One thing that I've noticed more people doing is living in a camper in order to save money.
Before we begin, I will say that RVing is funny. Some people who don't RV think that all RVers are trust fund babies, and others think the complete opposite, like that we are all truly homeless and have no money.
In reality, living in a camper has a wide range of costs, just like houses that don't have wheels do. You could live in a $1,000 travel trailer, or there are $2,000,000+ motorhome mansions. Similarly, the budget you keep while living in a camper can vary widely too.
Some people manage to spend just hundreds of dollars a month, whereas others can easily spend several thousands of dollars a month RVing.
While we don't live in an RV to save money (the house we used to own was actually much less expensive than our motorhome), there are many who have been able to pay off debt, save for early retirement, and more, all by living in a camper.
There are soooo many ways to save money when living in a camper, so I definitely think that if you wanted to pay off your debt quicker, reach financial independence earlier, etc., then RV living may be something you want look into. Of course, though, there are ways to completely blow your budget as well, so you need to do some careful planning before deciding that living in a camper is the right choice for you.
If you’re interested in RVing, check out other RV-related content:
- How I’ve Paid Off $29,000 In Debt By Living In a Van
- The Ultimate Guide To Getting Started RVing
- Becoming an RV Family – How We Travel Full-Time With 4 Kids and 2 Dogs
- How To Make Money While RVing
- How Much Does It Cost To RV?
- Common RV Questions – Yes, I Even Talk About What We Do With #2
Has anyone saved money by living in a camper over a house?
I know quite a few people who have been able to save more money by living in a camper over a house.
Below are several RVers who have found that living in a camper has actually saved them money:
Cheaper living in a caravan than living with roommates – “Living in a caravan in New Zealand is cheaper than renting with 3 people in Auckland. A year ago, I was struggling to save for a house deposit. A caravan seemed the next logical step. I've left the city and only pay a third of my old rent and have a place to myself. Heavenly. You can learn more about the break down of my expenses here: http://travellingk.com/cost-of-living-caravan-rv” – Karen
Finding inspiration to downsize – “We decided to downsize and live the RV life after the birth of our daughter. She was our inspiration to have less stuff in exchange to spend more time as family. Initially we thought we needed bigger and better to grow a family. A bigger house, bigger car, and bigger debt to make it happen. Then we realized, what if we go smaller? I am now able to live my dream as a stay at home mom to our daughter, because of the money we save RV living. We travel the US making memories as a family and teaching her along the way. We live debt free and have more freedom than we ever thought was possible.” Marissa
This family cut their expenses in half by moving into an RV – “We cut our expenses in half when we sold it all and moved into the RV. Biggest thing was selling the house and getting rid of the mortgage. The rest of our cutbacks were getting rid of the high truck payment and started using a sharing program for our insurance. We also are very budget conscious when it comes to buying groceries and going out… although this definitely our biggest splurge area as we loooove food! Oh and closing my photography studio and not needing to pay for full time daycare any more were huge as well!” – Alexi
$1.40 a day average campground costs – “I am a single, middle-aged female who full times in an older Class A motorhome with my Golden Retriever, Sully. Before I hit the road I purchased two important items: a New Mexico State Park Pass for $225 and a campground pass to the Southeast through Thousand Trails (got it on sale for $285). I figure if I travel between New Mexico, all the way over to Virginia over the course of the next year, my campground costs will average $1.40 a day (and it’s already prepaid). Here’s how: I can stay in New Mexico state parks for free, but they also have hot showers and clean restrooms. (If I want to spend $4 per night, I can get water and electric there.) And with Thousand Trails, I stay in their parks in Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia for free for up to two weeks in a row. Then I have to be out of their system for 7 days, so my plan is to boondock in between stays (in some areas that will mean Walmart and Cracker Barrel parking lots, but it’s free!), and I have dozens of friends who have asked me to come and stay in their driveways, as well. Before hitting the road I was paying $610 (I know that’s still cheap!) per month to rent a small trailer. Now I get to see the world AND save money!” – Shelley
This couple reduced their expenses 40% by living in a camper – “My husband and I worked full-time, corporate jobs for many years, and thought we were living the traditional American Dream. But it seemed like we were always chasing our paychecks instead of living a fulfilling and meaningful life. We used to joke, ‘Let's quit our jobs, leave everything behind and travel’ and then one day we finally did! We walked away from our corporate jobs to travel in an RV and see our own beautiful country. Living and traveling in an RV is more sustainable than you'd think. We learned how to work remotely, and discovered that RV living is much less expensive than owning a home and paying a mortgage. We've reduced our expenses by roughly 40% of what we were paying before and now we have more fun and freedom too! We learned how to work remotely, and discovered that RV living is much less expensive than owning a home and paying a mortgage. You can read more about remote work here https://www.morethanawheelin.com/6-ways-ive-made-money-since-leaving-corporate-america/.” – Camille
This person saves over $1,700 a month through RV living – “When I was 45, I started to wonder if it were possible to retire at 50. I just didn't want to wait another 20 years to start checking items off my bucket list. Plus I wanted to find a way to create more time in my life to pursue my passion of writing, I knew there was no way my savings would be enough to cover my monthly living expenses, not to mention the health insurance coverage I'd be losing if I left my job. I considered many options from working part-time, to moving into a tiny home but ultimately decided buying an RV was the best option. Not only did it dramatically lower my monthly cost of living expenses (for example I paid $2200/month for my mortgage/utilities and now I can stay a campground for about $500/month), I get the added bonus of traveling around seeing this amazing country.” – Debbie
This person is saving thousands of dollars a month by full-time RVing – “We left behind a mortgage of approximately $2200 + about $600+ a month in utilities. Car loans and motorcycle loans near $1200 a month. Now we cover our mortgage with rent from a tenant, and all the other bills have gone away as we downsized. We still have a loan on our RV, we own our Jeep and pay about $1000 a month some months for campsites. But that includes utilities! So overall we are saving in the thousands every month. We have paid of credit cards and other bills. We didn’t RV to save money necessarily but it is a great side benefit!” – Sonya
Living in a camper means a difference of $15,000 a year for this couple – “We were parked on the shore of Lake Ohau in New Zealand when we had the epiphany that we could continue to live a nomadic lifestyle much cheaper than when we were living in the house we own. Backpacking and living in a van in New Zealand had us spending around $64ish dollars a day for that amazing lifestyle…all in (gas, food, beer, campground fees, wifi, insurance). We crunched the numbers and our lifestyle in Colorado had us at a sunk cost of around $35 dollars a day just to have the house. So, that means we had to make $35 a day just to have the living structure. Then, you had to make more for the food, wifi, beers, gym memberships, etc. Our number for our Colorado lifestyle had us around $105 or so. $105 – $64 = $41*365 = $15,000ish…means you had to make $15k more just to live the Colorado, home lifestyle the way we wanted to. We could take the $15k and pay down debt or choose to work less. We paid down our debt before we started traveling to be honest. We view the cost savings through the lens of having to work less hours. Living the RV lifestyle makes that number a much smaller number which means we ultimately have to work less hours…which means we get to play more.” – Adam
How you may save money by living in a camper
Now that you’ve read those real experiences from people choosing to live in an RV, I want to talk about the many different ways you could possibly save money by living in a camper over a “normal” home.
Purchase an affordable RV.
If you want to save the most amount of money, then this is where you can really do some damage to your debt and get rid of it quicker.
The average house is somewhere around $200,000, and depending on where you live, it may be well over $500,000 for a normal house.
But, with RVs, you're paying specifically for the RV, not for any super expensive land like with a “normal” house.
To save money RVing, many people purchase older RVs and remodel them, and they save a ton of money. Or, they purchase smaller ones that don't cost much money.
If you wanted to, you could buy your next home for less than $10,000! This can mean a great amount of savings over your current rent or monthly mortgage payment.
Now, typical expenses related to your actual RV include the RV you buy, sales tax (this can be quite high in some states!), license and registration fees, property taxes, and maintenance.
Whether you buy a new or old RV, many are purchased by taking out a loan, and RV loans are a little different from car loans. You can often get an RV loan for 15 or 20 years. So, I always recommend that you are careful, because a 15 or 20 year loan can make an RV seem more affordable when in reality it is not. Remember, you're trying to save more money!
Stay in one place longer to save on fuel.
A big expense when RVing is fuel. RVs have notoriously bad fuel mileage.
So, if you really want to attack your debt and/or save the most amount of money, then you may want to move more slowly (we know many people who may only drive their RV 100 or 200 miles a month), or possibly not at all.
Be smart when choosing where you'll park.
Your nightly stays when RVing can vary widely. There are a ton of awesome places to camp for free in the United States, and then there are RV resorts that can charge $150+ a night.
If you want to save the most amount of money, then you will most likely either want to find free campsites, stay at state/national/city/regional parks, or stay monthly at campgrounds because that's how you will receive much more affordable rates.
Can you imagine how much money you may be able to save if you were to get an affordable camper (as described above) AND camp for free or super cheap?
To find free camp stays, I recommend searching Campendium, All Stays, Free Campsites, and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. We love free camping because you can usually find some amazing places with beautiful trails close by. Plus, you may also get a large amount of area to yourself. Free camping can include something like parking at a Walmart (this is for when you are trying to get somewhere and just need a place to rest and/or sleep) to staying on amazing BLM land in national forests. While there are no hookups, many RVs are fine for a week without hookups anyway. To learn more about finding free places to stay, please read How To Camp For Free, Even In Beautiful and Desirable Places.
Campgrounds at state and national parks can vary widely. I've been to a state park in California that was $50 a night (California has the most expensive state campgrounds I've seen so far), and I've also been to beautiful campgrounds for $8 a night in Colorado. There's also the great New Mexico deal, which is explained in Shelley's story above.
If you plan on staying at a lot of RV parks, I highly recommend getting both a Passport America card and Good Sam card. They usually pay for themselves in just one or two uses and are well worth it. Also, think about staying longer so that you can get the weekly or monthly discounted rates.
You'll buy less as you'll have less room to store junk.
Living in an RV means that you’ll have to downsize. While some people dread this, getting rid of nearly all of your stuff is extremely liberating.
When we sold our house and moved into an RV, we donated and got rid of a lot of our belongings. At first it was difficult to get rid of so much, but it became easier as time went on.
These days, all we have is what we have with us. We have a small amount of everything, and we like it best this way.
We are much more mindful of what we buy, we waste hardly anything, and this is allowing us to save money as well.
It’s pretty simple, you just can't buy as much when you have nowhere to put it all!
Would you start living in a camper if it meant you could save more money and/or pay off debt sooner?
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