How much will this cost?  Pretty big question, right?  I’ve analyzed it pretty religiously and have come up with a comfortable range that I think I’ll fall within.   I’ve been saving for almost two years now. Saving money, saving credit card points, saving gift cards. Everything.  I’ve also put away the money from every little side job I’ve come up with in that time, be it coaching, tutoring, proctoring the SAT, etc.  So long as I don’t exceed the high end of my anticipated costs, I should be able to cover the trip without emptying my short term savings.

I’ve broken down costs into a few categories:

  • Gasoline
  • Game tickets
  • Non-ticket game costs
  • Lodging
  • Food
  • Miscellaneous

Gasoline

This is the easiest cost to predict within a couple hundred dollars.  Gas prices right now are in really good shape across the country.  The current average is $2.38, a lower number to start summer than was anticipated at the start of the year.  The baseline for the trip is just under 13,000 miles.  To conservatively estimate the final miles driven, I’ll bump that up to 15,500 miles.  Let’s also assume an average gas cost of $2.55, another conservative estimate as gas prices typically are at their highest by July 4th.  My 2017 Mazda 3 safely gets 35 mpg on the freeway. Usually above 36 if it is completely freeway driving. Let’s again be conservative with a 32 mpg assumption.

(15,500 miles / 32 mpg) * $2.55 = $1,235

Game Tickets

The goal is to buy the cheapest ticket for every single game.  It’s tough to get a handle on what this averages out to without experiencing it.  Will I be able to snag dirt cheap tickets off StubHub or SeatGeek just hours before first pitch?  That’s the hope, but I’m still working on when is the best time to buy.

I’ve been tracking the ticket costs of the first 9 games over the past few weeks. If I were to buy now, the average cost of the first nine games would be just under $20.  With a couple cheap games (at Toronto, at Chicago White Sox, at Milwaukee), a couple more expensive weekend games (at Cincinnati, at St. Louis, at Seattle) and one especially expensive game (at Chicago Cubs on July 4th) I think it gives a good representative example of what I can expect throughout the trip.  For planning purposes, I’ll assume a $25 average. This is probably a conservative estimate since I’m sure I’ll be able to snag some dirt cheap tickets once I get a better handle on the market.

30 games * $25 per ticket = $750

Non-Ticket Game Costs

I’m not entirely sure how much control I’ll have over this category.  It’s safe to say I’ll spend a minimum of $10 at each game. I could go without spending anything, but compared to the overall cost of the trip, it’s worth enjoying a Dodger dog and a beer.  Parking is the one thing that I find most difficult to predict.  It’s my hope that I’ll be able to scour the Internet, take advantage of rides from friends and family, and simply be willing to walk a mile or two if needed to limit the cost of parking.  I suspect I’ll spend about $25 per game on non-ticket costs.  So, let’s be conservative again and bump that up to $30.

30 games * $30 in costs per game = $900

Lodging

There are 55 nights where I need a place to sleep.  A quick rundown of each night tells me I probably will be counting on friends and family for about 30 nights.  That leaves 25 nights.  I can safely say I’ll be camping at least 10 of those nights, likely more.  Most camp sites I’ll be at will be free, though there might be one or two sites (Devil’s Tower?  Olympic?  Crater Lake? ) where I bite the bullet and pay for a convenient campsite. Those can run around $20 a night.  There also may be some couch stays that don’t quite work out.  Let’s say I stay in a motel for 15 nights.  I think I can safely average $50 on motels for those 15 nights.  To be conservative, we’ll bump it up to 18 nights.

18 nights * $50 per night = $900

Food

Food is the wildcard and where I’ll work to be most disciplined.  PB&J and apples will always be in my cooler and I’ll work hard to buy as little convenient food on the road as I can… unless Wendy’s wants to hook me up with some gift cards for some nuggs!

Even accounting for meals with friends, I’m confident I can safely estimate spending no more than $25 a day on food.  In fact, I suspect it’ll be much less, especially when I’m camping.  But we’re looking for high-end estimates here, so let’s keep it at $25.

58 days * $25 per day = $1,450

Miscellaneous

A lot will pop up.  Maybe I decide to buy a t-shirt or two. Or go up in the Space Needle. Or get a little crazy at Wrigley with friends on the Fourth of July (you know that’s happening).  Tough to put a number on this.  I know I’ll be on the hook for a couple oil changes, but beyond that, this number is largely in my control. My annual National Park pass is valid through the end of August, so I won’t be spending any extra to get into National Parks and Monuments.

Sooo….. I don’t know.  Tough to say.  I’ll put it at $800. I don’t think it’ll be more, but who knows.

Analyzing the Total

If you passed second grade math, you see a total of just over $6,000. I truly think that’s high, despite the fact that you can never be conservative enough when planning a trip.  My goal is to keep it under $5,000.

Something to keep in mind, though, is that even if I spend $5,000 (or more), it’s not going to be $5,000 out of my bank account.  I would normally be spending two months worth of money of food and entertainment whether I was on the road or sitting at home, so there’s maybe $800 that I don’t quite count as “cost.”  Plus, over the past nearly two years I’ve saved up $350 worth of gas cards and plan to cash in another $350 worth of credit card points.  So, knock off another $700.

Ultimately, I expect the trip to deplete my short term savings by under $4000.  We’ll see how that goes and over the course of the summer I’ll be tracking every penny spent.

Now, if you know a guy who knows a guy who can get me a free ticket or two, I’d love to get that number lower!

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Posted by Tom Ward

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