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  • Writer's pictureGary Grewal

5 Ways Being an REI Member Can Cut Costs AND Your Carbon Footprint,

“Are you an REI member?” is the newest question to determine your elite status among the upper crust of millennials. (Kidding, Patagonia takes that crown). You might be surprised to know that REI has some of the most loyal member base. Since they are a co-op they are literally owned by their customers who are members. Members get many perks discussed below, the biggest being discounts on merchandise. You can become a member for $20, which for me paid for itself with just one bike maintenance job. With the increase in remote work, nomading, and spending time outdoors (not to mention the ever-important responsibility of reducing our carbon footprint) becoming an REI member can, yes I’m going to say it, help you save green AND be green!

1) Rentals: In Financial Fives, which all of you have read because you’re savvy financial connoisseurs working to increase your net worth, I talk about several items you should really think about renting rather than buying. Case in point: outdoor equipment. If you’re a city dweller yearning to follow your wanderlust into the lush National Parks for some camping, it probably makes sense to borrow or rent your equipment before you buy. If you have a friend who is a rock climber, mountain biker, and backpacker, you might be in luck if you ask to borrow their stuff, or better yet, join them on their next excursion to the great outdoors. If not, or you’re not comfortable asking, it can cost quite a bit to go out and buy your own gear, be it camping supplies (tent, sleeping pad, mattress, light, and a slew of other items you didn’t think about) a paddleboard, or even a mountain bike.

REI rents out many of these items, at a very reasonable cost. In fact, I was looking to rent bikes at a beach town, and one place rented them for $70 a day, REI was only $30 for the day! And the nice thing is they are usually pretty lax for when you return the items, often giving you a couple of hours or even a day and keeping it the same price. Another perk? The cost adds to your member dividend that you receive!

Even if you are not a novice, and enjoy activities like mountain biking and kayaking, does it really make sense to buy a $3,000 mountain bike if you only go 3 times a year? You can usually rent one for $75 or less, plus they give you the helmet and other accessories. In addition, if you own it, you’re on the hook when it needs maintenance or parks. Plus, do you have room to store it, and will it be secure there? Sharing is caring. Rent for things you use on occasion.

2) Trade-In Program: Remember back in college when you took your overpriced textbooks to the student union to get credit back for more overpriced textbooks that you need for the new year? I know the feeling, shaking my fist in the air and everything at the monopoly of educational book publishers. After freshman year, I never bought a new book again. I either bought it directly from another student or simply checked it out of the library, which forced me to sit there and read the assigned sections. Not that studious reading is the only thing that happens in libraries, man if only college library books could talk! Any, REI’s trade-in program works in a similar fashion. Not only can you get an REI gift card for used items you are done with, but you are also giving those items a new life, rather than sending them to the landfill. If you’re over rock climbing, you can get store credit for that new pair of hiking boots. REI has an excellent return policy as well, though you may rarely need it since they sell only top-notch quality items from the best brands.

3) Garage Sales: Don’t worry, this isn’t like the garage sales of your childhood, where your parents would rush out of the door at 7 am to a house they saw a flyer or ad for in the newspaper. “Gotta get there early for the good stuff!” Do you really want to go to a random person’s house, and have them just come up with a price on the spot for something you weren’t really planning to buy anyway? Now, I’m definitely not hating garage sales, in fact, I vouch for them as places you can often find things to furnish your new apartment or buy toys for little ones.

REI garage sales though are like a finer silent auction. Everything is attractively priced, usually in good condition, and the inventory is diverse. If you want an in, you’ve got to be a member. I bought my tent at a garage sale that usually sells for $120, for less than $45! It was in lightly used condition and had a missing zipper, which the staff there happily replaced for me anyway. These sales are final though, so make sure you take your time to inspect products. Or, if it does have a drawback, be sure it’s not something that will prevent you from fully utilizing or enjoying the product.

4) Classes, Travel and Events: While these may have slowed down due to the pandemic, they are going to rev back up again, especially with the rush of interest of people getting outdoors and spreading out. REI classes range from snowshoeing to surviving in the backcountry, to DIY ski maintenance. Not only are these classes a fun way to meet people and learn hands-on with the experts, but they are very low cost, and oftentimes free for members. So instead of paying a hefty price to take a class at a resort or fix something simple at a shop, you can save money with your newfound knowledge.

REI members also have access to their Travel program, which has some of the most attractive and fun-looking adventures I’ve seen! Ever wanted to hike through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, kayak through the San Juan Islands, or go backpacking up the California coast but didn’t have anyone to go with? Well, now you can. This may not be the most “money-saving” activity, however, you get a discount if you are a member. Plus, Doing one of these amazing trips may nurture an appreciation for the outdoors, so you direct time and energy there instead of online shopping, fine dining, or other expensive hobbies.

Oh, and speaking of events, the one I used to live by in Denver had the most amazing, and enjoyable events with food, music, giveaways, and good times.

5) Repair Services: So let’s say that you go to one of the bike repair classes, but still realize you’re not cut out for DIY maintenance. Not to worry! Most REI locations have a bike/ski repair shop and let me tell you, everyone who works there blows me away. They are some of the most hardworking, kind, upbeat, and skilled people I have ever met. Every single time I go there with a question, they greet you like a friend, take it back right away, and usually surprise me with an “it was just a bent derailleur, we fixed it and lubed it up for you, no charge!” Now, I do pay for parts and things like tune-ups, but they don’t nickel and dime you like some other places, and actually know what they are doing.

Members get substantial discounts on bike and snow equipment repair. As mentioned above, bikes can range up to thousands of dollars. Sometimes, you might think you need some crazy expensive part based on what you find online. However, if you take into REI, not have I found their parts cheaper due to them being member-owned, but their member labor prices are super competitive. Oftentimes, I’ve gone in for things like brake repair or tube punctures, and they don’t charge for labor at all. I ride much more peacefully knowing the bros at REI have my back.


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