5 Tips for Saving Money on Workout Gear

As I was working on my posts about winter walking gear (Part 1 covered bottoms/shoes and Part 2 talked about gear from the waist on up), I started to think about how costly these items can be. I know that the cost of gear can create a barrier for people who want to get or stay active, but there are ways to solve for some of that. I will note, however, that the more technical gear often falls into the category of “you pay for quality”. Sure, you can buy very inexpensive workout gear at large discount chains, but the quality can be lower than that of the products you’d find in your local running store.

To that end, I have five primary recommendations to save some dough:

  1. Look for sales, especially at or after the end of a season. Technology advances are happening all the time, but last season’s warmer-weather gear will be on the sale/clearance racks in January, giving you good options for lower-cost, high quality products.
  2. Hit the outlets! Many outlet malls sport multiple stores from companies that offer up gear. Our nearest outlet mall boasts stores from Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, and Reebok–a nice slate of options for active gear. Outlet malls like those run by Premium Outlets often have free “VIP” programs that earn you access to coupons that get you additional discounts on top of the savings you’re already getting by buying direct.
  3. Check your health insurance plan’s discount program. Many insurers have wellness or discount programs to encourage their members to stay active and healthy. My own health insurer offers a 15% discount at Marathon Sports, so I never pay full price for my sneakers!
  4. Get AAA – they offer discounts at many stores; for example, I get 20% off at the Reebok and Adidas outlet stores just for being a AAA member. That’s often equally as good as (if not better than) the discount offered in the outlet mall coupon books.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask…When at Marathon Sports the other day, I was looking hard at the Saucony Nomad jacket I liked. The only thing that held me back from buying it there was that Amazon had a better price for it. When I hesitated on the purchase, the sales associate asked me why–so I told her about the other price. I showed her the listing on my phone, and she was able to get me a bigger discount on the jacket to get the price down by quite a bit. It didn’t match Amazon’s price, but I was willing to pay the newly negotiated price, chalking up the difference to “I have it now”. [In my mind, this is the “Time Value of Money” concept represented as “Time Value of HAVING GEAR NOW”–often important when timing purchases for specific events.] Some sporting goods chains also price-match or honor each others’ coupons, so check store flyers and ask at the register!

The tricky part about buying online, which can often be the best place to find high quality gear at steeply discounted prices, is that you can’t try it on in advance. If you decide you want to buy online to save money, make sure that the return policy works in your favor. Some items, particularly socks and undergarments, often aren’t returnable once they’ve been washed and/or worn, so best to buy online when you know the item pretty well and don’t need to see the packaging/labeling in great detail.

So, these are my quick tips…anyone else have suggestions for saving money on gear?


Black Friday BLACKOUT

Normally, I try not to go out too much on Black Friday – I realize that we’re encouraged to start our holiday season shopping as early as possible, so retailers can drain what’s remaining of our disposable income – but I often end up hitting a sale or two. I’m NOT the one who goes out for the sales that require standing in line at 4am or queuing up endlessly in a sea of hundreds, hoping to shove through the scrum to get to the two laptops that are actually at the price advertised in the sale flyer. Still, I haven’t ever really sworn off Black Friday: until now.

Enter Target – a store where I shop early and often. While I was shocked to see a gigantic sign on the side of a Kohl’s that advertised the store opening at 1am (really people? 1 AM?!), I was horrified to hear that Target was opening at 12:01am. Even worse, other stores are opening even earlier – backing Black Friday up into Thanksgiving day.

It was at this point that I just snapped. I won’t boycott Target; I’d much rather boycott the entire day. Here, you have merchants in an arms race to see who can open earlier and earlier until the Thanksgiving holiday turns into a quick turkey sandwich at 2am before you have to rush out to meet the shoppers who want to get the deals before they watch the Cowboys beat the snot out of some poor, unsuspecting team.

So, I decided to make my own Black Friday special: the Black Friday BLACKOUT.

I want to encourage everyone to skip the stores. Skip the sales. Show merchants that you want them to return to some semblance of sanity and treat their employees like REAL PEOPLE DESERVING OF A HOLIDAY by not shopping. Then, instead of heading to the mall, either pop open your laptop or head to the grocery store. Donate at least $10 to your local food pantry. Why? Well, any time of year is a good time to donate to a food pantry, but winter is a particularly hard time for a lot of families to cope, especially when it’s a choice between food or presents. I don’t know whether I’ll have time to leave the house on Friday, since I’m deliberately skipping the sales and choosing to bake and hang out with the family. If I make it out, I’m only going to the grocery store to get canned and boxed goods to donate. Otherwise, I’ll just donate online. I’m a particular fan of the Greater Boston Food Bank.

Want to join me? It’s easy.

Here’s what you do:

1. Agree not to take part in Black Friday madness – vote with your feet!

2. Promise to donate either food or $$ (min. $10, if you can manage it) to your local food pantry. Note that many houses of worship also run food pantries, and they can direct you to others as well. Otherwise, just hit up Google Maps and search on “food pantry near” your town.

I’m not saying don’t shop for holiday gifts. I’m not saying that you should snub local merchants, either. My point is that these retailers are freaking out and forcing people to work insane hours in the service of greed, not the “holiday season”. If enough of us choose NOT to participate in Black Friday madness, maybe they’ll change their minds. I’ve worked plenty of retail in my day, and the thought of having to skip Thanksgiving with my family because it’s either that or lose my job…well, that’s just crap, and I refuse to support anyone doing that to their employees.

Who’s with me?