$5 Coffee or $700 Ironman?


If you’re like me, when you make the decision to eradicate debt from your life you start by making a plan.  If you’re a nerd like me, you run projections to see how long you think it’ll take.  I did this back when I started in mid-2012 and was a bit depressed at the results.  Based on what I was making at the time, It was going to take until December 2019 for me to pay off everything.

When you start to think about how long 7 years is, you begin trying to justify what you can keep in your budget to help soften those years.  I’ve heard other financial blog and people talk about what that $5 cup of joe is costing you.  I was already eating frozen Totino’s Pizzas at the time and with all the miles I’ve driven, I’m in love with the coffee at Flying J and Pilot Truck Stops… so $5 coffees were not robbing me of retirement or financial freedom.

My vice was race entry fees…. running, cycling and triathlon entry fees.  A marathon entry fee is over $100 now, a local spring triathlon is $70, and the Ironman is $700 (plus, you often have to register 12 months in advance otherwise it sells out).  Even 5k runs are now $20-30/each.  These events add up extremely quickly!

For some people, they might buy one $5 cup of coffee per week… $260/year or a cup every other day… $910/year.  If it’s everyday… you’re probably a hopeless cause already.  For me, it wasn’t coffee, I was definitely hooked running/triathlon races. A “cheap” 5k is around $20 now, a “cheap” triathlon… those don’t exist.

I did an Ironman in 2010, at the time I believe it was $650 for the entry fee.  It was in Arizona, so I needed a hotel room, but unlike the yearly marathon with friends I used to do, the hotel room is all on me… so there goes $400+.  It’s about an 850mile drive one way, I’d fly, but then I’d have to pay to transport the bike, plus rental car,… so I go “cheap” and drive down and spend at least $250 on gas.  I still have to eat food and I think I’m being generous saying I spend only $100 to eat out for 6 days worth (especially considering you’re not eating cheap or healthy while driving typically).  Buy some Ironman gear because you “need” something with the logo on it…I’m approaching $1500.  But don’t forget about the other hidden costs to all of that you’ll go through and or wear out while training for something like that… tubes, tires, clifbars, gu packets, a pair of gloves, bike chain, a couple pairs of running shoes, gym membership so you can swim during the winter…. I’m in for at least $2k by the time you figure it out.  This is also indicating I had already spent money on my bike, a wet suit, and all the other basic gear to begin with.

I realize there are great lifelong health benefits to living the kind of lifestyle where you can do an Ironman.  But those races cost a lot of money when you start to figure it out.  Personally, I chose to give them up for the time being.  I didn’t give up on doing the activities though… I still run, I still bike, and I do still have my 24 Hour Fitness membership I get via Costco for $13/month.

Whether it’s $5 for coffee every day, the cost of races each month, or whatever other activity you have that you love… decide whether it’s really worth the future you’re sacrificing.  Perhaps you can find a better middle ground.  Maybe you can eliminate 3/4th of the cost but still continue to do the activities you love.  Once you’re out of debt, you can start reintroducing those things to your life if you want.  I know I will do another Ironman one day… but not until I’m completely debt free.


2 Comments on "$5 Coffee or $700 Ironman?"

  1. Great read and an important reminder that finding financial success is largely the result of making certain activities (e.g. building an emergency fund, eliminating debts, etc.) a priority and maintaining the requisite discipline over a long time period.

    • Thanks James, For a lot of people it can be like going on a diet. They try it for a bit, but it doesn’t take long and they quit before the real benefits show. The long term discipline is what wins in finance and in fitness. If you can’t enjoy cake at your nephews first birthday you might give up on the entire diet all together, but that doesn’t mean you should have cake on a weekly basis.

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