As many of us are acutely aware, especially in these difficult times, making the trek out to Black Rock City seems overwhelmingly expensive, and it can be. And while there are some out there with the means, both financially and time-wise, quite a few of us live a much less lucrative lifestyle. The key to making your trip possible is honesty and openness. Here are several tips and pieces of advice that have made it possible for me in year’s past to make it out.
Figuring out how much you need:
Firstly you must be honest with yourself in regards to your current income. If you’re cutting it close, PLAN AHEAD! Take your estimated monthly income from “now” until you leave. Round Down. Think of it in terms of the stock market, and plan for it to underperform. Subtract monthly costs: rent, utilities, food, car, insurance, etc. Round Up. Shit happens and you WILL NOT HAVE AS MUCH MONEY AS YOU’D PLANNED. If you have anything left over, begin adding that up on a month by month basis. The more time you have, the better off you’ll be. Especially if you’ve begun planning pre-christmas, as you will have the opportunity to get the cheapest tickets possible. Estimate your costs. Round Up. Gas is only going to get more expensive, as are plane tickets. You may not get the best priced BM tickets, especially if you’re starting late. Remember camping supplies, food (both at Burning Man and before), hotels, and the cost of NOT WORKING. More than likely you will be missing a week of work, and if you have nothing left over when you get back, you’re going to be in for a world of trouble. And make sure your employer is aware and OK with your trip, unless you don’t intend on returning to work.
So, to break it down-
Income (Round Down)
[Cost of Living (Round Up) + Cost of BM (Round Up) + Return Cost]
Looks pretty bleak huh?…
Never fear! There are ways to cut down you expenses!
For the Burner with Time and Energy on his hands:
If you have very flexible job, a part-time job, a job you hate and were planning on quitting, extra vacation time, or no job at all, you can always invest more time into Preparing for Burning Man.
1. Find a local group of Burners, people that are active, particularly people that have a theme camp. They may be looking for help in putting together their camp for the next year’s burn. You can be that helping hand. While most theme camps charge people for admission as part of their camp, the leaders and hardest workers usually don’t have to pay to be a part of the theme camp. When I was involved in a camp from NYC, Kostume Kult
, the usual cost of joining the theme camp was around 100-150 dollars. Everyone was expected to help out both before and after the burn, but what you got was an awesome camp, great position on the playa, usually a meal a day, and shade structures galore. The leaders, however, got all of these things free, because they put in so much extra effort and time. They went out to BRC 1-2 weeks early to set up the camp. They broke it down after it was all said and done.
This takes alot of time and energy, but what you get is a wonderful experience. You also get the opportunity to make friends, especially with other people that you can carpool with, share hotels with, share food with, share supplies with, etc. Sharing and Cooperation is an important aspect of budgeting.
2. Apply to be a Volunteer
at BM itself. While Burning Man clearly states that it is very rare for tickets to be given out, other benefits come with volunteering. Again, the connections you make can lead to cost sharing between several people. There are also some volunteer jobs, where (as I have heard at least) food is provided. Not for the entire burn, but perhaps one meal a day. You’d be very surprised what one good meal a day can save. And as a volunteer, you will have more access and knowledge of other volunteers, thus providing you, perhaps, with free transportation to and from the Reno airport. By volunteering you not only give, but receive. Make sure to ask about any of these possible benefits when planning to volunteer, and keep abreast of all the great work other volunteers are doing.
3. Create your own idea for an art project! This is a long shot, but if you know someone who has done this before, and are willing to put in the time/effort, then it may be worth a shot. Burning Man does provide grants to some chosen art projects, and so long as you can keep the project within budget, transporting it can be part of your cost. Thus eliminating your own transportation cost. As I said, it’s a long shot, but possible.
4. The easiest way to cut down some costs is to start or join a fire conclave, either as a performer or a safety. Many times, if your group is chosen, there are artist tickets available. Now this is not a guarantee as policies/the cost of putting on BM may change, but it is definitely a more reliable option. And the more involved you are, the better your chances of getting one of those artist tickets, if there aren’t enough to go around.
These are only a few, very time consuming options on cutting down costs, but they will not make it free. The time you put in will in no way match an hourly wage, but if you have no other options, and a strong desire, they are worthwhile avenues to explore.
For the Time Constricted Burner:
1. Figure out the difference in cost of traveling by land or air. Many people simply fly because it is less time-consuming, but spending a few days on the road with 3-5 other people means that the cost of gas/hotels is cut by 50-80 percent as opposed to traveling alone. Make sure you can transport all of your gear and food as well. If traveling by land is more expensive, than consider ride-sharing from the airport and back, as well as sharing camping supplies with others who are already bringing them. Look into discount flights by searching on Kayak
, or other cheap ticket sites. And be open to flying in a day early or a day late.
2. Forget buying a sun shower or building a shower stall. It wastes water. Baby Wipes are the shit! And be prepared to be filthy.
3. Use recycled costumes, free costumes, or make you own costumes. Kostume Kult
gives them away every year on playa.
4. Also, on the idea of utilizing the services provided at BM, find out who/where free meals are being served. While this may seem irresponsible, you can get at least one meal a day for free at BM, so long as your willing to make the effort of finding it. There’s almost always a Pancake Camp, a Diner, or some other gimicky camp giving away food one day or throughout the week. Make it your mission when you get there to find them. But be sure you have something to give back, as they may ask you for a barter. Dancing, Singing, or any number of whimsical acts will usually suffice. The idea being, make yourself open and available. And one free meal a day, usually means your other meals can be less extravagant, and in turn, less expensive.
5. This may sound contradictory, but DON’T JOIN A THEME CAMP. They cost money and time. If you haven neither, chances are, they won’t want you, no matter how nice you are. Instead, get there early, and make sure to check the map for open areas. These are areas where there are no specified theme camps. Places anyone can plop down and make a home. The more people you have with you, the bigger your space, thus allowing for any shade structures you might want. Combine forces, group your tents together and share one shade structure. Everyone wins!
6. Don’t buy more food/supplies than you NEED! This happens to me every year, even though I try not to. More than likely it will happen to you as well, but with practice, the amount of extra stuff will lessen each time.
7. If you feel comfortable, sublet your place while your gone! Charging a reasonable price will cover any of the losses you may have suffered in the meanwhile.
8. Find a rich old man to sponsor all of your artistic whims! (unlikely)
And finally be prepared to throw in the towel! If there simply isn’t the money, don’t Go Broke. Go Next Year! Use the money you’ve saved and continue to save, knowing that next year it will be even better!
These are only a few hints, and while some of them may not be that useful to you, others of them surely can be. The key here is simply being honest with yourself, and open to new ideas and the help of others.
P.S.- Coming soon, Alternatives to Burning Man!