When I tell people about the trip we’re taking, a common first reaction is, “you must be rich.” We live comfortably for young twenty-somethings, but are by no means rich. An immense amount of time, planning, saving, self-control, and clever money-making tricks went into our financial preparations prior to our take off date.
Another common reaction is, “you are so lucky, I could never do something like that.” It’s easy to write off such a trip because saving only a little bit of money is hard enough as it is, let alone saving up for a six, nine, or twelve month trip… right? Wrong. If you know where to start, and want it bad enough, saving up the money is quite simple, really. Here’s a list of the different steps we took to make this whole shindig work:
1. Get comfortable with your current finances
The best thing anyone can do for their bank account balance is to know their spending habits and track their expenses. I recommend registering for a free account at Mint.com, an online, user-friendly budgeting software that easily tracks your entire credit and debit card purchases.
2. Figure out ways to cut your expenses and stash away savings
When Brandon and I got ahold of our finances, we found plenty of expense categories to slim down our spending in. We cut out coffee shops completely; limiting our coffee needs to home-brewed french press and increasing our monthly savings by about $75. Seeing as we don’t need stylish threads for our dirtbagging trip, we (and by we, I mean I) cut shopping out completely. When you can keep track of what you are spending on a weekly basis, refraining from extra purchases becomes a lot easier.
3. Make a budget prior to, and during, your trip.
Once I figured out what our average spending for each expense was, I created an excel spreadsheet where I could track all of our spending to the penny. I set a budget and an actual, so I could see if we were nearing our budget caps, and if we were going over them.
4. Make some extra cash on the side
There are tons of ways to reel in that extra dough in preparation for your big trip. If you can swing it, rent out your place on AirBnB and crash with friends or family. Bring those never worn, but still cute, clothes to a local consignment shop. If you’re strangely good at math, or are a grammar freak, sign up to tutor kids after school. Get creative, because there is always something you can do to make that scratch.
5. Have savings for emergencies and for when you return
Being caught in the middle of Death Valley with a dead transmission in the Tahoe was something that we don’t want to ever have happen, so we made sure to save up a good chunk of change for emergency car repairs while on the road. Another priority for this trip was to be covered financially when we return. Before we left for this trip, we made sure to have two months of rent saved up, just in case.
6. Rewards credit cards
If you don’t already have one, you need to get one right now. We signed up for the Amazon rewards card, which gives you 3% back on ALL AMAZON PURCHASES. In the past twelve months, we’ve spent $7,000 at Amazon.com, giving us a $210 return that we’ve gladly spent on a climbing rope and draws. For the next quarter, Ben’s card is giving him 5% back on all gas purchases, another handy reward for dirtbags pulling a 2,500lb camper around the country in a gas guzzling 2000 Chevy Tahoe. An airlines reward card can also be incredibly handy for a long term trip like this. When you sign up with Southwest, you get 50,000 miles free. You should probably stop reading this article and go sign up for one of these cards immediately. Then come back and finish reading.
7. How to make money on the road
This is one of the trickiest goals we’ve accomplished. The best way to find work while on the road is to realize your greater skills and find creative ways to take advantage of them. I’ve been a bookkeeper for a family business for the past three years and was able to automate everything so I could work a couple times a week online. Brandon, having three years experience at a worldwide-known advertising agency and being an excellent writer, has been able to find freelance jobs along the way. Taskrabbit.com is a website where busy rich people ask dirtbagging people like ourselves to help them out with buying groceries or running errands. Brandon also has a killer green chili recipe that I’m sure fellow climbers around the campsite wouldn’t hesitate to pay $3 a bowl for at the end of a long, successful day of pulling down on hard rock.
Using money as an excuse to stop yourself from going on the adventure you’ve been dreaming about is just not going to cut it anymore. It’s simple - know your finances, shave your expenses, save everything you can, and take advantage of those smarts yo mamma gave you.
Check out more of our adventures on our website justgoclimb.com
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.