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Living on a Budget and Being a Triathlete

This article is dedicated to all the women out there who are working hard every day - working, training, raising a family, trying to do it all and stay mindful of a budget.

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As a child nothing seemed expensive, because I did not have to pay for it. My sister and I did get hand me downs and share but I never grew up really learning the value of a dollar. But, two children and a single mom still made for a tight budget. I grew up playing soccer, at the time a very inexpensive sport; however, club fees and equipment was nothing compared to dance or gymnastics. Fortunately, I loved it as well and was not half bad. I earned a scholarship to play in college - free school and free gear - still not so expensive. Upon graduating college with no desire to attempt the professional realm of Women's Soccer but still a competitive drive, I set my sights on road races. Running, still a relatively inexpensive sport and I had been running with soccer almost my whole life, so can't be that hard, right? Then, I started swimming in the ocean to ease my muscle pain from running and was enjoying that. A friend suggested I try a triathlon. Excited for a new challenge I figured I would give it a whirl.
A whirl it has been. I started competing in triathlons six years ago. My first year I was in college working on my graduate degree then the past five years I have been working as a full time teacher. I enjoy my job, I take full advantage of my summers yet I live on a very tight budget. I now have competed in over 30 triathlons and have a love-hate relationship with them. I love training for them, racing them and all that is them - except the cost associated with the "doctor, lawyer" sport.  
This past summer I attended Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University 9-Week Course (www.daveramsey.com/fpu/home/). It was an amazing experience and a true life lesson for budgeting. Here is what I have learned from this course and from life experience living paycheck to paycheck on how to truly be a triathlete on a budget:

1. Bike: My first tri bike was a $100 bike I got on craigslist. I was not going to spend big bucks (that I didn't have) until I was sure I would enjoy the sport. I did enjoy it, so then after many races (and wins) on my cheap little bike I decided to upgrade.

2. Save first then buy. This is a huge Dave Ramsey lesson. We are the now generation. I want it now, so what do we do, swipe that shiny plastic card and get it, then spend a few months (or more) paying it off. No more plastic. Cut up the plastic, rid yourself of the debt. If you really want something (new bike) save your money, then buy one. If you have to save for a few months, then so be it, delayed gratification. You will appreciate it much more and you won't have that debt hanging over your head.

3. Get a part time job at a running/triathlon store: I needed extra money to support my hobby, so instead of just any job, I tried to find a job that would help me become better. I got a part time job at my local running store. Not only do I get a great discount and lots of free merchandise, but I also learn about the latest and greatest trends in the sport, talk to many athletes and get sound advice.

4. Volunteer. I planned to do a local race, and then looked up the race fee that had a whopping $300 price tag attached to it and it was not an ironman. Instead of giving up my dreams of doing this race, I contacted the race director and asked about volunteering to earn race credit. I volunteered for a different race the company was holding and brought a friend that could put their hours toward my race credit and paid $50 for a $300 race. Not only was volunteering a wonderful learning experience about all the effort put into race set-up and organization, but I saved $250.  

5. Plan ahead and put races in your budget. Create your race calendar before the season begins and plan out your races, so that are in your budget. Dave Ramsey's course thrives on creating a budget. Create a monthly budget and include race fees/etc. If you have your race season planned out in advance, then adding an item line for race fees should be simple.

6. Live within your means. I work at the running store to save money but trust me, there are always new, bright things that I want. I promise myself that those hot pink shoes will make me faster. Well, hold it. Before you swipe that plastic (which you should have gotten rid of - see #2) or spend your savings, ask yourself "is this a want or a need?" Most of the time it is a want. So do what you need - walk, run, get away fast. I find it is best to not bring my wallet, so I cannot buy anything and I am forced to just look. If you really want, save and budget for it.

7. If it's broke...fix it. Crazy thought sometimes, right? It is so much easier at times just to buy a new one (whatever it may be), but attempt at fixing it or find a friend/nice person/handy person who could fix it for you. It will save you big bucks in the long run.

8. Race more local and independent races. Branded races and race series put on by a large for profit company often have the best marketing and hype but are often much more expensive. Look around for a local race. Alot of the time you can find them for half the price of a large corporate race.

9. Train with a group. The collective knowledge or training with a group will help you learn training tips and other tribal knowledge that you might otherwise only get from paying a personal coach hundreds of dollars a month.

10. Become an annual USAT member. Instead of paying for single day licenses, a single USAT annual license pays for its self after your 3rd race of the year. Plus you get awesome discounts.

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