Figure (and bikini, bodybuilding, and physique) competitions can be expensive, but there are definitely ways to save money.
There are two fees you absolutely cannot avoid paying in full, and these are:
Registration (usually $30 to $80 depending on how big the show is; if you start in small shows, like I am, the fees tend to be lower)
Joining the federation ($100 for the NPC)
And there are other things you absolutely must spend money on, but on which you can scrimp:
Suit. New figure suits range from $100 to over $1,000. For me, personally, I am not expecting to place first and shake up the whole world of figure at my first show, so I am willing to rent. Renting does involve paying a deposit, which means that your upfront cost is $150+, but you get that deposit back. I will say that if you are small-chested, your options for renting will be somewhat limited. For suit rentals, check out http://www.divaexchange.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.399674735801.196712.133136530801&type=1&comment_id=14455300&offset=0&total_comments=81
Heels. Depending on where you buy them and what sales you hit, your heels will cost $30 to $50. You can usually find them on Amazon, eBay, or a suit rental site.
Bikini Bite. You can buy this on TrueNutrition.com and use my discount code (SRW840)
for 5% off! Its product page is here.
Tanning products. TrueNutrition.com stocks Jan Tana products, as does Amazon.com (here). Amazon also sells ProTan.
Posing. Some IFBB pros charge upwards of $50 an hour for posing classes. Get in contact with your local NPC chairperson or competitors at your gym to see who is offering local classes. Many NPC judges teach group posing classes for $5-$15. Also see if you can get an experienced competitor to help you out over Skype or in person. Many of them will offer tips and pointers for free.
Nutrition. This is a toughie. If you're going to hire someone to write your nutrition plan (which is not 100% necessary - everything is on the Internet these days!), you need to be sure it's someone who understands you, is readily available, and is honestly invested in your success. Shop around. Be careful.
Training. Jay Ashman. That is all I have to say about that. :)
Travel. Pick a contest that is close to you so you don't have to stay overnight in a hotel.
Hair & Makeup. Do your own, if you can! :) If you go to a high-end beauty store & explain that you are only going to be very dark for one or two days, many sales associates will give you a free sample of darker makeup.
Competitors: what are your money saving tips? Those who have not competed, do any of these prices surprise you?
PS: Don't forget to join the Squat Like A Lady group page on Facebook!