Scouting magazine

Money-saving tips to help you experience Scouting to the fullest

Scouting for deals? We’re here to help. Try one (or all!) of these tips to help you save money and experience Scouting to its fullest — without breaking the bank.

From campfires to courts of honor, Scouting provides life-changing experiences. Lack of funds should not keep Scouts from making the most of the program, but expenses add up — particularly when families boast more than one Scout. In the spirit of thriftiness, we’ve gathered ideas to help you save money in Scouting and beyond.

See something we missed? Share your money-saving tips with other leaders in the comments below.


UNIFORM SHARING
Create a uniform-sharing system for Scouts.

“Eagle Scouts generally don’t need their uniforms after they bridge to Venturing to continue Scouting,” says Matt Price, a Scoutmaster and Advisor from Fuquay-Varina, N.C. “We ask them to donate used uniforms to our uniform closet. We strip the patches, and they get those back to put in a frame.”

This idea extends to Cub Scouting, too. “During our pack’s crossover ceremonies, we have a tradition of formally divesting our Cub Scouts of their ‘experienced’ neckerchiefs and slides, so they can be passed down to the next den level. That is, experienced Webelos’ neckerchiefs and slides are given to Bears who are moving up, Bear neckerchiefs and slides to Wolves moving up, and so on,” says B.P. Palmateer, Cubmaster of Pack 42, Norwood, Mass.


PARTNER UP
Keep costs low by teaming with other units for events or excursions.

Joining forces with another unit can help you earn group-discount rates if your troop or crew is small in numbers; it can also help lower the cost per each Scout attending the outing.

“Our unit keeps adventure trip costs to a minimum by locating other Scout units in the area we are going to visit and contacting them to find places to camp for free. It also makes a great adventure if we have the local unit camp with us and show us what they think is cool in the area,” says Paul Giacomo, an assistant district commissioner in Nelson, N.H.


BOOK SHARING
Organize a unit library that contains merit badge pamphlets, leader guides, maps and other activity-planning resources like local park brochures.

“Our pack bought one set of handbooks and den leader guides,” says Julie Conrad, a pack committee chairperson from Ortonville, Mich. “These are passed from leader to leader (along with notes, tips, suggestions, etc.) each spring. The new den leader then has a handbook, guide and lots of ideas shared from previous leaders in his/her position.”

Other units offer a merit badge library. Boys “donate books to the troop when they are done with the badge to pass along the savings,” says Tim Emery, a Scoutmaster from Bedford, Texas.

Or, consider asking chartered-organization members or families in your community to donate old tablets. (You might be surprised how many previous-generation iPads are going unused.) Purchase eBook versions of handbooks or merit badge pamphlets (at scoutstuff.org) and store these resources on devices to share in your pack, troop or crew. The downloaded files cannot be shared between devices, but the tablet can be passed from Scout to Scout.

Encourage your Scouts to visit a local public library to check out free resources for trip planning or merit badges.


LOYALTY PROGRAMS
Sign up for store loyalty cards and earn points as you spend money on equipment or food for your unit. Cash in these points for extra savings.

Consider purchasing a Costco or Sam’s Club membership for your unit. (Or ask if a family in your unit already has a membership.) There, you can buy in bulk at discounted prices — items at these stores include food, camping gear and even clothing.

Purchase your own REI membership for a one-time $20 fee and earn 10 percent in dividends on eligible purchases. In return, you’ll get an annual dividend check to spend on future REI purchases.


 

ALUMNI PERKS
If you’re a registered Scouting volunteer, you qualify as a Scouting Alumni Association member. Registration is free, but if you spring for the Pathfinder level ($35), you gain access to the special discounts listed here. Register at scouting.org/alumni. Discounts subject to change.


 

SEEKING ADVENTURE
Try these ideas when planning your next outing.


SPECIAL DISCOUNTS FOR SCOUTS
The following stores offer varying discounts for youth and adult members of the BSA. Check with each individual location to see if these apply.


TUITION SAVINGS
Are your Scouts or Venturers heading off to college soon? Don’t miss out on ways to save on tuition.

Eagle Scouts: Apply for scholarships funded by the National Eagle Scout Association. Find more details at nesa.org.

Many colleges and universities offer scholarships to students with Scouting on their résumé. Click to find a comprehensive list.

Write about Scouting in your college application essay. “Include a couple of your best Scout adventures, the service of your Eagle project and the leadership you showed on an outdoor adventure,” says Mary Matelich, mom of three Eagle Scouts from Great Falls, Mont. “This approach allowed our third Eagle Scout son to receive a major leadership scholarship worth thousands of dollars each year for four years, enabling him to attend his No. 1 college choice.”


BUDGETING
“Once you plan out the Scouting year, you should come up with a budget and a plan for raising the necessary funds,” says Nelson Howell of Indiana’s Sagamore Council. “If the funds don’t come, you scale back your plans a bit. It’s surprising how easy it is to fundraise when you have a specific target and can show families how little they need to do to attain it.”


GEAR SAVINGS
Here are more ideas for saving money on gear.

Go to scoutstuff.org first. The buyers at the BSA’s Supply Group work hard to bring Scouts quality equipment and top-of-the-line brands at Scout-friendly prices. Plus, all purchases at local Scout shops and on scoutstuff.org help support the future of Scouting.

Take a look at the following online clearance stores:

Check thrift stores or Army surplus stores for discounted outdoor gear or clothing that’s gently used. Yard sales can also turn up surprisingly good finds.

If you don’t find the used equipment you’re searching for at a thrift store, check out used-gear websites, such as:

Designate a member of your unit to periodically check websites like Craigslist for equipment and send out an email to unit members with good deals, says Cristian Navas, a Cubmaster from Nutley, N.J.

Rent outdoor equipment to test items before buying or to fill a gap in your equipment. Check local gear outfitters for available rentals or look at online gear-rental websites, such as:

Check with your nearest REI store to visit the next REI Garage Sale, open exclusively to store members.

Have your Scouts consider making their own gear. Things like camp dishes, shelters and clothing items can be made from materials found around the house. Check out the Boys’ Life DIY workshops, including a guide to making your own walking stick.

Instead of spending hard-earned cash on backpacking food, check out our guide to DIY dehydrated meals.


DON’T FORGET …

… to accept help when it’s offered to your unit, says Avery Moore, a Scoutmaster from Rocky Mount, N.C.

Moore says a local business donated a trailer to his troop, while other businesses have offered camp scholarships to Scouts in need. All that was required of him was to present these opportunities to the right representatives when they offered help.

And before you say this isn’t possible in your town because of economics, Moore says, “I live in one of the top 10 poorest cities in the nation and my troop meets three blocks from the city projects.”


[Editor’s note: This post has been edited from its original version appearing in the November-December edition of Scouting to make a clear distinction between asking for help and accepting help when offered to your unit. Read more about these guidelines.]