Budget-Friendly RVing

Tips for Economical Adventures
February 21, 2024
By: Happy Place Diaries (Jerry and Teresa) Brand Ambassador

Dive into the world of budget-friendly RVing with Jerry and Teresa's Happy Place Diaries! In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore practical strategies to help you stretch your RV dollar without compromising on the joy of the journey. From smart RV choices to thrifty camping solutions and savvy budgeting advice, discover how to make every mile count while keeping your wallet happy. Whether you're a seasoned RVer or just starting out, our insights will empower you to enjoy the open road without financial worries. Let's embark on a journey to affordable adventure, because camping better doesn't have to cost a fortune!

Now before we let the title fool you, this is not about finding the cheapest way to go about RVing; rather, it is a call for everyone that gets into RVing, especially if you are considering becoming a full-time RVer, to take budgeting seriously. I hope we are not preaching to the choir here, but we can make our RV dollar stretch if we budget and always look for ways to be economical in our RV habits. So yes, we will discuss budget a bit, but what we want to convey is that there are ways to make RVing more affordable.  We will give our key budgeting tips at the end.

Let's break down our search for economical RVing into three groups: RV, camping, and travel. We are full-timers, currently in our second year of living and traveling in our Montana 3761FL. Having been RVers for eight years now, we've transitioned from the Weekend Warrior style to Most Timers, taking numerous extended trips covering both time and distance. As retired empty nesters, we now relish living and traveling full-time in our Monty the Montana. We mention this to lay a firm foundation for financial success while RVing. Staying within our budget is crucial as we rely on pensions and VA benefits, making it imperative to manage our money and be good stewards of every dollar.

First, it's crucial to decide what style of RVer you want to be. What does your travel look like? Where do you want to go? How long do you want to be gone? And, of course, is money an object?

The RV: Let's start with the RV. Answering these questions is vital in determining the type of RV you want or need. As we mentioned, we're in a Fifth Wheel, but our first RV was a Travel Trailer, an amazing Passport. It served us well for weekends and some long trips, but when discussions about full-timing began, we knew we needed more space and higher-end features, leading us to choose the Montana 3761FL. The upfront cost of the RV is a major consideration. Are you selling your house or holding onto it as a home base? That's the route we took; with grandkids, we wanted a place we could always come back to, simplifying decisions about mail, registrations, insurance, and banking. However, holding onto the house means incurring maintenance costs and taxes, though we eliminate the expense of mail services.

The good news is that there are many options for RV types, but understand that budgeting considerations are crucial. Tires will need replacement, semi-annual and annual maintenance costs must be factored in, and having a "just in case fund" is essential for unexpected expenses while traveling.

Just in Case Fund-Things happen as you are traveling and you will want to be prepared for the unexpected!"

Camping: Next, let's discuss camping. Once again, let's refer to our earlier questions. There are as many ways to camp as there are RVs to camp in. Do you require full hookups—electric, water, and sewer? Can you manage with just water and electricity? Or are you planning to equip your roof with solar panels and a big battery bank for remote boondocking experiences? We quickly learned not to keep up with trendy YouTubers who make RVing seem like a Hallmark movie. Develop your own style and pace; just because everyone is heading to Alaska this summer doesn't mean you should feel obligated to follow suit.

Camping memberships are an effective way to save money. We have memberships with KOA, Harvest Hosts, and Passport America, along with a National Parks Pass providing access to parks nationwide. We prefer State Parks, known for their budget-friendly campgrounds and great amenities, typically centered around nature and outdoor attractions.

Many full-timers invest in memberships like Thousand Trails for prepaid camping experiences. Staying longer at campgrounds typically pays off; look into weekly rates, which often save you money. Camping during non-peak seasons or midweek can also reduce costs.

Budget friendly campgrounds: You may not get swimming pools and Zip lines, but you have water, electric and confidence of being in a safe location."

Now, let's address food while discussing camping. Full-timers, especially, can fall into a perpetual vacation mode, resulting in costly dining out habits. While it's fun to try local cuisine, it's essential to keep an eye on monthly food expenses. This requires meal planning, considering factors like available pantry space, weight limitations, and refrigerator capacity. Sharing meals with fellow campers through potlucks fosters camaraderie while keeping the budget on track.

It is always fun to share a meal with fellow campers, make it a potluck. Its a great way to make friends, share your passion for camping and keep your budge on track!"

Fuel costs constitute a significant expense in RV travel. Regardless of your RV type, you'll have to move it, incurring fuel expenses. With a diesel truck, we also have the additional expense of diesel and DEF fluid. Memberships like Good Sam Club, Open Roads Fuel, and Love's offer discount programs that accumulate significant savings. Route planning is crucial for staying within budget; we plan our routes around truck stops affiliated with our membership to take advantage of discounts while ensuring convenient rest stops.

Budget: Lastly, let's talk about the budget. Making budgeting a priority is essential. Track every dollar coming in and going out using a simple spreadsheet. Distinguish between needs and wants, sticking to shopping lists instead of impulse buying. Careful planning and discipline ensure you stay on track.

Remember, RVing is about getting out there and camping better. Take the stress out of RVing by practicing good budgeting and planning. We hope this helps you consider ideas to make your RVing experience affordable; after all, "affordable" is relative to your budget. Have fun out there, and camp better!

Truck stops afford us great savings as well as a perfect place to take a break, walk the dogs and grab a bite to eat."

To continue following Jerry and Teresa on their RV adventures, be sure to connect with them on Instagram and YouTube at Happy Place Diaries. Join their journey as they share insights, tips, and the joys of RVing on a budget.