Thursday, November 30, 2023


Reader questions “frugal” RV relevance. What do you think?

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Last week we published a story aimed at RVers looking toward a frugal lifestyle. The piece “Eat in or out – and still save some bucks” was barely on the internet when feedback came in from a reader, evidently frustrated with our topic.

He writes: “Come on guys do you really think that a few cents are going to make a big darn difference to rv’ers that are shelling out hundreds of thousands for a rig.? The people that I know anticipate fuel prices to be much higher than they are today. I think that you are stretching to find something to write about. Old news is no News. sorry but time to get on with new articles.”

Boil it down to “relevance.” And that’s one thing we do aim for, for the sake of our readers; and notwithstanding, it’s a whole lot easier to write about something you have an interest in. Is a story in this newsletter relevant when it aims to help save the reader money?

Maybe we have to go back and look at our reader base. We’re not sure just how many of our readers have “shelled out hundreds of thousands for a rig.” If you all are anything like the cross-section of RVers that we see every winter in Quartzsite, then yes, some of you have shelled out a lot of money for a big old diesel pusher. On the other hand, we’d bet there are plenty more of you that live in much more modest rigs, and some who may find duct tape and baling wire essential items in your repair kits. Yes, there are plenty of RVers who hold their rigs together with patience and a lot of prayers.

But then again, what do we know? We have asked you about your main source of income. Here are the results of that survey:

But we’ve never actually surveyed our readers to find out just how much you and your rolling household bring in to live on in a year. So we’re asking: Could you tell us in our anonymous survey about your annual income? We’ll compare that to a breakdown of Americans whose income was reported in 2016, and we’ll see how our readership of RVers compares to the typical American and report back next week.

And then, for our part, we’ll try to ensure we’re relevant.

Please take our survey and feel free to leave comments below. It may take a moment to load, so stand by.


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Randy (@guest_25253)
5 years ago

You’re asking the wrong question. It does not matter what our income is. What’s important is how much we spend. Sam Walton made a lot but spent very little. If I have a million dollars in the market how much do I make? You mean what I put on my 1040? Does not matter. If I spend like I’m poor…. then I’m poor.

Wolfe (@guest_25126)
5 years ago

In a pre-divorce life I was quite wealthy, but with #2 I’m ALL about “frugal” living these days. It’s very rare we eat out at home, and pretty much never in the RV. We like our cooking better anyway, so it’s a lazy-luxury when we take a break. My wife qualifies as an “extreme couponer” since she always gets at least 50% off grocery bills. According to the IRS, I’m now “working poor” and tax-free plus a refundable credit (that’s not as good as it sounds)… Until last year, my $10K used TT was dragged by a 20yo truck. I’m probably off the left side of the bellcurve now, but more wealthy folks don’t get there by wasting money, either.

Wolfe (@guest_25137)
5 years ago
Reply to  Wolfe

BTW: Shameless plug if anyone wants DIY / frugal RVing videos suitable for printing screenshots and wrapping 2 week old fish…

(…also good for lining birdcages!)

Rory (@guest_24977)
5 years ago

I love the way you describe those “big ol’ DP’s”, it really shows how you feel. Well I have one of those “big ol’ DP’s”. It is a 2015 Newmar Mountain Aire. I sold a rental house and purchased it new in 2015. I’m a FT’er and have been since 2015. We cook in our rig, and we go out to dinner to sample some of the local cuisine, maybe twice a week. When traveling we usually stop at truck stop cafes. We are in no way trying to live a minimalistic lifestyle, just sensible. God knows we were forced into minimalism when we were young and couldn’t afford much. Now we just want to enjoy life, that does not mean throwing money away, but still not penny pinching. We bought a “big ol’ DP” because we intended to live in it FT and still wanted to be comfortable, we wanted to be able to bring the appropriate wardrobe with us and the off season wardrobe too. this is our FT home remember. You do seem to have a bias when referring to those “big ol’ DP’s. You have done that several times in the past. I just had to comment and bring it to your attention this time. I’m not angry at you, you have an attitude that seems to be popular these days, since “everybody” (all 4% of them) is downsizing. The loudest wheel always gets the grease…..

Captn John (@guest_24975)
5 years ago

Bought the F350 new in 2016. It has over 57,000 miles now. Bought the Montana new in 2017 as we liked the floor plan better than the Cougar we bought new 13 months earlier. We eat out about twice a week when home and usually once daily on the road, no chain restaurants. Not wealthy, not wasteful. but not frugal.

William (@guest_24946)
5 years ago

Just my 2 cents. We like the tips. Rosie and I are full timing it for about a year now in our 24 ft coachman. We cook in the RV to save money and because we like to cook together. However one of Rosies favorite things to do when we lived in the other world was to go and eat at a local resturant with outside dining. So once a week we splurge at a Mom n Pop joint we find on our travels. It satisfies her needs and we get to try some local cusine. Keep the tips comming, yours is the first read email of the day.

Sandy Frankus (@guest_24936)
5 years ago

We like to eat in our RV. We can make any restaurant type food at the RV for alot less money. We save our money to do the fun stuff where ever we’re staying

Sandy Frankus (@guest_24935)
5 years ago

We like to eat in our RV. We can make any restaurant type food at the RV for alot less money. We save our money to do the fun stuff where ever we’re staying

Tom (@guest_24922)
5 years ago

I enjoyed the article on how to make some of the restaurants foods at home. Some times you may want a egg McMuffin and can cook it your self and know what’s in it. We eat in on most all our trips as it is healthier and we know what we are eating. And can save money. As another has said restaurant food contains lots of fat, sugar and salt, not healthy. As with all articles in RVTravel if I don’t like the arroyo can just not read it. [Editor: “article”? — spellchecker strikes again! 😉 ]
We enjoyed the few-food articles that your daughter Emily had written several months ago.

RV Staff
5 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Hi, Tom. Thanks for your comments. Have a great day! 😀 —Diane at

Jeff (@guest_24921)
5 years ago

Even at home we seldom eat out, it has been over three months since we have, We prefer eating either in our RV or at home not only for the cost savings but knowing what is in our food.
However the savings that not eating outing is what allows us to take more and longer trips in our 1986 class c.

livingboondockingmexico (@guest_24920)
5 years ago

We’re human beings and we have been cooking at home for over 70,000 years. This restaurant thing is really quite new. Half the fun of being out in the wilderness and boondocking is cooking in the rv or outside on the camp stove or even an open fire.

Many people who would like to rv but think they don’t have the money are just not familiar with boondocking and how much more pleasurable it is than sitting in an rv park or resort.

We have friends who exclusively boondock and are accused of being extremely frugal. However, they are on the road six to seven months a year and have wonderful adventures.

Nels (@guest_24915)
5 years ago

With both of us over 70 and retired and no kids living at home, my wife and I love our little RV. It’s an 18 year old 23 footer that was pampered by the previous owner. It is now our baby. We treat it well and it returns the favour. We both have reasonable pensions but with rising cost, who knows how things will be. We enjoy the odd dining out experience but both prefer home cooked meals. We don’t consider ourselves as tightwads but we do have to watch the dollar.

Rick Louderbough (@guest_24899)
5 years ago

I’ve always been a van camper type, now enjoy a 1990 Chinook/Ford Concourse. Luckily the previous owners kept is pristine so I just maintain which I dote on it and pamper it.
The size is perfect for us, anything larger would be a pain as we have had 5th wheels, classA already. Even it I could afford a new unit I have no idea which to choose from. I don’t care for slide outs either. I do all of my own work on 5 vehicles and as I get older I call on my son to help more w the heavy stuff. To fix, clean or repair all this is what keeps me going plus driving uber/lyft.
It will get old at some point…………

Eric (@guest_24891)
5 years ago

We put out $21K for our new travel trailer. We travel part-time, but even at full time we couldn’t afford to spend more. We’re good with frugal tips.

Sue (@guest_24877)
5 years ago

Even though we could afford a newer and/or more expensive rig than we have, and we can afford to stay at expensive RV parks at least some of the time, we are frugal retirees who have never squandered our money. We are proud of the choices we’ve made to save as much money as we could during our lives without feeling deprived in the process. We’re in one of those higher income categories listed but you wouldn’t know it by our 17-year-old car, 11-year-old truck, or 9-year-old 5th wheel. Keep the money-saving tips coming, please.

J French (@guest_24942)
5 years ago
Reply to  Sue

Like y’all I am retired with a higher income due to 2 oilfield pensions, a large 401k & SS. Can easily afford new, can easily afford restaurants 3 meals per day, staying at “Fancy RV Resorts & live a “Showy” lifestyle.
But I don’t. Have paid cash for all my possessions & know well how long & hard it was to earn the money so I do not throw it around easily. I also only bought new & “High End” so I expect decades of normal use. I generally stay in National Forests especially where I can fish.
I love to cook especially outside & will only eat out at a restaurant which has been featured in Diners Drive-Ins & Dives. Its a quirk I have & my far too young girlfriend loves it.
Frugal ? Yes, all my life & my friends all laugh at me doing 90% of my own repairs, all my normal maintenance, growing an organic garden but they all line up wanting to buy any of my vehicles I decide to sell.
The reason, my #1 hobby is restoring muscle cars & trucks plus an occasional Harley then entering them in Shows. When I sell a vehicle, all trophy’s it has won go with the vehicle. I keep detailed records & sell to friends at cost. Currently showing a 2001 2 seater convertible Mustang Cobra, 1996 Unique Conversion Silverado & a 2002 Harley Ultra Classic. Just acquired a 1999 Prowler. My personal truck is a 2011 Tundra 4×4 Limited & I camp with a 2015 Jayco.

rvgrandma (@guest_24876)
5 years ago

We did not put out thousands for our RV – I think it was $65,000 for a 2 year old MH. In 2005 when we started workamping we had no income except what we earned workamping. We had to look for jobs that paid wages plus site. We still had MH payments, insurance on the rig and car (no medical) so needed the wages. When my husband became ill he received SSDI which took some pressure off of needing wages for all hours worked, but I still need to find jobs that paid wages plus site. Many only paid after 20 hours but that was fine.

Yes we learned to be frugal. When figuring out how much was needed to the next job, I always added 50 cents to what the average price we were paying for gas was – always had some left over for the next job.

How much you need is all relative to the lifestyle you choose to live. We have always been happy with the simple things in life.

Karyn (@guest_24872)
5 years ago

I work full time and do NOT drive an expensive rig.. we bought a used rental RV 5 yrs ago for $15K I have put 30K miles on it over the course of those 5 yrs. It is not fancy (no slides , no TV , no outside entertainment center) but it runs well, and so far outside of new tires, regular oil changes and an air filter, it’s been maintenance free.

Not all of us spend huge amounts of money on our RVs .. prior to the class C we had a Truck camper we spent $2500 on that was a super deal, a Travel trailer we got for $35 at an impound auction that we cleaned up, did some repairs on (sunk a total of $500 into it) and resold for $2,500.

I am lower middle class income range and watch every penny I spend so I appreciate all ideas on how to continue to enjoy my RVing with in my budget.

George (@guest_24860)
5 years ago

We are on the low end of the $25,000 to $49,000 category (this one should have been split) and need all the money saving tips we can get. We are full timers, boondocking when ever possible. We also have Passport America and a camping pass from Thousand Trails. So keep the “frugal” tips coming. Thank you.

DMason (@guest_24858)
5 years ago

Don’t judge a person’s income & spending ability by what RV they travel with. We went into long-term debt to buy our current motorhome. We had gotten tired of the fix-it, use-it, fix-it cycle on the old one. This is our fist time with a new one. By taking on that debt, we have limited other choices we would have been able to make. We save all year long for our one or two long trips a year. Even more so now that we have retired and our income will slowly be eroded by inflation outpacing any cost-of-living increases to our retirement income.

Gpeitz (@guest_24855)
5 years ago

We make a good income but still want to live a frugal lifestyle. One of my great pleasures is cooking for myself while on vacation. When we are at home there is just too much to do for good home cooked meals but when we are camping we have hours with nothing to do. Cooking on the camp stove is a great way to start the day. Although I “could” afford to have repairs done at the shop I prefer to do it myself (with the help of forums and internet videos). The few times I have taken in our 5th wheel for repairs it took forever and I think that I could have done the job faster and better…

Lee (@guest_24854)
5 years ago

Well, very few of us have ‘throwaway money’ no matter what our income so higher fuel costs mean fewer dollars for food, entertainment, and local attractions and may mean fewer trips or trips of shorter duration. Therefor articles on rising costs and how to get maximum enjoyment with minimum expense are very welcome to me.
BTW we prepare most of our meals because it’s easier, cheaper, and mostly because it ain’t camping if we ain’t cooking outside!!!

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.