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How to live mini-adventures on a small budget

Adventurer Alastair Humphreys explains how you don’t have to go anywhere remote or need special equipment to turn a mini break into a great adventure.

How to live mini-adventures on a small budget

1. Come up with an idea that excites you

It need not be epic or a world first. Then pick a date when you will do it. And, finally, the hardest part of all: COMMIT to actually doing it!

Whether it is cycling to the sea, walking the South Downs way, or eating in a restaurant from a country you know nothing about, the hardest part is to break your ordinary routine and make yourself do it. It’s often easier if you rope in a few friends to join you.

2. Overcome the excuses and obstacles

One of the key things about these little adventures is not to let a lack of expensive equipment, for example, stop you getting outdoors this summer and trying something new. A tent from Tesco’s, a sleeping bag from a charity shop, and a couple of packets of Custard Creams are all that you really need to get you out under the stars, into the wild, and doing something new and exciting this summer.

3. It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun

The great British summer has a twisted sense of humour. You may have blazing sunsets and bright shooting stars. You may get drizzle and a little damp. It’s a good reason to start small: a night of rain on the tent is not so bad, especially with the knowledge that you’ll be home tomorrow. Home to a hot bath, a fluffy duvet, and the inevitable onset of rose-tinted memories.

“That wasn’t so bad. In fact it was quite fun. What shall we do next. “

4. Think small

You might not feel confident yet to take on the whole world. That doesn’t matter! In fact I would encourage you to start by thinking very small: one night away, one jump in a lake. Start small and build up: it’s better than thinking big, getting scared, and never starting!

5. Think about your 5-to-9

Many of our adventurous yearnings and dreams are scuppered by the realities of real life: commitments, cash, and the constraints of a 9 to 5 job. But what about your ‘5 to 9’? On these long summer evenings you have time, even on a midweek work night, to squeeze a genuine adventure into your life. You could sleep on a hill, cycle your commute, or make a journey around your own home. Try to seek out the opportunities for adventure in your life rather than feeling glum about the constraints.

6. Buy a bivvy bag

Tents are expensive. They are heavy. They are a hassle to put up, a hassle to dry out, a hassle to store. To keep your microadventures cheap, simple and hassle free, you should get a bivvy bag. Simply put, a bivvy bag is like a waterproof jacket for your sleeping bag. The cheapest ones start at just a few quid. Sleep on a hill in a bivvy bag and you can watch the stars as you fall asleep and wake to the most impressive sunrise view you’ve ever had on a work day.

7. Share your story

I have come to really enjoy sharing my trips with an online community. Take photos, write a blog, make a short video. It’s fun to do and, who knows, you might inspire someone else to take that hesitant, difficult first step towards their own summer of adventure.

How to live mini-adventures on a small budgetAlastair Humphreys‘ book. Microadventure: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes, can be ordered on Amazon now.

Written by John Worley October 18, 2019 5 MIN READ Budgeting

Whether you’re creating a new budget or refreshing an old one, you’ve probably noticed how important (and difficult) it is to get your monthly expenses right. Underestimating or missing an expense can throw your spending strategy into disarray, so it’s helpful to have guidance on the budgeting norm.

To help you get it right, we’ve assembled a list of the most common average monthly expenses.

20 Common Monthly Expenses

1. Housing

Your costs will vary significantly depending on where you live. For example, the median home value is $328,200 in New Jersey, but $140,100 in Ohio. Cost-of-living calculators can help you adjust your budget estimates based on your location.

According to the Department of Labor, the average household spent about $1,674 per month on housing, consuming the largest portion of the average monthly income of $6,553.

(The numbers that follow in this article are based on the Department of Labor data unless another source is cited.)

2. Transportation

Transportation accounts are the second-largest budget item for most people, with average monthly expenses of $813, including vehicle purchase and gasoline.

3. Food​

Everyone’s gotta eat—and most spend an average $660 on monthly groceries and eating out.

4. Utility bills

Idaho residents pay the least for heat, gas, water, electric cable and Internet at $344 per month, according to Move.org. Hawaiians pay the most, at $731 per month. You might be able to reduce this amount by foregoing cable.

5. Cell phone

Monthly wireless fees run from $35 to $140 for a family plan, but you could spend as little as $9.99 a month if you want only basic service with no data.

6. Childcare and school costs

Childcare costs range from $401 per month in Mississippi to $1,886 in Washington, D.C. Once your children are of school age, you may need to account for private-school tuition. But even if you send your children to public school, you will need money for various fees and school trips.

7. Pet food

It costs $20 to $60 per month to feed a dog, but you may need to spend more if your pet requires a special diet.

8. Pet insurance

For $14 to $98 a month in premiums, you may be able to head off a big vet bill.

9. Clothing

The average U.S. household spends $155 per month on apparel, according to the U.S. Department of Labor

10. Health insurance

If you don’t have employer-based health insurance, you may want to purchase a plan. Health insurance costs differ dramatically depending on your age, where you live and on personal characteristics such as whether you smoke.

You may need to add more to that figure to account for deductibles, co-pays, over-the-counter medicines and other health-care expenditures.

11. Fitness

A gym membership may feel like a must for maintaining your health. The average gym membership costs about $58 per month but can run significantly higher.

12. Auto insurance

Auto insurance on average costs about $135 per month, though that number is included in the Transportation figures from the Department of Labor mentioned earlier.

13. Life insurance

You can buy term life insurance starting at about $13 per month.

14. Home insurance

Renters or homeowners’ insurance can help protect against theft, fire and other threats, but if you own your house, you may already be paying for homeowners’ insurance through your mortgage. Renters’ insurance is about $17 a month, and homeowners is roughly $35 a month for every $100,000 in home value.

15. Fun stuff

Figures on these items are hard to come by, so if you have a specific trip in mind, start scoping out costs and figure out how much you need to save each month to pay for it.

16. Student loans

Nearly 70 percent of 2018 graduates took out student loans, with an average of $29,800 in borrowing. Based on that amount, you would owe $576 per month if you pay the loan off in five years at 6 percent interest.

17. Credit-card debt

18. Retirement

You’re the only one who’s going to pay for your retirement, possibly with a little help from your employer in the form of matching funds. The earlier you start saving, the longer your money can benefit from the power of compound interest. Some financial planners recommend setting aside 10 to 15 percent of your income for retirement, but if you can save even more, you will reach your retirement goals more quickly and have more protection against a market downturn.

19. Emergency fund

At a minimum, keeping three months’ worth of expenses on hand can see you through tough times. The average American household spent $61,224 in 2018, or $5,102 a month. Three months of expenses would suggest having a rainy-day fund of $15,306.

If you set aside $1,276, you would accumulate $15,306 in a year. That amount may sound intimidating, so if you can’t manage that, start smaller.

20. Large purchases

Plan to buy a car every five years? Put a new roof on the house in two years? Make a list of these larger expenditures and set aside enough every month so that you can pay for them when the time arrives.

Get your monthly expenses in check

Knowing the average cost of living can help you identify opportunities in your budget for saving and align your spending with your goals. Use these averages to help ensure your own budget categories are under control.

How to live mini-adventures on a small budget

Peter Dazeley / Photographer’s Choice / Getty

Making a budget is a key piece of a strong financial foundation. Having a budget helps you manage your money, control your spending, save more money, pay off debt, or stay out of debt.

Without an accurate picture of what’s coming into and going out of your bank account, you can easily overspend or find yourself relying on credit cards and loans to pay your bills. If you already have a budget, now’s a good time to update it.

Download and Print a Budget Worksheet

Use a worksheet to help get started in order to complete all the steps below. You can also create your budget worksheet using free spreadsheet programs, including the ones offered by Vertex42 and It’s Your Money, or even paper and pen.

List Your Income

Start by figuring out how much you’re bringing in each month. Add up all reliable sources of income: wages from a job, alimony, child support, and more. Notice that word reliable. If you get cash from outside jobs or hobbies, but not on a regular basis, don’t put the money down as income in your budget. Your budget should be a document you can depend on.

If you’re self-employed or have a fluctuating income, use an average monthly income or an estimate of the income you expect to receive in a particular month.

Add up Your Expenses

Some of your monthly expenses are fixed—mortgage/rent, property taxes, child support, and alimony—while others may vary, such as electricity, water, and groceries. List all the fixed expenses and the amount of the expense.

For your variable expenses, write the maximum amount you plan to spend in that category or the amount you expect your bill to be. For example, you might plan to spend $500 on groceries and $150 on gas.

Use your previous bank and credit card statements to help you figure out what you typically spend each month. Reviewing your previous spending can also help you uncover categories of spending you may have missed.

Some of your expenses don’t occur each month. But accounting for those periodic expenses in your monthly budget can make it easier to afford them when they’re due. Divide yearly expenses by 12 and semiannual expenses by six to come up with the monthly amount to account for in those categories.

Calculate Your Net Income

Your net income is what you have left over after all the bills are paid. You want this to be a positive number so you can put it toward your debt, savings, or other financial goals. Calculate your net income by subtracting your expenses from your monthly income. Write down the number, even if it’s negative.

Adjust Your Expenses

If your net income is negative, it means you’ve budgeted to spend more than your income. You’ll have to correct this. Otherwise, you may end up having to use your credit cards, borrow money, or overdraft your account to make it through the month.

Variable expenses are typically the easiest places you can adjust spending, e.g., eating out, hobbies, and entertainment. Even some of your fixed expenses can be adjusted, e.g., by reducing your cable or phone bill, canceling your gym membership, or not taking a vacation this year.

Evaluate your spending using a “wants vs. needs” analysis. Reduce or eliminate spending in those “want” areas to make more room for the things you “need” to spend money on.

Track Your Spending

Throughout the month, track your actual spending against what you budgeted. If you go over budget, doing this will help you figure out where you spent more money. In the future, you can take greater care not to overspend in that area. Or you may need to adjust your budget to compensate for the additional spending. If you increase your budget in one area, decrease it in another area to keep your budget balanced.

Easy steps to plan and manage how you spend your money

Page reading time: 2 minutes

Having a budget helps you to feel in control of your money. You can put aside money for big bills when they arrive, and plan savings to achieve your money goals.

You don’t need an accountant or special software to set up your own budget. Start by looking at where you are right now and where you want to be.

Set your money goals

First, work out why you want to do a budget. This can help you to decide where you want your money to go.

Ask yourself: what is my goal? It could be to stay on top of bills, save for emergencies, pay for your children’s education, or save for a holiday or a house deposit.

See where your money goes

Having a clear picture of your regular expenses and spending habits will help you set up your budget.

To do this, track your spending over a week, a fortnight or a month. See track your spending for practical ways to do this.

How to set up your budget

Use how often you get paid as the timeframe for your budget. For example, if you get paid weekly, set up a weekly budget.

Then follow these steps to set up each section.

Set up your budget and save it online or use our Excel budget spreadsheet.

1. Record your income

Record how much money is coming in and when. If you don’t have a regular amount of income, work out an average amount.

Make a list of all money coming in, including:

  • how much
  • where from
  • how often (weekly, fortnightly, monthly or yearly)

This money could be from your wages, pension, government benefit or payment, or income from investments.

2. Add up your expenses

Record your regular expenses, including:

  • what for
  • how much
  • when

Regular expenses are your ‘needs’ — the essential items you need to pay for to live. These include:

Fixed expenses, for example:

  • rent or mortgage payments
  • electricity, gas and phone bills
  • council rates
  • household expenses, like food and groceries
  • medical costs and insurance
  • transport costs, like car registration and public transport
  • family costs, like baby products, child care, school fees and sporting activities

Debt expenses, for example:

  • personal loan repayments
  • credit card payments
  • mortgage repayments

Unexpected expenses, for example:

  • car repairs and services
  • medical bills
  • extra school costs
  • pet costs

To make sure you’ve recorded all your expenses, look at your bills or bank statements. If you tracked your spending, use your list of transactions.

3. See if you can save

Having some savings can help create a safety net for unexpected expenses. Set a savings goal and work out how much you can save each payday.

Work out how long it will take you to reach your savings goal.

4. Set your spending limit

The money you have left after expenses and savings is your spending money. This money is for ‘wants’, such as entertainment, eating out and hobbies.

Make a plan for what you want to do with your spending money. This will help you to keep within your limit. Keep track of your spending so you always know how much you’ve got left.

Set up three bank accounts: a high interest savings account for savings, and two transaction accounts for spending and bills. Schedule transfers of your savings and direct debits for your bills to automate your finances.

Review your budget regularly

It’s important to adjust your budget as things change. For example, if you find you can’t cover all your expenses, savings and spending, you may have to reduce your spending limit, or change your savings goal.

For ideas to help reduce spending, see simple ways to save money.

A little goes a long way when it comes to being greener.

How to live mini-adventures on a small budget

With April 22nd, 2020 officially marking 50 years of celebrating Earth Day, it’s more important than ever to be green. If you’re looking for simple changes you can make at home in honor of the holiday, these easy, eco-friendly lifestyle changes on our list will help guide you: little yet important things like reusing the items you already have, purchasing environmentally-friendly products that don’t come in excess packaging, and reducing your daily water and energy consumption. After all, even a tiny bit goes a long way when it comes to saving the earth!

One way to be smart shopper is to keep your eyes out for products with the Green Good Housekeeping Seal, or winners of our most recent Good Housekeeping Sustainable Packaging Awards. As Anne Marie Bonneau of Zero-Waste Chef once said, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” Here are some tips to help you kick off your sustainable-living journey. Earth Day comes once a year, but these lifestyle changes could be beneficial for the other 364 days, as well as years to come! We only have one (Mother) Earth, so let’s treat her right.

Gallery: How To Decide If A Home Is Right For You

Picking out a new house can be exciting and terrifying at the same time. How do you choose the best location? What if the house has problems you can’t afford to fix? What’s the tiebreaker if you love two places equally?

The first and only way to begin the decision-making process is to grab your calculator. A dream home becomes a nightmare the moment you can’t afford it. “As you calculate, look beyond the listing price,” says Steve Jones, associate broker of Crawford Olson Real Estate in McCall, Idaho. Here’s why: A house with a vaulted ceiling costs more to heat than one with a low ceiling. And a house with a pool means paying to maintain it. All these extra factors can add up.

Another less-tangible way to decide if a home is right for you is to trust your intuition, says Pat Trainor, a realtor with Coldwell Banker High Country Realty in Blue Ridge, Georgia. “I believe that most buyers form an impression in the first few seconds after they walk into a house,” he says. Even as a seasoned agent, he says he formulates an impression almost immediately. “Is this a happy house? Or does it depress me? Notice how you respond—and trust your reactions,” Trainor adds.

Trainor says he’s noticed that when a house is a good fit for a buyer, the couple or family will begin to talk about where they’d place their furniture. “When a client is doing this, he or she is mentally moving into the home,” says Trainor. The upshot? If you’re viewing a house and find yourself imagining your sofa near the window and your green chair near the fireplace, pay attention. Chances are, the house is a nice match for you.

That said, there’s no such thing as a crystal ball when it comes to house hunting. And wondering whether the house will be too small if you get a dog—or too big when the kids leave for college—is inevitable. But Cindy Jones, also of Crawford Olson Real Estate, says that while it’s important to envision a home’s role over time, making a decision with too many variables in mind can work against you. “Buy the house for the way you are living today,” she says. Then adapt as you go.

Another tip? Decide based on how you live, not where you’ll live. A house that offers dramatic mountain views and enormous windows onto a pond can seem like a wonderful place to call home. But if you’re rarely home during the day, the views aren’t going to be visible most of the time. Focus on features that will please you indoors. This advice is particularly applicable to high-traffic parts of the house, such as the kitchen. A sleek, minimalist European stainless steel breakfast bar may set your heart on fire, but if you’ve got busy toddlers, a practical kitchen with lots of room and sturdy smudge-resistant cabinetry may be a better match.

When you finally do make a decision, should you make an offer right away? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. “I usually advise sleeping on it overnight,” says Trainor. The exception can be when a market is especially active. “This is a real gut check time. Would you be broken hearted if you lost this house to another buyer? If the answer is yes, make an offer. Seldom will you go wrong if you follow your heart.”

Gallery: How To Decide If A Home Is Right For You

Picking out a new house can be exciting and terrifying at the same time. How do you choose the best location? What if the house has problems you can’t afford to fix? What’s the tiebreaker if you love two places equally?

The first and only way to begin the decision-making process is to grab your calculator. A dream home becomes a nightmare the moment you can’t afford it. “As you calculate, look beyond the listing price,” says Steve Jones, associate broker of Crawford Olson Real Estate in McCall, Idaho. Here’s why: A house with a vaulted ceiling costs more to heat than one with a low ceiling. And a house with a pool means paying to maintain it. All these extra factors can add up.

Another less-tangible way to decide if a home is right for you is to trust your intuition, says Pat Trainor, a realtor with Coldwell Banker High Country Realty in Blue Ridge, Georgia. “I believe that most buyers form an impression in the first few seconds after they walk into a house,” he says. Even as a seasoned agent, he says he formulates an impression almost immediately. “Is this a happy house? Or does it depress me? Notice how you respond—and trust your reactions,” Trainor adds.

Trainor says he’s noticed that when a house is a good fit for a buyer, the couple or family will begin to talk about where they’d place their furniture. “When a client is doing this, he or she is mentally moving into the home,” says Trainor. The upshot? If you’re viewing a house and find yourself imagining your sofa near the window and your green chair near the fireplace, pay attention. Chances are, the house is a nice match for you.

That said, there’s no such thing as a crystal ball when it comes to house hunting. And wondering whether the house will be too small if you get a dog—or too big when the kids leave for college—is inevitable. But Cindy Jones, also of Crawford Olson Real Estate, says that while it’s important to envision a home’s role over time, making a decision with too many variables in mind can work against you. “Buy the house for the way you are living today,” she says. Then adapt as you go.

Another tip? Decide based on how you live, not where you’ll live. A house that offers dramatic mountain views and enormous windows onto a pond can seem like a wonderful place to call home. But if you’re rarely home during the day, the views aren’t going to be visible most of the time. Focus on features that will please you indoors. This advice is particularly applicable to high-traffic parts of the house, such as the kitchen. A sleek, minimalist European stainless steel breakfast bar may set your heart on fire, but if you’ve got busy toddlers, a practical kitchen with lots of room and sturdy smudge-resistant cabinetry may be a better match.

When you finally do make a decision, should you make an offer right away? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. “I usually advise sleeping on it overnight,” says Trainor. The exception can be when a market is especially active. “This is a real gut check time. Would you be broken hearted if you lost this house to another buyer? If the answer is yes, make an offer. Seldom will you go wrong if you follow your heart.”

First impressions matter. Enhance your front yard so people will stop and stare after the first glance. The good thing is, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

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Related To:

Eye-Catching Charm on a Small Budget

There are dozens of small, inexpensive home improvements that you can do to kick-up your home’s curb appeal. Adding curb appeal to your house not only makes it easier to sell, but it also gives your house that nice and finished look in which you can take pride in. When deciding on which upgrades to make, consider what your house currently looks like and what will look best with it.

Paint the Front Door

Most exterior paint will cost you approximately $30 a gallon. Painting your front door can definitely add some brightness and revive the look of your front porch. Pick a bold color that stands out, but make sure to match it to the rest of the colors on your house. Properly prep all surfaces before you paint so you’ll get great results that will last for years to come. Read this before you paint your front door, then follow the link below to see over 50 of our favorite front door hues.

Install a New Door Handle

An eye-catching doorknob or chic handle can punch up the design of the front of your house. With a wide range of prices and styles, you have endless options. Today, there are several safety door locks on the market, that have cameras or numerical codes that will unlock the door. This front door’s sturdy exterior handle has a pleasing patina that provides the perfect finishing touch for the entry.

Add Porch Curtains

Accent your porch with curtains to give the front of your house a dramatic look that will create an outdoor private hideaway. The addition of curtains will make your front porch an extension of the interiors, giving off a warm and welcoming vibe.

Landscape Lighting

Landscape lights bring curb appeal to your home at night time. They not only create a stunning visual display but also help safely guide visitors to the main entrance. Snag some of our favorite ways to light up a landscape, below.

Install Flower Boxes

If your house is lacking color, try adding flower boxes. Install them on the front porch railings as well as below the windows. Window boxes are relatively cheap or you can DIY them in an afternoon (instructions below). The flowers and soil may actually cost you more than the box, and remember, you have to maintain the flowers to actually add curb appeal. If you rather not add flower boxes to your house, then consider buying some container gardens in pots and placing them on your front steps or porch.

Cheerful Doormat

Well, hello! A cheerful front doormat is a fun way to greet guests, while also keeping the dirt where it belongs — outside.

Front Door Mailbox

Starting at around $40, a front door mailbox is an inexpensive addition that adds charm and function to a home’s exterior. This type of mailbox is simple to install and should take less than an hour to complete.

Upgrade Your Mailbox

If you have a mailbox at the road, replacing an outdated box can add curb appeal. You can find a new mailbox starting around $20. When you install your mailbox, make sure that you are following the regulations that are set forth in the city that you live in. Plan for at least two hours to complete this project.

Add Charm With a Front Door Wreath

A new front door wreath can be inexpensively changed from season to season and adds immense charm to your home’s curb appeal. Learn how to make a fresh, season-spanning magnolia wreath, like the one seen here, at the link below.

First impressions matter. Enhance your front yard so people will stop and stare after the first glance. The good thing is, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

  • Pinterest
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
Related To:

Eye-Catching Charm on a Small Budget

There are dozens of small, inexpensive home improvements that you can do to kick-up your home’s curb appeal. Adding curb appeal to your house not only makes it easier to sell, but it also gives your house that nice and finished look in which you can take pride in. When deciding on which upgrades to make, consider what your house currently looks like and what will look best with it.

Paint the Front Door

Most exterior paint will cost you approximately $30 a gallon. Painting your front door can definitely add some brightness and revive the look of your front porch. Pick a bold color that stands out, but make sure to match it to the rest of the colors on your house. Properly prep all surfaces before you paint so you’ll get great results that will last for years to come. Read this before you paint your front door, then follow the link below to see over 50 of our favorite front door hues.

Install a New Door Handle

An eye-catching doorknob or chic handle can punch up the design of the front of your house. With a wide range of prices and styles, you have endless options. Today, there are several safety door locks on the market, that have cameras or numerical codes that will unlock the door. This front door’s sturdy exterior handle has a pleasing patina that provides the perfect finishing touch for the entry.

Add Porch Curtains

Accent your porch with curtains to give the front of your house a dramatic look that will create an outdoor private hideaway. The addition of curtains will make your front porch an extension of the interiors, giving off a warm and welcoming vibe.

Landscape Lighting

Landscape lights bring curb appeal to your home at night time. They not only create a stunning visual display but also help safely guide visitors to the main entrance. Snag some of our favorite ways to light up a landscape, below.

Install Flower Boxes

If your house is lacking color, try adding flower boxes. Install them on the front porch railings as well as below the windows. Window boxes are relatively cheap or you can DIY them in an afternoon (instructions below). The flowers and soil may actually cost you more than the box, and remember, you have to maintain the flowers to actually add curb appeal. If you rather not add flower boxes to your house, then consider buying some container gardens in pots and placing them on your front steps or porch.

Cheerful Doormat

Well, hello! A cheerful front doormat is a fun way to greet guests, while also keeping the dirt where it belongs — outside.

Front Door Mailbox

Starting at around $40, a front door mailbox is an inexpensive addition that adds charm and function to a home’s exterior. This type of mailbox is simple to install and should take less than an hour to complete.

Upgrade Your Mailbox

If you have a mailbox at the road, replacing an outdated box can add curb appeal. You can find a new mailbox starting around $20. When you install your mailbox, make sure that you are following the regulations that are set forth in the city that you live in. Plan for at least two hours to complete this project.

Add Charm With a Front Door Wreath

A new front door wreath can be inexpensively changed from season to season and adds immense charm to your home’s curb appeal. Learn how to make a fresh, season-spanning magnolia wreath, like the one seen here, at the link below.