It’s a sport that many people consider only “for rich people,” like tennis, golf or sailing. The sport of skiing is unique though. A core group of enthusiasts really don’t make much money, but still find ways to do it. Many so-called “ski bums” are either ski area employees, drawn in by the perk of free ski passes, or they work other jobs that let them take off on powder days. I should know. I was a ski and snowboard instructor for three seasons in high school and proudly called myself a ski bum for years.
If you’re pursuing something as passionately as these guys and gals pursue skiing and snowboarding, like, say, paying off debt, there are a few things you can learn from ski bums. Here’s a quick roundup:
If it’s free, it’s for me. If it’s free, I’ll take three.
One of the best lessons to take from the ski bum lifestyle when it comes to money is that some things really do come free. When I was a ski instructor, I always brought Ramen Noodles for lunch, because hot water is always free at ski area cafeterias. Another friend I had used the same hot water, along with catsup, hot sauce, salt, pepper and a garnish of Saltine crackers — all things free from the condiments bar — to make “Skiers Tomato Soup.” Not super appealing, I’ll admit, and of course we’d never advocate stealing anything, but if you think about all the things you pay for that you might not really need to, you just might be able to free up a little bit of your budget.
Buy things that are made to last.
When you’re skiing 70 days-per-year or more, you need gear that really lasts. The same should go for life. Taking steps to buy things that will last you longer while avoiding extra costs for vanity really pays off. Moreover, if there are things you know you’ll use, they’re guaranteed not to be frivolous purchases. When planning your next shopping trip, take a few minutes to list the things you know you’ll get a lot of use out of and put a little more money in them.
If you can learn to do it yourself, do.
A lot of ski bums learn how to wax and tune their own skis and snowboards. A used iron from the local second-hand store makes this a pretty cheap investment. Good wax is expensive, but it costs way more to pay someone to tune your equipment. Best of all, if you have a skill like this, it’s pretty easy to get friends to pay you a little bit here and there for you to do it. This is a lesson you can apply to just about anything in your life. If you have a recurring expense you could learn to eliminate by doing it yourself, take the plunge. You’ll save money and add a potential new source of income in one swoop. That’s budgeter’s gold!
Used can be just as good and twice as cheap.
A lot of true ski bums will get certain equipment — especially things like ski racks for a car — second-hand. Whether you get it from a friend or buy in an after-season rental sale, second-hand can be first rate in some scenarios. Surprisingly, even hardware and computers can be great things to buy second-hand. You’ll have to judge your own tolerance for used items, but you should definitely note that Collaborative Consumption, which we’ve told you about before, and plain old sharing are becoming more popular.
Find enjoyment in the little things.
One reason ski bums are able to spend so much of their annual income on ski passes, equipment and trips to the hill has to do with the fact that skiing is often one of their only forms of recreation. Personally, I don’t think much compares to the feeling of first tracks on a wide-open groomer, and that’s exactly why the expense is worth it to so many ski bums. If you’re wasting a lot of money on recreation, as an individual or as a family, it might be time to consolidate. Making a commitment to specific activities can make your free time way more fulfilling.
What do you think makes ski bums so darn happy? What else can we learn from them to better manage our budgets? Please share below!