Hiking Every Weekend Saved Me Hundreds of Dollars

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Two summers ago, I spent every weekend doing the same exact thing. Remarkably, it didn’t get repetitive and I somehow didn’t tire of it. It also cost me next to nothing to do—and ended up saving me hundreds of dollars that summer.

That favorite free activity I set my alarm for every Saturday? Hiking.

Before you roll your eyes at this very commonplace thing to do, hear me out. I spent most weekends in 2018 hiking because I was writing a guidebook called “50 Hikes in Eastern Massachusetts“. To write it, I completed all 50 hikes on Saturdays and Sundays over an eight-month period. But even before I set out on those hikes, I had to do extensive research on the best trails in the area. Naturally, I organized them into a spreadsheet—a spreadsheet that became my lifeline and a very good, sometimes frustrating, albeit necessary, excuse for when friends invited me to brunch.

My diligent hiking schedule saved me money for one main reason: It was free to do, save for gas and a few paltry parking fees. Sticking to my schedule for the sake of the book simply meant I wouldn’t skip a day to go to a concert or a beer garden. So while comparing my summer spending to previous years, I realized hiking every weekend is a genius (and wonderfully structured) way to save hundreds of dollars in weekend hangs and entertainment.

Hiking, of course, has been one of the go-to activities during the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders. Plus, there aren’t a whole lot of pricey events happening these days tempting you to spend money on them. That doesn’t mean budgets have been curtailed or that you’re necessarily saving money, though. From backyard kiddie pools to takeout cocktails, the things you buy to stave off pandemic dread can add up.

That’s why making a hiking schedule is so useful. Not only does it prevent you from spending, but it creates structure—something that has been desperately hard to find lately. The ability to stick to a plan in 2020, however small, feels damn good. And I think it’s worth a shot.

To make a hiking spreadsheet of your own, I recommend starting by creating columns for the trail or park name, where it’s located, and the time it’ll take to get there, so you can sort accordingly when you’re trying to figure out where to go every week. Then, create a few columns for things you like about getting outside. Possibilities include elevation (if you love climbing), flowers or gardens (if you anticipate going crazy with a flower identification app like I often do), birdwatching (if it’s a good spot for sightings), and more. If you’re fond of planning ahead, you can even add the days and times that you plan to complete each hike.

The trick here, though, is to stick to the plan once you’ve drawn it up. Then, completing each hike on the list becomes a goal to work toward (and another concrete reason to forgo outdoor dining). By the end of the season, you’ll have saved money, exercised, explored new places, and, perhaps best of all, created a robust log of your favorite hikes—all thanks to a trusty spreadsheet.

Madeline Bilis

Real Estate and Finance Editor

Madeline Bilis is a writer and editor with a soft spot for brutalist buildings. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Boston magazine, the Boston Globe, and other outlets. She has a degree in journalism from Emerson College and published her first book, 50 Hikes in Eastern Massachusetts, in August 2019.

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