The answer, of course, is that it depends on your specific circumstances.
As a college student, I’d have thought that you might have access to a gym at your school for no cost, but there may be various reasons why that is undesirable.
Moving beyond the college years, though, here are the considerations for whether a home gym is worth the ROI for a given person:
- Are you the sort of person that benefits from having other people around while you work out, or do you prefer quiet solitude?
2a) How much equipment do you feel that you need? I can make do with a nice squat stand, barbell, and plates, but admittedly some people may want access to more stuff. If you’re on a hardcore PL program that requires access to a safety-squat bar, reverse hyper, belt-squat machine, bands, chains, etc…that stuff can be accommodated in a home gym (see Punisher) but it will take more spaces and the cost will start to add up. You’d still break even over the long run, but it’s a longer time until you pass that point where the total up-front investment is less than the ongoing gym-membership cost. Also, while I shit on commercial gyms a lot, if you like some of the extra perks like a hot tub, sauna, smoothie bar and treadmills with TV’s attached…I mean, some of that stuff is pretty sweet and you probably aren’t duplicating that in your home gym. Oh, and since jellodirt brought it up, if you’re a bodypart-split kinda guy and you use dumbbells a lot in your training, commercial gyms will usually have the whole range of 5’s up to 100’s whereas you’ll probably not buy ALL of the increments for a home gym without spending a lotta cash.
2b) How much space do you have in your current living space? Do you have a garage or basement that would accommodate a quality setup?
2c) How much of an equipment snob are you? If you’re willing to go cheap with some used stuff that you buy off Craigslist, there’s a pretty good chance that you can pick up a barbell and plates for a few hundred bucks. If you want all new stuff, or want to find a specific brand or type of specialty barbell, that will cost more. Neither is right or wrong (frankly, I could have spent less, but I really wanted a few specific things and had saved up some of the necessary cash, so I bought all new stuff…) but that’s just another piece to consider.
Do you anticipate moving multiple times in the next few years? That’s not a total killer, but it is worth considering. Moving an entire home gym is a pain in the ass. If you’re still living in an apartment and you might be moving three times in the next four years, it may be desirable to keep paying for a gym membership (just for now) and waiting until you’re a little closer to settling permanently.
Will you be sharing the home setup with a friend or partner? Does your GF/wife also work out? That also plays into the financial equation. If you’re saving the cost of 2 gym members versus 1, your time horizon for the cost savings is different.
Just a few of the things I would consider.