If you didn’t know any better and you met me in a campground, you might assume that I won the lotto once I told you that I’m a full-timer. After all, I’m younger and not retired, so I must be rich, right?
You wouldn’t be the first to draw that conclusion. When Jim and I tell people that we live and work on the road, they often mistakenly assume we struck it rich in the income department. Non full-timers assume that full-timing is more expensive than living in a stick house and you need lots of money to do it. However after living on the road for five years I can say with certainty that this is a myth.
Full-timing wasn’t always inexpensive for us; our first year on the road was horrifically expensive. We put thousands of miles on our rig before we utilized cost-saving tips that more experienced RVers have gleaned through the years. Today we feel like it’s our turn to share what we’ve learned about saving money on the road. Although the definition of “inexpensive” can vary from RVer to RVer, in general we’ve found that new full-timers can put extra fuel in their tanks by doing the following:
Invest in a good solar system setup. If you’ve always enjoyed getting off the beaten path to remote campgrounds and are pretty certain that you’ll do the same when full-timing, you can save hundreds of dollars on camping fees by spending the money on a quality solar system. Invest in that system before you hit the road, so that inexpensive and free off-grid boondocking spots on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service lands are easily within your reach when you want to tighten your money belt.
Look for campground discounts. Many fee-based camping clubs will enable you to receive low cost nightly stays at designated RV parks around North America. The two fee-based clubs that we frequently utilize are Passport America (http://campsave50percent.com) and Escapees (http://www.escapees.com).
Passport America’s 50 percent discount on hundreds of North American RV parks will pay for itself the first time you use it. Plus, the club offers $10 discount bonuses for every new member you refer, which means your yearly $44 dues can be waived if you refer enough people to the club. Escapees club fees start at about $60 a year and the 10 percent savings on Escapees-affiliated parks will pay for itself after a few nights.
Camp outside of popular places and touristy areas. The closer you stay to a major destination, the more you’ll pay for a comparable campground outside the entertainment zone. It might seem like a hassle to drive for 20 minutes to get to your favorite attractions, but the money you save on camping fees by staying on the fringe will free up your finances to have more fun at your ultimate destination.
Finally, cook more meals at home. One of the hardest parts about being a full-timer is resisting the urge to dine in at every fascinating new restaurant we encounter on the open road. We save oodles of cash (and spare our waistlines) by cooking at home more often than eating out. When we do eat out, we save our money for those unforgettable restaurants that we’ll remember for years.
These are just a few of my well-worn strategies for saving money on the road. If you’re a full-time RVer, what are some savings tricks you’ve learned during your traveling adventures? Share them below in the comments, we would love to hear them!
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.