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We’ve been living the dream for six months. It’s been wonderful. I love the anticipation of finding our next place to explore. But the unexpected perk of full-time travel: saving money. A lot of it. Here’s how to save money, FAST.
For anyone worrying that you won’t be able to afford to travel in an RV and you’ll have to stay in your house, apartment, whatever…this may change your mind.
There are a lot of bills that may come with being stationary
Think about all the things you pay for while living in one place:
- Cable TV
- Magazine/newspaper subscriptions
- Rent or mortgage
- Property taxes
- Dry cleaning
- Parking fees
- Commuting expenses
- Buying meals at work
- Regular social events
I’m sure you can think of lots more. And yes, it’s true, you may still have some of those, and they may go up or be replaced by something else. But let me give you an example of how us traveling saved us money.
When we lived near my office, my boss would ask me to come in sometimes. I would spend $6 in bridge tolls and $14 for parking, plus the cost of gas. I’d have to wear business casual clothing (something else to wash). I would always try to bring enough food to last me, but inevitably I would run out if I stayed long enough. So I’d have to stop by a restaurant or the grocery store to get something else. Also, it would take me at least an hour each way. By the time I got home I’d have a stomach full of knots and a headache. If they got bad enough, I would have to take medicine so I could drive home, which meant I was consuming more medication. So I didn’t just pay for it with money. I paid with my health.
These days, I work from home every day. I may spend the whole work day in my pajamas. I eat all my meals at home while I’m “at work.” No commute means no parking fees. If I have a headache or an upset stomach, I have everything I need at my fingertips to make it better: ice pack, heating pads, etc. Medication is a last resort and rarely needed, because I can easily adjust to make myself comfortable.
Smaller space = cheaper utilities
If you own a home, how many square feet is it? Even if you’re in a studio apartment, it is likely bigger than most RVs. Also, depending on whether you visit RV parks and how long you stay, you may never pay for utilities again (other than propane). So either you will have a smaller area to heat and cool, or the parks you stay at will pick up the bill. Plus, you can pick your climate, and choose to be someplace that requires neither heating nor air conditioning for you to be comfortable.
You can save money by choosing less expensive places to stay
How about zero dollars? All across the country, there are places you can stay for free (and no, they are not just Walmart parking lots). I’ll go into that some other time, but if you live in a really expensive area right now (as we did), you can go to some really nice places and significantly cut down on your living expenses in the process.
Bringing your home with you means fewer excuses to eat out (because you have a kitchen with you everywhere)
It’s great to try new restaurants, and sometimes you truly are too tired to cook. I try to avoid this problem by cooking up a storm before we travel to a new destination, so I have food I can quickly heat up. Just remember you aren’t on vacation.
You’re likely to need fewer vehicles
Before we left, we decided to give up our car and use other methods, mostly our bicycles, for local travel. While we did not have a loan payment on the car, living without it has still saved us money. We no longer have to pay insurance on it, and we don’t need money for gas, maintenance or registration fees.
You can save money by buying less stuff
That includes groceries. With less storage space, you will need to plan your purchases more carefully, because you only have so much room to put things. But that also means that you don’t have to spend money to maintain or repair all that stuff that you’re not buying. Bonus!
You find happiness that comes from things that are free
I follow several other RVers’ journeys on YouTube and their blogs. They talk about appreciating sunsets and exclaim over wildlife they see as they travel new places. They share stunning pictures of landscapes that make me want to run over to wherever they are so I can see it in person. And I know just how they feel. I’ve noticed that sunsets look different every place we go. I’ve seen animals that I never thought I’d see (and I even got to touch some of them!). I probably drive Ryan nuts with how often I have to stop and take a picture of the scenery around me. I just can’t help it. Everything is new and beautiful and unique. And it doesn’t cost a dime to look at it.
Here’s a breakdown of what we’ve spent and saved in 6 months
- Rent and electricity: $4193
- Propane: $168
- Gas: $741
- Groceries and eating out: $5179
- Entertainment (besides food): $1209
Total: $11,490 (an average of $1915 per month)
You may notice that we spent a LOT on entertainment. Groceries averaged about $600 per month, which means we spent about $1500 eating out. These two numbers can definitely go down. However, they won’t go to zero, because part of living this life is having these experiences. I don’t regret spending that money for a moment. But we’re very motivated to increase our savings and get rid of our student loans, so we will be cutting back for sure.
Our biggest category of “spending” was actually how much we saved: $6020, or over $1000 per month.
I applied $3225 toward student loan debt and the rest went into our savings account.
Here are some more tips for saving money while traveling:
- Take the time to review your route and find ways to save money on expenses like gas and places to stay. See how we do it.
- Make a budget and stick to it. Review your expenses regularly and make sure you’re on track.
- Cancel recurring monthly charges for things you don’t need (you can do this before you start traveling and save even more).
- Review things like auto insurance and make sure you know what every charge is for. Talk to your insurance agent to see if there are any areas where you can save costs.
- Find ways to earn extra money while you travel.