Full-time RV camping costs is the budget category that is most applicable to all full-time RVers. We all have to park our rig somewhere each night, right? There are a bunch of other categories like insurance, fuel, maintenance, entertainment and more that are widely variable based on your travel style, type of RV, and life style. And while camping costs are also impacted by personal preferences, it’s the one category that is most common across all full-time RVers.
Now, we don’t claim to be financial experts, but after ~40 years of adulting, we have figured out what works for us. We are not the most disciplined of budgeters, and we usually only focus on controlling expenses for a few targeted categories. For us, some of the big categories like insurance and fuel are driven by the needs of our businesses, so there’s little we can do in our daily choices to impact those one way or the other. We generally focus our attention on significant categories that can be managed by our daily behaviors and choices.
We’re just about to hit our two-year nomadiversary, and the category we’ve really been focusing on is full-time RV camping costs. Of course, when we were in the planning stage, we did establish an estimated budget of $50/night for overnight camping costs. As newbies during our first six months, we tended to stay at the more expensive private or KOA-style campgrounds because it was easier. We were still learning how to live and operate the various RV systems, so it was a little intimidating at first to figure out how to overnight in places with limited or no hook-ups.
On our first nomadiversary, we tallied up our full-time RV camping costs (check out that blog post HERE) and were pleasantly surprised to come in well under our initial budget estimate. We used a spreadsheet to assign categories for various ways to overnight and tally up the totals for each of those categories. That really helped us understand which kinds of overnight camping had the most impact on the overall total for better or for worse. Taking a look at the pie chart and bar chart really showed us that we had spent many more nights at private campgrounds than any other category AND that was the most expensive category !!
That got us inspired to see how much we could reduce those costs. We knew we needed to increase the number of nights at free sites and make better use of our Thousand Trails membership to reduce the overall average for full-time RV camping costs. Fortunately, by putting together that initial spreadsheet, we could start to track our costs in real time, rather that waiting another year to see how we did. Tracking the costs as they happen is the best way to make choices along the way that result in keeping that expense category under control. Seeing the numbers as they happen is also a good way to keep yourself accountable but also keep yourself inspired to see how much you can do to drive the costs lower!
There really is no right or wrong way to track your spending. You can try different ways until you find one that works for you and that you can stick with. It’s not about how you track what you’re spending. It’s about making sure that you’re able to achieve your goals while still living your best life.
There are a ton of good resources out there for a full breakdown of camping costs — two of our favorites are from You, Me & the RV and from Chickery’s Travels.
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