RV Small Living Space and Budget Tips

Making the Most of Small Spaces and Budgets

Vintage Motorhome. Credit: DNY59 / getty images

One of the biggest adjustments full-time RVers make is scaling down from a multi-room house or apartment to a couple hundred square feet of living space. Some of the adjustments seem obvious from the start, and others take time to learn. Since the time-consuming ones can be costly and wasteful, here's a head start for those of you who are new to the fulltime RVing lifestyle. Whether you are living in an airstream, motorhome, RV, or tiny house on wheels, these tips are for you.

RV Lifestyle Tips

Buying in Bulk

Buying in bulk for an RV is different from buying in bulk for a stick home. In fact, you may laugh at the small quantities you'll end up with. The trick is to shop with friends and buy in bulk those items that you all use. You may end up with just a few cans of soup, but you get the discount price without waste because you'll split the cost. If you're a full-timer, it gets easier as you get to know other full-timers staying at the same park.

Bulk/wholesale places to shop include Sam&rsquo's Club and Costco, but others include Family Dollar, Dollar General, and the Dollar Store. We've found some chain grocery stores that offer excellent deals on sale items, too.

Buying Off-Season and Clearance Items

Buying off-season can save you plenty. Shop EBay for new items or search the web for discount stores. Many retailers buy up overstock and out of season clothes and products for their inventory. Clearance items are another way to save big whether they are discontinued items or simply ones that the store isn't going to carry anymore.

Coupons and Free Stuff

Couponing is making a comeback. Extreme couponing might be tempting, but it can get out of control taking more time than it's really worth. Growing popularity of couponing has spawned several online sites where you can download coupons, learn how to get organized, and minimize the time invested in saving money. The upside is that you get to try new products or get brand name products at discounts or even free.

Other options for getting free products exist, too. If you like reviewing products, there are companies that send out samples in exchange for your feedback. Run a web search on "free products" or "surveys", and then just watch out for a barrage of email ads. I recommend setting up a special email account on MSN, Hotmail, Yahoo, or Google. In the event these sites are collecting email addresses that they share, you don't want your personal or business email flooded with ads.

RV Maintenance

Since you are living in a mobile home that most likely has a water system, you'll need to do regular maintenance. Learn how to winterize and flush your RVs water system. Checking your RV electrical system from time to time is also important for basic maintenance.  

RV and Tiny Home Space Saving Tips


I use as many removable devices as I can because I might want to change the way I do things later. So I don't want to put hooks up permanently in our RV.

In the kitchen area where the stove hood is metal and paneling is smooth I use hooks with suction cups to hang keys, oven mitts, and other frequently used items.

Mini bag clips with magnets hold notes, lists, or coupons that we need to grab on the way out.

For bathroom trash I hang a plastic grocery bag on a hook supported by Velcro.

Clip 'n' Clamp 

Many people ask about the best way to manage their cat's litter box. There are several options, but we chose leaving it in the shower. The problem was how to keep the door open so the cat could get into the shower. We came up with the perfect solution: a binder clip.

We put some padding (Velcro or foam insulation tape/strips) on the inside of the clamp and on the metal pinchers to protect the door and frame from scratching, clipped it onto the top of the door near the middle. Leaving the pinchers pointed up keeps the door ajar just enough that kitty can pull it open easily. It also provides a hook so I hung a sack full of plastic sacks on it, right where we need them for cleanup.

Yoga Mats for Cats

 Also, to prevent litter from going down the shower drain, we cut a cheap foam yoga mat to fit the shower and placed that under the litter box. One six-foot yoga mat yields two protective litter mats.


I found a deal on grammar-school desks and grabbed one for my workspace. It's just the right size without taking up too much of our small quarters. It's one that has the cubbyhole under the desk surface. I'm using some plastic trays with compartments as drawers to hold pens and clips.

We found a hanging pocketed file holder made of durable canvas that has one pocket large enough for folders and papers, two smaller ones that could easily hold large envelopes and two smaller ones that could hold a cellphone, stapler, pens or other small office supplies. This hangs from the window curtain track next to me and keeps important papers handy but well out of the way.

Taming the tangle: Another great use for those 2 binder clips is to corral all your wires and cables. I have no less than eight of these running to my computer and peripherals. I'm convinced that their main function is to get tangled up. But I beat them at their own game. There is a one-inch thick wooden table mount next to where I sit in our RV. I gathered the cords, fed them through the clamp opening and clamped them to the wooden frame.

Where to Park your RV or Tiny Home

One of the challenges living in an RV or tiny home is finding a place to park it. The US Army Corp of Engineers Campgrounds are located in beautiful natural areas and usually have clean showers and bathrooms and basic amenities. Some campgrounds are primitive so do your research before you go. The Bureau of Land Management allows camping and offers free camping in many areas as well as developed campgrounds. The National Parks are, of course, one of the most popular places in the country for camping.

Try visiting a NPS campground in the spring and fall months for less busy camping and good weather.