Originally Posted by smash81
GREAT PICTURES! And way to go getting to your campsite, I can't imagine doing that sort of thing at night with nothing but that DR headlight.
Enjoying reading the discussions here, although I don't think I'll dive in.
Quick question, sort of more back on topic: what do you find you're spending on average per month? Any tips welcome in the budgeting department. Looking forward to your pics of what you're carrying with you.
Glad to hear you're healing up! A package is heading your way tomorrow.
Yeah, I really need to start looking for campsites BEFORE it gets dark. Every day, I say that I'm going to, and every day, I am wrong...
I would say give or take around $500, but I'd have to dig down and do monthly averages to get a solid number. My main expenses are food and gas, (insurance is paid out through next June), and I occasionally spend money on tracfone minutes, fast food, bike parts, equipment, etc. Those occasional purchases are what make it hard for me to nail down a real number, as shit happens and I find myself with unexpected expenses quite frequently. I am sorry I don't have a more concrete answer, but the truth is I don't really know how long my money is going to last in any absolute fashion.
My budgeting is a bit unconventional. My simple rule of thumb is "try to spend as little money as you can get away with". Sometimes I'll do my finances at the end of the month and see that I've spent more than I'd like on luxuries, and I keep that in mind the next time I want something special. This isn't to say that I never indulge, but I try to keep it to a minimum, that way if I find the perfect gift for a loved one, or need to spend money on an entry fee into something really cool, I don't feel too bad about it, and I don't miss out because it's not "in the budget". The biggest questions are "Is this necessary? Can I get by without this?" and "How sad will I be if I don't buy/do this? Will I regret it later?" It isn't doing something luxurious once that's going to kill your budget, it's doing luxurious things frequently, or having a high base cost of living.
Here are my tips for reducing the overall cost of the trip, not counting those luxury moments.
1) I don't factor in gasoline. It's going to cost what it costs, and there's nothing you can do about it other than not ride (and what's the fun in that?). My bike gets over 50 mpg, sometimes as much as 60, so even though it is the largest expense in a given day, it is still fairly minimal. In a 300 mile day, I'm spending ~$20 on gas. Obviously if I were doing this every
day, it would add up fast, but that brings me to...
2) Stop and explore. When you're done with your trip, which do you remember more? The dozens of hours you spent on the freeway, trying not to be bored to tears, or that cool roadside attraction you stopped at, the people you met, the scenery you admired? Unless the road is REALLY fun, most of our memories come from the places we stop at. Even the boring parts of the country have neat things hidden off the beaten path, find them! I find that stopping to take pictures for the ride report leads me to stop at some places I otherwise might not have, and that's a good thing! Slow down. It's easy for me to say this because I don't have any deadlines, but even if you do, consider that a week spent exploring a small area, if it's a good one, will be more memorable and less stressful than a week spent barreling along just to say you've done x number of states. It's cheaper too.
3) Camping. I've never tried this in the northeast, but you pretty much can't throw a rock in the western half of the country without finding Forest Service or BLM land, both of which allow distributed camping for free for the most part. National parks don't allow this, but I'm sure you could probably get away with it if you were the least bit stealthy. My technique, when I can't find something at freecampsites.net or any of the other free camping sites out there, is to get to national forest land, take the first dirt road off of that, and then a dirt offshoot from there. Works almost every time, as long as there isn't private property interspersed in with the forest. In small towns, ask the locals where a good spot to camp for free is, in gas stations particularly. I've asked forest service and fire service people that I happened to find. Just say that you're on a tight budget and would really prefer not to spend money just to sleep. There's also the Tent Space Map, which is incredibly useful, but I don't like to be a mooch, so I just camp for the most part. I really can't emphasize this one enough, if I had to pay to sleep, at $50 a night, I probably wouldn't be able to travel like this. A month would be over $1500.
4) Eating out will make your money fly out of your wallet so fast that you'll get whiplash watching it go. The "dollar menu" might seem like a good deal, but it adds up quickly, especially as fast food doesn't contain many nutrients and does not satisfy for long. I usually avoid restaurants unless it's a special occasion, I'm very wet/tired/cold, or REALLY good food. Sometimes I am guilty of getting snacks from gas stations, but this too is a practice I try to limit. Learn to cook on the road, and buy ingredients at a grocery store. If you can't make it yourself, canned soups are a good choice, relatively inexpensive (less than $3). Troll the grocery store's day-old bread rack for goodies. If you're going through a decently-sized town, look for discount food stores (Grocery Outlet), places like Winco with a bulk foods section are great (especially for trail mix or grains), farmer's markets (decently priced produce), or ethnic markets (asian/hispanic stores have some good deals). Aim for fruit and veg, hard goods, pastas, beans, sauce mixes in bulk, oats for oatmeal or barley for your soup. I avoid boxed meals, they tend to be more expensive than buying the ingredients and making it myself, and tend to include a lot of preservatives and other crap I don't want or need in my diet. This is a good tip for not being on the road too, I might add, if you eat fast food once a day, you're throwing something like $50 a week in the trash. I spend less than $10 a day on food. It's usually dried fruits/nuts for breakfast, and pasta/soup for dinner. Foods like hummus will keep for a surprisingly long time outside of refrigeration. Cooking this way can take more time, but you'll be eating healthier than if you ate prepared meals the entire trip too.
5) I have a tracfone because $14 for the phone and $20-30 every 3 months for minutes is far cheaper for me than a phone plan. My droid is not connected to the network, because I don't want recurring bills for data coverage. I find free wifi instead. Places that have free wifi include almost any hotel/motel, all mcdonalds, all starbucks (and most coffee shops in general), some subways, many public libraries, barnes and noble, and some downtown "shopping areas". If I am in a commercial business I try to purchase something small and cheap (like a coffee), because I feel I need to give back if I am going to use up their space for hours, but I have been told by employees that they don't care if I sit there with a glass of water and don't buy a thing.
6) Thrift stores are great for clothing. Bonus: I don't have to break in new clothes! I tend to use clothing until it falls to shreds so this is not much of an issue.
7) I really recommend the all parks pass if you have the slightest interest in nature/the outdoors and are planning on being on the road for a while. I've seen so many great things that I would have missed due to not wanting to pay the $20 entry fee.
8) If you can find them, pawn shops and hispanic/flea markets are a great place for cheap tools. I've bought a replacement socket for less than a dollar at one of those markets before. Used ratchet still works the same...
9) Craigslist can net you some decent used camping gear. Sometimes you can barter or talk people down, if that's your style. I have no complaints about that tent yet!
Overall, I use a lot of the same strategies when I am stationary, so many of these things are second nature to me. Depending on if your trip is more of a "vacation" or a "lifestyle", you'll need to adjust things on the frugal meter accordingly. I would probably spend less time cooking or worrying about finding a place to camp if I had a fat bankroll and a steady job to return to, but it would be a far different experience.
Thanks yet again for the netbook! I spent today partitioning and formatting it for a dual boot (XP/Bodhi linux). It works a treat so far!
It'll make getting this RR up and running on the road a breeze, I think.