How to Live the RV Lifestyle on a Limited Budget

Life in an RV Can Be Super Affordable

Land of Beauty
This Could be Your Front Yard. Margo Armstrong

As you are nearing retirement, the dream of living the RV lifestyle keeps reappearing. How do you realize that dream when you are facing a limited budget? You currently have some equity in your house, two cars, a little savings in the bank, and soon your small retirement and/or Social Security benefit that will come in every month.

If you turn that house into cash (either by selling or renting it), sell at least one of the cars, and flip that cash into an older, high-quality motor home, then yes, that is enough to start a life on the road and survive, mortgage-free.

If you already have a high-powered truck, put that cash into a quality fifth-wheel trailer and roll on down the road.

How To Prepare

Finding the right RV may take some time. This purchase can make or break your lifestyle experience. The interior layout needs to provide comfort and durability. The exterior should be easy to clean and wax with enough compartment storage space.

While you are waiting for that retirement day to roll around, pay off all your credit cards and save the best one (lowest interest) for travel expenses. Start having garage sales on the weekend to create cash and get rid of all the great stuff you are not going to need on the road. Take my word for it, after the first year in this new lifestyle, your stuff is only a blur in history. Once accomplished, a mountain of relief settles over you and puts a spring in your step. There are always rental units for stuff, if needed.

You'll also want to prepare a new spending plan for your RV lifestyle.

Your Spending Plan

There are only two main areas that need to be budgeted to survive comfortably in this lifestyle:

1. Food 

This commodity varies depending on the state, county, and season. During the harvest season, prices fall for vegetables and fruit; in the winter they rise.

If you have the space to store home-canned vegetables and fruits, food costs can plummet.

Fortunately, farmer’s markets are everywhere that sell organic and fresh-off-the-farm produce. In some areas of the country, the markets even sell fresh beef, lamb, and pork.

The farther away from a metro area, the cheaper the food, with a few exceptions. Most small towns have huge outdoor markets at least on the weekends. Because of the fair weather in the western states, there are farmer’s markets happening at least 3 days out of 7 all year and even more during harvest.

2. RV Sites

This expenditure happens every night, so planning ahead can result in big savings at the next RV park. Always call ahead and make a reservation so you can be aware of the pricing and amenities. This common sense approach eliminates the need to pay premium prices because the other parks are full.

During the peak season every year nightly rates for RV sites can jump 200%. Planning ahead not only saves you money but guarantees that at the end of a long day your site is ready for you. Weekly and monthly rates are usually discounted, so stay longer when you can. Remember, you have all the time in the world to get to your dream destinations, so you can slow down and relax.

RV Site Discount Cards Can Save Big

There are also a few discount cards you can purchase that help keep the budget intact. Passport America sells a directory of discount parks for around $44 a year. This card provides a 50% discount on hundreds of commercial parks around the country. Restrictions apply during high-season.

The Escapees RV Club ($29.95 per year) provides members the opportunity to stay in their co-op parks around the country for less than commercial rates. This membership also gives a 15%-50% discount at commercial parks all over the USA.

There are many opportunities to “boondock” as you travel the country. This is primitive camping with no access to utilities. There are also a number of places you can combine food with a free site for the night. During the harvest season, many u-pick farms offer parking spots, and some wineries do too.

This does require some planning, but really helps with the budget. 

Join the Boondockers Welcome online community to make new friends and save money while you see the world from a local's perspective. This membership provides access to fellow members offering an invitation to spend a night (or two) parked on their property.

A limited budget is not a roadblock to the RV lifestyle. Find the right RV, dispose of your “stuff,” and move on down the road. 

This article comes to us courtesy of Margo Armstrong. Margo spent most of her professional life writing documentation for high-tech corporations. Now semi-retired, she continues to travel the USA in her motorhome (19 years full-time, the last 5 years solo) exploring, writing eBooks, and sometimes workamping for a season to get the true flavor of a locale. She loves sharing this wonderful lifestyle with others planning to travel the same path.

Margo’s blog,, follows all things related to the RV lifestyle. Her website,, contains hundreds of topics important to those interested in living the dream. For more information on how to live on a budget, see her eBook, How To Save Money While Enjoying the RV Lifestyle.