RV Living Budget for Those On a Budget

Get your money right before you hit the road.

I bought my first RV in February of 2021 and lived in it full time traveling around the American Southwest for about 6 months. I worked remotely, saw friends and family (vaccinated of course), and finished my online masters degree. This budget is for those wanting to do this on a budget. I know there’s some people willing to ball out for storage, campgrounds, etc. but this isn’t for those people. This is for people, like me, that want to sell all of their belongings, hit the road, and live an exciting vagabond lifestyle. For anyone hoping to do the same, I hope you find this helpful!

Here’s a list of things you may want to consider before you start your RV living adventures:

  1. Gas is EXPENSIVE right now. If you’re in a rig that gets 10–12 mpg like mine, you’ll want to seriously budget that into your travel plans because it seriously adds up. One 8 hour trip would cost me up to $180 depending on the terrain.
  2. Budget for engine issues. No matter the age of your RV, you’ll likely have to fix x, y, or z at some point. I’d recommend having a few thousand dollars set aside for this. I was stuck in Rock Springs, WY for a few days because of a leaky head gasket. If your RV has a short, van-like, engine compartment like mine, it’ll be harder to work on because the engine is so tucked in there.
  3. You should definitely get a solar set-up. If you don’t drive a couple hours every day or plug in to a camping spot/house, your batteries will die after a couple days of using lights/furnace/refrigerator. Solar will get you around this issue and you can typically get the whole set-up for around $1200.
  4. Get a mobile WiFi device. It will save the battery on your phone so you don’t have to use the mobile hotspot. We used the Inseego 5G Mifi M2000 and never had any issue getting 5G when we needed. Expect to spend around $40/month for this service but it is well worth it.
  5. Insurance was cheap for an RV as old as mine. If you have a newer one, expect around $2000/yr for a Class A and $1000/yr for a Class C. I spent about $350/yr for mine.
  6. Propane is pretty cheap and lasted me a long time on the road. It took me about $45 to fill up my 5 gallon tank. If I was running the heat at night, it lasted about 2 weeks. If I wasn’t, it lasted me months on end.
  7. Campgrounds — I’d recommend avoiding campgrounds. They typically cost at least $20 a night and, while they are nice, that adds up. I stuck to Wal-Mart parking lots, sleepy neighborhoods, friends houses, and BLM land.
  8. Entertainment can be cheap. I got a national parks pass for $80 which saves a TON of money if you are wanting to visit national parks along the way. You’ll get your money back after a few park visits. Outside of that, enjoys the outdoors, a book, or good company. The road is meant for a simpler lifestyle.
  9. Last but not least, food. My fridge ran off of gas or electricity and my stove was gas. We cooked at least once a day and had ready to eat food in the fridge, or dry goods always on hand. You’ll find that eating this way can be inexpensive and healthy.

Again, this list is meant for people, like me, looking to see the country, avoid rent, and live a simple life. If I missed anything, feel free to reach out!

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Austin Anaya

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