The Best Cheap RV Living Forum Tips From iRV2
As the cost of living goes up, people are on the lookout for ways to save money. For some, this means seeking out ways to take an RV vacation on the cheap. For others, it might mean leaving traditional housing behind and trying out RV life. In both cases, folks are looking for ways to save money while RVing. Fortunately, the people on this cheap RV living forum on iRV2 are happy to share their best pieces of advice.
Whether you’re just starting out, looking to save on fuel and food as you travel, or just wondering what small changes you can make to make RV living more affordable, this cheap RV living forum is the place for you.
Don’t want to dig through the posts yourself? Not to worry, we’ve done the legwork for you. Below are our favorite tips and tricks for RV living on a dime.
Buy your RV used
Not sure whether it’s smarter to buy new or used? There are varying opinions on this, but most budget-savvy people say to buy used to avoid losing large sums of money in depreciation.
“I am a believer in a gently used higher end unit over a new entry level unit. Look at a lot of units and pick what fits you and your budget. Once you have zoned in on a good unit, have your independent tech check the RV systems and the chassis for any problems. This could run about $200 or so each.”—Ken
“Buying something that depreciates like a brand new RV would be insanity in my book. Buy one at 2–3 years old with hardly any miles and save a third. A couple more years and pay half. I do understand a lot of people have to keep up with the Joneses.”—89sandman
Buy cheap toilet paper
Here’s a funny one: toilet paper. Is it really necessary to buy that super expensive RV-specific paper? The general consensus is that no, it is not necessary, but you do want to buy cheap, one-ply paper that will break down in your tank.
“Just use whatever single ply paper you want along with lots of water. Flush two bowls of water down into the empty black tank after you dump. Always fill the bowl before you use it except to pee.” —Cavie
“We use the Walmart version of the Scotts 1000 sheet rolls. Works just fine. I’ve had to buy the Scotts a couple times when the Walmart brand was out of stock, and it seems to dissolve not quite as easily. Still no clogs though.
I think as long as you stay away from anything fluffy or “quilted” you should be ok. We also use the Happy Campers tank treatment for every tank. I’m not sure how much it helps to break down the paper, but it seems to help with the smell.” —JerryLook
Look into Visible cell service
Internet is important, especially if you plan to work on the road. Cell service is one way to stay connected on the road, and Visible is one of the most affordable cell service options for RVers. According to this thread, it’s a pretty good option.
“I’ve been using it for 2yrs and have been extremely happy with them.
The service is on Verizon and you have true unlimited data, including being able to use your phone as a hotspot but with a speed cap of 5mbps, which is still fine for streaming Netflix. The website/customer service are very rudimentary but if you don’t mind, it’s a great deal. They simply charge your credit card a flat $40/mo and that can get lowered if you are part of group with 2 or more people.
You can either bring your own device and they’ll send you a SIM you activate using their app or you can order a new phone from them with the SIM already installed.”—Paul R.
Save on fuel
“Maybe this has been posted elsewhere but for anyone who doesn’t know, GasBuddy is helpful for finding the best gas prices. It’s available on the computer or a downloadable app. I’ve used it around home to find the best local gas station. But on the road it helps figure out what price to look for based on the state average. Yesterday, while traveling, I found a price difference of $0.20/gallon within a short distance. The highest was the one closest to the highway.” —Ice3
“Go to TSD Logistics web site and join their fuel program. Will save you up to $0.50 per gallon.” —Roygfleming
Get a solar power system
Having the ability to camp off-grid will save you big bucks on camping fees, and having electricity without running a generator will save on fuel costs.
“RVing on a budget; one of the best ways to do this is use less power or add an off-grid solar panel system. In this, I will explain how to save on energy usage/consumption. It will cost a bit in the beginning but will save in the long run. You don’t have to do it all at once; you can do it piece by piece.
First thing is switch every light bulb to LEDs! They use 1/100th the power the normal RV bulbs do.
Solar doesn’t have to be big at first. I’ve used this system to power my laptop and several lights:
60-watt solar panel: $85
Search items like these; I am sure you can get them even cheaper. Here is a kit: $81 for both panel and charger
Attach this to your house batteries and this will power the majority of your lights in your rig!”—einstein2nd
Know where you can camp for cheap and free
Finding places to camp for free or for very little can also save a lot of money. Whether you choose to boondock on BLM lands, pay for inexpensive Forest Service campgrounds, or get a membership of some sort, you’re sure to love saving money on camping fees.
“Start by purchasing a National Park Senior Pass, which is the world’s greatest bargain. The cost is $80 and it is good for a lifetime. It will get you free admission to National Parks, and half-price camping at all National Park, National Forest, BLM, and COE campgrounds. You can buy it at any National Park fee station, or online.
Typical National Forest campgrounds will run $5 to $10 a night with the pass. There are several just south of the Smokies or just northeast of the Smokies.
National Forests also allow “dispersed camping” outside of their established campgrounds, at no charge. There are generally some restrictions regarding where it is permitted.”—J. Birder
“Did not see Passport America Campgrounds mentioned. 50% off at many campgrounds. Annual fee is well worth it. Typically pays for itself with just two or three nights of use.”—Ctpres
“TT (Thousand Trails membership) is good stuff if their locations are where you want to be. “Camping Pass” works very well for us, we usually use about 45 days. That means we pay $3/night for the extra nights over 30. REALLY good investment for us, works out to less than $15/night each year.
One of these days I may spend the extra $$$ on the “Trails Collection” add-on. For some trips it could turn out to actually save us $$$.
Not everyone can use it that effectively. One reason it works for us is that we have 4 TT locations less than an hour from our home, and 5 more within 3 hours. So far we’ve hit about 10 TT locations across 4 years.”—Rkresge
Finding ways to save on food is another thing that can cut costs significantly. The folks on the cheap RV living forum recommend meal planning and stocking up on food.
“Check out your local supermarkets for special sales and coupons to help with savings. Limited room in an RV makes it hard to ‘stock up’ when prices are lowest, but certain things will keep and can be stored for a time.
Where I am, there are 3 major supermarkets plus the Super Wally World with grocery department. Of those, one marks their meats down before it goes out of date to sell it instead of tossing it the day after it ‘expires’. There is NOTHING wrong with the meats, except the ‘sell by’ date is that day.
My store is usually Tuesday and I get what I can use for the week then. I break up family size packages to what I need. I freeze most and thaw it as needed. The selection isn’t always a lot, but the savings [are]. There have been a few things I have passed over from the looks (I have passed on fresh stuff because of looks too), but so far, everything I have bought has been top quality with no problems.”—NFIcamper
“For about a month prior to a big camping trip (like 3 weeks long) I will double up on normal cooking at home and freeze the extra for the trip. Ground beef or seasoned ground turkey gets browned with onions and frozen in plastic bags. I like to make the packages flat as possible, then they thaw quicker. I cook steel cut oatmeal and add dried fruit, then take it along in a plastic container. Heat up enough for breakfast—it’s healthy and filling. I think planning is the whole secret and I’m always watching for tips.”—luckyducky
Use restaurant apps to earn points
Stocking up and meal planning are great, but if you enjoy eating out, there are ways to do that on the cheap too. One forum user highly recommends using restaurant apps to earn points.
“December 2019 I took stock of my finances and began digging into my spending habits and noticed I was spending way too much on food. I normally eat out and it was getting expensive. On average I was spending around $900 as a single guy eating out sometimes as much as twice a day. This price also includes taking my mother to lunch a few times and my brother out to our favorite sushi place.
This was unacceptable but I still hate to cook so I looked for ways to save and still eat decent. I stumbled upon Restaurants Apps and using them began to save me money. For those who eat out, make sure to get the apps to the places you eat and check out alternatives. I also get gift cards that are discounted to save even more. Never Taco Bell though, as they are known for not honoring their own gift cards.
I ended up cutting my food budget by around 30% with just apps. I cut it in other places also but the Apps allowed me to continue eating food I enjoy like Wendy’s chicken sandwiches.
Bonus point [for when] you offer to pick up food for someone and they pay for their own: If someone wants to grab something from Subway, for instance, I offer to order it through my app and pick it up for them. They pay for their sub and I end up with not only the points but a free sub and even gas money. Not sure [about] the honesty of this though as I never inform them I am getting benefits from it.” —Mb444220
Insulate those windows
RVs are not the most well-insulated places to spend time, and the windows are where much of the heat escapes. Insulating your windows will certainly help keep you more comfortable, and depending on how you heat your rig, it might save you a pretty penny as well.
“Since my ride is a class C, I got some solar window shades at a dollar store. I cut them up so there is a double layer with foil on both sides and then used velcro to cover the windows in the cab over. It really cut down on light intrusion at night–and was warmer as well.
I’ve since expanded the idea to my sky lights. I did add foam blocks to the sky lights to act as vent cushions. The foam blocks fit into a large pillow case.”—Pianotuna
Go electric when possible
Speaking of how you heat your RV, forum users found that electricity is the way to go when you have the choice between that and propane. This is true for heaters as well as cooking appliances. Most campgrounds don’t charge for electricity, but you will always have to pay for propane. Besides that, propane furnaces are inefficient, and using propane adds to the condensation in your rig.
“If you are talking propane (not natural gas) vs electric it’s not even close. Electric will be much cheaper. Not to mention the inconvenience of refilling the propane tank.” —Selah
“If you aren’t worried about water lines freezing, electric will always be less to use for heat than propane. Don’t forget the delivery or fuel costs that you will spend to go get more propane.” —1bigmess
Clearly, the people on this cheap RV living forum know their stuff! Which of these tips will you implement to make your RV travels more affordable?
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