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Save money while RVing with these 24 tips

By Gail Marsh
Who doesn’t like to save a buck now and then? Owning and driving an RV down the road isn’t cheap, but there are ways to save significant money and still live the RV lifestyle at the same time. You just need to know where to look to find the savings.

Here are some suggestions for saving money. (We hope you’ll add your own ideas in the comments.)

On the road

  • Plot out your route before your trip begins. Use phone apps like GasBuddy and others to find fuel stations along your route. Then check gas prices at these stations and plan to go to the station with the best price for fuel.
  • We joined the group called TSD Open Roads. Here’s how this system works. We deposited $200 into a secured account. The company issued us a card which we use to purchase diesel fuel at various truck stops. We get a discount for every gallon of diesel fuel we buy.
  • Pack travel food and drinks instead of eating out along your travel route. Not only will you potentially eat healthier, but you’ll save money too.
  • Try boondocking. Check with Walmart, Cracker Barrel, and other businesses about their policies for free overnight RV stays.
  • Make reservations at small local city parks if you prefer not to boondock. These out-of-the-way spots are often underused and come at a lower cost for the amenities you may find at larger (and more expensive) parks. Simply call the town hall or park commission for information about their park system.
  • Offer to work for the CG in exchange for a reduction in your camp fees. Pick up trash, mow grass, and offer specialty services if you’re skilled in plumbing, electrical, or carpentry work.
  • Pay with cash whenever you can. It will help you keep closer track of your spending. Some folks find using cash a better strategy than using credit cards or even debit cards. Why? Breaking a $20 bill is harder for some people than simply swiping a card.
  • Got a “spare change jar” at home? Take time to sort out all the quarters to use at the camp laundry.

When camping

  • Use Groupon, NCrowd, and Living Social or other platforms to find deals on tickets, products, and services near the RV campground.
  • Cancel any services you are not using while away from home for any extended time. For example, if your gym membership doesn’t transfer, put the membership on hold until you return.
  • Try fixing problems yourself before calling in a professional. Ask other campers for advice. If you must call in a professional, be sure to first ask around the campground for references.
  • If the CG offers free cable TV and/or Wi-Fi, put a hold on your home services to save.
  • Plan menus. Make your grocery list match your menu recipe needs. Stick to your list to avoid impulse purchases. Try to grocery shop after a satisfying meal – when you are not hungry.
  • Dry towels and other laundry outside rather than pay for the CG’s dryers.
  • Pay reoccurring bills before leaving home or make a note to pay them on time when traveling to avoid “past due” fees.

Back home

  • Check around for better insurance rates (truck, RV, health care). Call your agent or use free services like the Zebra to compare vehicle insurance, for example.
  • Keep up with recommended maintenance on your truck, RV, and home (e.g., HVAC) to avoid costly repairs due to neglect.
  • Similarly, regularly attend your yearly health checks (physical, eye/dental care).
  • Go over your monthly expenses. To get the most accurate accounting, go over the expenditures from the past three months by checking bank accounts or online bill paying. Are there things you could eliminate or cut back on usage (e.g., cut back on expensive habits like smoking, alcohol, or eating out?)
  • Check credit card statements. Especially look for online, auto-renewal subscriptions (like Classmates, e-book club membership, etc.). If you no longer use them, unsubscribe.
  • Did you know you can call and request a lower credit card rate? Or shop around for a different card that offers a better rate or cash back.
  • Begin the habit of waiting a week or two before purchasing items that cost more than $200. This “cooling off” time might help prevent impulse or emotional buys.
  • Don’t pay for entertainment. Instead, use your local library for movies, books, and internet. (Even when on the road away from home, most places will issue a temporary library card. Use that handy service if it’s offered near your campsite.)
  • Try local store brands of the things you buy most often. (Many store-branded items come from the very same place as the name-brand products.)

How do you save money? Please share your ideas with us!

Related:

RV diesel fuel discounter gets bigger savings, more retailers

This diesel fuel savings program is for real

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Sharon
5 months ago

Go through your RV periodically and remove items you don’t need, and by lightening the load, you can save on gas. We seemed to acquire more things than we actually used.

mark gipson
5 months ago

We run nitrogen in all of our tires, truck and 5th wheel. Tires run cooler, last longer, pressure remains constant, and we get an extra 1 mpg. Been using nitrogen 30+ years.

Diane Mc
5 months ago

Just to save some of the people who might investigate the fuel program you mentioned. The program is from a trucking company TSD Logistics who opened up their program to RV’ers. When you apply you get a card from EFS to use for diesel at the truck lanes only. TSD Open Roads is the app you use to find fuel stops that use the EFS card. The app also posts the transaction receipt showing details of the transaction including the fees paid. You need to link a checking account to pay for the purchases. There are substantial savings even with the fees depending on where you fuel.

George Childs
5 months ago

I have found that store brands use more fillers than name brand. I have celiac disease so have to really watch out for the added unnecessary ingredients.

Gail
5 months ago
Reply to  George Childs

Good to know! Thanks for the heads up, George.

Ken
5 months ago

FHU. If you’re plugged in, USE IT. On those cool nights, use that electric heater or heat pump. No need to use your precious propane with the furnace. Use the park’s electricity.

Irv
5 months ago

Some store brands are junk and some are good quality. The specs may be very different for a store brand even though they were produced at the same plant as the name brand.

I’ll buy one of a store brand to see if the quality is good enough for my intended use.
I bought some Walmart house brand canned pinto beans. They had too much liquid for the amount of beans and half the beans were broken and mushy. I’ll never buy them again.

The only store brand that I trust implicitly is Costco’s Kirkland house brand.

Glenda Alexander
5 months ago
Reply to  Irv

CVS brands are almost always good and their prices are lower than national brands.

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
5 months ago
Reply to  Irv

Same here, Irv. I’ve never been disappointed in Costco’s Kirkland brand of anything. (And not just because my sister used to live in Kirkland, WA. 🙄 ) Have a great day! 😀 —Diane

Martha Mary Holmes
5 months ago

Sign up for state and national park senior discount cards. I save 50% on my CG fees during the week.

Ellie
5 months ago

Check the water in your battery regularly to avoid having to buy a new one earlier than necessary. Learned my lesson!

Joe
5 months ago
Reply to  Ellie

I set a monthly reminder on my cell phone to check the level in the batteries. I also installed a refill system that makes checking and adding distilled water easy

Pablo Flaifel
5 months ago

Avoid tourist traps! You’ll find better service and quality at lower prices where locals shop for entertainment, restaurants, and other services. I use Google Drive to find these places along my route, check both quality and number of reviews, the larger the number of reviews the better.

A trail hike, a beach walk, and other natural activities are often less costly, healthier and more satisfying.

For trips of 2 weeks and shorter, we pack enough clothing to avoid doing laundry on the road. It frees time, saves money, and we feel better using our own.

With high travel costs, plan your route carefully, not only distances, but high speed has negative effect on travel costs. We prefer to avoid highways, we see more, and enjoy the trips more too. Avoid traveling long distances to visit just a few places, we try to discover and see everything that interest us along our route. We avoid repeating long roads on our trips, unless we want to or have to.

Gail
5 months ago
Reply to  Pablo Flaifel

Good suggestions, Pablo! Thanks.

Bob M
5 months ago

Also ask for AAA or veteran discounts if a veteran.