Friday, March 23, 2018

Dollar Dilemma: To Sign Up For the Race Series, Or Not

It's been almost a year since we started our debt repayment journey, and there's nothing that better illustrates my change in mindset than a current budget dilemma I'm trying to work through. Your advice is welcome!

Here's the situation: Our town hosts a summer running series. A blanket fee of $262 (applicable until the end of this month, at which point the price increases by $50) grants entry to seven races, including a one-miler, a couple of 5- and 10Ks, a half marathon, and a 15K.

As I've shared in the past, I am an avid runner: if there's one activity I'm passionate about, it's this. A nagging IT band injury sidelined me for almost the entirety of last year, but thanks to a careful, patient recovery, I'm all healed up and ready to hit the trails with the local running community. This summer series sounds tantalizing.


The me of early 2017 would have pulled out my credit card and signed myself up without a second thought. The me of early 2018, however, has been hemming and hawing about this for days. Is this a good use of $262?

Let's review the pros and cons:

Pros:
  • The price per race is a good deal, especially for the longer races. Racing is expensive! Fees for half marathons often range from $60-$100. For this running series, the average entrance fee is only $37.
  • Every race in the series supports a good cause. Proceeds will go to the city's chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, a local hospice, and a community education organization. One could also argue that the races support the local economy.
  • A couple of my friends are already signed up, so it would be a fun friend activity throughout the summer. Given that I'm a staunch introvert who works from home, the opportunity to spend time with my friends is important.
  • It's a chance to hone my skills and get faster. Sure, I don't need to race - putting on my sneakers and hitting the trails is something I can do for free on a daily basis - but in the past, racing has helped me reach new goals and become a better, more consistent runner. 
  • My family is supportive. Fortysomething thinks the running series is a great idea - mostly for my mental health - and is encouraging me to go for it.
Pre-race prep
Cons:
  • The running series isn't really in our budget. Not for March, and not for April (especially because April is the Kiddo's birthday month, so any "extra" money will be going towards birthday festivities). My attitude has clearly evolved in this respect: in the past, I had no problem shoving the budget aside, doing what I wanted to do, and telling myself I'd worry about the cost later. Now, I take our budget seriously: it tells us the unwavering truth about our financial situation and what we can afford.
  • Thus, we'd need to take the money from our savings account. At present, we have about $1800 in savings. $262 doesn't make a huge dent in that total, but we need to use some of our savings to cover a portion of summertime travel costs (Fortysomething is going back east to see his family). We expect to deposit a bonus or two into the account by end of summer, but the bonuses are not guaranteed.
  • That's over $250 that we could put towards debt, which is a top priority for us. At least to some extent, we're willing to make sacrifices to pay off that debt.
So, personal finance community, what say you: YAY or NAY to the summer race series? What would you do in this situation?

Disease Called Debt

13 comments:

  1. Ooh, that is a dilemma! It's a good thing that you're hitting the brakes to think this through. From what you say, this sounds like an important hobby and something that would be good for you. Is there any way you can work out a way to pay for it by cutting back elsewhere for a couple months, or by finding some "extra" money after April? That's how I'd approach it.

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    Replies
    1. Hmmm... We might be able to find some extra money with the groceries if I can get Fortysomething on board. I may also try to sell some of my wax wraps, which people keep asking about.

      I really am on the fence about spending this money, and I'm so surprised at myself! (Also kind of proud of myself.)

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  2. I like Gary's idea. If that doesn't work for March and April, can you budget it in purposefully for May/June?

    I don't usually like borrowing from savings, but I'm with your partner on this one. Mental health is important, and that race fee annualized is a pretty reasonable medical expense (though I know the IRS probably wouldn't view it that way.)

    I'd find a way to make it happen and then save a small amount each month going forward for next year's fee so 2019 doesn't present the same dilemma.

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    1. Thank you! <3 I appreciate the advice and support.

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  3. We #yearofno'd a ton of stuff, but we did make taking a vacation a priority. But we still paid cash for that vacation rather than sending it in on debt. You'll have to decide if running is important enough to you that you're willing to push your debt free date back a bit to accomplish it.

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    Replies
    1. I would definitely not be putting the fee onto a credit card, but yes, it might push back the debt free date. I really don't know! It's a tough little decision. I won't be taking a vacation this summer, which makes me think signing up could be a good choice.

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  4. Personally, I would look at what races you would do if price weren't an issue. If you can honestly say that you would want to do every race if it were free because you love it so much, then it might be worthwhile. If you really only want to do one or two of the races, but you're considering signing up for the package because it seems like such a good "deal", then it might make more sense to pay for a few important races individually. Also, what happens if you have another injury and are not able to compete in all the races?

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    Replies
    1. Oh Jeebus, I better not get injured again. I know where I went wrong last year and I won't do it again. As for whether to sign up, yeah, it's a tough decision! Still on the fence.

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    2. Sorry! Not trying to be a downer...but as a former runner, I know how vulnerable bodies are.

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  5. You know, I think I wouldn't. Partly this is because you couldn't get me to run a 1K if you paid ME, but partly it's because I think you'll feel better if you stay committed to debt this year. What if you ran your own 'races' on the same days/times as the official races? Make them the same length, and so on. And then do the series next year as a reward for staying focused this year.

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  6. Collectively, roughly how many hours are you looking at? If you look at it that way, it may/may not be a good value. Also, do you budget any blow money each month? If so, could you take it from that?

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  7. I say YAY. Find the cash somewhere - from a combination of trimming something else or pulling from savings.

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  8. I would say no! It's just too much money for only a few races you will be running, because like your posted before you like running long distances so I don't think you will be participating in the 5K races. Maybe you could start a running group with friends/ neighbors etc. in order to still have the social aspect and then participate in 1 half marathon together.

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