Ways to Make Training More Affordable

Budgeting for training over tools, prioritizing your next training milestone, splitting fixed costs with others, hosting an instructor, understanding when you need a guru and when you can “shop local”, and starting or joining a practice group are all ways to stretch your dollar to get in as many classes as possible.

“I don’t have enough money to train.”

The reality is that training is expensive. Let’s look at a cost breakdown from one of the out-of-area classes I attended last year. This was 2.5 days of instruction and four days of travel.

Tuition: $450 for a two day, 20 hour class.

Tuition (bonus): $100 for a special, alumni-only class the night before, 4 hours of instruction

Gas: $39.20

Lodging: $353 ($88.25 per night)

Food: $115

Ammunition: $90 (approx)

My cost: $1,147.20

Additional tuition and food costs (The She Shepherd went with me): $755

Grand total: $1902.20

We’ve spent $250+ on ammunition in a single class (between myself and my wife), and I haven’t gone to some high profile classes that recommend more than one case of carbine ammo.

That’s a lot of money, but let’s try to whittle this down by dividing our strategy into:

  • Prioritization
  • Cost reduction
  • Cost sharing
  • Multiply benefit and value


You need to decide your own prioritization regarding training vs tools, and what kinds of classes to take.

I have several training partners who balked at spending $1200 on 24 hours of training, but own several top of the line carbines, optics, and accessories. I am not saying that these are bad purchases, but ask you to be honest about how much you’re spending on hardware vs software.

I’ve pledged not to buy any new gear this year unless it’s a replacement for existing items due to failure or paradigm-shifting lessons learned from training. As a guy who loves vSBRs, wants suppressors, and writes a blog about short barreled firearms, this is a big deal for me. But I knew we were going to be going into some tight finances this year, and I had to make a choice.

I don’t really care what your choice is, but the first step in figuring out your training budget is understanding where you want your money to go.

The next prioritization is about what classes you plan on taking. I wrote some recommendations about what new and novice students should take (parts 1, 2, and 3). Read up and decide your own priorities.

Prioritization on material is important because if you can only spend $500 this year, or can only get 4 days off to train, you should consider what will get you the maximum benefit for your time and money. In general, it won’t be a class that is taught by a high profile instructor regarding a singular, specialized skill set or tailored to deal with a lower probability event.

Cost Reduction

Be a Good Host

This may not be a possibility for you, but it’s saved us a lot of money: host the classes you want to take in your home town.

Hosting a class may:

  • reduce your travel costs
  • reduce your lodging costs
  • reduce your food costs
  • earn you a free slot (or slots) in the class
  • earn you a free slot (or slots) in future classes

Going back to my original example, by hosting I could have “saved” (not spent is more accurate) over $600. That’s the cost of another class.

When we host classes, we don’t take free slots. We reduce the overall cost of the class so more people can attend. However, if I did take a free slot, that would have reduced my costs by another $550.

We sponsored / hosted 4 classes last year. That’s $2400 we were able spend on other things. Like lawyer bills. :\ But I digress.

Bulk Up

Another option at Cost Reduction is asking for a multi-enrollment discount. This isn’t offered by many instructors, but two of our favorite training agencies in Minnesota offered discounts on pre-paying for multiple classes (or an entire year’s worth of classes). I cut my enrollment costs by 60% in 2016 by doing this.

Bunk Up

If you sign up for an instructor we host, we ask if you’re interested in hosting a visiting student. This will save them the cost of staying in a hotel or AirBNB. If you are traveling for a class, ask the instructor / coordinator if anyone is interested in hosting out of area students.

Advanced Level Prices for Basic Instruction

This is contentious, but if you’re just starting out you may be able to save money by learning from someone local instead of going to a high cost instructor. My definition of “high cost” instructor is anything over $25/hr. Sometimes only a handful of instructors in the country can teach a particular subject, but for most of us, especially those on the New Student track, you might be able to find a very capable instructor in your area.

The counter to this is that an incompetent instructor can wind up costing you more in the long term. Bad habits, bad tactics, etc. This can certainly be true.

I also know that I have overpaid some higher profile instructors for worse training than I got from regional counterparts.

Cost Sharing

Traveling with a crew will help defray some of your costs. You can divide up gas and lodging. Every little bit helps. I don’t recommend sharing hotel rooms for especially strenuous classes in case one or more of your associates snore. I can’t imagine going to ECQC for the first time and sharing a room with one of my pals that snores like a drunken, upside-down owlbear.

Grocery splitting can also be an option.

Multiplying Benefits and Value

This isn’t a way to save money, but to maximize the money you spent going to training.

Most of the time, we go to a class, do whatever the class is about, come home, think about all the shit we should have done better, and that’s it. We put the material “on the shelf.” You’re only getting the benefit of the class while you’re at class.

Training Groups

By joining or forming a training group you are able to practice most things with other students or people you’ve trained with before. C. R. Williams guest wrote an article about starting your own training group. I’ve gotten a lot of value out of the Midwest Region Shivworks Affiliate (MRSA) training group. There might be things that I understood in class that I can help someone with, and by teaching I improve my own comprehension of the technique. Conversely, there are always things I struggle with, and maybe a training partner “got” that part and can teach me.

Take Notes

Some of my fellow students take notes. This isn’t effective for me in non-lecture based classes, but it might be for you. You can go back and revisit your notes and it might jog something loose.


If it’s okay with the instructor, doesn’t interfere with the class, and doesn’t make the other students uncomfortable, I highly recommend taking video of your training. You will see a lot of things on camera that no one else saw, including the instructor.

The most “famous” example I have is doing a tap-rack-bang during a force on force event. My Airsoft pistol failed to fire during the middle of a gunfight. I did a malfunction clear subconsciously and no one noticed, not even myself, until I watched the footage. Who knows what your footage will reveal.

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

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