Now that hunting season has ended, many of you have already turned your sights to next season. That probably means that you’re already making plans to adjustment some things for next fall. Maybe it's changing your hunting partner, your stomping grounds, how much time to take off of work, or your gear setup.
I know gear is important. Let me be the first to admit that I’m not a big time hunter, but I’ve been around lots of it. I grew up in the heart of Alaska where seeing a moose in your backyard is about as common as squirrel most other places. I’ve slayed my fair share of salmon and have helped butcher a moose or two. I love the outdoors. I ski, I bike, run, and backpack. In these, just like hunting - gear matters.
One thing I’ve noticed from personal experience, and even more so when talking with my hunter friends, is that it’s easy to get wrapped up in the gear. Heck, I’m not even a hunter, but when I walk through Cabela’s I always seem to spot things I “need.” In anything, there’s always something newer and nicer that makes the job get done just that much better. It’s easy to break the bank in a hurry when all you want to do is have some nice gear that will get you a better experience.
As a financial coach, I’m here to tell you, that there’s a good way to go about handling your gear purchases, and there’s a not-so-good way.
I spend hours every week working with people to help them apply healthy financial principles to their lives. Things like living on less than you make, getting out and staying out of debt, planning ahead for your future, and so on. None of the things I teach people are earth-shattering secrets of the rich, but in fact, they are quite basic. The problem is that basic doesn’t always mean easy. The most common faults I see in people’s purchasing habits is that they don't plan ahead, they don’t prioritize, and they don’t look for deals.
So here are some tips, tricks and things to watch out for as you plan for next season. I want to help you make the most of your gear purchases and avoid some of the pitfalls that are lurking around every corner.
My first piece of advice is to plan on NOT going into debt for your gear! No matter what the gear is or how bad you think you need it, it’s not worth going into to debt over it! Trust me.
Now, to avoid doing that, we’ve got to plan ahead. Right now is the perfect time of year to convert that gear purchase you’ve been thinking about into an actual plan. Time is on your side. Those new Vortex you’ve been eyeing are $400. Well, set aside $35/month in an envelope in your sock drawer from now until next August and you’ll be ready to make that purchase without putting a big dent in your normal monthly expenses.
Better yet, take this concept one step further and plan to spend no more than X amount on hunting in a given year. If you’re married, talk about this with your spouse and agree upon a number. There are a lot of wives out there that are frustrated with their husbands because of the endless expenses associated with hunting. It doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe you (and your spouse) pick $1200/year. Great, now save $100/month to make it happen without any real detriment to the family finances. Whether it’s $200 or $10,000 a year, pick a number that’s fits within your overall budget and stick to it.
Another great tip when it comes to planning ahead, is to get other people to help make your purchases. What? Yes! When your birthday or Christmas rolls around, make sure that all your friends and family know that the best gift you could get would be if everyone just contributed towards your new _______. Or you can ask for gift cards to your favorite sporting goods store. This is a good way to extend your budget beyond your previously agreed upon annual maximum.
PRIORITIZE YOUR SPENDING
Think strategically. Look at the big picture of the gear you want vs the budget you have. Do you want a lighter pack or a more comfortable sleeping pad? I know your answer is both, but do both fit in the budget? Sometimes a little give and take when it comes to gear selection can save you big bucks.
Put your money into the things that are really going to matter the most. With some gear, the truth is that you get what you pay for. Footwear, for example, is a good place to not cheap out. Conversely, while those $40 camo boxer shorts are pretty awesome, they’re not very critical to your season’s success. Prioritize your spending and don’t waste money on things that don’t matter.
BE A DEAL HUNTER
Immediately following hunting season every year people start selling stuff that for one reason or another didn’t suit their needs. One likely reason for the sudden garage sale mentality is that people are now realizing that Christmas is right around the corner and they could use the cash. So they put all their barely used hunting gear up for sale. Don’t be one of these guys - it shows they’ve been poor planners! On the other hand, this can mean great deals for you.
Keep an eye out on the classifieds, mail flyers, ebay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, online trade sites, garage sales, and so on to find the best price possible on the items you’re wanting. More often than not, slightly used gear is a super smart buy.
Also, keep in mind that Black Friday and Cyber Monday have just wrapped up, but there are still great opportunities to get some solid deals.
Sign up for your favorite sporting store’s email list so you can keep your finger on the pulse of their sales. You often get a discount code for signing up as well. One caution here is that you’ll need some mental fortitude against these emails. They are designed to be marketing instruments after all. Don’t get sucked into buying stuff you don’t need. Instead, use these emails as a tool to watch for sales on the specific items you want. Ignore the other stuff or it’ll end up costing you rather than saving you money.
On a similar note, I always advise against credit cards. I know you can get deals, discounts, and cash back with credit cards. But trust me on this, 99% of the time credit cards cost you far more than you’re saving. All the studies show almost nobody pays off their card every month. Worse, almost everybody spends 25-100% more with a credit card than when spending with cash. You’re far better off just saving your money and buying with cash or debit.
And lastly, the time of year to get the best deals on hunting gear is in the off season. Duh! Specifically, about 3-5 months before the start of the next season. This is typically when businesses are selling off last year’s stuff to make room for all the new merch. Last year’s model of that tree stand is probably going to work just as good for you as the new model, so you might as well save yourself the extra money.
In conclusion, be smart about your hunting purchases. Don’t go into debt for it. Plan ahead, budget for your expenses, prioritize your money and look for deals. Spend where you “need” to, save where you can. Keep your spouse happy. Don’t use credit cards.
If you feel like you’re always struggling to make ends meet, buried in debt, or could just use some financial guidance in your life, visit my website at www.norrisfinancialcoaching.com. I’d be happy to help in any way that I can. There’s also a special deal available to Kyle’s readers.