Should You Change Your RV Travel Plans? How to Deal With Rising Gas Prices
“Gas is looking more like a GPA score. $3.89 is summa cum laude gas. Over $5 are all AP classes. I need some academic probation gas!” – Instagram
Gas prices have risen sharply over the past couple of weeks, and it seems like every RVer is talking about it. Everyone has their own thoughts based on where they are in the financial continuum.
Some people are reconsidering their travel plans due to the price hikes, while others won’t even blink at the number on the pump. No matter where you are on that continuum, it’s always helpful to be a good steward of your finances.
That’s why we’ve put together this quick list of actions that will help make a difference to your bottom line—and maybe save your travel plans in the process.
Start small, start now
Small changes over time lead to BIG results. This concept got us on the road and has helped us make so many memories with our family. We didn’t start with the best equipment or elaborate plans, but we knew that starting small now was better than holding out for “perfect” later.
That’s because “later” doesn’t usually happen. (Spoiler alert: neither does perfect.) Acting now, in small increments, is what helps us achieve. These achievements send huge signals to our subconscious that we can impact our environment, so they snowball and lead to even bigger changes over time.
Do the math
It’s easy to get into a rut with automatic responses. We get used to the constant grumble about the price of gas, especially when everyone is doing it. But it’s important to do the math so we can see what we are really dealing with, and how we can make up for it elsewhere.
This “pause to consider” mentality helps us evaluate what is actually happening—not what we think is happening. This exercise also allows your brain to rest from the noise of fear-based, underperformance thinking to an outlook of responsibility that can cultivate creative solutions. (Not to mention a better attitude!)
With that said, we all have to crunch the numbers and see what we are really working with.
29 year average gas price: $2.25
29 year max gas price: $4.14 (2022 reached an all time high price)
Prices from: www.Energy.gov
$2.25 x 28 gallon tank = $63 at the pump
$4.14 x 28 gallon tank = $115.92 at the pump
This is a difference of $52.92 extra (New 2022 high minus 29 year national average: $115.92 – $63) for about every 300 miles driven. This number times how many times you fill up per month is the target amount to cut from your monthly budget on a different line item.
For a family this number might be easier to recover because just going to Chipotle can be a $50 experience. Eating lunch at home erases this expense quickly. Whereas a single or couple has lower food cost to begin with. No matter the situation it is always best to understand the real numbers so you can figure out where to make them up on a different line item.
Small savings at the pump add up
The obvious first step toward saving $$$ at the pump is to drive less, but that isn’t always an option. Other options include:
- Grocery savings cards: Places like Kroger, Safeway, and Walmart will provide discounts at the pump based on your spending in-store for the groceries you already buy anyway.
- Diesel fuel programs: We save countless dollars fueling up the Cowboy Limousine with our diesel fuel card.
- Costco/Sam’s Club: These members-only stores are also great for incremental savings on the whole bill—though if you like your sanity, we recommend visiting these locations in the early morning or when you’re not on a time crunch, as they can get very busy.
- Credit card reward programs: Check your credit cards for rewards or sign up for a card that offers cash back. We use the Apple card and receive cash back to put directly toward any purchase we choose. This is just like cash that ends up back in your wallet, as long as you use the credit card like it’s a debit card, without racking up debt. Lots of other cards will link direct savings to your spending on gas and groceries, too.
- Explore fewer places longer: We mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. It’s easy to get tied to the original idea of a cross-country road trip with lots of stops, but traveling slower—or even in your own backyard—comes with unique rewards. Your burn rate is slower, saving fuel and money, and you get to know places better when you spend more time there.
Campgrounds have always been a significant cost, and those prices just keep rising! Staying overnight for free using a membership like Harvest Hosts or Boondockers Welcome can save you $50 or more every time, and you’ll meet some amazing people in the process. If you’re not interested in a paid membership, Walmart or Cracker Barrel parking lots are also a classic standby option. Just make sure to call ahead to verify if the specific store you’re aiming for accepts overnight guests.
Spend with impact
When we say “spend with impact,” here’s what we mean: spend your money where you’ll remember it. It’s often far more enjoyable to exchange money for memories than for “more”: more places, more stuff, fancier equipment, etc.
Just this week, we were talking to a couple who bought a brand new Class C for their family of 6 to use for their summer travels. One of their concerns was how they would fit into a restaurant parking lot. This is a very common concern, and for good reason. We all want to come out of a parking lot without an insurance claim!
But if we look into the question with a different lens, we can see this as an opportunity to spend with impact. When we decide to go out to eat, are we doing it because it’s a fantastic dining experience? Or are we just trying to meet a basic need? As parents of three grown kids (teenager to adult), we know exactly how fast a restaurant experience can skyrocket. Just going to Chipotle can be a budget-buster! These are the times when we like to stay mindful.
That doesn’t mean never eating out—it simply means making intentional choices. Cooking breakfast and lunch at home can help save money for a memorable dining experience that will be worth the cost.
It might sound silly but I have been known to put out a few things to nibble on before we go out. I might even have a glass of wine if Marc is driving so we don’t have appetizers and drinks out. This drastically cuts our dinner bill but not our experience.
Now that you’ve decided where spending money is worthwhile to you, let’s talk about how to save while you’re doing it!
- Watch for sales: You can go as crazy with coupon-clipping as you want to. We like to do it from the convenience of a computer or mobile app, but printed ads are still out there and can yield great deals.
- Shop online: This saves both time and money, since you won’t spend anything extra on impulse buys at the store. Basic pantry items (and beyond) can be found on the Walmart app and picked up curbside at no charge. Target helps check miscellaneous home needs off the list, and any order of $35 or more can be delivered for free—without an expensive annual membership.
- Meal planning: It’s easy to get stuck making the same recipes over and over and using the foods we’re used to. But computers make it possible to shop sales and create a meal plan all in one place. Find out what’s on sale and plan meals around those items. So if the price of chicken goes up, cook with pork instead. If ground beef is expensive, look for ground turkey on sale. The point is to use what’s in season, on sale, and even unexpected.
- Go meatless: I know, crazy right 🙂 If I shared this with everyone at my dinner table they might say the same thing. So I don’t, I just do it and no one’s the wiser. Think homemade pizza and fresh salad. No meat, no problem. Pasta with finely diced mushrooms feels like a meat sauce but it’s not. I’m not recommending any specific diet plan here, but including a meatless day in your week can be less expensive at the check out and adds variety to your wheelhouse of typical family meals.
Make it a game
There are some great apps out there for tracking our spending and savings at the pump. Here are a few of our favorites:
- GasBuddy: GasBuddy boasts of saving people over $3 billion on gas over the last 15 years. They also share fun tips—like the fact that gas is cheapest on Sundays and Mondays.
- Google Maps
In addition to gas- and travel-specific apps, we recommend using a spending app like EveryDollar or Mint. These apps will quickly reveal where and what you’re spending across categories and line items. Categorizing our spending helps us to have more control over how we spend.
One of the things we like about our Apple card is that every purchase hits our phones directly. We can see exactly what we’re spending each day and where. What you see gets your attention, so this is a helpful way to keep on top of what we are up to financially.
These apps are also an easy way to showcase expenses to your family and kids. You can help them track expenses so they are part of the solution and not just being told to spend less. One solution gives an empowering perspective and the other has limiting perspectives.
The average American family wastes about 250 pounds of food per year. Yikes! I always like to say, “Cook once, eat twice.”
Here’s our secret: we immediately put our leftovers in the fridge. Once they hit the table, our family (*cough cough* the boys) will put more than they can eat on their plates. If we limit the food on the table, there’s always more in the fridge if they are still hungry. But this prevents overeating or wasting food that was barely touched and then thrown away.
An Italian friend once told us, “If there are no leftovers, you didn’t make enough food!” We couldn’t agree more. However, putting out food for appetizers or family-style meals can be done in smaller portions, with the ability to refill community plates.
And while we’re on the subject of waste, it’s good to remember that it’s a luxury! It means we have more than we need. Our brains like to focus on scarcity, but it makes a huge difference to our mood when we look at what we have instead of what we don’t. This way, we are setting our thoughts on a positive, grateful approach that stretches our budget.
Track – measure – plan
Seeing results helps keep us going. And, to quote Peter Drucker, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” So true!
When we zero in on something to improve, we must track progress. This gives us hard evidence that our efforts are worth the grind. Also, it’s easy to miss small changes until it’s too late. (Remember that myth about the frog in the boiling water?) Or, we can overestimate our progress.
Tracking can also keep us focused on a plan for the future and give us the “why” behind small tweaks throughout the day that help us stay on track.
Review and reassess
Every person and every family is different, and you won’t always find the perfect balance for you on the first try. Take the time to look back at your spending each day, week, or month—whatever works for you—and identify patterns. What’s going well, and what could use some work?
Remember that travel truly is all about the journey, not the destination. The same goes for your budgeting journey! Try some things, see how they work, and stay true to what’s right for you.
Above all, don’t give up before you ever get started! That’s why our mantra is “start small, start now.”
Plan, pause and pursue your dreams!
Keep your daydream,
If you have creative budgeting tips to share, please tell us in the comments below. How are gas prices impacting your travels this summer—or are they?