Money is something we think about constantly!  In our everyday lives, we grind at work to pay the bills.  Many of us balance student loans, car payments, rent/ mortgages, electric, cable, cell phones… the list goes on!   The beauty of hiking the trail is that with good planning you can escape this rat race, even if only for a few months.

The first step in thru-hike financial planning is to figure out how much it will cost you to be absent from life for 8 months.  I say 8 months because this will provide ample time for the average hiker, meaning you can avoid a stressful deadline if you move slower or enjoy more zeros along the way. It also leaves an additional month for re-acclimating to society post-trail.  If you have a deadline to return to the real world (i.e. taking a 6 month leave from work or grad school starts September 1), obviously, work that specific time period into your plans.  While calculating these costs, make an excel spread sheet.  This will allow you to visualize more precise numbers. Here is an extremely simplified example: 

Bills to pay	due per month	amount due 8 months
cell phone	$100 	$800 
student loan	$300 	$2,400 
car payment	$200 	$1,600 
total	$600 	$4,800 
Second, try to reduce your monthly expenses.  Can you cancel your cable during your absence, your car insurance? Can you work a deal with your landlord to allow you smaller payments during your trip and larger ones upon returning home? Can you move out of your apartment and forgo that expense all together? Visualizing your expenses will allow you to think creatively about every avenue.  It also depends on what life you want to return to after completing the trail.  Are you going to buy a motorcycle and tour the East Coast, fly home to friends and family, start fresh somewhere new? Think critically about this before setting off on your adventure; it will save you time and money later.
Third, set the monthly expenses you have left to autopay.  This way you won't be climbing the nearest mountain in search of service when you realize your bill was due yesterday.  On trail, every day is Saturday.
Fourth, based on your personality, get a vague idea of what kind of thru-hiker you will be.  Are you going to want to have a beer in town? Do you typically splurge for brand name groceries and Starbucks coffee? Do you want to stay at as many hostels as you can, or will you resupply and get right back on trail? Will you want to shower often or are you more of a dirty-30 type of hiker?  All these things cost money.  Walmart has Starbucks VIA instant coffee: 8 servings cost $6.  They also sell Folgers instant coffee: 7 servings for $1.  Choices like these will present themselves throughout your trip, and some will be easier to make than others.  Luxuries like prepared food, showers, and laundry were extremely difficult for me to pass up.  I always cleaned up whenever possible, and the cost adds up. Below is an example of my personal weekly expenses.  

Approximate weekly expenses
laundry 	5
shower	5
hotel	20
beer	10
resupply	100
town meals	20
Weekly Budget	170
Total spent	3840

I went into town every 3-4 days, almost twice a week.  In the beginning, I typically stayed at a hotel or hostel once a week and paid for additional shower and laundry services once a week. As my planning skills improved and budget waned, I learned to find donation based hostels.  I would even use hostels as a home base and pay to shower without staying.  I drank PBR instead of IPAs. Therefore, my simplified expenses are estimated high.  This is more indicative of spending early on. This being said, there are many unlisted and often unforeseen expenses (i.e. Uber rides, shuttles, gear replacement).  In total, I spent approximately $4,500.  I replaced my sleeping bag, backpack, clothing, and I purchased 5 pairs of shoes.
	This sounds like a lot to think about.  The bottom line is, the more you save, the less you will have to worry.  At the same time, the more you plan, the less you will spend.

Ideas to hike cheaper:
"	Drink less (or drink PBR from package stores instead of Lagunitas from bars)
"	Find donation based hostels
"	Share hotel rooms with other hikers (be respectful of maximum room capacities)
"	There's always someone to share a load of laundry with
"	Nero into town instead of taking a true zero (allows you to pay for 1 night instead of 2)
"	Clean up and move on (don't stay the night in town) this saves the hotel fee and the cost of breakfast in the morning. Who can leave town without hitting the diner?
"	Check hiker boxes before resupplying
"	Order food from Amazon and split the costs with your trail family, this gives you more variety with less cost. You can even get cans of Mountain House for half the price of the individual servings and package them with Ziploc bags.
"	Take turns buying Ziplocs, wipes, toiletries, etc. with friends so you can buy in bulk and share without waste.
"	Dial in your gear before you leave. You'll never know exactly what works before you get out there, but hopefully you can find the perfect pair of shoes and not need to test four different styles! If I had used Altra Lone Peak's from the beginning I may have gotten away with 3 pairs of shoes instead of 5 and saved $200.

	Remember, the amount of money you spend is entirely dependent on the type of experience you want to have. Do you want to visit NYC on the way? Do you want your own hotel rooms? Will you buy new socks every month? Most importantly, don't let this be the reason you don't hike the Appalachian Trail. If you are focused and deliberate with your budget, you can finish with far less.

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