Tuesday Tips: 9 Ways to Save Money in Ultimate, Presented by Five Ultimate

Photo: Alex Fraser — UltiPhotos.com

This article is presented by Five Ultimate; all opinions are those of the author. Please support the brands that make Ultiworld possible and shop at Five Ultimate!


Playing ultimate competitively can be expensive.

One of the many reasons the ignorant masses of non-players roll their eyes when they hear of our sporting exploits is because of money. And rightly so, as serious players often spend thousands of dollars a year on what some would dismiss as a hobby.

Finding ways to pay for — and justify — the expenses of ultimate can be tough, and this makes it very important to find every little way to be thrifty wherever you can.

Being financially smart can not only make you feel better about following your passions, but also give you the funds you need to play even more.

Here are nine ways to save money in ultimate.

  1. Budget Effectively

All decisions involving money should start with a budget, and yet surprisingly most ultimate players don’t plan for their costs, or allocate money from what they’ve earned.

First off, start by calculating all the various things you spend money on during the course of a season of ultimate. Make a thorough list and think of all areas that might possibly drain funds: tournament fees, team dues, travel costs, lodging, equipment, food, medical or training expenses, and more. Don’t forget miscellaneous expenses that might occur (that awesome laser tag/mini-golf combo) or tax.

Overestimate what you’ll be paying for, or even better, go back and look at your previous seasons to get an accurate total.

Once you have the costs broken down (in an organized fashion such as on a Google Sheet), figure out how you’re going to pay for it all.

Whether it’s from employment or parents, calculate a monthly cost and start saving right away. Setting a bit of money aside each week can be a great way to keep on top of expenses before they pile up, and lower the stress of paying for ultimate during its busiest time.

If the source of your income is insufficient or in doubt, you’ll need to be extra focused on other ways to save.

  1. Grab an “Ultimate” Job

It may add extra work to your already busy life, but the best way to pay for ultimate is to devote a source of income entirely to it.

A small job, something part-time or freelance, can be extremely effective in covering the sport’s costs.

Even spending only 2-3 hours a week working minimum wage, if kept up consistently throughout an entire year, can likely raise enough capital to cover your spending on the sport.

Even better, use ultimate to pay for ultimate.

These days, tons of opportunities are popping up to make money through the sport.

Whether you’re coaching younger players, playing professionally, writing or creating ultimate content for fans, working at an ultimate company, or giving up your time at a tournament to observe or help, there lots of ways to make your sport pay itself back.

Try to find a way to increase your involvement in your passion; you’ll likely help others as well as yourself.

  1. Split Costs

If work is not an option, or even if you’re still looking for ways to save, there is no better avenue than splitting costs.

Ultimate is a team sport on the field and this must extend to its finances off the field. Most of the expenses for the sport — travel, lodging, and team dues or fees — can and should be split amongst teammates.

Most ultimate players are thrifty enough to be doing this already, but maximizing efficiency can be the difference between saving and spending.

Make sure every car is as full as it can be to save money on gas. Get bid fees in as soon as possible to try to get a discount. Share field space with another team to split rental costs. Bring sleeping bags or use roll-away cots to fit as many people as you can into a hotel room.

A little forethought, and a little extra effort (and sometimes discomfort), can really pay dividends in a long run.

Here’s an example: Perhaps there is a team cost (let’s say a hotel room) for $160 a night. Divided between four people, that’s $40 per person. Add only two others and that number drops to less than $27. That’s $13 of savings for one night. Expand that out over the course of a season of travel and you’re looking at a few hundred dollars in your pocket.

The key to splitting costs is safety in numbers, and this means you need other people to cooperate with your plans. Hopefully, through friendships (more on this later) you can gather like-minded people to help. Step up to take the lead in the planning to make doubly sure.

  1. Be a Voice for Saving

Whether you are a leader or a lowly rookie, being an open voice about saving money is important.

If you need to squeeze a few pennies, let it be known clearly. There’s nothing worse than realizing how much you’re going to have to spend (likely over-budget) halfway through the weekend, when all there is left to do is complain.

Let everyone know your concerns, and volunteer ideas on how to save and share costs. Acting as a leadership voice is only going to help you succeed and help your captains in planning.

As your team leaders keep your ideas in mind, help them to do the best cost-effective planning. Search out cheaper hotels with deals, help logistically figure out ways to make cars more efficient, and tip them off to other money saving ideas you may have or notice. Volunteer to drive to a tournament the morning of or take a car camping instead of staying in a hotel. Ideas like this pay off.

Remember, however, that being a leader is hard work and sometimes things don’t always work out the way you plan. Rarely do people want to spend money; instead, higher costs usually result from limited options. Limited options, though, stem often from late planning.

Don’t hesitate to help get things done early; making purchases ahead of time can be tough (often money needs to be fronted) but using the budgeting skills you’ve acquired can help you with that. Getting the hotels a few months in advance, searching out good deals, taking care of travel, can not only save costs, but also help relieve some of the stress from your teammates as well.

  1. Use the Barter System

If you’re tight on cash, then sometimes you have to use other assets to save.

Your best bet is to volunteer to give up your time. Agreeing to help work as a logistics manager or treasurer can not only help earn good will, but sometimes (with the full agreement of your teammates) can lower your own personal costs.

Likewise, agreeing to drive, working on designing uniforms, creating a website, or taking on any of the other important, yet work-inducing tasks may pay for your portion of various items if your teammates or leaders agree.

Work to try to get a sliding scale for dues, not only to allow those who make less to pay less, but also to give individuals opportunities to work their way to spending less.

If you have teammates who make more (and are less likely to want to share costs or crowd into cars or hotels) ask them if they can help you out. Volunteering to pick a teammate up for every practice or help him with his workouts or throwing program could earn you gas money for your next tourney.

Be vocal and talk to others to come up with ways to save.

  1. Be Smart With Your Food

One of the best ways to control your own personal spending during tournaments or practices is to be smart with food.

It may not be very glorious, but packing your own meals and snacks can not only keep your stomach full, but can keep your wallet full too. Go grocery shopping before tournaments and set up a meal or two for a weekend. Find snacks and small items that can limit your spending when you go out (when others around you are likely gorging themselves because they haven’t eaten all day).

Not only is this smarter financially, but it’s also better for your body, as you’ll be eating likely healthier fuel and keeping your energy up, allowing you to play at your best consistently.

When you do go out, try to find places that aren’t too expensive, or look for cheaper meals on the menu. Pasta dishes or salads with chicken are cheaper than ordering a steak or rack of ribs. Sharing larger platters, such as appetizers, with teammates can also give you some good stuff without too big of a cost.

As far as alcohol is concerned, many players enjoy celebrating with a beverage or two. If this is the case for you, put this in your initial budget. But also consider bringing your own libations whenever possible.

Keeping food costs down can be a big help, making sure you’re spending the big bucks on areas that matter.

  1. Find a Sponsor

Believe it or not, there are people interested in investing money in ultimate.

Contact local businesses or professionals and inquire if they’re interested in sponsoring your team by putting advertisements on your website, social media, or uniforms.

Possibly look into restaurants that offer team discounts or apparel or ultimate companies that will give you deals on gear. Apparel companies often offer massive discounts that can save big bucks for bulk orders.

Another route is to look for an individual sponsor or advocate. Family member, friend, or professional, there are people you can explain your case to. Interest free loans or charitable help can make the difference between participating or staying home.

A final resort? Crowd fund. It can be surprisingly effective, especially for big trips or ultimate opportunities that rarely come around. Make your case, ask for help, and ye shall receive more than you bargained for.

  1. Get Reimbursed By Schools and Your Teammates

Along the same lines as sponsorship, use reimbursement as often as possible.

Especially as a college player, there are always ways to get money allocated or paid back to you as a player. Always inquire about reimbursement for travel with your activities or athletics department, and keep pushing for more funds. In general, ultimate players don’t get enough help from schools, charities, and sports organizations and there is money out there that can be allocated to you rather than padding the football program.

On a more personal level, always make sure you get paid back if you front money for teammates. Nothing is worse than having to pick up another person’s tab because they are irresponsible.

Set clear requirements on ways and timelines to pay you back, with the full amount you spent. Don’t forget tax and when in doubt round up; having clear records (and giving weekly reminders) ensures that you won’t forget or get stiffed.

  1. Create Relationships

The best part of ultimate is about the fun, so don’t forget that.

The whole point of saving money is not to be a miser, but to get to participate more often. So don’t whine, grumble, or cajole (too much).

Be honest with what you’re trying to achieve, but most of all be friendly and helpful. This can go a long way to providing unexpected benefits.

Make a friend at a tournament? You might find someone’s place to crash at in the future.

Do a favor for a teammate? Earn a few free drinks at the bar.

Let a player on another team car pool with you? Save on gas and get invited to a great new party.

Seriously… talk to people. Call them up, ask for favors, and ask for deals. Call up churches and ask to stay in their basements or gyms (its happened often, especially for religious schools), ask corporations for sponsorship or scholarship, or try to explain your situation for negotiated discounts for a park district’s field time. Be willing to put yourself out there and you’ll find creative new ways to benefit.

There’s plenty of ways to save money while still having tons of fun. Be smart, but don’t be stingy. Enjoy yourself and treat yourself every once in a while. In the end, you only get to play this sport for so long and you want to make the most of it.


  1. Alex Rummelhart

    Alex "UBER" Rummelhart is an Ultiworld reporter. He majored in English at the University of Iowa, where he played and captained IHUC. He lives and teaches in Chicago, Illinois, where he has played for several ultimate teams, including the Chicago Wildfire and Chicago Machine. Alex loves writing of all types, especially telling interesting and engaging stories. He is the author of the novel The Ultimate Outsider, one of the first fictional works ever written about ultimate.


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