I’ve been trying to become more financially literate recently, and I even picked up a couple personal finance books. One of them in particular—I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi—made me pause and reflect on the culture of saving money. Contrary to what you might expect from the title, I Will Teach You to be Rich (affiliate link) isn’t about saving to become traditionally “rich.” It’s about learning to use your money to live a rich life, in a figurative sense.
Basically, the idea is that you set up your finances so you cover fixed expenses, save towards your goals, and invest for the future—but then you spend extravagantly on the things you love. For some people, that could mean traveling as much as they want, or running marathons all over the world. For others, it could mean spending $5,000 a year on designer shoes.
The point is to set up a system so that you can spend freely on the things that bring you joy. It’s not about just being cheap and flat-out rejecting any non-necessity, which is often what we’re taught to do. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should just go buy whatever you want, whenever you want; you still need to be smart with your money. But, “being smart with your money” can actually mean shelling out thousands on a passion (if that’s what you value), if you’re still setting aside your earnings for saving and investing.
While I still have a lot to learn when it comes to personal finance, I realized that I kind of already follow a similar philosophy. Running and travel are my big passions, and I spend pretty freely on them (I promise I’m still saving money, mom and dad). I’ve just decided that running and travel are what I value, and I cut costs elsewhere.
I began to wonder, however, how much exactly I spend. I haven’t been very good at documenting my expenses, and I figured that auditing my running costs would be a good start. I decided to turn this topic in a post since I thought it’d also be an interesting, honest look into how much running actually costs (at least for a pretty obsessed marathoner in her twenties).
A Quick Clarification
Before I break down my (very high) running expenses, I just want to make a quick clarification: I’m not rich, but I recognize that I’m privileged to be able to spend freely on my passions. To give you a better sense of my income, I spent most of the year (7 months) in France, where I was a university English lecturer. I made the minimum wage of 1200 euros/month (1334 USD) after taxes. On the side, I did remote editing work, and I estimate that I made around $2100/month total while in France. Since coming back, I’ve been doing freelance work, and I’ve been making around the same monthly amount after taxes. You can do the math and see that adds up to $25,200 for the year.
Based on my income, people might consider my running expenses extravagant. My running costs aren’t representative of my overall spending though, as I cut costs elsewhere. For instance:
- I spent most of the year in France, where living costs are significantly lower (my rent was $360/month)
- I currently live in a house with 8 roommates and save 30-50% of what many people pay in rent in Boston
- I cook my own meals most of the week; if I go out, it’s once/week and I spend $10-20
- I’ve been giving myself haircuts for the past 5 years
- Even within running, I try to cut costs; I don’t buy running shoes full price and instead wait for sales or buy them on eBay. Here’s how else I save hundreds of dollars on running expenses.
Some people might see how much I spend and think I’m being frivolous, or that the money could’ve been better used for charitable causes. Seeing the grand total, I agree that I could be more generous. I’ve always tried to give to good causes like RAINN, ACLU, and disaster funds, but I definitely want to step up my giving. That said, I think we’re entitled to use the money we earn for things that bring us joy. I think it’s important to care about other people, especially those in need, but we still have to live our own lives.
It’s also important to remember that we value things differently. I have a friend who was heavily judged and written off as shallow for spending hundreds of dollars on designer bags. But that’s what she values, and what brings her joy. Maybe you don’t value designer bags or understand their appeal, but you probably have a passion that you invest money in, and that’s each person’s personal choice. (Sure there’s that question of material goods vs. experiences, but again I think it boils down to what each person values).
Finally, I want say that I’m not trying to brag that I spend this crazy amount on running—I was genuinely curious as to how much I spend, and want to be transparent about the cost of running. For this post, I actually asked in an instagram story how much people think I spend on running in a year. I got numbers from $500-1000+, which I will say is significantly lower than reality.
How Much Money I Spend on Running in a Year
Race and Travel Expenses
**For simplicity, I converted all euro amounts to US dollars beforehand at the current exchange rate (1 euro=1.11 USD)**
Barcelona Half Marathon (click for race recap!)
Time of year: February
Length of Stay: 3 nights
- Entry fee: $33.36
- Flight (Paris – Barcelona): $170.41
- Airbnb: $62.74
- Train tickets: $55.60
- Transportation within Paris/to the airport: $26.69
- Transportation within Barcelona/to the airport: $57.05
- Food: $65.61
Paris Marathon (click for race recap)
Time of year: April
Length of stay: 2 nights
- Entry fee: $139
- Airbnb: $66 (split with friend – Paris housing is not this cheap lol)
- Train (Dijon – Paris): $18.90 (only counting one way since I tacked on a trip afterwards that would’ve required getting to Paris anyways)
- Transportation within Paris: $11
- Food: $45
- Ibuprofen after the race: $6.67
- Race photo: $16.68
Trail des Forts 19km (click for race recap)
Time of year: May
Location: Besançon, France
Length of Stay: 1 night
- Entry fee: $36.70
- Airbnb: $26
- Train: $8.34 (one-way since I caught a ride with a friend on the way back)
- Food: $11
- Race photo: $13.34
North Face Endurance Challenge (trail)
Time of year: June
Location: Wachusett Mountain, Massachusetts
Length of Stay: 1 night
- Entry fee: $110
- Airbnb: $127
- Transportation: $35
I didn’t end up running this one, as I was recovering from an ankle injury. I was planning to do the 50k in preparation for an 100k in August, but that went totally out the window with my injury. Unfortunately, there were no refunds for the race. There also wasn’t a full refund for my Airbnb, as I’d decided not to run just a few days before (it had “moderate” cancellation, meaning I’d only get 50% back if I canceled the week of). I decided just to go to the race anyways, but to cheer the runners on, and to enjoy a night in the hills.
Trail des Passerelles de Monteynard
Time of year: July
Location: Monteynard, France (near Grenoble)
- Cancellation fee: $7.78
I’d been hoping to do the 65k in preparation for that aforementioned 100k, but this also was a no-go with my injury. I was luckily able to recoup most of the $70 entry fee, but did have to pay a small cancellation fee.
Dave Staley Aquathlon (click for race recap)
Time of year: August
Location: Columbus, Ohio
- Entry fee: $38
Salem Road Race 10k (click for race recap)
Time of year: September
Location: Salem, Massachusetts
Length of stay: 1 night
- Entry fee: $65
- Camping: $20
- Transport: $12
- Food: $19
Columbus Half Marathon (click for race recap)
Time of year: October
Location: Columbus, Ohio
- Entry fee: $145
- Race photo: $25
I flew home for this one, but am not counting transportation and other expenses since it was also to visit my family for a couple weeks.
Time of year: November
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
- Entry fee: $20
I didn’t end up running because of my hamstring issue and actually volunteered instead for a friend.
Gym + Pool Expenses
In France, I paid 25 euros/month for a gym membership, and an extra 20-25 euros for pool entry fees. In Boston, I pay $40/month for my gym, and the pool is included. I’d say this comes to roughly $50/month.
Running Gear Expenses
- Trekking poles: $110 (for longer distance trail running; ended up only using them for hiking lol)
- Hydration pack: $66
- Road shoes: $58.50 (eBay)
- Trail shoes: $56.06 (eBay)
- Clothes and accessories (gloves, leggings, shorts) : $65
- Gels/chews: $40
Physical Therapy Expenses
- 5 appointments in France: $61.16
- 3 tests in France (x-ray, bone scan, ultrasound): $44.48
- 8 appointments in the US: $442
- EDIT: In the total, I forgot a $132 walking boot in the US and $7 pair of crutches in France, but you get the idea haha
Breakdown & Analysis
I spend a LOT of money on running. To be fair though, almost 30% of my running costs were actually associated travel expenses. I decided to include those because I needed to travel to be able to run the races, but it’s true that many of my races also double as vacations. Without the travel costs, I would’ve spent $2200.
I also decided to include my gym and pool costs, even though I don’t run at the gym or pool. Crosstraining is just an overall part of my fitness routine, which is important to my running performance.
It’s also been an unusual year since I’ve been injured twice, so my PT expenses are high. For several years, I haven’t needed to see the PT at all. But if I hadn’t seen the PT, I probably would’ve spent the same amount of money on racing and traveling. So, I’d say this is a pretty accurate representation overall.
I’m somewhat surprised by the number, but also not. I knew it would probably be a couple thousand. It’s just funny to know that I spent 12% of my income on running this year, and almost as much money on running as I have on rent haha.
I don’t think this audit will change my spending on running, as I don’t feel that I’m being reckless with my money. As I said before, I just spend more liberally on what I value, and cut costs elsewhere. To me, running and traveling for races is well worth the expense. It keeps me healthy, lets me explore new places, teaches me to challenge myself, and gives me something to look forward to.
This exercise has definitely made me more curious though about my other expenses though, and it motivates me to keep better track of everything. I’d started some spreadsheets in Dijon, but it was annoying to work with two currencies (I was making and spending both euros and dollars). It’s a little simpler now, so I have no excuses 🙂
This post was definitely a more personal and reflective one. If you have any thoughts on personal finance and spending on passions, I’d love to hear from you!
Wondering how to save money on running? Check out my post on 10 tips to save hundreds of dollars on running.
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