View Full Version : Money worries...

11-02-2006, 23:56
I'm starting to freak about having enough money saved up in time for my thru. I'm trying to figure out some kind of budget (dollars per week or something), but I know a lot of that goes out the window once you're on the trail. One of my big worries is having enough money to get back to FL from Maine when I finish.

I'm doing town resupplies rather than maildrops, but I'm going to do my best not to hang around town spending money after I get what I need. I am going to try to take my zero days mostly in hostels or shelters rather than pricey motels/hotels. Of course, I'd like to budget out a few stays in a real motel in case I get ill and need a few days to rest up or the weather gets dangerous, and I know I may have some trouble in the Whites with the whole AMC hut thing.

My ticket to GA will be purchased next week and my date will be set in stone, but I'm really starting to freak about if this is doable based on the money I'm going to have. Please, somebody, anybody, tell me you did it cheaply and had a good time and finished! I need some reassurance.


The Old Fhart
11-03-2006, 00:20
Without knowing what you plan to budget or how frugal you are, it's hard to say. Try reading some of the other threads on WB like "price" under the "class of 2007". That should give you some idea on what others have done. It would be a good idea to be sure you have enough before you start so money, or worrying about it, doesn't spoil your hike. Good luck.

Jack Tarlin
11-03-2006, 00:22

Check out Weathercarrot's excellent piece in the "Articles" section on hiking on a budget.

Don't worry. A thru-hike can be done relatively inexpensively if you're really disciplined with your town time. I.e., go into towns only when necessary, and get out as soon as you can; you can't spend money when you're in the woods!

Make a shopping list of things you need BEFORE you go into town; it'llmake your shopping quicker, easier, and will cut down on impulse, un-needed items. Also try and do an "in and out" when you get to a town when the wether is good, i.e. go into town in the morning, do all your stuff (shopping, laundry, E-Mail, etc.) and then GET OUT and hike a few miles and stay in the woods. This will save a ton of money on lodging, restaurant meals, etc.

Lastly, there are serveral threads on this subject (i.e. hiking on a budget) and they all have some good ideea in them.

So don't worry. As long as you're not cutting it TOO low on the financing, you'll be just fine.

11-03-2006, 01:31
Thanks for the suggestions, both of you. I'm reading over weathercarrot's article and marking resupply spots in my handbook. I've also been reading the various threads on hostels so that I can make note of them for when I need a zero. Of course I'll have to re-mark it again when I get the new version, but it's keeping my mind occupied.

Thanks for the good tips, Jack. I especially like the idea of making up a list before town. I think it will be a lot easier to hike in and out and avoid the town temptations if I have a clear list of what to buy and what I need to get done.

Right now it's looking like I can swing it based on what I've been reading on other threads as far as cost, provided I'm careful about town spending. I'm going to be on the low end of the recommended amount, to be sure, but I think it's doable. I've done vacations in some expensive places and spent far less money than anyone would think, and had a lovely time, so I imagine that I can do that on the trail too with a little willpower.

Now I just have to figure out the cheapest way to get home when I'm done so that I can budget out and save that money and not be stranded when I'm done. I'm not too concerned about bus vs. plane vs. whatever as long as it's cheap.

Another question about the Whites. I've just started reading up on it and I'm a little confused about the whole hut system. Is it very hard to find tent platforms or other places to camp? I'm just dreading having to blow a fortune for a night at a hut because I'm out of options. Is it advisable to stop earlier in the day through that area to ensure that doesn't happen?

Once again, apologies for always being so long-winded.

:) Mindi

11-03-2006, 02:46
You don't have to stay at huts or pay sites with platforms in The Whites. I didn't spend a cent while hiking through The Whites. I didn't stay at any of the huts, but most of the thru-hikers I talked to said, that the hut croo was usually friendly to thrus and good about providing work for stay. Usually that was some easy chores like dishes or or some clean-up.
If you can discipline yourself in towns and limit motel stays you can save bundles. Getting home will probably be your biggest concern. I didn't look it up but a bus is probably $100-$200.
What is your budget, if you dont mind saying?

11-03-2006, 10:05
Hey Mindi,
I'm hiking south and plan to have a family member pick me up in Georgia since I'm from NC but have you thought of picking an approximate finish date and purchasing your ticket home before you leave? You may want to check with your transportation of choice to make sure it won't be hard to change your dates later but I have changed bus tickets before with little difficulty. That way you know that no matter what you spend you have your way home.

Cuppa Joe
11-03-2006, 10:08

I spent around $2400 on my '05 thruhike .... 6.5 months, 30 zero days and the money did not get tight till the very end. I could have done it on less but the parties seemed to get in the way :)

I set my mind on the fact that I could spend XXX amount each week. If I had extra from that week then I would use it for another week. I also used CASH. much easier to watch what you spend when you see the green leaving your hands as opposed to plastic!

We too, worried about the Whites and the huts but it was a needless worry. The "croos" are great when it comes to thru hikers. We didn't spend a dime for lodging. We did pay for the "endless bowls of soup" and we did "tip" the croo.

I did use maildrops for the first part of the trip so I do not include that in actual cash spent on the trail. I was earning money when I was preparing the maildrops as opposed to not having any income on the trail. This is a guesstimate, but I would add around 250.00 to the total for the maildrops. Postage and foodstuffs factored in with that.

Hope this helps.


11-03-2006, 10:47
Thanks, everyone! Right now it's looking like I'm going to have around $2400, not including the bus to the trailhead. I'm going to try to save an extra $250 or so to get home.

I'm going to be using a combination of cash and traveler's checks. I'm thinking that around once a week when I get into town, I'll cash a traveler's check in the amount that I have budgeted for that week and then when it's gone, it's gone, until the next week. I do think that will make it easier to see exactly how much I'm spending. Plus there is the advantage of being able to replace lost traveler's checks, as opposed to cash where I'm basically screwed if some of it goes missing. Is there anywhere that finding a place to cash a traveler's check may be difficult? I'd like to be able to plan ahead for that possibility.

Am I right in assuming that I should budget out more per week as I get farther north?

I'm glad to hear that I shouldn't have any trouble in the Whites. I've been reading other threads about it also, and it sounds like it's not as much of a problem as I originally thought.

Thanks again everyone, for you reassurance. I'm really starting to feel like I'm going to be fine as far as money goes. I guess I sort of panicked when I started reading some threads where people were saying they spent $5-$6 thousand. Knowing that you have less than half that amount is a little sobering.

:) Mindi

11-03-2006, 10:48
Go to greyhound.com to see about bus options - a bus Bangor to FL will cost you about $110 (7 day advance purchase).

It is a little early to get fare information for the discount airlines, but JetBlue flies out of Portland and Boston and AirTran flies out of Boston.

Looks like JetBlue could be as cheap as $100 from Portland to select FL cities. It will cost you about $25 to get a bus to Portland from Bangor, and then you would have to get to the airport.

Jet Blue will be about the same from Boston to FL. AirTran is usually cheaper than Jet Blue and always offers sales at the start of each month. I would expect you could get a flight for $90 from Boston to FL. It will cost you about $60 to get a bus to Boston Airport from Bangor.

Looks like there are current flights from Bangor to FL for about $160. Flights in the summer look higher.

Use travelocity.com when comparing flights - it includes JetBlue and Airtran, some of the other sites (expedia, etc.) do not.

Of course, it depends upon whether you live close to an airport and the prices/availability when you actually buy your ticket. The bus offers more flexibility but you spend 2 days getting home. When you are close enough to determine your end date, you can always check out flights and then have the bus as a fallback if the prices are too expensive.

11-03-2006, 10:53
Thanks, PeterB. I've been looking up prices, too, and it's looking like $200 should be plenty to get me home by either air or bus. I'll more than likely buy a ticket when I'm getting closer to Maine and have a better idea of the date I'm going to finish.

hammock engineer
11-03-2006, 11:00
Just a thought, may not be an option to you, but look into a part time job to help pad your budget before you leave. Resturant and retail jobs are not the best jobs out there, but they are always hiring and offer quick cash.

11-03-2006, 11:04
if it wouldn't bother you look at doing a pizza delivery job. You can make good money there.

Also being a waitress in a good restaurant is a nice way to pick up cash.
My son is a part time waiter while he goes to college. I was shocked at the money he makes after he tips out the host, bartender and busboy.

11-03-2006, 11:05
Better check first but you could call for a ticket in Monson and have it sent to the AT Lodge n Millinocket. I think you need to call 10 days ahead for online or over the phone 7 day advance tickets.

Blue Jay
11-03-2006, 11:08
I've done it for under $2400 and I know several people who have also done the same. You'll be surprised how many ways you'll think up to save money. Remember all you really need is food. Day hikers are often very protective of female thruhikers. Without asking you'll learn ways of separating them of some of their food. Model T's method of scraping an empty peanut butter jar and looking sad works well (he may not have invented it but he does it quite well). If you local library has any old Yogi Bear Cartoons study them. He is your role model, mentor and inspiration. Hang out near Boy Scouts if they are almost done with their hike. They always have too much food and often it's the expensive good stuff. I'd give you other tips but it grosses out the snooty hikers.

Jim Adams
11-03-2006, 11:09
Have you thought about using a debt card? Your money stays safe in the bank and using debt, there is no interest hassles. You carry a small amount of money with you as you go for spur of the moment needs but you need to take the rest out of ATMs which makes you THINK MORE BEFORE YOU SPEND MORE. The only down fall that I have found is that at times when $20 will be more than enough, you may take $30 just in case.(bad idea-you can always go back to an ATM) Most of the towns that you will re-stock in will have an ATM even very small towns and alot of the markets have availability of using the card there as a debt card. Another advantage is that if you lose the card, no one else has your PIN #.
Disadvantage--if you lose your card, you are screwed until you get another one. Why not have a second card made ahead of time and leave it at home to be overnite mailed to you in an emergency?
My thru hike in 1990 I used alot of mail drops and I spent around $2,400--alot of money then compared to now.
My thru hike in 2002 I did a combo of occassional mail drops and re-stocking as I went. I only spent $1,600 but I saved alot of wasteful spending by knowing where not to waste the cash due to my '90 hike.
good luck and have fun,

11-03-2006, 11:10
Funny you both mention that, I already work in retail!:eek: I'm hoping to get a real career-track job when I get back from my hike, right now I'm staying where I'm at because I didn't want to start a good job and then ask for 6 months off.

I may however look into doing some seasonal help at another store or something. I know quite a few places hire temporary help over the holidays. It's just a pain in the butt to find a second part-time job when my schedule at my full-time job varies so much. I can't say 'I can work X to X on this day', etc. If I tried to limit my availibility at my current job so that I could find something else, I may end up losing hours and that would be pretty counterproductive.

11-03-2006, 11:17
Heh, it seems like everyone types responses at the same time.

I'm going to work on perfecting my yogi-ing skills. Practicing my best forlorn and hungry look.

Jim, I really wanted to go with a debit card, but as I have student loan debt, I can't open a checking account because they can sieze that money. I know, it's irresponsible to take a 6-month break when I have a huge debt, blahblahblah.;)

Thanks again, everyone. I'm sure I'll be driving you all crazy with more worries and questions as my start date nears..

:) Mindi

11-03-2006, 11:22
Hey Mindi-
There is a type of VISA card you can "buy" and load, it's called Green Dot (I'm sure there are many different types/names). You can purchase it any store, when you pay for it you load it $$ at that time. Then activate it online. You can reload it too. Just like a phone card. No one has to know a thing my friend.

Spirit Walker
11-03-2006, 11:25
Mindi -
Regarding getting home: you may end up hiking with or around other hikers who can help get you from the trail to somewhere closer to your home. They may even be going all the way. So don't buy a ticket now, it would just add pressure to your hike, having a set date on which you must finish. With airlines, seven days advance purchase works fine. With a bus, all you need is a few hours.

Jim Adams
11-03-2006, 11:28
I did the same thing--hiked with a big student loan. I think that you will find that you are not alone.
I have a debt card for my savings acount also! Can they access that?

11-03-2006, 11:34
With a bus, all you need is a few hours.You're talking to the Greyhound King! I probably have as many bus miles as trail miles. :D Maybe more! :eek:

A standard ticket from Bangor to Tampa is $159, Miami $173.50- 7 day advanced to either $97.

11-03-2006, 11:34
I think they may be able to if you are in default, Jim, so be careful.

I asked around on the yahoo women's hiker board, and a woman who had direct deposit had her entire account frozen and her paycheck taken for student loan debt. I'm not sure if it was savings or checking, though.

Thanks for the tip, Star. I'm going to see if I can find one of those somewhere and load a bit on it for emergencies/getting home, then do the rest in traveler's checks.

Spirit, I'm definitely not planning on buying my ticket now for just that reason. I don't want to have the pressure of an end date in my head while I'm on the trail. I just want to make sure I have enough budgeted out so that I can make arrangements when I'm at or near the end of my hike. I figure as long as I make it to the big K before it closes and I have enough to get home somehow, I'll be fine.

Now off to work, blechh!

:) Mindi

Jim Adams
11-03-2006, 11:39
I took a deferment on my loan while I hiked. Don't know if you have that option. Debt card-You can always put the account in someone elses name. I am just being pushy because the card works so well out there.

11-03-2006, 17:55

If your loan is in default, have you tried talking to a credit counselor? Student loans are just about the "kindest" debt there is in terms of working out a schedule where you can repay. The WORST thing to do is just pretend the debt doesn't exist and fail to pay anything. This ruins your credit and, as you have noted, makes your assets vulnerable.

There are ways to get loans deferred (as Geek noted), and there are "graduated" payment plans that let you make small payments now and larger payments later when you have a higher-paying job. But the longer you put off checking into these options, the worse your credit score gets and the less likely you are to be able to work something out. I would strongly encourage you to look into this before you go out and hike; it would be one less worry on your mind.

11-03-2006, 18:31
Questions - Is taking a debit card a good idea? And I'm gueessing it's pretty easy to access ATMs in towns - though there might be charges inferred for withdrawals (?) And what hostels take cash only? Most? (is there a list on that? - maybe the ADLH book ?)

11-03-2006, 18:55
you can always hitch hike home. it would definantly add some excitement to the end of your trip.

11-03-2006, 18:55
The upside for a debit card is you can pull 10-20$ above your balance at grocery stores and convenience stores w/o an atm fee.

map man
11-03-2006, 23:53
From reading a lot of trail journals, it's apparent that many thru-hikers form strong bonds with other hikers that they are reluctant to break. It's real common to have groups form, anywhere from three friends on up, and the bigger the "pod" the slower the hike tends to get and expenses can mount in even greater proportion than days hiked.

Here's how it works. In a given group one hiker might already have it arranged to spend a couple days or more with family in Waynesboro. The close hiking friends don't want to leave him behind so they slow down, or more likely, spend extra time themselves in town in a motel. Expenses mount. A few days later another hiker in the group has an already planned meeting with a friend to sightsee in Washington DC for a couple days. The rest of the group slows down and agrees to wait for her in Harpers Ferry. More money for lodging, restaurant food and so on. And for the low budget hiker it's REALLY hard to go hang out at the nearest trail shelter while the rest of the group is enjoying themselves in town. Even if other hikers agree to pick up the whole cost of lodging, if enough of these stays add up hard feelings can start to surface if you can seldomly pay, even among friends.

What I'm saying is not meant to discourage you from forming close friendships (or to leave friends behind every time a situation like this arises) because for so many hikers that's one of the most valuable experiences on the trail. It's just something you might think about when trying to set a realistic budget. But hey, I've read plenty of accounts of hikers deciding to stay with the close friends, knowing the higher spending will mean they won't go all the way to Katahdin, and having very few regrets.

11-04-2006, 02:51
That's a good point, map man. I've actually thought about the whole 'peer pressure' issue when it comes to controlling my spending on the trail. I can see how it would be difficult to go back to the woods when your buddies are living it up in town, eating out, having a few beers, and staying in a motel.

I guess it is going to come down to asking myself if hanging back with the group and spending the money is going to stop me from reaching my goal. If the answer is yes, then I'm going to have to pass, as hard as it may be at the time. I'm looking forward to the social aspect of the trail and making new friends, but not at the expense of not being able to finish my thru and enjoy my time in the woods. For some people, the goal of Katahdin and maximizing their time in the woods is less important than the social scene, and that's great too. All part of the HYOH philosophy, I think.

I want to pay my own way and not feel that I owe anyone on the trail, especially those people who I may form bonds with along the way.

I want to add that even though I will be hiking on a budget, I'm not planning on taking advantage of hostel owners and others who help me out along the trail. I read threads about that on here and it really saddens me that people can be so cheap when someone is going out of their way to help you finish a hike out of the kindness of their hearts. Just another reason to curb my spending it towns...when I get to a special place like Kincora or Miss Janet's or any of the other wonderful places that I read about on here, I'll be able to give a respectable amount for their services.

11-04-2006, 05:19
I originally wanted to go last year ('96) but decided to wait, pay off some debts get others to a reasonable level on payments and set myself up to be able to pay that (1) debt while I am away. I also wanted to have enough to afford to Hike without worrying about funds while hiking and enough to tide me over until I get back. Health Insurance? Something to think about there.

I hope to go in '98. Thats a 2 year delay from original plans but I think it will be worth it. NO worrys! :D I may only get to do this once. ;)

11-04-2006, 06:59
Poor Austex is trapped in a time warp. ;)

11-04-2006, 10:08
A lot of the hostels will let you do a work for stay... You can do a couple of hours of work in return for the fee.. The other thing is to avoid towns, except for the hiker feeds. I enjoyed doing the Hard Core Trail Maintenance last year and they feed you for that.. Trail Days has a supper and there are lots of kind people along the trail willing to fix you dinner sometimes. One thing is to try to stay healthy. I had to lay off the trail and it costs extra money.... I had planned this trip several times all my life so money was not a big issue for me.. Health was though.

11-04-2006, 11:20
I am in a situation much like yours, Mindi. Money for the upcoming hike is my biggest concern. I have debt, both credit card and student loan. Last winter, when I decided 2007 was the year to hike, I came up with a financial plan. Basically I have sent MASTERcard every cent I could afford for the past 6 months and will have that debt eliminated after next months payment. Student Loans are another thing. I don't know if it is possible with your loans, but with mine I can pay ahead. My payment is $120 a month, but I have started sending them $200 a month. This means that for every two payments on my loan I am 1.5 payments ahead of schedule. By the time I leave for my hike I will be six scheduled payments ahead of myself and I won't have to make loan payments while I'm hiking. Mayhaps this will work for you? As far as getting home from Katahdin, I haven't figured it out either. I'm going to just wing it, but I have a lot less miles to travel than you.

Jack Tarlin
11-04-2006, 15:43
Don't take the hostel "work stay" thing for granted. Quite a few places are cutting back on this, as there are simply too many people looking to stay for free, plus most hiker's work ethic is so poor that it's simply not worth it for the hostel, i.e. they don't get anywhere near two hours real work out of the hikers. Plus, even if there are places giving out work stays, those slots might have been taken by the time you arrive.

In short, if you stay at a hostel, be aware that there MIGHT be the possibility of working off your stay, but never take this for granted.

11-04-2006, 23:58
My personal belief is that you should be helping around the hostel ANYWAY, in addition to paying what is usually a paltry fee for what you get. Most of these people are letting you into their homes and going out of their way to make hikers comfortable. To me, it's just common courtesy to offer to help out and to clean up after yourself, in addition to payment. Not to mention, it helps out the hikers behind you if you are taking care of the place and leaving the owners with a good impression of hikers in general.

In a place like the AMC huts, where a night's stay is more expensive and they cater to tourists, I might consider doing a work-for-stay if there's something available, since it seems to be pretty accepted. But I think I'd feel like I was taking advantage if I tried it at a hostel. If I can't afford the small fee or I don't feel like pitching in or helping out, I won't stay in one.

:) Mindi

11-05-2006, 00:16
Poor Austex is trapped in a time warp. ;)

Nothing to it really.

It's just a jump to the left. And then a step to the right. With your hands on your hips. You bring your knees in tight. But it's the pelvic thrust That really drives you insane. Let's do the time-warp again.

11-05-2006, 00:28
You're going to get a Rocky Horror trailname if you keep it up..