Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and he shares his experiences along with valuable tips for RV owners.
We did it! Yes, my wife and I retired earlier than we had ever thought we could. We had both worked our whole married lives, and after we had raised our three kids, we realized suddenly one day that there were just the two of us to worry about. The kids had moved on!
We’re both from Virginia, and neither of our parents had much money, so when we married, we both went into the local workforce with no skills and a “can-do” attitude when it came to taking on new challenges. Fast forward two careers and a handful of kids raised and onto their own adventures, and we decided to give something new a try.
We had some money saved, but we knew if we wanted to keep up the full-time RV lifestyle in perpetuity, we were going to have to get a little creative. In this article, we share a non-exhaustive list of fun, rewarding, and financially viable ways to make money while you travel in an RV, camper, or whatever rig you dig.
If you're interested in the details of our journey out of the nine-to-five and into the drive-and-thrive, read on after the list for our story.
10 Ways to Make Money From Your RV While Retired
One thing I do have to share with all of you future retirees is this: Everyone has skills—use yours! Each and every one of you needs to sit down and determine exactly what skills you have that you can use to make you some extra money. You need to keep your skills up to date. If you do things right, you can make a few bucks while retired and traveling.
If you have computer skills, keep a PC in your RV and keep up with the available apps and tools you might need if you were to offer computer-maintenance services while traveling.
If you enjoy doing or making something, then you can use those skills to make money. You may have to use the web and sell through an online store. You may want to sell your product at craft fairs and seasonal markets. There are even clubs that you can join to travel from craft fair to craft fair around the country.
Over the years, my wife and I have traveled in our motorhome and stayed in campgrounds all over the country. In doing so, we've done a number of things to earn extra cash. There are also several things we've seen other people do in many of the campgrounds we visit to make a buck. Here are a few examples of ways you can make money while traveling in an RV, trailer, motorhome, or van.
1. Repair RV Curtains
We've run into several couples who repair or replace the folding curtains that are used on the windows of the majority of campers. These curtains often tear, and their strings frequently break, so if you have sewing or repair skills, you can definitely make some cash helping out other campers. Since you'll be hanging out at campgrounds and RV parks already, just put a sign up on your rig advertising RV curtain repairs.
2. Sell Synthetic Motor Oils
RVs and tow trucks need frequent oil changes, and most RV travelers want their engines to last as long as possible. We've seen a number of retirees who sell certain high-end synthetic oils that are touted as better than what you can find on the shelf at most auto-parts stores. When oil sellers pull into a campground, they usually put out a sign and wait for potential customers to knock on their doors to purchase these special oil products.
3. Sell RV Accessories
Some retiree campers make or purchase RV accessories that are hard to find have them ready to sell to other RV owners. Popular products include RV wash and wax solutions, handmade exterior art for campsites, handmade interior rugs, and various decorations.
4. Sell Your Artwork
Believe it or not, even though there is very little spare space in most RVs and campers, many of the travelers you'll meet also have a house or condo that they go back to and relatives and friends they need to buy gifts for. So, if you are an artist, whether you paint, sculpt, throw clay, or make something else entirely, you can often sell your recently completed works to your fellow campers.
5. Sell Cooking Accessories
A lot of RV owners cook their own food most of the time, either on their exterior grill or in their RV kitchen. If you have certain specialty cooking accessories that you know everyone uses—regardless of whether you made them or purchased them for resale—you can often sell them in your campground by just displaying them on a table in front of your RV.
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6. Sell Exterior Sunscreens
Trust me—RVs can get really hot when they have been sitting in the summer sun. For this reason, some travelers will purchase rolls of special sunscreen material, then put out a sign advertising custom-fitted sun screens for other RV owners.
If someone approaches you, simply visit their rig, take measurements, and create a custom screen for their windshield or windows. These exterior sun screens are popular with RV owners because they are easy to install and they reduce the amount of UV that enters the cabin.
7. Sell Jewelry
Handmade jewelry is very popular almost anywhere you go. Assemblage-style jewelry is particularly easy to construct and customize, and it doesn't require any specialty casting or smithing tools—just a few simple handheld tools like jeweler's pliers and wire cutters will suffice. Such jewelry can be sold in campgrounds, at craft fairs, and on specialty craft websites like Etsy.
8. Make and Sell Personalized Campsite Signs
When you pull into a campground for the first time, everyone is a stranger. Eventually, though, you meet your neighbors and often even make new friends.
One popular money-making craft we see people doing all the time is creating custom campsite signs. Usually, these signs display family names and where campers are from on a uniquely crafted sign with embellishments and decorations. Having such a sign in front of your RV gives your campground neighbors enough information about you for an introduction.
You can purchase the proper inks and high quality blank signs on the web and then customize them for your campground neighbors. Making a super unique one for your own campsite is a good way to drum up some interest
9. Make and Sell T-Shirts
The casual lifestyle of RV campers usually means that they can often be found lounging around their campsites wearing simple, comfortable clothing—like t-shirts.
Some campers design their own sayings and artwork and have commercial, web-based t-shirt manufacturers apply them to their basic shirts. Once you have completed your design, you can purchase samples and then place orders for specific colors, designs, and sizes if one of your fellow campers wants one. You can even use a t-shirt manufacturer that helps sell your design for you on the web.
I love to write; I write short stories, poetry, and even books that I publish on Amazon for Kindle. They list my books for me and handle the publishing and sales as well.
I have found that Amazon’s cut for doing all of this for me is pretty close to what I would pay if I used a commercial publisher, editor, and agent to publish traditionally. For me, this level of publishing, advertising, and listing via Amazon fits my needs perfectly.
If I have a book in my head that I want to publish, the process typically goes as follows:
- Write your book using Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or something similar.
- Once it is completed, file for a copyright, which usually costs around $35.
- Release a copy of the book to KDP (Amazon's Kindle Digital Publishing). After they check it for spelling and grammar errors, they will list it for sale on their web store.
- Amazon's charges usually amount to about 75% to 80% of the sale price.
- When they get a book order, regardless of whether it is for a single copy or a dozen copies, they will print and ship the book(s) to the buyer.
- Your share of any sales will get deposited into your personal account monthly.
- You can purchase personal copies for handing out during promotions, and you can also do your own marketing, often in book stores and at craft fairs.
Ok, back to our story! Without going into the mostly boring details of our family life, I’ll just say that we both maintained aggressive attitudes about our jobs. Don't get me wrong; we were never industrial “movers and shakers,” but in our jobs, we both happily accepted new technologies along with the new challenges they entailed and were recognized every year for our contributions.
We were like so many of our peers, though. We put money away in our savings for a retirement that was, in our minds, this vague thing that we figured we would one day have defined so we could start living happily in our "sunset years." But here we were, both of us working as “mid-level managers” in that middle-aged-to-senior range feeling an unmistakable itch for something new.
Our Basic Plan
We took a weekend trip to a favorite campground we had frequented for years, and we just sat around with a few bottles of wine and had some serious talks about what "the rest of our lives" would look like.
We realized that . . .
- we had a decent amount of money in our savings,
- we were in relatively good health, and
- we were tired of the daily 9-to-5.
We wanted to do "our thing" rather than continue working for corporate America. It had been fun, but we wanted to do something new, and we wanted to do it now. Don’t get me wrong—both my wife and I felt that we were capable of much more career growth, but at the same time, we really were ready to move on with our lives.
That very weekend, we laid out our first rough financial plan to support this new lifestyle we now wanted so badly. We came home with our financial plan, then we spent a couple of weeks compiling lists of things we had both always wanted to do that we had put off for so many decades as we had lived our corporate and family-centric lives.
I have to add right here that we didn't just decide out of the blue that we would use RV camping as a part of our retirement lifestyle. As I mentioned, we had been campers for most of our married lives, so we were already aware of the plusses and minuses that this lifestyle brings along with it. We did, however, already know that we could live together comfortably in a house on wheels with fewer than 400 square feet of living space.
Our Ideal Retirement Lifestyle and Our Financials
We weren’t sure what else we should be doing for the rest of our lives, but we did know that we had been avid campers for decades and that our kids had gotten older, moved out, and started their own lives. Sure, they would visit us occasionally, but in reality, they no longer needed us on a constant basis.
We already knew that we were outdoorsy people, so we figured we would really enjoy traveling more and seeing the rest of the "great outdoors" if we had a good camper or motorhome to live in.
So, with a little help from some professionals, we restructured our savings to support what we hoped to be our new lifestyle, and after some adjustments, we walked away from the corporate world several years before we had to. We knew that, at times, our money situation might get tight, but regardless, we were very anxious to find our new path through life.
Doing Things Our Way
My wife and I are not stupid people, and we knew that if we didn’t manage our financials closely, or—God forbid—if the economy went south on us, we might need to end up returning to work after a decade or two in order to supplement our potentially shrinking savings.
When we thought about it, though, the thought of being those gray-haired old people checking out your groceries at the supermarket didn’t scare us at all. Our thoughts were that if we lived long enough to need more money, then so be it—we would get menial jobs of some kind. That is, if our ancient bodies were capable of doing such a thing after we reached 100-years old (sic).
Again, we had no expectations of having such a financial problem, so we gave notice to our bosses and we “went out.” And so, we started our new lives together, looking forward to a fantastic future full of new adventures.
Good Luck Out There!
Remember—you shouldn’t retire, spend money for a couple of decades, go broke, and then start looking for ways to make extra money. Sure, there are companies all across the country (usually retail) that hire temporary workers. Of course, if you have to take one of these jobs, then you have to, but I suggest that you avoid working a part-time job for several months at a time before you move on to your next campsite.
You retired to travel and see the country—not to work another 9-to-5 job. So, save up for retirement, hop in your RV, and start traveling and making money on the side right away so that as you spend your savings, you also earn some money back.
Just sit down and think about what you truly enjoy doing, and use this knowledge to select a few ways to generate income so you can keep things fun and financially rewarding.
Don't forget to pick something you can do on your own schedule. You'll want to still have time to do all of the retirement activities you actually enjoy, like traveling for fun, playing your favorite sport, attending concerts and events, and most importantly, relaxing and enjoying yourself!
What you saw in this article are just a few of the things a retiree can do to make a few bucks and enjoy what they are doing. Right now, people are making steady money at all of these tasks. The list of possible products and services could easily have been 10 times longer, but you get the idea.
Of course, this was written for the typical retired RV traveler, but really, any retiree can use their personal skills to enjoy their lifestyle and run a small specialty business of their own.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on March 06, 2021:
Mona - My Wife and I have been doing this RV thing for more years than I care to remember, and we saw very early that most of the RV owners we knew had some kind of way to generate a little extra income. Just apply what you know and can do, and you can find your fun money-making business yourself.
Don Bobbitt (author) from Ruskin Florida on March 06, 2021:
BillyBuc - So Good to hear from you, old Friend! By irritating you, just a little (?) you have made my day!
And, Yes, I may be getting older, and I may creak a little when I move, but I still love being around "Big Water".
I ope you hve a great day, my friend!
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on March 05, 2021:
These are great ideas. I especially like the part about how to earn money. It's nice to know that you can live in your own RV and still make a living.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 05, 2021:
That picture of you on the beach is going to annoy me all day long, thank you very much!
I hope you are well! Take care and enjoy the hell out of your weekend.