Many people think automatically that since we live full time in an RV, we must be wealthy or have a lot of money saved up. We have neither, but manage living frugally in an RV. We travel frequently enough, we watch our money, and we use what discounts we can to stay on budget. We’ve had a few missteps along the way, but overall, our budget has been kept. How do we do it? I’ll tell you!
First, we don’t spend what we don’t have. I am on disability for a mental illness that can be very debilitating at times. Its a limited income, but its enough to keep us stable. We have all of our bills taken out the same day that my SSDI is deposited, so we always have those paid. For bills, we’ve tried to keep it to a minimum. Here’s the breakdown of what we spend money on every month:
- T-Mobile Cellphones
- AT&T Hotspot
- RV Insurance
- Thousand Trails Membership
- Payment to my dad
- Microsoft Office
- Tiffany’s School Payment
That’s really it. We need internet on the road, so we pay for a ZTE Mobley hotspot through AT&T. When that goes down, we use our iPhones that are paid off so we can access the internet and still make calls.
Obviously we need RV insurance, we have to pay that every month.
Thousand Trails is the campgrounds we use and its only $46 a month, but lets us stay for up to two weeks at a time at a campground, then we have to take a week off. Normally that works for us and we stay at places we find a Boondockers Welcome host whenever we can in between campgrounds. That saves us a ton of money as its only $25 a year and gives us access to other RVers who have land and want to share the experience.
The payment to my dad is for all the money he’s loaned us in the past. I wish we could pay it off and be done with it, but it’s going to take awhile. He’s helped us out tremendously when we needed assistance, so that has to be paid off.
Webhosting costs us $12 a month. Its not a huge amount, but I also have half a dozen sites hosted there, including Bubba On The Road, Tiffany’s Essential Oil and Natural Health blog, my gaming site War Possum, my personal developer site ebaierl.com, as well as a site for a friend of mine Too Cartoony by Seth Damoose, and well, that might be it. Since the blogs and websites are our lifeblood, we pay for that every month to keep it going as well.
For Microsoft Office, we pay $10 a month for Office and 5TB of OneDrive storage. Its not required as we might be able to find it cheaper elsewhere, but its nice to have the full Office apps for our computers and have the backup of OneDrive for our files.
Tiffany’s school payment is a monthly bill as well and we have about 7 months left of that, after which she will be a certified aromatherapist.
Our RV was paid in cash with the money we made from selling Tiffany’s car. I wish we had gotten more money for her car, but at least we got enough to cover the cost of the RV. We didn’t pay much for it. I won’t say how much, but it was under $10,000. We bought used and we bought old because we are both living frugally and wanted something that we could customize without worrying about the resale value. I have no idea how much time we will get out of Sleipnir, but we hope to get many years. We are working on things like customizing the interior, adding technology, and we have to have some engine work done, but then we’ll be set for awhile. The biggest expense we’ve had so far was putting new tires on it, which we got done before we left on our travels. We knew that would be an expense though and planned for it.
So what does that leave us? Pretty much gas, food, and medications.
We get our medications in 90 days supplies from RXOutreach.org, so that saves us a bunch of money. They also get shipped to us, so we have them sent to our permanent residence in Florida and get it forwarded to us wherever we are if we are running low.
Gas depends entirely on how much we travel. Some months we drive a lot and have a $400 gas bill. Some months we don’t drive much at all and can get by on $200. I’m hoping when we get an overhaul of the engine done that our mileage will get better, as right now it sits at a paltry 6mpg on a good day. We fill up every 200 miles or so because our gas gauge doesn’t work, but I think we can get 400 miles on a full tank if we need to. I never want to risk that though, so 200 miles is a good milestone and it gets us time to stop and stretch our legs.
Food is the one variable that can change drastically. We don’t eat out much at all, if ever. Since October, we’ve been at the same campground because of our transmission issues. In that time, we’ve eaten out once. Fortunately for our budget, no one delivers here. If they did, we’d probably eat out more often because greasy hot food we don’t have to cook ourselves is good once in awhile. Instead, we go to the nearest grocery store and stock up on everything we can to last us at least one week, but preferably two. If we can get it down to a science, we will get all our food for our two weeks at a Thousand Trails campground and not have to restock while we are there since gas costs so much and unhooking everything can be annoying and time consuming. We have gotten much better at planning ahead since we’ve had to ask for rides at this campground, so we don’t want to inconvenience anyone by asking for too many rides.
When we can, we eat venison that we got from my dad too. While we were in Wisconsin, we rarely bought meat except bacon ends for soup and occasionally sausage. Other than that, we ate venison from my dad that he had gotten hunting deer. Tiffany had never had venison before we moved to Wisconsin, and fortunately, she likes it in things like chili and enchiladas. We had a freezer full when we left Wisconsin in August, but that was gone by October. My dad brought us some more when he stopped by on his way south, and we’ve used a lot of it. Its good meat, its free, and its leaner than ground beef.
We also buy generic whenever we can. There are very few things that I need to have name brand for and most things we can get store brand and be fine with it. While I prefer Mt. Dew, I can go on generic soda as well. For the frugally minded, we found Brandless.com, which really helped us out. They deliver everything to you through postal, and almost eveyrhting is only $3. Its called Brandless because, well, the boxes have no branding on them. The food we’ve found to be pretty good and if we are stuck somewhere for awhile, we can get food shipped to us.
The last area we frugally utilized these last few months was a food bank. I hate asking for help, I never want to do it if I can avoid it as I’d rather we be completely self-sufficient. However, we had a couple of times in these last three months when we needed help. I emailed a local church that I found online while searching for food banks, and they dropped off two boxes of food. It was a great thing as we were getting low on food and money. In return, I told the pastor that I’d help them with their website since that was all I could offer at the time. I don’t know if he’ll ask for help, but I still felt the need to let him know I’d do it for them to thank them for the food.
There are a few other things we need to buy occasionally, like cat food and litter, toiletries, regular household cleaning stuffs, things like that. We do not skimp on cat food. That is one thing I will never do and we feed our cats before we feed ourselves. They can’t go out and get food and they are our responsibility. If it comes down to food for us and food for our cats, the cats win out.
That’s really about it. We do shop at Amazon as much as we can and get things delivered since they tend to be cheaper and we don’t have to bum rides of our neighbors. We’ve gotten cleaning supplies, clothes, food, you name it and Amazon probably has it.
There is also laundry to deal with. When we first got here and when we were at other campgrounds, we used the laundry services on site. That was about $20 a month. Last month though, we decided to invest in a clothes washer and hanging rack for drying. That was about $125 for everything and it has been a life and fund saver. We can do our laundry whenever we want, we don’t have to venture out to the laundry room, and we don’t have to spend money on it. For our needs, we can now do a load of laundry every day and keep on top of things.
That’s really about it for how we are living frugally in an RV. We watch what we spend, we spend less than we have, and we buy generic as often as we can. We also frequent dollar stores as much as possible since they usually have food items for $1 and we can stock up on many things we need, often that doesn’t require refrigeration. That’s how we do it, and so far, its working.