Let me tell you, I am a bare bones kind of person. I'm not really into detail, and when I decide to do something, I just jump. I don't buy all the fancy stuff, and I always am like "eh, I'll make it." This ends me in trouble lots of times, but I'm going to share with you how I just sorta LEAPED into tri training with nothing. haha!
I never bought a pair of nice running shoes until I got injured so much my last training for the marathon, so I invested in a pair of nice Asiacs. The stinkiest part about this is that I run so much that they are already worn down, and I think I need another pair. Sigh. That's all you need for running. I know everyone gets all these cool water things, and belts and that's all fun and great but if you are stretched for money then really, all you need is a pair of running shoes.
For swimming, you need a bathing suit and goggles, obviously. I simply went to Models in NYC (I'm sure you could go to any sportswear store-I'd stay away from somewhere like Dicks though or you'll end up paying full price). I got a Nike one piece swim suit for $20. I had goggles from high school swim team, but you can get them at Walmart for like $10. Again, it doesn't have to be fancy. It just needs to shield your eyes. Ha! If you are a girl with a lot of hair like myself, I would just get a swim cap too ($5 at Walmart). That's all.
For the bike, you would need a bike right? Na. You don't even have to do that. I know a girl that trained almost 100% indoor for a FULL ironman. She would rent a bike for a long brick training workout, and then she rented a bike on the day of her race. This is not ideal obviously but nice bikes are extremely expensive, and if you do not want cost to be the reason that you can't do it, then this is something to consider. The bike is where a big cost is. It's actually frustrating when I tell about my bike problems and people are like "Oh you just need a new bike and biking shoes, and clips and yadda yadda" and I'm over here like "Do you wanna give me 2 grand for a nice new bike and all this stuff?" It's crazy town. I did not have biking shoes for my race. I just wore my tennis shoes during the bike, and they did just fine. I even know a girl who did a half ironman with a mountain bike (not recommended).
However, you will need a helmet for race day. I got mine for $20 at Walmart. I also did buy a bike. I got a cheap one off bikersdirect.com. They are knock offs from the more expensive bikes, and honestly my bike would be perfectly fine and wonderful IF it fit me. It's just too big, so it's not that I need a nicer bike. I just need a different size, so at this point, I think I'm going to save and make the investment in a nicer bike.
I know this isn't a ton of information, but that's because I want you to realize that if you want to just jump head first, then just do it. You definitely can grab all that you need for a reasonable price, and start with the spin bikes at your local gym as I did.
With love and tris,