Suggest fitness/home gym equipment for a $75 budget?

One of my work benefits is that I can get reimbursed for up to $300 of fitness equipment a year, something HR just reminded us of. Although today is the end of the fiscal year the reminder’s a coincidence because we have until 12/31, and I therefore do not need answers fast.

It cannot be sports equipment, and as a provided example actual ride-them-outside bikes are right out, so things meant to play a ball game or some type of hockey are almost certainly not going to qualify too or I’d consider putting it towards a basketball hoop. Fitness clothing is not allowed either.

Anyway, I’m planning to buy a recumbent stationary bike, and the one I want comes in around $225. I need to submit for reimbursement of all the money at once, so it’s find a way to spend the rest now, wait for the bike until I can think of something, or not get the full amount.

I already own:

  • yoga mats & balls
  • mini-ellipsis #
  • mini-stepper #
  • mini-trampoline
  • jump rope #

The ones I put a # next to turned out not to be great ideas because they all aggravate my asthma. sigh. Oddly, jumping around generally doesn’t - until my PS2 finally gave up the ghost I had no trouble at all playing Dance Dance Revolution for an hour straight, and the mini-trampoline is fine too (and the jump rope only does because I literally forget about breathing! Yes, I eventually realized I hold my breath and don’t know why).

Anyway, got any suggestions for things I can consider?

You can do a full workout with a kettle bell. Buy a few and start with a light one. Just be careful with your form as it’s easy to strain yourself.

They’re also easy to store and basically indestructible.

You have cardio covered, you could pick up some weights. The neoprene coated ones are best for home use, they are grippy without gloves and won’t cause damage if dropped. I shopped just recently, and these ones at Walmart were the best price I could find, you can just pick out the weights suitable for you without paying for a whole set.

Robot or human?

A fitness watch, like a fitbit, may be eligible for reimbursement. They can be useful for keeping track of your heart rate and other fitness stats.

You can just buy one to start out with (16 kg for a typical adult male, 10-12 kg for a typical adult female) and will be able to do “time under tension” scaling for several months before needing to go up in weight but you should definitely get coaching because you can injure yourself with poor technique. Also, be warned that once you start getting into kettlebells and other ‘unconventional’ weighted ballistic training it becomes addictive and you end up with a room full of kettlebells, maces, steel clubs, Viking hammers, sandbags, Bulgarian bags, heavy ropes, slamballs, et cetera. They’re a pain to transport, though. If you do purchase a kettlebell, don’t get the cheapest plastic-coated piece of shit you can find at Wal-Mart; get something with a durable coating, good weight distribution, and the correct handle geometry.


A lot of the more useful fitness equipment is inexpensive. One of the few core exercise implements worth the money is an ab wheel ($5-10). A pull-up system fitting a door can provide an excellent workout ($20-30). Giant elastics ($10-20) can be attached to this to increase its range, and can provide resistance for rowing, arm and leg exercises (handles not really needed). A set of two ten pound hand weights ($30?) can be used just like a kettlebell, as above. This weight is good for shoulder exercises and beginning arm exercises; Covid taught many even body weight and light weights are useful for building muscle if done slowly or at high volume. A web search for bodyweight exercises probably is useful if you do not know many (push-up variations, pull-up variations, squats, lunges, dips, sprinting, etc.), there are also some good books on the subject.

(Prices are given for the Canadian equivalents of TJ Maxx in Canadian dollars. They may be cheaper in the US and like much fitness equipment may be overpriced on some shopping websites).

The price of weights has gone up a lot the last couple years, but even for 75 bucks you could fit some kind of dumbbells. I’m personally not a kettlebell user, so I’ll defer to those with that experience on that topic. I was a fairly serious (home) weight lifter 20-25 years ago, I always got good results without really lifting that much weight. Through various moves over the years I managed to keep some of my weights but lose others, but I’ve always managed to find enough to cobble together some home workouts. When Sports Authority went out of business, I managed to get some bars and plates on clearance. A few months ago I picked up 40 lbs more for under 60 bucks. I’m talking about just standard non-Olympic weights for adding to the handles you put plates on yourself. As others have mentioned you can get fixed weight in various poundages. My buddy has an adjustable set that was over a grand, but I’m better shape (and probably better health by most metrics) with my low budget basement setup. I think everyone needs to do strength training of some sort, and you don’t need a lot of weight. Kettlebells might be the way, I just don’t have experience with that and prefer the mechanics of regular weights.

I have built most of my home gym by buying used weights for little money. There are extremely good deals to be found in the second hand market, and with the iron, there are few hidden surprises etc., so it’s a pretty safe buy.

After 25 years of strength training and coaching a small number of people on the side, I feel adjustable dumbbells are close to a mandatory purchase. Progressive resistance is a must, and while progress can be dialed in via reps, rest periods etc., having a weight that can go up or down by a pound (or 20 pounds) is invaluable. A pair of adjustable, heavy-enough dumbbells can create a very effective training session time after time.

Gyms use fixed weight dumbbells for convenience, but need to have huge racks of them. If I had lots of money and space, I would go that route. Having neither, the adjustables work wonders. A basic pair of, say 8# fixed home dumbbells will not work for long for anyone, and different exercises need drastically different resistance to be anywhere near effective. I use dumbbells from 5kg to 55kg, for instance.

I have a couple of kettlebells as well, but they aren’t nearly as versatile. The steps between the bells are too steep, and many effective dumbbell exercises are inconvenient at best with the kettlebells. Some others are much better with them, on the other hand.

Piling on for dumbbells (my take though is that kettlebells are to easy to do wrong).

Other decent choices not yet suggested -

If you have a place and space to hang them from then gymnastics rings are great. Ring pull ups, dips, static holds, el holds, reverse rows, and possibly moving on to levers and such.

Also within the price point - a good quality balance disc. Squats and light weight dumbbell work on the disc gets the long core muscles engaged and of course the balance senses.

Finally rope jumping is great if you remember to breathe!

If you don’t have a place to hang rings you can do a lot of these holds and dips using paralettes:

Bodyweight training can give you phenomenal strength without a bunch of expensive weights to store and move, and you progress through varying body position and repetitions versus the finite jumps of adding plates or steps between weights.


Everything mentioned is a good choice depending on your preferences.

I would say attaching rings to a pull-up system is good too, but these are hard to use unless you are either light, experienced or very strong and coordinated. Useful, but difficult if novice.

Since there are many elastics on the market, some highly overpriced, it is worth noting you do not want it covered in fabric, do not need handles (and could search for TRX to see the huge range of available exercises), do not need a fancy brand, and just want a large, plain, thick, closed-circle elastic, at least two feet long if the sides are put together. These are also of tremendous use with weight training if you go to a gym.

I have an adjustable kettlebell, that I like in that I didn’t have buy a bunch of different sizes or be stuck using the same size for different exercises.

For far less than the $75, I recommend resistance bands like these. So much flexibility in being able to work just about every muscle group.

Rings in general?

Can be as hard, impossibly hard, or as easy as you want.

Can start with just 30 static hold not even dipping. Can do pull-ups with weight supported, reverse rows at various angles, dips can be partially supported too, instead of els just tucking knees up advancing to sticking one leg out at a time.

The plus of rings is that ability to gradually increase the difficulty to the level that challenges you, your strength and skills. And that like with rope speed work, there is some having to focus on what you are doing.

Yes some do muscle ups and levers, heck iron crosses even, and the rest of us are human and do what we can.

The big deal is the point you made: depends on your preferences! Even the mood you are in that day!

All very true. They have many uses and offer both value and a lot of scope for development. But a ring pull-up or dip is much harder for most people than other forms. It is only fair to state my opinion that they might take a lot of practice, and are easier if already some combination of light, experienced, strong and coordinated, though they help develop the latter.

Check Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace for used equipment. For example a great many people buy a treadmill and then never use it so sell it very cheaply.


I am not light, definitely not so coordinated, and of only reasonable strength. Pretty average 62 year old man other than maybe more stubborn than some. Yet I can do a dozen plus ring dips and pull ups, skin the cat and back into an el position (never could manage a lever or a muscle up, not for lack of trying to master …)

If I can do it then it cannot be so hard, by definition!

Seriously though, weights aren’t everyone’s thing. I like them too but some don’t. OTOH our OP apparently does yoga and uses a balance ball so some skill building resistance activity and holds may appeal!

Resistance bands. I got a daily routine from taking physical therapy

They’re color coded for different resistance. YouTube hads workouts.

They are great for trips. Tie it to a door, furniture, or yourself.

Yeah, but don’t get these ones. It should look like a giant elastic but need not have a width exceeding a couple inches. The length is okay.

Nice photo, but you look quite different from how I imagined you.