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When my husband, Kyle, and I started graduate school six years ago, we were at different places in terms of our sports consumption.  I was not inclined to watch sports at all, except perhaps Wimbledon or the US Open.  Kyle, on the other hand, was a die-hard fan excited to finally have a team to root for (we had attended a DIII college).  Here in Tobacco Road the only sport we care about is basketball, and between Kyle’s enthusiasm and the general aura of weightiness and fun surrounding the men’s games, I quickly found myself quite the fanatic as well.

Recently I have been reflecting about how far we’ve come financially in the last six years, and basketball has influenced decisions we’ve made about our personal finances on more than one occasion.  In fact, I think becoming big fans of our university’s team has indirectly improved our finances!

Emily and Kyle in Cameron Indoor Stadium

Emily and Kyle in Cameron Indoor Stadium

1) Implementing Targeted Savings Accounts

The prospect of having to write two $200 checks for basketball season tickets was one of the reasons why we implemented our targeted savings accounts.  We had been dealing with the irregular expenses of traveling to weddings for some time, but having a “Entertainment” irregular expenses (the season tickets) alongside some others like paying for six months of car insurance at a time and buying our CSA share pushed us to this new savings system.

We save a set amount each month into a variety of savings accounts with named purposes to prepare for irregular but anticipated expenses.  This system has truly transformed our mindset toward these irregular expenses and taken most of the stress out of our finances!

2) Watch Parties at Home

When we first started graduate school, we were very social with all of the people we were meeting, frequently going to bars and restaurants and house parties.  But when basketball season started, we settled into a routine of watching games with the same group of student-fans.  That group of people has become some of our closest local friends.

During basketball season, we alternate who hosts the watch parties.  Everyone brings a snack or drinks to share and it’s a very low-key, fun social time.  These get-togethers, and the similar ones we have in the off-season, have replaced much of the time that we use to spend going out to restaurants, naturally at much lower cost – and to me they are much more fun!

3) Creativity after Canceling Cable

Kyle and I decided to cancel our cable so we could better afford to travel to weddings.  However, we still wanted to view all of our team’s games.  Our fan-dom spurred us to find creative solutions so that we never missed a game we wanted to watch.  The main component of our solution for watching sports was buying a digital over-the-air antenna so that we could still host watch parties for the games aired on the big three networks.

4) Learning to Share

After canceling our cable, we learned a bit of humility.  We had to depend on our friends with cable to host watch parties for some ESPN games, so we were forced to admit that we couldn’t afford to be completely self-sufficient!  But actually that led to sharing (I hope it isn’t mooching) in other areas of our life, like borrowing equipment instead of buying it.

Just last week, Kyle attended a golfing bachelor party and was considering buying a set of used golf clubs.  Since he doesn’t golf often, I encouraged him to ask around for a set to borrow.  It ended up that he borrowed a set from a friend, and in return the friend asked for our old tennis balls to combat squeaky chairs, which we were able to provide.

This is a mindset shift that has truly helped our finances by preventing us from buying random tools and equipment that we will rarely use.  In fact, we are also able to give back through basketball.  To be entered into a lottery for season tickets we camp out for 36 hours, which requires tents, sleeping bags, tents, etc.  We have amassed enough camping equipment over the years to be able to lend some to others, sparing them the expense of buying their own!

Of course you may be thinking that we have spent far more money on being basketball fans than we have not spent by implementing these strategies.  In fact, with the season tickets games work out to be only about $10 each, so it’s not a very expensive activity!  We have only traveled to a tournament on one occasion and we did it pretty frugally.  I think the lessons we’re learning (and the friends we’ve made!) are far more valuable than what we’ve spent on attending games.

Are you a sports fan and if so how has it impacted your finances?  Have you adopted any hobbies that help you spend less?