You finally got your RV! Your heart beats with pride as you take the keys to your new rig. It’s a wonderful feeling. Images of future camping trips flash before you. But, wait. There are many more things to buy. Most RV’s, both new and used, don’t come with all the things you need for camping. You need plates, flatware, appliances, pots, pans, tools – the list goes on. Don’t worry. You can outfit your RV on a very tight budget. Let me show you how to find cheap RV supplies.
Thrift Stores – Great Places to Find the Basic Items
Nearly every city has Salvation Army and Goodwill thrift stores. In these stores and many like them, you will find a good supply of many of the basic items needed in most campers.
Before going to the thrift store, make a list of the things you need. It does you no good to spend money on stuff you are not going to use. It’s no bargain if you buy something you don’t need. That said, there is a great variety of things you can get very cheaply at a thrift store.
Make your list with three budgets in mind. Budget for money, space, and weight. Believe it or not, money may be the least of your problems when outfitting an RV.
Your RV storage space is limited. You will be surprised how few things you actually need. Try just buying the very bare essentials. Go on a few camping trips and make a list of the things you wished you had. Add only those things you really can’t do without. This will;l save you space and money.
Don’t forget the weight of the things you are buying. A handful of spoons doesn’t seem to weigh much, but it all adds up. Every pound you add brings you that much closer to maximum weight your RV is rated to carry called the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). Know how much weight you can add to your RV. Don’t go over your GVWR.
Typical things you can find at a thrift store.
For the kitchen:
- Pots, pans, skillets, cooking utensils
- Plates. Plastic plates are lighter and don’t easily break. This is very important because your RV vibrates and bounces constantly while you are in transport.
- Cups, bowls, again plastic is best. For your bowls, try to get the ones you can use in the microwave.
- Flatware, don’t worry about service for eight. Just get as many pieces as you need for the number of people on your typical camping trip.
- Spatulas, whisk, ladle, can opener, bottle cap opener etc.
- Appliances: Coffee maker, microwave oven, toaster, small convection oven, slow cooker, hot plate, hand mixer.
- Sponges, mop, bucket
For the living/sleeping areas:
- Bedding, sheets, blankets
- Throw pillows, fabric for curtains, upholstery covers
- TV, radios, lamps
- Rugs, mats
For the bath:
- Towels, bath mats, floor mats, soap/shampoo dispensers
When buying at a thrift store, it is a good idea to be aware of the retail prices of the items you are buying. Just because the item you are looking for is on a thrift store’s shelf is no guarantee you are getting a good price.
Don’t be afraid to bargain at a thrift store. The items on the shelves have been donated. Often, they can be somewhat flexible on the prices. If you see something you want, but think they may be asking too much, make an offer. The worst that can happen is they say, “no.”
If you haven’t found everything you need at the thrift stores, don’t worry in the next section, I’ll show you how to find those things you need. Here, you can definitely bargain for better prices.
Yard Sales – You Might Get Lucky
You can literally find everything you need for camping at yard sales, including an RV. However, locating the exact item you need can be a challenge.
Yard sales are often impromptu sales conducted by homeowners who need to clear out a little space in their homes, raise a little money, or both. These sales can be hastily set up with the merchandise not well organized or priced. This makes finding your specific items more difficult but presents you with an opportunity to get really good prices.
Yard sales are usually held on the weekend. The best times of day for buyers at a yard sale are early morning for selection and late in the morning for price. Local newspapers often advertise yard sales a day or two ahead. The ads often include a partial list of what will be offered for sale. If you see things you want in those ads, it can cut down on driving around.
Classified Ads – Save a Bundle on Big Ticket Items
Speaking of newspapers, don’t forget to check your local classifieds. Just about every daily paper has a classified ad section. Many areas have papers with nothing but classified ads. These are great places to locate camping gear Often at bargain prices.
There are also classified ads online including Craig’s List. All kinds of things may be available including RVs, tow vehicles and all kinds of camping gear.
You may be able to locate specialty, big-ticket items that you don’t usually see in thrift stores or yard sales.
Items you may find in the classifieds include:
- Hitches, tires, wheels, braking systems,
- Leveling jacks, fifth wheel hitches
- Major appliances including stoves, refrigerators, hot water heaters,
- Parts, lights, lenses and much more
You may find the very item you want. It’s not unusual to find slightly used items at half the price of new. Then, call the seller and get an idea as to the condition of the item. You may also be able to determine if the seller will come down on the price.
Make an appointment to see the item at a time convenient to both of you. Don’t make an offer until you see the item. The seller’s idea of “like new” and yours may differ greatly.
Auction Sites – Get Precisely What You Want
Don’t forget auction sites. EBay has a great selection of new and used RVs and gear. The great thing is you can search for exactly what you want. If you find your item in a no reserve auction, make a bid. Who knows, you might score yourself a terrific bargain.
Don’t Forget the “Dollar” Stores
There are several chains of stores where every item for sale is priced at $1. It is amazing the things you can get for a buck in these stores. Kitchen utensils, cups, bowls, storage containers with locking lids, small tools and many other items are available for just a dollar.
They have personal items like soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. You will find over the counter medications like aspirin. Many of the items for your first aid kit can be found in the dollar store. It’s a great place to save money/
Spend Your Money on Fun, Not on Supplies
Your camping trips are weekends and an occasional vacation. For most of us, our RVs are in storage all Winter, It makes no sense to overspend on items that we use only on occasion. Follow these tips and you will have money to spend on traveling, on sightseeing, on getting to that destination that has been on your bucket list.
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