Can you RV full time for under $1000 a month? We are going to explore that in this blog post and in the accompanying YouTube video. We also asked our friends on the Full Time RV Living Facebook Group for tips on how to RV on the cheap. We included all of their tips below with as few edits as possible.
HERE ARE SOME WAYS TO STAY FREE WHEN YOU LIVE FULL TIME IN AN RV:
Jennifer – Boondock (or dry camping)
W Scott – I’m on a fixed income so I Boondock. I can’t afford to drive a whole long ways so I boondock 14 days and then I move on for another 14 days. I refuse to pay just plug into somebody’s electricity when I have solar. I only go 3 to 400 miles a month unless it’s really starts getting hot then I have to beat the heat and get to a the cooler climate or vice versa.
Steve – Walmart, casino’s, truck stops. Overnight at these to save $$ while traveling.
This is Cheri’ – And when you boondock, if you don’t have facilities at your camp spot (or facilities you want to use) you can use a Planet Fitness (or other gym) for showers and/or a workout. Planet Fitness is only $23.76 a month for their “Black Card” and Tom gets to use my membership for free (but he doesn’t get access to the massage chairs…haha!)
Tom here – And a close relative to boondocking is something called “moochdocking” which is basically bumming a space to park your RV with your friends, family, strangers, etc. Of course you will want to flip them a few bucks to pay for water, power, etc. that you use. Tip: If you are looking for boondocking spots, dump stations, water, etc. our go to app is All Stays! And FREE RV parking: http://geni.us/boondockers
Angela B – Workcamp. We’re camp hosts at a state park right now and our full-hookup site and laundry are covered! I’m already set up for this fall and next spring at two more state parks that have the same arrangements. This saves us more than $1200 per month, including site rent, utilities (we’ve noticed several meter electric), and laundry.
(Cherí asked Angela B: What are your responsibilities as a host? How much of your time does this require? What is the most challenging part of being a host? What is the most enjoyable part?)
Angela B – My husband works remotely full-time, so he’s not required to volunteer (although he does help me 5-10 hours per week). My requirement is 20 hours per week, and our sons (about to turn 8 and 10) can help. It’s great for them too. Responsibilities vary based on the type of park. We prefer day-use parks that don’t have a full-fledged campground, so there’s no dealing with campsite cleanup, camper drama, bathrooms and showers to clean, and so on. At day-use I volunteer a few hours at the visitor center, alternate opening and closing the park with other camp hosts or a park ranger, clean up litter, make sure the trails stay clean, mow… It’s not a lot. Sometimes the challenge can be not having a lot to do and trying to find things to add up to your 20 hours. Lol! I love that just going on the trails counts towards my hours and that my sons can be involved. Many parks don’t allow kids to help, but I haven’t found a state park yet that won’t let ours, with a signed parental consent.
Angela B continues – I’m in Florida right now. Parks with campgrounds and parks that are just day-use are entirely different, in terms of responsibilities. We’ve actually found that day-use parks are more relaxed and don’t designate days off. Once you’ve worked your hours, you’re done for the week. If you work 20 hours in 2 days, you have 5 days off. If you’ve worked 13 hours but know you have a weekend shift at the visitor center coming up (7 hours) then schedule your week how you wish. 🙂
Bob – Camp host duties will vary from park to park. We camp host at a state park near Raleigh, NC (Falls Lake) and our duties are to clean the bathrooms five days a week (about 1-2 hours a day) and be a role model for other campers. We get our site for free with two days off every week.
Melody – we are camp hosting at Patrick’s Point State Park on the northern California coast. Been here since January. We leave in 3 weeks but already plan on coming back next January. We love it. What we save while here will help us pay for the next 6 months when were on the road! Best of both worlds!
Marilyn – We’re Workcampers so we get paid or work for our sites for free for 3 to 6 months depending on what they’re wanting.
Beth – There are RV parks that want all different hours. I know Marilyn, we workcamped with them for almost 2 years. Our hours were 3 days, 5 hours each day. We did a morning shift. We are in a different park this year and we only work 4 hours, 3 days a week. We are blessed. We work a morning shift again. We trade work for our site. Look up workampers.com. There are parks across the U.S. that look for workcampers.
Brian – Work-camp. We are on our second summer with Americans Land and Leisure and love it.
Tom here – Work part-time workamping like mentioned above or do intense work for short amounts of time. Like the Amazon.com Christmas craziness workcamper program and harvest season. You can earn good money with bonuses, free campsites, benefits and more and then you can take a break for a month or so! J
LOW COST RV LIVING CAMPING SPOTS:
Bob – Arizona in summertime, our cost for June is $18 per day, including utilities. Desert Springs Ranch RV Resort in Casa Grande AZ, 60 miles south of Phoenix. It is 100 degrees here.
Tom here – Stay in touristy areas in the off-season, like Florida and AZ in the summer. Be sure to ask for/negotiate an off-season rate.
Cathey – Stay at Army Corp of Engineers campgrounds. (See National Park Pass below)
Mike – Use PassPort America and avoid KOA and Camping world (Good Sam).
Richard – Get the monthly rates.
Tom here – Get a National Park pass! It’s only $80 a year (or less for seniors and military) to get half price camping and free entry into most National Parks and recreation areas. See https://www.recreation.gov/ for locations and get the pass at: https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm. RV FREE at wineries, breweries, farms & more: http://geni.us/winedock
John – State and National Forest. Florida has a permit for $28, good for a year. Mostly hunting camps. And workcamp.
RV LIVING FULL TIME MEMBERSHIP CAMPSITES:
John – Cost of camp membership is high up front but over a few years it will pay for itself and then you will be ahead from then on. Thousand Trails (TT) is one of them. If you’re interested, keep an eye out for folks selling their membership, rather than paying full price. 😉
John continues – There are also Resorts of America or Coast to Coast. You can get a membership cheap from an Arkansas campground and then use the benefits at all the other locations. Each campground sets their own prices, depending on location. Plus the last time I looked the Arkansas camp ground does not have annual dues.
Erick – If you like state parks, TT will be fine for you. Most are pretty nice, just rough on the edges, so more like a state park than an RV resort. If you prefer RV resorts, then you probably won’t like them as they aren’t pristine like the $60 a night RV parks. But they can save you a ton. The zone passes are $500 or so a year, and you can stay in a TT 2 weeks then have to be out 1 week. You can add other zones for $50. It’s a great way to see if you like it. This is sort of a tryout program with no membership buy-in required. Also, a lot of the parks are open to the public, you just pay rack rate.
Erick continues – But as a full timer, you can spend $500 easily in just one month of RV parks. So the way we see it, once we are over 4 weeks for the year we are at break even. But we’ve stayed months worth of days in them this year. I haven’t calculated it, but I know we’ve literally saved thousands of dollars this year. One of our other friends that only stays in various parks (and not all TT) just said they saved $5,000 last year.
Erick continues – So I wouldn’t write them off if your goal is save money. But if you are looking for resorts rather than campground with full hookups, they may not satisfy you even though many do have pools, etc. I’d try out a park to see. We even just asked to go look around before we got a pass. They want to sell memberships, so they were happy to oblige. There are a few ragged parks though (and some really nice ones), so just look at some reviews to try out a more typical experience.
Natalie – After workcamping in several RV resorts and traveling coast to coast as a full timer, I have found that TT and Passport America are given very limited low quality sites. Resorts will designate only a small handful of sites to these “discount programs” as it does not yield enough revenue. For example, if you go to a beach front resort or RV park, be assured you will not get the beachfront site with your discount. You’re more likely to get the less desirable sites. Escapees memberships are almost the same and the discounts vary from 15% to 50% off. But, here again…you get what you pay for. So if you are picky, you’ll be disappointed.
INVEST IN YOUR RV BEFORE GOING FULL TIME:
Jody – Solar, You’ll need to spend a little on solar, but it should pay off.
Tom T – You can get a very small window or portable A/C unit and use that to air condition a single room, if you have plenty of solar and batteries installed and a good quality inverter.
Ana – Inspect your rig especially your roof often! Keep extra fuses handy. Was so relieved I did this, it saved the day last week. Buy an in-line water filter vs bottled water. (or Walmart for 27 cents a gallon refill, that’s what we do – Tom)
Tom here – Stay on top of maintenance before small repairs turn into big ones. Keep a set of needed tools and backup parts, bulbs, filters, etc. Buy them in bulk when they are on sale.
TRAVEL COST SAVING STRATEGIES WHEN YOU’RE RV LIVING FULL TIME:
Kevin – Don’t move very often!
Kim – I only travel 4 hours and then stay 2 weeks and use my tow to adventure.
Karl – If you have a longer drive between campgrounds, split the trip into 2 days and overnight at a Walmart, truck stop, etc. A couple nights a month over the period of a year can pay for a fair amount of gas or more than a few campsites.
COST SAVING WEBSITES/APPS FOR THE FULL TIME RV LIFE:
Jody – https://www.workamper.com/
Cliff – www.volunteer.gov
Courtney – Download the app “Job Spotter” by Indeed (https://jobspotter.indeed.com/), they pay you with an Amazon gift card to simply take pics of now hiring signs! I take that money and use it to buy things on Amazon we need for the RV or life in general 🙂 (I love it! You get to window shop, get exercise, and make money – Tom)
Linda – Someone suggested an app called Expensify. I checked it out looks like an easy way to track expenses and see where you need to cut back. It’s free too. 👌
Jeff – Just go to your App Store and put in free camping app. Also boondocking app. And nearest dump station app. LOL. They’re all in there! 😀😀 https://freecampsites.net
More apps and websites to save you money!
MISC COST SAVING STRATEGIES FOR RV LIVING FULL TIME:
Tom here – Do a Google search for free activities in the area you are camping. Try free activities like hiking, going to the beach, and meetups (check out meetup.com)
Mike – Camp where you do not need to use a heater or air conditioner, like South FL in winter then Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado at altitude in the summer.
Terry – Don’t go to Disney. Lol, very expensive, just blew our May budget.
Suzie – Get rid of everything, pay off all your bills, and only have the bare necessities. Spend on only necessities. Do camp hosting to cover your rent.
This is Cheri – Shop at Aldi if you can find one, super cheap groceries!
Sam – Debt free is number one for me, also paying by the month is a lot cheaper than paying by the day.
Christina – No debt. Keep your fixed expenses low.
Bob – Just remember you are not on vacation. Stay for longer periods of time in one spot to get weekly or monthly rates, cut back on the sightseeing, prepare meals in the rig rather than eating out, ride bikes rather than drive for local travel as much as you can, and workcamp as much as possible.
Shannon – We don’t eat out very much and believe me that’s a choice! I get our own firewood because that can be expensive if you’re like us and have a fire 4 to 7 days a week. Open your windows, turn the AC off when you leave. It never takes long to cool off an RV.
This is Cheri’ – For health insurance use a Healthshare organization like Liberty Healthshare or Christian Healthcare Ministries. I use and recommend Christian Healthcare Ministries. If you choose to go with that program, please put my name and member number (Cheri Meeks CHM#390247) on your application. I’ll get a free month of membership if you become a member. Thank you! J
Tom here – Call your current cell phone carrier and tell them that you need a lower rate. If that doesn’t work, ask to speak to the customer retention department and tell them that you are considering switching to another carrier unless you get a lower rate. You can check out the cheap cell phone plan at Walmart called Straight Talk or https://www.straighttalk.com.
JL – These same principles apply to owning a business. When you’re short on cash, look first to decrease expenses, then to increase income. Figure out what your biggest expenses are and research ways to make them cheaper or to do without. Look at your food budget and consider that animal products and high protein foods cost more than other foods. Look through DIY on Pinterest and YouTube for how you can do things yourself for cheaper (like natural toiletries/skin care, laundry soap, etc.) Try a capsule wardrobe. Wash undies in the sink and air dry so you don’t have to go to a laundromat as often. Rethink services like Wi-Fi or your cell phone you may be paying for (see if there are cheaper options). The other suggestions like boondocking and workcamping are fabulous at reducing expenses. Look into ways to earn money online, like upwork.com if you’re good on a computer and have an internet connection. Stop eating out or buying drinks at gas stations. Research the cheapest ways to get what you want for less. Reduce your need for goods and services by taking free online classes and doing some things yourself. Those are just a few other ideas. (Great ideas JL!!!)
Tom here – Just a few tips for saving money when you buy your RV. Buy a used RV for cash, don’t finance unless you have too! Get a small RV to pull with current vehicle so you don’t have to buy a new/used tow vehicle. Really tight on your budget? Look for a free RV fixer upper on Craigslist, Ebay, local classified ads, etc. Do you like to build things? Consider building your own RV. Yes! People are doing that and having fun at the same time.
Jim – Here are some costs and statistics of traveling full-time. Today is day 683 on the road: https://livinginbeauty.net/travelmap-and-facts/
Wow, that was a lot of great tips on how to live on the cheap and RV Full Time! Thanks again to our friends at the Full-Time RV Living Facebook Group for all of their tips and input. So is it possible to live on less then a $1000 a month in an RV? Yes, it can be done if you implement some of these tips, but even if you don’t want to live that cheaply, you can still benefit from implementing some of these tips. Thanks for reading and be sure to like, comment, share, subscribe and follow us on social media. Thanks so much and Happy Travels!
Tom & Cheri’