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8 tips to enjoy the great outdoors on a budget

What we'll cover

  • Tips to plan a camping budget in advance

  • Ways to stay budget-minded while on your trip

  • Ideas to keep finances on track after returning home

Camping could seem like the perfect budget-friendly adventure , but costs for equipment, food and permits can quickly add up. With the right planning, enjoying time outside can be an affordable and enriching getaway.

Build a better camping budget

A big part of budgeting when planning a camping trip will come before you set out on your excursion. You can kick off your preparation by setting aside some funds for your trip. Creating a savings bucket can help you prepare for camping expenses so you can start planning some of the other details. 

1. Prepare your equipment

Now is the time to see what equipment you already have and what you still need. If you’re camping with others, compare equipment to see if you have the supplies you need as a group.

If you’re committing to camping as a long-term hobby, consider purchasing some of your gear. However, much of what you’ll need can be borrowed from friends, rented from local camping groups or bought secondhand. 

2. Consult with your campmates

Confirming your camping companions is an important early step in your planning. Knowing who you’ll be camping with will influence other factors of your trip, like your activities. This is especially important if you’re planning to camp as a family with kids, who will likely need access to more amenities.

It can also be helpful to make the planning (and budgeting) a group effort — especially if your campmates have some experience. As an added perk, for each additional friend you travel with, the more you can split your expenses. 

Read more: Learn how Ally Bank spending buckets, a feature of Ally Spending accounts, can help you set aside some camping cash.

3. Consider your campsite

Once you know the size of your group, you can start planning what kind of campsite you’re looking for. Budget-friendly options often range from $10 to $50 a night and will offer just a few amenities. If you know electricity, showers or toilets are non-negotiable, plan for closer to $25 to $100 a night. Keep in mind that some of these more expensive comforts could help you save on specialized camping equipment. It’s all about considering your overall costs. 

Save cash while you camp

You’ve set yourself up for a wallet-friendly wilderness experience, but there are some steps you can take while you’re camping to ensure you stay financially on track. 

4. Enjoy a rustic experience

Camping is the perfect opportunity to embrace some budget-friendly fun. Affordable one-pot meals are especially satisfying after a day of outdoor adventuring — and they don’t require specialized cooking equipment.

5. Avoid comparison

Some campers love having top-of-the-line gear, whether that’s cool cooking gadgets or high-tech garments. It might feel like you need the same, but for low-stakes camping trips, you probably have clothes, bedding and cookware that work just fine. Camping can be a great time to use old pots and pans or stained clothes that you don’t mind taking a beating. 

6. Dodge unnecessary costs

Camping should be a relaxing way to unwind, but don’t get too unruly. Be sure to follow any regulations about quiet hours, littering or other camping rules to avoid potential tickets and fines. Keeping your wits about you will also help you properly secure your food from scavenging animals and care for your equipment, which can help save you money in the long run. 

Keep in mind that some of these more expensive comforts could help you save on specialized camping equipment. It’s all about considering your overall costs. 

Coming home

After wrapping up your trip, there are still some important steps that can maintain your camping budget for future outdoor adventures. 

7. Clean and repair equipment

Whether you borrowed your camping gear or bought it outright, it’s a good idea to repair any damage it might have sustained while camping. Cleaning, sewing up rips and patching holes on your equipment can extend its life and save you some cash. 

8. Review your spending 

You made a financial plan, but especially when traveling or camping with a group, it’s easy to get knocked off track. Once you’re back to reliable internet access, check on your total spending and see how you did. If you end up under budget, consider using that leftover cash toward your next excursion.

Keep on camping

The more experience you have camping, the more you’ll learn about where your money is best spent. And with each trip, you’ll be enjoying the priceless experience of the great outdoors.

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