When we decided to leave everything behind and full-time RV, we knew our spending habits and budget were going to change. I was leaving a full-time job, and we weren’t positive as to what our incomes would look like. Lucky, we’ve found easy ways to save money while full-time RVing from shopping to gas to entertainment and more!
I’ll be honest… it was terrifying, and I may have had a few freak out moments around month 1 and month 2. Reality set in that I left my dream job to live in an RV and do freelance marketing – maybe we were crazy. Thankfully, we had saved enough money before we left to survive for seven months and work continues to pick up.
Living full-time in an RV does force you to be a bit of a minimalist. There just isn’t room to fit excess stuff, but beyond just not buying “stuff” we had to get creative about cutting expenses and saving money.
5 Ways to Save Money While Full-time RVing
Luckily, there are so many free things to do on when living on the road from hiking to river floating. Just walking around a new city, not spending any money, can be entertaining – popping in art galleries and local stores. The normal temptation to buy something is no longer here because we literally don’t have room in the RV for whatever it is I might want to buy.
Free Things to Do in Each City
If we are staying close to a city or town, I’ll take a few minutes to simply Google “community calendar for …” or “events in…”. We usually find a few free things to do whether it’s a BBQ festival, farmers market, or an art festival with a free liquor tasting. I got your attention, huh? It’s worth Googling.
America the Beautiful Pass
The America the Beautiful Pass is a must. It’s $80 and gets you into all the National Parks for a year. Considering Yellowstone alone is $30, it’s well worth it.
In addition to National Parks, it covers the day use fees at national forests and grasslands as well as BLM land and more. Like I said, it’s totally worth it. We purchased our pass at the Grand Canyon, which was the first National Park of our trip.
The Little Things
When you live on the road, there are so many little things you can do for entertainment for free. Like set up a hammock and read a book outside. Take the dogs for a hike. Sip wine and look at the stars. Have a campfire (which might cost you $5 for firewood depending on where you’re staying). Float a river. Grill out with your RV neighbors. The list could go on.
Like with most things in life, your full-time RV budget can be as low or high as you want it (or need it to be). In the quest to live simply, we’ve simplify our budget quite a bit. You can see it here!
Get a Costco Membership
Yep, that’s right shop in bulk when you live small.
Our Costco membership was expiring the month we were hitting the road. We considered cancelling our membership because we figured we didn’t have room to shop at Costco. But I LOVE Costco, so I did some quick research. There was a Costco at almost every stop, so we kept our membership.
I’m so glad we did because it’s saved us so much money. From blueberries and avocados to wine to gas, Costco prices are better. We buy most of our produce and a few other groceries from Costco.
Here’s our typical Costco list:
- Chicken Sausage
- Ground Turkey
- Rotisserie Chicken
- Tortilla Chips
- Wine (and stock up on liquor at Costco in California)
Since it’s all in bulk, we do freeze the extra bacon and ground turkey. We also go through blueberries, spinach and avocados very quickly. If you’re not going to go through it before it goes bad, it may not be worth buying from Costco.
For everything else we need that we either can’t or don’t get at Costco, we hit up the local grocery store. We have collected a few grocery store VIP cards over the past few months, but it’s totally worth it. And when we’re lucky enough, we go to Trader Joes, which we haven’t seen in a while. Is it possible to get home sick for Trader Joes? I think I am…
We tried grocery shopping Wal-Mart for the first few months, but we had meat and produce go bad quickly a few too many times. Not to say we won’t go to Wal-Mart if we need to, but I’d rather avoid it.
Back to Costco…
Costco usually has the best price for gas as well. If we can hit up Costco before setting up camp or as we’re leaving a spot, we will fill up the RV. If Costco isn’t super convenient for the RV, we will fill up the car when we go grocery shopping.
Save Money on Gas
Like I said, we try to fill up the RV at Costco if it’s convenient. However, when it’s not, we use the Gas Buddy app to find the cheapest gas station. It’s especially helpful on long travel days. We’ve saved up to 10 cents a gallon using this app.
be sure to check out our 5 favorite RV apps
Good Sam Membership Discounts
We also have a Good Sam membership which saves us 5 cents a gallon at Flying J and Pilot. In addition to gas, you get discounts at Camping World and free dump station usage at Camping Worlds. We also signed up for our RV mail service through Good Sam, which saved us some money.
We’ve definitely gotten our moneys worth from our membership but do your research before signing up to make sure it’s worth it for you!
Cook at Home
I don’t exactly love cooking, and we ate out a lot back home. However, eating out all the time isn’t possible on the road. For one, I have celiac and finding safe gluten free restaurants isn’t easy. And we aren’t always camping near good restaurants, and of course, it’s not budget friendly.
To cut down the amount of cooking we have to do, we try to batch cook things like rice and ground turkey. We also try to cook enough at dinner to have leftovers the next day.
Save time while you’re saving money!
Now for the first two months of full-time RVing, we ate rice bowls and nacho all. the. time. It got old after a while. To stick to your cooking at home plan, I suggest finding a few go-to meals and throwing in a few new recipes each week to keep yourself from getting bored.
And our #1 RV money saving tip… yep, Boondocking!
Free camping. We spend the majority of our time dry camping on free Forest Service or BLM land. Considering the cost of RV parks can be $30-$50 + a night, boondocking saves us a ton of money. Whether you just boondock a few nights a month or more frequently, free RV camping can make full-time RVing very affordable. See our RV boondocking tips and favorite boondocking spots here.
What are your favorite ways to save money while full-time RVing? Let us know if the comments!