Ultimate Guide to Full-Time RVing on a Budget: 15 Smart Tips

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travel trailer parked in front of desert rocks

Full-time RVing can be a great way to travel and live more simply, and you CAN do it on a budget. The key to full-time RVing on a budget is finding opportunities to stretch your money and make it last as long as possible.

You might already know that some of the big RV monthly expenses include campsite fees, fuel, maintenance, and food.

We put together 15 tips to help you find the best deals and save the most money in these areas to get the most out of your RV budget.


What is a Good Budget for Full-Time RV Living?

The cost of full-time RV living can be as expensive or as budget-friendly as you need. On the high end, you can choose to park at luxury RV resorts in popular destinations, enjoy dining out, and paid activities. On the other end of the spectrum, you can spend most nights boondocking for free, enjoy meals at the campsite by the fire, and travel slower to save on fuel costs.

By planning ahead and watching your spending, you can RV for as little as $2,000 a month or less. However, most people live somewhere between the two scenarios above and travel on a budget between $3,000 and $6,000 a month.

Here are our tips to help you hit your target budget and get you out on the road!


1. Find Free or Cheap Camping Spots

The cost of camping spots can be one of the biggest line items in an RV budget. Research and planning ahead will help you secure the best deals.

motorhome at campsite in the desert

Here are five options for reducing RV living costs for camping spots.

  1. Sign up for campground discount memberships such as the Thousand Trails membership or Passport America to save huge on camping spots and even camp for free
  2. Utilize discounts from AAA and Good Sam. Most campgrounds have a 10% discount for one of these programs.
  3. Take advantage of Cracker Barrel, Walmart, and Cabela’s for free overnight stays when traveling long distances.
  4. If you are in one state for an extended period, look into the state park pass. Some state passes offer significant discounts for camping in their parks, such as Texas, Nevada, and New Mexico. You can also find camping discounts for residents, seniors, and the military.
  5. Consider booking a site with few or no hookups (there is usually a discount associated with these sites)

For more information on the cost of camping sites, check out What Is The Average Cost Of Camping from the Let’s Travel Family.


2. Moochdocking

When you moochdock, you park at a residential house or other private property where you have permission to park your RV.

RV parked behind a house on private land

Moochdocking is a great affordable way to RV camp, and it’s a nice way to visit with family or friends.

There are also moochdocking membership clubs like Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Hosts. These memberships allow you to pay an annual membership fee for access to thousands of moochdocking sites that you can book around the country.

READ NEXT: For more on moochdocking, check out our full post What is Moochdocking? Free Camping & How to Do It Right.

3. Workamping

Workamping is a term for staying and working at campgrounds. It allows you to save money on camping by providing volunteer hours in exchange for free or reduced-rate camping. You may also be paid for work depending on the contract or offer.

Here are a few resources to learn more about workamping.

Workamping can be a great way to minimize full-time RVing costs while making a little money too!


4. Extend Your Stay

Staying at RV campgrounds for a week or month at a time is a great way to save money.

Most private and resort campgrounds have a discounted rate for more extended stays, including weekly and monthly rates. Some will even have seasonal rates, allowing you to save even more if you travel slower.

Extending your stay will also keep more fuel in your tank, allowing you to budget less for that line item. Exploring one state or area over the course of a couple of months instead of a couple of weeks is a great way to RV on a small budget.


5. Avoid Peak Season

Avoiding peak season at RV destinations is another good way to save on campground fees. 

In places like Florida, traveling in the summer can mean large savings compared to winter rates. If you can book travel on the edge of the peak seasons, you can usually take advantage of discounted rates and still have a shot at decent weather.

Even if you can’t (or don’t want to) avoid peak season, try to avoid holidays and holiday weekends in popular destinations. This could mean an increased rate at the campgrounds.

Check RV campground websites for their season pricing and plan accordingly.


6. Boondocking

When you’re going full-time, boondocking is one of the best ways to save money on campsites, and it’s a great way to get out in nature and enjoy the RV lifestyle.

When you boondock, you are camping on public lands, such as BLM, without hookups or any amenities. Of course, the huge plus to camping this way is the ‘free’ price tag, but it’s also a nice way to enjoy the outdoors.

RV at remote campsite with mountains as the backdrop

If you think boondocking sounds like a great way to camp on a budget, consider this camping style when choosing an RV to purchase.

You’ll want to look at:

  • large water and waste tanks (so you can camp longer with no hookups)
  • an RV pre-wired for solar power (not required, but it’ll make things easier)
  • a generator or inverter and a large battery bank

That said, many newbie RVers can get caught up looking at larger solar and battery bank setups that can cost upwards of $10K. If you’re willing to go without a few amenities, you can boondock on small portable solar setups and still make it work. (Also, see the next tip!)

READ NEXT: For more on boondocking, check out our post 10 Must-Know Tips for Boondocking in an RV.

7. Chase 70-Degrees

Many of the struggles with boondocking for more extended stays stem from not having a sufficient solar system and battery bank to run AC.

By traveling with the seasonal weather changes and chasing average conditions, you can dry camp and boondock without the need for AC. Dry camping will allow you to reap the benefits of a ton of savings on campground fees.

As a bonus, cooler, more comfortable temps mean less sweating and less need for showering. Minimizing showering can help stretch your water resources while dry camping too.


8. Plan Ahead When Filling Up Your Gas Tank

It’s easy to pull into the most convenient gas station, but simply planning ahead to fill up on fuel can save you money.

diesel gas pump with motorhome in the background

Here are a few ways to find the best deals on fuel for your RV or tow vehicle.

  • Use GasBuddy to research gas prices on your route and find the best deal.
  • Plan to fill up in states where gas is cheaper
  • Carry jerry cans to really take advantage when you find great fuel prices

Don’t forget to do other simple things, such as checking your tire pressure and driving around 55mph to get the best fuel efficiency.


9. Fuel Discount Cards & Loyalty Programs

Gas discounts and credits for your motorhome or tow vehicle are a great way to maximize your budget for this significant RV monthly cost.

Here are a few tips to save money when filling up your RV.

  • If your RV or tow vehicle is diesel, a fuel discount program such as Open Roads (formally TSD Logistics) to get a discount on diesel fuel at the pump.
  • Use a credit card that offers a percentage back at gas stations.
  • Sign up for loyalty programs with gas stations and receive discounts at the pump.

We recommend using all three of the above methods to get the maximum savings on fuel.

READ NEXT: Check out the Best Discount Fuel Cards for RV Owners & How to Save at the Pump for a complete guide to saving on fuel costs.

10. Electrical Appliances Instead of Propane

Traveling full-time in colder locations can mean increases in propane expenses.

When you’re hooked up to shore power at a campground or park, take advantage! You can use a portable electric cooktop instead of a propane stove.

Instead of your RV’s ducted heat system that runs on propane, use an electric space heater to keep warm. As a bonus, electrical heat is better for mold and mildew in an RV than your propane system, which adds moisture to the air.


11. Invest in a Water Filter

Buying bottled water can get expensive while traveling in an RV. And the inline hose water filters you pick up at Walmart aren’t always capable of creating drinking water that is up to standard.

Investing in an advanced water filter allows you to feel good about drinking water straight from your water tank.

Clearsource water filter in mounted box on an RV camper

Below are a few different options to consider that will save you money on bottled water in the long run.

These advanced systems come with a large price tag, but if you are a full-time RVer, you will easily make your money back in purchased water. Plus, you’ll have clean water without feeling guilty about plastic waste!


12. DIY Maintenance and Repairs

Some of the most costly areas of RV living are repairs and maintenance. By learning to do basic upkeep for your RV and tow vehicle, you can save money in the long run and ultimately become better equipped to take care of your rig.

tire removed from RV travel trailer for leak repair

Here are a few things you can learn to do yourself to save money on repairs and maintenance.

  • oil changes for a tow vehicle
  • maintain the bearings on your trailer
  • tackle small electrical projects

YouTube videos are an excellent source for learning how to fix just about anything on your RV.


13. Embrace Cooking in an RV

We love experiencing the local cuisine at different places we travel to in our RV. But if you want to travel on a budget, you need to make sure eating out is more an exception than the rule.

Find recipes that work for your family and are easy to put together in a small space. Make eating at the campsite fun by cooking on the grill or over the fire regularly or setting up a griddle outside.

campsite setup with outdoor kitchen

Get creative with your camping meals and make it a fun part of the RVing experience!

READ NEXT: For more on meal planning, outfitting your RV kitchen, and storing food, check out our 5 Tips to Master Cooking in an RV.

14. Find Affordable Internet Options

Whether you work from your RV or want to check your email occasionally and stream a little Netflix, an internet connection is essential to your home on wheels.

The good news for full-time RVers is there are options for finding internet on the road. Since campground wifi can be unreliable, we don’t suggest it as your only internet source, especially if you are working from the road.

man working on computer outside RV

Here are a few suggested strategies for reliable, affordable internet in your RV.

  • Opt for a phone plan that includes hotspot data
  • Invest in a router/modem device for the RV that allows you to use multiple prepaid SIM cards (this will give you the ability to use multiple carriers)
  • Look into prepaid, digital wireless carrier options such as Visible (these are more affordable than the large cellular networks)

There are many ways to combine data plans, cell phone plans, and even satellite internet to suit your needs. This topic is often discussed in RV Facebook groups. We recommend searching those groups to see what internet options RVers use to get ideas to start your research.


15. Opt for Free Things to Do

Before you roll into a new destination, do your research and come up with some free things to do in the area.

Free entertainment options are usually more accessible at State and National Park locations, where you can hike and bike on local trails, visit historical sites or national monuments, and enjoy time outside in the parks.

However, urban destinations typically have a lot of free activities, including free museum days (or discount days), a farmers’ market, botanic gardens, walking tours, and more. They might also have free events, including concerts, movie showings, foodie and art events – the possibilities are many!

woman at national monument ruins

If you don’t know where to start, search the web for “free things to do in (insert city).” Or check the area’s Chamber of Commerce or tourism website for a calendar of events and local activities.

Don’t forget to bring along entertainment as well! A nice assortment of playing cards, board games, and yard games are perfect for nights full of fun too. Adventures with Tucknae’s, Janae, has a great post on their favorite games for the RV and how to organize them.

PRO TIP: If you plan to visit National Parks, consider signing up for the National Park Pass (American the Beautiful Pass), which will get your vehicle into all the national parks for $80 a year.

Cost of Full-Time RV Living on a Budget

Full-time RVing can be a great way to see the country on a budget. By being flexible and knowing where to find affordable camping and activities, you can minimize the cost of RV living while still enjoying the lifestyle.

The best way to come up with your full-time RV living cost is to start putting together a preliminary budget. Use the tips above and your knowledge of your personal financial habits to map out a budget that works for you.

We sure hope these tips have given you some ideas for saving money while still enjoying the full-time RVing lifestyle!


Want to learn more about how to live in an RV?

For more on essential RV gear, the pros and cons of RVing living, and how to get out on the road, view our complete guide.


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