How To Build an At-Home Gym for Under $500 That All Fits in the Broom Closet

Before COVID-19, I went to the gym faithfully at least once per week. When the weather was good and I had extra time, I also went hiking or biking. If I traveled, I relied on snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, and other outdoor activities to keep me in good shape. In early March, however, I decided to put a pause on my gym attendance. It was just as well because a few days later, my gym closed.

Since then, I have done my absolute best to stay in shape and stay active, while remaining socially distanced from other people. The whole setup cost me less than $500 and it might cost you even less if you have some equipment beforehand or you’re willing to thrift shop.

Yoga Mat – $20


The cheapest thing you’ll find on this list is yoga mats. There are thousands of exercises you can do using a yoga mat, even when you take actual yoga off the list. If you need to protect your floors, yoga mats also provide a cushion for some of the equipment below.

This is the only item on the list that I will insist you purchase brand-new. Sweat and other body fluids can seep into yoga mats. In the middle of a pandemic, the stress of trying to disinfect it for use is just not worth it when you can buy one online for $20 or less.

Bike – $200

As full disclosure, my bike is not new. I bought it in 2018 when I bought my first car. The car was a tiny hatchback, so I needed a bike that could fold up nicely. Unfortunately, it currently costs nearly $200 at Walmart. Back then, I bought it on sale for $149.99. I then spent roughly $50 on a better seat and better gears.

You can probably find a cheap bike by thrift shopping. Even if it doesn’t fold up, you can probably let your back seats down and install a bike mount that hangs it vertically in the closet.

Stepper – $69.49

For days with bad weather or where you just don’t feel like loading up the bike and heading somewhere, this stepper comes in handy. This folds up nicely and fits under my futon sofa. The resistance bands coupled with the hydraulic steps provide a decent workout. You start to build up a sweat after about 10 minutes if you use both features simultaneously.

It can get boring though, so try switching it up. You can use other machines with this one during your workout or do some other workouts on your yoga mat. You can also find special steppers built for use while sitting. These help you get your steps in while working at your desk.

Wonder Core – $127.76


The first time I used this thing, I felt that I had wasted my money. I didn’t build up a sweat like I did with the stepper and the exercises were almost too easy. It also took me some time to get used to doing situps that required leaning on the bars, with such a big space in the middle.

The following morning, I woke up with my abs on fire. They hurt for three days, which is longer than the gym equipment every achieved. It comes with a booklet with several exercises and a DVD that provides hundreds more. That makes it harder to tire of.

Nintendo Wii – $82.75

In 2012, Statista estimated that almost a quarter of American households had a Wii console. I bought mine used around that time and brought it with me from Jamaica to America. These units can be expensive brand-new, but I have seen full Wii systems selling for $40 or less. Some even come with games. Even when they don’t, choose wisely and grab one or two for the last $42 of your budget.

I realized Wii can work up a sweat when I used to play at my friend’s house in college. I always had to bring a change of clothes when we played. Currently, I have two games and they work well for me. Mine came with Wii Sports and then I bought My Fitness Coach separately.

Over time, you can grow your home gym to include many other items that might improve your fitness routine. However, for just $500, this is a pretty good start.


About the Author


Alexis Chateau is the Founder of College Mate and Managing Director at Alexis Chateau PR. Follow her stories of trial and triumph at

About College Mate

College Mate is the ultimate survival guide for students. Whether you need help with school, budgeting, relationships, landing your first job, or would love to travel and see more of the world – we got you covered!

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