Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bliss on a Budget - Camping Our Way to DisIndebtification

Both Mrs. DisIndebted and I have high pressure, demanding professional jobs. She is often required to stay late hours for client meetings. I seldom have such obligations, but face frequent deadlines with major consequences. Thus, I am guilty of taking it home with me and working on my phone late into the night and over the weekend. I actually just checked my work email at 8:34 PM.

Hey Hamster, keep humping that
American Dream, You got this, baby!
The reality is it is never ending. Sometimes it feels like we are on a hamster wheel - just going round and round: every week is the same. Every day we deal with new issues, new clients, new people and their issues. Every day we look forward to our evening. Every week we look forward to our weekend. And, unsurprisingly, every weekend we do not look forward to Monday. It all adds up to a lot of stress.

I have yet to find the secret to avoiding the hamster wheel - but I have found ways to soothe the stress. The gym is great. So is cooking. Of course, our pets are always there for us even when we may not want them. Despite the many ways we can de-stress in our daily lives, sometimes we need a longer break to reset your brain. That is what vacations are for. There is something so wonderful about spending a night or more away from the chaos and constant chatter of everyday living.  Of course we love travel and someday hope to do quite a bit more, but we cannot afford to take exciting trips and aggressively pay our debts at the same time.

Bliss on a budget.
Never fear, we have camping!

I grew up on camping. I spent many years in Boy Scouts, not to learn skills or advance to Eagle, but to go on the monthly camp-outs. Then in high-school, I talked my folks into sending me to some backpacking camps. When I finished the bar exam, the first thing I did was hike a four day section of the Appalachian Trail (some beverages may have been consumed between the test and the trail). After all the years I have a decent collection of tents, lamps, and other gear and I am ready to set up camp at a moment's notice.

Mrs. DisIndebted, however, did not grow up on the stuff and in our relationship up until now we have always stayed in hotels or cabins. Nonetheless, shortly after heading down the path to debt freedom we decided to take a trip. The obvious economical choice was to camp out. We decided we didn't want to drive far, so we chose a state park nearby and reserved two nights at a non-electric (primitive) campground. We knew that for the cost of a campsite and a few other items, we could enjoy a full weekend of relaxation.

How much did our camping adventure cost us? Really, not much. We spent $18 a night on the campground = $36. The burgers, beers, pancake batter and other grub was already paid for and in the pantry = free. We needed the beers = $20. We also needed the soft serve from the little place in the nearby town = $5. We needed about 1/4 tank of gas to drive us there and back = $8. The reality is we would spend a lot of this on normal weekend activities.

Campground Fees$36
Ice Cream$5
Gas (1/4 tank)$8

Of course, I've omitted the most expensive line item; firewood. We spent $50 on firewood!

Wood for burninating.
We do like our fires! That said, we could have spent a TON less on this luxury. The reality is that we didn't plan ahead and buy firewood before we got there. Instead, we paid campground prices of $5 a bundle. Yes, we went through ten bundles of wood. Yes, we murdered a bunch of trees. No, we do not feel guilty.

Had we planned ahead, we could have picked the wood up much more cheaply. I just checked Craigslist found people selling it for 1/3 or more of what we paid. That said, it is (in my book) a must for camping so we decided we would splurge. And splurge, we did. It isn't that we have money to burn, but calculated the cost we went ahead and set it on fire anyway. Lesson learned. Next time we will plan the firewood in advance. Maybe we can hire a den of industrious friendly beavers to fell a full-grown tree in anticipation of our arrival. Don't judge... It could happen.

So what did we do other than burninate overpriced wood like so many thatched roof cottages? We did some hiking with the dog. We took a trip into town and enjoyed the local ice cream (obviously). We watched the stars and enjoyed deep conversations. We ate and drank like king and queen - and, like true royals we were entertained! There was a birthday party going on and thirty or so kids were all running around with swords and horns in some sort of loosely organized live action role play. It isn't every day you witness a legion of little LARPers LARPing in the park. All this and more for a very affordable price. In my book $119 for two nights at a relaxing wooded retreat with scenic views and live entertainment is a real bargain. Next time, I think we can do it for under $100.

Will there be a next time? You bet there will! We are already planning for our next camp-out. Despite not having camped in over ten years, Mrs. DisIndebted loved it so much that she is sold for life! And, after only two days back in the hamster wheel we are both ready for another getaway.

Tell us about your budget camping tips and other cheap vacation ideas below or at disindebted@gmail.com.

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