Running on a Budget

>> Monday, February 20, 2012

We've always been careful with our spending. But now more than EVER, we've been examining our finances. Recently, this has taken shape as several meticulously maintained spreadsheets in Excel tracking our monthly expenses.

The fixed.
The variable.
The emergency.
And the sneaky extras.

Running falls into the "extras" category as -- theoretically -- we feel we should be able to slap on a pair of sneakers and set out for next to nothing. In fact, we've always regarded the relatively cheap cost of the sport as a plus. No fancy equipment, like bikes, to maintain. No particular gear, like wetsuits, required.

But then . . . those sneakers get worn out and we need to buy new pairs. (Stephen's closer-to-nature, "barefooting" habit is particularly pricey, ironically enough.)

Tons of fun local races pop up as spring approaches, so we spend cash on those faster than we can remember.

Then there are those big destination races that require hotel stays, eating out, and higher participation fees.

I don't know exactly how much money we've spent in past years on all these items (and more, if you add in doctor visits for injuries, gym memberships, clothing, etc.). I do know it was a lot. And we no longer have room in our budget to continue at anywhere near the same rate.

How much have we allotted in our new plan? $800 a year (roughly $66 a month), which sounds like a lot . . . but ultimately equals two pairs of $100 shoes for each of us twice a year and $200 each for race costs. So, actually not much to go around at all, yet I still think we're being overly generous and could cut more, which we might do.

How do we plan to stick to it?
  • Keep it local. Smaller races around the neighborhood are far less expensive than those larger ones in cities. The gas and hotel money adds up while traveling, too. We plan to do one "big" event each year, likely in Philadelphia where we have family to stay with.
  • Train for specific events. This is versus running everything that arises. It's easy to add up all the races we've participated in. But I could run 10,000 races and not do well at them. In which case, I question: Why does it matter? No. It's not the number of races that's impressive. It's the quality of our participation in those events.
  • Resist flashy workout wear. This one's hard to do because we both have some serious buying habits related to running clothing. But when we dug into our closets, we found we have way more stuff than we ever thought. No need for anything new in the foreseeable future.
  • The same goes for shoes. Like I wrote above, we get two pairs of sneaks each year. Hopefully they'll be less than the $100 amount we've allowed leaving more room for racing!
  • Spend our allowances. For all things that fall outside these guidelines, we each have a modest monthly allowance (yeah, flashback to middle school days!). Oh, and we also have weekend money but -- again -- not much. But we have to keep in mind that these funds serve as a safety for all other overages we might encounter in other areas of the budget.
How much room in your budget do you leave for running/sport-related expenses? Have you ever thought about it? And if you're doing so for the first time, are you shocked at how much you spend? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

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