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Cut your RV lifestyle expenses!

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By Bob Difley
Speaking in general terms, it seems the theme of every election is something like cutting the deficit, eliminating waste and becoming more efficient, that soon become the focus of every new government as it takes control. New ideas will be proposed, changes made, and the economy will continue, one way or another, good or bad, depending on your viewpoint. So for my two cents I thought I would offer the following list of money-saving ideas, tips for reducing costs, and becoming more efficient – just like at the bigger House in D.C. Add yours in the comments section (minus political commentary, please).

  • Stay longer at campgrounds or boondocking sites. Check out the weekly rates, sometimes significantly less expensive than the daily rate. You will also reduce your annual mileage driven and fuel used.
  • Drive 55. Lower speeds produce more miles per gallon, and you will enjoy the scenery more at lower speeds.
  • Avoid jackrabbit starts and quick stops. It’s all about torque and kinetic energy.
  • Keep tires properly inflated. It can save up to 3% on fuel mileage.
  • Install CFL or LED interior lights. These bulbs not only last much longer but use less energy.
  • Boondock more often. Save campground fees and grid electricity usage.
  • Install a solar or wind turbine system. Provides renewable free power to enable camping longer off the power grid.
  • If traveling and staying only one night in a campground, pay less by choosing a non-hook-up site (sometimes called a tent site) or stay at lower-priced regional or state parks, or at stores that welcome overnighters like Walmart, Cracker Barrel restaurants, and Kmarts.
  • Eat out less. Save on food costs by preparing your own meals in your RV kitchen.
  • Reduce food costs by bypassing the middle man. Buy from farmers markets, roadside farm stands, U-pick farms and orchards, and other local food producers and ranchers.
  • Reduce cost of food packaging. Buy in bulk from stores that offer this option.
  • Eat right and get plenty of exercise (at least 1/2 hour per day) and you might be able to cut down on meds and doctor visits – and you’ll feel better.
  • Volunteer or become a camp host, which usually comes with a free campsite.
  • Take a caretaking position. Look at The Caretaker Gazette for opportunities to trade out for free rent.
  • Shop for quality – but slightly used – outdoor wear at St. Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army, or other charity stores – and you will be helping worthy charitable institutions while at the same time buying quality labels at far below retail prices.
  • Start a book exchange at your favorite campground, or encourage the camp host at RV parks to set one up to cut down on the cost of your reading pleasure.
  • Some libraries have used magazine exchanges where you can get current or one-month-old magazines for free – you might be able to cancel your current magazine subscriptions and save money having them re-shipped to you on the road.
  • Shop Quartzsite for all kinds of bargains offered by RVers cleaning out their lockers, hard-core flea market sellers, and other interesting folk.

You can find Bob Difley’s RVing e-books on Amazon Kindle.

Related:

The Frugal RVer, part one: Save on food, fuel and fire

##RVDT1964

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Larry Lee
2 months ago

The savings you receive from buying diesel at truck stops using a discount card will quickly be used up because you MUST change your oil, oil filter, and fuel filters more frequently! Check it out in your user manual. It’s true. I drive a 40′ DP motorhome and only buy non-truckstop brand name diesel (Shell, BP, Amoco, Exxon typically) using Gas Buddy and satellite views.

Steve H
2 months ago
Reply to  Larry Lee

We also use Gas Buddy constantly. And we buy diesel fuel for our Sprinter motorhome at Kroger stores (where we get fuel discounts for our grocery purchases), Walmart, Murphy’s, and Maverick stations anytime we can find one of them. We may spend a quick overnight at a Flying J and eat breakfast at their Denny’s, but we never buy fuel there.

On the PNW loop we just returned from, we got a 70¢/gallon discount at King Soopers in Denver and 40¢ and 30¢/gallon discounts at Fred Meyer in WA and OR using our Kroger card. We have also used the Kroger discounts at Smith’s and Fry’s grocery stores across the SW from TX to CA.

Donn
2 months ago
Reply to  Larry Lee

I’d like to see the backup for this. I am not aware of different diesel formulas for fleet vs retail. Please explain

Michael Galvin
2 months ago
Reply to  Larry Lee

Get the EFT diesel discount card. Stations tend to be along interstates where truckers are. Price is almost always lower than all other surrounding stations. Sometimes MUCH lower.

Ike
2 months ago
Reply to  Larry Lee

MUDFLAP, a free app to find significant diesel fuel discounts. Tied in to any credit/debit card you wish to use ( I get air miles on mine) Savings of .20 to (rarely)$1.+

Dave Pellegrino
2 months ago

I would love to know which farmers markets, and road side stands you go to and save money. In the 3+ years I’ve been full-timing, these locations are way more expensive. You’d think they would be less, but not true. We’ve seen signs for a dozen eggs for $4 and $5. We just got an 18 pack of extra large for $3.38 at Wal-Mart. That’s about half the cost.

Rosalie Magistro
2 months ago

I agree Dave, the prices are way more at farmers markets than local stores.
Times sure are a change’n

Steve H
2 months ago

I also agree. We paid $6 Canadian for a dozen free-range eggs at an RV park where we stayed in BC. But we do buy fresh seafood at the docks whenever we are on a coast. That’s because there’s not a lot of “just off the boat” seafood available in Denver!

Jane
2 months ago

We use a Pur water filter pitcher, so we save on buying bottled water. We refill a jug we keep on the counter.

Steve H
2 months ago
Reply to  Jane

I’ve survived on tap water for 77 years, including the half of my career when I was cleaning up hazardous chemical and radioactive waste sites. I’m not planning to start filtering all my drinking water at my age.

Gordon den Otter
2 months ago

GasBuddy is your friend. It’s amazing how often the usual discount places aren’t the cheapest. Often the cheapest places aren’t on the highway – you have to go a mile or two off to get a better price.

One caveat: check the satellite view of the station on Google Maps to ensure you can easily get your rig in and out!

bill bateman
2 months ago

Sadly a 4 mile round trip to get a better price equals $2.50 on smaller RVs and $4+ on some diesels. Do your own math.

Gordy B
2 months ago
Reply to  bill bateman

If you are buying 50 to 100 gal. it may be worth it. 20 cents a gal times 50 equals $10.00. Add that up over a years time then see if it is worth it. Also depends on your personal budget. When I was hauling trailers state to state it saved me a lot of money, we used gas buddy as well. We also were members of Sam’s Club and carried a Wal Mart directory. The directory will tell if they have diesel. We were able to get into many with 40ft. trailers, it just takes planning. We would estimate the next fill up and go to the nearest town for fuel. Happy Trails

Tom E
2 months ago

Biggest savings for us was buying used – never new. Let the original owners suffer through all the repairs and highest depreciation. We moved from a state that taxes vehicles every year to one that has no annual vehicle tax. Also, buy when the market is down (the direction it’s heading now). Six months ago we could have easily sell our 5th wheel and 1 ton truck for $20,000 more than we paid for them. We live in our RV 7-8 months each year, renting 1 month at a time and reserved up to a year in advance. If you don’t use a pool or hot tub, find a place without one – why pay for things you’ll never use. Added bonus for us: We find the fellow RVers that stay at “non-resorts” are a much friendlier sort. Something less money can buy you.

TIM MCRAE
2 months ago
Reply to  Tom E

What state? I know of a few but what I have found (montana and florida) is the fee to transfer the title the first year is very high. Feel free to email mcraet+rvt@gmail.com I forgot to notify on replies so I may not be able to find your answer later. Thanks.

Last edited 2 months ago by TIM MCRAE
Walt P Sinkhorn
2 months ago

Ugh! Did you mean, Stay at a former K-mart vacant store where there is an empty parking lot?

KellyR
2 months ago

According to one website there are 3 left in the continental USA, so if you looked real hard, I guess you could find one. .

Bob p
2 months ago

The biggest difference between us and government is we can’t print more money when we need it, legally!!

Jerry
2 years ago

RV Fuel Club motto is “Make RVing more affordable. Real discounts on diesel fuel at hundreds of truck stops.

Erinn
2 years ago

My comment is in reference to: “traveling and staying only one night in a campground, pay less by choosing a non-hook-up site or stay at lower-priced regional or state parks, or at stores that welcome overnighters.

I suggest signing up for PASSPORT AMERICA – We use it quite often for “one nighters” as we can STILL GET FULL HOOK-UP SITES, but for HALF PRICE. The yearly cost pays for itself, with one or two night stays!

Bill
2 years ago

As Dave G noted, check with your library .. we too here in Oregon can check out MP3 audio books from anywhere there is an internet connection. Akso, ask about free book exchanges at campgrounds and look for them in your walks around beachside and resort communities.

Dave G
4 years ago

BUY IN BULK
We buy bulk and repackage it into user friendly sizes with a vacuum sealer.

LIBRARY
My library allows me to check out kindle books for free. Download them for 2 weeks at a time.

Steve H
2 months ago
Reply to  Dave G

I get all E-books–Kindle, Axis 360, Hoopla, etc.–free from my library. I download a couple before leaving on an extended RV trip and have 21 days to read them. After finishing them, I can download more remotely at any campground that has good WiFi.

Gene Bjerke
4 years ago

We have a Flying-J discount card but rarely us it because diesel at truck stops is more expensive than at the usual service stations. Why?

Alvin
4 years ago
Reply to  Gene Bjerke

Federal government fuel tax on over the road trucks.

Dan
2 years ago
Reply to  Alvin

The fuel tax applies regardless of where you purchase it. There are actually two taxes on each gallon of fuel, the federal tax, which applies wherever you buy it, and the state tax, which varies from state to state. Some places have tax free fuel for agriculture, but it is dyed red and you dont want to get caught putting that in a road vehicle. If one place charges more for fuel than another, it’s because they can.

PennyPA
2 years ago
Reply to  Dan

And, if they’re high volume users (the stations, not the trucks), they also get a deep discount on the fuel.

Bob p
2 months ago
Reply to  Alvin

Plus they’re serving a captive clientele, can you imagine trying to get an 18 wheeler in and out of the average gas station with 8 cars in there. Also trucks have fuel tanks on both sides requiring pumps on each side.

Jerry
2 years ago
Reply to  Gene Bjerke

Flying J is always higher. Check out the RV Fuel Club website for real discounts on diesel …. like 60 cents per gallon at hundreds of truck stops.

Terry
4 years ago

Use byways and scenic routes….they usually are wind-protected and have lower speed limits that align with the 55mph-60mph for gas savings …and save a boat load of gas from the (often) much reduced wind sheer. Plus, the scenic routes go through great historical sites/towns. The interstates are great for fast, when required.

Terry
4 years ago
Reply to  Terry

PS… I was driving I-29N, getting poor mpg in windy conditions …then the road turned westerly for ~ 5 “… My mpg DOUBLED during that 5″… And I wasn’t fighting the road, which is tiring.

Leo Suarez
4 years ago

Your 55MPH comment may well apply to gas engines, however it does not necessarily apply to diesel pushers. At a recent Camp Freightliner class I attended the instructor actually advised us on best fuel milage for our pushers, In my case I had been driving at 60MPH and he advised me that (for my particular rig) if I went faster, ie between 63-67MPH my fuel mileage would improve. I found it hard to believe until I tried it and was pleasantly surprised to see that he was right.

Bob p
2 months ago
Reply to  Leo Suarez

It depends on the “sweet spot rpm” of the engine. Every engine gas or diesel has a “sweet spot” rpm where the torque curve peaks. At that rpm the engine is running at it’s maximum efficiency. Truckers spec their gear ratios to the engine “sweet spot” to get the best efficiency for either fuel economy or power depending on the type of freight they normally haul. If most of their loads is max load they spec for power and vice versa for fuel economy.

Eric Ramey
4 years ago

Plan the maintenance on your vehicle! As much as we pay for our RV’s they should maintain themselves.

1-Maintain your vehicle to the best of your ability. Utilize You Tube videos and manufacturers manuals to help.

2-Search around for service specials. For example some repair shops may have a special going on ?? service if you bring your vehicle in on Tuesday.

Eric Ramey
4 years ago

Search for EVERY discount program available.

Sign up for EVERY discount program that you know that you will use.

For example: Pilot/Flying J/Camping World fuel discounts, senior or retired military discounts on center days at certain grocery stores, coffee rewards at local convenience stores.