Over the past two years, many of us have experienced substantial changes in our lives – some voluntary, others forced upon us. One of the changes that has affected everyone in the RV life is rapidly escalating costs. Nearly everyone is becoming acutely aware of the need to economize. Some have had this imposed by changes in earning power or fixed income. Others have found that their style of travel and camping has changed and that they might enjoy the lifestyle more if it cost less. In any case, it’s always good to lower costs and save money, particularly in the RV lifestyle, where it just seems like everything is more expensive.
There will be an ongoing series of articles about how the frugal (or thrifty) RVer can save money. But let’s start with some of the things that no RVer can live without, i.e., fuel, food, and fire.
Food and fuel are two commodities on which we have all overspent at one time or another because it is so easy to do so. If your typical tendency is to stop at a gas station when your fuel gauge reads “E,” you’re spending too much money. We all suffer from fuel pump shock at today’s prices. One way to lower that unavoidable cost is to join a fuel discount program.
There are several fuel card programs for RVers. With consistently the most savings, one of the most popular is the TSD Logistics “Open Roads” program. Currently, the program is for diesel fuel only, but the company website indicates they are adding gasoline as well. A cardholder will save a minimum of 5 cents per gallon, and the discount is often more like 30 to 50 cents per gallon – and sometimes more. Why pay retail? You can apply for a TSD Open Roads Fuel card here. Of course, they have a phone app, which you can download and install here.
For years, I was so excited to be on the road that I threw all caution, and thrift, to the wind when stocking my coach with food. I would typically pull into any store with wide-open parking and fill my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry with camp food and drink – all without regard to cost. That all changed with the recent dramatic increase in prices at the grocery store. I began to plan trips with savings in mind.
With meat at $10 a pound, I began to look for substitutes. Dry pinto, black turtle, and navy beans are good protein sources and can be bought in bulk quantities relatively cheaply. They also store well in an RV with the proper containers, but a quick online search for food-grade 5-gallon buckets with sealable lids indicated prices of from $8-$12 each.
I was thinking of this while researching food storage at one of the many excellent internet sites for preppers. I learned that any commercial business that processes or sells food is likely throwing away food-grade storage containers. A check with my local store’s bakery and deli departments quickly resulted in my having all the food-grade storage containers I could ever want or need – the cost: $0.00. You can get them in sizes from 1 to 5 gallons. You can use the containers to store all dry foods, grains, cornmeal, flour, etc. Unlike paper or plastic bags, the lids keep rodents, bugs, and moisture out of your supplies.
For years I would order boxes of “Fatwood” from L.L. Bean or Plow & Hearth to use for starting campfires . A 25-lb. box costs $50 and up – money literally up in smoke! So I made a switch – to lint. Yes, plain old common dryer lint that you remove from your dryer screen and throw away, anyway. It can be saved in a discarded plastic coffee can. Cost: $0. A pinch under your kindling will have a nice blaze going much faster than newspaper.
And on the subject of fire, how much do you spend on camp firewood? The amount spent on those $5 bundles of wood sold by camp hosts adds up to an additional $10-$20 a night in camp. I know, I know – You can’t bring firewood with you into many campgrounds, though many do. However, you can use the wood already on state and federal lands if camped there. Most states and the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management issue firewood permits. The permits are free and allow you to cut dead trees and windfalls. It helps the forest lands and promotes fire prevention and suppression to clear out the deadwood. Cost: $0.
Stay tuned for more ways to reduce your road and camping costs and make RV travel less expensive and more fun. Next, we’ll talk about free tires – and that’s something you’re going to want to know about!