site
stats
Home » MONEY MATTERS » Saving Money / Frugal Living » Ways to Save Money on Camping
Saving Money / Frugal Living

Ways to Save Money on Camping

Whoever said camping was cheap must have eaten a few too many s’mores.  Cuz camping can be downright pricey, y’all.  By the time you buy equipment and hit the grocery aisles for everyone’s favorite campfire snack, you can spend a large portion of your paycheck.  But there are ways to save money on camping that are not difficult to put into practice — so your next camping trip won’t break the bank, and you can relax and enjoy getting away from the normal routine.

Even camping can be expensive if you aren't careful! This list of ways to save money on it helped me a lot. Especially #3!

Everyone likes to talk about camping as an inexpensive alternative to other types of vacations — but I know that I, for one, seem to spend a ton of money to get ready to go camping.

The food alone costs an arm and a leg – I can easily spend more than a week’s grocery budget for a 3-day camping trip — and then there is always new equipment that must be purchased, and special clothing or toiletries… and the list goes on.

Sometimes it seems that by the time you add it all up, it’s almost the same as getting a hotel room, and certainly more than it would cost to just stay home. What is up with that?

So I’ve come up with a list of ways to save money on camping so that we can turn it into the frugal experience it’s supposed to be!  Because it really still does have the best potential to provide family fun for the lowest overall cost, if we approach it right.

Related Post: Planning for a Fun Summer Break

Ways to Save Money on Camping

Food:

This is one of the main expenses when we go camping.  I hit the grocery store with what I think is a reasonable list and come out with a cartful of stuff and a very long receipt.  These are the areas to be disciplined in:

Camping is billed as one of the best ways to save money on vacation… but it can be pricey, too, if you aren't careful. Here are tips to make it cheaper.1) Make a DETAILED menu plan. In the past I have been more of a “I need 5 meals and food to snack on” planner.  Instead the thing to do is plan out each and every meal and each and every snack.  AND they need to be inexpensive foods that can still be cooked easily over a fire.  Hot dogs, rather than bratwurst (which has been a weakness of mine in the past).  Eggs, yes; bacon — maybe not.  Carrot sticks instead of chips.

2) Make a DETAILED shopping list. This is where it is good to figure out exact quantities.  I have a tendency to overbuy snacks, drinks, and produce.  I agree that I don’t want to run out of food while camping, but we usually have LOTS left over.  In fact, it often goes bad, because it’s hard to keep things fresh when camping.  Apples get bruised from being tossed around, or the ice melts and soaks into everything in the cooler… sigh.

And here’s a biggie:  Stick to the list while you are at the store.  It’s too easy to see something and add it to the cart because “so-and-so might like this” or “that looks yummy” or “oh, I forgot about this.”  With a detailed list, that last one shouldn’t happen — and the other two excuses are just plain stupid.  At least when you’re trying to stick to a budget. 🙂

3) (I think this bears repeating) Don’t overbuy snacks, drinks, sweets, or even produce.  Plan a reasonable quantity for the size of your family.  People will not starve.  If you buy a bag of apples, you don’t have to take the whole thing camping; that’s a recipe for a bag of dead apples.  Instead, take the quantity of apples you need (because you will have planned exactly when you’re going to eat them; see #1 above) and leave the rest at home.  Water makes a great drink, and then you don’t have to buy several different 12-packs of soda to suit everyone’s tastes.

Equipment:

I seem to always get stuck with a last-minute equipment purchase, which means that I have to come up with the money to buy whatever it is, and I can’t get the best price.  That happens because I don’t start looking over the equipment until two days before we plan to leave.  (Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this.)  So it’s a good idea to plan ahead.  Each time you come back from a camping trip, make notes about what you need for next time and start saving for it then. Or if you know one is coming up, try to drag out the equipment at least a month ahead and check it all over.

Another idea is to just have a “camping equipment we need” list and buy the things on it gradually, over time.  Then you can take advantage of sales.  A friend of mine buys one new piece of equipment each time they go.  They plan what it will be and save for it, and then they buy it before the trip.  Love it.

Then there’s the whole thing of taking care of the equipment.  Don’t abuse it on the trip.  Clean and pack things up carefully when you get home.  Sew up holes in sleeping bags.  Don’t leave the tent lying out on the living room floor for the cat to pee on.  Um.  Don’t let the teapot boil dry.  Any other stupid things I’ve done that I can list here??

Camping is billed as one of the best ways to save money on vacation… but it can be pricey, too, if you aren't careful. Here are tips to make it cheaper.
Because everyone sets their tent up in the living room after buying it, just to test it out, right? (The streamers are from a recent birthday, just so you know we don’t stage a full-on celebration for a tent-raising…)

Scheduling:

Camp on weekdays.  Campgrounds charge less for camping spots in the middle of the week.  It’s also easier to get a reservation.  And it limits the amount of time that you go camping, which means you don’t have to pack as much food and the fam doesn’t get as cranky with each other (which I’m sure happens to no other kids but mine…).

Activities:

Bring games and books and other things that can be done at the campsite (although I think I would draw the line at electronic media; but that’s just me).  I personally love just sitting looking at the flames in the fire pit… but the kiddos get restless.  The point is to not have to go looking for entertainment elsewhere, such as the video games at the campground office or the movie theater in town.  Hiking and swimming also work in this category, but they are not always convenient.

Budget:

Set one and stick to it.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  This is where I struggle ALL THE TIME.  I want to do something so bad that I overspend just to make it happen.  Well, it’s time to grow up.  We should be able to decide how much we should spend on camping and then not go over that amount.  It’s called getting creative with how to meet needs without doling out the cash.

I actually really LOVE camping.  Isn’t it funny how all the chores we complain about at home (cooking, picking up, etc.) don’t seem so bad when we’re camping??  Which is kind of silly, really, because camping is WORK.  But at the same time there is something about getting away from the house and living more primitively that is very relaxing. Go figure.

So I’d love to hear from y’all about other ways to save money on camping, because I intend to go early and often. 🙂  What are your best tips??

 

Tags

21 Comments

Click here to post a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Last year I bought firewood at the hardware store (it was cheaper). I’ve also considered bringing tree branches from my yard. Some people offer free wood on Craig’s list (they recently cut down a tree). The only disadvantage is it takes up room in your vehicle. But, you can always strap it to the roof.
    An electrical site sometimes is only like $5 more. It maybe cheaper to get an electrical site, and cook food with an electrical skillet, rather than a basic site and cooking over a fire. Firewood can add up!

    • I forgot to address the firewood issue, so I’m glad you brought it up, Bernadette! I confess I like to spring for the electrical site, but mostly for the ability to charge my phone and computer, lol. For some reason, I like cooking over a fire more than using the skillet — go figure! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

    • I really enjoy making chili ahead and freezing it in a gallon zip lock bag. it serves as helping as ice and by day 2 its time to put it in a hanging pot over the fire. yay…once again some things are great to cook at fireside but not dinner. we are all beat by that time and would much rather sit around the fire with a bowl of chili telling stories or playing cards than having extremely hungry kids. We love making a leisurely breakfast. the break open cinnamon rolls are a bunch a fun on the fire or in a pot on the Coleman grill. keeping dinners pre- cooked helps everyone enjoy the trip, including the cook. PS making burritos ahead or a big buncha stew is fun too!. Again, freeze it up and we are good to go. Really love your site. Yes, for a long while, it was costing more than going to a motel and eating out. I eventually smartened up.

  • On the firewood. Most parks I visit won’t let you bring in outside fire wood. It could bring in diseases. But we use a small portable grill and lump and a small propane stove for cooking.

    • Yea, somehow I just don’t like cooking over a stove as much as cooking over a fire… I confess I’ve not had anyone even ask if we have brought firewood; we’ve just done it. Maybe I should do some research on that before our next trip. Thanks for stopping by, Erin! 🙂

    • The Smokies National Parks now have a strict rule–NO FIREWOOD BROUGHT IN.You can buy from them or pickup limbs as you hike. It is because of insects etc that can be transfered. If you look off a mountain down below you can see sad dead trees everywhere. So I understand the policy.

  • We teardrop camp. I pre cook bacon and sausage then freeze it. I get it when it’s on sale. I keep a list of menu’s from past trips and how much of each ingredient we used. We try to camp on state or Bureau of Land Management sites. They are cheaper or free if you can dry camp-no water, electric and sometimes no bathroom. We advertising had some amazing views and met some great people.

    • Wow, Debbie, these are all great ideas! It definitely helps to keep records so you know what worked and what didn’t, and how much to buy for next time. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • This cracks me up, because we totally do the same thing! I’ve had a couple of tents set up in my living room after we bought them. Because you want to make sure you got all of the pieces, but can’t set it up outside due to rain (or whatever).

  • If you’re looking for camping recipe ideas, google Girl Scout (USA) or Girl Guide (Canada) blogs – lots of great ideas that are cost effective (i.e. frugal!) and tasty!

  • I just recently saved money on a two day vacation by cooking many foods from scratch at home. Mini quiche, taquitos, a davorite spinach dill dip, even fudge! Saves on eating out or being unhappy.
    Also, making and bagging ice ahead of time to fill the cooler with rather than having to buy ice! Every little bit helps!

  • I really enjoy making chili ahead and freezing it in a gallon zip lock bag. it serves as helping as ice and by day 2 its time to put it in a hanging pot over the fire. yay…once again some things are great to cook at fireside but not dinner. we are all beat by that time and would much rather sit around the fire with a bowl of chili telling stories or playing cards than having extremely hungry kids. We love making a leisurely breakfast. the break open cinnamon rolls are a bunch a fun on the fire or in a pot on the Coleman grill. keeping dinners pre- cooked helps everyone enjoy the trip, including the cook. PS making burritos ahead or a big buncha stew is fun too!. Again, freeze it up and we are good to go. Really love your site. Yes, for a long while, it was costing more than going to a motel and eating out. I eventually smartened up.

  • I am a cook and freeze girl. Curry chilli even soup. If you put them in a freeze box they last 3-4 days. I am all for saving money but there is only so much convenience food my children and I can stomach.
    I so agree with you plan plan plan and stick to budget and list philosophy. I camp with my two children ( hubby does 5 star hotels only) if I was to use packed food on camp I would end up with two starving girls. I take veggies and fruit, fresh canned and dried.

    When we return from a trip all our equipment is cleaned and repacked into their tubs. 1. Shelter 2. Sleep 3. Kitchen 4. Clothing/personal. That we I know that I can just pick them up and put them in the car at a moments notice.

    There are so many hacks that are cheap and nasty. Invest in good quality equipment but buy out of season and check out the classifieds.

    Kids need very little to entertain them. Expensive tablets and games give them no life experience. Water / a ball/ pack of cards/ sticks/ a pen knife/ magnifying glass/ bug collection kits….. let them crack on.

    Have a sense of humour…… if it can go wrong…. it will. But a smile, good fire and a book to help you relax. Heaven

    • YES, sitting by a fire is one of the most relaxing things EVER! These are all GREAT ideas, Beverly! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • The most gurgle person I ever knew. Would sale shop every week a couple of cans at a time and put them in the basement or the camper( out of site out of mind and teenager hands). When camping season came around she had a stockpile including cans coffee canned milk paper towels and toilet paper.

  • We buy water bottles and the singles to go packets in a few flavors. We we buying juice for breakfast, soda go dinner, Gatorade…. We were def overspending in drinks.

Hi! I’m glad you’re here!


I’m Ann (aka Annie), a veteran homeschool mom of five who HATES complicated!
more about me >>

Improve Your Relationship with your Homeschooled Teen!

Sign up now to get a FREE list of 100 Ways to Encourage Your Teen!
PLUS receive regular encouragement for yourself in your inbox!

Click Here

Click here for homeschooling high school resources to get started!