How Good is the ROI on a Home Gym for a College Student

I keep thinking about investing in a home gym. Obviously not planning on making a Super Training gym in my home but the essentials: power rack, barbell, plates, a machine or two.

Overall a home gym set up with just the basics with the cheapest yet efficient equipment as possible might be a grand at least and this isn’t including a machine. Would this be a better investment than paying monthly for a gym which can add up to 600 dollars a year?


If you can afford it & have enough space I say go for it! It’s basically a more or less a one-off investment which is going to seem super-cheap in the long run.


I’ve been adding to our home gym for over 15 years and have no regrets. I will join a gym a few months during the winter because it’s cold and to remind myself how nice it is to have my own gym.
If you shop around a lot of places offer free shipping on orders over $XXX. I even had a sporting goods chain cut me a break on weights because I bought so much. If I remember right I got all of my dumbbells for .37 cents a lb.


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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.


I think the biggest consideration when owning a home gym is long term plan with it. I have one but I’m living in a house I plan to live in for the next 30 years. Anything less than that and you don’t know where circumstances will bring you in the near future.

I’m not sure what options are in your area but there does seem to be a lot of cheaper gyms these days. A good home gym is usually not a cost saver, it can be but most often a minimalist setup will leave you wanting more in the future, and buying too cheap will leaving you wanting to upgrade.

I would just add:

  • you will need to consider space when you eventually move. You don’t necessarily have a bunch of options when you come out of college, especially in terms of space
  • the cost of moving will be more or it will be a far bigger bother
  • Don’t buy the really cheap crap for important stuff (e.g barbells - you dont need to buy Eleiko but a cheap bar has issues beyond it potentially snapping at 350lbs). You end up paying for it. Making it a bad investment.
  • Consider your garage when you set things up. Concrete can smash up pretty easy

Maybe @T3hPwnisher can weigh in since I know he has a pretty sweet home gym. He’s probably gonna say something bout axle bars haha.

For realsy? You mean an aluminum one bending with 135lbs… or is this the barbell you are referring to:


Snapped from a tbar row.

Weird… sue for defective equipment unless you signed a waiver lel

Now that’s the American way.

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Just axles. Axle bars would be like saying barbell bars, haha.

I saw this topic but honestly didn’t have much to contribute. If you USE your home, you get a lot out of it, but that’s dependent on the user.

That said, with how much money I’ve spent on my gym, there is no amount of training I could do to justify the cost.


If you are going to train anyway, then the travel/convenience can be worth the investment. I need to be home by 6am. That means a 45 minute trip to the nearest 24 hour gym.

At 4am, I’d probably hand over a pretty sizable amount of cash for another 45 minutes sleep haha

There are tons of ways I can speak to the benefits, but in terms of sheer return on investment, I am definitely operating at a loss.

Keep in mind that the initial investment isn’t going to ultimately be how much you spend. That said, if you can do it (and the younger you are) obviously in the long-run it will save you money unless you’re spending a ton on equipment. If you spend $100/month on a membership that $36,000 in 30 years. Even if you spend $12k on the equipment your breakeven is 10 years and it should last forever since no one else is using it.

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One word: Craigslist. I have two rusty Olympic bars, 2 ez bars, trap bar, dumbbells, keg, tire, bench with leg ext/curl, squat rack and 900# of weight for < $300 over a few years.


I’ve been looking for dumbbells, they’re tuff to find. I really don’t want to shell out the absurd amount places like Rogue Fitness want for a full set (full for me anyway).

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Alos, pro-tip on the keg and tire. You can get those for free if you look around enough. Farm’s have to dispose of the tires at a cost to them so they’ll usually just give it to you. My buddy got us a Keg years ago for free from some bar. I’m not sure of the logistics there, though.

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Generally, they have a deposit of like $30 to return the empty kegs. You can usually convince a bar owner to give it to you or at least pay the deposit.

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I thought that might be the case, but wasn’t sure.