Like so many RVers — full-timers, seasonal, and weekenders alike — my husband and I had plans for 2020. We were going off the grid. We’ve been full-time RVers for three years now, and we had “planned” to spend the year camping on public lands in two-week stints and hopping our way around the American West. We figured if we wanted to take a break from being off-the-grid, then we’d just book a month at an RV park here and there.
Of course, that all went out the window in March. Not only did over half the RV parks in the country close down in some way, but so did many of our state and federal parks, and even some of the dispersed camping on public lands on both state and federal levels.
And while coronavirus is a (hopefully) temporary crisis, it’s one that’s served as a wake-up call for us. We’ve been asking ourselves how we can be more prepared for an emergency, and how we can always be safe while also living the life we dream of. After all, we didn’t opt for this minimalist lifestyle because we’re satisfied with anything less than our dream life.
Our answer to all these questions? Land.
Why this full-time RVer is getting into land
We’re buying a few acres of land in a few different states around the country. We plan to just drive in a big circle between our properties, whenever we feel like it. We’ve built a brand-new solar system and added multiple water tanks to our utility systems to allow us to be on raw land and still have everything we need to live a pretty normal life (including a washer, dryer, and dishwasher).
So far we have three pieces of remote acreage, two of which we’ve purchased since the pandemic began, and we’re picking up more. Sometimes “remote” means it’s half an hour to the Grand Canyon, and sometimes it means it’s genuinely in the middle of nowhere. But we’re not really city people anyway, and we’re used to living off the grid.
My husband and I have boondocked and lived off-grid extensively over the years. He lived in his first “RV” a couple decades ago when he converted a school bus way before it was popular on Instagram. Since then, we’ve lived off-grid in our own homemade RV and on a hand-built homestead in North Idaho. So the need to build more robust utility and solar systems in our RV was not an obstacle. It’s actually opened a lot of doors for us.
By not relying on private RV parks or government-run parks for utilities, we can move freely without a schedule and travel pretty much anywhere we want. By not relying on public lands like BLM, we know we can’t get cut off from our camping space if they close the roads or block off the dispersed or developed campgrounds.
Yes, building energy and water systems can be expensive, but in our minds it allows us to save money on RV parks and it pays off in big amounts of freedom. We can come and go as we please without a schedule and we’ll never have to deal with things like that guy who always parks right next to you on BLM land even when there’s acres of open space.
And we’re not alone. For many RVers, if you took the money you spend on campgrounds and put it into your RV systems, it wouldn’t take long to have enough savings to build a really robust set-up. Another benefit for us is that we can even leave some of our stuff on our land in a little shed and not have to carry everything with us everywhere we go (crazy!).
Land lets us create a side hustle
We’ve been so enjoying finding little gems of land that our next move is to educate ourselves enough to become land wholesalers in our own right. We’re using this downtime when municipalities are not holding auctions to educate ourselves. We plan to be ready when the world opens back up so we can keep buying properties of our own, as well as resell to others and help them acquire their own private dream camping spaces.
Getting into land also lets us help other RVers who might not be interested in buying properties at all. We plan to put up listings for our properties on sites like Boondockers Welcome so other adventurers might get use from them too. Boondockers Welcome was an essential part in the beginning of our RV journey, and we’ll never forget that.
Additionally, if we wanted to make some extra cash by turning a piece of land into another side hustle, we could renovate a cool camper inexpensively by doing the work ourselves. Then we could post it up as a glamping rental on Airbnb or Hipcamp, and make some money while we’re spending a season somewhere else.
You can finance your own land, too
You can find land listings all over the internet, including Facebook and Craigslist. Many of the people selling the kind of remote properties that are perfect for RVers also offer what’s known as seller financing or owner financing.
This financing typically doesn’t require a credit check and often requires very little in the way of the down payment. On the other hand, you’ll usually pay a lot in interest over the length of the payment plan and you’ll frequently pay a monthly processing fee too.
My husband and I avoid this by using 0% APR credit cards to finance our land. We have found that if you offer to pay for a piece of land in full, the seller will often lower the price of the land and waive things like recording fees and credit card processing fees. With the right credit card, that means I get a great deal on my land and I get 12-18 months of time with no interest charges to pay off that land. You might be wondering if it’s realistic to buy land that you can charge on a credit card and pay off fairly quickly. I can tell you that we paid $3,000 for over two acres in one instance and only $6,000 for a pretty prime acre in another. So yes, you can indeed make this strategy work.
I always use a credit card that earns me travel rewards or cash back as well, making the deal even sweeter. And if you open a new credit card, you can use your land purchase towards earning a sign-up bonus that could amount to hundreds of dollars. Can you tell I’ve done this a few times?
You always need to do the math and consider your personal situation with this credit card strategy, though — sometimes you will be required to pay a credit card processing fee no matter what, and if that percentage is higher than the rewards you’re earning or outweighs the cut in the price that you’re getting, then it won’t be a good way to go.
And finally, this is all contingent on you paying off your balance before the end of your 0% APR period. It’s what we always do, and what I highly recommend if you want to optimize this financing strategy.
As an RVer, you’re already willing to think outside the box of everyday living. Now, consider thinking off the grid. If you don’t have to depend on RV parks and government lands to find a home, it can alleviate a lot of worries. Even better, having your own space that you can design, decorate, and use to your personal desires increases your freedom level massively.
Becca Borawski Jenkins is an editor at FinanceBuzz and has been living and traveling full-time in an RV for the past three years. She loves to write about saving money, saving for retirement, and cashback credit cards. You can find her, her cat, and her husband driving in a big circle around North America.