Top 47 Tips For A Triathlete On A Budget: How To Afford Triathlons?


It is commonly known that the major barrier to getting into the sport of triathlon is money.

Triathlon is damn expensive. That’s why it is not common to find many kids or people in underdeveloped countries commonly racing triathlon (if any), in comparison to the other end of the spectrum where their participation level in marathons is aggressive, mainly because all you need to run marathons is a good shoe.

Referring to a survey done in 2009  by USA Triathlon, the median triathlete makes $126,000 annually which is a bit higher than twice the average income in United State that same year!

Just to start off with what is considered the minimum proper gadgets in triathlons will cost around 12,000 USD. Here is an article I wrote that addresses the Top 22 triathlon hidden expenses and how to Save 9,000 USD on them!

Triathlon is a nice sport, and I believe it should be accessible to anyone interested in the sport.

Here is some good news. I myself had to go through this journey, spent dozens of thousand on the sport with tens of triathlons under my belt, ranging from small local ones to Ironman’s extreme triathlons, and I was able to put the list below of tips and tricks to help athletes to afford triathlons at an extreme budget while hoping to shrink down this barrier, and allowing more and more people to access this beautiful sport.

On a side note, do not waste your money on useless gear purchases and check out my Best Triathlon Battle-Tested Budgeting Gear

Top 47 Tips For A Triathlete on a Budget: How to afford triathlons?
47 Tips for triathlete on a budget

Also check my post on Top 30 Newbie Triathlon Mistakes You Are Probably Doing!

47- You do not need a gym membership

Why would you opt for a gym membership if you can practice for free outdoors? The whole point of doing Triathalon is to swim bike and run. Then you probably should be swimming, cycling and running.

For core workouts, you can focus on cross-training rather than lifting weights. Cross-training will also provide an additional perspective to your triathlon training, making it more interesting.

46 – Free Bike fit

You can do your own bike fit. There are tons of recourses online that will help you out. You may need a trainer to test the position while stationary, but that is something you can borrow. Also, a mobile app could come in very handy in your bike fit project.

Using Bike Fast Fit
Using Bike Fast Fit

From experience, bike fit is all about trial and error. Here is an article we wrote addressing all you need to know about The cost of bike fitting and what to expect (Ameture, advanced and professional)

45- Volunteer for free credit races

Some branded Triathalon races could cost as much as $700. You don’t really need to spend that much on the race as a beginner.

So it’s not exactly that you can show up and join a triathlon race for free, however, you have to option to volunteer in some races and get credit from the organizers towards the next time they organize a race and participate for free or at a discount.

For example, Greenwell is offering this option for example. If it’s not clearly offered, then it would not hurt to drop them an email asking the race organizers for it.

44 – Start a crowdsourced fund -Gofundme page

A friend of mine did just this for his first Ironman triathlon.

He started a gofundme page and managed to get a bit more than $2,000 USD, which was quite decent and covered most of his expenses.

Triathalon is one tough and respectable Sport and there will be people out there who would be happy to give you a hand. You can simply start by sharing it on your Facebook page.

43 – Bike and Run to School and Work

I do this myself. My university was 20 minutes away on a bike so I rode there every time. That’s a 40-minute workout sneaked into my every day. I also used the 7-minute walk to my workplace every day for recovery.

This is almost one free hour a day working out without consuming any of my leisure free time Not only that. You can also feel good about it knowing that you probably trimmed few kilos of carbon emission every year.

42 – Exchange gears with athletes

You can always put a Facebook post on your local triathlon club if you need a piece of equipment. Some would be happy to exchange one One piece of equipment with yours for some time which might be enough for you.

41 – Borrow, borrow, borrow

Triathlons hidden expenses

This is the magic word for doing triathlons on budget. Ask around, ask your friends your family, and your local triathlon club. You literally can borrow anything from the goggles to the tri bike.

40 – Any bike is your Tri bike

Triathlon on a folding bike

The number one expense in doing triathlons is the bike, however, it doesn’t have to be.

There are no rules in Triathalon against using mountain, folding, hybrid, and generally any bike with a paddle.

In the above photo is my friend who did a Half-ironman distance on his folding bike. Check out Can You Use Folding Bikes In Triathlons? Pros & Cons: What Are Your Options!

So, if you already own a bike and just use it. If you do not, look for a used hybrid bike. This will save you good money at least at the start of your Triathalon journey.

Anyways, a Triathlon bike is not a good fit for a new triathlete unless they already own it and do not want to spend the extra cash until they get a taste of triathlon. Check this article for more: Are Triathlon Bikes Comfortable & When Should You Get One!

39 – Rent, rent, rent

So tried to borrow a lot of the gear, but sometimes some gear and hard to borrow. Your second option is to rent. You can rent A bike, what sort, a Triathalon watch, a Cycling shoe and possibly anything you think of. You can go as far as renting a professional Bike (source)

38 – Your triathlon club is your coach

Triathalon coaches are expensive. If you are up for an online coach, it will be much cheaper. Here is an article I wrote about How Much Does a Triathlon Coach Cost? Do you really need one!

However, I think your local triathlon club will provide you with a higher value for no cost. They will share with you their experiences and will help you navigate your way into improving your performance, and will answer any questions you have.

37 – Make your own food

As a triathlete, it is helpful to be a good cook as well. You will consume a crazy amount of calories training and racing. Eating out with your new stomach will break the bank. Cooking your own food will provide you higher value for the money you spend.

36 – Travel with groups

Traveling for a triathlon is the second most expensive part of doing triathlons. If you’re going to travel for a triathlon you will find yourself spending a fortune on transportation (Especially when transporting your bike) and accommodation.

Splitting the bill and getting a group discount is the cheapest way to go. Check around and see if somebody would like to join you, or if somebody is already set for a race and you would like to join them.

35 – Local Triathlons are good enough

If you would like to have the full experience of racing triathlons but don’t want to spend the pricy fee of an ironman then check the ones organized locally with not a very popular brand.

Small brands with locally organized triathlons a fraction of other races for more or less an equivalent experience.

34 – Always evaluate cost vs return

It is easy to slip into the habit of Triathalon spending

However, It always comes down to cost and returns. For example, if you buy a bike for $2,000, any additional spending from that point onwards is marginal.

Also, a triathlon GPS watch will not add to your speed Or make your race any easier And they could cost as much as $600. If it’s your first triathlon, I can not see why you would need one right away. Check out List of Triathlon Gear You Do Not Need; & What’s Actually Required!

Here are two other articles that I wrote about these two items specifically How much do GPS sports watches weigh? Does it even matter! and Is it Worth it to upgrade your bike Stock Wheelset?

33 – Safety is a priority

TT vs road Cycling Helmet
TT vs road Cycling Helmet

The one thing you cannot compromise on is his safety. Get a proper helmet.

You do not need to buy a new one or a fancy one, but you can look around for a cheaper version that are following international standards. I can’t even use your daughter’s pink helmet if it fits.

32 – You do not need a new bike

As I mentioned earlier the bike is the most expensive piece of equipment in triathlons. But you can save a lot in buying a secondhand bike. A used bike can sell for less than half of its original price

31 – Anything could be your Fuel

You do not have to buy all these fancy gels. Any Calorie stuffed food will work just fine as racing fuel. I myself like to use chocolate bars, bananas, dates, and gummy bears.

Check out Four Easy Natural and Cheap Energy Gel DIY Recipes & Six Other Off The Shelf Alternatives

30 – Free training plan

You will find tons of free training plans online. However, my advice would be not to overcomplicate this part. After all, all you need is to swim, bike, and run, so just keep doing that.

29 – Join Swimming, running and cycling clubs

There is a good chance that you will not find a triathlon club in your local area but even if you do, consider joining the three disciplines club. They could be as handy as a triathlon club.

28 – Triathlon watch does not have to be expensive

How much does a triathlon watch cost?
How much does a triathlon watch cost?

$200 Triathalon Gps watch Will do. And if you don’t want to spend $200, a normal digital watch will work. You can also use a normal digital watch. Check the one I would recommend and love using it in my list of Best Triathlon Battle-Tested Budgeting Gear

And if you do not have one, then maybe your phone is your best option. You can still use Strava on your smartphone. Strava is like the Facebook equivalent for athletes. It will also allow you to record your activities with the GPS feature.

Find out more in this article that I wrote earlier on How much does a triathlon watch cost? what matters the most!

27 – Book way in advance

Normally Triathalon races have a pricing structure based on when you are booking the race, so you can save a little bit of money by booking an early one.

But this is not the only place where you can save money booking early on. Hotels flights and train tickets are where the real saving is.

26 – Consider a Triathlon insurance

In 2017 my fancy 3,000 USD Got stolen from me just next to the Iron Man race triathlon venue. That was when I realize the bike insurance exists.

If your bike is worth $1,000 or more, I think it is reasonable to consider insuring your bike for the peace of mind of the financial burden that could come with theft or accidents.

Here is an article to help you out figure out how much it will cost for you How Much Does Triathlon Insurance Cost? What Is Covered & Should You Get One!

25 – Swim anywhere

You do not need a fancy and pricy gym with a swimming pool membership, you can swim anywhere, literally.

The beach, rivers, your resume swimming pool, and even some people go as far as what is called dry swimming workouts. Here is a video explaining it,

24 – Forget about race photos

Fell into this trap a few times myself. You could be easily spending $100 USD on the race photos. You don’t really need photos to finish a triathlon but they are certainly nice to have.

One hack is to ask someone to take a photo of you or look after the event for photos taken by the public and tagged the race on them

Another way is to just buy the one photo you like the most for your social media post rather than spending a lot of money on a package of 50 photos that you will never use.

After all, you will get all your photos to enjoy but with a watermark. It is common for people to post even the watermarked version on social media.

23 – Ignore branded Merchandise

Ironman, for example, sells their merchandise for a really hefty price. You do not need an Ironman bag to finish at Triathalon. You do not need an ironman hat to finish a triathlon. It doesn’t make you run any faster.

Check out the Triathlon Merchandise I specially designed to be low cost

Do not waste your money on merchendise. Usually, you will be getting some of the race branded gadgets (Common in Ironmans), such as a bag, medal, and finish your T-shirt.

22- There is nothing wrong with Frozen fruits

You will soon find out about smoothies and will feel the pinch of fresh fruits’ price tag. Fresh fruits are expensive because they have a shelf life.

If you would like to put these nutrients in your system for little money, frozen packs will give you the optimal value for the cost.

Surprisingly, frozen fruits may even have a higher level of nutrients when compared to the fresh alternatives because fresh products may lose half of their vitamins and nutrients during storage and cooking (source )

21 – You may not need a wetsuit

You will only need a wet suit if the water is extremely cold, well it is legal to wear a wet suit in many of the races, Idea idea that you need a wet suit is not true.

Some races will require you to wear a wet suit that is in extreme condition and rare. Read my take on What To Wear For Triathlons? Trisuit VS Wetsuit Choices; Options & When To Wear What

Also, cold water is good for your body. Consider the Wim Hof breathing technique, which I myself have been practicing for years and find helpful. Here, check out his video,

Check this post if you can use your old wetsuit in triathlon: Triathlon Vs Surfing Vs Diving Wetsuit; Can They All Be Used in Triathlon? How To Pick One

20 – Group Discounts

If you are part of a triathlon club such as Team USA-Triathlon, check with them if they offer discounts from any of their partners. You can get up to 45% from some brands.

19 – Your bike is your commuting device traveling

When traveling for a triathlon event, since you are taking your bike anyways, it will save you a ton of money to use your bike as your main transportation median. Here is a video of me cycling around highland’s Scotland during my trip for Celtman Extreme triathlon,

18 – You are your own mechanic

Maintaining your bike at the bike shop will break the bank. Fix and maintain your own bike. Get a bike to Batoul, and just use YouTube for guidance.

17 – A 10 USD goggles will do

A cheap 10 USD goggles will do the job. All these fancy titles do not really matter much. All that googles have to be is,

  1. Fit (don’t leak water)
  2. Comfortable (no chafes or pressure around your eyes), and;
  3. Clear (Not foggy or scratchy).

Check out my recommended goggle listed in my Best Triathlon Battle-Tested Budgeting Gear

16 – You do not need a new bike

A used bike is as good as the new one, as long as it did not crash before. You could be easily saving 50% on a second-hand bike.

With a little bit of tweaking and some upgrades, you could have a very decent racing bike.

15 – You do not need a bike trainer

Bike trainers a boring, and could be very expensive. You do not literally need a bike trainer, you can just use the stationary bike at any of your local gyms during these extreme weather or condition days.

If you really want to ride your bike at home, then just use a dumb trainer which will cost you a little bit less than $100.

14 – Outlets in discount seasons is your friend

This is my favorite. Who said you cannot use last season’s shoe. Make a list and target outlets in discount seasons. You can easily save more than half your expenses per year.

13 – Second-hand gadgets are good too

Look up your local online second-hand platform. You will occasionally find good deals on triathlon gear for less than half of what you would typically spend on new gear.

12 – Wash your goggles after use

Arena Googles - Nemesis X fit
Arena Googles – Nemesis X fit

Take a second to wash the lenses after every use by simply applying some freshwater. This will take away any harmful chemicals and keep them usable for ages.

I used to buy three a year and now it’s down to one just with this simple hack.

11 – DIY your own smart trainer

Smart trainers are damn expensive. What makes them smart is their ability to sync with virtual cycling apps like Zwift.

While I am not a big fan of smart trainers, mainly because they are boring as hell, you may decide for whatever reason that you need one.

However, you may change your mind when you have a closer look at the price of a smart bike trainer.

H much does a smart bike trainer cost? A smart bike trainer that will simulate a standard stationary trainer with the added advantage of regulating the resistance by cycling application costs anywhere from 700 to 1,200 USD.

How to make a cheaper version yourself? Get a dumb trainer and make it smarter. A typical dumb trainer will cost you new between 100 to 200 USD. Then add to it a Speed and Cadence Sensor for another 50 USD and Voilà . You just made your smart trainer for less than half the price.

Note that some sensors may require you to buy an ANT+ dongle for another 10 USD if you want to sync it with your PC.

10 – Small towns races are nice and cheap

Look for those small-town races. I had the most fun in these and cost me a fraction of an ironman race

9 – Carry a repair kit

If you are racing and it happens you get a flat tire, everything you worked for, all the effort, and the money you spent on this race could be wasted.

It would be safer to just take with you a tire repair kit,  CO2 Compact Road Pump, and an extra tube in a small bike bag attached to the saddle.

These few extra grams are worth it if your sole objective in the race is to get to the finish line

8 – You do not “Need” a Tri suit

While it is certainly a piece of sportswear that I would recommend, however, the word Need is not accurate.

Beginners can get away with normal swimming, cycling, and running shorts. Check out How to race a triathlon for free with no budget and no money! (equipment, registration, and training)

You will lose some time in the transition changing but who cares. You can upgrade later on to a proper Tri suit when you get more serious about the sport after your first few races.

7 – Youtube is your Motivational speaker

You can easily lose motivation in such a tough sport. Many people resort to coaches for this specific reason. But that does not have to be the case. YouTube is cool for aspiring and motivational speeches. I like this one,

6 – Ask the community for help

If you’re stuck somewhere, need help With a question, are you just need a piece of equipment that you can’t afford or you can not find it, make a Facebook post on your afternoon club will probably get you sorted out.

5 – Start with a Super sprint

Super sprint is the shortest triathlon distance and a fair distance for a beginner. The financial perk of starting small is that it’s usually cheaper to sign up for and required little equipment.

You can skip on many of the specialized gear and energy gel, and yet get to complete a triathlon.

Check out What is A Mini-Triathlon? Distances, Nutrition, and Preparation required

4 – Torn wetsuits are repairable

If your wetsuit is torn you can still get it fixed. Here is a video on how you can do it at home,

If it’s too complicated, or the tear is just too big, then ask your local shop if they can fix it for you or send it to a specialized wet suit repair shop such as expresswetsuit and they will take care of it.

It will still probably be way cheaper than buying a new one.

3 – Use a free checklist

Being organized could save you some good bucks. You do not want the limbo of having forgotten one of the endless lists of gears, or to have to find out that you have placed it in the wrong transition while racing.

You can download the free triathlon checklist that I prepared posted on this page Must have Triathlon Transition Checklist

2 – You can make money out of the sport

It does not have to always be spending money.

You can also make some even with some basic knowledge of the sport. Here is an article that about 5 ways to make money from Triathlons by Average Triathletes

1 – Don’t spend a dime on your first triathlon

I have to say, this only applies to people who are just getting into the sport. Just like any sport, you will eventually have to spend some money.

But just to test the water, you can literarily do your first few triathlons without spending a cent. Check this post that I wrote about How to race a triathlon for free with no budget and no money! (equipment, registration, and training)

sherifjallad

An extreme triathlete who have competed in dozens of triathlons including IronMans and Extreme triathlons.

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