This gets into a very personal area. It is so personal, that it’s one of those things that leads to divorces. I won’t suggest that I have the answers, but I’ll throw out a few ideas just for consideration. The first point is whether paddling is your interest alone, or whether it is something you share with your spouse, or the whole family. Financial expenditures are always easier to justify if it’s money that benefits everyone. If only one person in the family benefits, whether it is voiced or not, there will ALWAYS be jealousy or resentment over where, for what, and how much is going out of the coffers.
Like every financial expenditure, the spending works best if it fits into and is regulated by a well-conceived budget. The budget should include where the money is coming from, how it is deposited, where it can be spent, what it can be spent on, and who has say over these decisions. The best method for controlling such a fund is not a separate line-item, but a totally separate account that is fed by payroll deduction. This is also true for any accounting that involves savings. If it doesn’t go in automatically, it will get spent somewhere else. Anything used for paddling comes from this account, not just what you spend on the trip.
One of the greatest expenses in paddling will not be the boat and gear, but the vehicle that hauls it. Some will use the family vehicle, but others have a dedicated vehicle they use for paddling. It’s not as fancy as the family car, and usually incorporates some considerations the family car doesn’t, like extra storage space, a flat roof, a place for a good rack, mud tires, or maybe it’s just old and used enough you can worry a little less about leaving it parked somewhere while you’re downstream. When I got my truck, the deal was that it didn’t move unless it had a boat on it. If family or household needs require the use of the truck, it’s treated the same as a rental vehicle I’d have to get for the job if I didn’t already own it. In other words, the household budget pays rent to the paddling budget to cover the wear and tear on the vehicle. This may sound strange, or a bit excessive, but the idea is that sooner or later, that vehicle will need to be replaced, and the family budget may not be in a position to buy a paddling vehicle at that point. If paddling is a priority for you, then you need to provide for the money to be there when that time arrives. If I’m hauling furniture, yard waste, mulch, stone, or any of that stuff trucks get used for, the paddling account gets paid so much per mile for the use of the truck. I figure it at one dollar/mile to cover all vehicle expenses. Then, all the expenses for the paddle vehicle come from the paddle account rather than the household budget. This includes gas, tires, registration, insurance, maintenance, and eventual replacement.
I think trucking companies are pretty smart to survive in this economy, and this is how they operate. They don’t run their vehicles into the ground and just hope there will be money available when it comes time to replace the fleet. Everything is calculated on a mileage rate that covers costs along the way. If it works for them, then covering our expenses as we go should work for us.