I have always been frugal. Before we left it all to full-time RV, I was the Director of a nonprofit. When you have to raise your salary, you learn real quick how to stretch a dollar. I guess you can say I have professional experience in being a penny pincher.
This skill has been very helpful in our life as full-time RVers. When we hit the road we had a paid-for rig, no debt, and $10k in the bank. Woohoo! But we also had no trust fund, no retirement, and no job.
But we had the resolve to make it work. With my penny pinching ways, we were determined!
Fast forward two years. We have seen 15 National Parks, 20 National Monuments, and camped in 22 states, and logged 21k miles on our RV. We’ve also visited 7 countries.
While being frugal has been the key to this new life, we’ve definitely made our fair share of mistakes. One ended up costing us lots of money in the long run and others we chalked up to lessons learned.
I am almost embarrassed to share this first one with fellow RVers but maybe you can learn from my mistakes.
Not Having Roadside Assistance
When you first start out RVing there is a lot going on. Even more so if you decide to full-time.
You need to find a rig, get rid of your stuff, transition from a job, maybe sell or rent a house. Not to mention you’ve got to figure out how an RV even works!
As you can imagine, none of this is cheap. So while I knew we needed roadside assistance, we had just spent lots of money. I figured I would get on that Roadside Assistance policy next month, then the next month and then… I simply forgot about it.
About a year into our journey, we broke down at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument near the Mexico border and had no cell signal. Luckily, we travel with a scooter so we were able to go and call for help. Because we didn’t have roadside assistance we spent hours on the phone trying to find someone who would come out and help us.
But the worst part is we spent $900 to get towed to the shop to have it fixed.
So if I had just purchased the roadside assistance to begin with, we would have gotten our RV fixed sooner and have saved $900!!! Not to mention saved all those stressful hours on the phone!
Don’t be me, get roadside assistance.
Missing Out and Later Regretting It
We have a very tight budget, living on around $1,100 a month in our RV. This means we are always penny pinching and say no to things. Sometimes there are things we really want to do but it is hard to justify the expense.
We are basically living on $35 a day so when an activity is $70 a person we can’t help but think “Should we do that or keep at this travel life for four more days?”.
So we have learned from our frugal ways that entertainment can mean more to us than we initially thought. And now we are working to earn money just for entertainment!
Eating Food We Didn’t Like
We use lots of different phone apps to save and earn money as we travel so we can stay on the road.
(In case you can’t tell– I am doing everything I can not return to the 9-5 grind ever again.)
One of these apps often enables us to get free food. Usually it’s new products.. and if it is free, you know I am all about it.
But free doesn’t always mean tasty.
We have had our share of food that we just couldn’t manage to eat. As someone who is frugal, it pains me to waste food but that is just what we did.
Getting Sick in a Foreign Country
I dreamed about going to Belize for four years before we finally made it there.
It was not too long into our 18 day trip when I became ill. At first I just felt hot and sick to my stomach. We went back to the room for me to rest. It didn’t take too much time before I was drenched in sweat and throwing up. By now, it was dark and my husband asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital.
All I could see where dollar signs. I mean, we can’t afford an expensive hospital bill in another country!
I toughed it out for about an hour, then sent my husband off to the pharmacy. I needed something! Hours later, I honestly felt like death was knocking on the door. But even death didn’t stop my frugality and I kept refusing the hospital.
Instead, I made my husband go down to reception to call a doctor. I wanted to see if we could just get a doctor to call in a prescription for me.
Boy, did I get lucky!
The doctor Wade reached agreed to come meet us in his office after hours. We didn’t have a car so the hotel owner was kind enough to drive us.
Turns out– I had e coli.
This doctor not only came in after hours but stayed with us for two hours. After several shots, lab work and a handful of prescriptions I was out the door for less than $125!!!
The lesson learned here is to never suffer for the sake of saving a buck… ’cause it just may be way cheaper than you ever imagined.
That Time Being Frugal Paid off BIG!
Being frugal and pinching pennies has enabled us to not only allowed for 2 great years of full-time travel, but we now have more in the bank than when we left.
That’s right! We left with $10K and despite all these frugal fails, 3 breakdowns, visiting 7 countries, and living a life that seems like it would cost more…we have $5K more in savings than when we started.
We do this by sticking to a budget and tracking everything we spend.
We also use hotel points and gift cards to stay in hotels for free. As far as RVing goes, we boondock and never pay to camp. And for food, we save money on groceries by using free using apps. We also fly for almost nothing using airline points, eat out for free doing mystery shopping, save on gas with apps we use, and even earn money from apps we have on our phones.
This to me is a big win for penny pinching!
What frugal things do you do while RVing?
Being diagnosed with an incurable cancer changed Melissa’s life for the better. It forced her to figure out that her dream was to travel the world and to get busy making it happen. She travels with her husband, Wade, and their two cats, across the US in their RV visiting as many national parks as they can and abroad at least twice a year. She shares their journey and how they afford to travel full time on a budget in hopes of showing others that they too can follow their dreams of travel now, as later is not promised! You can learn more at www.pennypinchingglobetrotter.com