Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Affording the habit

Thanks for your comments on my what to wear post. I didn't get many comments on the what to eat post, so if you have a favorite dish, food, snack, etc. please go leave a comment and share. I am always looking out for new ideas on good things to eat, as I think a lot of us are.  :)

Now on to today's topic...

A reader recently asked me about how I afford my running habit.

On one hand, we often hear about how cheap running is... how all you  need is a good pair of shoes and you can run anywhere and anytime, without any other special equipment required. It's a really nice idea.... however...

If you run regularly, you soon realize that it is good to have some real running capris or shorts (and lots of people love those running skirts), and a moisture-wicking top or two. For girls, a good running bra is pretty darn essential. You need some good running socks because if you run in cotton socks you will probably get blisters. Your hair drives you crazy when you run so you gotta try one of those cool running headbands (or at least a hat or a visor). If you run in the winter you need gloves and something for your head and probably some warm tights. If you run in the rain you really should have a waterproof layer that is still breathable.

When you start running longer distances you realize you need something to carry water in... a hand held bottle or a waist-belt. You also need some sort of fuel for those long runs and races so many turn to energy gels or similar products (there are MANY) and something more to drink than water. If you run an overnight relay or train in the wee hours of the morning or late at night, you  need to have a reflective vest and a headlamp so you can see and be seen. If you run in the daylight sunglasses are really nice.

If you are running a lot of miles, that "one pair of shoes is all you need" turns into a new pair of running shoes every three months (give or take, depending on your miles).

And then there are all of those other things that runners don't necessarily NEED, but are nice to have and help with training... Garmins, compression socks, arm sleeves, good headphones that won't fall out, armband for your IPOD, more running clothes, insoles (if you use them), foam rollers, nutritional products, running magazines and books, BodyGlide (who wants chafing?) and on and on and on. If you get injured, there are all sorts of products on the market to treat and prevent injuries.

Let us not forget that if you like to race, entry fees are not cheap and unless you are really lucky and live close to lots of races there is often some sort of travel expense involved. And then there are bigger ticket things like a treadmill and/or gym membership...

So yeah... there can be a lot of expenses with running!

For me, when I first started running, it was pretty darn cheap. I got one pair of running shoes which I was told would be good for 350-500 miles or so (and I couldn't imagine every running that many miles). I was only running 2-3 miles a day, so those shoes lasted a LONG time, and I made do with the clothes that I had. I didn't really care about my pace or my time.  I did one local 5k that had a $15 entrance fee. I had no need for gels or water bottles or a Garmin or compression stuff or much else. For my birthday and Christmas I got a cute running shirt or two and some "real" running capris. And I was set!

I think if that was the extent that I took my running to, it would have remained a relatively very cheap activity for me. 

When I signed up to run on my first Ragnar team, all of a sudden I had a few more needs. We each needed to have a reflective vest, a headlamp and a flashy butt light. A hat and a hand held water bottle were recommended, and for the first time I heard about energy gels.

And it sort of snow-balled from there. The more I trained and the longer distances I ran and raced, the more stuff I "needed" (or at least wanted). I went through shoes A LOT faster. I developed a Hammer gel habit. :) I wanted to try compression tights and arm sleeves, and how about a kick butt tank to make me look tough?

So how do I afford it? As I have said, our income has taken a big hit in the last few years (several big hits actually) and with 12 kids, our "extra" money is almost non-existent right now. My only real priority is my running shoes. My Dad made me promise that if I was going to run I would always wear good shoes, so I do, and I keep them replaced as needed. I usually buy them from Roadrunnersports.com, and as a VIP I get a good discount. I also check out Runningwarehouse.com which often has great prices (and cheap fast shipping). Often Roadrunnersports has good deals and when they do I take advantage (they recently had a "buy one pair of shoes, get 25% off the second pair and 15% off the whole order for being a VIP" sale so I jumped on that and got two pairs). I always keep my eyes out for good sales and deals. I got my black tank on clearance (was over $40, I got it for under $20) because new prints and colors had come out and plain black was on clearance.

For everything else, I take advantage of birthdays and Christmas gifts. I haven't gotten anything that wasn't  running related for almost two years now. :) I have very generous and supportive parents which helps a lot. The other thing that we do is Josh and I plan out the races we want to do for the year and then pay for them when we know we will have a bit of extra money. Josh gets paid for his three coaching seasons in three "chunks" (at the end of each season) and with our family size we always get a great tax return. When we get them we budget those bigger chunks of money on what needs to go where, and always try to save a little for some fun things.  For Josh and I right now, "fun things" means races. We also skip buying each other Valentine's gifts and anniversary gifts and use the money we would have dropped on flowers, meals out, and chocolate and put it towards our athletic hobbies.

I am a really low-maintenance, low-cost gal beyond my running. I have already established that I don't spend much on my wardrobe. I wear minimal makeup, and I buy cheap stuff and don't replace it often. I don't have a shoe habit (other than my running shoes) and don't spend money or purses, jewelry or anything like that. I don't get manicures, pedicures or massages. I only get my hair cut once every few months and I don't color it (yet). I don't buy hot drinks at Starbucks or anywhere like that, or scrapbook (or have any other costly hobbies), or go "out" often. Really, running is the only area that I spend money on myself at all.

So I guess for me, the answer to the "how do you afford your habit" question in a nutshell is that I skimp in other areas, look for sales/deals, and make it my "I have a little money what should I do with it" priority.

How about you? Is running expensive for you or do you keep it cheap? What is your biggest expense? How do you afford your habit? Have you given up other things? What have you sacrificed? Has anyone taken on a side job? Robbed a bank? (Just kidding... don't tell me if you did). Any advice or tips for the rest of us? Please share. :)


Emz said...

you. rock.

CBML - the best freaking movie ever!!

I may have it memorized which makes me a huge dork. it's the best.

* Yes, and you have the nicest pair of rhododendrons in town!

* Iris? Oh yeah, she's a big conquest. She's given more rides than Greyhound!

* I mean, he went from totally geek, to totally chic!

Jess @ Blonde Ponytail said...

Erin, this is a great post. I too am evoling in my running needs, realizing there are LOTS of items that can improve your experience. I'm just thankful I run and not tri---that would be even more $$$!

Cari said...

I just got an awesome pair of running tights at the Nike outlet. Originally $70.00, I paid $12.00.

Run with Jess said...

I penny-pinch in so many ways to afford my running habit. Although when I started running, I quit smoking... so I can always look back on that and justify splurging once in a while!

Shana said...

We are very frugal, and maintain an itemized budget. Last year we added a line-item to our budget for "athletic stuff". We then put a little away every month into that category - even if it's just $15. I love that when we need new running shoes, we don't have to carve it out of our regular "clothing" category. And just like anything else, we have to practice moderation. We don't get to do every single race we would like to. So we try to spread them out and pick our favorites.

Terzah said...

I rely heavily on birthdays and Xmas too. For Xmas I got gift cards to Athleta and iTunes. I'm hoarding both for when I really need new clothing or music. I also rely on the tech shirts and hats etc. that I get at races--I don't remember the last time I actually bought either of those items--but you do have to make sure you get the right size. I enter giveaways and have won twice on different sites/blogs.

I like the idea of having an "account" for running stuff. There's a running "camp" I'd love to go to in North Carolina, and I think saving a little bit a week might mean I could actually do it next year.

Her Name Is Rio said...

Biggest expense= race fees. I took on another work gig for a couple hours a week to help out, but am stopping that this month. Guess I'll be registering for less races!

H Love said...

speaking of $$$ what is the model/number of your treadmill?

Renee said...

Race Fees are so much. There are five of us in the family that run, so we have to really pick and choose carefully. Shoes and race fees are what eat up our running $.

Such a FUN sport though.