There are three big obstacles mamas seem to face when adding more more adventure and travel back into their lives after having children. Time (I talk about how I’m tackling the time issue HERE), money, and mom guilt.
I’ve seen loads of articles floating around Pinterest offering advice on how to free up more money for things like travel and adventure. But when I click to read the article it ends up either being a 22 year old single, childless person who suggests moving into your parents’ basement and working three jobs for 2 years so you can take a gap year to travel the world; OR it’s a family who gives and overly simplified pep talk on starting an online business, selling their house, buying a van and living full time on the road.
There isn’t anything wrong with any of these suggestions if that is your life and it is what you want to do. In fact, there are any number of #vanlife families I follow on Instagram who are having a great time!
But what about the rest of us? Those of us with homes that we love and aren’t looking to sell so we can live in a camper van? Who have location dependent jobs that maybe we really love and have no intention of leaving? What about those of us who think living in a van with our spouses and children full time sounds like a recipe for family disharmony and divorce? How do the rest of us free up the extra capital for gear, gas money, and plane tickets?
For the most part, the answer is not very sexy. It comes down to one of three strategies: Focus on cheaper activities/reducing the cost of adventure, earn more, and/or spend less on other things so you can spend more on adventure. Let’s break it down piece by piece.
Reducing The Cost of Adventure:
If you already have equipment for some activities from your pre-kid days, obviously those are the activities to focus on. I’ve been mountain biking for 20 years. A ride costs me $0. So I ride a lot.
If you are coming to this adventure thing later and want to get started, hiking and trail running will have the lowest cost of entry. All you need is the right footwear for the sport, a way to carry some basics like water, snacks and a simple emergency kit, and an excellent sports bra. For hiking, you can literally get away with any ol’ backpack or shoulder bag you have laying around to carry a water bottle and some granola bars. You won’t want to use an uncomfortable bag for very long, but it will work for a little while. Cost of entry for hiking or trail running could be as low as $0 of you already have decent shoes and a backpack. If you want the nicer equipment like a good pack and the best running shoes on the market you can spend about $250. The best part is that other than regular shoe replacement, these activities will remain essentially free for the rest of forever once you are geared up.
Once you are sorted out for these basic activities, expanding into snowshoeing, mountain biking, backpacking, and indoor climbing might be the next sports to pursue. For all of these sports, you can often find equipment on sale for a reasonable price to get started.
Search for deals! This one may seem obvious, but I know that in my new iteration as a super busy mom, I really DON’T pay attention to sales and deals like I used to. All local gear shops have seasonal clearance sales, REI has their twice a year garage sale, and loads of discount websites have specials running all the time. And it isn’t just gear that goes on sale! Climbing gyms have sales (especially before the holidays!), ski resorts have cheaper prices on off peak days, and websites like Groupon and Livingsocial post deals for activities you may not have thought of yourself like horseback riding and hot air balloon flying.
Learn to be your own mechanic! If you want to minimize the cost of the adventure life, a little DIY goes a long way! Every cyclist should know how to change a tire, patch a tube, lube their chain, and make basic fit adjustments on their bike. Get plugged into your local bike shop’s social calendar and see if they have bike maintenance clinics. You can learn a great deal about adjusting your own brakes and tuning your shifters. Not to mention that knowing how to wrench your own bike will make you feel like a legit badass.
Get creative! You know that nordic skiing is going to be cheaper than alpine skiing most of the time right? You can take your nordic skis right out the back door if you want. But alpine skis generally require either an expensive lift ticket or some more advanced backcountry snow and avalanche skills. Did you know that many ski resorts will issue free hike passes for certain parts of the season? Yep. As long as you are willing to hike up under your own power, you can ski back down for little to no cost while also not being concerned about backcountry snow skills. Cool right!?
Last but not least; live where adventure is nearby and accessible. To some of you this may sound as practical as living in a van down by the river, but hear me out. If every outdoor adventure requires an hour long drive or more to access, gas money is going to add up quickly. Living where the mountains or ocean, or wherever you like to play, are nearby will make more regular adventure more affordable and time efficient. Financially, a move to a mountain or seaside town may end up being a wash. After all, places like my hometown tend to have a high cost of living and low wages. But at least for us, the trade offs to live where we do are 100% worth it.
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My favorite way to earn more? Get a raise at your current job! Yep. If it has been a while since you have had an increase, ask for one! Women still tend to get paid $.75 on the dollar for what men earn at the same job. This is largely due to sexist bullshit to be sure, but women are also a lot less likely to ASK for more money. So...ask! z
Your other option of course is to get a side hustle.
Freelancing is an attractive option as you can leverage professional skills you already have at a good rate and take on more or less work depending on your schedule and the season. I’ve known teachers who tutor, designers who do freelance logo work or design beautiful greeting cards, artists with Etsy shops, moms who babysit, ladies with bike mechanicing skills who will wrench on your bike for you, and anyone with a car and clean driving record driving for Uber. The options are endless, just make sure you talk to your accountant and set aside some of that bonus cash to pay the additional taxes you will incur. The last thing you want is to have an expensive surprise in April. Like any small business, your freelancing work might be slow at first and will take some work to get off the ground, so don’t expect loads of clients right off the bat.
Getting a second job may or may not be worth it, but it certainly something to consider. Working a second job will usually not be as flexible as freelancing, so you are committed to your schedule. This will present an extra time constraint on your adventure schedule. The upside is that unlike freelancing you will know exactly how much extra work you are facing and how much extra money you will have to put towards your fun budget. Pro tip: If you are going to take a side job get one that also reduces the cost of your adventure time. Work at the climbing gym. Teach ski school. Patch tubes at a bike shop. Your rate per hour will not be very high, but most of these kinds of jobs will offer you some perks like discounts on bike parts, free lift tickets and gym passes. Plus, being immersed in that world will help you learn skills and technical information faster than you would on your own.
Declutter and sell! The infant bouncer your 6 year old will certainly never use again? Sell it! Half the items in your over stuffed kitchen? Have a yard sale! You get the idea. Less stuff = less to clean and organize and hopefully more money in yo pocket!
Use a credit card with rewards points. I probably add between $500-$1000/ year to my adventure budget this way. I have a system that ensures I never carry a balance or pay interest, but run every expense possible through my card to maximize my points. Look for a future post on the how-tos.
Spending Less On Everything Else:
This is NOT the place where I lecture you about your latte habit or point out that a restaurant meals costs more than home cooked ones. I mean...you are an adult with a pulse so I assume you know that right? At the end of the day neither I nor any other blogger has any idea what your income or expenses look like. I have no clue what areas you spend a lot of money on and which ones you are frugal with. In fact, most people don’t know themselves how much they spend on any given budget item!
Enter the reality check, AKA: using a budgeting system. The only way to really figure out where to spend less is to consistently know how much you actually spend. The only way to consistently know how much you actually spend is to make, maintain, and regularly update a budget.
I tried and failed for many years to budget. I just couldn’t seem to figure out and keep up with whatever system of spreadsheets or piggy banks I came up with. I was always drawn to the idea of the old fashioned envelope system. The idea being that you cash your paycheck and put that cash into physical envelopes for your expenses. Once that money is gone it is gone. It’s a nice theory, but we don’t really use cash anymore and managing part of my budgeting in the digital realm and part in cash was cumbersome. Enter Mvelopes.
When the hubs and I first got married we started looking for a way to manage our now joint finances in a way that got us on the same team, helped us plan successfully, and most importantly kept us from arguing about money. With a clear and straightforward budget plan neither of us would ever have to say to the other “No, you can’t buy that right now”. If we want to buy something outside of normal budget items we look at the budget plan and the budget tells us what extras we have money for. It’s like a third party who makes money discussion neutral and totally not personal.
Mvelopes was the solution for us. It functions just like the old fashioned envelope system but 100% digitally. You set up your spending plan, then assign your income to each category as the money comes in. You build up a balance in each “mvelope” and then when you spend money or pay bills you assign that expense to the appropriate mvelope where it is deducted from your total.
It will take some trial and error over a few months to really get your spending plan dialed in, and it will forever be changing based on changing life situations and expenses. But over time it becomes your habit to manage your money this way. You start to see places where you were spending way more than you thought you were and can make informed decisions about where to cut back and where to expand.
I’m not going to walk you through exactly how to set your budget up, or what categories to include, there are plenty of financial bloggers who talk about nothing else. But I will suggest two things. 1. Be as specific as possible. For example, don’t lump everything you buy at the grocery store into “groceries”. Trash bags and toilet bowl cleaner are not groceries. When you are too general you will not have an accurate picture of what you are really spending on things and thus it will be harder to make the required changes. 2. Whether you are single or married, make sure you include a discretionary or fun money category. You must have at least something set aside each month to blow on whatever the hell you want without guilt or having to consult anyone else.
When it comes to spending less on life so you have more money for play, it really comes down to one question. Which would you rather have? Would you rather have a $40 sushi meal tonight, or 4 meals on your trip to Mexico? Could you trade riding your bike to work for two weeks to save the gas money for that drive to Joshua Tree with your girlfriends next month? There are no right or wrong answers here. There is only what is most important to you.
Alright mamas! What 1 strategy will you try today to free up some bonus cash for your adventure life? Leave me a comment and tell me!
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