Summer road trip season is almost here! And chances are you’re trying to stretch your funds as far as possible. Here are some tips to help you save money and make what you do have go further, allowing you to take a longer excursion.
On The Road:
Check your tire pressure. Your gas mileage decreases when your tires are under-inflated, so make sure to fill up on air before you begin your 15-hour drive. Also, as excited as you are for a week-plus of climbing, try to drive conservatively; you’ll save money by accelerating slowly and staying within 5 mph of the speed limit.
Pack snacks from home. Gas station food is expensive and usually unhealthy. Pack any food you might have left in the fridge in a cooler, so it won’t spoil while you’re away. And, if you have time, make your favorite homemade granola or kale chips to have healthy options for when you’re boredom snacking.
At the Grocery Store:
Buy adult carrots. Yes carrots are cheap but not when you buy the kind they cut into bite-size pieces–aka baby-cut carrots. Look for little ways like this to save even 10 cents on every item possible; it will add up to save you five, ten, or more dollars (think several gallons of gas) at the register. Whenever possible, buy the store brand, and look at the unit price per pound to determine which can of black beans is indeed the best deal. Sometimes buying more of an item brings the unit price down, but only go big if you know you’ll eat the full 16 ounces of spinach, otherwise you’re just wasting food and money.
Buy ingredients not meals or meal replacements. It’s tempting to grab a pre-made sandwich or tub of Cedar’s bean salad for lunch, but getting pre-made food, even at the grocery store, is more expensive than getting the ingredients to make your own. You could spend $6 on one sub, or you could spend $10 for a loaf of whole wheat bread and a jar of peanut butter that will last you for the week. Also resist the urge to stock up on meal replacement bars. One Clif Bar, at $1.25 when bought in bulk, isn’t anywhere near enough food for lunch, and when you’re eating three or four at noon each day, that four to five dollars starts to add up–and Clif Bars are relatively cheap compared to many “nutrition” bars. Go with a good old PB+J or spice things up with a PB+banana sandwich to in get all your macronutrients.
Skip the artisan snacks aisle. As good as organic Mild Green Mojo Late July chips and gluten-free kale, chia, and flax crackers are, at $4.95 for three servings they aren’t cost effective calorie replacers. Snack on leftovers from previous meals to save money and avoid food waste or make your own inexpensive trail mix (GORP–good old raisins and peanuts–is a great cheap option) for a sweet and salty snack. A big spoonful of peanut butter or handful of sunflower seeds will keep you full for surprising long too.
DO NOT BUY WATER! Pack several reusable water bottles that you can fill up in local shops and/or fast food restaurants. Buying water is an unnecessary expense, but, if you do become desperate (after losing your water bottle etc.), buy ONE gallon or 3-liter Poland Spring bottle that you can reuse for the rest of the trip and beyond.
On Rest Days:
Find free local activities. As good as a day at the spa might feel on your aching muscles, it’s not worth five fewer days of climbing. Instead, go for a hike, check out free local attractions, read, sleep, or spend time finding climbs you’d like to try the next day. Even seemingly inexpensive options like seeing a movie cut into your tight budget. If it’s rainy and you need to veg, check out a local bookstore or borrow some coffee-shop WiFi. Also resist the urge to drive more than 30 minutes from your campsite to avoid spending extra on gas.
Avoid eating–and drinking!–out. Buying groceries is far cheeper than even the least expensive diner or McDonald’s dollar-menu meal. Pick one meal to eat out to sample the local cuisine, but otherwise make your own food while on the road and at the crag. Do the same for the local bar scene: one night, otherwise buy cheep beer (PBR recommended).
Avoid excess drinking. It slows your recovery time and even cheep beer adds up when you’re crushing 4+++ drinks each night. Save money and the risk of hungover climbing by sticking to one or two beers most nights and/or saving your favorite brew for after you send.
Make your own coffee! Clearly I love my coffee–see blog name–but paying $2+ dollars a day for fast-food coffee adds up (and it’s usually pretty bad). Instead, invest in a camp french press, so you can save money by buying your own beans and using less gas, since can now make coffee at the crag.