Updated on 06.13.11

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Camping Edition

Trent Hamm

One activity my family does quite a lot during the summer is go camping. We’ll head to a state or national park, pitch a tent for a few days, spend all day outdoors roaming around in the woods or swimming in lakes, then eat a meal prepared over a camp fire and crash in a tent all night.

The nice thing is that with my flexible schedule (I can write almost any time when I’m awake and almost anywhere I am with my laptop) and with my wife on her summer teaching break, we have a lot of flexibility when it comes to camping trips. It’s a lot easier to find a good campsite on a weekday than on a weekend, after all.

The Cooking Learning Curve I think many people who don’t cook at home and instead eat out or get takeout for every meal are people who are frustrated by the learning curve of cooking. The truth is that the learning curve has more to do with who teaches you and the approaches you take than anything. If you start off trying to make coq au vin after having never prepared a dish in your life, it is going to be a disaster. That’s a bad approach, and it’ll keep you from enjoying the pleasures and the savings of cooking at home. (@ saving advice)

When Being Who You Are Challenges the Norms All of us do something that challenges the norms. Often, merely being frugal does it. The question is how we handle our relative uniqueness in a public setting. It’s almost always a bad idea to use it as a weapon to force others to match us, for example. (@ zen habits)

The Costs and Savings of Bicycle Commuting When I was in college and lived off-campus, I often commuted on a rusty old bicycle. One of my best memories of college was riding around on it in the middle of a bone-soaking rainstorm, celebrating a personal achievement of mine. Bicycling for a commute certainly can work. (@ get rich slowly)

Trying to Get a Handle on the Value of College The value of college is directly proportional to what you put into it. If you sit in the dorms goofing off all the time, you’ll probably not get a lot of value out of it. (@ free money finance)

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  1. FiFi says:

    Camping is a great frugal family activity, not to mention you can get some excercise in – and take the dogs so you dont have to find a dog sitter. Talk and a win – win. I am starting my own financial overhaul. Check it out here – fififrugality.blogspot.com

  2. Johanna says:

    Are these the camping trips where you pull the leaves off the trees to put them under your sleeping bag? “Roaming around in the woods” for me, but not for thee, I guess.

  3. Tracy says:

    Your link to the Cooking Learning Curve one made me laugh, because Coq Au Vin is actually one of the simplest meals to cook. It’s basically a ‘brown chicken, throw everything in a pot’ sort of meal. The only real secret is using fresh/quality ingredients.

    Now, I love to cook, but I’ve read enough from people don’t to know that there are a LOT more reasons that people don’t than simple intimidation and I kinda find that article weird in general. Because I know a lot of people who don’t cook, but I’ve never heard of them using the ‘I can’t make [extremely complicated dish] as the reason why.’

    For example, one of my friends is an attorney – she’s often working 10+ hours every day and even on weekends, comes home exhausted, and just doesn’t have the time and inclination to cook. And when she does, she hasn’t gone shopping in a couple of weeks and any produce she’s bought has gone bad.

    I know other people who just honest-to-goodness don’t enjoy cooking. Not just the cleaning up part (which is the part I hate) but in general, because they find it boring or they have sensory issues and are disgusted by handling raw meat but have no inclination to go veg.

  4. marta says:

    Ha! Johanna, it seems that I wasn’t the only one who remembered that detail…

  5. Sonja says:

    Camping is great family activity and it is a great group activity, too, for extended family and/or friends with kids in the same age range as your own. I always enjoyed it but the Hamms are much more adverturous than I am…I could deal with diapers in a tent.

  6. Sonja says:

    *Could NOT deal with diapers, I meant to say.

  7. hasan says:

    Looks like you have a harmonious family, and you also have the free time to write this article. I am very proud. Can share tips so I can spend some time also to make writing like you.

  8. sutta says:

    Camping activities, I also never do it. Indeed, activities that can make us calm and our minds so Fress. Moreover, if we stress during work. I should be proud of you, because it can set a good time following a family, it’s good.

  9. Cindy says:

    Hi, greetings
    After reading an article you created, it looks like you are someone who can give more to the family. And you had a husband and father who became peer, you are worthy of holding up the thumb Extraordinary

  10. hasan says:

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  11. Jake says:

    As a child my wife would go camping. Her family was financially chanllenged so reading this article make sense why camping was the highlight of her summer.

  12. Stephanie says:

    I would like to camp but it is just too hot where I live during the summer. I can’t live without my a/c when it’s 100 degrees and seriously humid outside. I’m spoiled.

  13. Steven says:

    So if you’re dragging your laptop along with you wherever you go, when do you take a vacation? I have to be honest, it seems like an addiction…

    Surely people would understand if you said you were taking a week off from blogging to take a family vacation without distraction. Maybe you’d have more time if you only posted one post a day, or took weekends off, or both. I think it would improve the quality of your posts as well as give you more freedom to enjoy time with your family (which is the whole point of working from home, right?)

  14. jackie.n says:

    i agree with steven. even the ONLY restaurant in my parent’s small hometown shuts down for 2 weeks in the summer. shuts completely down. you employ one person–you–take a break.

  15. Vanessa says:

    I don’t cook more for a number of reasons. I have a tiny rental kitchen with little counter space and I’m unsure of the best way to arrange it to maximize efficiency. I also hate clean up. I don’t have a dishwasher and I hate washing dishes. If you enjoy cooking (and eating) you’ll find a way to make it work. But if you don’t, a tiny kitchen is a big deterrent to learning to cook.

  16. tentaculistic says:

    I really liked today’s links, I read one and then browsed around for more on the linked websites. I especially found ZenHabits to be thought-provoking. The bit about the cooking learning curve is so spot on… I would never consider myself an accomplished cook (no really, I’m not!), but my learning curve happened just like that. Pre-packaged frozen “skillet meals”, then Let’s Dish frozen meals I assembled from pre-cut fresh ingredients at their store following recipes, then getting super simple recipes, then experimenting just a little, and then going for slightly more complicated ones.

  17. Johanna says:

    @Vanessa: There’s also a plus side to having a small kitchen: You’re not tempted to overfill it with stuff (food and equipment) that you can’t reasonably use just for the sake of filling all the cabinets. You’re less likely to lose or forget about the stuff you do buy. And everything you need is more or less within arm’s reach.

    Do you *want* to learn to cook? If so, I encourage you to give it a try. Don’t worry too much about maximizing efficiency. Cooking shows on TV these days may give the impression that cooking is all about doing a million complicated things, and doing them all perfectly all the time, but that’s not reality at all. Every home cook makes mistakes sometimes, and does some things that aren’t perfectly efficient. (You do get better with practice, though.)

    If you’re trying to figure out how to get started, the tips in the linked article are really good: Start with some really simple stuff and go from there. And cut yourself plenty of slack to mess up once in a while.

  18. Esme says:

    Amazing how some people will look for any absurd little thing to criticize someone about. Even a simple innocent ‘I love camping with my family ‘ post has to be picked on in some way. Pack of jackals, I tell ya…

  19. kristine says:

    Wow- I’d be seriously peeved if my hubby took his laptop into the woods when we camp. You can’t get away from it all if you bring “the all” with you into the tent. The is a difference between work ethic and work paranoia. No one is so indispensable they cannot take a vacation.

    It is a worthwhile exercise in life, and in marriage, to have nothing at all but yourself and your partner (or family), and the great outdoors. No electronic crutches for lulls or free time or rainy days can lead to the best conversations and moments you will ever have.

  20. Katie says:

    Trent never said he didn’t take regular, non-working vacations – he said that by working on some vacations, they get to take more of them. That seems pretty reasonable to me.

  21. Sara says:

    One of the ways I save money when camping is to plan the meals out for the entire trip and make sure we only buy the items on the list.

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