Want to go on a great adventure? Whether that means thru-hiking a long trail (like me – I’m gunning for the Pacific Crest Trail next!), backpacking through Europe, or living in Bali for six months, you better save that money, honey! I’ve spent a lot of time in the past year and a half reading up on financial literacy and trying to get my sh*t together when it comes to money. For those of you who money comes easy to, I salute you. For me, it never has. But, I’ve certainly made my fair share of mistakes, not least of all living in one of the most expensive cities in the country for almost seven years. I was flat broke when I arrived in Colorado (after thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail then taking time to secure a new job), and despite low key planning to Triple Crown, I’m not super interested in being poor like that again. So, I’m doing my best these days to follow the advice of Rachel Cruze, her father (Dave Ramsey), and Mr. Money Mustache (who, by the way, is located only a town away from me here in Colorado!) in order to save my pennies and save them good before my next thru-hike.
I’m not perfect by any means (ask my parents, they’ll tell you!). I’m a sucker for new clothes, my apartment is too expensive, I’m a member at a local climbing gym, and I enjoy the occasional takeout or beer at a brewery with friends. However, I do believe I’m making a lot of the right financial decisions. Half the battle is being conscious of where your money goes, and I certainly have that down. I think about it constantly and am constantly striving to do better. For the first time in my life, I’m setting budgets and sticking to them (most of the time).
I believe in buying yourself the time and freedom to do the things that set your soul on fire. Because of that, I’d like to share the tips I’ve come up with to save money, for whatever it is that you’re saving for. Full disclosure: not all of these are relevant during Covid with all the shutdowns and social distancing, but most are, and for those that are not, I wanted to keep them on the list for future reference anyway. Without further ado, here are my tips for saving and making more money for your next adventure.
- Pay off your debts and stay out of debt. Rachel Cruze and Dave Ramsey preach this consistently. Debt robs you of your money and your freedom. The interest you’re paying each month is wasted money, and if you didn’t have those debts, where else could that money be going? I’m sure you could think of something better! This past year, I’ve paid off my credit cards and my car (a year and a half early). It’s going to be a looooong while until my student loans are paid off (not until after my next thru-hikes, I’m sure) but I’m going to do my absolute best not to get into any more (unless it’s a mortgage someday). I’d encourage you to do the same.
- Find a roommate. I know, I know. I’ve had my fair share, and roommates can be tough. But you can save A LOT of money on rent or your mortgage this way, and you could always commit to something short term. An old roommate of mine was in between jobs last year, unsure of her next move, and wanted to come check out Colorado for a bit. We shared my apartment for a few months. It helped her decide if she wanted to stay in Colorado, and it helped me pay my bills. Win win! I now have my own place and absolutely love the freedom of living solo, but I’m glad we had that time living in the same place, and it sure helped with my credit card statement!
- Offer your expertise. Did you know that there are companies out there who will pay you (pretty good) money to give your opinions in a focus group? These companies are conducting market research and usually have a certain demographic in mind that they’d like to learn from. I’d always wanted to participate in one, and I finally got the chance last year! I was paid $75 and received a free meal and snacks just to sit with a group of about 10 other people and give my opinions on a certain topic for an hour and a half. It was a lot of fun, and at the end, I was given an envelope with $75 cash. Score!
- Donate your eggs. This one is just for the ladies, obviously, but fellas, I’m sure the opportunity is out there for you to donate your sperm as well. I donated mine in April of 2015, about eight months post-back surgery, when I was still catching up financially from medical bills and being out of work for two months straight. This of course depends largely on your ethical values and religious beliefs surrounding this type of thing, and it was a decision I did not take lightly. However, I ultimately (potentially) helped a family have a child that they desperately wanted (it was an anonymous donation so I was never told if there was a successful after) while earning money to pay off a surgery that I had desperately needed. Despite some horror stories that I read on the internet, I had an overwhelmingly positive experience and an easy time with the donation. If you’d like to hear more about my experience, feel free to reach out! I’ve aged out (you can only do this until you’re about 32), but otherwise, I would totally be down to do this again. I made $8,000 before taxes (pro tip: don’t forget you’ll be taxed at the end of the year), and the entire process only took about eight days, not counting the testing appointments leading up to the donation process. It was honestly the easiest money I’ve ever made.
- Ask for discounts. A lot of places that have memberships, such as gyms for example, give corporate and student discounts – you just have to ask! On a whim, I asked my climbing gym if they had any such program, and if so, was my place of employment included. Low and behold, it was, and I began saving $20 a month on my membership fee. Every little bit counts! In addition, (before Covid), I signed up to clean my yoga studio once a week for two hours in exchange for a free monthly membership. That saved me about $100 a month, and many yoga studios offer this option!
- Clip coupons. Okay, I don’t mean the old-fashioned way where you literally cut paper coupons out of the Sunday paper. I mean use browser plug-ins and apps that will get you discount codes and cash back. Personally, I use Honey, which scans the Web for coupon codes every time I make a purchase online, as well as Rakuten, which does the same except it gives you cash back via PayPal every three months on qualifying purchases. During the last three month period, I received about $80 back on purchases I was going to make anyway. Pretty cool! I’ve included hyperlinks here to sign up for both of those, because if you sign up and use the plug-ins using my link, we both get rewarded! There’s no catch, I swear!
- Use your health plan. Many company health and insurance plans allow you to earn bonuses for treating your body well. For example, if I complete at least 30 minutes of exercise 12 times a month, I get a $25 bonus in my paycheck. With a former company, my insurance would pay up to $150 of my gym membership each year – you just have to ask! I’m living an active lifestyle regardless, so it’s nice to be rewarded for my healthy choices!
- Cash in on your creativity. Get those creative juices flowing and start an Etsy shop! I personally have not done this, but I’d really like to in the future, as soon as I come up with a brilliant idea! However, my incredibly creative and entrepreneurial friend Beth began making beautiful home décor a couple of years ago, and she is killing it on Etsy via a shop called Home to Roost Co! She’s able to take that extra cash to grow her small farm, and she loves doing it to boot. So if you have the talent and the time, give it a try! I also have to give a plug here for my talented artist friend Moss (who I met on the Appalachian Trail) while we’re at it. She’s creating beautiful nature-inspired paintings, prints, and stickers while living van life – check her out at Chasing Trails Art!
- Make some furry friends. Have you heard of the Rover app? You can sign up to be a petsitter in your area just by paying $25 for a background check and filling out a profile, and you can literally be paid to hang out with dogs and cats either in your home or in their home. I’ve dogsat for a few people in Boulder, and being a huge dog person, I absolutely loved it! You also get to meet new people and check out new neighborhoods of the city where you live. It’s a lot of fun and you can make pretty decent money doing something super enjoyable!
- Cut down on entertainment costs. I used to work for a marketing firm that specialized in entertainment communication (we mainly publicized and promoted movies), so I have a pretty fun insider scoop for you. Did you know that you can see movies and concerts for free? (This, of course, is during non-Covid times). In order to get people talking about movies that are being released soon, movie distribution companies will hold free advance screenings for people in the demographic that they’re hoping to reach. For example, if a movie is targeted at college students, they’ll try to get a theater full of college students to see the movie in advance of its release date in every major market so that they’ll go back and tell their friends how amazing it was, and their friends will go pay to see it. Want to find advance screenings in your area? Check out gofobo.com. In addition, did you know that many radio stations will hold contests not just on air but also on their websites where you can win free movie and concert tickets? Again, this is all promotional and a way to get people talking about these events in order to drive more paying customers to them. Check out your favorite radio station’s website and look for the “contests” section and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve even won contests I did not even enter by having signed up previously and being in the right demographic for the concert. I’ve gone to multiple concerts for free, and usually got to bring three of my friends!
Happy saving, my friends! Feel free to mention anything I may have missed in the comments!
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