I think one of the major changes when I moved to San Diego and got married to an active duty military was that we moved to a military base.
Yep, I went straight from beach bum in the Guatemalan jungle, living barefoot most of the day, to military wife living on base.
We decided to move into an RV to help accelerate my husband’s journey to FI. Active duty personnel receive a monthly allowance for housing, if they decide not to live on base.
At the time, with his rank and seniority, that was something like $2,500 per month, and he was living in a $2,000/month apartment 30 minutes away from work.
While it was a nice area, it was far from downtown, the harbor, the beach, and any of the cool hipster neighborhoods. The area was very walkable, but brand new, and I felt like we were living at Disneyland at times.
So the idea behind the RV was also to add a little more flavor and adventure to the mix. When you RV as a military family in San Diego, you have three military campgrounds that are way cheaper than the civilian market.
One is on Naval Base Point Loma, which is my favorite location. It is a five minute walk to Liberty Station, which has a gorgeous park and area with two supermarkets, bars and restaurants. You are right on the water with million dollar views of the bay, and downtown skyscrappers, especially at night.
All that for the bargain price of $20 per night. When we stay there, we cycle to Liberty Station, run along the harbor, walk the dogs a lot, and my husband’s work is just 15 minutes cycling away.
I often go there because the gym on base has free Zumba class. Told you it was a 180 from life in the jungle. I also like the library there, and gas is cheaper on base.
Sadly, we can’t stay more than 30 days there, so we usually stay another 30 days on Coronado Island. It is a bit more of a vacation vibe, as the campground depends from a base but isn’t inside one, so they don’t do identity checks or play the national anthem every morning.
We are again right on the water, there is a marina with full timers on boats, and maybe 50 RV spots compared to only a dozen at Point Loma.
It is twice as expensive at $40 per night, but you get full hookups, so we can shower and do dishes inside. Another luxury they have is WiFi. Don’t say it’s free, it is included. At Point Loma, it’s dry camping so we only use the WC, but shower and do dishes in common restrooms. No WiFi either, but Liberty Station has a USO lounge we can use for free.
It’s like an airport lounge, with snacks and comfy chairs, and there is WiFi, TVs, games for the kids and plenty of activities during the year.
Living on a base is a bit like living in Pleasantville. Neighbors are nice, polite and tidy. It’s San Diego so the sun shines most of the time.
Today, I met my neighbor and we had a social distancing walk on the beach with her kids while my dog chased her, completely ignoring the 6ft apart rule.
It is nice to know the neighbors and socialize more. I do miss the not-so-polished Guatemalan life, but it is a great new adventure.
Everything is done on the bases to give service members a semblance of normal life, at affordable prices. You have free movie theaters, free gym with fun classes like Zumba or yoga, a great library, etc. I enjoy that a lot.
Oh and the commissary, where you can shop tax free. Same with the gas station it is much cheaper than in town.
So overall, we save a lot of money. Now the monthly housing allowance for a married couple is around $3,100, and we average $900 renting half the time at $20/night and half at $40. Plus, we don’t pay rent when we go on holiday!
There is also a $300 RV payment, we buy propane tanks and more gas to move the RV from one spot to the other, but overall I’d say RV costs are around $1,300-1,500 a month, and we can bank over $1,500 from the tax free housing allowance.
Yay for frugal living in San Diego!