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How I Created an Awesome Home Gym on a Budget

When I created my home gym ten years ago, I spent around $500. We had just moved to our first house and we were trying to save money. So an expensive gym membership was out. Ten years later, I’m in a new house, but I still love the convenience of my home workout

Before you start shopping for fitness equipment, it’s important to assess your space and budget. You don’t need a lot of space to create a home gym, but you do need enough room for your equipment and for you to move around comfortably. Additionally, you need to set a budget and stick to it. You can always build onto your gym later but start with the absolute essentials to give you the best workout. 

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  • To assess your space and budget before shopping for home gym equipment.
  • A home gym should include both cardio and strength equipment.
  • To rely on creative solutions or DIY methods to save money.

Here are the 10 Home Gym Must-Haves I Recommend: 

  1. Exercise Mat
  2. Light Dumbbells
  3. Heavier Weights 
  4. Weight Rack
  5. Cardio Equipment, either a spin bike, treadmill, or rower
  6. Gym Flooring
  7. Fitness App 
  8. Mirror
  9. Fan
  10. Water Bottle

I’ll get into details about each of these below. 

home gym items on a budget weights spin bike fan mats light pink background and text overlay.

My Top Picks for a Budget Home Gym

When creating a budget-friendly home gym, choose a dedicated space and examine the layout of the room. Most of us have small spaces to work with and while we’d love to have it all in our gym, that’s not realistic or affordable. 

You can always change the setup of your room. I’ve changed mine at least five times.

Determine which items will give you the most bang for your buck. The last thing you want to do is fill your space with fitness equipment you will never use. It’s a good idea to build your home gym slowly. In an ideal situation, you have one of each of the following: 

1. Exercise Mat

My mat gets used every day. Whether it’s Pilates classes, yoga, stretches, or just as cushioning underneath me during my strength workouts, a good exercise mat is a must-have. Here are the mats I recommend: 

  • Peloton reversible mat: yes, it’s expensive but this mat works great for both yoga classes and strength. It’s durable and will last for years without ripping or getting damaged. 
  • Gaiam yoga mat: this mat is excellent if you’re primarily doing yoga and Pilates, but if you’re jumping and moving on a mat during cardio and strength workouts, you’ll want an exercise mat too. 

2. Light Dumbbells

You would think I would have graduated from my light dumbbell set but I still use my 2, 3, and 5-pound dumbbells regularly, whether during a spin class, a conditioning class, or a light arms and weights class.

Classes using light weights often focus on isometric holds, meaning you hold a position for a moment. These classes actually burn and have helped me with toning and overall strength, even core

Here are the dumbbells I recommend: 

neoprene dumbbells on carpet next to exercise rubber mat and shoes.

3. Heavier Weights

Back when I built my home gym, I focused solely on cardio classes. But today, as a certified personal trainer and avid gym exerciser, I know how important strength training is, especially as we age. And, I prioritize it over everything else. 

If you’re interested in becoming a certified personal trainer, follow my journey, and sign up for ISSA here.

For me, the benefits of weight training have outweighed those from cardio classes. There’s something about getting stronger, lifting more, and seeing results. And lifting weights doesn’t have to mean bulking up. For most of us, it’s getting a leaner more defined body. If you’re new to weightlifting, I recommend buying a set of: 

Of course, you know your own abilities and strength level. Your light weights may be under 5 pounds or your heavies may be 50 pounds or more. But getting a range of weights like what I mentioned is a great place to start.

When I began strength training my mediums were 10 pounds. If you’re completely new, you can hold off on buying the heavier weights for now, but either way, get a set that is heavy for you.

The nice thing about starting out is that the lighter weights are the least expensive so you can start with those and save up for heavier dumbbells. The best place to find a great price on used weights is usually your local Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. I picked up two sets of Peloton weights at TJ Maxx.

4. Organizational Racks

You’ll be less motivated to exercise in a crowded, disorganized space. I recommend the following to keep your area tidy and maximize your floor space: 

Storage Rack

If you already have storage bins to organize and hold your accessories and smaller equipment, use what you have. If you don’t, I recommend this rack with room for your mats, shoes, and hooks to hang items. 

Weight Rack

​If you’re dealing with heavy weights, it’s not only for aesthetics but also for safety reasons, that you’ll want a secure space to house them. I have two sets of these racks

peloton bike with screen tilted next to rack of dumbbells.

5. Cardio Equipment

Depending on the size of your workout room and your budget, you can probably only get one or two pieces of cardio equipment. I’ve bought an elliptical machine, spin bike, treadmill, and rower.

It’s totally up to you to decide which one you will use most often, but this is my personal experience. 


Although it’s a great low-impact workout, I find exercising on an elliptical the most boring of them all. Back in the day, when I belonged to my local gym, I gravitated towards the elliptical.

I would exercise next to a friend and chat the whole time, read a book, or watch TV. I wasn’t working hard enough.

I’m not saying you can’t work hard on an elliptical but if you’re looking to maximize results, this is not the best value. Also, depending on your height and the particular machine, high ceilings work best, so you’ll have to see if it fits in your space. 


I love my treadmill. It was under $1000, it folds and does everything I want it to do. But when it’s nice out, I want to walk, run, or hike outside.

A treadmill takes up a lot of room. I can’t fit it in my basement gym. You need room on the sides, front, and behind the equipment for a safe workout.

But if you’re a runner and think this is the equipment you’d use most, get it. 

Spin Bike

Sure, you can get a stationary bike but I would recommend a spin bike instead. This is my favorite piece of cardio equipment.

With a spin bike, you are getting much more of an all-body workout, plus the classes are engaging and motivating. A bonus is that a spin bike doesn’t take up much room. Remember, you need room to stretch out your arms side to side so don’t put it directly next to a wall. 

I started with the Peloton app and then moved up to the actual Peloton Bike. You can get a great deal on the Peloton now, especially used or you can invest in a less expensive alternative.

Original Peloton BIke
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Rowing Machine

An inexpensive rower will give you great results, and it is a full body workout. Mine folds up so really doesn’t take up much space.

I would definitely find some rowing classes on YouTube or an app to ensure that your form is correct and to ensure that you are maximizing your workouts.

Merach Rowing Machine, Smart Magnetic Rower Machine

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Gym Flooring

Gym flooring mats are important for several reasons. They provide stability underneath workout equipment, are sanitary and easy to clean, protect your floors from damage, and also help to soundproof the room. 

​Even if you decide not to place rubber mats across your entire floor, you’ll want it in strategic areas. I like this extra large mat.

For example, I have my Peloton bike on a piece of hardwood covered by a thick rubber mat. This protects my floors from sweat and spills, and also gives me a smoother ride

I also always have a mat underneath me when I strength train. I would surely hurt myself if I were exercising on a hardwood floor or carpet alone, as my legs would slide out from under me. It also gives me a secure place to put down my dumbbells throughout my workout. 

Peloton bike next to rowing machine on carpet.


The first thing we did when setting up our basement gym was to have mirrors installed. My husband found a place that uses remnants but you can also get inexpensive mirrors online. 

For both my cardio workouts and strength training, I always use a mirror to check my form and technique, both of which are important to help prevent injuries,

Selfie in front of home gym mirror and TV with weight rack and fan.


You need proper ventilation while working out, whether that’s opening a window or using a fan. I cannot exercise without a fan, so much so that I have an Alexa plug-in connected to my fan. If I forget, I simply say, “Alexa, turn on fan.”

​Water Bottle

​If you’re going to work out hard, you need access to water. Although the Stanley Tumbler can spill, it’s my go-to as it holds 40 ounces of water, that I mix with electrolyte tablets

Fitness Apps or Smart TV

If you want a great workout every time, find some classes you like on an app or online. Sure, you can try working out on your own but I find that I’m so much more efficient, work harder, and try new things when using a workout app.

I’m partial to Peloton but there are lots of free apps there and classes on YouTube. 

I highly recommend the Peloton Guide if you’re interested in classes. It’s dual purpose and serves the purpose of a mirror and also streams almost all of the Peloton classes

Other Items to Consider

You may also want to buy: 

1. Resistance bands

I have resistance bands but tend to choose to work out with weights. Resistance bands will also target different muscle groups, including the arms, legs, and core, and come in different levels. And they’re super affordable.

2. Yoga blocks

Not only do yoga blocks aid in proper alignment during a yoga session but I also use them to help me get into my stretches deeper and help me with my flexibility. 

​3. TRX bands

Again, probably because I’m a Peloton devotee and they don’t have TRX classes, I don’t use my bands as much as I should. I know they’re an excellent way to engage in exercises for the upper body, lower body, and core. They’re easy to set up and take up hardly any space as they hang from the ceiling.

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​The gyms near me have always cost around $100 per month. When I initially set up my home gym, I got a spin bike for around $200 and a set of light weights that cost $30. I used a free app. Gradually, I added in all of the above items, eventually replacing my spin bike with a Peloton and increasing my dumbbells to 30 pounds. 

​Even if you add in everything I own now, I’ve still only spent a few thousand dollars over a decade. I have a fitness routine that includes spinning, rowing, walking and hikes, weight lifting, Pilates, and yoga. And I’ve never missed a week of working out in ten years. The best home gym equipment is the one you use. And even if you’re on a tight budget, you can make it work for you. 

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