Our family sold our house in early 2022 to live in an RV. Our primary goal was to travel more, not to save money. But it turns out, we saved quite a bit our first year of full-time RV living. If you’re wondering whether full-time RV living can save you money, see where we trimmed the budget and view helpful tips for more ways to save.
Take This into Consideration
Everyone’s Budget is Different
Before seeing where we saved money, remember that everyone’s personal budget is different. Some people live in their RV, van, or skoolie for under $1,000 a month, while others spend over $5,000 a month.
Costs will vary depending on where you choose to stay, how long you stay there, the number of people you live with, and what activities you like to do.
Moving More Costs More
The world of full-time RVers includes stationary dwellers, fast-paced nomads, and folks who fall somewhere in between. Typically, the longer you stay in one spot, the more money you can save. Monthly rates at an RV park will cost you less than paying the nightly fee at different parks for thirty days.
Though we’ve traveled to several states, and throughout our home state, we signed a contract for a year for a site in Florida. This means we’ve paid a lot less on campground fees than we would have otherwise.
The other increased cost which comes from moving around is fuel. Gas and diesel charges can change in an instant. If you travel in an RV, you’re at the mercy of the market more than most people. To save money, you can keep a well-organized travel plan, avoid places with the highest fuel prices, and find a location you’d like to stay a little longer when the prices increase.
RV Living Costs Compared to Home Owner Costs
Several bills from our previous lives haven’t changed, like our cell phones and online subscription services. One purchase we added each month was the cost of doing laundry, since we no longer have our own washer and dryer. Despite the additional spending, we have saved substantially since moving into our RV.
That’s a total monthly savings of approximately $1,080. Living the full-time RV life allowed us to sell one of our vehicles. With less space than we had in our sticks and bricks home, we don’t stockpile grocery items that we might need any more. This mindful spending nets us over $100 in savings each month, even though prices for many items at the grocery store are at an all-time high. Living in a smaller space also means we’ve been able to cut our utility bills in half.
An additional bonus to saving this money was that it allowed us to pay off other bills faster, like the cost of one of our cell phones and my daughter’s braces.
Are you wondering if you could save money living in an RV? Here are a few things to consider:
Do You Need the Amenities?
Where you decide to park depends on what it is you’re looking for in a campsite. Are you a golfer who’d love to play the game when you travel? Would you like to be close to a major city? Are you a minimalist who doesn’t require more than a water and electric hook-up?
If you have small children, forking over extra money to stay at a resort with a water park in the summer could be worth it for you. Especially if the park offers enough activities that you don’t have to leave. But if you don’t need any of that, then there’s no sense in paying for it.
When deciding how you want to travel, and where you want to stay, it helps to know what you’re hoping to get out of your journey.
Moochdocking, Boondocking, and Rent-Free Spaces
The best way to save money is by not spending it at all. Seems obvious, right? There are methods for camping in your RV that are completely free, or close to it.
The first option available to RVers is boondocking. Boondocking usually means parking in a legal space without hook-ups to camp. A quick online search will yield plenty of videos and articles about people who invested thousands of dollars into their RV so they could boondock while maintaining a level of living comfortable for them.
For others, boondocking means finding a place with nice weather that won’t require electricity for temperature control, and spending most of their time outdoors. Depending on your camping style, boondocking might require initial costs to set up your rig, but it doesn’t have to.
If you’re fortunate enough to have friends and family who own property, and they welcome you to, you can park on their property. This is called moochdocking. It’s the art of parking for free on someone’s private property with their permission.
Finally, if you’re comfortable doing so, there are many businesses that allow RVers to stay in their parking lot overnight. There is an etiquette to this type of parking lot boondocking that RVers need to follow so that these businesses continue to allow this practice.
First, remember to park far away from the business so you’re not taking spots from customers. Second, do not make noise by playing loud music or running a generator. Third, remember that this is not a campground. Keep your slides in. You want to take up as little space as possible while you’re in the parking lot. This also gives more room for other RVers (and truckers) who need to rest. These spots are great for a quick overnight stop on your travel days. If you prefer to set up camp, pay for a campground instead.
Last Christmas, I saw a Walmart parking lot that had a few dozen semi-trucks and RVs parked at the back of the lot. Since everyone was following the rules of etiquette, they were all able to fit without interfering with the business or one another. This goes to show by being courteous to one another, there’ll be plenty of room for all of us.
Chasing electrical problems in our brand-new RV.
Learn About Your RV
RVs are not cheap to repair. My husband and I had heard about the high costs of RV repair, and the long wait times, before we bought our RV. To save money in the long run, we invested in classes at the National RV Training Academy in Texas. We’ve already made back what we spent on the courses with repairs we made to our own RV.
To read about our experience in RV Tech training, see Review: National RV Training Academy.
Even if you can’t attend one of the RV classes available around the nation, it wouldn’t hurt to educate yourself about the basics. Understanding how your RV works, and learning the proper way to do repairs, will allow you to save time and money during your travels.
Keep an Emergency/Maintenance Fund
Some RV repairs are costly even when you know to do them yourself. A quality air conditioner or new water heater can cost hundreds of dollars, or over a thousand, if you have to pay someone else to install them. These costs are manageable if you have money set aside for them.
Fixing a leak in the new RV.
Spend your money where it’s important to you. If you’d rather boondock so you can put more of your budget toward enjoying the local cuisine, then do it. If it’s more important to you to stay at an RV resort with a lot of amenities and cut costs elsewhere, then go with that.
Full-time RVers are a diverse group of people who live different lifestyles with different costs. If you consider your available options and remember what your goals are, saving money on the road becomes a lot easier.
Do you have any budget-friendly tips to add? Leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!