We've lived a life of RV travel for about 2.5 years now. A lot of things changed, but one thing we always do is have a budget. It's very possible to fully enjoy life while still having a budget. So today I'd like to talk about living within your means while RV traveling.
Living within your means when you buy an RV
We now live in the fourth RV we owned together. Over the past 7+ years, we owned a 40-foot travel trailer for about a year, a 36-foot 5th wheel for about 4 years and a 35-foot motorhome for over 3 years. We bought each RV after doing countless hours of research and looking at hundreds of RVs. And we never just bought anything the first time we looked at it; we thought about it carefully, checked the market and went home to talk before making any final decisions.
I can't say that any of them were "the perfect RV" but they all worked very well for what we needed at the time. Also, each time we bought what fit with our budget. They were all purchased for cash and for less than $25,000 each because we didn't want to go into debt to buy an RV. However, that does not mean that we ever go without what we need, are uncomfortable or can't afford the necessary maintenance and repairs. There are many previously owned, affordable RVs out there to buy for cash.
Our current motorhome is a 2016 Coachmen Leprechaun, which is 25 feet long. The average retail is about $60,000, and it just didn't make sense to wait until we saved up enough cash for that. We believe in living life right now, and taking several more years to do a downsize we were ready for right away was not a good option. So we took the plunge and got a loan, but made sure the payments were in line with our budget.
Living within your means while RV traveling
It seems like the average nightly rate at a typical RV park is increasing. These days you can see prices for $40, $50 or even $100 per night, and that may not even include full hookups! Multiply that by 30 days in a month and you are spending a crazy amount of money for a parking spot.
There are plenty of ways to travel in an RV while staying on a budget. They are:
Stay longer at a park. They tend to give the deepest discounts for a month or longer.
Stay at less expensive places. This might be state or national parks, mobile home parks that have RV spaces, fairgrounds, marina campgrounds, or Army Corps of Engineers/Water Management land. Also, some parks offer discounts for spots that don't have full hookups. If that works with your rig, take advantage of it.
Stay places for free. Wal-Mart, casinos, public lands (Bureau of Land Management), highway rest stops and driveway surfing at a friend or family member's house are free options. Just make sure you have permission, follow any rules from the property owner and city ordinances, and be a courteous guest. We added solar and upgraded the batteries on our rig, so we're all about the free spots!
Drive less. Instead of driving hundreds of miles between each destination, drive 50 or 100 miles. It's far enough for a change of scenery without burning through a bunch of gas. When you live a life of RV travel, you'll see that the journey can be as much fun as the destination, so take your time.
Living within your means for necessities
It's tempting to try every restaurant in a new area, but try to pace yourself. If you RV travel full-time, remember you are not on vacation. This is your life. Eating out 3 meals a day will quickly drain anyone's bank account. So cook at home, bring snacks with you, and save eating out for rare occasions.
It might also be fun to pick up a hat, t-shirt or other souvenirs from each place you travel to. But you will quickly run out of room in your RV while making your wallet thinner. I prefer to make my memories, digital pictures and videos my souvenirs. They don't take up any physical space, and I get to share them with everyone else through this blog.
The longer we are on the road, the less clothing we need. All of my clothes are my favorites, too--there's nothing sitting in my closet that I don't wear because I hate how it looks on me or I don't feel comfortable wearing it. Our annual clothing bill is very minimal, because we only buy new stuff when the old clothes wear out or no longer fit.
You can easily live within your means and still travel in an RV
You just have to make a plan and stick to it. Don't run out of money by ignoring your budget and over-spending. The better you manage your money and continue living within your means, the longer you can travel!