Frugality While Living on the Road

by AJ Pettersen · 9 comments

Packed car

While my wife and I travel the country as I move around for work, we need to be as frugal as possible. And due to our dog, we also need to be creative with our style of living. The big things that we focus on are: how to travel, where to live, and what to eat.

How to Travel

We often think about our method of transportation, as we need to determine how many cars we’ll need, and how to get them there. This is affected by how much we want to drive, as well as how much other forms of transportation will cost.

When traveling south, we decided we’d need two cars, so we both drove across the country. When I was moved up to the east coast a few weeks ago, we had to decide how to get a car where it needed to be and how we would get ourselves where we needed to be.

My flight was covered by the team, and my wife still had a few weeks left at her travel job. My dad was in Florida when I was promoted, so he ended up driving the car north. Recently, my wife flew up with the pup. Though the flight cost money, we planned our transportation efficiently. The only thing left to consider is how we’ll get our second car (currently in Florida) back to our home state of Minnesota.

Where to Live

Since being married, we’ve called three different places home. We had to find an apartment in Minnesota, and we had to shop around for a place in Florida. We’re now trying to find the right place in Connecticut. We’ve used a number of different sites, such as Zillow, VRBO, and Craigslist to try to find the perfect place. I even reached out in the community to see if anyone that understood our transient lifestyle would take us in for the summer. This is difficult with a small dog, but people are typically more receptive once they hear our story.

Finding the perfect place takes some work. We scoured the internet to find our place in Florida and have done the same to find the right spot in Connecticut. Searching high and low is often necessary, and making connections in the area is never a bad idea.

What to Eat

Finding affordable and healthy food is another problem when living situations change frequently. My wife and I try to eat as healthy as possible, which typically means cooking our own food (when we have use of a kitchen) and eating out at the right places (when it’s our only option). Tracking our spending on food has been a good way to stay on track. By understanding where our finances are going, we’re able to find ways to spend more efficiently in certain areas. What we eat is important, but remaining smart and frugal about where we get our grub is vital.

Frugality While Traveling

With these things in mind, my wife and I are able to travel efficiently without breaking the bank. We keep a close eye on how we spend our money and make adjustments accordingly. By keeping track of the big things first, we create a strong base for our finances.

How does traveling affect the way you spend?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • tami says:

    One of the ways that we save money in europe is to go to grocery stores. I bring from home paper plates, napkins and camping grade silverware. We have had a lot of fun seeing the different items for sale and stretching our budget.

  • lana says:

    P.s., when my hubby got a job offer in AZ, we drove the whole family from the east coast to the west. It took almost five days, the company paid for mileage, gas, hotel and food for all of us. We literally had a road trip expense free! We had many stops along the way and saw many things I’ve always wanted to see. The company paid for our other car to be shipped. Worked out well, all the way around!

  • lana says:

    We try and keep flexible with the dates of travel to get the best prices. We fly in and out of smaller hubs and use points as much as possible. Our next trip will be in a week. We are getting a free week’s car rental, flights are $58 each way from Oregon to AZ, hotels are booked on line and easily cancelled if I should find something else. We go to grocery stores and buy trays of veggies and fruits along with meats, cheeses and breads. Long beforehand I start researching free things to do in cities and finding books at thrift shops. I can’t see spending $22 on a travel book. is very helpful. Best souvenirs are photos!

  • MrMilitary Money says:

    I am in Germany so I try and bring cheese and meat in a cooler and then stop by a local bakery from some bread. I also try to make some granola bars or other snacks so I wont be tempted to stop and pay for food anywhere.

  • Bert says:

    There is no more efficient or economical mode of transportation than the RV motor home. The equipped ones have full kitchens, which addresses a few of the comments above.

  • Property Marbella says:

    In order to eat economically, you must have a large fridge and a freezer so you can buy in bulk and divide into smaller pieces and freeze.

  • Anton Ivanov says:

    I’ve always hated travel because it’s much harder to be cost efficient as compared to living in one place. Even when traveling by car and doing most of the moving yourself, expenses just pile up. I prefer to travel only during vacations and I allocate money ahead of time for those purposes.

  • says:

    Yes, it can be very difficult while driving across several states to be frugal with meals. The best thing to do would be to stop at grocery stores along the way and get some easy to prepare meals. You can also bring a cooler stocked with food and eat at rest stops or parks inside of cities that have picnic tables.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules says:

    I would imagine that it can be difficult to eat frugally when you do not have use of a kitchen. Though I bet it just requires you to be creative. When we travel we bring as much of our food as possible so we can control what we eat & not spend too much.

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