1 – Don’t Eat Out… Ever
This might sound simple or ridiculous to you, but I promise that it works!
Before we left for our Appalachian Trail thru-hike, we made a huge shift in lifestyle. From about July-October, we ate out all the time. Anytime we both worked late, we grabbed something on the way home. If I had to run to the studio, Logan would pick up something and bring it to me. If we were just overly exhausted and didn’t feel like cooking, we ordered a pizza. And, well, you get the idea… If you can imagine, we were spending hundreds of dollars a month on eating out.
Once I took a few weeks off of working during a job transition, we realized two things: eating out that often wasn’t feasible anymore and we realized how much cheaper buying your own groceries truly can be.
The following months leading up to our thru hike, we limited our eating out to about once, maybe twice, a week. But now that we’re living on an even smaller budget and trying to save up for another trek, we’ve realized that we can get by with eating out even less. Try to limit it to once a month, but if that’s too hard, try once every other week.
You’ll be surprised how many of your favorite meals you can recreate at home 🙂
2 – Get a Side Job
Have a few hours available here and there?
Get yourself an extra job! Trust me, it’s worth working yourself pretty ragged for a few months in order to live in the woods for 4-6 months at a time. It’s a tiring life going from one job to another, using your free time to eat and sleep, but I promise you won’t think about those days a single time while you’re on Trail. You’ll just be thankful you have enough money for an extra hamburger or another night in a hostel to avoid a snowstorm!
3 – Develop Your Craft
Potter? Painter? Writer? Sewer?
It really doesn’t matter! In our experience, fundraising became a lot easier when we put our handmade crafts up for grabs. This especially works well with friends/family because they feel like they’re buying part of you to support your dream!
We sold customizable painted tree rounds, handmade pottery, and wall hangings.
Of course, this works better if you can keep your personal expenditures low so get extra creative for this one!
4 – Sell Unneeded Items
I don’t want to get all Marie Kondo on you here, but it works.
If you don’t wear clothing items for more than a month, take a load to Plato’s Closet. If you don’t need 5 lamps in a room, sell them on Facebook Marketplace.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
5 – Couch Surf
Before you set out on your hike, try to couch surf! We had time from January 1st-February 3rd where we had no place of our own, so we surfed around for over a month. No rent, no groceries – just simply loving on and visiting with some of our favorite people!
6 – Buy Food in Bulk
Sam’s, Costco, EarthFare, Whole Foods…
These places are your friends! Pick the “essentials”: things that you use on a regular basis, and stock up for cheaper! Things like peanut butter, rice/pasta, fruit (to name a few) are great to get at places like this.
It’ll seem more expensive at the time, but take a breath and do the math. We typically save $30-$40 a month by starting the month off at Sam’s!
7 – Go Camping
If you’re reading this, you are probably one that enjoys camping anyways.
But let’s think about it realistically: when you’re camping, you’re out of your house. You’re not flushing toilets, turning on lights, using the AC/heat and you’re likely eating cheap(er) food than you normally do!
It’s all around a win-win! 😀
8 – Shop to Earn Apps
Ibotta – This is the easiest app to make money on and definitely my favorite. Basically, you’re getting money back on your groceries – so money you’d be spending regardless. It has rotating deals for various retailers (we use Harris Teeter, Target, and Trader Joes the most) and all you have to do is upload your receipt to match the offers. It often has an “any item” offer which is equivalent to a free space on a Bingo board! Plus, here’s your BONUS, use code “wladabm” for a $10 welcome bonus when you scan your first receipt!
Drop – This app is amazing. All you have to do is link your cards and let it do the work for you. You pick your top 3 retailers (ours are Target, Trader Joes, and Starbucks) and any time you swipe your linked cards at those places, you make money back on your transactions. For those of you, like me, that will forget to do manual receipt uploads, this one is the easiest. Just set, spend, and earn! Plus, here’s your BONUS, use code “0umg1” for an automatic $5 when you link your first card!
Fetch – This is similar to Ibotta, but it’s a little easier! I feel like the rewards are a little more expansive and pay out a little bit more. For this one, I don’t have to search through the offers available, I just upload the receipt and let it do the work for me! I scan the same receipts on Fetch and Ibotta, but earn different rewards on each. Plus, here’s your BONUS, use code “Q4UBE” for 2,000 points when you scan your first receipt!
Dosh – There are SO many ways to use Dosh and make tons of money – shopping online specifically – but we use it exclusively for money back on gas. Once you link your card and enter your zip code, it’ll pull up a list of local retailers that offer cash back opportunities and it’ll automatically credit your account when you swipe your linked card there. Like I said, we use it exclusively for gas transactions since it’s money we’re already spending. Plus, here’s your BONUS, use code “morgang175” for an automatic $5 when you link your first card!
The only side note I’ll add here is to guard yourself… It’s really easy to get too carried away with these apps, so try to limit your spending to things you’re already going to buy or on the essentials. You’ll still make plenty of money back!!
9 – Sell T-shirts
People. Love. T-shirts.
Come up with a cutesy design or logo to slap on a tee and sell away! Just remember to
allow enough of a profit margin that you’ll actually walk away with some money.
10 – Only Ask for Money
Birthdays, holidays, graduations, etc. – only ask for money!
Or, if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, at least ask for the items you need (tent, boots, food, etc) and/or gift cards to places you can buy the gear you still need. There will be plenty of opportunities after your hike to get new clothes or shoes or whatever else you are fawning over at the time!
11 – Ask for Direct Help
There is absolutely no shame in creating a GoFundMe or publishing a cry for help on social media when it comes to fundraising for events like a thru-hike! We actually did both right before our AT journey and were so surprised with the number of people that wanted to partner with us! I think, for a lot of people, it enabled them to feel like they played some part in our hike.
Even when we got to Pennsylvania and Pneuma got so sick, we shared our GoFundMe account again to help with the vet/hotel costs and wouldn’t have been able to keep hiking without that! People–your friends, family, loved-ones, and complete strangers–want to see you have a successful thru-hike. So, why not give them the opportunity to help you?!
12 – Get Sponsored
People ask us all of the time how we got sponsors for our our AT thru… Emails, emails, emails.
Collectively, we probably emailed 60+ companies and organizations in hopes to get sponsored and four out of those were wins for us! It’s easy to get discouraged over rejections or silence – but keep trying.
If that doesn’t work, try getting a job at your local outdoor retailer and seeing if they’d like to partner with you! It worked for us!
Want to know more about our upcoming Mountains-to-Sea Trail thru-hike? Check out our previous blog post! Or, want to know how you can play a part on our trek? Head over to our support page. Be sure to leave your comments and questions below. Thanks for reading!