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How to Live In an RV on a Budget

How to Live in an RV on a Budget

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Do you want to know how to live in an RV on a budget? I’m not talking about staying in one spot and being miserable in a small space. I’m talking about traveling and seeing the country and enjoying your life—even if you don’t have a lot of money.

Most people I know have thought about traveling the country in an RV, but many think it’s not possible because they wouldn’t have a way to make enough money. Working remotely while on the road is a totally different topic that we talk about in this blog post. Today, we’re going to talk about how you can live in your RV off your budget by looking at the least expensive way to live the RV lifestyle.

Track Your Spending Before Hitting the Road

Before you try to run off into the sunset, it’s time to do a little bit of homework. While some of you might have a budget, it’s likely that you don’t track every penny that comes and goes.

Since I started tracking everything that I earned and bought, it’s totally changed my life. It gives you a sense of comfort and allows you to work with what you have, and you’ll likely see what to cut back or ways to earn more money.

I track my money on the Spending Tracker 3.0 on iOS. There is probably a similar app for Android that works just as well.

Plan Out Your Stays

I don’t like to fly by the seat of my pants when it comes to where I park my RV. I need to make sure it will be somewhere safe and big enough to fit my RV.

If you plan out your stay in advance, you might be able to get discounts at your camping spots at different RV parks for the perfect RV spot you want.

When we RV’ed for those 2.5 years, though, we had a membership with Thousand Trails. My good friends from 1st Class RV Adventures told me about it and still have the membership themselves.

With Thousand Trails, you can either borrow the money to buy the initial membership and pay on it over time or buy it upfront. Keep in mind that you have to pay maintenance fees for as long as you’re a member. Also, keep in mind that there are a lot of states that don’t have Thousand Trails parks in them, so check to make sure a membership makes sense for you.

Keep in mind that when you stay anywhere longer, you’re likely to get a discount rate for staying a month, and you’ll cut out a lot of fuel expenses when you stay in one place for a while.

Keep an Eye on Your Fuel Budget

Whether your vehicle uses diesel or gas, this could be one of your biggest expenses if you plan on moving locations a lot. There are some ways you can save money on fuel. Some are better than others but take the ones that will work for you and run with it.

  • Use apps like Waze & GasBuddy to find the best gas prices
  • Only fuel up with the recommended fuel for your vehicle. If you don’t need premium – don’t get it
  • Use a fuel rewards card
  • Use a rewards credit card
  • Consider cash vs. credit since some gas stations reward cash payments with discounted prices
  • Don’t let your vehicle idle
  • Slow down
  • Keep your tire pressure how the correct levels
  • Don’t tote around unnecessary things because your vehicle will weigh more

Doing some or all of the things above can help you reduce the amount of money you have to spend getting to your destinations so you can have more money when you get there.

Reduce Food Expenses

We’ve all got to eat, but there are ways to reduce your food expenses without sacrificing the quality of your food.

Buying in bulk to save money might not be a good option for you anymore because of the limited space you have in an RV but there are other ways to save on your food bill. This article from Money Under 30 can give you some ideas on reducing your food bill.

When you RV, have a good time with food. Grill out and make sure not to make too much food because you might forget about it or something might happen that causes your leftovers to spoil.

Once you get your food budget under control, you’ll have a lot less money flying out of your pocket. If you want to RV full time and not spend all of your time working, then figuring out the food situation is a must.

When we RVed, we had 4 kids living at home, and it was pretty expensive even when we were smart with our food budget.

Save Money on Fun

You don’t want to go out RVing just to be stuck in your RV every day, do you? Of course not. You want to get out and explore and have a lot of fun.

Let’s face it. Going out to a lot of attractions can really hurt your budget. There are some things you can do to reduce the amount of money you have to put out when you want to go out for fun and are trying to do cheap RV living.

  • Look up reciprocal memberships
  • Don’t turn your nose up at free
  • Find out if you have any available discounts

There are some great reciprocal memberships available that will let you visit “sister” establishments for free or at a big discount. Some program ideas are:

  • Museums
  • Zoos
  • Gardens
  • Amusement Parks
  • National Parks

When you find a program to join, look through to see if one of the museums, zoos, etc. doesn’t offer less than another one. An establishment within the same network may include other establishments than the one you considered joining offers. Simply searching up their terms and the terms of other in-network establishments can help you figure out which one is the best for you to join.

Avoid Huge Car Payments & RV Payments

I know that having the sparkliest RV and vehicle to go with it can be very tempting. That’s especially true if lenders are more than happy to offer you attractive interest rates for long periods of time.

These huge payments will really hurt you in the long run. If your goal is to have more free time and fun then they will be your enemy.

If you can find something used and reliable that you can take on your journey, this is a great opportunity. Getting those blasted extended warranties on your RV and vehicle can also help you keep your mind at ease and avoid huge unexpected expenses.

If you haven’t already studied budgeting your monthly costs, it’s a great idea to really get that under control before you head out on the road. The time you spend as a full time RVer can be the most amazing experience, but it can be very trying if you don’t have enough money for your monthly expenses to make it work as you’d envisioned.

Have a Decent Emergency Fund

You never know what will help when you’re on the road away from home. Having a decent emergency fund can give you peace of mind. If you constantly feel stressed when you’re traveling, it’s not much fun at all.

If you’re reading this and you have your own tips and how you save money while RVing, please feel free to drop a comment.

Also, don’t forget to read some of the other blog posts on the site, like How to Find RV Recall Information and How to Clean Foam Cushions from a Camper.

Written by Jessica Lauren Vine

Hi, I'm Jessica.

Myself, my husband, 4 boys, our cat, Draco, and our dog, Patton spent 2.5 years RVing America full-time. It's an experience I'll never forget and I hope you get the opportunity to do something similar if that's what you want too.

Make sure to bookmark the website and share it with a friend that wants to do the same.

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