Bowling On A Budget


Bowlers often use money as the limiting factor as to why they can’t bowl well.  Whether it is affording the equipment, lane time, leagues, association fees, or Big Lebowski t-shirts, it’s easy to point the bad bowling finger at a lack of funds.  That said, more often than not the real reason for the struggles is that said bowler doesn’t put the time in, but in some cases I will concede financial woes can sometimes hamper your bowling success.  I cringe at the thought of hearing a youth bowler say “Coach, bowling is too expensive, I think I’ll take up Pilates with my Aunt Betsy instead.”

You love your Aunt Betsy, but it just isn’t worth it.

While I’d agree to an extent bowling CAN be expensive, but it doesn’t have to suck your wallet dry.  When I was in high school I only worked a bit over the summer, yet I still managed to afford to bowl on a modest budget all year long and avoid doing Pilates (I wonder if Pilates even existed when I was in high school).  Anyhow, here are some of the strategies I used to keep my wallet fat and my thumb swollen:

  • Buy bowling shoes. I’ll assume most of the people reading this already has some super fly bowling shoes, but if not, make sure you pick up a pair.  A decent pair of shoes can be had for $30 and often less if you catch a good special.  Even if you bowl once a week and the rental is $3 each time (I’ve seen it as high as $5) you’ll have your shoes paid off in a matter of months.
  • Bowl at off peak times. Friday and Saturday night are amateur nights at the bowling center with disco balls spinning, flashing lights and the like.  You’ll also be surprised to find that under the black-light you were actually unsuccessful at getting that tropical punch Kool-Aid stain out of your shirt.  Good luck getting in a focused practice session, not to mention the fact that games will cost double what they would any other time.
  • Join a league. Often times bowling centers will give discounts to league bowlers.  The discount can often cover the cost of the league even if you bowl just a few times per week.
  • Sign Up for email lists. Many local bowling alleys have websites where you can sign up for email lists and even physical mailings.  This guarantees you’ll be kept in the loop on specials and discounted bowling.  Alternatively you can call local alleys up regularly and see if they have any specials going on.  While you’ve got them on the phone ask if they advertise and maybe you can score yourself a coupon in the local paper.
  • Stop Striking. What? Blasphemy! The addiction to that sound of all ten pins being pushed back into the pit will make this one a tough sell, but this is a surefire way to get more for your money.  On your first shot rather than aiming for the pocket shoot for some spares.  Aim at a 7 or 10 pin (or similar pin combinations) and then for your second shot take aim at the pocket.  This ensures that you get two shots every frame.  Feel free to have at the pocket on all your shots in the tenth frame.  The only downside to shooting spares on the first shot is difficulty determining carry, but between the tenth frame and mixing up your spare shots you should have a pretty good idea. I’d advise you refrain from using this tip in competition as your teammates are likely to throw rosin bags and rental bowling shoes at you.

Who throws a bowling shoe?

  • Get used bowling balls. Since your Aunt Betsy stopped bowling in a league with your Uncle Charlie, his equipment has been gathering dust in his closet.  Take it out, dust it off and take it to your local pro shop to get it plugged and re-drilled.  If your Uncle is unwilling to part from his bowling ball you might want to run down to the shop anyway and see if you can pick up last years bowling ball at a discounted rate.  I’ve even had some good luck buying blemished balls which typically react the same, they just don’t look quite “right” because someone goofed during the manufacturing process.  My favorite ball to this day is a blemished Zone Classic that looked more like a pastel purple at easter, than the plum color it was intended to have.
  • Rejuvenate the equipment you have. Rather than shelling out for that shiny new bowling ball (or dull one), take the equipment you already have and do some maintenance.  Your friendly neighborhood pro shop has equipment to restore the surface of the ball and a way to get out all that conditioner it absorbed.  Maybe next time you’ll think twice about rolling your ball on that devastating 44 foot shark oil pattern.
  • Check your pro shop pricing before you check online. It’s easy to think that the huge savings online retailers offer on bowling balls will save you some dough, but often times it ends up costing more when you factor in the cost of drilling the bowling ball.  The cost of drilling is often included when ordering a new bowling ball at your local pro shop which will could net you a comparable or better price as well as a happy pro shop owner.

Got a tip for how to save some dough bowling?  Post a comment below this way we can all benefit!

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  1. Coach 3G is spot on with buying your own shoes, buying used ball from the shop, inquiring about specials or coupons (many bowling alleys will have certain nights or hours for 1 dollar games or something to the sort) and maintenance on your equipment extends its lifetime. This is something to consider; the more you bowl with a ball the more a “track” is worn on it. Not to inform and define terms in here, but to those that don’t know what a “track” is … it is essential the part of the ball that keeps in contact with the lane. After a while the ball starts to flatten there. Resurfacing the ball will make the ball symmetrical again … I’ll stop here to I don’t continue with this fellow readers.

    To be terser … I would trade bowling balls with my friend. Not always, but it was just something we did. The only fees to this might be a plug of some sort. 10, 15, 20 dollars is drastically less expensive than a new bowling ball. If you pay for your own equipment than this is an option, but if your parents or someone else purchased it I would ask them first :)

    This is all the input I have at the moment bowlers but hopefully I might come up with some more helpful tips to save some dough bowling.

  2. Gobbly says:

    I wholeheartedly concur. I have had a lot of hobbies in my time, and bowling is by far one of the cheapest. I take advantage of deals at my local lanes. I got into a ball, bag and shoes for under $170, I suspect this is about average for an intro setup. My pro shop had several racks of used balls I could have picked from as well which could have brought that total down even more.

    As far as bang for the buck, it is really a very economic sport, and really does not require that you dish out huge sums to progress. Of course there are options out there if you do want to spend a bit more, but it’s certainly not required at all.

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