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I get asked occasionally how we could afford to build our own airplane.  It's no real secret - it came down to (at least in my humble opinion) a lifestyle choice.  This approach worked for us, your experiences will probably differ.  It took 5.7 years to complete while allowing us to:  1) plan for retirement, 2) fund two college accounts, and 3) stay in the good graces of each other's company.

For a simple VFR RV w/a used engine you need around $40,000.  That's around $550 a month for 6 years ($39,600).  Van's web site has a cost estimator if you want to play around with the numbers.

That sounds like a lot, but you'd be surprised how easy it is to free up that amount with a few lifestyle changes (detailed below).

Doug's 10 Step Program To Affordable RV Happiness:

  1. Don't buy a new car every 2-3 years - saves $350 a month
    <SOAPBOX ON>  
    Be the first on your block *NOT* to own a 12mpg SUV.  My '84 BMW (31 mpg) had over 250,000 miles on it when the plane was finished and my wife's '89 Volvo had 240,000 on it (30 mpg).  A nice benefit of having old cars is that insurance is less than $1 a day.  Note: Ever see the Poseur SUV site?   Funny stuff - unless you bought one.  In their defense, I do like when my coworkers drive (7) people at a time to lunch - but that's not really 'sport utility'.  

    On a related note, the four of us lived in a modest house (1,500 sq. ft) with a very affordable house payment while building.  We now live in a little larger house, but it's not that much bigger.  One web site on this topic I'd recommend to anyone is www.notsobighouse.com.   There's something to be said about striving for simplicity.
    <SOAPBOX OFF>

  2. Cancel cable - saves $40 a month
    We cancelled cable in '95 and don't miss it a bit.  If something I REALLY want to see comes on, I ask a friend or coworker to tape it.  Anyway, you don't need to watch TV in your free time...you need to work on the plane!!!

  3. Take a sack lunch to work / Eat Cheap - saves $120 a month
    (Taco Bell or Chic-F-Lay)

  4. Loose the cell phone - saves $60 a month
    During construction if I needed a cell phone I asked the person standing next to me.  Everyone on Earth had one except me.  Now that I'm flying I have one.

  5. Put the $570 dollars a month you've freed up in a separate savings account 
    Setup a separate savings account and have $570 a month auto-deducted from your paycheck into it.  You'll never see the money, so you'll get used to living without it.  When you've saved $2500, buy the RV tool kit from one of the tool manufacturers and the tail kit from Van's.  You're now an airplane factory.

  6. Keep putting $570/month in the savings account.   
    When the tail is finished, you'll have enough money for the wing kit already saved.  Because I planned on  spending such a long time building, I wasn't interested in the QB version.  I had time...not extra money.  The money saved paid for my engine.  Again, you may feel different.  Heck, now the RV-7/9/10 are almost quickbuilds out of the box - at least compared to the older kits.

  7. Repeat for wing kit, fuselage kit, engine and finish kit.

  8. Buy a nice used engine and have it professionally rebuilt.

  9. Build it simple and light - VFR panel, cloth seats, fixed pitch prop.  
    Add the IFR and other stuff later.

  10. Fly your brand new, completely paid off airplane down to Key West for 'Boat Drinks'.
    Now you can go shop for a new car - you have $570 a month to budget with.  Or, if you decide to not get a new car, you have enough money to probably pay for gas, hanger rental, and insurance.

So that's how we did it.  There are other 'cheap' things I do to offset the cost of airplane ownership, among the more notable: I haven't paid for a haircut since '91 (I cut my own), I collect free vendor shirts, I cut my own grass (you'd be surprised how many of my friends don't), well....and I put together this site and sell advertising.  We're certainly not millionaires...we're barely thousandaires, but we have each other, our health, food, shelter, clothing, and an airplane.  Life is good.

Yes, it took almost 6 years to build, but we purchased all four kits with cash, bought an engine, had it rebuilt, everything is paid for, and we're still happily married.  Life is indeed good.

Hope this helped.

Doug