Frugal Or Cheap?

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 182016

I got an e-mail yesterday from a reader who asked why anyone would consider spending a night at a WalMart, truck stop, or highway rest area when there are so many campgrounds around the country. She asked if the RVers who do this are all cheapskates, or it there is ever a legitimate reason to do so.

In our many years traveling around the country in an RV, we have spent a lot of nights at the places she asked about. And yes, I have been called a cheapskate on occasion, though I prefer the term frugal. If we are on the road going from point A to point B and only want to stop and sleep for a few hours, I see no reason to go into an RV park and spend $25 or more when I have a self-contained motorhome. I’m not going to use the swimming pool or activity center or any of the other amenities of the campground, I can produce my own electricity, I have water on board, and holding tanks. So what do I need an RV park for?

Now, that’s when we are on the road going someplace. I do know RVers who spend more nights in truck stops and WalMarts and places like that than they ever do campgrounds. In fact, they brag about it. A few years ago we had a fellow who told us that he had been on the road for a full year and not once had he been in a campground. Every night was spent blacktop boondocking somewhere. His wife also told us that she was ready to get on a plane and fly back to where they came from because she did not become a fulltime RVer to spend her nights living in a parking lot. That guy was not frugal, he was a cheapskate.

There is also the convenience factor. If you don’t have to get off the highway and find a campground, stop at the office and register, pull into a site, and hook up, you save a lot of time. And sometimes bad weather, traffic delays, mechanical issues, or whatever may throw our schedule off and we don’t get to where we planned to be for the night. In that case, we just find a safe place where we can park, with permission, and go on down the road the next morning.

Do I prefer the comforts of a campground? At one time we spent over seven months straight dry camping on a friend’s land, not hooked up to campground utilities. Our MCI bus conversion was set up for dry camping and it was no problem at all. That was then and this is now, and given the choice, yes, we prefer the comforts of a campground. There’s a lot to be said for full hookups. But to each their own, and we know a lot of people who really enjoy boondocking, whether it’s out in the middle of the desert somewhere in Arizona, or in a parking lot for a quick overnight stay. To each their own.

Yesterday Terry finished proofing my new Big Lake mystery novel and I made the corrections she suggested. With that done, now my cousin Beverly will go over it a second time. Things are moving right along and it will be out in just a few days.

A while back in my Author’s Newsletter I invited readers to send me a short description of themselves and I would pick one to become a character in my new book. Julie Berquist said she always wanted to be a cop, so I included FBI Special Agent Julie Berquist, who heads up a special team sent to Big Lake to help find a small child that has been abducted.

If you would like to be on my newsletter mailing list, send me your e-mail address at and I’ll include you. It comes out about once a month and includes information on my writing activities, special offers, and a short story by one of my author friends.

Congratulations Phyllis Frey, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Sentinel In Elysium, the first book in my buddy George Weir’s excellent Elysium Chronicles mystery series set in a small Texas town. We had 93 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – We are drowning in information while starving for wisdom.

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  7 Responses to “Frugal Or Cheap?”

  1. It’s being frugal. We prefer a CG but if we have to we dry camp. The real problem is that CGs are getting so expensive. We are up in the NE right now and $40-$60 a night is the going rate. Yes, we are Passport America but those CGs are not always where we need or want to be. If CGs had an lower overnight rate for just electric and a spot off the road, it would be more attractive for us to stop for the one night. When we are somewhere longer than one night we go into a CG..

  2. We only stay at TT and SKP campgrounds. The rest of the time we boondock. Even when we do the NM state parks we dry camp free after purchasing their annual pass. We would rather spend the money for fuel and sightseeing. Campgrounds usually have very close sites. We are in the overflow area of Sunriver TT now and this weekend we had a very close neighbor but that hasn’t been the case for the past two weeks.

  3. This is getting like body shaming for women. When did our society change so much that what others choose to do is up for comment? I read several rv discussion forums and your blog. This lifestyle should be about freedom, freedom to do what we want. If some want to spend $50 a night in a campground, go for it. Others that choose to boondock in a parking lot are free to do so, assuming they have permission. Geez, enjoy and appreciate what you have and don’t complain about what others are choosing.

  4. I agree with Jan. The RVing community and social norms are shifting as more and more people hit the road. RV Parks can discriminate against the year of your rig which in turn promotes an air of snobbery amongst many RVers. Not all….but some. We’re frugal but I have no problem calling myself a cheapskate. I wear that badge proudly. We’ve stayed in truckstops and Walmarts on our way to a destination because it was only overnight and couldn’t justify the price of a campground. We dry camp a lot when out West. What’s wrong with views, peace and quiet for free? If a fellow camper doesn’t get that ideology, they’re probably not going to be our BFF. 😉

  5. Well said. My husband abhors the thought of walmart vernght…he is coming around that it may not be bad for a quick stop to rest”

  6. There are literally thousands of places that we can spend a night for free in our RV. Walmart is merely the best-known one.And there are many more where you can stay for $20/night or less, sometimes with full or partial hookups. The most comprehensive, current and accurate list of these is in the searchable online database at, which I administer.

    An annual subscription costs just $25, and once you subscribe you can extend your subscription by reporting back to us on the places you park overnight — our subscribers are our principal source of current information on these locations.

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  7. I purchased my 1969 MCI MC7 bus conversion in Dec, 2015, and have used it 5 times; all in State, KOA and RV Resort campgrounds locally while I become familiar with its systems and operation of the bus (it has a 4-speed manual transmission). In addition to the ‘park systems’, the bus is equipped with a propane generator, water tanks and electric pump (the pump needs fixed… it is on my list). The bus, without water pressure, would be a stretch to stop at Walmart overnight but that repair is on my list (I really need to fix it!). I hope to take it on more than ‘day trips’ in 2017 and having ability to pull off in a Super Walmart for a rest would be a great convenience. I am a former Walmart ‘Associate’ and hope the convenience and courtesy shown at many Walmarts will be extended to me. I would recommend anybody planning a trip to ‘call ahead’ to the nearest Super Center and speak with the manager. Knowing and abiding by the rules for stop-over (one night only, no furniture outside, no grills, no garbage) will ensure a positive experience.

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