Visiting National Parks on a Budget

Traveling the National Parks on a Budget

America’s national parks are legendary: You can probably conjure up images of Old Faithful at Yellowstone, El Capitan at Yosemite, and the Great Smoky Mountains without too much trouble. But what you may not realize is that our country’s network of over 400 national parks can also be a terrific, budget-friendly vacation destination.

Planning a road trip to a national park with the family or your BFFs can be an amazing way to see the natural beauty of the U.S. And it’s a popular idea: In 2022, the parks welcomed 312 million visitors, up 5% from the previous year.

By doing some prep work, you can be among those travelers who revel in the iconic landscapes of the parks while having an environmentally friendly, low-cost adventure. Here, you’ll learn the ropes, from advice on destinations to ideas for keeping expenses down.

Cheap National Parks to Visit

Unlike other standard vacation destinations (theme parks, etc.), most national parks don’t charge an entrance fee. Over two-thirds of these sites, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, are free to enter. So the vast majority of these destinations are indeed cheap national parks to visit!

Even if you choose one that does charge, you’ll most likely pay by the carload, like the 7-day pass for your group at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado for $35. The ever-popular Yosemite and Acadia National Parks charge the same fee.

If you want to see which parks charge a fee, check out the National Park Service’s website .

Here’s an important warning, however: During peak times, you may need a reservation simply to drive into a park. You may gain admission if you have another kind of reservation (hotel room, say, or campsite), but double-check. Keep this top of mind if you are thinking you can just cruise on over and take selfies at, say, Half Dome for a day in August. Probably not going to happen without advance planning.

You can also take advantage of fee-free days. The National Park Service selects certain holidays and special occasions each year to offer admission-free entrance to everyone. So, you can visit over 400 sites at no cost in 2023, like on Great American Outdoors Day on August 4.

To find parks conveniently located near you, use the National Park Service’s “Find a Park ” tool online. Then you can compare options and see what type of landscape you’d most like to visit.

Setting a Budget for Visiting National Parks

If you have a vacation in mind, you might have already started budgeting for it. Saving money for a trip is an important step and allows you to explore the world guilt-free. But to make the most out of your visit to a national park, you need to know exactly what type of costs to expect. That way, you never have to worry about not having enough money on hand to enjoy yourself.

Here are some expenses you should account for in your national parks budget.

Food & Drink

Saving money on a road trip is often challenging since you don’t have all your basic necessities ready at your disposal. That includes food and drink, whether your style is more drive-through or sit-down dining or “I’m happy to cook for myself.” You’ll need to factor the cost of meals into your travel budget.

One budget-smart option is to rent a cabin with a kitchen. With that, you can pick up groceries once you arrive and cook your meals instead of ordering out. That’s a big savings right there!

You may not be the type to cook on vacation, though. If not, you can look for affordable options near you for meals. But keep in mind: You’ll need to budget for your three meals a day, plus you’ll probably want some water and a snack here and there, lots of liquids to fuel you on hikes, and perhaps to go out for a beer or two one evening. There will likely be taxes and possibly tips involved. See how it all adds up and what you can afford.

One very dollar-smart move to stay well-fed and not blow your budget: Use a backpack cooler. If you want to spend your days hiking and walking, you’re going to get thirsty and hungry pretty quickly. You can load a cooler up with protein bars, nuts, apples, and granola, preventing you from buying potentially pricey food throughout the day.

Gas & Travel

When it comes to the expense of traveling to national parks, the nice news is that a destination might be closer than you think. Many of us hear the phrase “national park” and think of large, sweeping spots in the West, like the Grand Canyon. But that’s just one iconic site. There are actually hundreds of places in the U.S. under the National Park Service’s care, from historic sites to scenic trails. So you may not have to plan out a cross-country trip to enjoy what this country has to offer.

However, if you have to travel a significant distance, why not whittle your transportation costs? For example, if you need to fly, it can pay to be flexible with your dates and look for the lowest possible fare. Sites like Expedia and Kayak can notify you when prices drop on flights you are interested in. Another smart move is to pack light so you won’t pay those ouch-inducing baggage fees.

Perhaps you’re driving to your destination, though. If you want to improve gas mileage and get the most out of your trip, try to choose a park that isn’t isolated. For example, there are multiple national parks near Las Vegas, such as Death Valley National Park and Zion National Park, which are about two and a quarter hours apart. Once you’re at Zion, you might decide to hop over to Bryce Canyon National Park, barely an hour and a half away, and see the incredible rock formations known as hoodoos.

You’ll be able to visit multiple parks without too much drive time, save money on gas, and see all the more spectacular sights. It may be the best way to travel around America on a budget.

Recommended: Guide to Renting a Car


You know the law of supply and demand: When demand is high, supply gets scarce — and potentially pricey. With that in mind, note that the peak season for visiting national parks is summer. Kids are off from school, temperatures are warmer, and international travelers may visit our lovely landscapes. So that means bigger crowds, which impacts local lodging. It will be harder to find accommodations, and their prices will be higher, too.

Because of this, it’s best to book your lodging in advance so you don’t get shut out of affordable rooms. National Parks have a wide range of accommodations; during spring 2023 at Yosemite, for instance, rooms ranged from $101 to $500+ a night. A location farther out from the park will be cheaper as well. Those who accumulate points on a travel credit card or cash back rewards credit card may find lodging nearby at a discount.

Of course, that’s not your only option. You can also rent an RV or stay at a campground. If you choose to camp, check to see if you need a reservation. At national parks, the average price is around $20 per night, though prices can range from $5 to $30 or so. These sites usually offer electricity hookups, water, camp stores, and fire rings. Research what your campground offers to help plan out your packing needs. If you snag one of these spots at a free-admission park and already have tents and other gear on hand, congrats! You may have scored one of the cheapest national park visits to be found.

Activities and Entertainment

If you have never visited a national park before, you might not know what they offer. While part of their appeal is just being in the great outdoors and soaking in the views, you also have activities available to you. There may be anything from guided walks and museums to talks and films, and they all typically come at no extra cost. It can be a great way to learn about local wildlife, fossils, history, and more.

In addition to that, you might seek other activities. For instance, if you are visiting Florida’s Everglades National Park, perhaps you want to go on a kayak adventure with a guide. It can be a terrific way to see the mangroves and sawgrass marshes the area is famous for. That will be an additional cost to keep in mind.

There’s also every chance that you may pass all kinds of mini-golf, waterparks, multiplexes, and other attractions as you explore the area near a national park. If a vacation isn’t a vacation without indulging in these offerings, factor that into your budget, too.

Permits & Passes

Again, most parks are available to the public for free. But if you want to visit multiple national parks, consider opting for a National Park Annual Pass. It typically costs $80 ($20 for seniors) and gives you unlimited entrance to over 2,000 federal recreation areas, such as national parks.

Recommended: How Credit Card Travel Insurance Works

Saving for Your Travel

Saving up for your trip can be pretty straightforward. One way is to set up a dedicated travel fund. Separating your vacation money from your regular savings account will make your progress that much easier to track. You can also maximize your savings by setting up automatic contributions to your travel fund. That way, you never forget to put in a few dollars on payday.

If that sounds appealing, you need to pick the correct type of account. Some options, like a high yield bank account, promise higher interest rates than your standard version. However, your choice will depend on your timeline. For example, someone taking a trip in a year has more time to accrue interest than someone taking a trip within a few months.

Let’s say you don’t have much time, though. Even if you can’t build much in the way of interest, you can still find extra cash in your life. You might need to budget a bit differently. For example, if you have a streaming service membership, you can cancel that for a while. Or perhaps you can pick up a side hustle on the weekends, whether that means driving for a rideshare service or walking dogs.

The Takeaway

Vacations are a time to relax, enjoy yourself, and make memories with your loved ones. The last thing you need is for that time away to leave you deeply in debt and saddled with stress. That’s why a trip to a national park can be such a terrific destination: You’ll explore the great outdoors but can do so without breaking the bank, thanks to low fees, free activities, and the smart saving advice you learned here.

Are you considering a week wandering around Yellowstone? Or maybe a weekend at a nearby park? Or just looking to stash some cash while you figure things out? We’re here for you! SoFi Checking and Savings offers eligible accounts a competitive APY. That means your money grows faster. And we are devoted to being account fee-free, with no monthly or minimum-balance charges.

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Is it expensive to visit national parks?

In many cases, it’s a more affordable vacation than other options. Over two-thirds of national parks offer free admission year-round. Plus, there are many throughout the country, meaning you can pick one that’s close and may not have to spend much on travel costs. The main expenses will come from your lodging, food, and additional activities.

How many days should you spend at a national park?

The length of your stay should depend on the type of itinerary you want to build and the size of the park you are visiting. There are many itineraries for Yosemite online that involve staying three to five days, but you could certainly spend much longer or shorter periods of time. Worth noting: Some smaller parks and historic sites may not be open every day. Larger parks may close due to weather events. Always check in with a park (either online or by calling) beforehand.

How much does it cost on average to visit a national park?

Most national parks are free. The National Park Service allows you to see the entrance rates for each fee-charging national park. Use their listings to see if the park you want to visit charges an entrance fee. The per-vehicle prices are often between $20 to $35 for seven days.

Photo credit: iStock/MargaretW

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To Tip or Not to Tip — And How Much?

Travel is an amazing way to see the world, make new discoveries, and immerse yourself in the local culture. And planning your trip can be a thrill too, as you suss out a boutique hotel with a rooftop bar, the best sunset sail experience, plus must-see restaurants and stores.

As you plan, you are likely sticking to a budget, but don’t overlook one area: tipping. When you travel, especially abroad, it’s helpful to know the local customs. In some countries, tipping is a must. In others, it’s optional, and in a few, it’s considered downright rude.

Are you ready to learn the ropes? Here’s your cheat sheet on:

•   Who should you tip when traveling?

•   How much should you tip when you travel?

•   In which countries don’t you tip?

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Who Should You Tip While on Vacation?

As you travel, there are many people you could tip: the ones who help you into the airport, out of the airport, into your hotel, out again, into a taxi…the list goes on and on. Most people want to be polite and tip appropriately but don’t want to burn through more money than they have to.

To help you manage this aspect of travel, here are some of the people you probably do want to tip, plus some insight into how much to tip.

Luggage attendants can help get your luggage from the curb at the airport to the check-in counter. You can definitely manage the process on your own, but if you’re wrangling young kids, traveling with pets, or simply packed extra-jumbo bags so you’d have loads of outfits to choose among, it’s nice to get help.

Traditionally, it’s polite to tip $2 for your first bag and $1 for any additional luggage. If your bags are legitimately humongous, consider tipping the full $2 for each one. This expense can’t go on your airline credit card or any other kind of plastic, so be sure to keep cash on you.

Note: Airline employees stationed outside the airport may not be able to accept tips, so be prepared for your bills to be rebuffed if one of these workers assists you.

Car valets park and return your car directly from the curb of hotels and restaurants. It’s a major convenience and generally deserves a monetary thank-you. How much to tip? In the $1 to $5 range when your car is returned to you. Tipping when your wheels are first whisked away is generous, though not necessary.

Housekeepers should be tipped each day during your stay, whether you splurged on luxe accommodations or figured out how to save on hotels and booked a rock-bottom rate. Housekeepers freshen your room, replace those damp towels, and otherwise make it a pleasure to return after a long day of visiting museums, lolling on the beach, or whatever else you’ve been up to.

The best method is to leave the cash in a marked envelope (some hotels provide them for just this purpose) or folded in some hotel stationery that is clearly marked “For Housekeeping.” Best practice suggests $3 to $5 each day of your stay.

Room service is a luxurious treat during vacation. Some hotels automatically include a gratuity on your bill. If you don’t see it on your receipt, however, the answer to the “to tip or not to tip” quandary is that it’s likely a good idea to add 15% to 20%, just as you would in a restaurant.

Drivers help in a few different travel scenarios. If you’re taking a taxi or rideshare, consider tipping either $4 to $5 for short rides and 10% to 20% for long rides. Add an extra tip if the driver helps with your luggage. It’s also customary to tip shuttle drivers, typically from $1 to $5 depending on the size of your party.

Tour guides share their expertise and passion with you, as they lead you around the best snorkeling spots in Tulum or show you the hidden treasures of Paris. Their services can be a memorable highlight of your summer travel plans, so it’s nice to tip them, especially when you have a great experience. An easy rule of thumb is to tip 10% to 20% of the tour’s cost for your group.

Why Tipping Is Important

Tipping is by no means a requirement, but in many economies throughout the world (including the U.S.), it’s a way to help workers make ends meet. Many service industry employees are not guaranteed minimum wage.

In fact, in most states in America, there is a much lower minimum wage for tipped employees; hourly rates can dip below $3. While economic policies are a larger discussion, the fact of low wages can help put things in perspective and show the very real value of rewarding workers for a job done well.

For this reason, when budgeting for an upcoming trip, it’s wise to think about your plans, estimate a tip budget, and include that as part of where you keep your travel fund. It’s one of those incidentals that can add up and throw your financial planning out of whack if not accounted for.

Also, since tips are often given in cash rather than plastic (sorry, you can’t reap those credit card rewards this way), you may want to plan ahead to get some foreign currency for this purpose.

Recommended: How Families Can Afford to Travel

Tipping Guidelines by Destination

You likely do a good amount of research before traveling, scoping out cool hotels, amazing restaurants, and an affordable car rental. So why not, before your next trip, familiarize yourself with tipping customs in different parts of the world? It’ll help you prepare for the costs coming your way and make you feel more comfortable and in control while traveling. Here’s some useful intel:


Across the U.S., it’s customary to tip up to 20% for restaurant servers, bartenders, and drivers. In some cities, like New York, the answer to “How much to tip?” is nudging up to 22% or even 25%.


If you’re planning an epic trip to France, Spain, Italy, or other European countries, service tips may already be included in your restaurant bill in Europe. Look on the menu; it will probably say so. If it’s not, a maximum 10% tip is recommended. When it comes to your hotel stay, you might tip one euro per bag if a staffer helps you, and leave one euro per day for housekeeping.

Mexico and the Caribbean

Whether you’re heading to Cancun, Mexico City, or the Bahamas, be prepared to tip. Restaurant gratuities usually average between 10% and 20% in Mexico and the Caribbean.

If you’re staying at a resort, remember to keep cash on hand for bellhops, housekeeping, and other employees. Typically, a dollar or two per day/interaction is appropriate.

Central and South America

Heading to Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, or beyond? Here’s the scoop: The standard tip rate for Latin America is 10% in restaurants. Some countries (like Brazil) may include the gratuity in your bill, so look carefully at the check before paying for your feijoada. Not sure? There’s no harm asking your server; you’re likely not the first person to do so.

When it comes to hotel staff and drivers, you’ll need a dollar or two (or the equivalent), so it’s wise to have some cash stashed in advance.

Recommended: Where to Find Book Now, Pay Later Travel

Places You Probably Don’t Have to Tip

Here’s a travel budget bonus: There are a number of countries you might visit that do not have a tipping custom. In fact, it may even be considered rude or insulting to leave a tip. So before you add a tip when paying with your travel credit card or plunking down cash, double-check local etiquette. Here, some pointers:


Tipping is not vital when Down Under. Compared to the U.S. and many other countries, Australia has a high minimum wage. That’s one of the reasons why tipping in the service industry is seen as optional.


If you are going to be exploring China, know that tipping is actually taboo there. And in some places like airports, it’s illegal because it can be seen as a bribe. Stay polite and safe by skipping the tip.


Heading to Tokyo, Kyoto, or other locations in Japan? Heads up: Tipping is not customary in Japan and is actually considered rude. Although it may feel odd, when wondering whether to tip or not to tip, just don’t do it. Save your money for more shopping or sushi.


Iceland and Scandinavia typically don’t expect you to tip. You might round up a restaurant tab if there isn’t already a service charge added, but these aren’t countries where a 20% gratuity is routine. Taxi drivers don’t expect tips either.

The Takeaway

Preparing for a trip often involves budgeting, and a key way to wind up on or under your budget is to anticipate what costs are coming your way. Tips are one of those incidentals it’s easy to forget about and can throw your financial planning for a loop. By understanding local tipping customs, you can have a smooth, on-budget trip wherever you may go. What’s more, you’ll know exactly what to expect so you can travel with confidence.

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Are tourists always expected to leave a tip?

It depends on where you’re staying. Countries in North and South America, Europe, and Africa typically have tipping customs, particularly at restaurants and resorts. But Asian and Pacific countries like Australia, Japan, and China often do not incorporate tipping into their cultures — and it can even seem impolite.

Who are you supposed to tip at the airport?

In many countries (with China being an exception), it’s polite to tip a baggage handler who carries your luggage to the check-in counter.

How much do you tip internationally?

Research each country individually to understand tipping customs. While it’s traditional in many foreign countries, it’s also rude (and sometimes illegal) to tip in others.

Photo credit: iStock/DragonImages

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Does Auto Insurance Roadside Assistance Cover Keys Locked in a Car?

Does Auto Insurance Roadside Assistance Cover Keys Locked in a Car?

Roadside assistance coverage is designed to help motorists in trouble get back on the road. That usually includes helping drivers who have locked their keys in their car. Keep in mind that some plans place an annual limit on the number of calls for service or the amount they’ll reimburse you for specific services — including lockout assistance.

Read on for more information about what to expect when you sign up for auto insurance roadside assistance.

How Much Does It Cost to Unlock a Car?

If you don’t have roadside assistance and lock your keys in the car, expect to pay as much as $300 to have a locksmith come to your aid. The price varies depending on several factors, including the time of day, age and model of your car, and how far the locksmith has to drive. If you’re close to where the locksmith is working and your call comes in during normal business hours, the cost could be closer to $75 to $150.

There may be additional fees, however, if you’ve lost your key completely (rather than locking it in the car) and the locksmith has to cut a new one for you.

But if you do have roadside assistance coverage, all or some of the cost could be covered. Some plans cover getting you back into the car, for example, but not the cost of a replacement key, key fob, or repair of a damaged keypad.

Recommended: Ways to Save Money on Car Maintenance

Should You Call Roadside Assistance to Unlock Your Car?

When deciding whether to call roadside assistance to unlock your car, think safety first. If you’ve had an accident, you’ve locked a pet or child in the car, or you feel in danger in some way, make your first call 911.

But if you feel safe, roadside assistance is probably your best bet. You’ll get help quickly and with the least amount of risk to you, any passengers, and your vehicle. (Just remember to program the number into your phone.)

Recommended: How Does Car Insurance Work

Common Roadside Assistance Service Benefits

Roadside assistance can be useful when you’re stranded on the side of the road and need a repair or some other type of service. This can be especially important for seniors, first-time drivers, people with a physical disability, and parents of young children.

Here are some of the most common circumstances for which a motorist might use roadside assistance:


If your car can’t be quickly or safely repaired or restarted where it is, roadside assistance can have it towed to a nearby qualified repair shop.

Battery Jump-start

Roadside assistance can jump-start a dead battery. In some cases, they may be able to install a new battery on site.

Flat Tire Change

Sometimes it just isn’t possible to get out and change your own tire on the roadway. Roadside assistance providers are trained to take care of flats on scene — if you have a spare available — or have your car towed to a location where the tire can be changed.

Emergency Fuel or Electric Car Battery Charge

If you run out of gas, roadside assistance may offer free fuel delivery to your location. And if the battery on your electric vehicle needs a charge, you may be able to have your car towed to the nearest charging station at no cost. (However, expect to pay for the fuel or the battery charge.)

Recommended: What Does Car Insurance Cover

How to Choose the Right Roadside Service Provider

Before you go shopping for coverage, check to see if it’s already provided by your auto insurance, vehicle manufacturer, credit card company, or an organization with which you’re associated. Customer reviews can indicate how reliable a provider is.

Be aware that some plans that come with a new car cover you for only a limited period of time, from a few months (as with a free trial) to a few years (such as the length of your limited warranty).

Roadside assistance is typically offered for an annual fee. Some plans provide only the basics (which usually includes lockout service), while others offer several tiers of benefits. When choosing your level of coverage, know that cheaper plans often have lower limits on the numbers of calls you can place, or cover only a portion of towing and other services. Read the fine print to make sure you understand what you’re getting.

Has your insurance gone up after an accident? If you’re doing some personal insurance planning, see how a new SoFi auto policy might fit in your overall strategy. You may be able to lower your car insurance premiums by bundling it with other types of insurance coverage.

Recommended: Car Insurance Terms, Explained

Ways To Get Your Car Open If You’re Locked Out

Locking your keys in your car is a maddening experience, especially when you’re running late or alone in a dark parking lot. If you’re stressed out, you may want to call for help right away. But if you’re up for trying a DIY break-in, here are a few tips.

Use a Wire Hanger

If your car has a manual lock, you can try threading a hanger or similar tool through the rubber gasket around the driver’s side window and into the door frame to pull up the lock-pin. Keep in mind that this method can damage your car, which could cost more than waiting for a pro.

Go Through the Trunk

If your trunk is open, you might be able to access the backseat. Check to see if there’s a panel you can push that allows you to crawl through to the car’s main interior.

Turn Your Phone Into a Digital Key

If you’ve already added a digital car key to your smartphone, now is the time to try it out!

Get the Key Code to Make a New Key

After the roadside assistance service person verifies that the car you want to get into is yours, he or she may be able to get the key code from the manufacturer or dealer (or by using decoding tools) and cut you a new metal key.

Recommended: What’s the Cheapest Way to Rent a Car?

The Takeaway

Roadside assistance programs typically cover a wide range of problems that befall motorists for an annual fee. The most common service calls are lockouts, flat tires, battery jump-starts, and emergency fuel delivery when you’ve run out of gas. Most plans consider lockouts a basic service, but you should check the fine print on your plan to verify what’s included.

Did you know that SoFi can help you find the best auto insurance policy for your needs? SoFi offers a true comparison shopping experience, and provides an apples-to-apples comparison against your existing policy to find you a great deal. SoFi can walk you through the whole research process, from explaining about different types of insurance deductibles to offering tips on how to save on car maintenance costs.

SoFi Auto Insurance: Real rates, with no bait and switch.


How does roadside assistance open a locked car?

A roadside assistance service provider will likely have several different tools available to pop or pick a car lock, or they may be able to cut a new key for you. If all else fails, your car can be towed to a location where the car can be worked on.

What should you do if your car is locked and the keys are inside?

If you’ve locked in a child or pet, or you feel in danger, call 911 right away. But if you feel safe and you’re looking to get help quickly and with the least amount of risk to you and your vehicle, a call to roadside assistance can be a good choice.

Can 911 help with locked keys in a car?

911 was created to deal with emergencies, and it will be up to the dispatcher to decide how to prioritize your call. If an officer is dispatched, or if one sees you stranded and pulls over to help, you still may have to wait for a locksmith with the proper tools or a tow truck.

Photo credit: iStock/ronstik

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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13 Helpful Tips for You to Afford Moving Out

Moving out of your parental home for the first time can be incredibly exciting: It’s a major milestone in the process of adulting and becoming independent. You’ll likely be paying your own way, keeping your own hours, decorating it as you see fit, and having friends over often.

But despite this anticipation, the process of moving out can also be daunting. Living on one’s own is expensive. It has recently been especially pricey, thanks to inflation and a scarcity of housing. Add to that the fact that when we’re younger, we tend to have lower incomes, and it can be a tremendous financial challenge to afford living on your own.

That being said, with smart money management, it is indeed possible to afford to move out. To help you get a good plan in place and make your dream a reality, keep reading. You’ll learn:

•   How to afford to move out, including the upfront costs

•   How to know how much rent you can afford

•   Tips for making moving out more affordable.

How to Financially Prepare to Live on Your Own

Upfront Costs and Regular Bills

Let’s say a friend clues you in on a great deal on an apartment rental and says to hurry and get an application in. Just a minute, please! Before you can move out, you need to make sure you can truly afford to do so.

Start your research by tallying up all upfront costs and regular bills you’ll need to pay such as rent, auto and renters insurance, utilities, cell phone, and groceries. After calculating all necessary expenses, see how much room is left in your budget for extras like dining out or traveling.

Also consider the one-time hits your finances will take when you head out on your own: There may be broker’s fees, moving expenses (more on that in a minute), and other charges, as well as the price of buying furniture and other items for your home.

By looking at your budget this way, you can get an idea of whether you can comfortably afford to move out or if you need to wait a little bit longer to make a move work financially. You want there to be some breathing room in your budget so you don’t wind up putting necessities on your credit card and racking up debt.

Steps to Afford Moving Out

Now that you have an overview of costs and expenses, it’s time to take the next step and drill down on understanding what you can afford, when you’re ready to move out, and how to navigate a move more easily.
These steps will help you get your own place without going broke.

1. Assessing How Much Rent You Can Afford

Are you asking yourself, How can I afford to move out? If so, you are likely most focused on how much rent you can pay. You’ll want to come up with a range of how much rent you can take on while still managing your other necessary bills, such as student loans, health insurance, and car payments.

Tally up all your expenses and subtract that from your monthly after-tax income to see how much room is left in your budget and if the amount you can afford to pay is doable in your area. If you’re feeling as if you can’t quite come up with the necessary rent, you may want to consider how to move to another state or a nearby city that’s more affordable.

2. Considering a Roommate Situation

If it’s too hard to afford rent all on your own, you can think about having a roommate to help share the expenses with. Not to mention, having a roommate can make moving out for the first time feel a lot less lonely.

3. Researching Homes and Locations

Speaking of rent: Whether you plan to rent or buy when you move out, you need to do some research on different housing opportunities in different areas. That way, you can see where you can get the most bang for your buck while still meeting your personal goals.

For instance, if you really value having a short commute, you might search for a studio instead of a one-bedroom apartment in the neighborhood you are targeting, if one-bedroom units are pricey. Or, if you are a young single person hoping to rent a house, see what kind of prices you find in a neighborhood that’s adjacent to the one you are targeting or choose to go farther afield. You might find better deals due to more housing supply. A relocation loan at a low interest rate could help make the transition more affordable, especially if you will be saving a good amount on your monthly costs.

Recommended: How to Buy a House Out of State

4. Researching the Cost of Movers

If you have a fair amount of things to move, it’s important to budget for the cost of movers. Yes, a friend with a van may be able to help with some smaller items, but things like a queen-size bed typically require movers.

Depending on how much you have to move and how far the move is (25 miles? 250?), your costs could be a few hundred or thousands. Get a couple of estimates from companies that come and actually eyeball how much you have.
This will help keep these common moving expenses down in a “no surprises” way. Also, be sure to find out whether moving materials are included; you might be charged for boxes, tape, and moving blankets. Inquire about “drive time” to and from your locations, which you may be billed for. Also remember that if you run out of steam and need help packing, it will cost you.

Recommended: The Ultimate Moving Checklist

5. Not Making Any Excuses

It’s easy to think, “I can’t afford to move out” or “Rentals are hopelessly expensive” and give up (or at least procrastinate for a good long time). But if there’s a will there’s a way. Finding your motivation and patience can be crucial to taking this step and getting your own place.

It’s common to get complacent when moving forward feels hard. If you do have to remain living with your parents or another family member while you save up to move out, keep your eye on the prize. Set up alerts for new home listings, put the word out that you are hunting for a home of your own, and keep saving and making career progress so you can attain your goal of moving out.

6. Having an Emergency Fund Saved Up

One way to lessen the financial stress of moving out is to have an emergency fund ready and waiting. That way, when you do move out on your own and hit an unexpected (and major) expense, you will have a financial cushion available to help you out.

How much to have in an emergency fund? Experts advise having three to six months’ worth of basic living expenses stashed away (a high-yield savings account can work well). Figure out what that amount would be with the housing costs you expect to pay, and begin saving. Even $25 or $100 a month is a good start to get that layer of protection going.

7. Tracking Your Spending

When you are considering moving out for the first time, it’s wise to track your spending for a month or two. This will give you an idea of how much you tend to pay out each month, which can help you get a better idea of how much rent you can afford. For instance, how much do you typically spend on gas? On your WiFi provider? On eating out? As you look at these costs, you may be better prepared to know your budget once you are also paying housing costs.

Looking at your outflow of cash can also help you stop spending money. For instance, you might realize you are spending over $100 a month on coffees to go.

8. Budgeting for Home Needs

Figuring out how to move out with low income can be tricky. One hidden expense that is easy to forget about when budgeting for a move is home needs. Cleaning supplies, laundry, furniture, and appliances are expenses mom or dad may have taken care of in the past. Soon, they will be your responsibility. Consider how much that will cost and budget for it.

Also, if you are planning to buy a home instead of rent, budget for home maintenance and repairs.

9. Planning for Unknown or Surprise Expenses

Speaking of expenses that can be hard to plan for like home repairs, it’s important to leave some buffer room in a budget for surprise expenses such as car repairs or medical bills. This is where that emergency fund can really come in handy.

People renting for the first time often allocate a large percentage of their income to housing. This means your budget doesn’t have much wiggle room and an unplanned expense can really send shock waves through your cash management. Being prepared is an excellent line of defense.

10. Looking for Cheaper Options on Furniture

When you are first starting out, you don’t need to splurge on expensive furniture. Thrift stores, garage sales, and inexpensive retailers can all get the job done. Freecycle and other similar sites (or Facebook and Nextdoor groups) can yield furnishings, too.

Over time, it’s likely to become easier to swap those inexpensive finds out for higher quality pieces of furniture.

11. Managing Your Finances

To make moving out possible financially, keep a close eye on the money coming in and out each month. Take some time to get all finances in order and to create a budget for this new chapter. Learning to manage money is a big step towards independence. It will have you that much more prepared for on-my-own living.

12. Setting a Moving Timeline

Once it’s clear that a move is affordable, create a final timeline for finding a place to rent or buy and then moving in. Block out weekends for home hunting, and note how long before your move you want to get quotes from moving companies.

If you still need to save a bit more money, you can extend this timeline to include saving for a few months.

13. Being Realistic

It can take time to build the life you dream of, so don’t sweat it if your first home isn’t all that glamorous. Part of the fun of life is figuring things out and evolving over time. Many people have had first apartments that they still fondly look back on, despite how tiny, dark, or inconveniently located they may have been.

The best things in life often take time to fall into place, so be patient as you pursue your financial and lifestyle goals.

Banking With SoFi

Moving out can be expensive, but with a little bit of planning and budgeting (and maybe sharing the costs with a friendly roommate), it can be doable. Need help getting your finances in order in time for a big move? SoFi Checking and Savings is here to help. With our online bank account, you can organize your money, set savings goals, and save your change with Vaults and Roundups. As an added bonus, you can also access your payday (with eligible direct deposits) up to two days earlier and earn a competitive APY.

Better banking is here with up to 4.20% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


How much money should you have saved before moving out?

Figuring out how to move out with lower income varies by person to person. How much money someone needs to move out depends on covering the housing expenses they will pay and other expenses without going into debt. There are also expenses involved such as moving itself and buying new furniture. It can be a good idea to create an emergency fund to cover a few months of expenses before moving out.

How do you move out when you can’t afford it?

It’s important for your financial health to not move out until you can afford it. Planning and budgeting will be part of the process. If you still feel you can’t afford to move out, look into sharing expenses with a roommate or perhaps taking on a side hustle to earn extra income.

How do I know if I’m ready to move out?

You can get an idea of whether or not you’re ready to move out by calculating how much it will cost to live on your own. If you can afford to pay rent and other necessities and have some emergency fund savings, then you may be ready.

Photo credit: iStock/Hache

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 4.20% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 1.20% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 4/25/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Tips for Overcoming Situational Poverty

There are unfortunately many things in life that can rock a person’s financial stability, ranging from divorce to a devastating flood. Situational poverty is a type of poverty that occurs suddenly in circumstances such as these —,say, due to a life event or a natural disaster.

If you’re in the grip of a situation like this, it can feel impossible to get back on your feet. But it is indeed possible to overcome situational poverty. Using a variety of techniques, you can pull yourself out of a difficult and painful moment.

Read on to learn important information and advice, including:

•   What is situational poverty?

•   What are the causes of situational poverty?

•   What can be done to break the cycle of poverty?

What Is Situational Poverty?

Situational poverty is a type of poverty that is the result of a sudden or severe crisis. It usually has a specific cause or triggering event, and the financial difficulties may be only temporary. Those in situational poverty may have ways to steadily improve their finances.

This is in contrast to generational poverty, where at least two generations of a family are born into poverty. In this case, poverty is largely the result of circumstance; people don’t have the knowledge or skills to escape poverty, so often their finances do not improve.

Reasons for Situational Poverty

Situational poverty is often the result of a sudden or severe crisis in a person’s life. While there are many events that may lead to situational poverty, they are often temporary. Here, a look at some of the triggers that can cause this sort of disadvantaged scenario.

Being Born Into a Disadvantaged Background

Being born into a disadvantaged background can contribute to situational poverty; it can also be a factor in generational poverty, which requires at least two generations to be born into poverty.

In terms of situational poverty, if you were born into poor circumstances, even if your parents had been wealthier earlier in their life, it may still be difficult for you to get ahead financially. You might face issues like lack of access to medical care and educational resources. You don’t get that boost into financially stable adulthood that some people do.

Making Bad Financial Decisions

When you are grappling with poverty, you may wonder, why am I so bad with money? But it’s a common enough situation to make a wrong money move and wind up in poverty. Perhaps you made a bad investment or took on a large debt (say, a mortgage) that you couldn’t keep up with. Or maybe you poured all your savings into a business idea that didn’t succeed. Sadly, these things happen every day. In some cases, the consequences of these sorts of decisions can trigger situational poverty.

Experiencing an Unfortunate Tragedy

It’s painful to think about it, but there are many types of tragedies that can send a person’s finances into a downward spiral. For instance, you might lose your house in a hurricane or your spouse (with whom you share your finances) might die unexpectedly. These events can leave a person without the means to live above the poverty line.

Lack of Good Education

Education is a path out of poverty, and sadly, the inverse is true: Not getting a solid education can lead to a person not succeeding financially. They may lack the skills to earn higher wages.

Another poverty trigger: how little financial education most Americans receive. According to the Council for Economic Education, as of 2022, just 23 of the 50 U.S. states require personal finance education as a requirement for high school graduation. When a person lacks a good financial education, they might have bad money management habits, such as indulging in compulsive or impulsive shopping as stress relief or investing in a dicey business proposition. These, in turn, could contribute to a person living in poverty.

Tips for Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Poverty

The scenarios above reveal some of the ways that a person can slip into poverty. Once in that situation and possibly struggling to pay bills, a person can feel it’s impossible to climb out of it. Fortunately, there are several paths that may help you rise up and get on better financial footing. Here, some ideas for how to get out of poverty:

1. Getting a Sound Education

A good education — and specifically a good financial education — is one of the first steps toward getting out of poverty. While financial education classes in school are ideal, you can still learn the basics on your own, even as an adult, such as how to have better money management.

For example, the FDIC’s How Money Smart Are You? can help you learn the basics. Many universities and organizations also have personal finance courses for adults. You will likely also find online courses as well as books available that can quickly and effectively boost your financial IQ and guide you towards making money-smart choices.

2. Having a Close Mentor

Having a great mentor is one of the best ways to learn any skill, and the same applies to escaping situational poverty. A financial mentor can help you learn how to budget, save, and ultimately break the cycle of poverty.

There are a few places you can find a financial mentor. You can ask someone you know personally who is good with money, or you can look online for a suitable candidate. Some organizations offer financial mentorship programs, such as T. Rowe Price and the Financial Alliance for Women.

If you search on the internet, be wary. You might ask people in your network to suggest someone, which will help ensure the person has been properly vetted. The last thing you want when you are in poverty is someone who will waste your time or charge a fee and not deliver.

3. Working With Well-Informed Organizations

Another aspect of growing your financial literacy and learning how to overcome situational poverty is to work with trusted organizations. Knowledge is power, and you can tap these resources to learn everything from personal finance basics for beginners to more advanced topics.

Organizations specialize in different aspects of personal finance that could be holding you back. For example, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) helps people who are saddled by large amounts of debt. Another organization, Jump$tart, helps educate students on personal finance. Operation Hope provides financial education to underserved communities.

4. Utilizing Community and Government Resources

There is no shortage of community and government resources that can help if you are experiencing situational poverty. Churches, schools, community centers, and public libraries can offer support within your community.

Beyond your community, there are extensive government resources that can also help. For example, you might qualify for benefits like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or the child tax credit. There are dozens of government programs that use poverty as a qualifying criterion. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has a list of programs on its website.

5. Changing Your Money Mindset

Your mindset can hold you back just as much as it can empower you. It’s worthwhile to try to improve your money mindset. Something that is important to remember is that situational poverty is often temporary.

This is especially true if a bad financial decision or a natural disaster was a major contributor to your lack of funds. These are passing, albeit difficult, moments. By leveraging some of the resources mentioned in this article and practicing financial self-care, you can make progress.

6. Setting Financial Goals

Setting financial goals is important whether you are experiencing poverty or not. But it is even more important when you are hoping to build up your financial resources. Money goals can help you work toward something specific. Take a minute to map out what steps you want to take to move through your situational poverty. Some common goals are developing a budget with positive cash flow and paying down high-interest credit card debt.

Getting specific in this way can be very helpful. You could create a budget and decide to save $25 per week by cutting back on eating out. You would then be able to put that extra money toward your debt. An extra $100 per month can go a long way..

7. Cutting Expenses and Spending Wisely

One aspect of budgeting that can help you pull yourself out of poverty is cutting expenses, as was just mentioned. There are a variety of ways to do this. If you are overspending, you might use the 30-day rule, which involves waiting a full 30 days before making a purchase, so you see if the impulse to spend wears off. It often does. This tactic can help you stop overspending and save money.

Also review ways to lower your monthly expenses. This is where having discipline with money can help. For example, if you have any streaming services, you can pause them until you have your finances in order. Or if you have a cell phone plan, you can switch to a prepaid plan so you aren’t being charged automatically and can take control of your spending. You might also negotiate lower interest rates by calling your credit card issuer; this tactic may yield rewards.

8. Paying Down Your Debt

On the topic of debt, it’s important to recognize that borrowing money can be expensive. Carrying balances on your credit cards, for example, keeps you paying interest, month after month.

If you have large amounts of debt, one of your first priorities should be to pay down those with the highest interest rate first. You might look into a balance transfer credit card, which will give you no or low interest for a period of time. That can help you whittle down debt as it gives you some breathing room from a high APR. Or you might take out a lower interest personal loan to consolidate your debt. Working with a non-profit credit counseling organization is another option to help you manage this common aspect of poverty.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Interest Rate?

9. Avoiding Payday and Predatory Loans

Payday loans offer cash advances before payday to those who need cash quickly, but this money infusion will really cost you. These loans typically have extremely high interest rates. Even with state laws limiting fees to no more than $30 per $100 borrowed, you could still end up paying the equivalent of 400% interest or more. And if you are unable to pay back a payday loan, you may end up in a cycle that has you paying much, much more than the amount of the original loan.

Unfortunately, those who are experiencing poverty may have few options in terms of accessing cash. Not having an emergency fund can compound this problem. Before you turn to payday loans, however, consider the resources in this article. Talk to a local credit union, investigate what are known as bad credit loans (read the fine print carefully), or perhaps start a side hustle to make more money.

10. Making Saving a Priority

Saving should always be a priority, but situational poverty can highlight its importance. Because you are already financially vulnerable, any expense you aren’t expecting could really rock your situation. A big medical or car repair bill could be a huge problem.

That said, you may not have the means to save very much if you are experiencing poverty. But you shouldn’t worry too much about the amount. Any amount that you can set aside — even $15 per week – can help. You can always increase that amount later as your finances improve. You can put your money in a high-yield savings account and earn some extra interest on it as you build your savings (typically the best rates are found at online banks). This money can create a cash cushion in your checking account or bolster an emergency fund.

11. Finding Out Where You Stand

Finding out where you stand can be a powerful exercise. We tend to be our own biggest critics, and that applies to finances, too. When you take a look at the numbers (go ahead and really study your income, cash outflow, assets, and debt), you might find you are doing better than you think.

Granted, this may not be the case when you first find yourself in situational poverty. But as you start to work on things, you might find your debt declining. Or that your savings by age is better than you expect. That can give you the confidence boost you need to keep exercising good financial habits and continue to improve your situation.

Also, even if you are in the midst of situational poverty and your status isn’t great, you will at least know exactly where you are. That benchmark will be what you build from.

12. Comparing Your Struggle With Others

When done properly, comparing your struggle to others can again help you gain perspective and perhaps realize that you are not alone in your journey through situational poverty. Reading or listening to stories of those who have overcome harsh financial realities can not only be inspiring, it can provide some moneywise tactics to try.

Another avenue to consider is accessing local help. Talking about your struggles isn’t always easy, but community resources might give you a safe space to do so. You might find that even though things seem difficult right now, you are doing well considering where you started.

The Takeaway

Situational poverty is a type of poverty typically caused by a life event, such as a divorce, severe health problems (and the resulting bills), or a natural disaster. This type of poverty is usually temporary and can be overcome by boosting your financial education, accessing community and government resources, and prioritizing debt elimination and saving.

One way to make saving a priority is with a SoFi Bank account. When you open an online bank account with direct deposit, you’ll earn a super competitive APY, and qualifying accounts can access their paycheck up to two days early.

Better banking is here with up to 4.20% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


How can I overcome a poverty mindset?

In terms of how people can get out of poverty, overcoming one’s mindset is a key step. It can be very important to realize that situational poverty is temporary and that you have ways to improve it. This will help you feel empowered to make the changes necessary to improve your finances.

How do I know if I am poor or not?

The federal poverty guideline for 2022 for the lower 48 states and D.C. is an income of $13,590 per year. For Alaska and Hawaii, the guidelines are $16,990 and $15,630, respectively.

How many people are in situational poverty?

It is difficult to know exactly how many people live in situational poverty, in part because it is often temporary. However, a large number of people live in poverty in general. In America, the overall poverty rate was 14.45 in February 2022.

Photo credit: iStock/malerapaso

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 4.20% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 1.20% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 4/25/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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