Let’s Discuss: Dolla Dolla Bills Y’all

This is a fairly personal discussion today, so feel free to not participate if you’d rather not share. But it’s one we certainly all think about- how do we finance our ridiculously expensive equestrian hobby? I realize that my own situation is just as unique to me as anything, but I’m curious how others make it work.

Horse ownership in a nutshell

Luckily for me, the husband is appreciative of my extracurricular activities because it keeps the weepy-Kujo version of myself at bay, among other less-emotional benefits. So when our finances became one we created a system for paying bills that covered basic horse expenses (board, farrier) and also reciprocated in affording some of his specific needs as well.

Precious pony gets what precious pony wants. Sometimes.

Everything else is on me. This includes all the tack, supplements, lessons, clinics, shows, breeches…. The list goes on and on. For all of this, I sit in front of my calendar and make a list at the beginning of every month of the expenses I have planned- lessons, a clinic, paying off that saddle I just bought, etc. Then the list goes through prioritization mode (i.e, what do I want most, what moves me towards my goals, and will I die if I try something without taking a lesson first, etc). Lessons and clinics tend to come before extraneous (beautiful) tack additions, for instance. After crossing things out, adding up the results, I can then create a budget.

Maybe it’s maybelline, maybe it’s really expensive blueing shampoo

Of course horses being horses, no plans, and definitely not expenses, are ever safe from change. So my budget allows for a little to be added to the future trailer fund savings account each month just in case. I try not to make quick decisions about purchases (as much as possible- not always possible) and take care of the things I have in order to help them live as long as possible (see posts about 15 yr old bridle, and brushes etc of similar age). My photography jobs help me fill in any gaps as well, and though it keeps me even busier, it’s huge for me at the moment to recoup some of the costs from you know, buying a horse recently.

How do you guys make it work? Do you have a side-hustle to support your hobby? Are there expenses that you prioritize before others? Are there things you forego in order to achieve financial stability? 

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14 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Dolla Dolla Bills Y’all

  1. Excellent post – a well planned budget is definitely a must, and taking care of what you already own. I always forgo any clothes shopping or hair dos or bobbles or bangles for me. Critters first. I am also very open to buying used – hey, my favorite saddle is third hand and comfy and looks great. I also skip eating out, movies – but that’s OK. I too, need my critters to keep the dark side away. My husband loves them as much as I do. I work hard, very hard – so my animals and my craft room are supported. Thank you for your post.

  2. I have several side hustles lol. Otherwise most of the budget cuts come in the way of personal things… like my non-riding wardrobe, or going out to dinner.

    • Same- I can’t think of the last time I bought a piece of clothing for myself that wasn’t on some kind of super sale. And even those purchases and far and few between. Meanwhile, Dover’s faux 20% off sales catch my attention every. time.

  3. I’m definitely interested to read the comments on this as they come in- I think everyone has their own system that works for them. I’ve been pretty transparent about basically giving up all non-essentials (and some things that frankly should be essential) to fund the horse habit- Manfriend and my folks are all exceedingly supportive emotionally, but financially it’s on me. Luckily my horse expenses are relatively predictable: board, training, lessons, farrier, vet, etc. And I’m already sketching out a show schedule for next year so I can start budgeting for that as well. It’s been over a year and I’m still recovering from buying the horse, so I feel ya there!

  4. I include things like lessons in my regular budget. For shows, I keep a separate account, so I can make a savings goal in advance. If I can’t save enough, I show less. It makes it very easy to make those decisions. At the moment, that’s about it for me since I don’t own. I do plan a short-term lease, which I included in my shows budget/account. As far as breeches, shampoo, etc, those things tend to come out of my discretionary spending budget and I pretty much never buy things full price. Clothes may be “last year’s color” or gently used but that just saves me lots of money!

  5. My husband and I have joint everything, so I can’t track “who” pays for what, but he and I make the same amount, so let’s just call it fair. All of our bills (mortgages, truck payment, electric, horse board, etc.) are paid first and of course take priority. Everything extra gets split into various savings accounts, one of which is for “whatever”- home/vehicle repairs, lessons, shows, etc. I won’t drain that account, which is why, due to needed home repairs, I’m skipping a horse trial. Can I afford it? Yeah, but it doesn’t make the most financial sense when there are more local shows that are cheaper and will be beneficial to our training. I also don’t do a whole lot outside of horses- I hardly buy regular clothes for myself, I don’t have super nice accessories or jewelry, or expensive shoes. I’m curious to read more comments as well. Cause these creatures ain’t cheap!

    • I’m pretty much the same as you! We have one joint account and there really isn’t a “my” vs “his” money. Once all the bills are covered (rent, car loan, credit card from our adoption, student loans) the rest is our joint fun money. We try to balance everything and I’m very cognizant that my horse hobby is way more expensive than his running. I haven’t bought new clothes in 10 years, I get my hair cut on the cheap and I don’t wear make up, so my o let me expense is my horse. I know we can comfortably cover two lessons a month and two shows a year right now without ruining our savings, so that’s what I do and don’t push the matter. Most of my gear comes at Christmas and birthday time as gifts and I rarely buy much outside of that unless it is super cheap or essential.

  6. I only have my income, and it was that way before and it will probably always be that way. I have the rest of my life budgeted to a very strict T and I am really good at sticking to it. Moving has helped me knock down my cost of living by a significant amount, but the horse expenses are a bit more expensive than they were up north.

    Which means I work not 1, not 2, not 3 but 4 jobs. Yes I have 4 jobs. 1 full-time job which covers my rent, eating, car, retirement, and saving (and funds my benefits) and the other 3 part-time jobs all go to the horsing around!

    The dream is to one day have 1 Full-Time job that covers everything. Until then I can sleep when I’m dead!

  7. My finances definitely got easier after losing Promise, it was both a blessing and a very difficult side effect of saying goodbye to my heart horse. Initially, for me, that meant no lessons, either, while I paid a bunch of crap off with my new influx of cash each month.

    Then I began to feel like I needed saddle time to feel whole, so I began budgeting in weekly lessons to get my horse fix. My (now) husband actually assisted with this and purchased several lessons for me for my 30th birthday, and then I kept going. When we got married and merged our accounts, we agreed that bills come out of our joint account and then we have our own spend accounts with an “allowance” and how that money is spent is really none of the other person’s business.

    So now, I budget for my 10-week “sessions” of lessons out of my spending money. Paying in one lump sum is a little different than paying weekly, but it adds up the same. I’m hoping once we’re a little closer to buying a house here, that I can then begin budgeting to lease something, which might possibly need to be supplemented by our bills account, but that remains to be seen 🙂 I miss having my own horse and being able to ride several times a week, but I also am not positive we are financially ready for the added cost burden of horse ownership!

  8. Husband and I pool all of our money together, and save x% of each paycheck that goes into our own accounts. That money is for doing whatever the heck we want with it. The horse essentials (shavings, grain, hay, farrier, vet, insurance) come from the group account. Anything else (tack, shows, clothing (horsey and not)) come from personal. The initial cost of building the barn and fencing in the pasture came from the group account: but I couldn’t live with the guilt and pretty much dump all the extra money I had in my personal into the group while construction was ongoing.

    When I was boarding, the board included lessons. I could probably convince my husband to take lessons out of the group account now, if I was taking any. But my pony is now in my backyard, and I’m 33 weeks pregnant with twins, and lessons are the furthest thing from my mind. I’ll be happy if I’m back riding once a week by December. Shows and lessons are going to be a far way off, but husband is great and is supportive of the habit (his actually got me an expensive show pad for my first “mother’s day” as a way to tell me that he wants me to go back to riding when the kiddos are born)

    Prior to marriage, but we were living together, I paid all horse bills. I paid a percentage (based on my income compared to his) of the house bills. I definitely had a lot more horse big ticket things that I asked for on special occasions during that time period!

    • A) I love to talk about money. I know that may sound weird- but I don’t really understand the culture in the horse world of being so secretive about finances. I love to hear what works for people, and I am more then happy to share what works for me. That’s why I also try to include prices/costs in a lot of my posts.

      B) My situation sounds a lot like Stacy C’s. My husband and I both have our paychecks direct deposited into our personal accounts, and then we deposit the majority of our checks into our joint accounts. We each keep a small percentage in our personal accounts, that we can spend on whatever we want.

      That being said- my personal account is 100% horse spending and empty a lot lately due to tons of vet bills and extra costs. Our joint account covers board and lessons, and I am supposed to cover most vet, farrier, and show bills. I don’t always hold up my end of the bargain though!

      My side hustle is basically working overtime and picking up extra call shifts at work (I’m a sonographer at a hospital). It’s definitely really nice that I usually have the option to work more to make some extra money, but it certainly gets exhausting pulling a lot of extra shifts. If my horse spending is getting out of hand due to bills, I will cut back on everything else- eating out, shopping etc. I just bought a few shirts at the Nordstrom Anniversery Sale, the first non-horse clothes I’ve bought in about a year!

  9. Thankfully my husband also rides because then it means the horses aren’t solely my expense. Before we were married, we split costs and only paid for our own horses/tack/etc. Now that we’re married, it’s all mixed. Which is good, because I’m unemployed.

  10. I pay for all of my horse’s, dog, and assist with part of the living expenses (mortgage, food, etc). I have been able to get away with working one job for the most part, but now adding another horse into my life I’m finding I am having to take on more side-jobs to pay for that extra mouth to feed, shows, clinics, etc.

  11. I find this all really interesting as I’ve only really experienced a shared account with my spouse, from which all bills (including horse) came from! I typically have a side gig going on and off throughout the year, but since I’ve been horseless, I’ve mostly let that drop. It helps with my massive amounts of guilt I have when my hobby used to take up so much of our fun money.

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