The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Frugal Runner

If you were on the Villanova cross country team back in the early 2000s, you might have known me as “buy one get one” – a nickname that was intended to make fun of me for being “cheap”. I took it completely differently – I have always had a knack for finding discounts or ways to save on the things I really wanted.

Runner's Guide to Being Frugal
Your guide to saving money as a runner

For example, when we were given $20 a day for meal money on a trip, I was the guy coming home with $15. I was bringing food from the cafeteria and I was buying foods that I could use for multiple meals. By the end of the season or year, I was able to come home with some money for things that I wanted but couldn’t afford during the school year.

Even though my college teammates considered me cheap, I totally embraced it. I knew then and still know now that I’m not cheap.

I’m frugal.

I see a good deal on something I want and I get it. If it doesn’t fit my budget, I hold off until it does. This is certainly not a bad thing.

That being said, being a runner can certainly get expensive. Shoes and gear add up quickly, as does traveling and racing. I think just because someone is frugal doesn’t mean they can’t have nice things or do expensive activities. When we/I plan to do something, I make sure it fits into my overall budget and then don’t think twice about the cost.


What is Being Frugal?

Being frugal is the simple act of being conscious of what you’re spending and making sure it aligns with your ethos. Being frugal is different for every person, but for us, it’s making sure we are spending money on what we truly value: our health and our happiness. If it doesn’t tick both boxes, we’re probably not spending a lot of money on it. In our household, we don’t bat an eye at buying running shoes, but we are very thoughtful about purchasing non-running shoes.


Why Be Frugal?

There are a number of reasons why I think it’s enjoyable to be a frugal runner. For starters, I never think twice about buying things that mean something to me. Whether it makes my life or our family’s life easier, it’s a no-brainer. If it relates to running and it’s within our budget, it’s a no-brainer.

Guide to Become a Frugal Runner
Guide to Become a Frugal Runner

Life becomes a lot clearer and decisions become easier to make when you think about purchasing things that may or may not bring you happiness. If it makes me happy, chances are I’m okay with buying it.

Is it possible to be both frugal and a distance runner? #TrainwithMarc is here to tell you resoundingly yes! #runblog


How to Enjoy Frugality as a Runner

Below are some ways that I have found that can help you save money and also keep you happy and healthy as a runner. Saving a few dollars here and there add up over time. And when you have a clear idea about what you value, you can spend more time on the parts of your life that you truly love doing.

Rotate Pairs of Shoes

Running shoes last longer when you do not wear them every day. If you have the ability (funds) to buy two pairs of shoes – same brand/style or two completely different shoe styles – your shoes will have the opportunity to “rebound” and recover while they are not in use.

How to use this in practice? What I’ve done is wear a single pair of shoes for one week of training and then during the next week, I switch to my second pair of shoes and wear them for a week. While I’m wearing the second pair, the first pair is not getting any use and is able to recover.

In terms of longevity, a running shoe may last between 300-400 miles when used as a stand-alone pair, but when coupled with another pair, it could potentially last upwards of 500 miles.

Your guide to becoming a frugal distance runner
Your guide to becoming a frugal distance runner

Register Early

If you’re a healthy runner, meaning you don’t get injured often (boy, am I jealous!) and you KNOW you’re going to run a race, you might as well sign up early and save some money. Races increase their pricing, sometimes significantly, as race day gets closer. Some races, especially the bigger ones will offer BIG codes for registering before the current race has even been run. Think about it: if you like it and know you’ll be doing it, you can save big bucks.


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Be Picky

Do you have to run all the races? If you chose half the races you currently ran and spent those non-racing weekends doing long runs or workouts, you might actually get faster and stronger. You’d obviously save on race entry fees and travel costs.

Do you have to have all the newest gear? I am all about having new and quality gear that will bring joy and last a long time, but sometimes having too much is not necessary.

Get Regular Check-Ups

A healthy runner is a happy runner. Just like a car, we need tune-ups every so often, but especially when we’re training hard. There is no right time to get looked at, but if you always wait until you’re injured or run down, you’re missing out on valuable training time.

Last Season’s Gear

Stores, especially running stores, have previous season’s clothes and shoes at a discount. At the Haddonfield Running Company, they have huge “sidewalk” sales where they are selling older gear for much cheaper. Follow your local store on social and find out when their deals are.

Runner-friendly tips to being frugal
Runner’s guide to becoming a frugal athlete

Find Promotional Classes

Studios in my area – South Jersey – offer promo classes to “try out” their classes. Sometimes they are free, other times their price is ridiculously reduced. Either way, checking out a few studios a month is a great way to mix up your workout routine, but also to keep the price down on boutique classes. For example, at some yoga studios, there are classes where the instructor is learning/practicing to become a full-time yoga teacher. These “community” classes are most often just as good, and much cheaper than a “regular” class.

Summary

Any way you slice it, running is supposed to be an affordable sport that the masses can participate in. After running shoes, gear, and paying for race fees, it becomes a lot more involved. Being a frugal person doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy nice running gear and it certainly doesn’t mean I can’t spend money. No, no. Being a frugal runner is really a great thing. I spend when I value the experience and I make my dollar go a long way.

Did you find this article helpful? Let me know by leaving a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.


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6 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Frugal Runner

  1. It is not easy to be a frugal runner! These are great tips. I sell some of my old gear that I did not wear often and buy new stuff

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  2. Kim at Running on the Fly November 20, 2019 — 7:07 PM

    Yep, I do all of the above. About a year ago, I got a couple pairs of my running shoes (Brooks Adrenalines) on sale as the new model was set to debut a few months later. Then, after the new model was on the market, the “older” model was marked down further…so I scored a third pair. All told, I had two pretty new pairs, and one brand new pair, to get me through most of 2019. I rotated them through all of my training, and the last pair is still in decent shape. The other two I use for short runs.

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  3. I like to think of myself as frugal, at least when it comes to running. I generally choose last year’s running shoe model (or even go to Road Runner Sports in San Diego where I can check out the “lightly used” returns). I don’t race very much and stay away altogether from most of the expensive races (unless I can be an ambassador 🙂 ). And as an ambassador for Skirt Sports, Pro Compression and a few other companies, I enjoy the discounts that I receive in exchange for promoting the clothing that I love. Great tips!

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  4. Yes, yes yes, I love it. I love that you don’t race often – you train, race and take a break and racing often isn’t your focus. I like how you’re an ambassador for so many companies. I think that’s my goal for 2020 and 2021.

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  5. Awesome. That’s a really great strategy for keeping shoes fresh and alive for longer!

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  6. Oh, that’s nice. Never really heard of that, but yeah, that makes total sense!

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