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Editor’s Note: We wanted to start this off by providing a bit of context and an introduction to one of our contributors and good friends, Jeff More. If you follow Jeff online, you’ll see that he’s always on the road exploring wild America, so much that it’s enough to make us all a bit green with envy. From incredible sunrises at the Grand Canyon to the remoteness of Montana, he’s on the trail a lot.
Jeff told us it’s worth noting that he has a full time job, making somewhere between a postman’s and a teacher’s salary. In 2012 he worked seven weekends, took five vacation days all year and still managed to camp out 29 nights. What’s his secret? Here it is from Jeff himself.
Someone asked me how I have time and money for camping, cameras and the volunteer work I do.
I spend my time and money on stuff I care about and stopped spending it on stuff I don’t.
My gear was expensive when I first got it, such as a $160 sleeping bag, $160 backpack, $80 sleeping pad and a $800 tripod, but I got them all back in 2005-2008. I also got my dream car in 2008 for a hefty sum of $17,000 and it takes me where I want to go. The cost-per-use since then has been very low.
My personal finances, including long term and retirement savings, is almost completely automated and avoids the need for disciplined management. I have a Subaru credit card that accumulates up to $500 in coupons per calendar year and an REI credit card I use the rest of the year. The former takes the bite off of the amount I spend on auto maintenance and the latter pays for consumables (backpacking food), gear that gets worn out (climbing hardware, boots) or lost (I just lost a beanie and headlamp).
My main form of electronic entertainment besides audiobooks and podcasts are video games. I allow myself to spend $130 per year, which is what someone on the Xbox spends on one game plus an Xbox Live membership. I use Steam Sales, which offers me a treasure trove of year-round entertainment for the weekends I’m feeling indoorsy. The LA Public Library is a great place for free books and audiobooks and even syncs up with the Kindle now.
I eat out maybe six times a month (usually at places under $20/head) and unless it’s a special occasion AND I’m not driving, I only order water when I’m out. Learn to mix your own drinks at home, you save about 85%. I’ve been to the movies once since 2004. It’s not self denial if you don’t care about it in the first place.
Thankfully, my hobbies of camping, photography and volunteer work overlap almost completely as far as gear needs are concerned. Remember, alone you can be cold, alone you can be hungry, but you can only be rich or poor when you’re comparing yourself to other people.
I spend on average 8 weekends on the road for work. Some spend more. Other friends get entire seasons off work. Life is 10% events and 90% your reaction to it. Whatever your circumstances, you just have to make it work for you and make time for whatever you value.
If you find yourself constantly busy, try turning off all your electronics at home. Try even not using artificial light sources for a night. You will realize how much on average you probably spend in front of screens and when denied the miracle of electricity, how much time you truly have on your hands. There’s nothing wrong with TV/Netflix/gaming, but like money, you just have to realize what you’re actually spending.
And to the family men who tell me I don’t understand what it’s like because I don’t have a wife or kids, you’re right, I don’t understand. Take the time to honestly evaluate how you spent your time and money before “life got in the way” and don’t use your wife and kids as an excuse to not do things you probably weren’t going to do in the first place.
My friend Pat founded a company and designed a few of the articles of clothing that keep me warm and dry on the road. He has a 1 and 3 year old (the latter’s first word was bacon.) and takes them camping 3-5 times a year. He’s a busy guy, but wants his children to grow up valuing natural beauty and simplicity. I have another friend who despite his infant, still volunteers as a youth group leader. He shrugged and said he didn’t think service to his community should end just because he has a kid. Distance yourself from friends who are filled with negative energy, it’s the spiritual equivalent of them not covering their mouth and sneezing in your face.
It’s Monday, go forth and crush your week.
Nothing here is truly original. It’s mostly just a collection of thought processes I’ve applied from a couple of my favorite sites out there. Here are some links I’ve found incredibly useful:
- Cost per use, from Brendan Leonard
- Personal finance automation, by Ramit Sethi
- For your credit card, use Mint or Quicken and see where your most costly single merchant expenditures are and see if they have a credit card you can start earning rewards with.
- Video game deals, for PC you probably already have Steam, but reddit.com/r/gamedeals is platform agnostic.
- Kindle books from your local library, by Wes Fenlon
- Combining art, climbing and philanthropy, Renan Ozturk, this guy is my artistic hero
- “Alone, human beings can feel hunger. Alone, we can feel cold. Alone, we can feel pain. To feel poor, however, is something that we do only in comparison to others“, Heart and the Fist, by Eric Greitens
- I don’t have time is a big fat lie, by Steve Kamb
- Be a productivity ninja, by Steve Kamb
- Make 2012 the year of maximum enthusiasm, by Brendan Leonard
- Do and Make Things in 2014, by Brendan Leonard
- The banana parable, the law of attraction and positive mindset, by Travis Haley
Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Jeff lives in Los Angeles and serves as our resident Eastern Sierra correspondent. He likes things that say 9mm and f/2.8. He also sucks at rock climbing. Be sure to check out his website at skunkabilly.com.
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Awesome advice. You know... I happen to be an Orthodox Jew and still practice the Sabbath every week ( basically a strict version of your "shut off electricity, no phone/tv/no spending etc") as did my family when I was a kid and many in the community. Some people I meet think it's crazy town. I'll say first hand it's the highlight of every week... especially these days. This kind of discipline is hard with a family but its all the more rewarding too. I'm certainly not saying everyone start observing the Jewish Sabbath but the principles do apply generally... Make time on the regular to slow down and live the simple life and you feel freer.
Really nice read and advice!
Along with keeping a priority budget, I'm a big advocate of making a list of things keeping me from getting out to the trails.
From checking off big ticket items like, 'Get new tires and check brakes' to lower ticket items of, 'Do I have everything I need assembled and ready in a day pack to easily transfer to a multi-day pack'... The smaller that list is, the closer I am to actually making it out to a trail be it a day hike or a week long trek across peaks because I find myself between jobs.
Great write up!
I'm a cube dweller who manages to visit ~10 countries a year and it can be done. It all starts with figuring out what is important to you, and make that adjustment financially. A large TV is what I spend on a weekend in Paris. Save those frequent flier miles, and you can go somewhere awesomer and in style. And even sometimes just throw caution to the wind and jump on fare sales to places you've never heard of.
@SnowfoxBandit Thanks for sharing! ^MP
Jeff, your mindset just gave me an amazing amount of perspective and a lot to think about. I've been kind of feeling like I've been in a "rut" for a about a year now, and your thought process and pointers make make me realize that it's not impossible to have a more enjoyable lifestyle, I just need to kick my own ass and get to it. So thank you!