Setting Up A Full Time RV Budget

by | May 21, 2024 | Tips & Tricks

Are you considering the leap into living in an RV full time? It’s a shift that promises freedom and adventure, but it’s also a major lifestyle adjustment with its own set of challenges. In this guide, we’ll explore what it truly means to be a full-time RVer and how to set up an RV budget. From initial costs to daily living expenses, this guide will help you prepare, budget, and really understand whether or not full time RV living is for you.

Pros and Cons of Full Time RV Living

While the charm of full time RV living is compelling, it does come with certain compromises. One of the most significant advantages is the potential for reduced living expenses. By being strategic with campground reservations, embracing boondocking, and seeking free attractions, full-timers can significantly lower their monthly costs. Plus, the opportunity to slow down and truly savor each destination adds immeasurable value to the RV traveling.

However, this lifestyle can introduce unique challenges, including:

    • A lack of privacy in crowded RV parks.
    • The close quarters of your vehicle require multi-functional furniture and a minimalistic lifestyle.
    • The RV lifestyle demands a high level of communication and community-building skills to ward off loneliness and maintain meaningful connections while on the road.

So, while you may save money on full-time living expenses, you’ll need to plan your stays and downsize. 

Creating an RV Budget for Full-Time RV Living

Just like plotting a path through unfamiliar terrain, budgeting for full-time RV living requires thoughtful planning, anticipation, and adaptability. A well-planned budget must take into account the unpredictable. Here are some tips to help you navigate your RV budget and lower expenses:

    • Consider monthly costs like campground fees and RV insurance.
    • Take advantage of loyalty programs for recurring expenses.
    • Cook meals in your RV to save money.
    • Set aside an emergency fund for unexpected expenses.

With these tips, you can plan and manage your RV budget effectively while enjoying the freedom of full-time RV living.

In addition to the fixed costs, your budget must also be flexible enough to accommodate the ebb and flow of full-time RV living costs. This means budgeting for inflation and considering how the cost of living changes from state to state.  You also need to set aside emergency funds for that RV part you need or unexpected RV repairs.

Initial Costs

Starting your full-time RV journey involves a considerable initial investment, primarily the acquisition of your RV. Whether you opt for the shine of a new RV or the charm of a used one, this will likely be your most significant upfront cost. But the expenses don’t stop at the sales lot. Your new home-on-wheels may need upgrades and adjustments to meet the demands of full-time RV life. Installing a washer and dryer or solar panels are common upgrades full-time RVers add to their rigs.

Approaching these initial expenses with a clear mind, a set RV budget, and shopping around for the best deals and RV financing options is critical. Consider the long-term implications of your choices, from the RV type to the amenities you can’t live without. A realistic RV budget and shopping around for the best RV deals can help minimize your overall expenses.

Couple creating their RV budget for living in an RV full time

Recurring Expenses 

The recurring expenses form the backbone of the financial aspect of living in an RV full time. Monthly costs like campground fees, fuel costs, and RV maintenance form the baseline of your budget expenses. Plus, insurance premiums, like RV and health insurance, along with utilities — such as that all-important internet connection for remote work. 

Including these regular monthly payments in your budget is essential. Planning your full time RV budget with fixed expenses in mind ensures financial harmony. Other recurring expenses may include:

    • oil changes
    • tire rotations
    • engine maintenance
    • cleaning and detailing

Regularly maintaining your RV can prevent major repairs and make full time RV living more enjoyable and comfortable.  

Unexpected Costs

Despite meticulous planning, unexpected expenses are inevitable when living in your RV full time. That’s why having an emergency fund is as essential as a spare tire. This emergency buffer can cover everything from a blown gasket to an impromptu visit to the doctor. 

When budgeting for the unpredictable, consider the potential for fuel price hikes or the need for an emergency flight home. Be prepared and set aside emergency funds every month so unforeseen expenses won’t completely derail your life. When creating a full time RV budget, try following the 50/30/20 budgeting rule, which includes spending half of your income on necessities, 30% on wants, and saving 20%. This will help you build an emergency fund and account for monthly expenses.

living in an RV full time visiting national parks

Daily RV Living: Managing Your RV Budget

After addressing initial and recurring costs, it’s time to focus on the daily expenses of living full-time in an RV. This means getting savvy with your shopping habits, meal planning, and creating a solid RV budget so every dollar stretches as far as possible. It also involves weaving in affordable entertainment options that enrich your travel experience without breaking the bank.

Effective budgeting for daily living is about balance. It’s about knowing when to splurge and when to simply appreciate a beautiful sunset on the beach. A well-thought-out RV budget will allow you to enjoy the full-time RV life to its fullest.

Saving on Groceries and Cooking

Cooking in an RV kitchen, with its limited space, can be a delightful challenge. It’s about maximizing space and minimizing waste. Luckily, we have lots of RV recipe ideas for you on our blog! Cost-effective shopping means stocking up at discount stores and avoiding high prices in remote areas. And sometimes, it means expanding your cold storage capacity to accommodate those bulk buys.

Meal planning on the road can also be creative, with options like:

    • Embracing meatless meals
    • Perfecting the art of one-pot dishes
    • Utilizing appliances like slow cookers for set-it-and-forget-it meals
    • Taking your culinary skills outdoors when the summer heat turns your RV into an oven
    • Opting for no-cook meals to keep things cool and comfortable

Entertainment and Leisure

Road entertainment doesn’t necessarily require extravagant spending. Here are some fun and affordable activities you can enjoy while living in an RV full time:

    • Enjoy the natural beauty of national parks
    • Go hiking or biking, or plan a picnic
    • Go thrift shopping or to swap meets
    • Visit a farmer’s market
    • Immerse yourself in free local events
    • Take advantage of free admission days at museums and galleries
Activities that fit your RV budget when living in an RV full time

Income for Full Time RVers

Remote Work Opportunities

Maintaining the full-time RV lifestyle demands careful budgeting and a consistent income source. Thanks to the rise of remote work, full-time RVers now have a lot of job opportunities. As long as you have an internet connection, you can work part or full time while on the road. This makes your full-time RV budet more accessible and sustainable. With a steady stream of income, you’ll be able to maintain a more luxurious RV lifestyle packed with adventure. As someone who plans on living in an RV full time, you should consider remote careers with flexible hours. 

Some popular remote jobs include being a:

    • Virtual assistant
    • Social media manager
    • Sales/customer service representative
    • Journalist/writer
    • Graphic designer

Seasonal and Freelance Jobs

Sometimes, the best way to immerse yourself in a new location while managing your RV budget is to work there for a while. Seasonal work, such as campground hosting, can provide income and connect you with the local community. Working at an RV campground is also a fantastic way to meet other people living in an RV full time. For jobs ideal for full time RVers, you can use sites like KamperJobs to find waitress, host, maintenance, and reception jobs near you.

For those with a knack for independence, freelance gigs in IT, sales, or marketing can offer lucrative pay and more freedom. These jobs can fit seamlessly into your full time RV schedule, allowing you to work a few weeks here and there.

man working remotely while living in an RV full time to maintain his RV budget

Saving Money

Choosing a road life doesn’t equate to forsaking financial stability. On the contrary, full time RV living can be an opportunity to build savings and prepare for the future. By sticking to a concise RV budget, managing monthly expenses, and saving regularly, you can create a cushion for emergencies or invest in your future. Try sticking to the 50/30/20 rule and saving 20% of your monthly income. 

Utilizing budgeting tools and apps can help you monitor your finances, ensuring that living in an RV full time remains sustainable in the long term. With the right approach, your RV life can be as financially stable as it is free-spirited.


Create Your RV Budget & Become a Full Time RVer

Living in an RV full time is as much about financial planning as it is about wanderlust. The freedom of the open road comes with its own set of financial responsibilities, from the initial costs to the daily living expenses that keep your life on wheels turning. Yet, with a clear RV budget, a reliable source of income, and a little courage, becoming a full-time RVer can be a sustainable dream. May your RV budget be realistic, and your full time RV adventures be full of joy.

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