How To Afford The Jiu-Jitsu Lifestyle

How To Afford The Jiu-Jitsu Lifestyle

Photo: BJJ Ibiza Camp 

Written by Brearin Land, BJJ Black Belt and instructor at Gracie Barra HQ in Irvine. He is also the CEO of  a wealth management firm Irvine Wealth, and is specialised in Retirement Income Planning. Check out his FB Page and blog Black Belt Of Finance .

Want to fully embrace the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle but find it too expensive?

The BJJ lifestyle is a unique one in that provides an outlet not only for health and self-defense, but also for testing the limits of yourself both physically and mentally. On top of this there is an instant comradery among your peers from the first time you step on the mat.

They’ll keep you on point when you slack off… They’ll talk you into getting out of your comfort zone and competing. If you are young and hungry like I was, when you get that taste of competition it becomes addicting. For up and coming grapplers it can be easy to get stars in your eyes and want to drop just about everything you’re doing in pursuit of a gold.

The question is how are you going to be able to afford to compete as often as it is going to take to reach the sport’s highest level?

As someone who traveled the country competing, attending seminars, and hunting down sponsorships, I know all too well the cost associated with fully embracing the lifestyle.

Here are some tips from one Jiu-Jitsu bum to the next on how to fully embrace the BJJ lifestyle on a budget.

The Price of the Lifestyle is Not the Problem. Your Cashflow is the Problem..

Let’s face it, if you cannot afford to live the BJJ lifestyle one of two things need to change: your income or your expenses.

The more you are looking to train and travel the more limited your income capabilities are going to be. For that reason let’s focus on what you can change today.

Before you go looking for bargains you need to cut out the junk that is getting in the way of your BJJ lifestyle:

Cut out cable for Neflix/Hulu.
Early on in my Jiu-Jitsu career I made it a point to cut TV out altogether. There is so many more productive things that can be done in that time (like building your personal brand). For those that HAVE to have their TV shows, a client of mine just recently made the switch from cable to Netflix and Hulu. They saved over $100/month and still enjoy all the shows they watched before.

Cut out Impurities
Martial Arts is home to some high level athletes but at all ranks you can find the week day warriors. They train hard and eat super clean all week long, sometimes even going as far as to budget fairly well, but on the weekend it’s game over. If this is you, cutting out the partying and drinking alone could add up to enough extra money to meet your BJJ lifestyle goals.

Credit Cards
In a recent article for Daily Finance I stressed “[Don’t] pass the buck to yourself. Staying out of debt allows you to buy life’s most important asset when you need it most — time.” This holds true for athletes as well. Trying to pay for anything you can’t afford at this stage should be eliminated altogether as it’s just asking to derail you from your lifestyle.

Lower Your Bills
The untold truth behind your bills is that many of the companies are flexible when it comes to price, even after you’ve signed on the dotted line. If it seems too laborious of a task, or you are not comfortable negotiating, there are services that will actually do the negotiating for you. BillCutterz.com is the best I’ve seen. You only pay them if they are successful in negotiating and even then you split the savings 50/50. If they save you $10, you pay them $5. This works for cell phone, internet, cable/tv, gym memberships, alarm systems/security, satellite radio, and much more.

Saving Money for the BJJ Lifestyle

The above steps should have freed up enough money to get you started saving. Now we need to go over how you are going to hang on to what you have left every month.

Pay Yourself First
In the Top 3 Books on Investing Every Pro Fighter Should Read I mentioned that my professor once gave me a book called The Richest Man in Babylon. One of the greatest takeaways from this book for me was to pay yourself first before anything else. My professor was a shining example of having used this principle through the toughest of times as an up and coming athlete and using it to conquer his short and long-term goals.

Start an Emergency Fund
The critical part of setting up an emergency fund is having the before mentioned steps in place. If you haven’t made an effort to eliminate debt, cut down on expenses, and draw up a budget, you are setting yourself up to fail at putting money aside.

When you have these three steps taken care, and before saving a dime for your lifestyle expenses, you need put at least $1000 away for a rainy day.

Imagine for a second that you’ve trained months for a big tournament, you’ve put back money for a trip with all of your training partners…. and your car breaks down. This situation can be stressful or stress free depending on if your finances are on point.

Have an emergency fund in place before saving for anything else.

Ten Percent of Everything You Earn Goes to Long-Term Goals.
This is the hardest part of saving. Getting started.
In my Master Your Money Training Manual I detail how to become wealthy from white to black belt and one of the main opponents in the way of achieving wealth is not getting started early enough.
Saving 10% is not meant to be a magic number that will guarantee you success, but it does get the ball rolling.
The big hiccup is that young savers have trouble associating how much of a benefit saving $50-100 now can have on your financial future. Take advantage of the miracle that is compounding by saving early and consistently.

Ten Percent of Everything you Make Funds your BJJ Lifestyle
Wait what, How am I supposed to save 20% of what I earn?
By managing your cash flow and cutting out everything standing in the way of accomplishing your goals. You are trying to go from BJJ bum to champion, am I correct? That is going to take a tremendous amount of discipline.
Discipline in training, discipline in diet, and yes discipline in your finances.
Life at the next level is not amateur hour. You need your finances on point so you can focus your attention on the task at hand.
By building out a budget, staying out of debt, paying yourself first, and taking advantage of the tips I’ve laid out in this guide you should have no problem living out the lifestyle of your dreams and saving for the future.

BJJ Lifestyle on a Budget

Now that we have freed up some cash we can start to talk about some hacks to living like a professional athlete on a budget.

Eating Healthy
This can be one of the most difficult and costly of all BJJ Lifestyle expenses. Get a handle on this area and you will be well on your way.

Quit Buying Bottled Water
Take the time to prepare your water ahead of training. If you have a good resource for tap water, use it. Most tap water is perfectly fine to drink. Look I know you want to have alkalized water that neutralizes your ph balance, but cut the crap, you are budgeting here and paying $5/day for water adds up to almost $2,000 a year. If you don’t have a great tap resource at least buy by the gallon and make it last all day.
Prepare Your Meals
This is the big one.


With a busy schedule and hopping from work, the gym, and training, it is pretty easy to eat out twice a day and rack up $15-20. Professionals have prepared meals. Plain and simple.

Two videos to help you get this process down:

How to Eat Healthy for BJJ under $50 a week
Kai Greene – A Day in the Life Full Bodybuilder Documentary

BJJ Membership

The tuition at your school itself can range from $100-200, which is nothing to sneeze at. Luckily for you the more you dedicate to the art the more opportunities it will present you to make some of that money back.
Ask your school owner or head instructor if is there are any opportunities to volunteer your time by either cleaning or helping out in classes.

That is not to say that you will be compensated right away. I volunteered for years before I was paid a dime, and the decision paid off exponentially. Everything, even my financial firm, is a result of volunteering my time on the mats.

Buying Gear
Gi’s and rashguards aren’t cheap either. If you are able to find a volunteer position at your academy you may just get a deep discount on all the gear you want.

Travel on a Budget

Traveling around to tournaments, expos, and seminars are the big ticket items on your wish list but with a few tweaks we can make these expenses more manageable.

Book Flights Mid-week
If you can book your flights during mid-week they will usually be a lot cheaper. For me I was often working a job that didn’t allow for much time off so I would try to at least arrive Thursday and leave Monday. Aside from this being cheaper, the travel is just a lot less stressful with not as many people running around. There is nothing better than sprawling across all three seats on an empty flight.

Chip in on Hotels
One thing my friends and I would do to make our stays affordable is to cram our hotel rooms like sardines. We would get the double queen rooms with the pullout couch and just cram as many people in as possible.
The idea was we could do one big trip a year and live like kings or make several trips a year by being as efficient as possible with our resources. Not to mention having friends to joke around with was key for keeping the stress low while cutting weight. This was a big lesson I learned from my first tournament.

Stay Close to Base
When our group would travel from out of state to the Worlds or Pan Ams we saved a ton of money by staying at a hotel that was in the same parking lot as the gym where our training camp was held. Many people take away from their budget by selecting the most inexpensive hotel without weighing the opportunity cost associated with traveling back and forth to places.

Free Transportation
As an added bonus, try to find a hotel that provides transportation. Not only was our hotel always close to the academy but they provided transportation by van to anywhere within a 5 mile radius.
Also with so many teammates coming from out of town to these large events it was easy to find someone from our team that was already headed to the events and tourist spots. By working your itinerary out ahead of time you may not even need a rental car.

Travel in Your Car
If you want to compete regularly and are on a tight budget sometimes this means drastic measures. I’ve had some of my best performances after sleeping in my car across the street from the event. If you want to accomplish things that others can’t you have to be willing to do things that others wont.
For a competitor this means competing as much as you can by any means necessary.

Stay on a Couch
After moving out here to California I have had SO many requests from friends asking for a place to stay while they’re in town competing. When I can, I’ve always lent a couch or some floor space but many times I’ve had to say no.
It never hurts to try! The difference between paying $500 for a hotel and sleeping on a couch for free is asking as many people you know.

Stay with a Stranger
Another option that several of my fellow BJJ bums have used in the past are services that allow you to stay on a couch or rent a room from a local. Here are the best I know of:
Airbnb.com is an online database of rooms and houses for rent by the day
CouchSurfing.com is a database of locals offering a free place to stay

How about you?
What is the hardest aspect of the BJJ lifestyle for you to keep up with financially? Leave your answer below…
As always, it was a pleasure and please if you have any questions just shoot me a comment below or give me a call at 949-870-2807. I’m all about paying it forward and helping out the BJJ community so if you have a simple question you can assure you’ll get an answer with no sales pitch required!

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