Unless you’re blessed enough to live somewhere nice year-round, like Harry, chances are you either go to a gym or workout in your home. As much as I heard people talking about working out at home with workout DVDs, I never really thought working out at home was feasible. After all, with all the fun distractions at home, plus general laziness, is it really possible to get a better workout at home than at a gym? At least people in the gym are judging me, so I feel like I have to work out harder.
However, my fiance recently brought up an interesting question: what if instead of spending the money on a gym (which someone is not using), we spent that money on a home gym?
After doing quite a bit of research, I’ve come up with several pros and cons to building your own home gym. One big pro is that, with a home gym, you can literally work out whenever you want. More importantly, for the 3-4 months out of the year when it is nice to live in Phoenix, we could spend 80% of our time outdoors, like we do now, save money on gym memberships for both of us, and still have weights to use in order to keep in shape.
So will having your own home gym really save you money? While the convenience factor is huge, there are quite a few things to consider when evaluating whether you’ll actually save any money with your own home gym.
The Cost of a Home Gym
In my quest to (maybe) set up a home gym, I’ve discovered setting up a home gym really depends on the amount of space you have. Let’s say you have an entire room (like a guest room that never sees guests) to use as your home gym. In that case, you may have room for a set of weights, an area for stretching/yoga, and maybe even a treadmill or elliptical machine.
Having a bigger room you want to fill would obviously be the most expensive set up. For example, a good treadmill, according to Consumer Reports, will cost you anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000 – and many people on body building forums say it could cost you up to $5,000 for a good treadmill.
If you don’t want a treadmill, whether due to bad news or a general aversion, you could go with an elliptical machine instead. Elliptical machines will cost you a little less – anywhere from $900 to $3,600, if you go with Consumer Reports’ recommendations. However, you’re only going to buy a treadmill or elliptical if you have the room and budget to do so. Not every person will want to buy a $2,000 treadmill, especially if they have other ways to get their heart rate up (either by running outside or using a cardio workout video).
If you don’t want any of the equipment associated with a home gym (or you don’t have the space for it), you’ll likely want some free weights and an area to do stretching, yoga, pilates, etc. Free weights will be your biggest expense in this category, ranging anywhere from a few dollars (for one set of smaller weights) to $150. You can find discounts on free weights through Craigslist, or yard sales if you’re a particularly savvy bargain hunter.
A good yoga mat won’t cost you very much at all, from $10 and up, depending on if you want a particularly cushy mat or organic mat. Take good care of your mats by washing them carefully when they get smelly (some mats you can throw in the washer, but others you’ll have to soap off with a hand towel and dry either outline on the line or in your bathroom). Personally, I have a cheapo Target mat that I can throw in the washer that’s served me really well – it’s not the most comfortable mat on a hard surface, but I don’t spend more than half an hour on the ground, so it’s okay for me. If you have back problems, splurge on the more expensive mat with more padding.
Finally, consider your entertainment. Listening to music can improve your workout performance, so consider getting a system to play music through your phone, iPod, tablet, etc. Your phone with Pandora or Spotify will work just fine here – and you don’t even need headphones, because in your home gym, you can listen to whatever you want and crank it up. No one to glare at you for your taste in music in your own home!*
You may consider investing in an affordable TV and linking it up to your Netflix/Hulu/other TV service you have. With a TV, if you have a favorite show, you could watch it while working out. Yeah, I know it’s not as nice as vegging out in front of the TV with some popcorn but hey, if you’ve invested in a treadmill or elliptical machine, you better use it!
*Your spouse, children and pets may disagree with your choice of music. Tread carefully.
The Cost of Belonging to a Gym
If you’re one of the 50 million people who belong to a gym, how much you pay will actually depend on a variety of factors, including where you live and what add-ons you pay for. The average monthly cost for a gym membership in the US is $55 a month.
That said, the price of gym memberships can vary dramatically depending on your gym. Planet Fitness, for example, has $10 memberships, but you can pay upwards of $20+ for places like LA Fitness or country club memberships. If you pay extra for any special packages, like access to the pool, spa, or personal trainers, that will obviously increase your membership costs.
There are intangibles associated with gym memberships too, like actually getting to the gym and working out for an acceptable period of time. 67% of Americans with gym memberships never use them, so this is a real concern! You may also want to listen to music (using Spotify, purchasing songs on iTunes, etc.), need headphones, or invest in a solid water bottle. All not very pricey expenses, but fairly crucial to a successful workout experience.
While the price of a home gym (anywhere from $50 for a cheap mat and some resistance bands or lighter free weights, to $1,500 and up for a treadmill, weights, etc.) seems much more expensive than a traditional gym, it’s not quite as clear cut as it may seem. Depending on the gyms in your area, you could pay anywhere from $10 to $50 and up for a monthly gym membership ($120 to $600+). And while you could sell your treadmill and weights if you didn’t want your home gym anymore, have you ever tried to get out of an LA Fitness contract? It’s almost impossible!
Track All Your Accounts With Personal CapitalPersonal Capital lets you see all of your accounts in one convenient place. Sign up now for free.
The bottom line is: the best gym set up for you is the one you’ll actually use. If a home gym seems appealing, but your treadmill ends up sitting in the corner as a clothes rack, it’s not a good investment. On the other hand, if your gym is $50/month and you decide to cancel your membership and get a $1,500 treadmill, in less than 3 years, you’ve “paid” for your treadmill using the money you didn’t spend on your gym. The “right” amount of money to spend on your fitness depends on your lifestyle and motivation.
How do you fit exercise into your life? Do you belong to a gym, have your own home gym, or workout outdoors, or some combination of the 3?