So you have decided you want to live in an RV, you want to experience the adventure and freedom that comes with life on wheels, but you are not quite sure if you can afford it. California is an expensive state to live in, but you don’t want to leave because it’s beautiful and you have all your friends around. Of course, your cost will differ depending on where you want to be, it’s always cheaper to live outside of a big metro area. Well here is a guide on how to manage your finances so that your monthly cost is either just around $2500 or slightly over that. Yes, this is possible even when you are living in California which is supposed to be very expensive even for people living full time in an RV.
Buying the RV
To minimize your costs, you should buy an RV that is in sound mechanical condition and has not amassed thousands of miles on the road. It would be best if it were new but if you are on a budget it is best to get a used one in a sound mechanical condition so that you do not eventually have to spend a lot on maintenance.
I would recommend going to a dealership and looking at some of the RVs first. It is also important that you have an RV that is not a detached trailer. If you buy a fifth wheel or a trailer, you have to consider the work that’s involved with that. Hitching up takes time and it is not that simple. You will also have two insurance payments. If you buy a Class A, B, or C RV, you will have one single insurance fee. Here are some tips to get a good quality used RV. You should be able to get a good RV for between $10,000 and 50,000 but if you have the cash to splash then you can get one for more than that. I would definitely recommend buying an RV that you can afford without monthly payments.
The biggest expense most of the time when living full time in an RV is the parking. The good and convenient parks in California tend to be quite expensive almost like paying rent for a studio apartment and the police in some areas of California will give you a ticket if you stay overnight in your RV. Some commercial areas allow RV parking on the side of the road but that is not just loud but sketchy. I would not stay there unless I really need to. It is not entirely impossible to find cheap as well as free parking in California.
If you have to be in one place for a period of time, take a look at Craigslist. Many times you will find listings when people rent their driveway out for RVs.
Another idea is to look up boondocking opportunities around the area you would like to stay. You can find sites online that are dedicated to this and that will help you not have to pay for parking, at least for a particular period. Download some RV park apps like Kampnik to find public lands or the RV parks app to see other options. I really like to use Campendium. they only have an app for iPhone, currently not for Android, but you can use your browser to find free overnight parking options or even dump sites. I have also discovered Boondockers Welcome. These places usually allow you to stay only a couple of nights, but if they see you are ok, they might let you stay longer for an agreed price. However, there might be HOAs rules against parking an RV for over a few days. In this case this won’t work.
I mainly boondock lately with my friends in California, and even though these public lands are not that close to cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, or San Diego, you can find plenty of options: list of free camp options in California
Alternatively, you can become quite a nomad. In California, you can stay at some state or county parks for not more than 2 weeks before you will be asked to leave if you keep on moving around, you end up saving quite a lot. These parks can be expensive but it still beats rent prices and pay utilities. It also helps if you are not a nuisance in the area then no one will feel the need to call the police on you. Act friendly and keep your RV clean.
If you have friends who do not mind you parking in their driveway or backyard then you may also have that option and in that case, you may just have to contribute to electricity and other utilities that you will be using. Once again, do not become a nuisance, and do not overstay your welcome.
You can minimize your expenditure on electricity by installing solar panels on the RV which will help with lighting and running your computer, charging your phone, and such power needs. Of course, you will have smaller rooms to place solar panels on a roof of a class B RV than on a Class A or Class C. Use 6 Volt batteries instead of 12 Volt if you cannot afford lithium. 6V batteries hold more power. Lithium batteries are the best, but they are more expensive. If you plan to boondock a lot, then I would even advise upgrading to lithium batteries and a good inverter.
For not too sunny days you can use your onboard generator (if you have one) to keep your electric appliances running. Many people don’t like generators because they are too noisy but you can find smaller inverter generators that are quieter than the conventional ones. Solar Panels are known to be more environmentally friendly as well. But is that true? Here is a comparison between Solar Panels and Generators.
You can also use public bathrooms to reduce the amount of water you use and how often you will have to empty the holding tank. With my Class C RV, I can be off/grid for about two weeks before I run out of food or water.
Emptying the holding tank
There is free use of the dumpsite at most RV parks in California so you can minimize cost as well by using them but if you are going to pay for the service, just as was mentioned above, use public bathrooms more often so that you will empty the holding tank less often in a week. You can find dump sites on Campendium as well.
Naturally, the Vehicle is not going to be parked all the time but all the same, you can take some measures to regulate your movements. Whenever it is possible, use public transport to get around so that you do not spend on fuel quite often.
If it is possible, use your RV as your workstation so that you do not have to travel every day to an office.
Since fuel prices tend to fluctuate a lot, fill up your tank when the prices have gone down, you would be surprised how much you save by doing that.
Now that you have a few tips on how to save money while living in an RV, here is what you are likely to end up spending. This is living out variable expenses like grocery shopping, eating out, entertainment, and the like which usually depend on an individual.
Parking fees, parks if and when you actually pay…………………..$600
Cell phone bills and internet…………………..$130
Groceries and everyday items: $700
As you can see this is 2530 a month and yet there is still the possibility that you may not have to pay regularly for parking so quite a lot is left for you to budget for other expenses that are more personal.