Life on the road can be pretty addictive – so much so that you may begin to consider transitioning to living as a full-time nomad. And for those with the freedom of retirement or the guts to make a radical lifestyle change, this possibility can very easily become a reality.
Every year, more and more Australians are joining the ‘grey nomad’ movement and it’s easy to see why. While grey nomads are usually thought of as retirees that travel independently for an extended period of time, typically in a motorhome, caravan, or some other recreational vehicle, the lifestyle has caught the attention of plenty of younger couples and working families, too. As appealing as it sounds, you probably can’t help but wonder how they overcome the logistical challenges that this lifestyle presents.
Managing your finances is among the biggest issues. Still, a nomadic lifestyle is truly attainable for most: it’s simply a matter of adjusting your living habits accordingly to make the most of what you have.
To help you on your way to a life on the road, here are our top ten ways to save money as a full-time nomad in Australia.
1. Minimise debt
It’s hard to enjoy freedom on the road if you’re financially tied to something. Wherever your debt comes from, try to minimise it or eliminate it completely before you go.
Even if you have no debt, you’ll do best with a cash surplus for financial security. So plan ahead and start putting money aside whenever you can – the more you save now, the longer you can enjoy being a nomad.
2. Learn new skills and DIY where you can
Every time you take your van into the shop to have something looked at, there’ll be a hefty price to pay. Often tweaks and tune-ups are all that is necessary, so you’re able to save quite a bit of cash if you learn how to maintain your tow vehicle or campervan yourself.
Internet blogs, forums, and YouTube channels can all take you step-by-step through a project. Make sure you know when you’re out of your league though. Whenever you’re unsure about a repair or maintenance task, take your vehicle to a reputable repair shop. Just fill them in on what you’ve already worked on so they don’t waste their time and your money.
3. Minimalist living
Remember, you’re not on vacation anymore; you’re travelling full-time so live like it. Stop buying souvenirs and getting fancy cocktails nightly. Learn to live with the absolute essentials and consider selling or donating your household items.
Do you really need a storage unit filled with furniture you’re not using anymore? Let go of materialistic ties and you’ll feel lighter and happier in general. Save the money for experiences and additional gear you might need for adventure!
4. Find the free stuff
Whether you need a shower or a place to dump your black and grey water, there are free facilities available to citizens who look for them. It takes time, but head to a local library for free internet and start researching the facilities you will need.
You can also look up free activities to take advantage of, for example, search ‘free things to do in Perth’ and you’ll be inspired by the range of choices.
Often museums or botanical gardens offer free admission days – in some states, you can even enjoy an outdoor cinema in the summer. Just make sure you’re informed before you show up.
5. Cook at home
As tempting as it can be to eat out every night, it can take a huge bite out of your savings.
Head to the grocery store and buy seasonal and local goods; take advantage of what’s on sale and stock up on canned and dry food. Look up new recipes to inspire cooking with lentils, barley, quinoa and other staples that are much cheaper when you cook from scratch. Not only economical, cooking your own meals is often healthier as well.
Always keep quick sandwich supplies on board so at lunchtime you’re not tempted to give into fast food.
6. Free camp
Also known as freedom camping, free camping, and boondocking, this essentially means finding a place in nature where you can legally camp for free. CamperMate is a fantastic free mapping app that you can use to locate free campsites, as well as tonnes of other camping and RV-specific information.
There are generally minimal facilities at free campsites so it’s important you go with a full water tank, empty grey water tank, and plenty of power in the bank. Investing in solar panels might be a bit costly at first, but it will save you in the long run. If you’re not sure which solar panels are best for your rig, check out our Road Travelers’ Guide to Solar Power.
Without being tied to parks for power hookups, you can get out and enjoy the Australia you set out to explore in the first place. And when you can’t go without a shower any longer, it’s super easy to book caravan parks on the fly.
7. Seasonal work
Whether you’re retired or not, having a bit of cash flowing in is never a bad idea. Also, it helps connect you with other people enjoying a similar nomadic lifestyle.
Whether it’s farm work or working at a holiday park, there are a variety of job opportunities for full-time nomads including plenty of part time work so you can still enjoy your free time.
Another perk of seasonal work is it’s often accompanied with a free power hook up as long as you’re there. Don't forget there's also lots of other ways besides seasonal work to make a living on the road.
8.Make use of cheap offers
Just because you’re watching your spending doesn’t mean you don’t get to enjoy fun activities! Head to matinee movies, go to a local sporting match as opposed to the national team and seek out happy hours at pubs.
Don’t forget to get your free Seniors Card if you’re over 60. The benefits vary from state to state but, generally speaking, a Seniors Card entitles you to discounts on everything from public transport to restaurants.
9. Drive economically
First, plan a route that minimises backtracking. Then, if you’re pulling a big rig, consider the route with fewer hills. Try and avoid driving on particularly windy days and stay at a consistent speed, often around 90kph for motorhomes.
All these little tricks can help you drastically reduce your petrol usage and keep one of your biggest financial costs on the road down. Don’t forget to get a credit card or petrol card that offers free rewards or discounts on fuel fill-ups.
10. Relax and live free
To live life as a nomad is to take the normal life you had at home on the road. Take days off to relax and take time to do laundry, cleaning, and cook leisurely. Walk places, play card games, or simply read a book outdoors. Don’t feel as if you need to constantly be sightseeing and spending money to have an experience.
The most authentic experiences come from the land itself, so relax on the beach, go on a hike, take a nice bike ride, picnic in a park, and breathe in the fresh air. The best things in life truly are free.
So what the hell is GoSeeAustralia? We're basically a bunch of Aussies who love the outdoors – and that’s why we’ve created a place where you can book campsites at over 500 caravan parks and campgrounds Australia-wide, rent campervans and RVs, as well as share your experiences and stories.