Saving for Frugal Adventuring: Idea #2

Quality and Cheap battle it out. Who will win?

Quality and Cheap battle it out. Who will win?

We all have different perspectives of what makes a new adventure “fun”. Some may find it hard to enjoy biking without being fully outfitted with Lycra and a racing bike (excessive gear buying syndrome*). Others may hate the idea of spending more than $20 on a pair of hiking boots when prepping for a thru hike (excessive frugal folks). No matter where you are on this spectrum, I encourage you to challenge yourself. Regardless of how much money you have, make each dollar spent go to something worthwhile. Knowing where to splurge and where to pinch is a vital part of being smart with your money.

Today is part two of a three part series on how to save for frugal adventures. If you haven’t yet, read part one “Buy Experiences, Not Stuff” here. Now, let’s continue on to our second idea to help save money for (and while) adventuring!

IDEA #2: BUY QUALITY, LIVE CHEAP

Buying quality right away typically is the most frugal option, and will save time and money. This seems counter intuitive to idea #1, right? Why spend more money when a cheaper option is available? We certainly don’t want expensive gear to be a prerequisite for fun, but we also don’t want to have a poor experience due to bad gear. The trick is to find that perfect balance, and know when to go cheap.

Here’s three criteria to determine if you should spring for quality right away.

  1. You know what you’re buying will be used until it is worn out, as you’ve already done your activity / adventure several times and know you’re going to continue.

  2. You do your research and confirm that the price = the value, and that having high quality will significantly improve your experience with an adventure.

  3. You aren’t struggling to pay your bills each month, and can afford the higher up front cost of a quality item.

Let’s illustrate this with an example. Lee started going on hikes about six months ago. He has been enjoying himself,  working up to a multi-day backpacking trip next year. He’s been getting by on some old athletic shoes, but thinks it’s time to get some proper hiking boots before his big trip. He researches boot options and narrows down to two pairs, one priced at $50 and one priced at $100. Lee looks at his bank account and decides that the more expensive pair is worth the premium price for their comfort and longevity. As a bonus, he watches the price for a month and snags the boots for $75. Score!

Buying quality will help you save in two ways:

  1. Your gear will last longer and you’ll buy less items overall. Not only does this save money in the long run, it is less wasteful and better for the environment.

  2. You’ll enjoy your adventure more since you’ll be more comfortable, and you won’t be tempted to upgrade to better ones down the road (which always happens if I cheap out on something I shouldn’t have).

Suki the tiny kitten saves money by choosing only modest lodging accommodations.

Suki the tiny kitten saves money by choosing only modest lodging accommodations.

What are we supposed to “live cheap” on then? Plenty of things! We want to cheap out on everything that makes a negligible difference in the grand scheme of our lives and happiness. This sounds easy, but can actually be quite difficult to properly identify what these things are. Everyone has different ideas on what they need to be comfortable or happy, and these ideas are usually inherited from our families and friends.

For example, someone whose vacations growing up involved taking first class flights to Caribbean resorts with their family will have very different opinions on travel than a person whose family never took vacations all.

How can we bring reevaluate our deeply ingrained habits? I find it useful to make the money that is being spent tangible. Imagine that we are considering two long flights:

  1. First class: $950, 12 hours

  2. Standard: $650, 12 hours

Is that first class flight worth it? Ask yourself “would I hand over $300 in cash as I’m boarding the plane to be instantly upgraded?” If the answer is no, then it is a luxury you can do without.

What do I cheap out on? Three examples:

  1. Plane tickets: A bundle can be saved by flying discount airlines with minimal sacrifice. I do avoid terrible middle of the night departures if possible though.

  2. Lodging: When travelling I’m usually out exploring all day. I’m not hanging out much at my place of stay, so I cut the cost and spend the money on other experiences. I also have cheap rent at home, saving hundreds of dollars each month.

  3. Restaurants: When traveling I find that the best places to eat are small, family-owned shops and cafes, which also happen to be cheaper and more unique than a high-class fine dining place. When at home I rarely go out to eat, preferring to make my own meals. This saves a lot of cash, and helps me develop a new skill!

Be creative and find ways to cut costs in life to give you more money for what matters, adventures!


Overall, Idea #2 is more loose than Idea #1, but it is a great guideline for all of us. If you’re extremely frugal, remember that sometimes it’s cheaper in the long term to buy quality. If you’re a bit spendy, remember that sometimes you can cheap out with little consequence.

Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion soon!



*Remember, buying gear is not what makes an adventure fun!