Money and Skydiving – Managing One of the Most Expensive Hobbies in the World

Two summer’s ago, in August of 2014, I put some thought into becoming a licensed skydiver. At 20 years old, I knew in my heart of hearts that this was something I was meant to do. Many people do one tandem skydive and cross it off their bucket lists forever. But one and done was not something I could see  myself doing.

The process of becoming a licensed skydiver can cost between $2500 and $4000, and there are many different programs that you can join to get your A-license from the United States Parachute Association (USPA). One such program is the Accelerated Freefall Program (AFF), where you learn the basics of stability, altitude awareness, and landing over the course of 8 jumps, and have the ability to get your license after 25 jumps.

In August of 2014 I was working part-time, and was going back to school in September. I had around $12,000 in the bank, and didn’t want to spend it! But skydiving, you guys. It was a dream that I couldn’t shake. I read books about it like Above All Else: A World Champion Skydiver’s Story of Survival and What It Taught Him About Fear, Adversity, and Success by Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld and Parachute And Its Pilot by Brian Germain. I started talking about it with friends and family. I hemmed and hawwed about spending the money.

I thought about it; a main tenet of generating income and spending less than you earn is to live the life you want to live. To me this means having the freedom to not be tied to a desk 40-50 hours a week, dreading waking up in the morning, and living paycheck to paycheck for the next 40 years of my life. Money is a means to an end, and living debt-free is definitely a main goal of mine now that I am 22. But at the time, I got some advice from my mom that hit my heart. She said, you will never have the opportunity or time to do this again. You may have a full time job a year from now, with limited vacation days. You don’t  know what your money situation or health will be like in a year, so take this time now when you are young to experience what few people in the world will ever experience.

And experience I did. For the month of August in 2014, I solo road-tripped down to Skydive Sebastian in Florida for their 1-week AFF program. For around $2600 I made 32 jumps with rental gear in 14 days. And boy was I stoked! The day I got my A-license I called my mom crying because it was and still is the best day of my life. The feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming. But I was hooked on the adrenaline. As I always knew would happen, there was no going back.

It’s not a overstatement to say that skydiving took over my life.

I bought used gear, including

  1. A harness/container
  2. A main parachute
  3. A reserve parachute
  4. An automatic activation device (AAD), which deploys your reserve parachute at 1000 feet if for some reason you are still in freefall at that height

This cost me $4200 cash.

In addition to this, I needed

  1. A used helmet, $250
  2. A wrist altimeter, $270
  3. A jumpsuit, $600

All in all, my original $12,000 I had in the bank was being depleted fast. What happened to me not wanting to spend my money?!

One year and 3 months later I have made a total of 135 jumps, made friends that will last a lifetime, and become engrossed in a sport that has increased my confidence and given me a reason to keep working.

Each jump after 32 cost me $25, not including gas money to take me to the dropzone, beer money when I fucked up (Rule #1: Always pay your beer dues), food money, vending machine money (I know, awful), and new equipment that I “needed” as I took baby steps towards advancing in new skills in the sky.

A rough estimate means I have spent in excess of $11,000 over the past year on skydiving, but I easily believe the extra costs including a second jumpsuit ($450), an audible altimeter ($290), and 4 hours of indoor wind-tunnel coaching where I road tripped to New Hampshire with a friend ($3000), means I have spent over $15,000 this past year on skydiving. Ouch.

I think about it sometimes. If I had not started skydiving, I could have bought my car outright instead of taking out an $8000 car loan that will last me 4 years and cost me over $1000 in interest. I could have maxed out my Roth IRA for 2014 and 2015 with the money I wouldn’t have spent. I could have possibly moved out of my mom’s house into a first apartment. I could have etc, etc, etc. The bottom line is there are 1000 ways I could have spent all that extra money, and I would definitely argue (to myself!) that I did not spend it smartly. But do I regret the turn my life took when I started one of the most expensive hobbies in the world? I can’t say I do.

Like my mother said, you never know where your life will be 1 year from now.

Part of the reason I am starting this blog is to speak to my experiences, and this is one of them. I now want to generate extra streams of income, maximize my savings in other areas of my life, and get my net worth into the green (huzzah!).

We each have our motivations to become financially independent, what are yours?

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