Danielle Leonard is the owner of The Frugal Navy Wife, where she loves to help others save money on every part of their life. We recently caught up with Danielle to learn more about traveling the country in an RV and how to apply frugal living principles to this type of lifestyle.
Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you decide to start a blog?
After having our second child in 2010, we got really frugal and saved money. I was sharing the deals I snagged on Facebook, and friends and family started asking me how I got the deal and where, as well as to teach them to coupon. So I started the blog to put it all in one place, and they shared it with their friends who then shared it with others. In less than two months, I had a bunch of readers I didn’t know. It fueled me to keep going.
Since you and your family travel full-time in a recreational vehicle, could you give us a sense of what a typical day is like for your family?
We have two different days: a travel day where we travel between locations and move the RV, and a day at any given location.
A travel day starts the night before with a cleaning, routine safety checks, etc. The day of traveling, we get up a little early, do breakfast, and put together the kids’ travel bags. Then we put the RV together, hook it up, and get on the road. We do a bit of homeschooling via Audio Books and workbooks as we travel. We travel no more than 4-5 hours to our new location. We then unhook, get set up, get going on dinner, and let the kids stretch their legs before bed.
For a day at any location, we like to go out and explore in the mornings during the week. We find we encounter fewer crowds that way. In the afternoon, we do our homeschooling, the younger kids take naps, and then the children get some playground time if the RV park has one.
Other than the obvious differences in spending (like higher gasoline expenses and no property taxes), how is the household budget for an RVing family different from that of a conventional family?
We have to pay for things we didn’t think too much of in a sticks-and-bricks home, like laundry and propane. On the flip side, we no longer pay for water and electric, and our “rent” is now our campground fees; and using our memberships, we spend a lot less. Overall, we are saving money if we don’t go overboard with attractions at any given location.
OK – do you really shop only once a month for a family of six… and spend only about $200 a month?
Our way of shopping we started long before we got on the road. We do a once a month “big trip,” then are out only a few times to get perishables. We have had to modify this when we got on the road, and nine times out of ten we can get away with $200 a month. But it is very dependent on where we are, the stores that are available, and the sales going on that month. We do have a second refrigerator and freezer, so we can stock up for the month on meat and other fridge items on sale as we can. We have had to get a bit more creative, though.
When you are doing your menu planning for your family, do you also check coupon sites and similar online resources in an effort to save money on your grocery bill?
Every time. We always pair our menu plan with the sales going on, but being on the road, we rely more heavily on printable coupons because of the lack of space. I also use quite a few rebate apps where you submit your grocery receipt and get a rebate for buying certain products. And I also use a few sites to earn free gift cards for stores near us to bring our bill down.
If a family has one or more pets, how can they apply frugal living principles to save money on their pet-related expenses?
We actually got a rescue dog after six months on the road. We find that if you go to a vet attached to a local shelter, the vet costs are highly discounted and the money helps support the shelter. Also, buying medications (like flea and tick prevention) in bulk for a year at a time will allow you to save money. And using the same couponing concepts that we use for groceries, we save money on pet food and toys.
What other types of services or experiences have you been able to save money on by finding discounts on deal hunter sites?
We are a huge fan of deal hunter sites for saving on local attractions. We have been able to save on admission, local restaurants, and even oil changes! We also always hunt down the free things to see and do in whatever city we are in.
What do you foresee for the future of your family? Will you continue RVing full-time?
When we got on the road, our main goal was (and still is) to find where we want to settle down and put down roots. We plan to travel and see the country (and even Canada) and find our “home,” and then settle back down.
Get in on the savings today! Sign up for savings and deals here.