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How A Full-Time RV Couple Travels Around The World On $1200 A Month

Melissa Nance and Wade Smith full-time RV on a budget
Melissa Nance and Wade Smith

How A Full-Time RV Couple Travels Around The World On $1200 A Month

The costs of living in an RV full-time vary from traveler to traveler. Gas, food, campgrounds, sight-seeing ventures, and even repairs are just some full-time RV expenses. And while it would be nice to have an unlimited disposable income to explore, realistically, this is not feasible for most full-timers. This is where the challenge of sticking to a budget comes into play.

Full-time RV couple Melissa Nance and Wade Smith took to the road after Nance was diagnosed and treated for cancer. The dynamic duo has lived in their Class C motorhome for four years, jumping from state to state and traveling abroad a couple times a year, all on a budget of a mere $1200 a month. How do they do it?

Before embracing the full-time RV lifestyle, Nance was an executive director of a nonprofit. She has used these skills to develop what she refers to as an “airtight money-saving system” that works well for them. She shares budget tips on her blog, The Penny Pinching Globetrotter, and many of her strategies are shared below.

How these RVers earn income while traveling

To fund their nomadic life, the couple brings money in from seasonal jobs and online gigs. Smith workcamps six months out of the year, earning $2,500 per month at national parks, campgrounds, or gift shops. These seasonal jobs average $13.25 per hour and include perks like a free campsite with hook-ups and discounts on food and local attractions.

Nance supplements the income by completing various online tasks through websites and apps, like mystery shopping and customer surveys. She is constantly finding thrifty sales and even more ways to cut corners and save.

The $2500 that Smith pulls in during his 6-month work stint is spread out throughout the year, roughly $1200 a month.

Monthly expenses

In an average month for the couple, the budget covers expenses like gas and propane (varies), health insurance ($309), food and toiletries ($300), phones ($171), entertainment ($100), storage unit ($45), and laundry ($25). These numbers fluctuate monthly depending on their needs and have ranged from $1200 -$1400.

Traveling abroad

Nance’s secret to affording international travel on a tight budget is travel points.

“I found earning travel points to be the magic answer. So I signed up for my first travel credit card and started earning travel points for free travel.” Nance mentioned in her blog.

In their past four years on the road, Nance and Smith have visited Italy, Paris, Morocco, South Africa, and Ireland by building up points on nine credit cards. She charges all of their expenses on the cards and pays each off at the end of the month. The points earned essentially pay for their round-trip flights and hotel stays.

They spend even less when they travel overseas as their expenses exclude laundry, gas, and propane. The food is cheaper, they also discovered.

Nance admits that sticking to a budget and building up points is a challenge, but the time is worth the effort to go on a dream vacation.

“These things take time,” Nance said. “You’re trading the time for the money. If I put in a couple of hours figuring out this credit card, then I get a free trip.”

Money-saving tips

Nance is full of full-time RV money-saving hacks, which are listed below.

–Don’t eat out.
–Buy groceries from discount stores.
–Boondock instead of paying for a campsite.
–Stick to the budget.
–For peace of mind, have an emergency fund.

For more of Nance’s budgeting tidbits, visit her blog, The Penny Pinching Globetrotter.


More budgeting tips

Want even more budgeting tips from other veteran full-timers? In the video below, David and Roe Hiser of Fate Unbound share 10 ways they save money as full-time RVers. You can also pick up some great tips from Chelsea Gonzales in her article on How To Live And Travel On Less Than $2000 A Month.

Saving money on your travels doesn’t have to involve a lot of research and headache. Use the all-in-one RV LIFE Trip Wizard online planning tool. Map out an RV-friendly route and keep track of your spending on fuel, food, and campground stays with its nifty budget feature.


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