The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Camping Edition

My wife and kids and I went camping for four days this past weekend, starting on Thursday afternoon. We camped in a state park in rural western Illinois. The highlight was watching our kids enjoy campfire meals, then fall asleep in the flickering light of a campfire, dreaming happy dreams of running around in nature all day long. The rain was a bit intrusive at times, but we had an incredible amount of fun on the trip – and we can’t wait to do it again.

This is what summer is all about.

Anyway, on to some personal finance articles. Now that I’ve settled into a regular writing schedule at OPEN Forum (as I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m now contributing articles at OPENForum.com through the end of the year), I have three new articles to share with you (well, they’re new if you haven’t seen them on my Twitter feed).

What Does Your Business Really Need? Get the Basics Right First! discusses in detail my thought processes in deciding whether investing in mobile broadband was really a necessary expenditure for my work.

Six Ways to Improve Employee Morale Without Breaking the Bank details six methods that I’ve experienced that really work for keeping morale high in a workplace without spending a lot of money. My favorite boss (the aforementioned Carolyn) used most of these tactics at work and it made the workplace a lot more enjoyable, even when the road was bumpy at times.

Finally, Five Essential Reads for Small Businesspeople – And How to Get Them for Pennies mentions some of my favorite business books for modern workers and workplaces and then touches on some methods for getting that information to you for free or for pennies.

It’s rather fun for me to think about – and try to write for – a somewhat different audience than The Simple Dollar has, while still trying to cover many of the same basic principles.

Anyway, here are several interesting personal finance articles I found in the last week.

How to Tell if a Recipe is Cheap and Healthy Just By Looking at it This is a great set of rules of thumb to quickly figure out if a given food is going to be good for you or not. Apply these rules of thumb at the grocery store (along with your usual thriftiness) and you’ll wind up with a cart full of good stuff at good prices. (@ cheap healthy good)

Get Inspired by Breaking Out Of Your Routine Every time you break a tired routine, it’s like a fresh new awakening. There are opportunities abound. (@ pick the brain)

Where We’re Starting From Everybody starts from somewhere – but it’s a different place for almost everyone. Our paths are not the same, but there’s enough in common that we can learn from each other. (@ get rich slowly)

Spend Less Than YOU Make: Taking Responsibility If you constantly blame others for your problems … you’ll always have problems. Instead, focus on taking responsibility – what can you change to improve your situation? (@ saving for serenity)

Are You Taking Responsibility or Playing The Blame Game? Another excellent article on a similar topic. Putting blame on others is a sure route to failure. Put blame on yourself and figure out how to fix things and you’ll find success. (@ christian pf)

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  1. Dave says:

    I LOVE camping! I am going to my sister-in-law’s parents cabin this upcoming weekend, and it’s not exactly camping (I use the term cabin loosely, it’s more just like a lakehouse) but there will be fishing, swimming, maybe even some waterskiing if the weather is good enough. It’s always a blast, and it’s good to get away from the ‘real world’ for a weekend every now and then.

    I am not going camping though until the very end of August in Minnesota. Looking forward to that though, too.

    Out of curiosity, do you mind sharing where you went for your camping trip? I am looking for places to go, and even if I don’t get there until next year, I will still make note of it.

  2. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Nauvoo State Park in Nauvoo, Illinois. It has a new shower house and perhaps the cleanest bathroom facilities I’ve ever seen at a camping site. It was really humid, though, as it was near the Mississippi River.

  3. MLR says:

    I LOVE camping. Especially if you find a campsite on the water (just make sure to bring bug spray!).

    Nothing better than kicking back on a campsite after a long week. Did you get to kayak and/or hike with your kids?

    And of course, thanks for including my article! After having a conversation with my friend (mentioned in the article), I sorted through my own documents and realized I had a good bit of clutter I wasn’t aware of. Feels good to shred it and be done with it!

  4. Candace says:

    Nothing made me appreciate my dishwasher more than a week of camping! Does anyone have any suggestions for making camping with 3 dogs easier? Only one of the 3 actually listens.

  5. Dave says:

    I live in La Crosse, so I’m plenty used to humidity. I’ll check it out though, thanks!

  6. Michael says:

    It was really humid as it was anywhere in Illinois right now. :(

  7. Ann says:

    Also LOVE camping. We did move up to a self-contained camper a few years back, so it’s even more enjoyable and can go more often, usually from mid April through mid October. Our favorite – Winhall Brook Campground in Vermont. It’s an Army Corps of Engineer facility- no rec hall, no swimming pool, no campground store. Just a couple of rivers with a beach area, an outdoor family movie on Saturday courtesy of the rangers (weather permitting), and some great trails for walking/hiking. It’s also the kids’ favorite place to go camping; they enjoy making their own fun there!

  8. Steve says:

    Is it safe to fall asleep with the fire still going?

  9. Stephanie says:

    Oh Trent, I got so excited thinking that you might have written articles on frugal camping (thus combining two of my favorite things in life)! Once I read this entry I was so disappointed. Please consider writing about the outdoors more and how to do it on the ultra-cheap! =)

  10. Stephanie says:

    Steve, any state park I have ever been to has contained fire rings. This provides a measure of safety. Our ancestors fell asleep by the fire numerous times. I personally wouldn’t advise falling asleep when a fire is at full peak, but a slow burning fire that gives off some warmth and provides a wonderful glow is an amazing thing. It is so relaxing that you may find keeping sleep away to be difficult.

  11. Sandy E. says:

    There’s a new website called DiscoverAmerica.com — launched to help people vacation in their own State – it has an activity finder listing museums, festivals and parks. It also has links, such as camping and fishing, etc. I discovered some things in my hometown that I wasn’t aware of – even gave times and dates for farmers markets, and other free activities.

  12. Camping is great! I’ve been on a cross-country camping adventure for the past 2 weeks with another 2 weeks ahead. Check out my blog to read updates about my adventures! Once I return home I intend to write some great articles about how I can afford to travel for such a long time on a tight budget.

    Glad your kids had a fun time! I loved camping when I was younger and still enjoy it just as much today as a young adult.

  13. Dave says:

    @ Steve: “Is it safe to fall asleep with the fire still going?”

    From his wording, I gatherd that his CHILDREN fell asleep in front of the fire, not him.

    In either case, Stephanie is correct.

  14. jc says:

    strictly speaking, no it’s not safe to leave a fire going, not even smoldering, especially in hot, dry conditions where the wind might pick up. fires must be put out with water before calling it a night.

    on the other hand, my family of origin has almost never properly observed this ritual in years of camping, and we’ve never managed to start a forest fire yet. your mileage may vary.

  15. dream says:

    Camping IS a wonderful thing. We would go often when we were kids and I had almost forgotten about those trips. Thanks for the reminder and keep taking your kids….those are some of my fondest memories.

  16. Katie says:

    if you’re by a river, it’s humid, and the fire is contained in a ring, you should probably be ok :) if you’re in a dry environment, that’s a TOTALLY different story

  17. Stephanie says:

    Dream, in Texas we essentially have had a burn ban in effect all year long because it is so dry. The state parks are great about letting you know when it is safe and not safe to burn. It kind of stinks when you have to cook your marshmallows in the bbq rather than over an open flame… but a smore is a smore! ;)

  18. Stephanie says:

    Katie, in Texas we essentially have had a burn ban in effect all year long because it is so dry. The state parks are great about letting you know when it is safe and not safe to burn. It kind of stinks when you have to cook your marshmallows in the bbq rather than over an open flame… but a smore is a smore! ;)

  19. George says:

    Keeping tax records forever CAN be a useful tool, instead of clutter… provided one actually looks at the information.

    For instance, when you complain about how much your tax bill is, compare the % to previous years. Maybe you’re making more, maybe you’re making less, but the % may have changed, too.

    There’s also tidbits in there about how our tax laws have changed and how that’s played into your actions. Have you taken advantage of all the opportunities when they come up?

  20. Leah says:

    I agree with #9 — I was hoping for a frugal camping article. I’m going camping next week with my boyfriend. We’re hitting Duluth and Grand Marais so that I can still see fireworks and we both get nature time.

    So far, all we do to be frugal is bring our own food and try to cook stuff. I’m weaning him off freeze-dried meals, and we’ve gotten to the point where our only prepared things are those dry soups in a bag.

    Beyond that, we just try not to have gear lust. But we’re both still building up our gear; he’d always been camping with his family, and I rented gear in college (from my college), which was significantly cheaper than buying my own. So we’re still spending a lot to do the camping thing, but we’re getting some as gifts and trying to balance cost, practicality, and equipment lifespan.

  21. RM says:

    I’m going to go ahead and agree with some of the other commenters – I was really hoping for an article on frugal camping!

    We take two young daughters camping. In Texas we do have a State Parks pass that makes camping really cheap and enjoyable, and encourages us to check out our awesome state parks. I am always interested in easy, cheap supplies (I tend to overdo it in the packing arena) I want to have our stuff paired down so I can just throw it in the trunk and GO!

  22. Did you make smores? We did that the other night in the backyard.

  23. Carolyn says:

    Six Ways to Improve Employee Morale Without Breaking the Bank: The “aforementioned Carolyn” appreciates the compliment, Trent :)

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