February 15, 2012

Three Easy Tips to Keep Triathlon Costs In CheckAnd keep peace in the household!

Endurance triathlon racing comes with a price tag that can be pretty hefty.  It’s taken me 12 years to craft the secret of managing family finances while supporting my triathlamate’s passion and keeping some mad money for myself, too.

It all started when I wandered into the garage way back when and saw my husband, measuring tape in hand, sizing up the space to figure out where he was going to be able to store his extra bikes.  Yes, of course, I nodded as he explained that he needed a tri bike for racing, a road bike for training, a mountain bike for cross-training, and yet another (his old beater bike that looked pretty darned good to me) for his CompuTrainer™.  Boy was I naïve back then.

I now understand that triathlon investment is really about a few key things:

  • The size and location of the race(s) you will be doing:  registration fees, travel costs, food and lodging for you and whoever else will be going with you
  • The scale (and quantity) of bikes that are purchased
  • The amount of zeal you have for the sport

We needed a plan so we didn’t wind up in an ugly discussion about money down the road.  I finally came up with 5 questions that I ask my husband each year; I suggest you go through this exercise, too, and ask yourself:

  1. How many races am I entering this year?
  2. Is this a bucket list item, or it going to become a part of my long-term lifestyle?
  3. Do I want to keep races local or is this my opportunity to see the world?
  4. Do I want to qualify for the World Championship in Kona, and possibly enter the lottery each year just as a backup?
  5. Who else do I want to invite along to out-of-town races?

In addition to the costs of racing, ongoing gear upgrades are a huge deal.  Take bikes, for instance.  A handful of seconds could mean the difference between grabbing a spot at the World Championship race… or not.  If you don’t care about finish times, I’ll guarantee you care about comfort.  A top-end tri-bike can make a world of difference in how well you train and feel (and recover) following a long cycling day.  Whether it’s shoes, helmets, wetsuits or water bottles, each technological upgrade translates into speed and comfort.  And in my book, that’s worth every penny.

How to Deal with the Financial Hemorrhage

“At least it’s not a sports car,” and “At least I’m not having an affair,” are arguments my husband used to convince me that it was worth his time and our money to invest in his sport.  Don’t get me wrong, I agree that triathlon racing is a good thing.  I just wish I had a vote in the whole sports car option.

Meantime, here are my top 3 ways to ensure that your costs don’t spiral out of control and put you or your relationship in a bad place:

  • Tighten It Up.  Just like any other major investment in your life, pull together an estimated budget using my 5 questions outlined earlier in this article.  This dollar figure should include all costs associated with gear, clothing, travel, coaching, and race registration fees.  And be sure to bring into the discussion anyone else who will be financially impacted by your decisions so there are no surprises and no drama down the road, either.
  • Establish Buying Boundaries.  Invite your partner along when you’re heading out to do a little “shopping.”  Sometimes you get all gaga over gadgets and need a bit of corralling when confronted by fast-talking bike shop sales reps.  This is when it’s vital to have that race budget in place.  For example, if you are attracted to a bright, shiny thing that seems way out of line, ask yourself, “Hmm, how will this purchase impact my ability to go to New Zealand for that Ironman race next year?”  This is all about choosing between something you want and something else you want!  Having your race mate there will keep you honest, too.
  • Get real.  Okay, just know it’s going to happen.  You are going to walk into the house someday with a brand new triathlathingamajig under your arm, saying it was the latest, greatest gizmo on the planet and can you please, please keep it.  Forget that it costs a week’s salary.  Here’s how to keep the peace:  keep a list – I hope you already have one – of some of the really cool things that your partner would like to have or do, but won’t or can’t because they feel it is financially out of reach.  Then it’s as simple as saying, “Hey, sweetie, seems only fair that since I got this thing, then you should go get yours, too.”  Since you’ve likely not been paying as much attention to the home front as you should be, this action alone can make you a hero!

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