10 Ways to Skip the Expensive Gym Membership and Make Your Own Home Gym on the Cheap

The following guest post is from  Andrew Kardon. Andrew is the president and co-founder of JoeShopping.com, a social shopping site dedicated to saving money through coupons, hot deals, price comparisons, product reviews, shopping blogs and more.

You know that exercise is good for your health, but a gym membership can be bad for your wallet. With a gym membership you’ll spend hundreds of dollars a month and sign a million-year contract. But if your fitness goal is to lose weight, get in shape or just burn off some steam, you can do it at home. And even better… you can do it on the cheap. Here are 10 tips to help you get in shape without making your wallet skinny, too.

Put Your Weight to Work

For some workouts, you don’t need to spend a dime. Just do exercises that use your own body weight. Sit-ups, push-ups, squats, planks and crunches are all great for targeting major muscle groups. You can get a full-body workout with absolutely no money down.

Fill ’Er Up

Is your spare change jar overflowing? Put some of that money-weight to work by filling empty water bottles, milk jugs, tennis balls or tennis ball cans with coins for homemade weights. If you’ve already spent your pocket money on snazzy workout clothes, you can also fill bottles and jugswith water or sand. Or, raid your pantry and use soup cans as hand weights. (You can always make meals out of them later!)

Get Thee to Craigslist

Plenty of folks sell their expensive (and barely used) exercise equipment on Craigslist when their New Year’s resolutions derail. Make sure you do plenty of research before you buy–look closely at the posted pics and find out how old the equipment is by looking up the model number. If you’re in the market for weights, the going rate on Craigslist is about 50 cents per pound.

There’s an App for Your Abs

There are quite a few free workout apps for your iPhone, iPad and iPod. You can train for a 5K run or even a marathon with Personal Running Trainer (with an initial free trial; full versions for $5.99 or less), use your GPS to track your outdoor workouts with iMapMyFitness, or build custom workout routines and count your calories with Daily Burn.

“It’s a-me, Mario, your personal trainer!”

You can sit on your couch all day playing video games, or you can turn your Wii, Playstation 3 or Xbox Kinect into a personal gym! Variations of The Biggest Loser are available on the Kinect and Wii. The second edition of EA Sports Active works on Wii, Kinect and PS3. You can even recruit your kids and get a family workout playing Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution or Nickelodeon Fit for Wii.

Have a Ball!

How much does a set of six-pack abs run for these days? Around twenty bucks. At least, that’s the average price of an exercise ball, which will help you tone your core muscles. Exercise balls are great for non-impact workouts, and they’re also really fun to bounce around on. You might even consider switching out your desk chair and use your exercise ball at work. It’s cheaper than an ergonomic chair! Just be aware that the balls come in different sizes, so be sure to purchase the one that’s right for your height.

“Like” Your Workout

Use the power of social networking to get exercise advice and emotional support by joining an online workout group. Sites like fitlink.com offer free online tools to help you track your fitness progress and forums where you can link up with an exercise buddy or just get that motivational kick in the pants you need on days when you’d rather skip the workout.

Get It Together

You know you can save money by buying used exercise equipment at yard sales or off of Craigslist. But you might also consider getting together with a few friends and creating a “home gym co-op”. Split the costs of the equipment, and store all the equipment at one person’s home. Then get together for regular workout sessions! It’s like getting the motivation of a personal trainer and the camaraderie of a gym without the high price tag.

Raise the Bar

Save money and space by installing or hanging a workout bar in your doorway. You can use the bar for pull-ups, push-ups, chin-ups, sit-ups (pretty much all the ups) and tricep dips. All that for around $20! And if anyone asks about that metal thing in the kitchen doorway, just tell them you bought your place for its interesting architectural details.

That’s How I Roll

Sure, sports massage is proven to be highly effective at helping you recover after all that working out, but not everyone can afford a professional, licensed massage therapist to ease those aching muscles. Invest instead in a foam roller. The massage won’t just feel good; an added bonus is that relaxed muscles help prevent injuries!


  1. A home gym is a good frugal tip. But for me I cannot stay motivated when I work out at home. There are a few things worth splurging on and I feel like a gym membership is critical to my health.

    • I definitely agree. Whatever it takes to get you working out is critical. If you can afford going to a gym, it’s probably better all around, including your mental state. It just hurts your wallet. But if you can’t spare the funds, maybe you can find a friend to come to your house and workout with you? Or a spouse or relative?

  2. debt free is right: some people can’t stay motivated unless they go to a place free from the home’s distractions and comforts. The price they pay for a membership beats the price of poorer health, too. But I also have a suggestion: find out if a local megachurch has a free gym. I know at least two local megachurches with workout areas. Some people want to go to the gym to meet new people, too. You won’t do that working out at home. There are free exercise groups in many local areas. You also could check with your county’s parks and recreation department. Not only do many parks have outdoor exercise equipment, some counties offer low-cost exercise classes.

  3. I built a very nice home gym using craigslist – bench, squat rack, weights. The rest I got on sale from sports authority. And I even made my own pullup bar. The key is to make sure you’ll use it, just having a gym doesn’t get you into good shape 🙂

    • Most definitely. Whether you build your own at home or pay through the nose for a crazy, ridiculous, awesome gym membership, neither matters if you don’t use ’em!

  4. Don’t forget the child care that is included in most memberships. The children get to play and mother can get some time to de-stress! I don’t even pay $20 a month to go to Gold’s. The kids get to slide and do crafts…..totally worth it!

    • Oh, definitely if you can afford it. Though the gyms by me do NOT include any sort of child care. It’s always extra (anywhere from $4 to $10 per child each visit) to put the kids in the play room area.

  5. My brother-in-law works out solely at home with the P90X and it has transformed his body. He happens to be a very motivated person and has no time to go to the gym. If my husband would buy me my awesome treadmill, I would have no use for the gym. Also, my gym’s babysitting is not trustworthy for my food-allergic kid. I’d rather get my mom to watch.

  6. I bought mine either used or new at a discounted price. You’re right about working out with apps, there’s a bunch out there that can replace some of those complicated metric devices at the gym.

  7. Great tips! I just got my wife to finally cancel her gym membership after not using it for a year! I told her we could buy some cheap equipment on Craigslist and save money every year instead of wasting it on the gym!

  8. With a home gym, I can make all the noise I want, work on whatever piece of equipment I feel like working on, and I don’t have to change my shoes or wear a shirt. And it’s all old-school stuff, none of that fancy-pants, wimpy garbage you find in the franchises. My goal is to get big and strong, not piss around with 40 lb dumbbells and 30 lb curl bars. Great article.

  9. I think the main factor to keeping fit is exercising 3-4 days a week but
    that on it’s own isn’t enough. It is equally crucial to consume the proper form of diet plan and
    this is one mistake many individuals make. There’s no point just performing exercises as all that time and effort can be undone by ingesting an harmful mealtime afterwards. I’ve personally completely stopped
    using the gymnasium and now work out from home with a used home gym I purchased and then
    have a carbohydrate loaded food regimen afterwards.