Life on the road can be pretty addictive – so much so that you’ll start to consider how to transition to living as a full-time nomad. And for those with the freedom retirement offers, this possibility can very easily become a reality.
More and more Australians are joining the ‘grey nomad’ movement every year and it’s easy to see why. Grey nomads are retirees that travel independently for an extended period of time, usually in a motorhome, caravan, or some other recreational vehicle.
And while this lifestyle might seem appealing, some of the logistics can overwhelm people.
Among the biggest issues that come up is managing your finances. Well, I’m here to say that a nomadic lifestyle is truly attainable for most: it’s simply a matter of adjusting your living habits accordingly to make the most out of your income.
To help you on your way to living a life on the road, here is a list of our top ten ways to save money as a full-time nomad in Australia.
1. Be financially secure
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 hit the road.
Even if you have no debt, you’ll do best with a surplus for financial security. So plan ahead and start putting money aside.
The more you save now, the longer you can enjoy being a nomad.
2. Buy tools and learn new skills
Every time you bring your van into the shop to have something looked at, there’ll be a hefty price to pay. Oftentimes tweak 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 / RV yourself.
It’s easier than you’d think with internet blogs, forums, and YouTube channels (where everyone and their mother has advice to offer) can take you step-by-step through a project. But make sure you know when you’re out of your league and do the smart thing by taking it to a reputable repair shop. Just fill them in on what you’ve already worked on so they don’t waste their time.
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 whims 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 need before you need them.
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 to be informed before you show up.
5. Cook at home
As tempting as it can be in a new city 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 much cheaper when you cook from scratch. Not only economical, cooking your own meals is often healthier as well.
And always keep quick sandwich supplies on board so lunchtime never tempts you 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.
There are generally no 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.
Without feeling tied to parks in need of hook-ups, you can get out and enjoy the real Australia you set out to explore in the first place. GoSeeAustralia is an invaluable resource for anyone travelling AU, offering an enormous directory of both free and paid campsites located across the country.
Also, investing a few dollars in an app like Wiki Camps gives you access to thousands of vetted wild camping spots with comments and updates from other users like you. Spending more time free camping means you can spend more time full-time caravan touring.
7. Seasonal work
Whether you’re retired or not, having a bit of cash flowing in is never a bad idea. Plus it helps connect you with other people with a similar nomadic lifestyle, and helps sustain the long winter months where travel can be less appealing.
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 hook up as long as you’re there.
8. Utilise 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.
And don’t forget to get your Seniors Card for free if you’re over 60. Each state has their own, but it entitles you to discounts on everything from public transport to restaurants.
9. Drive smart
First, plan a route that minimises backtracking and wayward itineraries. Then, if you’re pulling a big rig consider the less uphill route. 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
Life as a nomad means you live the normal life you had at home, just 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.