Summer is waning here in the Pacific Northwest. The leaves are beginning to change and the rains are coming, a sure sign, the best days of summer are behind us.
As summer turns to fall, I like to reflect on the fun times our family shared in the months gone by.
It reminded me of a story I wanted to share with you of finding an unconventional solution to a conventional problem.
In a recent post, A Tale Of Two Camping Adventures: Frugal And Free, I told you of a wonderful camping trip to the quaint Bavarian town of Leavenworth, Washington.
What I did not tell you was the struggle of packing all of the camping supplies for this 3 night, 4-day adventure, into a Honda Accord.
Oh, and did I mention, my children wanted to take a friend. Yep, 5 souls and all accompanying gear were packed into a Honda Accord. This was no small feat. Tents, sleeping bags, camp stove, and food. All of these camping prerequisites take up an enormous amount of space.
This year, while packing what felt like 2 tons of camping equipment into the aforementioned Honda Accord. My wife says, “We should really think about buying an SUV.” That statement really shook me.
The Conventional Problem
My initial thought was, yeah, sure, whatever. But it got me thinking. How many people spend their way out of a problem that could be solved with an unconventional solution. By that I mean, is there a way to solve your problem unconventionally, by finding an alternate solution that may not be perfect but will work?
The easy solution would be to buy an SUV or even a camping trailer. Lord knows, how many thousands of people have purchased a camping trailer to only find they use it 3 times per year. Either of those glorious choices would solve our problem for small monthly payment of $600.
As I wrestled with my wife’s suggestion of purchasing an SUV. I realized, we take 2 family camping trips per summer. Aside from those 2 camping trips, 99% of our life is served just fine with a 4 door Honda Accord. As suburban dwellers, our family spends about 4% of our life in a vehicle. Sure a larger SUV would help immensely with cargo capacity.
A new vehicle would be the second most expensive purchase in our life, second only to our mortgage. I am, and always will be, resistant to taking on such an expensive purchase in order to solve a problem that only affects 1% of our life.
It is the 1% of the time that compels us to spend money we don’t have or in some cases, have but shouldn’t spend.
The Unconventional Solution
With the idea of buying an SUV for our camping trip vetoed, it was time to start looking for an unconventional solution
Most problems in life can be solved, or at least, mitigated, by throwing money at a solution. The first thought that came to my head while preparing to load the camping gear was that we need a roof rack and cargo carrier for our car.
After a quick trip around the internet, I learned that a brand name roof rack and cargo carrier would cost around $1500. While this is much cheaper than a new SUV, it was still not a viable option in my frugal mind.
While looking at at the cargo carriers, I stumbled upon cargo bags. Ah hah! for approximately $50 I could buy a PVC coated, heavy duty, waterproof bag, that straps to the top of the car. Bingo! At the risk of looking like the Griswalds car off of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, this would be the unconventional solution I was looking for.
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With little time left before departure, I zoomed over to our friendly neighborhood Walmart and picked up a rooftop bag. My son spotted a bicycle rack that would attach to the trunk of the car. After already telling him there would be no way to take his bike camping, I thought, what the heck, we’ll buy that contraption too. For $100 we had bought a bike rack and a cargo carrier, turning our Honda Accord into a virtual camping machine.
Is this being frugal or forcing interaction?
When you look back on your days when your children were young, do you think, man we were sure crowded when we went camping? No, being crowded forces you to engage and interact with one another. Because space was limited, my children played together and interacted in ways they do not do on a day to day basis in the comforts of our large home.
During the car ride, they played cards. While tent camping they told stories. Absent the video games and various electronics, my children were forced to adapt and overcome the lack of convenience and space. Camping is supposed to be this way, get uncomfortable, put aside your bias to always be comfortable and engage.
If you would like to see some of my Instagram posts from that August camping trip, you can Follow me on Instagram here.
In this post I am giving away a camping secret about my favorite camping mug.
Have you solved a problem in your life by unconventional means? Please share your stories in the comments section.