Key Budgeting Strategies for RVers

Before I started RVing full-time, I knew I had to sit down to review my finances and make sure I could afford to maintain this lifestyle. So, being the accounting geek that I am, I worked out a couple of budgets in an Excel spreadsheet. There were various scenarios based on what I imagined full-time RVing expenses would be, plus my fixed and variable costs that would follow me into RV life.

Fast forward a year and a half later, and I still maintain a budget which I fine-tuned as I discovered my traveling style. It’s important to know what your expenses are monthly, quarterly, and annually so you can continue to enjoy the freedoms of full-time RV living.

Some of us work remotely for companies, some of us are entrepreneurs, and some are retired. No matter what group you fall into, knowing your expenses compared to your income will allow you continue the journey as long as you’d like.

Key Steps to Staying on a Budget

Track Your Expenses

Carefully tracking your expenses will assist you with staying on a budget so you can easily review what you’ve spent in comparison to your budget and adjust your spending if necessary.

There are some great tools to track your expenses each month, from online software to manual tracking:

  • Quicken personal finance software
  • Mvelopes online software which uses the principle of the envelope method of saving and budgeting
  • YNAB software
  • Excel spreadsheet
  • Manually writing your expenses in a notebook

Each tracking tool has its own method of tracking expenses and creating a budget. You may want to review each one to see which option works best for you and the time you’d like to dedicate to tracking monthly.

Know Your Expenses

First, you need to know your expenses compared to your income, so you can implement a budget. Many of you will probably want to spend less than your income and think about the major and minor categories associated with your spending.

Scrubbing through the last year of purchases to determine where you spend your money is a good idea. If you already use personal finance software, then this will be an easy task.

Consider all of the minor purchases as well, like laundry, or your monthly mail forwarding expense. These small expenses can add up to a high dollar amount annually when combined.

Here’s a list of expenses to consider when determining your budget:

RV Expenses

  • Fuel
  • Auto Insurance
  • Maintenance
  • Registration
  • Annual Club Membership
  • RV Park Rent
  • State Park Passes
  • Annual Park Pass
  • RV Payment
  • Equipment & Parts

Household Expenses

  • Groceries
  • Eating Out
  • Hot Spot/Internet
  • Laundry
  • Cell Phone
  • Propane
  • Water
  • Sewer
  • Mail Forwarding
  • Mailbox Rental

Personal Expenses

  • Gym
  • Health Insurance
  • Medical
  • Supplements
  • Security
  • Hair Care
  • Toiletries
  • Pet Food
  • Pet Grooming
  • Veterinary
  • Veterinary Misc
  • Clothing
  • Amazon Prime
  • Entertainment

Where Can You Cut Expenses?

After you’ve analyzed your expenses, is there anywhere you can save money by cutting your costs each month? What expenses can you get rid of that no longer add value to your life?

Maybe boondocking more and fewer campground rentals can help you save a few dollars, or reviewing your RV insurance policy each year against other carriers or policy changes that increased your premium.

You can then use those savings to pay down more debt, stay on the road longer, or as mad money at an RV resort with unlimited hot showers and hot springs. I vote for the hot showers and hot springs! You choose, but it’s an easy way to look at how to decrease your expenses.

Use the One-In One-Out Method to Purchasing

I don’t know about you, but RVing with others and seeing all of their cool toys, modifications, and organizing tools is marketing at its finest. I immediately want to hop on Amazon and get that new kayak delivered to the local UPS store.

While having all of the cool toys is part of the fun with living this lifestyle, we also have limited space in our RVs. A method I use to stay in budget and not overload the RV is to use the one-in-one-out method. If I want to purchase something for the RV then I need to also think about what I can get rid of – which helps control impulse purchases, stay within budget, and keep the RV decluttered and underweight.

Save your Annual Expenses Monthly

Southern Oregon Coast fog off of water

A great way to even out your cash flow each month and stay within budget is to save/budget your annual expenses monthly.

For example, an annual fee for Amazon Prime is about $120. If you instead budget for it monthly AND save that cash at $10 per month ($120 divided by 12 months) then when the expense comes due you already have the money saved and budgeted, so you won’t see this spike in expenses for that month.

This is a great way to make sure your budget is almost the same dollar amount for expenses each month, and allows you to maintain focus and not lose sight of those expenses that are due quarterly or annually.

An essential expense in RVing is the cost of maintenance. Even if you have a warranty, there will still be wear and tear items to maintain – oil changes, washing the RV, new tires, and more. Using the same method of saving and budgeting an allowance for maintenance each month ensures that when the time comes for repairs and maintenance, you can avoid the stress since you already saved money directly related to this expense.

RVing is an exciting journey where we get to travel to destinations we’ve always wanted to explore and to connect with others in our RV community. While I may be the accounting geek and enjoy putting a budget together, I realize not everyone shares that same passion. However, if you can apply just some of these steps, you’ll be well on your way to ensuring a long journey for as much time as you’d like as an RVing nomad.

Author

Amber Baldwin

Founder of Story Chasing, perpetual solo traveler, writer, and entrepreneur. I gave up the 9-5 to fulfill a dream of traveling full-time and to document the stories I accumulate along my journey as I meet people on the road while I travel the country. My background of 30 years in corporate finance and accounting has allowed me to share my knowledge with wannabe travelers on how to finance a full-time travel lifestyle and start an online business on the road.

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