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Home Gym vs Gym Membership

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Home GymWould you start a home gym or get a gym membership?

A couple of years ago we started taking our health seriously.  We started making better food choices and started being more active.  We have felt so much better and lost some weight in the process.

This year, as a couple, we went 95% plant based for our meals and I have decided to stay away from gluten and sugar.  During the week we have a green smoothie for breakfast and a salad for lunch.  We have healthy dinners with lots of veggies and have a serious addiction to chickpea croutons as an awesome (and cheap) snack.

In terms of our increase in activity the bulk of our workouts are walking which we enjoy quite a bit.  However we noticed that during the winter we didn’t really make an effort to get outdoors so our activity levels dropped off.  Living in the Toronto area we experience all four seasons.  Two winters ago we were renovating our basement so we were very active doing a lot of manual labour.  Back then making sure we were physically active was not a problem.  However we have since finished our basement so we needed to find another solution for the upcoming winter to carry over the momentum.

We began talking about getting a gym membership or some type of exercise equipment to have in the house.  I’ll use the term gym membership loosely to include other memberships like cross fit, yoga, spin class etc.

Your sweat don’t cost a thing…

Now I want to be clear that there are tons of very free options for working out.  Walking or jogging outdoors or in a mall is a great option and really should be considered.  It has also been noted recently that walking provides all the benefits that jogging or running.  This makes it very accessible and affordable so there is every reason to get out and get walking.  But for us it was really hard to get out there a go for a walk when the sidewalks are basically ice rinks.

Costs to Consider:

We had to weigh the option of signing up for a gym membership or buying a piece of equipment to keep in our house.  There are different factors depending on your personal financial situation that you should consider if you are going to make this decision.  We just want to provide you some insight into ours and maybe help get some thoughts for your own decision.

Okay, let’s talk math – I’ll make it easy I promise.

Total Costs:

For a strictly financial decision the main thing to consider is the cost of the piece of equipment vs the cost of a gym membership.  There will be higher upfront costs for a piece of exercise equipment vs a gym membership.

Using some basic numbers let’s assume that an average gym membership will cost $300/year.  We are 2 people so we will double that to $600/year.  Let’s also assume that an average treadmill costs about $1500 including tax.  This is based on a couple of searches on some Canadian online retailers.  I pick treadmill since it is generally the most expensive piece of equipment and it is also versatile with running or walking options.

So $600 < $1500 so the gym membership wins, right?

Not so fast…

I think most people will only consider the cost of the piece of equipment vs the cost of a gym membership.  That is of course a factor but you should also consider if you would be more likely to use a piece of equipment more if it was in your home vs if you had to go to the gym.

Cost per Use:

Let’s take that $600/year cost for 2 people.  If you go 3 times per week for 52 weeks each visit to the gym will cost just under $2 ($1.92).

If you purchase a $1500 treadmill and use it 6 times per week for 2 people your cost per use is just under $2.50 ($2.40).

The machine is a one-time cost vs the ongoing cost of purchasing a membership every year.  In this scenario it will take 65 weeks or 1 year and 3 months to make the cost of the treadmill match the cost per use of the gym membership.

There are other factors to consider with your decision.

Gym Membership:

  • Really understand how long it takes to go to the gym including travel time, putting stuff in a locker and waiting for others to get off the equipment you want to use if there is limited equipment. What are you willing to commit to?
  • Are extra things like classes, locker or towel use included or come at a price? Have you factored that into your decision?
  • Do you like working out with other people? A piece of a equipment at home isn’t the best for joint fitness motivation.

Home Gym:

  • You will likely have to commit to 1 type of machine so think if you will get bored with that set up.
  • Space is a factor. You have to be able to store and use the machine.  Some pieces of equipment fold up for storage but you still need a place to actually use it.  Also make sure you are able to actually get it into your place.  Bigger things like treadmills are heavy.

Little info-graphic for you:

Home Gym graphic


Our Decision:

We decided to go with a home gym and we purchased a treadmill.  It was HEAVY and took 4 people to get it into the house and up the stairs to the little nook where we keep it.  We also scratched the stairs that we can’t exactly repair.  So there is that.  We were not able to use it for the first couple of weeks because it was built wrong at the factory so we had to have someone come to repair it.  That was free but took some time away and made us realize that we need to make sure we maintain it correctly to use it long term.

Why did we go that route?

While it was more expensive up front  we use the treadmill a lot and I know that we workout more than if we would have gotten a gym membership.  For us it’s  easy to jump on the treadmill for 30-45 minutes, shower and get on with our day.  That would be at least 60-75 minutes at a gym since I wouldn’t really drive 15 minutes round trip for a 30 minute workout.  Never mind the time to get parked, get in the building and put your stuff away.  It all adds up and we don’t have tons of time these days.

It was the right decision for us since it was a one time cost that we paid for with cash instead of an ongoing line item on our budget.  It’s an incredibly personal decision but there is more to weigh than the just the upfront costs.

Quote: “Take care of your body.  It’s the only place you have to live.” Jim Rohn

Would you ever start a home gym or is going to the gym more your thing?  Do you think about expenses as cost per use or the total cost? Let me know in the comments.

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