Libbys on the Loose:2 Humans. 2 Great Danes. 1 RV.: RV Full-Time Living: How to Save Money!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

RV Full-Time Living: How to Save Money!

Last winter, while riding the lift in Breckenridge Ski Resort, I (Eric) was having a conversation wherein the usual question was asked "Where are you from?"  You'd think by now I'd have a polished answer, ready for anytime this question comes along, especially because it comes along often!  My initial response is usually Cocoa Beach, Florida, but now that the house is sold, we have little attachment (with the exception of friends and the time spent there) and it's not as easy to say as it used to be.  So where does that leave me to answer?  Usually I fumble around and say what I used to do and what I'm currently doing, not where I'm from.  In all that and my long-winded (it was a slower lift!) conversation with  this fellow powder lover, it ended in "What are you, like Warren Buffet's son or something?".  After collecting myself from laughter, I realized just how lucky we are to be able to live this lifestyle.  But to do so doesn't always come at the easiest price.  But with just a little time and legwork, you can easily start to save dollars and stretch your budget!


One of the most expensive costs associated with full-time RV travel is fuel.  Average RVs in the 30+ foot range like ours average anywhere from 5-12 mpg +/- which is a bit insane when you think about it!  This is especially true when fuel costs can fluctuate so much based on seasons, holidays, politics, and geographical location.  But much like a home, it's an expense and part of living.  Account for it and budget for it and you won't have a problem.  That being said, there are ways to extend your fuel dollars.

1.  Credit Cards/Rewards Cards/Gas Cards - Companies are willing to incentivize you if you spend
money using their medium of payment.  A great example of this is grocery stores.  There are many grocery stores that offer deals with fuel companies and discount the cost of each gallon of fuel commensurate with how much you spend on groceries. You're going to spend the money on groceries anyway, right?  Why not stretch those dollars at the pump.  Check every grocery store and gas station for rewards cards, points cards, etc.  Another way you can benefit from the same thing is by buying your groceries with a credit card that offers rewards.  Rewards may come in the form of cash back, prepaid fuel cards, prepaid credit cards, and other types of incentives used to get you to use their products.  You can also pay for the fuel with a credit card that offers rewards, too.  Figuring out how to stretch every fuel dollar will get you that much further down the road.

2.  Ease off the pedal - When we pull our fifth wheel, we barely break 65mph.  We've found it to be the best combination of safe speed while towing, stays steady with the flow of traffic, offers great fuel  economy for our combination.  Granted, we could save even more fuel by going slower, but there's a limit to how slow we like to go.  60-65 is the min we can go long term without pulling out our how or having it blown off by everyone flying by you like you're standing still.  Experiment with different speeds and consistent weights to ensure accuracy and to find out what speed your setup offers the best fuel economy.

3.  Shed pounds - Less weight, less to get it and keep it moving.  This is an easy way of saying you'll get better fuel economy with less weight in tow.  As you'll hear from most full-timers, if you don't need it, get rid of it.  In fact, we have a standing rule in our RV -  if we haven't used it in the past 6 months (winter/summer clothing, gear, etc excluded), we get rid of it.  The full time lifestyle doesn't really allow for as many of the creature comforts that sticks n bricks homes afford.

4.  Gas Buddy App - by using the GasBuddy app from either the Apple App store or Google Play store, we have been able to save hundreds of dollars in fuel costs over the course of our travels. You can also use the website to accomplish the same thing, but you'll need to know the zip code of the area you're seeking fuel.   The way it works is like this:  You sign up for the app (or on the website) and confirm your email - the usual.  Second, you open up the app and set it to the type of fuel - we use diesel, so those are the results we wanted to see.  Next, select the option for "find gas nearby" and it will list the different fuel station options in your area and their respective pricing.  We've found this to be VERY useful while traveling on interstates.  A majority of the fuel stops directly off the highway have the highest prices due to their proximity and convenience.  By driving just a few miles (usually less than 2) off the interstate, we've been able to save as much as .50 per gallon!  When you have 77 gallons worth of fuel capacity, the savings add up very quickly!

Camping Costs

Campground costs are probably the next of the larger expenses associated with full time RV living.  There are a broad spectrum of full-timers out there.  From those living out of a car or van to those living in million dollar + class A land yachts, and all of those in between, the same comes along with campground costs.  You can stay in an oceanfront spot and park directly on a white sandy beach if you want to pay over $100 a night.  Or you can stay next to a crystal clear lake with a snow-capped mountain as a backdrop for free.  To each their own.  We fall somewhere in the middle.

1.  Boondock/Moochdock - No camping is truly free.  Even if you're not paying for utilities, etc, or have all the resources you need at no cost, there are going to be at least a little bit like fuel into town or propane to run fridge, generator, etc.  Boondocking is loosely defined as free or dispersed camping.  These types of places would be National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, Water Conservation Districts, all the way through Walmart parking lots and Interstate rest areas. Moochdocking is when you are parking in their driveway and staying in your RV (and using your friend's utilities)   This often becomes available when fellow full-timers offer up their homes (if they still have homes) for this purpose.  While this is a great way to spend time with friends and save money, it's not truly the spirit of full-timing, in our opinion.  We don't always moochdock, but when we do, you know it's with people we really like!
2.  Long term camping - Just like hotel stays, typically the longer the stay at a campground, the lower the cost.  You may be surprised at how inexpensive it is to stay in really great areas around the country.  The downside (to some) is that you would need to be in the same place for weeks, not days! In addition, many campgrounds that offer monthly rates do not include the cost of electric, which is usually metered.  Make sure you account for this expense in your budget.   Depending upon your budget, employment, and financial status, this may be a great way to save money while getting a true feel of living in the area you're in, not just visiting.  On top of that, you may be able to gain employment and earn more income when in the same area for extended times.

3.  Workamping - Have you been to a campground that has a 'Camp Host'?  Camp Hosts are normally persons who work in exchange for heavily discounted or free camping and usually an income.  Again, this is another way to earn income while reducing monthly expenses.  If we plan to go on a more expensive trip or plan to spend more money in upcoming months, we will plan to stay and either workamp or work a part or full time gig (in addition to remote jobs) to save money.

4.  Club Memberships - Check out Good Sam's club, Thousand Trails, and other similar programs to save money on camping fees.  We got a great deal on Good Sam's because of Eric's veteran status and really liked the savings that we got at Camping World. The real value comes in staying at campgrounds that offer discounts for those programs.  Good Sam's, on average, saves us 10% off the nightly fees, an average of $3-4 per night.  No, it's not a lot of money, but if you plan a trip cross country where a lot of your stops include hookups, these savings can add up very quickly!  You can also check out  Harvest Hosts are a network of Farms, Breweries, Wineries, and a variety of other types of places that are (mostly) free to stay.  There aren't usually hookups and the hosts prefer to limit stays to one night.  They may make exceptions.  In addition, HH do expect that you make a purchase of some sort which is perfect for us!  We love to get our foods clean and as close to its source as possible so, again, we may as well contribute.  It's win-win and the membership is only $45 a year!  This easily pays for itself very quickly!  We've stayed at some crazy cool Harvest Hosts!

5.  Elks Lodge - We became members of the Elks Lodge for many reasons, one of which being that it's a great way to meet new local people when traveling.  We've found that the best resource is almost always local knowledge.  People who live in the area typically know where the best places to eat, drink, etc. so it gives us a little bit of a leg up in that regard.  In addition, the Elks are the second most charitable organization (behind the US government) in the country - we like to give back and help out when we can.  Lastly, there are many Elks Lodges throughout the country that not only offer overnight RV parking, but some even offer full hookups!  This is definitely a great way to save some money on your stays while simultaneously living like a local.


What is your motivation for travel?  Is it to simply see the country and its sites or do you want to immerse yourself and become a part of each area you visit?  For us, this is one of the main motivators - to see how others' cultures, etc, differ from what we're used to.  In order to do that, you can't stay cooped up inside the RV park or spot the whole time.  You've got to get out and explore!

Fortunately, most things pertaining to the outdoors don't cost a lot of money or are free.  Hiking, fishing, hunting, rock climbing, paddle-boarding, etc don't cost anything once you have the equipment.  But there are many other things that will cost more money but that are necessary if you want to get a fully immersive experience.  There are, of course, plenty of ways to save money while still enjoying the area you're checking out.

1.  Restaurants -

  • Don't order as much food.  We've found that by ordering an appetizer and one meal and splitting everything can save a significant amount!  
  • Skip the alcohol - the markup on alcohol is insane at restaurants.  If you absolutely must imbibe, go during happy hours or early bird 
  • Check out this article on how restaurant menus are built to help you spend more of your money! Menu Hacks!
  • If there are free refills, order one drink and share
  • Check online for discount coupons i.e.

2.  Groceries -

  • Clip coupons - for the price of a Sunday paper, you can save hundreds at the store by cutting coupons.  
  • Farmer's Markets - these are one of our favorite ways to both save money and help out the local economies.  You can generally find the freshest produce, dairy, and meats by finding local farmer's markets
  • Use apps like Ibotta, Checkout51, and Grocery IQ.  All of these apps will either help you save money, or keep you from overspending by sticking to the grocery lists (we've also found Grocery IQ to work great for other types of lists i.e. hardware store)

3.  Bars -

  • Happy hour!  Take advantage of happy hour drink pricing whenever possible!
  • Early bird and late night deals are sometimes offered on drinks and sometimes appetizers
  • Instead of going to traditional bars, try going to breweries, wineries, and distilleries.  Most times, you'll find that the quality of the product (and sometimes clientele) are much better with the pricing being the same or many times less
Last thought:  Remember, just about anything is negotiable!  It never hurts to ask if someone is  1. willing to accept less if paid in cash   2.  willing to barter or trade for labor   3. willing to take less than what the product/service is being offered.  The more you can save while traveling, the more you can do while you travel.  The more you look for deals and get comfortable asking, the easier it comes. The full-time lifestyle can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it, but it certainly can be made cheaper by employing some, or all, of these tactics!  Good luck!

Do you have any tips or tricks to help save money?  Share below in our comments!

Did we get it right? Do you have experience or knowledge about this post? Please make yourself heard! Comment below and we will respond as soon as possible. As always, thanks for following us! Disclaimer: We are not paid writers. We write for enjoyment and to share information about our travels with our families, friends, and our followers. The information that we provide is based on our experiences with the products, services, etc, that we write about. It is 100% non-biased!

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