How I drove across country only spending 6 dollars, minus gas money

Have you ever wanted to drive across country but felt that you couldn’t because it costs too much? There are ways in saving money and only spending money on necessities when driving across country. When I pulled out of my driveway, saying one last heartfelt goodbye to my friends and family, I was prepared. That’s number one. If you are prepared with spending little money, then that’s exactly what you will do with a little determination and stubbornness, which I have plenty of unfortunately, I get it from my grandfather. Thanks grandpa! Haha I’m just kidding. 🙂  Anyways, I packed my car as if I was going to live out of it, because I was. I was going to sleep in it (sorry hotel rooms, your going to lose out on my money, hehe), packed my car with food (you would have went shopping for food anyway if you were staying home so no loss there, and just a couple tricks up your sleeve will help you choose your free room for the night and getting your free ice to fill up your cooler if you are bringing perishable food.

I paid for no water. I filled up on rest areas with the water fountains. Just a side note, Iowa water tastes substantially different from our water (New York). I don’t want to say its bad because I don’t want to bash on Iowa, but… for my liking at least, it was not enjoyable.  Still drank it though.  Now Colorado water, oh yeah. Very fresh!

I paid for no ice. Here I come hotels!!!! Just walk right in like you know what you are doing, and fill up. I still feel awkward doing it, but after you get free ice and you put it in your cooler, all those negative feelings just fade away.

I can not say I did not pay for food. Remember that 6 dollars. I caved and ate this delicious pepperoni and cheese roll up, well there were two roll ups to be exact. That was three dollars. And the other three dollars was 2 mountain dews because I was starting to fall asleep at the wheel. Not good!

I literally could have drove across country not spending a dime, minus gas, but your body knows when it is ready to splurge, and I see nothing wrong with an occasional splurging moment. Kinda feels good.

Some tricks on staying the night for free. My first night I stayed at a run down sketchy Walmart. I did it, but it was not very much to my liking. But it did the trick. The second night, I stayed, and this was by accident, I did not even think of this, was an apartment complex. It was this nice apartment complex south of Denver, CO. and I felt significantly safer than staying in the Walmart parking lot. The third night, same thing, I’m definitely feeling this apartment feel. I just park in the back corner and hang in the car. I obviously don’t park until just before or right at night time is ideal. You kinda look suspicious hanging by your car if you stay there long enough when the sun is still shining.

Oh and when you are cleaning up at night, my advice is do as much as you can out of your car. Can you brush your teeth from outside your car? It’s a yes for me. When I have used public bathrooms to get ready for bed, people tend to stare, and I feel very uncomfortable. But hey, if you are more comfortable than I am, more power to you. I try to not “give a shit,” but for me it’s easier said than done when you have people staring at you brushing your teeth in a Walmart parking lot. Who knows though, maybe it was just because I was at Walmart and other places will be better. I’ve just now got accustomed to doing everything right from my car.

Oh and if your driving from the east coast to the west, don’t expect much! I drove for 1,500 miles with out seeing a single mountain :(. I was so upset. But then I hit Denver and everything changed from there. Now its like this never ending clusterfuck of amazing mountains and scenery and I feel like an owl in my car with my head continuously spinning around in circles looking at everything.

Also, Iowa and Nebraska tends to have bad weather, so I literally just drove as fast as I could through both of those states. Not easy. Both very loooooong!!!!! But doable. Nebraska you can drive 75mph. Bring it on! And thank you Nebraska!!!

Another thing I learned; East Colorado has little to no mountains. It’s not a bad thing. I just for some reason had it in my mind Colorado just had mountains everywhere. And it pretty much does. Just not on the very east side of the state. But don’t worry. The rest of the state makes up for it. Gorgeous!!!!

Well, I hope this helps on saving money for your road trip. Even if it isn’t across country and just over a couple states. There are ways in making fantastic trips cost very little. You just have to think about it. It is definitely out of the norm and you may be stepping out of your comfort zone at times, but it’s worth it. I mean 6 dollars to go across country and I didn’t even have to spend that. It was just a luxury. Come on now!!!!

And you don’t need a truck or an SUV to do it. This was all out of a Chevy cruise. Now if you have more than one person going with you, maybe a Chevy cruise won’t do it for you, but even then, you can camp for free at National Forests. Just do a little bit of research a wala! Easy Peasy!!!

Thank you for reading and I hope this helps stimulates your next adventure! And remember, you don’t have to be rich to travel. Traveling alone does that for you. Travel can make you truly richer in life.



Shelly/ Livingonthedirt    🙂

About the Author:

Hi, I'm Shelly! A traveler, hiker and an outdoor enthusiast. My dream my whole life was to travel, so I stopped dreaming and started doing. I quit my job and I am currently doing whatever it takes to keep going. I'll pick up jobs along the way and do what it takes to keep being a full-time traveler! I can prove that you don't need to come from money or anywhere special to live your dream. You just have to have the power of your own life to finally say YES!


  1. Deborah Callahan June 2, 2016 at 3:58 am - Reply

    You certainly are an inspiration, these are some helpful tips! Stay safe & enjoy your adventure 🙂

    • shelly June 4, 2016 at 4:41 pm - Reply

      Thank you Debbie! I appreciate it immensely.

  2. Grace September 21, 2016 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    Hilarious and useful tips! Can’t wait to read more!

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