RVing, whether a lifestyle or a preferred way to vacation, is touted as a more affordable way to live and travel. After all, there is no large piece of property, not a lot of square footage to maintain, and the amenities are more or less included.
However, you still need to establish and stick to a budget when you’re RVing, whether it’s for a short-term vacation, a season, or full-time. Some budget items are based on personal preferences – your sense of “expensive” is different than somebody else – while others come along with RV ownership and can be affected by your taking action.
RVs are gas guzzlers, there’s no doubt about it. They are high-profile vehicles, many of which are fairly hefty, too. Gas is one of the most expensive line items in an RVer’s budget, especially if you like to move around often. It’s simple math: more travel time means more stops at the pump, which means more cashflow to this line item. You can help reduce gasoline or diesel costs by traveling less, and you can better manage your gas mileage by avoiding travel during high winds, by slowing down on the highway, and by keeping your RV as lean as possible. Use popular apps such as Gas Buddy or Gas Guru to find stations with the lowest fuel prices. A little bit goes a long way on the bottom line.
Stay for a while – and reserve in advance.
Many campgrounds offer discounts if you stay for a week, a month, or the entire season – and staying during the off season when rates tend to be lower also helps. Hopping around to various campgrounds increases costs. Picking your spots and your campground well ahead of time can also pay off – helping to avoid premium fees for making a last-minute booking. The cost of camping and what a campground expects for a nightly or weekly rate varies across the country; some regions or states will be more affordable than others. It can be beneficial to do research ahead of time to find the best deals. And if you want to save even more money while traveling or camping, try dry camping (also known as boondocking). This is very doable if you have a generator or solar capability. In fact, depending on how often you use your solar power, you can extend your battery life by up to 50 percent. Other ways to save on campground fees include joining an RV club such as Passport America, Escapees, Thousand Trails, and Harvest Hosts, which can help to save money on camping fees at select campgrounds, and seeking out workcamping opportunities to trade work for your RV campsite.
If you travel a lot, that’s a lot of wear and tear on the RV – not to mention the toad or tow vehicle you may also have. Fuel and maintenance expenses are directly related to how much you travel. More miles and more time on the road or more time in tough environments means maintenance more regularly – and more gas stops. For routine maintenance such as changing the oil, rotating tires on tow vehicles, or maintaining your slide-outs, you can save a lot of money by learning to do these chores yourself, as well as help avoid hefty repair bills in the future. There’s also less downtime with the RV if you have a handy streak, as you won’t need to schedule any appointments or take the RV to the shop. If you don’t know about it already, Maintain My RV is an RV maintenance resource that keeps you informed on what you need to do to keep your RV on the road by utilizing email reminders, as well as keep your maintenance records and documents in one place. However, if it’s a maintenance issue you can’t do, then have it taken care of as quickly as possible. Allowing a little problem to hang around can quickly turn into a bigger – and more expensive – problem.
Cook at home.
You have the ease and benefit of having your kitchen with you at all times, regardless of where you camp. And regardless of how you live, it’s the same: It’s much more expensive to eat out. It’s more affordable to eat in. Sure, it’s fine to visit some local establishments from time to time, but your food budget will stretch further if you buy your own ingredients and cook at home. There are lots of easy-to-make recipes that don’t skimp on flavor. Of course, cooking food in a Dutch oven or over an open flame adds a character to the food that can’t be replicated any other way – and it’s darn delicious.
Accumulate items slowly.
Seasoned RVers know what is important, practical, or beneficial to have along during an RV trip – and yet they still evaluate often and try to trim down. If you’re just starting out, it can be overwhelming to see the list of RV accessories and camping supplies you “should” have. Don’t feel like you need to go purchase everything immediately. Start with the accessories you need to get going and gain some experience. You’ll learn about what you need or want. Pick up those items as you go or add them to the list for the next RV trip or season.
Spend time outdoors.
That’s one of the big reasons you got into RVing, right? You want to be closer to nature and take advantage of outdoor recreation opportunities, whether you love to hike, bird-watch, kayak, swim, or bike. Spending time outdoors, especially if you already own the right equipment for your favorite activities, costs pretty much nothing. It’s fun to visit a local attraction, such as a museum – and honestly, you shouldn’t pass on them. But regularly doing so can add up very quickly, especially if you travel as a family. Spending time outside and away from the artificial noises of “the world” is good for your health and your soul…and it doesn’t need to cost a penny.