Benefits of Book Keeping

Wish you had money to travel? Budget yourself to your goals!

Lots of our friends ask us how we afford to take a two week trip every three months while living on our own, and paying 3 auto loans. We both have regular, hourly paid, non commission jobs. Answer is, we budget! I feel most people think budgeting means restricting yourself which causes anxiety for some. Others may not understand where to start? But without it, Zach and I wouldn’t be able to afford these trips that we do.

If you want to start budgeting your money, here are the first three steps to take:

Begin Bookkeeping Your Expenses

I use excel to log everything related to money, like an accountant (which I’m not!) So first, you’ll need to back log your past two months to find out what you actually spend your money on. Separate it week by week to make it more organized.

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Categorize Your Spending Habits

Begin a new column next to what you wrote, and write a category next to each entry. Was it food, personal spending, gas money, etc.

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Once it’s categorized, add it up! Now you can look between the two months and find an average that you spend on each category.

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Create A Budget

Now that you know what is your norm spending, you can budget what you want it to be in order to achieve your side goals. Subtract your bill expenses from your income and see what is left over. From there, just distribute that money between the categories to decide what you will spend your money on.

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This is just a simple example, it can be as detailed as you’d like. But from here, it just takes self-control, monitoring, and patience!

 

Have questions? Ask us!

-Sam

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Asheville – What Not To Miss!

Sam and I had never been in a small town – not for an extended time, anyway, and arriving at the tiny, bo-dunk airport in Asheville came with a feeling of apprehension. The air was hot and humid and our cab driver was the Han Solo of cab drivers, jutting between traffic and tuning his police scanner to ensure we wouldn’t get pulled over. When we arrived at our little hotel, he smugly suggested a tip, adding, “Well you survived, didn’t you?”

We did survive, and despite the ride we got a pretty good impression of Asheville. Looking out of the window you couldn’t see an end to the green. The trees were healthy and thick and they crowded the mountains like a blanket. Rivers rushed along streets and under bridges and people were inner-tubing or kayaking – not the professional grade kayaking you might be picturing, more like the improvised “your cousin Billy has a slab of plastic that’ll float” type of kayaking.

Our hotel was a bit dingy, but cheap and close to bus stops so it did the trick. Our nightly routine here was getting a coffee at the iHop across the street; then coming back to our room and reading or watching Fresh Prince. If you travel, bring a book. Sometimes Fresh Prince isn’t on.

Downtown Asheville

DSC05169Downtown Asheville was about 5 minutes away from our hotel by bus. This was the only part of the city that actually felt like a city: tall, brick buildings and tons of little shops. Asheville’s community is passionate about preserving independent businesses, and everywhere in town we found signs plastered on the windows urging consumers to “Unchain Asheville”. While we were there, we tried to visit as many of these little establishments as possible. Our favorites? I’m glad you asked.

Best Shops

We love our food and we love our coffee, so top of our list are two cafés and a restaurant.

Wicked Weed Brewing

IMG_9050-1Beer and good food and even better ambience. We ate here twice, once as the sun cast heavy shadows over the narrow streets and we were able to enjoy all of it because of their amazing half indoor/half outdoor bar seating.

Double D’s Coffee

DSC05143The coffee was alright, a bit sweet, but the charm here is the fact that the café has been set up in an old English double decker bus.

The Rhu

DSC05205Again, the coffee wasn’t great but our experience was amplified by the fact that if you sneak upstairs to the third floor, there is an unused events space that was empty. Large windows and wooden chandeliers create an inspiring atmosphere and we spent some time reading here before a barista found us and kicked us out.

In addition to food and coffee, there are plenty of boutiques and knick-knack stores. My favorite shop was called Horse + Hero where we got a couple of shirts with amazing art by Andy Herod.

Best Views

In Asheville you can’t get away from the beautiful green mountains, but for some of the most picturesque moments you have to visit the Blue Ridge Mountains. We rented a uHaul truck to get around for $20 and also used it to visit the Biltmore Mansion, built by the badass George Vanderbilt. Make sure you do the wine tour here and then go pet some farm animals to sober up.

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Additionally, in order to get some good panoramas of downtown we climbed a fire escape to get some height. Drones are cheating.

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Overall, we were a bit underwhelmed with our visit to Asheville. To be fair, we did minimal research on the town and went in expecting something… grander. More to do, I suppose, for eager urban explorers. This was one of our first “let’s just go”/on the whim trips, and we’ve learned a lot since then. Maybe if we went again now we’d discover the secret charm little towns like Asheville keep tucked beneath layers of two-lane streets and single story homes.

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-Zach

Calico Tanks Trail – What A Beaut!

When you think Vegas your first thought might not be stunning mountains and diverse wildlife – well, some sort of wildlife, maybe – but just a few minutes out of the city you’ll find just that in Red Rock Canyon.

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I’ve been in Vegas for over a decade (on a side note, get me out) and have had lots of time to explore the hikes and sights of Red Rock. I just revisited one of my favorites and it reminded me why it’s always my go-to when introducing visitors to the canyon: Calico Tanks Trail.

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I like hikes with a big pay-off, and Calico Tanks delivers with amazing views of the Las Vegas Strip and a little swamp-like “tank” full of frogs and birds and dragonflies and bees and wasps and – well, the list gets less pleasant as it goes on but from a distance it’s a remarkable sight in the otherwise dry desert.

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The hike itself is classified as Moderate but honestly it’s very accessible thanks to the stone stairways that have been constructed throughout the trail. It’s about 2.5 miles there and back but it feels shorter because the scenery changes frequently.

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Go early in the morning and you’ll catch a lot of animals hopping about. I became a wildlife photographer with zero talent because literally anywhere I pointed the lens something was either flying or scuffling into my view.

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Here’s a picture of a mountain pigeon.
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Couldn’t get a clear picture of the smallest frog alive, but I sure got a ton of blurry ones!
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Dragonflies look uglier the closer you get.
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This one is my favorite. The bright blue contrasted so well against the red rocks. National Geographic you getting this?

At the very end of the hike you can see the Strip in the distance. It was a bit smoggy the morning I came here but I can imagine on clearer days you’d get the type of views you use for your laptop screensaver.

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All in all, Calico Tanks is an enjoyable and diverse hike. It’s a little different from any other Red Rock hike and that makes it perfect for newbies and veterans alike who want to see all the beautiful secrets the desert has to offer.

That last line was cheesy but really it’s a good hike.

-Zach

Chasing Waterfalls in Death Valley

If you thought all there was to Death Valley was sand and sand, think again.

Darwin Falls is modest – it’s not a thundering waterfall from Oregon or a tropical one from Hawaii, but it is a special one because it sits in the middle of Death Valley’s dry desert landscape. Because I’m obsessed with waterfalls (and there really aren’t that many in the desert) I spent the day on a 2-lane highway looking for it.

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If you’ve never been to Death Valley, there are plenty of stops you can make here. Lots of beautiful and historic sights along the way; from vast salt flats in the Badwater Basin to stunning views of bronze colored hills at Zabriskie Point. The drive through Death Valley feels like a journey through the desert’s greatest hits.

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Alternatively, if you’re like me and have been knees deep in desert for the past 10 years, well, then there’s more of that here.

How to get there

The exit for the Darwin Falls trail is unmarked, so finding this gem is a bit of a challenge. If you’re coming out of Vegas, follow the CA-90 west until you hit the Panama Springs Resort. Once you pass the resort (“resort” is a kind term) the road is going to curve to the right, and afterwards an unmarked gravel road is going to present itself on the left side.

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You can drive this gravel road (my bike wasn’t happy about it but the street tires pulled through just fine) for about 2.5 miles until you get to the trailhead. From here, it’s a very short and enjoyable walk to the falls as things start to get greener and water begins streaming along the trail.

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There was nobody there when I came, so bring some food and bring a book and enjoy the tranquility. Darwin Falls is a spectacular sight in contrast to its surroundings and I highly recommend it to anybody visiting Death Valley. If you can find the exit, the trail only takes about 15 minutes so it’s perfect sightseeing material!

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Pit stop

If you’re hungry on your way to Death Valley, there’s a charming little hotel/café/opera house (you read that right!) at the 190 and the 127 freeway junction called the Amargosa Opera House.

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I came too early for the opera house to be open but the food was fancy (and pricey) and the coffee was good, and ultimately as long as there is good coffee I’m happy.

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-Zach