6″ x 36″ version. It’s a life savor for rehabbing sore or tight muscles. I’ve highlighted how this product is a self-massage tool cost-saver, saving me hundreds of dollars in chiropractor/massage therapy. You can cut these, if you go crazy with a machete, but other than that, these things are virtually unbreakable.

Dumbells: (or Kettelbells): $29


Dumbells and kettelbells go quickly on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or at garage sales, but if you’re patient, you can usually find a good one for $25 – $50 (under $1/pound is typically a good goal). And 1-2 good ones are all it takes.

Ab Wheels: $39 (Amazon)

ab wheels

Ab crunches tend to work out the middle and upper abs. Planking tends to work out the lower and middle abs. But it’s also nice to have something to work out lower, middle, and upper all-together in one motion. That’s where an ab wheel comes in handy. And this particular type of ab wheel can be used for upper body workouts as well. It gives you more range of motion than the standard 1-wheel units.

Dip Stand: $66 (Amazon)

dip stand

This one is a bit of a luxury, but this clever device allows you to do tricep dips, bodyweight rows (kind of like a horizontal pull-up), chest dips, and more. The thing I like about it, other than its versatility, is how portable and compact it is for what it allows you to do. No need for one of those giant stations that are a pain to move when you relocate.

Gym Membership & Home Gym Discussion:

  • How much are your monthly gym membership dues? Do you feel you are getting enough value from the dues?
  • Have you previously gotten rid of a gym membership in favor of your own home gym?
  • What items would you add to a home gym that I have not listed here?


  1. Pam
    • Greg
      • TC
  2. WB
  3. Carla
  4. Frank Pipitone
  5. Steve
  6. Jake @ Common Cents Wealth
  7. Sam
  8. Vanessa
  9. Kim
  10. jim
  11. Garrett
  12. Mit
  13. Carlos
  14. Garnetstar

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