My wife and I recently went through a life change after I left the store I managed and signed up for college courses. We knew that having one or both of us going to school would put a fair-sized stranglehold on our finances. We came up with a few ideas – this one took second place (to an apartment) but we came very close to going with it.

Our income would dictate cheap living. This much we knew. Living in an RV can be incredibly cheap – challenging, but cheap. We identified several key areas we’d need to find solutions to fit our needs as well as a few tips and tricks from experienced fulltime RVers. We may have decided against this but who knows? Might work for you.


Anyone who’s been in one knows that the living space inside even a larger RV is tight. Not only do we have two people to allocate space for, we have an infant. This complicated things and basically ruled out any size RV except for a Class A.

Class A: Largest chassis, comparable to a bus. Some with high-displacement gasoline engines (Chevy 454, Ford 460) or diesel engines.
Class B: Simple converted van, usually with a raised roof.
Class C: Van chassis and front end, can be large.

As floor plans in RVs vary widely, we didn’t go into detail with space allocation at this point – saving that problem to solve later when we actually were looking at RVs.


Storage is at a premium in RVs. Usually the refrigerator is a dorm-sized unit, prohibiting long-term fridge storage of foods. However, RVs have fairly full-featured kitchens complete with microwaves, stoves, counter space and cabinets. We decided to purchase dry foods in bulk, storing them in our own containers to save space.


Most RVs have two systems for electricity – 120v (house) electricity and 12v (vehicle). Basically, you need electricity for lights, air-conditioning, appliances, personal electronics etc etc. RVs have large batteries that will allow you to run low-wattage (no hair dryers) equipment for a reasonable period of time – but like all batteries, they can go dead.

To recharge your house batteries, you can either:

-Run the RV’s engine to charge the batteries from the alternator
-Connect your RV to shore power
-Run your generator

Each has its benefits and drawbacks. If you run your engine, you inflict wear and tear on something you rely on to keep you mobile. Not a good idea. If you connect your RV to shore power, you’re either jacking power from someone or you’re paying a campground fee and plugging into their power. If you run your generator, you’ll use a smaller amount of fuel than the vehicle engine, but you’ll piss off everyone around you with the noise.

To avoid the drawbacks of the three options above, you can install a set of solar panels on the roof of the RV. These will trickle charge your batteries to get you through in a pinch if you’re far from shore power.

Internet Access

You’ve got several options here.

Hughesnet Satellite Internet

       -Expensive. Fast, but expensive. Also, you must first have service set up at your home and then move it to your RV. You also have to set up and aim a satellite dish anytime you want internet. Not very plug-n-play.

Cell Phone

      – Most phones will allow you to wirelessly connect to them via your laptop’s bluetooth radio and access the internet at dialup speeds. Great in a pinch (especially if you have an unlimited data plan with your carrier) but slow.


      -Many, many places are offering free broadband-speed WiFi access points – all you need is a laptop and a parking space for some of them. Great for speed, frugality – but you have to physically be near an access point in order to take advantage of it. Not so great if you’re in a beautiful boondock spot and want to get your youtube fix.

Part II coming soon.