Newcomer budget tips

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Well-known member
Apr 15, 2012
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Budget tips....  I was reading this morning and figured this would not hurt... 

I'm in an RV now, rather than a regular van (I spent a couple of years in an '87 Ford full sized & then an '05 town & country) so dump stations are something I'm aware of.  Before all I needed was someplace I could carry my 2.5 gallon reservoir from my porta-potty to & dump it.
But still money saving ideas are money saving ideas & the cheapest dollar to get is still the dollar you saved.

Let's get started-

They sell a pass to the national parks, if you're 62 or older it never expires and if you're younger it only lasts for a year. getting in the National Parks for free is a good thing! I'm not sure about the regular passes but the senior pass also gets you half off the FEDERAL basic camping fees (this includes COE camps).
You can get this pass at anyplace the federal govt wants money to get in. I bought mine at the Ft Vancouver Nation Historic Site  (Vancouver , WA) on my 62nd birthday.

National Parks (all that I've noticed) have free RV dump stations, fresh water & a place for trash. This is good! for a free spot to stay or use their trip planning feature to see what is (or is not) available along your route. to see what the fuel prices are where you are and where you're going. I no longer go out of my way over a penny or three a gallon but when we're talking a dime or a quarter a gallon (52 cents a gallon on I-5 once!) we're talking real money. I've waited to get fuel where I was going because of the savings.

Passport America. They offer a 50% savings at PA parks. The reason for this is because the parks are sometimes empty and anyone (even half off) is better than on one.  If they have a season where they are really busy you will not find that as a time you can use the PA discount.
You need to read all the fine print & a phone call does not hurt.
When it's going to cost you $15 to use an RV dump a $15 one night stay with full hook ups is one heck of a deal!

Good Sam Club... I bought it at Camping World when I was buying some stuff, the extra fee for it just about covered by the savings. I figured I might want to stay at a park that offered a 10% Good Sam discount.
Then I found out the Good Sam card saves me five cents a gallon at Pilot & Flying J stations! It saves a little on the RV dump too.  It would take a 1,000 gallons of gasoline to pay for itself but with the store savings when I bought it it's turned out to be a good deal for us.
It's supposed to be good for a savings on propane at Camping World on a specific day of the week too... I don't recall the day.

A Garmin GPS with lifetime maps will work even if you don't have cell coverage. A reconditioned one can be picked up cheaper and works just fine.

A smart phone is a good thing to have, they do cost per month but they also do so much. Mine is from Straighttalk, runs on the Verizon network & with 10gb of data costs me $45/month. For $55 I can get unlimited data.
The phone is a computer in my pocket as long as I have cell coverage. Maps, GPS, campground hunting, free spots for the night, gas prices, weather forecast, a camera/video camera, flash light, netflix movies and more. It also handles regular phone calls...

Most National Forests have free dispersed camping, there are rules about it. At the ranger station for the forest in question you can pick up the free Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM). This will show where you can disperse camp. I stopped once looking for the MVUM and the lady at the counter offered to sell me a NF map for a good bit of money, it turned out that I was at the tourist station and the real NF station was up the road a bit. I got the free map there.
The maps are also available on-line, I've found the paper maps to be easier for me to actually use.

New Mexico state park camping pass, free 'basic' camping at all the New Mexico state parks (hook ups are extra). The pass costs $225 and is good for a year from when it's bought. New Mexico has parks down in the desert & up in the mountains so the possibility of year round use is there. I've not used it (yet) but I am aware of it. The few NM parks I've stayed at have been nice.

LTVA permits for BLM land in Arizona & Calif (that I've  seen).  $180 permit lets you stay  from the middle of Sept to the middle of  April. I  believe  you need to be self contained.
There are 14 day free areas in Calif & Arizona too.

The Slabs, Slab City... in Calif near Niland, CA. Its a place to be, it's free to stay there... as many different opinions about the place as there are people. FWIW my last time there I did see law enforcement drive thru, the sheriff & Border patrol, more than once a day too but I was not there long, I had other places to go.
Thank you for the info. Question about Garmin, they basically seem the same in the auto garmins but one had a dash cam and then the prices where all over the place. What's the difference. Is it the more you pay the higher quality resolution and bells and whistles?
Thank you for the other links too