Buy Nice, or Buy Twice?

Even though I am frugal, it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the good things in life. For example: horses. And there are plenty of luxurious things that go with that.

Since Lefty has been lame, I’ve been lucky to have been lent some very nice horses. And very nice saddles, and even an entire truck and trailer to transport the very nice horse. (I have some wonderful friends who trust me way too much.) The CWD saddle that was lent to me, though, made such an impression I found myself daydreaming about it repeatedly.

It was like sitting on an ergonomic cloud that also had the ability to make my horse behave.  I brought my shoulders back an inch and everything fell into alignment. I had a rocking horse canter, uphill, lovely, controlled. This happens only rarely in my current saddle, a pancake-flat Crosby Prix des Nations which has been described as the “panty liner” and “pretty much the last thing you would want to hunt in.”

Photo courtesy Pat Michaels. The angle emphasizes how insignificant the saddle truly is

I don’t know that I would go that far, since I have certainly survived many hunting days and belligerent rides in the arena in the Crosby, but it is certainly not cushy and soft and dreamlike. There is no padding, there are no knee rolls, but I like it for a lot of reasons. It is the saddle I used on my first horse in high school. It is a saddle that fits Lefty. It is a saddle that will make you learn how to use your leg properly, or you will die. It is a saddle that George Morris definitely approves of. All for the cheap, cheap price of $450 (which I think is a bit more expensive than some Crosbys, but it is made of fancy bridle-quality leather).

Lefty hangs his head in disapproval, says “God damn it woman, why are you so cheap?!”

But after riding in the Comfort Wondrous Derriere saddle…well, thoughts started creeping into my mind. The Crosby has served me well over three years and has plenty of life left in it, probably decades. But for hunting…well, safety trumps everything, doesn’t it? And isn’t my safety “worth it”?

Well, maybe not $5000 “worth it.” I don’t think I’m at the phase of life yet where I should be spending that on a saddle, particularly when $1000 or $2000 should be perfectly fine to find a more appropriate saddle for my sport.

So consider this my announcement and my official saving start date. I will not bore you all with the trials of a saddle search because we all know it is maddening. But I will use this blog to stay accountable to my saving goal:

  • I would like to save at least $2000 for a used saddle and saddle fitting. If I end up spending less than that, great.
  • I’m going to contribute $1000 from my Christmas bonus to this goal now.
  • If my end date is July, this is going to require additional savings of about $150/month.
  • I’m going to automate this saving using Capital One 360, and eat out only once a week at the office.

Let’s go!



Why I’m Frugal

So the other day at the barn I was talking to one of the dressage ladies about my path to foxhunting, how writing was a big part of it, and how I’ve continued to blog (sporadically) about my adventures as the Frugal Foxhunter.

She asked, “Why are you frugal?”

I told her, “Because I’m in my 20s and I have half a horse.” Which is true.  And also, I think my husband would have a heart attack if I didn’t at least try to be semi-responsible about the cost of my horse habit. But the question kept popping up in my mind this week.

I work at a wealth management firm, so I literally get paid to think about money. In the time I’ve worked there, I’ve realized that wealth is about so much more than money. It’s about creating a life of fulfillment, whatever that means for you. Unfortunately a lot of people are rich–they earn a big income, they have a huge house , they spend a lot of money–but they’re not building anything. They’re burning through cash for whatever reason, so they’re not truly wealthy in their portfolio or their life.  The cost of living is high in the D.C. area where I live, so it’s easy to justify the idea that you need more, more, more without really thinking about what makes you happy.

Like this kind of happy. On-the-buckle happy. (photo courtesy Pat Michael)

I think the same thing happens in the horse world in general and the equestrian blog world specifically. Obviously we’re all in it because we love horses. But it seems to drift away from that sometimes. Maybe it’s an epic search for the CWD or Antares saddle that turns into a giant headache somehow. Or maybe you’re sticking with an awful horse because you feel like you have to.  I just notice a lot of the time it seems like people are going through the motions and it’s not clear if they’re really having FUN or not.

So how am I frugal? I try to get as much bang for my buck as I can, and I always try to think about what different experiences are worth to me. Admittedly, as my income has grown and I don’t have to ride any bucking bronco with 4 legs, or work all weekend writing freelance articles, I don’t do that anymore. I do spend more on my horse habit than I ever have in my life. I pay for half of Lefty’s board and my hunt subscription, and that’s not insignificant. But it’s way less than the cost of owning a horse in my area. I never buy riding clothes new. My saddle is an old Crosby, basically a postage stamp. The Chevy truck, admittedly, is a total luxury and a total gas guzzler. But the idea is to pay it off, then save up to buy a horse and trailer so I don’t have a car payment and a board payment on top of that.

I know–it’s a total justification, like saying drinking a Miller Lite is “responsible drinking”. (Which I do, by the way.) But it’s worth it to me. And I always try to think of my horse spending this way. Am I going to get $150+ worth of enjoyment out of an event?  $45 worth of education out of a lesson? This is how I make my horse decisions, and of course I weigh it against what is responsible for my budget. (Sometimes I get overly excited and throw caution to the wind–but it’s always burned me, like when I bought an $800 saddle, sight unseen, and the tree was broken. That HURT.)

Horses are not for the extremely frugal–like the kind of personal finance bloggers I follow who retire at age 30 to go live in the wilderness or travel the world in an Airstream eating only granola bars for sustenance. But there is a way to do the horse thing–and have a LOT of fun–in a way where I’m “acting my wage” and not living above my means.

How do you make the horse habit fit into your finances?


2014: How much did I really spend to get myself into the hunt field?

Complete honesty here. Hopefully someone will find it helpful.


Blowing the horn? Taking a swig from an imaginary flask? Who knows.

Hacking jacket–$50 on Fox Hunting Animals and Articles for Sale. Had to get it altered to fit, so final cost was $80.
White ratcatcher shirt–$10, used at the local tack shop
White stock tie–$40 at the local tack shop (yes, this was before I knew better)
Patterned stock tie–$7 from Sheilagh Barndollar on Fox Hunting Animals and Articles for Sale
Black melton–$270 new at Middleburg Tack Exchange (but reeeeallly it was a gift from Byron so…free? Yeah I’m just deluding myself there.)
Canary vest–$50 on sale at local tack shop
“Nice” (ie. not yet stained) breeches–$20
Brown gloves–$30
Brown boots–$100 used, plus $150 to have the uppers taken in. Yeah…spent way too much for super-old boots but I really enjoy them.
Saddle and 3 white fitted pads–$300 (saddle is an Ainsley Bartlett, bought from a friend, who threw in a bunch of saddle pads for free)

Polly-$300/month for four months= $1200

Willie-$200 for a month (never did get a picture of him–he was a bay TB with no markings and sort of a smallish Quarter Horse-y build)

Windsor-borrowed free

Tango-borrowed free

Lessons: I can’t believe it, but I have taken almost no lessons this year. I’m not sure of the exact number but the total is definitely under $100 for all lessons in 2014.
Cubbing: Free
Hunt clinic: $40

6-cap package: $475

Total: $3,072

Frugal Foxhunter…as if! Though I guess most horse owners in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area spend at least $600 (a conservative estimate) on board and farrier fees each month. So…it’s as if I just half-leased a horse at $300/month for a year, which would bring me to $3,600 before any lessons or clinics or other extras. Actually, it’s like I saved money. Right?

Anyway, hopefully this breakdown of cost will help someone figure out what it takes to get your butt on a horse in the hunt field (and remember, this is the CHEAP way!).

I’m going to go throw up now. Why is this my hobby?