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Funding it not easy. First, I never buy lower end or used. Then I grow out of my previous choices, selling used is a bit hard. Stuff accumulates, a dive a bit more than a year and already I own 4 tanks, great gear and countless trinkets. My room looks like a dive shop and you can find gear all over the house. Each month I spend $300-$400 on gear. But I don't have a girlfriend, it helps to have some spare change.
Overall, gear is not the most pricey. The trips are. So far I've spent 2 weeks in Cozumel, this month going to Florida for a little over a week. This is where most money go - vacations. If I were living in Florida, I'd probably dive for cheap each weekend, but when there is no good water around you, vacations bite the wallet.
If you are seriously considering the business side, I might suggest to go for the Divemaster. It's easily obtainable, you have to keep a complete set of gear (read: "Honey, but I am a Divemaster so I need X"), and you can start to make some side money for guiding people around. Figure out if that is what you really want to do. As a professional, it is much more about patience and teaching skills, so you want to make sure that is where you want to go before dropping the $.
I put out ads all over, Cleaning attics, running cable\phone\data jacks, pickup of appliances (to be scrapped), clean out garages(scrap the metal and power cords), teach older people the new windows 8 or even windows 7, cut grass, even replace brakes on cars\change oil, clean out old electronics from businesses and scrap the electronics for cash.. I have done a ton of stuff to fund my gear costs(bought used) and dive trips. You would not believe the money that people just toss out if you are just willing to do the work.
I have a side job. I travel the country lecturing about the history of chocolate in the Americas. Luckily for me the hot time of the year is fall through the spring, so I can squirrel some cash aside for the upcoming dive season. Since the work slows down in the summer, I can indulge in diving while the weather is nice!
I have a side gig consulting for a local school system. It pays a stipend and that is my fun money if there is nothing else is pressing. Last year I put half towards a custom made oak desk and then I got my OW cert and the other half paid for my computer, wetsuit and I got a good deal on a BCD. Is it the BC the one I wanted, no, but my LDS offered it to me for $200 less than it usually goes for and it's the BC that will let me go diving without having to rent. I will eventually save and upgrade. I bought a used reg from a family friend for $60 and had it serviced.
Everything I bought was with the aim of allowing me to go on local shore dives to gain experience. I am also hooked. This years stipend will go towards a new regulator and compass.
Side business pays for toys. Sucks to have to work sometimes but money is easy to make if you have enough drive and ambition.
Sugar momma helped me get the education, I have been paying her back for going on 18 years now.
I m married have 2 kids I made it by quitting smoking, all other form of "party" life style and no fancy cell phones. Basically pinching on pennies spent on myself. If you have obsession with diving and lucky enough to find a good mentor you will make it through.
I have the benefit of economic freedom, so I'll not opine on how you ought to afford this activity. In general, providing more value to people with the ability to make you wealthy is a healthy start.
There is no way around it, this stuff costs money and compromising with that simple fact is plain dangerous. One place that dangerous scenario gets realized is when people have to have everything right now. If you dive to the level you can honestly afford, you'll be fine.
How many times every single day do we see the cost-conscious zero to advanced !@#$ing trimix wannabe's launching a crusade to collect every card (and associated kit) in creation? How many people (aside from the voices that show up in every thread here because they're the constants in the community) actively dive for 10 consecutive years, or even cumulative ten years?
You can amass an amazing sum of dive gear over time if you're opportunistic and willing to be patient.
On top of that, there seems to be an entire segment of the diving population that gets by owning very minimal gear (diving 30-50 times/year on a few weeks of vacation with rentals).
The cost of diving is what it is, but let's not confuse the cost of the activity with the cost of gear and knowledge acquisition or the cost of maintenance and upkeep. It seems prudent to spend your money diving and when you have extra, and ambition, upgrade either kit or knowledge or both.