Lin and I are often asked “what do you do for a living”? When we respond with “we are both retired” the usual response is “ya’ll are too young,” followed by a perplexed look and the question “how did you manage to retire so early?”
For both of us to retire at 50 years of age we had to make smart decisions with our money throughout the years. Budgeting, saving and frugal spending habits were key. And those didn’t change much when we went full time in our Winnebago Forza.
However, we did discover with RVing comes a few lifestyle specific ways to save. Some of which you may already be familiar with, such as staying monthly at RV parks, utilizing RV membership discounts, and boondocking.
But, if you are looking for even more ideas, check out these seven ridiculously simple ways you can save money on the road.
1. Store no more
If you’ve made the big decision to sell your home and live full time in your RV, now comes the downsizing process. To say it’s overwhelming is an understatement. From years of photos to rooms full of furniture. You can’t imagine letting go of your cherished possessions. Afterall, you might need them again one day. But there’s no room in your new RV for it all. So, you rent a storage unit. It seems like the easiest solution, right? Unfortunately, you are throwing money out with the grey water.
The national average for a 10×15 storage unit is about $100 per month on the low end. If you keep that storage unit for one year, you are spending $1,200 or more. Is your favorite sofa worth that kind of money?
Instead, sell everything that you could buy new again should you ever need it. Pass on anything that is of sentimental value to another family member or friend. You’ll be bringing joy to their lives while saving tons of money on storage fees.
2. Fine tune your grocery shopping skills
Did you know that the average family wastes about 20% of their groceries? Shopping without a list is one of the major causes of overspending. Not to mention shopping on an empty stomach. It’s amazing how that bag of chips or gigantic candy bar that you don’t need miraculously jumps into your cart!
Having a list prepared before you leave your RV is crucial to saving money. But how do you know what to put on your grocery list?
Plan your meals out for the week. Everything from breakfasts, lunches, dinners and even snacks for the entire family. If you are struggling with ideas, try a subscription meal planning service such as eMeals. It’s our favorite tool for successful meal planning. With eMeals you choose your meals from their lists of tasty recipes. Next, download the list of groceries. Then head to the store with your list to help keep you on track during your grocery buying adventure.
Even better, send the list right to your Walmart app and order online (at participating Walmarts). Ordering your groceries online and picking them up at the store saves you precious time. Wouldn’t you rather be sightseeing, hiking, biking, or relaxing by the campfire with the family?
Also, be sure to inventory your RV’s pantry before finalizing your list. Ending up with one too many cans of tomato sauce could be a bad thing! Especially since RV living can sometimes mean limited storage space. Same goes for your refrigerator. Take stock before you shop!
And don’t forget to buy store brands. Based on a Consumer Reports study, store brands can save you 15-30% on your grocery bill.
3. Eat at home
With all those excellent grocery shopping skills you now have, eating at home will be a piece of cake! Why not use your RV’s kitchen or enjoy the outdoors and cook on your grill? The benefits to eating at home far outweigh eating out.
For starters, it’s a huge cost saving. During our first year on the road, Lin and I dined out an average of three times per week. We were in a new town every week and just had to taste the local foods! Not only did we gain almost 15 pounds each, but we also blew our dining-out budget.
We’ve curbed that habit and now only dine out once a week. And we both have lost most of the weight we gained!
On average, we spend $36 eating at a nice restaurant. By only going out once per week now, we save over $3,700 a year on dining out costs! Finding restaurants that have happy hours offering discounts on appetizers helps the bottom line as well.
More importantly, eating at home not only will you save money, but you could also be saving your life! Choosing healthier ingredients and controlling sugar and salt intake can make a difference in your health. Not to mention, knowing that the “chef” washed his/her hands! With the rising costs in medical care, wouldn’t you rather stay out of the doctor’s office?
4. Ban the bottles
Water bottles are expensive and add unnecessary weight to your RV. A 24 pack of 16.9-oz water weighs 30lbs. And if you have two or three cases on board your RV, that load can get heavy fast.
On average, Americans spend about $100 per person each year on bottled water. For larger households, the cost can easily add up to several hundred dollars each year. It’s no wonder that bottled water surpassed soda as the favorite drink of Americans in 2017.
But how do you get safe, great-tasting drinking water inside your RV? Say hello to the Berkey Water Filter. GoLifer, Bryanna Royal names the Berkey Water Filter as her #1 RV must have. And we completely agree! Check out her in-depth article about the Berkey here.
At more than $300, the Berkey Water Filter can seem like a hefty investment. But if you do the math, like Lin does for us, for a family of two it will more than pay for itself in just over a year.
5. Use discount prescription online pharmacy apps
Speaking of health care costs, prescription drug prices have skyrocketed. Fortunately, online prescription drug discount companies can help. There are several of these types of companies out there. The two we use are GoodRX and Blink Health. They are most helpful if you don’t have traditional health insurance coverage, like us. But they also can provide savings for those with regular insurance coverage.
Our most recent savings was with Blink Health. One of my prescriptions is normally $205 a month at Walmart. Lin first checked GoodRX, which brought the price down to $181. Not bad, but Lin took five more minutes to check Blink Health. Good thing she did. Their price was $162. And since it was our first order, we received a $15 discount bringing it down to $147. That’s a $58 savings! Cha-ching! The only caveat with Blink Health is that you pay for the medication through their app or website first. When you arrive at the pharmacy, you show them your online order. It’s that simple.
Virtually every U.S. pharmacy accepts discount prescription drug companies. Before you refill your next medication, take a few minutes to check with them on the pricing. You could be leaving money on the pharmacy counter!
6. Nix the non-essentials
Online shopping makes life on the road easier. A few clicks and a couple of days later your package magically appears at your campground office. But it’s all too easy to get carried away buying things you might not need for your RV life.
We are a prime example of that. Last year, our non-essentials budget was off the charts. It added up to a whopping $1,060 per month. A new vacuum seal machine that we never use. New bike seats for bikes we rarely ride. The list was endless.
We now admit that we are Amazon addicts. In fact, we decided 2019 was the year of the no more non-essentials. Non-essentials are luxuries we don’t need and can survive without. If we “want” it, it’s usually a non-essential. So far this year, our non-essential budget is down to $37 a month!
If you must have that $350 Dyson dehumidifier/fan for your RV, you should be using cash back reward websites. Ibotta, Ebates, and Swagbucks are amazing. They’ll send you some sweet cash if you shop through their sites.
Wikibuy and Honey are two additional tools I would highly recommend. They are browser extensions that automatically apply coupons to your shopping cart. With WikiBuy alone, we average more than $200 in savings per year.
Have a truly essential need (like the Berkey Water Filter)? Then implement these discount-finding tools before you hit that “buy now with one click” button and wait for the magic. Free money? …Yes, please.
7. Do it yourself
Do you usually hire an expensive professional for simple RV repairs or maintenance? Before you do, try doing it yourself if it isn’t something you need a professional opinion on. You could be saving big bucks.
Chances are, someone before you has found a solution and posted it to the world wide web. Google searches, YouTube and Facebook groups are your new best friends.
I recently challenged myself to the task of adding water to our house batteries. At first, it seemed simple. Then I realized I had to remove all four batteries which I was not expecting. But, luckily, I found a few detailed “how to” videos in the Winnebago Forza Facebook group. They gave me the confidence to proceed and I completed the job. I’m glad I did, because it saved us almost $200!
Invest a little time in doing simple repairs and maintenance yourself (here are a few checks you can be doing inside and outside of your RV to prevent future issues). It will save you money and it may surprise you at how handy you can be.
Try implementing just one of these ridiculously simple tips today. Because the more money you save now, the more RV traveling you can do later. And more traveling means more unforgettable experiences for you and your family. Who doesn’t want that?
What are your favorite money-saving tricks you use while RVing? We’d love to read about them in the comments.