I have always been frugal. Before we bought our RV, quit our jobs and sold our house I used to be the Director of a Nonprofit organization. When you have to raise the money you learn real quick how to save money and stretch a dollar. So I guess you can say I have professional experience in being a penny pincher.
This skill has been very helpful in our life as full-time RVers. When we hit the road we had a paid for rig, no debt and $10,000 in the bank. We had no trust fund, we are not old enough for retirement, and no job. What we had was determination and my penny pinching ways.
We have been traveling full-time for four years now. In that time we have seen 30 National Parks, 27 National Monuments, camped in 29 states, visited 9 countries and logged 41,000 miles on our RV. We live and travel in our RV but park it to go abroad a few times a year or work when we need to make some extra cash.
While being frugal has been the key to this traveling life of ours there have been some mistakes. One ended up costing us lots of money in the long run and others we chalked up to lessons learned. I am almost embarrassed to share this first one with fellow RVers but maybe you can learn from my mistake.
1)Not Having Roadside Assistance
When you first start out in full time RVing there is a lot going on. You need to find a rig, get rid of your stuff, transition from a job, maybe sell or rent a house and figure out how an RV even works! Not to mention getting started in this life is not cheap. So while I knew we needed roadside assistance we had just spent lots of money so I figured I would get it the next month, then the next month and then I simply forgot about it.
About a year into our journey we broke down at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument https://www.nps.gov/orpi/index.htm near the Mexico border and we had no cell signal. Luckily we travel with a scooter so we were able to go and call for help. Because we didn't have roadside assistance we spent hours on the phone trying to find someone who would come out and help us. But the worst part is we spent $900 to get towed to the shop to have it fixed.
So if I had just purchased the roadside assistance to begin with we would have gotten our RV fixed sooner and have saved $900!!! Don’t be me, get roadside assistance.
2) Missing Out On Things We Later Regret
We have a very tight budget, living on around $1,400 a month when we are in our RV. This means we are always penny pinching and having to say no to some things. Sometimes there are things we really want to do but it is hard to justify the expense. We are basically living on $46 a day so when an activity is $70 a person we can’t help but think “Should we do that or keep at this travel life for two more days?”.
So we say no more than I would like. And sadly we have regrets. I still wish we had visited Biosphere 2 in Arizona https://biosphere2.org/. Wade wishes we could have stopped at more local breweries. So we have learned from our frugal ways and we are working to earn money just for entertainment and recently added $100 into out budget for entertainment!
3) Eating Food We Didn’t Like
We use lots of different phone apps to save and earn money as we travel so that we can stay on the road longer (In case you have not been able to tell I am doing everything I can not return to the 9-5 grind ever again.) One of these apps often times enables us to get free food. Usually it is new products and if it is free I am all about it. But free doesn’t always mean it’s good. We have had our share of food products that we didn’t like and couldn't manage to eat. As someone who is frugal it pains me to waste food but that is just what we did.
4) Getting Sick in Another County
I dreamed about going to Belize for four years before we finally made it there. It was not too long into our 18 day trip when I became ill. At first I just felt hot and sick to my stomach so we went back to the room for me to rest. It didn’t take too much time before I was drenched in sweat and throwing up. By this time it was after hours and my husband asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital. All I could see were dollar signs. I mean we can’t afford an expensive hospital bill in another country.
So I toughed it out, for about an hour then sent my husband off to the pharmacy for some medication. Hours later I honestly felt like death was knocking on the door. Still being frugal I refused to go to the hospital and made my husband go down to reception to call a doctor to see if one could call in a prescription.
Lucky for me the doctor he reached agreed to come meet us in his office after hours. We didn’t have a car so the hotel owner was kind enough to drive us. Turns out I had e coli. This doctor not only came in after hours but stayed with us for two hours. After several shots, lab work and a handful of prescriptions I was out the door for less than $125!!! The lesson learned here is to never suffer for the sake of saving a buck cause it just may be way cheaper than you ever imagined.
5) And That Time it Paid Off BIG.
Being frugal and pinching pennies has enabled us to not only travel full-time for four years but we now have more in the bank than when we left. That’s right! We left with $10K and along the way had 3 breakdowns, went to 9 countries, lived/worked in three national parks, traveled a good portion of the US and we have more in savings than when we started.
We do this by sticking to a budget and tracking everything we spend. We also use hotel points and gift cards I earn to stay in hotels for free. We boondock and never pay to camp. We save money on groceries, even getting stuff for free using apps. Fly for almost nothing using airline points, eat out for free doing mystery shopping, save on gas with apps we use, and we earn money from apps we have on our phones. This to me is a big win for penny pinching!