Buying new gear, whether it be for hunting, shooting, photography, or the outdoors is a guilty pleasure of mine. And if you’re reading this article, chances are its probably one of yours too. Welcome to Gear Drunks Anonymous friend, feel free to grab a name tag and have a seat. I’ve learned some simple and effective ways to be able to afford more gear while dodging the buyer’s remorse (or the look on your significant other’s face when you tell them how much that new pack REALLY was). I’ve lifted these practices from standard business operating principles because I run under the motto of “run your life like a business”. Buying new gear for your pursuits is no different than a company investing in capital equipment to succeed. At least, that’s what I like to tell myself.
If you’re like me and subscribe to many hobbies simultaneous (including the expensive ones above), juggling your finances and new gear or upgrades is a lesson in compromise. I could buy that new Stag Arms 3-Gun Ar15, or buy a new Mystery Ranch Crew Cab and a new telephoto lens for my D3. The first step in saving money to afford new gear is to:
Step 1: PRIORITIZE
Take a seat and make a list of all your favorite hobbies, pursuits, and pass times. Use a piece of paper, or better yet, MS Excel or Google Docs (it’s easier to organize). Don’t feel like you need to put them in any order. Write ’em all as they come. Even include ones that you don’t do as much but wish you did, or maybe a new hobby you’ve really wanted to try. Here’s a list I made.
Now, we’re going to place these hobbies in different buckets. A bucket is the same as a category, but I feel the term “bucket” is far more visual in the brain and reinforcing. You can label your buckets however you want, but they should be based on your desire or “need” to do them. For me, I label my buckets is “Already Do- Really Love”, “Already Do – Do When I Can”, and “Want To Learn”. Just make them work for you. Keep it simple, stupid.
Now prioritize your hobbies under these 3 buckets and be honest with yourself. We’re trying to establish a hierarchy here. Once established, you can better warrant purchases depending on the priority that the specific hobby appeals to you. It’s also sometimes eye opening when you put down a hobby that you think you do a lot, but when compared to another hobby, you realize you really don’t. That’s the theory of relativity for the gear hound. Huck that, Albert Einstein..
This is especially useful when cash is tight but you find a deal that you can’t pass up. Rather than investing money into something you don’t really do that often, you could save that money put it toward something you DO often.
Even within the buckets, you can also put the hobbies in an order. Or instead of listing hobbies, list the actual gear you want and relabel your buckets as “Gear I Need”, “Just a minor upgrades”, “Gear I just want”. Be creative but be truthful!
Now that you’ve established these buckets to fill with hobbies, we now need to make these buckets real, which leads us to Step 2
Step 2: SEPARATE
Separate some of your money by creating an additional savings account or pile. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a bank account, it could be just a stash of money like a piggy bank. As long as you’re good about it and don’t touch it. Making a separate sub account in your primary checking or savings account is a much easier and “safer” means. Safer from yourself and safer in general in case of theft or loss. The point of this step is two partition your gear money away from the rest of your money so that you will:
A) Use it strictly for gear.
B) Be less apt to spend your regular money on gear.
Part B requires just as much discipline as not spending your physical money on stuff besides gear. Once you have some sort of account or stash set up, it’s time to employ some money saving tips and diligently siphon that saved money into this place. I actually use both the bank account and the piggy bank method. Once my physical cash pushes over $50 or $100, I bring it to the bank and deposit it into my account.
Of course, if emergencies arise: your car breaks down, your water heater blows up, or your dog needs vet treatment, by all means, use this money up. In fact, sometimes, its the first thing that should go. If you’ve got money saved elsewhere, you can decide whether you want to recoup the expenditure or start over.
Step 3: CUT COSTS
It’s one thing to just save money in general. It’s another thing to save money for a purpose. Now that you have a clear priority and bank account, it becomes much easier and worthwhile to save money for a specific piece of gear or purpose: You can actually watch your money grow.
You can be as frugal or as casual as you want with this. If you want to add $1 to your stash every time you decide you don’t need to hit the vending machine at work for an afternoon snack, do it. If you want to add $15 when you decide you’re better off packing a lunch then going out to lunch, definitely do it. And if you decide you don’t need that new pair of shoes because you’re saving up for a new Arc’teryx jacket, by all means, throw that money in the pot! Physically move that money out of your checking account or your wallet, and put it in your gear fund.
It’s give and take here. The only change is that you’re specifically squirreling that money away so it doesn’t just disappear or get spent on something else later.
Step 4: ALLOCATE
Direct deposit isn’t just a means of convenience at work. It’s actually a powerful tool for saving money as well. Many people already put away their money into a savings account with direct deposit with each paycheck before they even see it. Choose an amount that works for you and your budget. Don’t go dumping so much money into your gear fund that you can’t pay for gas. Or that you’ve stopped saving for your kid’s college tuition (they’ll need it!). Even an amount as small as $20 per paycheck will go a long ways if you’re adding in your saved money on top of it.
Step 5: STOP OBSESSING OVER NEW GEAR!
This is the hardest yet most effective way to save up for something you really want. I can’t even fully stop doing it, but I can definitely cut back on drooling over new gear. Stop finding new crap to buy!
Right now, I’m saving up for a Mystery Ranch Crew Cab. It’s $600 worth of pack. In my mind, that’s 75% of the way to a new AR15, $75 more than a Smith and Wesson M&P 9mm, or pretty damn close to a new Elite Pure compound bow. But again, it’s on the top of my priorities list for a new backpack for camping, hiking, traveling, and hunting. I’ve really had to tone down all the other crap I keep looking at. A new lens for my camera, all the new Sitka Waterfowl gear, and buying a whole set of woodcarving knives to try my hand at carving wooden duck decoys.
I hope this helped you out somewhat. It’s a difficult task. But it’s a matter of treating your gear obsession with rationale and common sense. Set your priorities straight. Save your money tangibly. Stop finding new stuff to buy.
It’s been tough, but I’ve been gear sober now for 4 weeks. Hopefully I’ll be getting that Crew Cab after only several more.
Feel free to share what new gear YOU’RE saving for too!