Category Archives: broke-ass triathlete

Keeping calm in May and June and July, humming along under $69k!

Oh…hey, Bacon Payoff fans! I’m still alive and survived the last 3 harrowing months. Today I woke up and it’s August. Haven’t updated since May 14th and we are 2/3rds done with summer?! And I’ve probably lost all my readers as I haven’t even done my absolutely minimum of once-a-month financial updates.

Alas, May was spent trying to completely replan a wedding.

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June was spent cramming in as much training as I could for my half-ironman triathlon.

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And July…July was a surprise because we started house hunting locally on July 3rd, saw at least 20 houses inside and out…wrote up a first offer…negotiated over last weekend…and this past Monday (July 27), our offer was accepted!

buy a house

So, no blogging, BUT holy crap, a wedding was replanned, a half ironman was completed, and a house was bought! There was definitely a lot of “keeping calm” needed. ūüėČ

There really hasn’t been much that’s exciting about paying off the student loans, because my minimum payments are humming along on auto-pilot ($557 a month). This essentially brings my grand total down by a measly $337-ish every month (or $4044-ish per year), but when my 1-year work anniversary kicks in, my employer will be contributing $10,000 each March for the next 5 years. I even did a very rough¬†spreadsheet where if I keep kicking in $557/month during this time period, my loans will be down to only $347¬†TOTAL after that 5th and final $10k payment. Of course after the 3rd payment, my loans with the higher interest rate will have been wiped out, so I won’t¬†have to contribute the whole $557 per month–my minimum payment would be knocked down to $241 per month. That’s not until March of 2018, so I have some time before I re-configure that spreadsheet!

Of course, several months ago, I changed my subheading to “The Great Bacon Payoff…bringing home the bacon to (buy a house and then) stomp down the student loans” and I am as surprised as anybody that we are able to actually buy a house this soon after moving back to this area. More on the house later…we are hoping to close on August 31st and most of wedding planning should be getting done this month, so I hope life slows down just a little bit and I’d love to get back to blogging more!

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In the meantime, here are the boring ole numbers for the past 3 months that I’ve neglected:

May update: $69,562.57 total as of 6/3/2015. (minus $323.35)

June update: $69,237.29 total as of 7/4/2015. (minus $325.28)

July update: $68,882.27 total as of 8/1/215. (minus $355.02)

Our budget has been pretty unusual because of all the circumstances, so I’m not going to nitpick or beat myself up. We’ve gotten so much done in terms of “big life stuff” and it is only getting better!

I hope everyone else is having an awesome and productive summer!

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Old habits die hard, so freeze ’em.

I mentioned freezing my credit card in my last update. Well, it had gotten to be bad–there was that time in February where things got out of whack, what with the huge taxes I owed, and moving, and the trip to the Gulf Coast

Because I had wiped out my emergency fund/savings account to pay for the taxes while still paying off as much debt as I could, I found myself “temporarily” charging things on my credit card. After I had worked so hard to pay off that $13k in credit card debt over a year ago.

Well, it got bad. Pretty bad. At first I was charging things in New Orleans like one of the hotel rooms, some restaurants. Then it became groceries here and there, running shoes. Several running race entries. Before I knew it, I made an almost $700 payment on the card early this month…and after it went through, I still had another $700 balance on it! WTF?!

I charged another hotel room on Priceline a couple weekends ago and had such an appalling experience–the front desk guy swore there was no reservation and they were booked so we ended up trekking to Mr. Bacon’s dad’s house. Lo and behold, two days later I get an email from Priceline saying we never showed up and would be charged the $73 for the price of the room as the cancellation fee. Excuse me?! After calling both Priceline and then my credit card company, Capital One suggested freezing the card indefinitely as I hadn’t been charged yet.

Priceline later got back to me saying we wouldn’t get charged, and in the meantime, I have no intention to unfreeze the credit card. It gets me in trouble and I shouldn’t use it as an emergency fund.

So that’s the scoop. I’ll pay off he rest of it as soon as I get paid this Friday and will get refocused on the student loans again. I’ve learned my lesson now!!

The Broke Ass Triathlete’s Guide to Planning a Cheaper Race Season

It’s that time of year again! Time to scramble to plan the 2014 race season and register for races during the “early bird pricing” period, before they go up on Jan 1st. Here are 10-ish tips from¬†your veteran broke ass triathlete (14 years experience and counting!):

1. Sign up early but not too early. You want to sign up early enough for events where the price goes up the closer to the event,¬†but not too early, as you never know about unexpected injuries, changes in your fitness level, or if there are other life stressors or events that may be happening (weddings, graduations, big project at work). You don’t want to throw away money on entry fees if you end up not even getting to the starting line, as there are so many with a no-refund policy. (This happened to me at the very first Ironman I signed up for back in 2001. Bye-bye $350. At least it wasn’t $675 like it is now…)

I personally like to limit myself to 6 months in advance. At this point, I’ll sign up for triathlons in May and June, along with some trail running events before then,¬†but am holding off on anything afterward. It’s just too far out to plan. I know this doesn’t work if you are trying to get into an event that sells out crazy early, but see “race smaller grassroots events” below.

2. Local races vs. destination races: Race locally. You save on travel expenses (gas and hotels) and get to sleep in your own bed and eat foods you are familiar with. I recently¬†signed up for an annual membership to this local running club; for just $35 per year, you get free entry to one or two running events they hold every month! There are no t-shirts or finisher medals, but I’ve done so many for so long that I don’t really need all that swag unless it’s a very special race. Last year I committed to only racing triathlons (and running races)¬†that were within driving distance, because flying with your bicycle is a whole ‘nother hassle (and major expense if you don’t know how to work the system).

3.¬†Race smaller grassroots events. I used to race a lot of the big name, “brand name” events (*cough* WTC *cough* Ironman), but found over time that the prices have gotten overinflated,¬†they’re less personal, the events are over crowded and you get less “bang for your buck.” They also tend to sell out a year in advance, which is too far out for me to plan these days. I love doing smaller events because you get to meet the race director and a lot of times it’s a family affair; you get to see that they really put their heart and soul in it and care about the athletes. They charge less and you can usually still sign up a month in advance, if not the morning¬†of the event.

4. Opt out of the race t-shirt. I signed up for a trail running race recently where there was an option to not get the race t-shirt, in which case you could save $5 off the registration price. I have enough shirts, so I checked this box to save a little bit of cash, and room in my dresser!

5. Make those destination races count–with friends!¬†If you do want to go further from home, plan to race and travel with friends to split up costs. Sharing the race experience with friends is what makes it extra fun, after all! I love to do this because some of my favorite triathlon friends don’t even live in the same state that I do, so we hardly see each other as it is. So why not make the race a reunion as well, and save on costs together? Genius.

6. Discount codes. Before handing your credit card number over, do the same thing that you would do if you were shopping online (at least what I would do, anyway): Google the race name and “discount code”. Sometimes they are posted on Facebook pages, local club websites, or even printed in magazines. I’m also a member of a big national club, Team RWB, which costs nothing to join, and gives huge discounts on races they want big club representation at. Disclaimer: I’m a member of the club because I support their cause, not for the discounts as I didn’t even know about them til later! Bonus perks ūüėČ

7. Limit race frequency. Really think about if you’ll be prepared enough to do every race you’ve written down, or if you may end up half assing them. I used to race TONS, and I know there’s truth in the theory of “racing yourself into shape.” At the same time, racing very frequently does not always produce the best results if you are not able to train much in between races, or give yourself adequate recovery. Moreso, going with the purpose of this post, racing frequently as a way to get faster is not cheap at all. I’d rather put in some solid training for free, and have a handful of races that I can really perform well in. Originally I had up to two Olympic triathlons per month on my tentative¬†2014 schedule until I realized that racing every other weekend was too expensive and just not practical in terms of building up the speed and endurance I wanted. Especially since I only ended up putting in enough training to race one triathlon (an Olympic distance) last year–let’s not bite off more than I can chew. (I’m really good at that.) I’m limiting it to one Olympic triathlon per month, some even 6 weeks apart.

8. Limit length of the race season to prevent burnout too. For me, triathlon season is May through September (or even October), and I’ll do some running races from November through April. A pretty even 6 month/6 month split, with some overlap as I’ll still throw in some running races throughout tri season to keep some spark in the running legs. ¬†I like to be done before Halloween, so I can enjoy that holiday along with Thanksgiving and Christmas (as evidenced by my current state of fitness…). When I used to race more competitively, it was a February through November triathlon season. Whew. That was exhausting to both my body and my bank account! This year I may “only” do 4 Olympic triathlons. We’ll see.

9.¬†Take into consideration¬†the types and distances of the events¬†that will keep¬†your mind, body, and wallet from getting burnt out. Triathlons tend to be more expensive than running races, but Olympic triathlons are also much cheaper than half and full Ironmans. (They also require less training, which match my current work demands much better.) Right now, “early bird pricing” on some local Olympic triathlon events are¬†as low as the $75-$80 range, which is similar pricing to (if not cheaper than)¬†some of the big name marathons and half marathons. I’ve seen typical Olympic tri pricing more in the $120-$160 range, ugh. Tiny local running events (as mentioned above with no shirts or medals) can be found as low as the $5 to $10 range.

10. Set aside an annual budget for racing. This is something I haven’t employed before, as I used to throw race expenses into my monthly “Fun Fund”, which didn’t always work as there are many times you sign up for something x months in advance. Or like around this time of year, when you may sign up for 3 or 4 events at all once. I like the idea of limiting myself to how much I can spend in terms of entry fees and travel expenses for each event. These costs tend to be spread over the course of the year, so it makes sense to lump them into an annual budget vs. a monthly budget. I have yet to come up with a number for the annual racing budget, and I’ll probably do an annual travel budget as well. They’re in the works!

Bonus tip from college racing days! Camp instead of booking a hotel, or get hooked up with a homestay. When I was a young little tri newbie in college, we always picked the camping option as many races are at lakes with campgrounds. This could be as low as $20 or cheaper for a tent spot, compared to about $80-$100/night for a hotel/motel. You can also cast your net wide in your circle of friends, teammates, or alumni networks (hello, Facebook!) and try to get hooked up with a homestay. When I rowed in grad school, we would often get hosted by a local alumni family at regattas that were in the next state over. The other great thing about being a part of a national team like Team RWB? You can take turns hosting or homestaying with other teammates in different parts of the country!

Good luck this upcoming season! Any tips I’ve left out on how to keep your racing costs down?

the big bonus distribution

So if you read my final FUCCD post, I mentioned a completely unexpected big bonus from work (which I only started in January). Who ever heard of a mid-year bonus? Not me! So, hooray! September also happens to be an “extra paycheck” month (I get paid every two weeks on Fridays). Double hooray! While I won’t disclose exactly how massive the bonus was, well, okay it was more than two paychecks (!!!) and certainly more than the maximum deposit I could make using my Chase mobile app. (Yes, it was a really ridiculous amount!) I needed to drive to the closest Chase ATM to deposit it, which is actually a 2-hour drive away, before it burned a big hole in my pocket, and yes, finding a new local bank is another story for another day.

Instead of blowing through all my bonus money irresponsibly, the first thing I did was pay off the rest of the credit cards (which was the plan with the “extra paycheck” anyway), and then figure out how to distribute the wealth. ¬†I spent the last 10 months really cracking down on my spending: I haven’t had a hair cut. I haven’t flown anywhere (my family lives on the other side of the country). I haven’t raced any triathlons (because entry fees are super expensive, I’m out of shape and *was* unmotivated). So while I wasn’t going to blow through ALL my bonus money, I thought it was fairly reasonable to have fun with some of it. Say, 20% of it.

Most of it, though, was distributed responsibly:

  • 47% to the emergency fund
  • 24% to the student loans
  • 20% for fun!
  • the remaining 9% stayed in the checking account for the regular expenses.

I actually made a special one-time-only budget for September in my Mint.com app. I categorized it as “Entertainment” since I already have a monthly “Fun Fund” of $200.

things I spent it on so far:

  • a triathlon entry fee for October (with 20% off coupon code!)
  • new swimsuit and goggles (from Amazon)
  • new bike pedals (super deal online)
  • new socks and underwear and sports bras (from Target)
  • nice camping backpack (from my local REI…had a coupon but didn’t work because it was meant for REI brand only. Oh well. I still really wanted it!)
  • 2 pairs of shoes for Mr. Bacon (from Amazon)
  • baseball tickets to see the Phillies (Mr. Bacon’s home team) at Nationals stadium (still cheap seats but not the cheapest)

So I still try to be a savvy shopper when I am spending money, going to my trusty local Target and Amazon.com, finding discount codes and scouting out the best internet deals. I haven’t actually bought a new swimsuit in over 2 years, my favorite goggles are about that old, and my bike pedals must be 4 or 5 years old…which I got as slightly used hand-me-downs at the time. The triathlon is going to be my only one for the year, and it’s a smaller local race 30 miles away, which will keep the costs down.

Anyway, I’m happy with how I split up my unexpected windfall. How would you do it? More responsibility and less fun?? More fun and less responsibility? Have you ever gotten a mid-year bonus or unexpected windfall?