Reader Sarah is a full-time RVer, and she wrote to me asking if I’d like to feature her in a Monday post, since RVing is a slightly unusual way of life.
And I thought that it would be a fun way to mix things up, so I sent her the interview questions.
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a 57-year-old retired private violin teacher. I lived most of my life in a suburb of Chicago and taught lessons from my home for 35 years. My husband and I retired 2 years ago and decided to become full-time RV-ers.
We had 2 goals in mind when we made this decision.
One goal was to massively downsize in order to live a lot more simply. For 10 years before retiring I’d dreamed of living in a tiny house but, really, RVs are a lot more practical than tiny houses.
The second goal was to chase the warm weather and the best way to do that was to pull our house behind us and follow the warm weather around the states. We discovered that the best side benefit of living small is that it’s a very frugal way to live!
We have spent the majority of our retirement in Arizona partly because of Covid (campgrounds being closed through much of 2020) and partly because we fell in love with the area where we currently live. I just love having 300+ sunny days per year!
We are in a small town surrounded by mountains in a 55 and over community that is part RV-ers and part tiny homeowners.
I didn’t have children of my own but I have a 34-year-old stepson and daughter-in-law through my husband. We have a 12-year-old Rottweiler named Roxie who’s a sweet old girl.
2. How long have you been reading The Frugal Girl?
I’ve been reading since 2014 or 2015. I came here looking for guidance on grocery spending because I felt like we were spending way too much on groceries and I was looking for ideas on where we could save.
I stayed because of the well written blog posts, the frugal tips, the humor, the humble demeanor and the honest but fair way Kristen tackles delicate topics. Plus I love the community here!
3. How did you get interested in saving money?
I really started to become interested in frugal living around 2013 which was right before I met my husband.
Together he and I decided we wanted to stop the madness of excess material things, big houses and crammed schedules.
Before that, I didn’t live a very frugal life although my only debt was my mortgage. For most of my life I lived within my means and always followed a budget but I also enjoyed new clothes, eating out with friends, and decorating my home as well!
I know that if I’d had the mindset in my 30s that I’ve had in my 50s I’d have saved so much more!
I have very few regrets but once in a while I think, “If only I hadn’t had the big home/nice clothes/pedicures/home decor…”
4. What’s the “why” behind your money-saving efforts?
My husband (David) and I both wanted to retire at the same time but I’m not old enough to collect Social Security yet. We knew we’d be living on one fixed income so for the last few years before we retired, we did everything we could to whittle down our budget and we learned to live on as little as possible to prepare us.
It was great practice and it prepared us well! Living small really keeps us in check with how much stuff we can have and how much stuff we can’t buy! It’s incredible how little you actually need to live a full, happy life.
One of our neighbors, when asked the question “How are you?” always answers “I’ve never had less and never felt better”. That sums it up for me too!
5. What’s your best frugal win?
Downsizing and moving into an RV full time! There is a lot of free living you can do if you’re mobile and you have solar power. We know couples who have lived on less than $1000 per month living this lifestyle.
There are also very high-end, expensive resorts where RV-ers can have every luxury they could possibly think of. We are somewhere in between those two lifestyles. We live in a place that suits our needs and budget and offers certain amenities like a pool and a clubhouse without being more than we want or can afford.
Believe me when I say I’m not a roughing-it kind of gal and I’d never been camping in my life! David did a lot of research to show me that I could still have all the same comforts living in an RV that I’ve always had in a home.
The way I describe it is that we are living the same life we lived before except on a smaller, simpler, more frugal scale.
6. What’s a dumb money mistake you’ve made?
How about if I give you a decade of mistakes?!
My 30s was the decade that I just wasn’t interested in frugality. I was very career-oriented and, while I lived within my means, I also enjoyed spending on things for my house, going to dinner and movies with friends, buying gear for the sports I was involved in, new clothes, etc.
There wasn’t a whole lot of saving that went on in my 30s!
7. What’s one thing you splurge on?
I absolutely love to eat out. It’s such a nice splurge to be served a meal (even if it’s takeout!) and to not have to clean up.
I love to cook and we eat most of our meals at home but I’d rather drop something else from the budget in order to eat out 2-3 times a month.
8. What’s one thing you aren’t remotely tempted to splurge on?
I have 4 things vying for this answer!
- cable TV
- always having the newest phone
- excessive phone packages
- make up/nail polish
9. If $1000 was dropped into your lap today, what would you do with it?
It really depends on various factors. I might use it to buy the things I hate spending my own money on like a new mattress, updating/upgrading furniture, replacing appliances when they wear out, etc.
Or if I didn’t have any large purchase needs I’d keep it for an emergency, a repair, a vet, or doctor bill.
It’s not a very exciting answer but I’d most likely deposit it and sit on it until the time felt right to use it for one of those things I listed.
10. Share a frugal tip with other Frugal Girl readers
Always do yearly “check ups” on your insurance premiums, cable bills, cell phone packages, utility bills, etc. It’s worth it to take the time to call and ask if you are paying for the right thing to suit your needs.
There are significant savings to be found if you just ask!
I always open up the floor to readers for questions, but this time I have some questions of my own to start things off.
Sarah, I’m curious about start-up costs for an RV lifestyle. Did you buy new? Used? Is it cheaper to get an RV that hooks to a truck vs a stand-alone? Did you have to buy a new vehicle to pull the RV?
I’m assuming that even though these expenses aren’t small, they still pale in comparison to the cost of an actual house.
Monday 7th of June 2021
Hi Sarah, I live in Arizona, was wondering what city you are in?
Thursday 3rd of June 2021
Thanks for sharing. This post fascinates me because I could see myself doing something like this for a few years in retirement. It sounds like a wonderful, full life, and you’ve got a killer view to boot!
Wednesday 14th of April 2021
I've known Sarah for nearly 20 years and she has never been happier than she is in this lifestyle. It looks great on her, too! She's an incredible role model for making big life changes and cooperation with a partner to create the life you choose together.
Wednesday 31st of March 2021
What a fascinating life you are living -- love to hear about this -- You really figured out what you want and made it happen -- that is awesome! I hear you on eating out, too -- COVID has cured a lot of that but I really really enjoy treat nights ;) And to find the happy medium of RV parks is a win. I think I would like your middle choice with pool and simple amenities, as opposed to a more rustic approach. I'm not a camper so this strikes a happy middle ground. Great to meet you!
Tuesday 30th of March 2021
Sarah I would like to find out about the cost expense of RV'ers too! What an interesting way to retire and enjoy the luxury of travel and living while you travel. I really enjoyed hearing about your experience and your dog is so cute, congrats on the long life lived and all.
Tuesday 30th of March 2021
Hi Karen, thank you so much! The costs vary soooo much! It's like everything in life - - - there is an RV to fit every lifestyle and budget. We've got $400,000 RVs in our park and we've got $10k RVs here too. Monthly expenses vary depending on what you want from your campground. Some couples can get by on $600 per month and others spend $7k or more. Often there is an opportunity to work in the campground you are staying in and you can either get paid for the work or they let you stay stay for free. YouTube is loaded with RV-ers who share their monthly expenses with you. And if you Google "Workamping" you can find out more about making money at the campgrounds. (I realize you didn't ask about that but I thought I'd add it for anyone else who was interested.)