Working out the cost of fitness

cost-of-golf-300As the Great British summer (or what passes for it) comes around again, people are more inclined to get outdoors, take in the fresh air and even get some exercise into the bargain.

And professional sport is often the inspiration – for example the London Marathon, Andy Murray’s heroics at Wimbledon or the Tour de France.  Indeed, according to a survey from Sustrans, last year’s Grand Depart inspired almost a quarter of the UK population to get onto a bike for the first time or to ride one more often.

And after the phenomenal Games in London in 2012, Sport England said that the number of people in England playing sport at least once a week grew by 750,000.

While it’s great news that the nation is getting up and getting moving, the loss of a few pounds around the waist might be offset by the loss of a lot more pounds from your wallet – because it costs quite a bit to get started, or you get carried away and buy all the latest gear.

Getting started – “When I took up running, I got sucked into the idea that I had to have the most high-tech shoes and all the latest gizmos and gadgets as well as the latest running gear,” says Nick Kirby, 46, from London.

“I think at one point I had five different pairs of shoes – the most expensive being a pair of Newtons, which cost me £140. I also bought a Garmin running watch that cost more than £300.”

Ongoing costs – And it isn’t only the cost of getting started that can be steep. “I dread to think about my annual spend on cycling,” says Adrian Cockle, 39, from Godalming in Surrey. “But I reckon if you included all the kit, entry fees to events, maintenance and so on, it probably adds up to around £1,200 a year.”

Take golf and tennis for instance – there are likely to be membership fees, court fee,  then there’s repairs to existing equipment and the cost of buying new kit. And perhaps expert coaching too…

“My golf membership costs me £1012.20 a year”, says Simon Towers, 36, from Nottingham. “Add into that the £300 I spent on irons, £80 on a driver shaft, £70 getting fitted, £30 on a new 3-wood, £80 on a new bag – and all the balls, tees and gloves I’ll use this year. It’s an expensive hobby.”

Reality check – “I quickly learned that you don’t need the most expensive running shoes and you don’t need to spend £50 or £60 on a technical t-shirt when there are good ones out there for less than half the price,” Nick Kirby says. “There are loads of online retailers where you can get a bargain. And don’t be fooled into buying the next big thing every time something comes out.”

It also makes sense to think about how you are paying for your new-found enthusiasm. After all, you don’t want to find yourself even more out of pocket because you took out a loan, or paid for it on a credit card with a higher interest rate.

You may well want to think about:

  • Paying for items on one credit card and then transferring balances to a card with a lower or zero per cent interest rate to avoid paying interest. Always remember to check any fees involved.
  • Possibly using a card for a ‘money advance’, which gives you an interest-free loan for a set period. But be sure you can pay off the balance before the term ends and you revert to a higher rate.

Whichever sport you choose, make sure it’s one that you enjoy, and remember  – it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part!

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