We conducted a survey awhile back and found that the number two reason for people not diving as much as they like is money (number one reason was lack of time). We’d all like to make our diving dollar go farther in order to spend more time communing with the fishes. There are some easy and often not so obvious ways of doing this. Here are some suggestions:
JOIN A DIVE CLUB
Although they are great for parties and new friends and buddies, dive clubs are not just for social butterflies; you will save money with a dive club membership. Most dive clubs are either connected with or sponsored by various dive stores. Those stores frequently offer club members discounts on anything from gear to trips, sometimes even complementary services. Dive clubs also pool members’ buying power for great deals on local boat dives and exotic dive travel, and a big plus, you are traveling with people you know.
BUY YOUR OWN GEAR
As soon as you are certified, and you know you’ll be diving more than a few times a year, purchase your own gear. In the long run it will pay for itself, not only in dollars but in diving pleasure. Being more comfortable and warm in the water will ultimately get you more water time simply because you will enjoy the experience more.
GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR GEAR
Take care of your gear. Dive gear, properly maintained will last years. Some items last decades. Soak and rinse everything completely after each dive trip and have your BCD and regulator inspected and, if necessary, serviced annually.
This is the ultimate cheapskate escape. For the price of an airfill and maybe a few quarters for the parking meter you can have a fantastic underwater experience. Dive spots up and down the California coast are plentiful and offer a variety of experiences—deep canyons, kelp forests, sand flats and more. An added benefit is you can pretty much dive when you want, for as long as you want. Scheduling is very flexible. While heavy training is not necessary, get indoctrination on the skills before you go.
FREQUENT DIVER PLANS
Some dive charter boat operations offer “frequent diver” plans that reward their best repeat customers. Plans vary but they are big savers if you dive a lot, or want to.
Air Cards are when a dive store sells a card good for 10-12 pre-paid tank fills at a considerable discount than if you paid for each fill individually. They do not have expiration dates, so even if you only dive a half dozen times a year they will save you money.
MULTI-DAY DIVE TRIPS
Two, three and even four-day dive trips are common on several of Southern California’s dive charter operations. While on the surface they may seem expensive, your per dive cost will be much lower than single-day trips. Food and air are included. On a single day trip you might get in three, maybe four dives. A day of diving on a multi-day trip, however, could hold as many as six dives. They are also more time-efficient. It takes a long time to get out to the islands, especially the more distant destinations. On long hauls, you could spend six to nine hours of travel for a handful of dives. With a multi-day trip, the trip out is still long but you’ll get a lot more great dives in.
Several dive charter operations along the Southern California coastline offer mid-week open-boat specials. Prices are good and the trips are usually package deals including food and air. If you can get away on a weekday, they are an excellent value.
There are other ways to save diving dollars but some are fraught with hazards. Shopping dive store sales is fun and can save you some bucks but only if you shop smart. Gear that is uncomfortable, does not fit your dive style, or your experience level, is no bargain. Where you can compromise to gain a bargain is color and looking for new items that are last year’s models.
Used gear is rarely a bargain. We are talking life-support equipment here. Would you buy a used parachute? No thanks. The only exception would be dive stores closing out their rental gear which, in spite of heavy use, is usually well maintained.
Your front line to dive budget management is your local dive shop. Fortunately, in California we have many choices. Some are better at customer service than others but as much as they want your business, they want you to keep on diving, not just spend money. And the way they do that is by helping you stretch your scuba dollar as far as possible. Have them help you. Just ask.