Driving away from the price pressure in Germany with a mobile home – does that make sense? FOCUS online spoke to Thomas de Kiff (67, former high school teacher), who is traveling to Portugal with his wife Heike (63, former manager). The retired couple also has numerous savings tips ready.

FOCUS online: On YouTube you report enthusiastically about your life in the mobile home. May I ask where you are right now?

Thomas de Kiff: Sure, in Spain, on the Costa Brava. We are on our way to Portugal.

How’s the weather? De Kiff: My wife Heike is just checking out… The sun is shining, she says. It’s nine o’clock, the thermometer shows 21°. But today it’s going up a few degrees. In any case, we’ll first have a leisurely breakfast and then we’ll go to the sea. And maybe dinner tonight. In Portugal we will definitely do that more often. The restaurants are superb and the prices a feast. Multi-course menus for 15 euros are quite common. A good bottle of wine is available from eight euros. How long have you lived like this? De Kiff: For two and a half years. The decision to go into the mobile home has developed. We are boaters, we used to travel a lot in Croatia, from island to island, from marina to marina. About five weeks a year, we were working.

The thought of getting stuck in routines, not experiencing anything really new and seeing time fly by scared us. So we thought we’d give that a try. With a boat you are tied to ports. We got a mobile home for more flexibility. Does that mean you broke up camp in Germany two and a half years ago?

When we came back to Germany, it was clear that we were just a stopover. You are so much freer when you don’t have to maintain and clean 170 m² and take care of a garden. We repacked and rented out our house. And then it started, similar to now: via Spain to Portugal.

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De Kiff: Exactly, in September 2020. I know what you’re getting at. That was the first Corona year, the numbers went up again, but hardly anyone really expected a second lockdown. But you are brave enough to leave now, said friends. For us it was exactly the opposite: you feel safe in the mobile home. Our quarantine station on four wheels, I sometimes joked. Great months followed.

As a camper, you mainly live outdoors, and this is especially true on the Iberian Peninsula. We only stayed inside once before the end of the year, that was at Christmas, with friends in a restaurant. Even in winter people like to sit outside in Portugal, almost everywhere there is a seated outdoor area under an awning. So we could keep meeting people. In Germany we would probably have felt imprisoned like so many others.

What was it like when the lockdown came in Portugal?

De Kiff: We stayed for four months at a campsite by the sea, which is still our favorite place to this day. Bizarrely, the lockdown did not apply to tourists. Out of solidarity with the locals, however, we moved within the framework set. We had everything on the square. In the meantime, you say in one of your more recent films that your fun car has become a money-saving car. Do you also pursue the nomadic life for cost reasons?

De Kiff: Let’s put it this way: we have a house and not a bad pension. We could also live differently. But then not as good and certainly much more expensive. Of course, that’s all the more true at the moment. Once a year we go to Germany for a few weeks to check on the house, visit the kids and have a few doctor’s appointments. It really wasn’t funny at the end. In Koblenz we paid 50 euros for a campsite for one night.

Of course, they also pass on the exploding energy costs. In addition, we better not even talk about the price increases when shopping and the liter of diesel, which costs 1.50 euros here in Spain. In short: We left earlier than planned. In Spain we pay 20 euros for the night and are at a campsite right by the sea. A pool is also included.

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Would you like to say how much such a life costs in the end? De Kiff: I’m not counting the savings variant, because the standard of living is usually similar to that at home. Means: eat well, drink a nice wine, you won’t necessarily want to change that in the camper. At the moment we spend between 1400 and 2000 euros a month for the two of us together. Food, energy, rent, fuel. Insurance and vehicle repairs are not included in this price.

How high would the expenses be in Germany?

De Kiff: We did the math and came up with around 2,500 euros. As I said, this is a calculation without an urgent desire to want to save. There are some that we have met, the two of them live in a mobile home with 1000 euros a month. Sure, they limit themselves more, but they also go to the café or go shopping at the markets.

There is a rumor that the cost of living in Portugal is higher than in Germany. You have to differentiate. Basic foods are even 30 percent cheaper. It is crucial that I make sure to buy products that are typical of the country. Oranges, olives, cheese, fish. Imported goods are comparatively expensive. I still regret the Campari the other day.

In one of your films you rave about Portuguese coffee.

De Kiff: Yes, it costs between 0.60 and 0.80 euros and is excellent. For me, it is quality of life to treat yourself to a coffee in between. But the savings potential is not only explained by the market, but also by your own behavior. We have this 11 liter gas bottle with us and after four weeks it is still half full.

As a camper, you are used to being frugal. Even with the water. You can’t just let that go. Laundry is done when it is really necessary. Incidentally, once you’ve learned to manage with less and made sure you have enough gas and water and that the chemical toilet still has enough capacity, you don’t have to go to a campsite every night.

If that’s legal, we’ll just stand somewhere for two or three days from time to time. In fact, this happens more often than you think, at least we’ve never been scared away. Worst case, you have a friendly chat with a police officer who will ask you to leave the place the next day. The rental costs are at least zero this way. Would you recommend your way of life to people in the current situation? So not only in terms of lifestyle, but also in terms of saving money?

De Kiff: In fact, I’ve been asked that question a lot lately. Followers write to me, we then call or exchange information via e-mail. It’s tight here, would the mobile home be a solution? ask people.

I would recommend it to those who have the opportunity to get a mobile home cheaply. But that’s where it starts. The market is empty, even used WoMos are often very expensive and the delivery times for new vehicles are extremely long. Otherwise I say: Try it, it’s worth the try! However, I caution against taking the step in haste and without fallback.

If you notice that this concept of life does not correspond to you?

De Kiff: People have a great need for security, and that should be considered. This need is only satisfied to a very limited extent in the mobile home. Every day you have to decide anew how to proceed. The safe haven is missing and even if we have done well in the last two and a half years: There is something very dynamic about this type of travel.

Where I get a bargain today, I might pay more next year. Who knows how the situation will be here in Spain in two years? Last year nobody would have predicted a development in Germany like the one we are having now. Don’t forget: Unlike real estate, a mobile home does not increase in value. Therefore, my tip is, if it is somehow possible, to continue to have a foothold in your home country. It doesn’t have to be a house, an apartment will do. Also a rental apartment that I might sublet. Be careful with milkmaid bills, I always say. You can get sick, the mobile home can break down. All such things should be included in the calculation.

Thomas and Heike de Kiff run the YouTube channel “Kiffi’s life in the mobile home” as a hobby. Consulting is one of her main focuses. Here are her savings tips for times of crisis and otherwise:

Choose inexpensive (overwintering) countries (e.g. Portugal, Poland, Morocco, Albania, Greece, Montenegro). The off-season, with correspondingly reduced prices, starts on campsites in September and lasts until April. Be sure to ask for a special price at the campsites, some of which are available for stays of 14 days or more. In addition, the ACSI card (webshop.acsi.eu/ACSI/Campingcard) can be worthwhile. Cardholders get an additional discount on off-season prices.

Reduce CO2 emissions, save fuel.

New eco-route guide from this year on Google Maps under “Options”. Important: You have to do an update beforehand in order to see them.

Driving with the truck “swimming along” saves 20 percent diesel.

In France and Spain, filling up at supermarkets is significantly cheaper than at a gas station.

Avoid toll roads

For example down to the Mediterranean Sea or the French Atlantic coast: In the area from Clermont Ferrand there are two stretches of motorway, one of which is toll-free. (The de Kiffs did the math: Without a toll, they save around 200 euros for this route).

The good old buttered bread

Self-sufficiency while driving, sandwiches and tea / coffee from a thermos flask are a good and cheap alternative to fast food at the service area

Profit from the movements on the financial markets. The basis for this is always a depot. Here you will find offers that suit your needs.

Pitch instead of campsite. Parking spaces are often narrow, not really nicely located and have “car park character”. But they are cheap and sometimes even free and offer the possibility of supply and disposal, so they are a good “stopover”. “Free standing” also works in many countries (research required. For “free standing”, enter the country that interests you on Google – check several sources, it is important that they are up-to-date!)

Own drinking water supply instead of the usual 5 liter water canisters available in supermarkets in southern countries, which many campers use. Mobile filter systems, which ensure drinking water quality for the tap water at the campsite, are available in different price ranges and can treat the water with carbonic acid (Sodastream) if desired.

Clever cooking and shopping: save gas with an induction plate and “Remoska” (energy-saving pot with which you can even bake*). Electricity is usually paid for as a flat rate, gas is paid according to consumption. Visit local markets, look for direct marketers, buy from farmers.

*costs at most half compared to bought bread.

Recipe for homemade bread:

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