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How complexity affects your camping budget

How Complexity Affects Your Camping Budget

Published on December 6th, 2021
Updated on February 8th, 2024

The first of my 10 frugal RV tips is to remember why you travel. That makes sense, but it’s quite easy to forget as we start thinking about all the options and opportunities we RVers have.

Larger trailers, more powerful tow rigs, the latest electronics, a towed vehicle — they all vie for our interest and our wallets.

But do we need them in our camping budget? Maybe.


An RV travel

The problem is that complexity increases cost exponentially. Upgrading to a larger trailer, for example, can soon dramatically multiply travel, maintenance, and storage costs.

If the upgrade is required for a growing family or longer trips, it’s a necessity.

If it’s only required one or two weekends a year, it’s really not a necessity; it’s a want.

Maybe it still should stay in your camping budget, but only after other travel needs are met.

Recent economic changes also can make you rethink your RV travel budget. Maybe your job was downsized, you’re considering cutting back on your toys or you’re planning for an imminent retirement and want to be on the road more.

In any case, it’s a good idea to review the actual costs of your RV travel.

That’s why you should periodically review your travel goals and your camping budget.

Your Camping Budget

Travelers with a tight camping budget

The solution to overspending is to periodically analyze why you travel and to come up with a realistic mission for future camping. Then, measure it against your camping budget.

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Once a year, maybe during the winter or other non-travel season, sit down with your logbook and your checkbook to make sure they reflect your travel mission.

To get your creative juices flowing, here are some typical reasons why many RVers travel:

  • Go somewhere. Frugal RVers often define their goals by where they camp, such as to specific campgrounds, new states, for scenery, or to follow their favorite recreational activity or sports team. They may also define where they go by how they go: fast or slow. RVers often prefer one speed over the other.
  • Go nowhere. Many campers prefer to stay near home, simply traveling within a region toward the ultimate goal of finding the perfect campsite. Or they have a specific loop they most enjoy traveling, taking in the scenery or special events.
  • Shift mental gears. Many people camp because it helps them unwind from stressful jobs. Watching an elk graze near your campsite can help you keep your daily life in perspective. Sitting around an evening campfire with new friends can be a real stress-reducer at the end of a work week.
  • Discover nature. Camping helps people see the beauty and simplicity of life, whether spending an evening watching shooting stars or hiking new trails through the trees. A campsite can be a home base for discovering new hiking trails.
  • Share recreation. Many RVers prefer to camp with family, friends, and/or pets. The fuel costs are about the same no matter whether you drive by yourself or with a big family. So why not share the ride? Maybe it’s with your family, friend, grandchild, or someone who recently expressed a desire to go camping. Travel is a gift to be shared.


In the real world of RV camping, there is no single goal for any person or family. All have multiple goals.

But one or two of these travel goals is prominent – at least for the next few years.

To be a frugal camper, first, consider the primary and secondary reasons why you travel and keep them clearly in mind as you plan and purchase your recreation needs for the coming year.

Also, consider the opportunities for discount camping.

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