The Costs Of Fulltime RVing (Part II) – Specifics & Links
If you’ve landed on this post hopefully you will already have read the intro post that I wrote a few days ago (HERE). If not, I definitely recommend you do so before you read this one as it’ll give you a basis for some of the numbers and info I’m going to present today.
As I mentioned in that post, we know RV couples who spend anywhere between $1,500 to $7,500/mo (with a few select cases above and below these numbers). Their lifestyles obviously tend to reflect their income levels (those with less income make it work on less), but also reflect the type of rigs they have and how they travel. The folks at the super-budget end of the scale generally travel in vans or smaller trailers and might boondock/workamp a lot while those with bigger spends generally travel in bigger rigs and do not boondock/workamp much. There is no one “right” way and ALL can be fulfilling and enjoyable ways to travel on the road.
With that in mind, I’m going to make this statement up-front:
Our spend is simply a reflection of OUR particular travel style, and you may well end up spending way less (or way more) depending on how YOU decide to travel.
In other words, do not consider ANY of the numbers I’m about to present as “fixed”. Rather, use them as a guide together with others that I’ll link to at the bottom to create your own financial plan. You may well find spots where you can see big savings for yourself, or other spots that you know you’ll want or need to spend more. Either way, your final financial plan will be individual to YOU.
Lastly this is a LOOOOOng post (my longest ever on the blog!) so make sure you’re comfortable and have your beverage of choice in hand before digging in….
A Bit About How We Travel
Before I dive into the numbers I want to talk a bit about how we travel since this does impact how we spend our $$.
We personally do a mixed style of travel with some cheaper months intermixed with some bigger months, so we are neither super-frugal nor super-splurge. Some folks will find our spend super luxurious while others will find it far too constrictive. I personally think we have a pretty generous budget that provides ample freedom to both travel & enjoy our RV travels as we wish.
We Like to Volunteer/Boondock Part Of The Year: On average we workamp (= we volunteer at State Parks) and boondock (on BLM land) at least 4-5 months each year. We do this primarily because we truly enjoy it, but it also cuts our camping/gas expenses in those months significantly which loosens up the budget for the rest of the year too. When we’re not volunteering/boondocking we do a mix of cheap and sometimes more expensive camping.
We are Very Frugal (In Places) & Not (In Others) – For day-to-day & practical stuff we’re pretty frugal. I get a kick out of finding “deals” and consider it a waste to spend $$ on stuff that I don’t consider important. So, for example we spend very, very little on beauty or clothing. We cut our own hair, I don’t wear makeup (except mascara and a touch of lipstick on occasion), I make many of my own beauty products, we only buy one pair of shoes each a year and I love to thrift shop (Paul’s last pair of jeans cost $8…I love it!!). We personally find all of this quite fun and not at all constraining. On the other hand we are happy to spend $$ on food and beer. That spending gives us huge life enjoyment, so it’s an important part of our RV lifestyle 🙂
Our Goal Is To Continue To Save – Our philosophy as a couple has always been to spend well below our means so that we can continue to grow our savings and investment portfolio. And thankfully we’ve always been in a position to do this. This approach allowed us to quit our regular jobs in early 2006, and it’s how we plan to preserve our financial independence in the future which is very, very important to us (our current financial plan takes us to the age of 100, which should hopefully do the job!). Since we’ve been on the road it’s helped us maintain a healthy 6-month emergency budget as well as spend some extra $$ for “stuff beyond the budget” every year (e.g. for RV upgrades and such). These are all things that go beyond our baseline spend.
With that said, let’s dive into some specifics….
Our Baseline Spend = $3,500/mo
We are currently domiciled in South Dakota (SD) and have been since we started on the road. We travel in a “beastly” 40-foot RV with a Honda CRV as our tow, and our family unit consists of the two of us and three pets (2 cats and a dog).
Overall our average spend nets to right around $3,500/mo, and this is based on actual spend over our last 7 years on the road. During our workamping/boondocking months we typically spend much less (~$2,500/mo) whereas when we’re in active travel mode we’ll spend more (~$4000/mo). Some things have gotten a lot cheaper as we’ve become more experienced as RVers and discovered cheaper options (e.g. camping costs) while others have gotten more expensive and are mostly out of our control (e.g. health insurance). Overall we spend quite a bit less than we did in a stix and brix, but of course we lived in San Diego before we went on the road so we came from an area with high overall cost of living.
Here’s a top-level breakdown of our current spend, broken down into fixed and flexible buckets:
Now let’s go into each of these sections in more detail:
Fixed Costs ($1,318/mo)
These are fixed costs that we pay every month mostly related to our rig, insurance and the pets. We can’t do much about health insurance (it is what it is) and we pay what we need to for our pets, but our other expenses are very much tied to the size of rig we drive and where we’re domiciled.
We travel in a “beastly” rig which means our fixed rig expenses are MUCH higher than someone traveling in a smaller rig or trailer. So, for those of you that are still in the planning stage and looking for places you can save, the size/kind of rig you buy (and subsequently where you domicile it) can make a BIG difference to your fixed expenses on the road.
I’m going to compare our current $$ to the numbers I released in the very first blog post I did on this almost 7 years ago so that you can all get an idea of how/where these have changed in that time-frame.
|RV Payment (2)||–||–|
|RV/Car Insurance (3)||$115||$167|
|RV/Car Maintenance (4)||$150||$160|
|RV/Car Tags (5)||$35||$55|
|Mail Service (6)||$25||$31|
Our healthcare spend has been the biggest and most unpredictable $$ increase we’ve seen in our budget since we started RVing, mostly because the healthcare landscape has changed so much over the last 7 years. When we started we were able to buy a high-deductible health insurance plan (catastrophic, $10,000 family deductible) for only ~$150/mo. Since the ACA was implemented those plans went away and we now spend ~$360/mo on an ACA-compliant Silver plan ($8,000 family deductible). In addition to our health insurance spend we always put aside around $50/mo for self-health checks and the various cash-care visits we typically do during the year.
TIPS FOR NEWBIES: If you are starting your RV journey today your monthly $$ here will vary enormously based on how old you are, whether you qualify for Medicaid, Medicare or ACA subsidies and where you decide to domicile (costs vary vastly from state to state, and even county to county within the same state!). South Dakota is still pretty cheap compared to most places, but the health insurance options for our age are abyssal (= there are NO nationwide plans for pre-Medicare on the ACA in SD). You can currently get a quick quote for health insurance by going through either the ACA website or Health Sherpa, but with the political situation as it stands today I have NO prediction for where these $$ will end up in the future. Our numbers could easily be totally different next year.
WHAT ABOUT THE DEDUCTIBLE? If you have on-going medical expenses (prescriptions, treatment etc.) that you pay out-of-pocket and/or force you to meet the full the deductible each year, you’ll need to plan for and include those $$ in your fixed monthly spend. As an example a health plan with a $4000 yearly deductible would add another $333/mo to the above number! Thankfully we are healthy, so this is not one of our on-going expenses. We do keep an emergency fund ($8,000 in an HSA = tax-free Health Savings Account) to cover this, but we’ve (touch wood) not had not had to use that fund in our 7 years on the road. If ever this becomes a fixed spend for us, we’ll have to re-adjust our budget to reflect that.
RELATED LINKS: All about Health Care on the road (including insurance & self-health checks) -> Click HERE
(2) RV Payment
We paid off our RV within the first few months on the road, so we’ve never had a payment since then. If you have a payment you’ll have to add it to your fixed expenses in this column.
TIPS FOR NEWBIES: As a rule I always recommend buying an RV you can afford to pay for in cash, so that you do NOT end up with a monthly payment. New RV’s depreciate like crazy and there are lots of good quality older rigs which provide good bang for the buck. Also pay attention to the the costs of repairs, registration & maintenance before you drop the big $$ on a rig. Larger rigs cost more in every way, so if you have a smaller budget, buying a smaller rig will set you up for more affordable costs over the long term too.
(3) RV/Car Insurance
We’ve seen a moderate increase in this cost mostly because South Dakota (SD) has seen a moderate increase over the years. We’ve been with Geico for both RV & car since we before we went on the road and they’ve always offered us the best rates (I quote around yearly just to check) . Since we’ve been with them for so many years we’ve also achieved accident forgiveness, a nice little bonus which came in mucho handy when we had our big RV accident last year. The monthly $$ here also includes Roadside Assistance (Coachnet) for which we currently pay ~$139/year.
TIPS FOR NEWBIES: If you’re starting your RV journey today your $$ here will vary significantly based on what kind of vehicle you buy and where you decide to domicile. For example a van or small RV will be be much cheaper to insure than our “beastly” 40-foot Class A plus Honda CRV. Also insurance rates vary quite a lot by state (and sometimes even county). SD insurance rates are generally lower than either TX or FL (two other popular full-time RV domicile states), but the only way to get an accurate number is to get a quote for your particular rig & domicile. DO be sure to add roadside assistance to whatever quote you get. For smaller rigs you may be able to use the plan offered through your insurance company, but for bigger rigs you should add-on a big-rig specific plan such as Coachnet or Good Sams.
RELATED LINKS: Fulltime RV Insurance – What’s The Difference?
(4) RV/Car Tags & Registration
Again a moderate increase here mostly because SD has seen a moderate increase. This are the costs for our 2009 Honda CRV and our 2008 Holiday Rambler Endeavor.
TIPS FOR NEWBIES: Once again, if you’re starting your RV journey today your $$ here will vary significantly based on what kind of rig you buy and where you decide to domicile. I’d say SD is in the middle-of-the-pack for registration costs. Last time I looked at this TX was about the same price as SD, while FL had much higher initial registration fees (first-time fee), but was much cheaper over the long term (low yearly tag fee).
RELATED LINKS: Home Is Where You Park It…Or Is It?
(5 ) RV/Car Maintenance
Over the years our maintenance costs have seen a small increase to $160/mo. This includes regular maintenance on both our car and RV such as oil changes, air system maintenance, generator maintenance etc, as well as money we put aside for specific larger maintenance expenses such as new RV tires (every 7 years or so). Basic repairs are included in this number (we’ve been very lucky in that we’ve needed very few repairs since we’ve been on the road), but elective upgrades (e.g. our solar system) are not.
TIPS FOR NEWBIES: If you buy a smaller RV your $$ here will undoubtedly be much lower than us. As an example, when we buy tires we have to buy big honking truck tires that can cost $450-$650 a piece plus we need to buy 6 of them ($$$$!) whereas a smaller rig can use more regular-sized tires and might only need 4 of them ($). Also when we get our oil changed we need to go to a truck service ($$), whereas a smaller rig might be able to go to a regular car guy ($).
(6) Mail Service
We use our mail service address not only for regular post, but also as our legal domicile address for taxes, health insurance etc. Our current provider is DakpotaPost in Sioux Falls SD. We started with their basic service 7 years ago and recently added their online mail scanning service (which we LOVE, but does cost more $$). The monthly costs here include postal fees which are in addition to the cost of regular mail service.
TIPS FOR NEWBIES: There are lots of other mail providers in SD, TX and FL that cater to fulltime RVers. Examples are MyDakotaAddress in SD, Escapess in TX and Escapees, MyRVMail & St.Brendans Isle in FL. Costs vary some, but you can expect to pay between $10-$20/mo for basic service plus an additional $5-$10/mo for the postal fees.
(7 ) Internet/Phone/TV
LOTS of changes in our set-up over the years, but surprisingly only moderate changes in our overall costs. In 2010 we started RVing with a small data plan on Verizon, a single phone on Straight Talk and Satellite TV (through Direct TV). As of 2017 we carry 3 internet plans (an unlimited Verizon plan on our MiFi (~$50/mo), 6GB of T-Mobile (~$35/mo) as a back-up and 10GB of ATT on our phones through a shared family plan (~$98/mo)). We no longer pay anything for TV (we got rid of our satellite dish and rely entirely on over-the-air channels), but we do pay ~$17/mo for Netflix & Amazon Prime, which we use for online streaming.
TIPS FOR NEWBIES: How much you spend here will totally depend on your individual internet & phone needs. There are LOTS of ways to save (e.g. super low-cost phone providers) and also LOTS of ways you might end up spending much, much more (if you’re used to cable internet at home, you will be downright shocked at how much more you’ll have to pay for data on the road). Plus this landscape is changing ALL the time! I highly recommend our friends over at RV Mobile Internet Resource Center as THE place to get the latest info on this. They’re the #1 resource we rely on and the only reason we’ve been able to find such good deals over the years.
RELATED LINKS: The 2015 Wheelingit Internet & Phone Set-Up
(8 ) Pets
Our 3 pets cost us around $250/mo on average. As our cats have gotten older we’ve enrolled them into a health plan with Banfield ($60/mo total) which covers their bi-annual checkups, as well as their shots and yearly dentals. Polly is still young and so just gets regular check-ups as we go along. Food costs haven’t changed much in 7 years, but we do put some money aside each month for unexpected expenses (goes towards our emergency fund).
(9 ) Storage
We started out with a large storage unit that initially cost us $120/mo (and eventually rose to a whopping $180/mo!). Last year we finally tackled that expense and now only rent a very small 5×5′ unit that costs us $45/mo.
TIPS FOR NEWBIES: Whether or not to get a storage unit is a big question when you first start RVing. If you are able go without it’s absolutely the best option ($$-wise) and will save you years of fixed costs & stress down the road. If you’re unable to go without, see if you can store stuff with family or at least pare it down to a bare minimum so that you can get a smaller (lower-cost) storage. More tips in this post.
- Making Memories & Getting Rid Of Them
- 7 Tips For Renting A Storage Unit (If You Decide To…)
- Selling Your Stuff Part I -> 4 Basic Selling Tips
- Selling Your Stuff Part II -> Where & How To Get The Most Out Of Your Sale
Flexible Costs – Camping & Gas (~$670/mo)
As I mentioned in the last post the biggest two flexible costs on the road are camping & gas.
How you camp & how far you travel each year can easily swing your monthly RV budget by a factor of ~$2000/mo or more! So if you’re looking to economize on the road this is your #1 area to focus on. There are powerful $$ to be saved here, and it’s super easy to do so!
In our case we typically workamp (volunteer)/boondock at least 4-5 months of every year which helps to lower our overall costs of camping, even if we decide to splurge a bit the rest of the year. Also we tend to stay out West where’s it generally easier to find low-cost camping options than out East. Lastly we really prefer a slo-mo pace of travel and generally don’t travel too many miles each year, so this keeps our gas costs low too. Here’s an example of how this typically breaks out for us:
|Monthly Spend||Lowest Month||Highest Month||Average|
When we workamp (volunteer) or boondock we spend nothing at all on camping (except small $ on dumping every 2-3 weeks when boondocking) whereas when we actively travel we spend anywhere from $10/night upwards on camping fees. In the years we’ve stayed West and workamped/boondocked for part of the year we’ve averaged out to around $350/mo on camping fees. Last year we traveled East and had more limited low-cost camping options so this number rose to ~$700/mo. Since we’re staying out East this year (2017) we fully expect a larger number this year too.
TIPS FOR NEWBIES: Camping costs vary a TON depending on location and type. National Forests can cost anywhere between $15-$30/night. BLM campgrounds can cost anywhere from $5-$15/night. State parks can cost anywhere between $20-$65/night (that high number is CA, by the way). Private parks cost anywhere between $25-$150/night. And of course volunteering/boondocking costs nothing at all. There are MANY ways to save such as using membership discounts, free overnight spots, and opting for monthly stays instead of daily rates (all tricks we personally use). Also there are workamping jobs that will pay you to work at a campground, and although they don’t pay big $$ they can certainly bring this average number down even further.
EXAMPLE: An example of a totally do-able budget. If you workamp/boondock for 5 months per year and then budget $20/night on mixed-type paid camping the rest of the year you’ll be spending right around $4,260 a year on camping (or just over $350/mo).
- RV Camping Cost Memberships – Are They Worth It?
- 5 Ways to Camp for Under $500/year
- Free Overnight RV Parking = Finding “Freebies”
- All about Boondocking -> Click HERE
- All about Volunteering -> Click HERE
- For info on workamping -> Click over to Workamper News or Workamping Jobs
Our costs here include the TOTAL costs for both our RV and car throughout the year. When we workamp or boondock we only drive the car and we tend to stay pretty local so our gas costs can plummet to as low as $45/mo, whereas if we have a month where we’re traveling a bunch of miles that might rise to as much as $800. Our average is right around $320/mo and that reflects our slo-mo travel style. Our absolute biggest travel year was 8,128 miles while our average hovers right around 5,000-6,000 miles/year. We know RVers who drive MUCH more than this.
TIPS FOR NEWBIES: Gas costs are obviously very dependent on gas prices, the fuel efficiency of your rig and how far you travel every year. A smaller, more fuel-efficient rig will obviously get much better $$ and someone who travels many more miles than us will obviously spend more.
EXAMPLE: An example budget. In our 7 years on the road we’ve seen diesel pricing range anywhere from $2.00/gallon all the way up to $4.50/gallon, so I generally use $3.50/gallon as an average for calculations. Our RV gets ~8 miles/gallon, so if I were planning a 6,000 travel mile year I’d budget around $2,625 (or ~$219/mo) for gas costs on “the beast” alone. In addition, we typically drive another 7,000-10,000 miles per year in our Honda CRV (sightseeing, errands, daily driving etc.), but we get MUCH better fuel efficiency here (~25 miles/gallon) so I’ll add-on another $980-$1400 (or ~$81-$116/mo) for gas costs there too. When you add both together it comes out to a total of around $300-$335/mo.
- 5 Tips To Managing Gas Costs On The Road
- Planning RV Travels Part I -> 4 General “Rules” For Planning Where To Stay & When To Go
- Planning RV Travels Part II -> Selecting Pace, Map Routing & Campsites
- Planning RV Travels Part III – Maps, Resources & Links
Flexible Costs – Other (~$1,500/mo)
We have a general budget of ~$1,500/mo for “everything else” which I think is pretty darn generous and gives us quite a bit of flexibility. How we use that budget depends a lot on where we’re staying and what we’re doing. Plus, in any given month we can cut it down and move around the buckets as needed to prioritize the spending. Here’s a general example of how that spend might split out for us in a given month:
|Others (gifts, misc.) (17)||$50|
Groceries/Entertainment (12) – Yes, we keep a HUGE budget here and that’s because this is a big part of our enjoyment on the road! We love good food and we love craft beer & wine. We always look to stretch this budget as far as we can each month by buying veggies in season and opting for inexpensive lunches (e.g. beer & taco truck) over dinner (which we almost always cook this at home). But yeah, we don’t hold back much so this is a VERY big spend for us. Obviously LOTS of potential savings in this number for someone who is planning to use less than us!
Electronics (13) – This varies a bit from year to year. We’re not the kind of folks who always always need or want to have the latest snazzy stuff, but when we invest in something new we do like to buy quality stuff. If we have a big (known) purchase coming we’ll typically knock down some of our other budget buckets (e.g. entertainment) for a few months and put extra money aside for this one. It’s all about how/where you prioritize your spend.
Propane (14) – Our 40-gallon on-board propane tank supplies the fuel for our oven, stove, fridge (when boondocking) and furnace. Of these four, the furnace is by far the biggest potential $$ and if you run it a lot, it will suck down propane like a parched animal. However we aim to travel with the weather and minimize cold-weather camping, so we don’t use a ton of propane for heating. Also we prefer to use Mr.Buddy (which is much more propane-efficient than our furnace) when we need heat in the boonies. We fill our big 40-gallon tank around twice a year, and have done so pretty consistently for the past 7 years.
Memberships (15) – We only pay for a few yearly memberships and we only really pay them when we need them, so this number sometimes goes lower. Examples of memberships we use are Escapees, Passport America, National Parks Pass, Harvest Hosts and Overnight RV Parking.
Clothing/Beauty (16) – Not a priority so always a very low spend for us. We buy one pair of shoes each per year (when they’re on sale) and bargain/thrift shop quite a bit. Also I don’t really buy “beauty” products, I never get manicures and I very rarely go for professional haircuts (once every 3 years or so at Supercuts).
Other (17) – We keep a small budget for gifts and other miscellaneous stuff.
- 6 Tips To Buying & Eating Fresh On The Road
- RV Camping Cost Memberships – Are They Worth It?
- Lessons in Cold-Weather Dry-Camping = Our Sierra Nevada Week-end
Unexpected Expenses & Stuff Beyond The Regular Budget
As I mentioned in the last post there are $$ beyond the regular spend that I’m not going to discuss here. This includes unexpected expenses (e.g. last year we had Polly’s TPLO surgery and Taggart’s I-131 treatment), as well as the various elective upgrades we’ve done to the RV over the years (e.g. solar system, MCD shades etc.). The former are are $$ that come out of our fixed emergency fund while the latter are one-time expenses that we plan for and budget separately on a year-by-year basis depending on our financial situation and income.
No matter what your travel style, every RVer should plan for and build-up a 4-6 month emergency budget for unexpected personal, RV and pet expenses. In addition, if you are pre-Medicare consider setting money aside in a tax-free Health Savings Account for health expenses.
Also I haven’t talked about vacation $$, for the very simple reason that we pay very, very little for those things. Paul flies home to Miami 2-3 times per year, while I typically fly back to Europe once a year, but we pay for ALL these tickets (100%) with credit card points. I started playing the points game when we got on the road and we haven’t had to pay for a ticket since. If you want to learn how to do this yourself I recommend this free Miles 101 Travel Course, or following blogs such as The Points Guy, Doctor Of Credit, and Million Mile Secrets. I LOVE my miles hobby 🙂
Lastly I’ve not discussed business expenses here (e.g. what it costs to run our two blogs) since we manage those separately through our business.
Examples From Other People
I’m not the only RV blogger that publishes spend, although admittedly not everyone does. Here’s some other examples & resources for you to compare (if you publish a budget and I’ve missed you in this list please comment and LINK to your budget in the comments!):
- RV-Dreams– Howard and Linda share budget examples and provide a downloadable spreadsheet for you to use for your own planning. In 9/12 years of tracking their spending varied between ~$1800/mo to $3200/mo.
- Technomadia – Chris & Cherie have tracked and shared many years of their baseline budget. Last year their baseline ex-groceries/entertainment and some other miscellaneous stuff was right around $2,300/mo.
- Road Less Traveled – Emily & Mark are hard-core boondockers so in 2014 they spent zero on camping and only used ~$2,000/mo on everything else.
- Interstellar Orchard –Becky is a frugal solo gal that travels in a cute little Casita. She spends around $1300/month on everything.
- We’re The Russos – Joe & Kait have been sharing monthly costs since 2015. Their spend has averaged between $86-$120/day ($~2,600-$3,650/mo)
- Hourly America – Heath and Alyssa have shared 2 years of fulltime living on their blog. In 2015 their average was $2,716/mo.
- Five in a 5th – This family of five (!) spent just over $5,200/mo in their first year on the road.
- RVLove – Julie & Marc shared their 2016 costs for camping, fuel, repairs & insurance. This come to just over $1,100/mo.
- Kirk & Pam – They shared 5 years of workamping budget from 2005 to 2010. In that timeframe they averaged $2,900/mo.
- Gone with the Wynns – Nikki & Jason shared costs while they were fulltimers from 2011-2014. Their budget was between $2600-$3600/mo.
- RV Living Now – This post takes you through an example budget showing the range between $1250-$5000/mo
- Tiny House Blog – Andrew shared his expenses for his family of three. Total was $2,600/mo for everything.
Other Good Resources
- Cheap RV Living – Bob’s site is the #1 place to go for van-dwellers and frugal fulltimers. If you are on a strict budget you will find your tribe here! The forums have lots of examples of how to keep it cheap with some folks spending as little as $500/mo!
- Mobile Home – Interesting article that summed up 19 different fulltime budgets. Average spend was $2,170/mo.
Wow….that was over 5,000 words!! If you made it this far, congrats to you. Hopefully this will be a helpful reference to folks who are planning their own RV budgets and provide some ideas for places to either save or splurge depending on your own individual travel style and financial situation. I’m ready for some beer and “fluffy” posts now!!SPONSORED LINK:
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this blog post may be affiliate links, so, if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive a commission. Amazon, the Amazon logo, AmazonSupply, and the AmazonSupply logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. WheelingIt is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Thank you for taking the (probably lots) of time to write this post. Bomb’s blog at CheaperRVLiving has been a wonderful resource for me, as I definitely fall into the “budget” category. But I also find many MANY useful, or just interesting posts here with you.
If nothing else, a good takeaway is that this can be done on any budget, if you track all of your spending, plan well,and have a little luck (ie don’t get sick or have a catastrophic vehicle incident). Developing a healthy savings account is tops on my list, just in case I’m not so lucky.
Btw, where was that picture taken of the free water front camping in Oregon? It looks beautiful.
Ugh, I meant to say Bob’s blog….
I do have an additional question for you though. What is it that you find helpful with the app Overnight RV Parking? I am trying to figure out if it would be useful for me.
So probably the most helpful thing for me is that he keeps it very up to date. For example I might find some reference to a rest stop online with very vague info on whether I can actually stay there, but if I look at overnight RV parking I know I’ll get the real low-down on what’s going on. He incentivizes people to add to the database by adding 2 weeks to their subscription whenever they add new locations or new info, so I think this is what helps to keep the data fresh.
Note that his database is really focused on short-term stays rather than boondocking or longer-term camping, although he does include some lower-cost camping options in his database (e.g. Elks). I use it mostly to locate overnight stays while we’re traveling from place to place.
Bob’s blog and forums are awesome resources for the budget-minded. I’m a big fan and would love to attend an RTR meetup one day.
The Oregon waterfront camp is Rufus Landing on the Columbia River. I’ve got write-up and directions here:
OK, how do you cut your own hair??? I hate paying for it, but can’t imagine how I would do it myself. Does Paul help you? Cuz there’s no way on god’s green earth I’m letting Kevin do it. He’s a wonderful engineer…. which is why I am not letting him near my hair with a pair of scissors. 🙂
PS: This is an awesome post. Thanks for putting it together. It’s incredibly helpful.
Yes Paul helps me. He cuts straight across the back and then I do the front. My “hair style” (if you can call it that LOL) is very basic and hasn’t changed in years. Plus I really don’t enjoy going to the hairdresser (and didn’t even before we went on the road).
ann cabezas creed says
Thank you sooo much! Worth it’s weight in GOLD! I have a much more secure feeling now–if we take the leap and “take the road” Ours is a Casita pulled by a 2014 Ford 150 truck. The size of the Casita is biggest problem for me. I have back issues and the bed is a little too small. BUT? May just do it anyway…..!
Wonderful! The Casita is a lovely little trailer that shouldn’t cost much at all to insure, register and maintain. If you haven’t already discovered Becky at Interstellar Orchard (in my links above), give her blog a look. She travels solo in a little Casita and works along the way to cover all her expenses.
Excellent post that a lot of newbies will benefit from. Like you, I cut my own hair and then Al might help fine tune the job. I do like to shop and am a sucker for T-shirts pertaining to our travel locations. I’m on the wagon – closet is full Again, awesome post!
We all have our vices 🙂 For us it’s most definitely food and beer…oh the $$ we could save…but then life wouldn’t be nearly as fun.
Nomadic RVers says
Living the dream. We just spent 10 days here west of Phoenix, see link.
An RV Park in Mesa is next stop to downsize our storage unit.
There are some boondocking spots we want to look at East of Phoenix on our way to Tucson
Here for 10 days
It’s going to take a 4×4 to drive around the mountain. I believe Technomania has been here before.
Saddle Mountain! That place has been on our list for years, but we’ve just never made it out there. Great boondocking site!
David & Kat Nomadic RVers says
These are the other boondocking areas we’re going to be looking at East of Phoenix. We’re going to be scouting this week before we head out there. It looks like you’ve been in some state parks in this area.
Yes East of the city we’ve stayed at several of the Maricopa County Parks (Usery, McDowell Mountain) and also Lost Dutchman State Park. All were lovely, although we’ve got a real sweet spot for Lost Dutchman (the views of the Superstition Mountains just rock).
A wonderful post, Nina. Thanks so much. Having followed you guys almost from the start (wow how time flies), I really appreciate the level of experience that is inherent in this post. My DW and I are giving this some thought and so is our adult son and his DW, so this comes at just the right time. Looking forward to following your Eastern escapades this year. We’ll wave if we see you on I-75 near Chattanooga, TN. Peace and safe travels.
Thanks for following along on our journey! Quite exciting to have several generations possibly getting on the road. Traveling with Paul’s dad and stepmom this past year was one of our best road experiences, so I definitely recommend it.
wayne thomas says
Thanks for a great post. Now that I am 65 I hope to save a lot on senior discounts.
Also noticed one of the table seems to have an error. 350+320 not equal to 620 for this retired (and anal( engineer . Pasted without format below.
Monthly Spend Lowest Month Highest Month Average
Camping (10) – $1,200 $350
Gas/Diesel (11) $45 $800 $320
TOTAL $45 $2,000 $620
Ah yes, thanks. Silly addition mistake in the sub-table (it’s corrected now).
Lots of good senior discounts out there. The Senior Pass (America The Beautiful) is especially awesome. Only costs $10 to buy and you’ll get free entry into all the National Parks as well as 50% off camping in many National Forests & Parks.
Debra Machen says
What a great blog! So much great info and greatly appreciate all the time you put into it. Definitely not my Fortean! Love reading your blogs and following your journey. Always such beautiful photos and writing.
Anne S says
Thank you SO much, Nina! This is really helpful — both the content and the links. Thanks for the time you put into it. And Taggert and Rand are so sweet in that picture!
They’re just a cute pair. They’re almost 15 years old now, but still groom each other and sleep together every day. We love our kitties!
John Lawrence says
You mentioned that RVs depreciate like crazy yet I didn’t see depreciation listed among your monthly expenses. I would also include the opportunity cost of the money tied up in your rig (i.e. that money is not working for you in investments).
What I’ve presented here is a spending (negative cash flow) statement, not a corporate accounting statement, and depreciation is not cash spend. The $$ we used to buy our RV was an up-front expense and part of the costs of getting into the lifestyle. We have no on-going payment on it, so it’s not part of our monthly cash spend.
That said if you want to create a formal accounting statement we estimate the simple straight-line depreciation on our RV to be around $400/mo. It’s much less if you use double-declining depreciation. Using that method (which is really more accurate for RVs) we’ve taken most of our depreciation already. We have other depreciating assets (e.g. car, computers, camera equipment etc.) that we’ve not counted here either, and yet other appreciating assets (e.g. investments) that are not counted here too. Plus, as I mentioned in the last post I’ve not discussed income either. If you want to run a true accounting statement you should include all of these in your own plan.
Awesome post Nina and you blog is absolutely terrific. Tremendous source of info. Top notch job on your site!
I see above you did mention $450/mo for depreciation. I do think depreciation is a key budget item to look at in everyone’s budget with RV’s since it is such a big cost. I’m not an RV-er YET, working on it. But I recently added my auto depreciation to my annual budget. I had never done this before, but it is basically a budget item that I think many miss and delude themselves on. If I buy a car for $20k in 2010 and sell it for $10k in 2017, that works out to be $119/mo in depreciation. This is basically $10k in additional auto cost over 7 years (in additional to gas, insurance, maint, repairs). I now add that as a line item in my monthly budget. Depreciation is a significant cost of RV-ing (especially for people who buy newer more expensive rigs). And this cost should be factored in when comparing full time RV-ing to renting or owning (or being a snowbird and owning two properties in two locations).
If someone buys an RV for $100k and sells it 10 years later for $50k that is $416/mo that should be added to their monthly budget and in my mind should definitely be considered in the annual cost of RV-ing. If people are not adding that, IMO they are basically deluding themselves of the true cost of RV-ing
I get your point completely, but for us the price of the RV was a start-up cost and part of the $$ we spent getting into the lifestyle. We consider the RV entirely “sunk costs” with the idea that we may never sell it or get any value in return for it. I know that’s super conservative, but that’s how we run that number. So it doesn’t figure into our retirement savings (as an asset*) nor does it figure into our ongoing monthly budget. We do the same with other $$ material things we buy (computers, cameras, solar system etc.). We budget for them yearly (in our discretionary spending) and buy them when we have the money, but they are not depreciated nor are they included as part of our on-going monthly living expenses.
Either way I do agree that you need to include the cost of your RV somewhere in your planning numbers for this lifestyle, either as a start-up cost (as we’ve done and as I talked about in Part I) or as an on-going depreciating asset (as you’ve chosen to do). It’s a significant $$$ outlay that cannot be ignored.
*The only material (physical) asset we’ve ever included in our retirement savings has been real estate. We don’t have any now, but when we owned a house that was always included in our financial plan.
Thanks for your response Nina. Definitely two ways of looking at depreciation of an asset like an RV. For me it was very helpful mentally when I started adding monthly estimated depreciation cost in my budget/monthly overhead spreadsheet for autos/RV’s (boat if I had one). It just is a monthly reminder of the TRUE cost of RV-ing for people who are closely looking at what this lifestyle will cost vs. renting or owning. But just chalking it up to money completely gone as a lifestyle/fun choice is another way to do it:) And you look like you have a ton of that “fun” part Nina:)! Which is priceless. Thanks again for being so unselfish with your time and knowledge, and sharing this wonderful info with us folks:)
Oh and I do want to address your comment on lost investment opportunity since IMO there’s more to it than that.
From a purely financial (retirement planning) point of view we consider our RV to be sunk costs. It’s not an investment and it’s certainly not something we depend on for our financial future. We may well get some $$ back from it if/when we ever sell it, but we don’t plan on it.
This is no different from *any* other material purchase we make in life. But that’s also not the only reason we buy stuff! As long as the purchase is within our financial means, it all relates back to life enjoyment. And from that point of view our RV has returned our purchase many times over.
We’ve made lots of other purchases that fall into this same category. For example my camera equipment (which contributes to my joy of photography), our car (which contributes to our joy of sightseeing), our solar system (joy of geekiness and boondocking) and so on. None of these $$ are “working for us” in our investments anymore (and we’d certainly have more savings if we never spent them), but where would be the life enjoyment in that?
Quite a lot of work went into this post. We are Snow Birds who travel a lot and I keep up with spending anal like . Our particular life runs about $5800.00 a month, but that is mostly trips out of country and my flying hobbies. I plan to do a detailed report in October when we start year seven not working. I always push people to open a ROTH IRA and the Golden rule…Spend Less Than You Bring Home each Year.
Life is a lot more fun when money is never a problem.
“Spend Less Than You Bring Home” is one of our mantras too, and has been since we met each other. It’s one of the most important things you can do to create financial freedom. And totally agree on your statement about building a proper retirement IRA. We have one for each of us and contribute to it yearly.
Diana and Jim says
We wholeheartedly agree with #2, Nina. Our fifth wheel was 4 years old when we bought it, and we purchased it for a fraction of what it cost new. It helps tremendously that I am handy repair-wise, although I’ve seen plenty of brand new rigs need things fixed soon after they leave the dealership. I despise having a service center work on our rig, so not being tied to a warranty actually is music to my ears.
First-year repair expenses can be a big deal, and it definitely helps to be handy. And you’re absolutely right that even brand new RVs require repairs! RVs are just such complex monsters so there’s almost always a “break-in” period. In our case, we were able to get a free 1-year warranty from the dealer when we bought “the beast”, which was very helpful. We had lots of silly stuff that went wrong that first 6 months which they fixed for no charge at all.
Donna Watson says
Thanks so much for the awesome information you provided! It gives my husband & I lots to think about & plan for as we get ready to hit the road. I think the biggest hurdle will be the healthcare issue *sigh*. I really appreciate all your posts though…you put a lot of time & thought into them.
I’m totally with you on the healthcare question. It’s our single biggest unknown, uncontrollable expense. And I have zero clarity as to how it will progress over the next few years.
We have been full timing since May 2010. Love following your blog and met up with you and Paul in Quartzite a few years ago.
We too always go west from our base in Texas but thought about going east this year. Decided against it for now but with you going east this year, we might next year using all your great info.
We’ve visited almost all of the southwest and northwest, some states more than others. I think Ca. will be our focus this year. Need to look at your past blogs for information.
You did a great job on cost of living full time.
Lots of good stuff to see and do in CA, and it can be inexpensive depending on where you go.
The Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains (HWY 395) is a gorgeous spring or fall trip with tons of boondocking and super low-cost camping options ($5/night and up). We’ve driven it almost every year, so just do a search or check my travel maps for tips.
The SW desert has lots of boondocking and low-cost stuff too and the area around Palm Springs/Joshua Tree/Borrego Springs is great for winter exploration. I’ve got lots of posts on that area.
The CA coast is a beautiful Spring trip, but definitely costs more $$. State Parks are expensive in CA, but there are a few cheaper options as well as some very decent monthly deals. Plus if you’re an Elks Member there are tons of options to stay. We did this trip last year, so check our travel map for ideas there.
I really enjoy the blogs on expenses, they are right up there with the camping/travel blogs on things that I can relate to.
You’ve mentioned RV costs & maintenance & what’s needed for the bigger rigs, when you replaced your tires I noticed that you spent more than my first used class “A” cost. These things do need to be watched & planned for.
Budgets. Most everyone I’ve met full timing do it with what they have. I’ve known several people over the years who do it on just what they get from social security. Bob Wells (you did mention him) on his website cheaprvliving.com has a couple of small budget examples for anyone thinking they can’t do it.
“Stuff”. I can’t agree more with your storage story. Spending money to keep “stuff” you’re not using will feel really silly when you get rid of it all down the road, it did for me. Even a low cost storage is going to cost you $500-$600 a year to keep things you don’t need.
I did that for several years but getting rid of the “stuff’ was HARD!
Fuel can be a big cost if you don’t just sit in a free spot. I use Gasbuddy (https://www.gasbuddy.com/GasPriceMap) & have the app on my phone, when we need fuel I check around (if a station price is not updated the price is left blank, I do updates as we travel). I’m not going to drive 10 miles to save a penny a gallon but I don’t want to stop at the one station in the area that’s 50 cents a gallon more than the others (true story, on I-5, in a town on the other side of the hill it was 50 cents a gallon cheaper).
Good tips all. We regularly use Gas Buddy and also pay attention to State Lines before we fill up “the beast” (all tips I discussed here https://www.wheelingit.us/2015/05/07/5-tips-to-managing-gas-costs-on-the-road/).
And yup right there with you in the “stuff”. We wasted so many $$ on storage in our first 5-6 years and when we finally emptied that unit (which took a monumental effort) it was such a freeing experience. We could have bought most of our stuff several times over for what we paid those years….lesson learned! We now only have a very small unit with our most precious items.
Don Weatherhead says
Nina, you made a comment that you stream some TV programs thru (Amazon etc) I know you & Paul have a unlimited Data plan, but I was understanding that if you stream TV programs it eats up data very fast and you will most likely be throttled (slowed) down by your provider. We would like to cut the cord (Direct TV) but do not want to be throttled down to the point of not being able to use Streaming. Verizon has just now been releasing a new unlimited plan. My Question: Have you been throttled down while streaming TV ?
So lots of stuff here. On Netflix you can cut down the quality of the video so that it only uses 0.3GB per hour. That’s what we have it set to. But we have one more trick! Part of the reason we own a T-Mobile account is that it gives us Binge On which means steaming from YouTube, Netflix, Amazon and some others does not count against your data plan. So, wherever we have T-Mobile coverage we use that. It does limit your video quality, but we’ve not personally found it to be a problem. And of course we continue to watch regular TV through free over-the-air channels.
All these tricks we learned from the RV Mobile Internet Resource Center that I linked to above.
So enjoying your photos, commentary, and your blog on budgeting is awesome! Thank you so much for your energy and time it must take to share with us.
We have been trying to decide IF we “could” go full-time. But more from a perspective of “will we miss having a s & b homebase” ..where we don’t have to plan route/costs/places for each day of a month.
So, what advice would you suggest to help us figure out whether to ‘untether’ from a s & b based RV lifestyle? (FWIW, in 2016 we traveled the most miles 10K in one “season,” we have midwest winters, and maybe 145-150 nites away from s & b in 2016.). Had a great time, and hated when it was time to winterize and park..waiting for spring to travel. )
Another question, have you any plans to own a lot or small s & b in warmer loc for winter months, but travel ‘the rest of the year, 8-10 months?’
Keep up the great blog…and thank you!
Honestly don’t know how to answer this one for you. We love the fulltime lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean it’s suited for everyone. We know folks who feel best just traveling a portion of every year and getting back to their home base the rest. And we personally think we’ll end up in that bucket ourselves one day. If we find the right place I could totally see us buying some land to settle down, at least for part of the year.
Wish I had more words of wisdom for you. I guess when the urge to keep traveling becomes greater than the urge to go home, maybe you’ll have your answer? And maybe that day never happens…? It’s so individual.
Randy Lloyd says
Great blog and really like all of the details with numbers to back it up. Have always been OCD about budgeting and running the numbers. Still have home base with 4-6 trips a year. A lot of expenses are embedded with home and could be eliminated permanently, equals more miles on the road….your numbers are pretty much right on the money!!
Jim and Gayle says
What detailed posts! Must have taken you a good while to compose all that information.
When we started fulltiming over 8 years ago we were spending around $2,000/month. After several years when we realized we weren’t going to run out of money we became a bit less frugal. Also things like health and RV/car insurance, and groceries, have gone up, so we average around $3,000/mo now. It definitely varies depending on how much driving we do, whether we’re boondocking or work camping, or staying in a $30/night campground for 4 months as we are this winter, and more importantly, how many breweries are nearby!
Cheers much for sharing your numbers!
Allen Ferguson says
Very good post. We also post our budget on our website at http://www.thefergs.com.
Thank for sharing!
Awesome write up Nina, a heck of a lot more detailed than mine!
Thank you for including IO, and I thought I’d share the most recent version of it (the one you linked to was from a couple years ago). Here’s the one with yearly data up through 2016. 🙂 http://www.interstellarorchard.com/2017/01/16/2016-full-time-rving-cost-of-living-income-report/
Ah thanks for that! I’ll update the link in the post when I get back on my main computer.
Joseph Grisafi says
Aaron and Beth says
Nina, Thank you for your personal insight into how you guys make this awesome lifestyle work. It’s been one of the biggest questions for Beth and I to try and figure out. Being retired military, I now know we could do this on my little monthly pension and the healthcare part of the budget being a non-issue for us. My new current career is helping us bank $$ for the future travels but being stuck in a cubicle with no windows all day is about to kill me You and Paul’s adventures are what keeps me going until I can take my next rv trip!
Aj and Beth
Having the health care issue taken care of is a big deal, and will most definitely ease the budget of fulltime RVing. Here’s hoping you don’t have to spend too much more time in that cubicle (I certainly know how that feels!)
Ray Friebertshauser says
This is a great source of information for one getting ready to head out on a Full timer basis. This is a topic that I think I have analyzed to death. Yours is clear, concise and really sets my mind at ease. Thanks for the time you take to do these things.
Thanks! I’m glad it all came across clearly. I wasn’t that concerned about presenting our particular spend, but really wanted to create a usable format for others to think about and budget theirs.
Thank you for this detailed post! If we decide to attempt this lifestyle we will have to travel to where I can find work, which may be near larger cities. Do you have any suggestions for how to save money on monthly camping/park fees in larger cities?
Camping near big cities can be tricky. Usually the camping options are limited and thus the opportunities to save are even more limited. That said, there’s a few options you can look into:
1/ Monthly or Yearly rental rates – many private RV parks will offer heavily discounted monthly or yearly rates that can save tremendously compared to the regular nightly price. Always ask if they have this.
2/ Workamping/Volunteering – If your job has the flexibility to allow you to volunteer or workamp on the side (or you have a partner who can do so), then you can certainly look at hosting jobs in campgrounds/state parks/county parks etc. For volunteering at a public park you’ll typically have to offer min 20 hrs/week for a free campsite. Working at a private park might be up to 40 hrs/week, but just depends on the individual park.
3/ Craigs List – If your rig is small enough to fit in someone’s driveway you can always look (or post) on Craigslist for driveway surfing opportunities. I’ve known several young RVers who’ve gone this route in larger cities.
4/ County Parks or Fairgrounds – Some larger cities (I’m thinking of San Diego as an example) have County Parks that are quite a bit cheaper to stay at than private or state parks. Fairgrounds are another example of often overlooked, but often quite cheap camping. So, look around for these options.
Wow, what an awesome and helpful post. This obviously took a tremendous amount of time and energy, so thank you so much for pulling all of this info together (particularly for those of us actively planning on starting extensive–perhaps fulltime–RV travel). By the way, your blog is always so helpful and is one of the few that I *always* read; we really appreciate how transparent you are when you share with us, and it’s wonderful to see how much you and Paul are enjoying life.
Thank you much for the lovely compliment 🙂
Chris Chartrand says
Thanks for “putting it all out there” with your budget numbers and analysis. Looking back at our first full year on the road, we came up a monthly expense record just little higher then you, although we seem to share a lot of the same philosophies of travel … ie: travel slow as to not miss those wonderful microbreweries along the way!
Expenses seem to be easy to track when put on a credit card or paid directly from the checking/saving account. But what about the cash withdrawals from ATMs? Do you keep track of what you pay cash for and add that to the specific budget category (like paying cash for that awesome IPA and stout)? Or does the cash remain unaccounted for? Do you think that there should be a category for “cash withdrawals”? I’m thinking that could easily add $100-$300/month to most people’s budgets.
Thanks for helping all of us who are embracing this wonderful lifestyle!
We put the majority of our spend on credit cards (we collect points on everything!) so we use very little cash, but I DO keep track of cash separately. Whenever we use any cash I’ll make a note of it on my phone and list what it was used for so I can categorize it properly in my expense spreadsheet at the end of the month. It’s easy enough to make a little note, as long as you remember to do so as soon as you use it 🙂
Examples of what we might spend cash on -> farmers markers (groceries), food trucks (entertainment), parking and laundry (in miscellaneous in the above post, although I do categorize these separately in my personal spreadsheet). So yes, cash spend is included in our numbers
Ralph E. says
Thanks for providing this information once again especially since people have so many budgets to choose from as it isn’t one size fits all. About the $500 budget and the $1,000 budget website, I don’t see health care costs listed on there. So I am not buying those numbers. I am updating my numbers and see what I can cut. I don’t have pets and won’t have a storage unit so those come off what you posted. I had Costco and Sam’s Club membership plans in our budget before your post. I was thinking about cutting Passport America from the budget since I noticed that one can’t really use that in Florida in winter at least to more than two dozen campgrounds that I went to on their website and in the summer in some/most of my northern destinations. Sometimes one can only use it for a day or two. However, people don’t have to use it that much to break even so that is the good point about having Passport America. Since I will have a travel trailer I could lower your RV/car maintenance budget as I won’t have to maintain two engines.
That was some interesting information on the propane since the Northwood Arctic Fox travel trailer has two 30 lbs. tanks. So I used the Northwood numbers for the dream travel trailer. We might be camping at a higher elevation than you do so we could potentially be using more propane than you do as cooking times are longer the higher up one goes. I still have my 1978 two burner Coleman propane stove that we still use on occasion such as on the 2010 Florida spring break trip. Where do you get your propane tanks filled at? I noticed the Amerigas link filling them, but might have to go far to go to their location. I prefer not to exchange like we did with the pop up camper.
I will have to talk it over with my wife, but I was thinking about getting rid of DirecTV and getting Skype, Netflix, SiriusXM radio or some other combination equaling that amount if we full time RV. My wife has relatives in the Philippines so it would be nice to see them while talking on Skype.
Speaking about haircuts, my wife’s dad was a farmer and a part time barber. The U. S. customs confiscated his barbering equipment when he came over here so we purchased new barbering equipment for him. He used to do the family (5 counting his wife) haircuts monthly. Unfortunately he passed away earlier this century. When we took our 2014 Philippines trip I got a haircut for 50 pesos (around 43.2 pesos to the dollar back then – $1.16 for those that don’t want to do the math).
Yeah I noticed many of the $500-$1000/mo type budgets don’t include a healthcare cost. Some of these folks may be getting care through VA, or their income may below enough that they qualify for Medicaid, which could certainly explain it. Or it’s possible they just go without insurance (which I would never recommend). I do think it’s tough to hit those numbers if you include regular health insurance into the mix, but there may be nuances to the $$ that I haven’t yet understood.
p>As for Passport America it’s one of the many memberships we buy only when we need/use them. We didn’t have or use them for several years, but then we went to a campground in AZ that had a discount and the $$ made sense, so I bought the membership online the evening before. I just dropped the membership again this past month, and will see if I need to re-buy as we travel the East Coast this summer. In general I recommend waiting to buy any memberships until you need them.
For propane we usually get ours filled at trucker stops. Our propane tank is fixed (not removable) so we can only get it filled someplace we can physically take the RV. We *sometimes* get it filled at campgrounds too. Many campgrounds offer on-site propane or a mobile guy that’ll come to your site and fill your tank. These guys are often more expensive than going somewhere, but sometimes convenience wins out.
As for Netflix and such, we’re very happy with online streaming but that’s only because we have an unlimited Verizon data account as well as Binge On on T-Mobile (unlimited streaming). If you have a fixed data cap streaming video can eat into it very quickly, so it just depends on your internet setup. Oh, and don’t count on streaming from campground WiFi. It’s usually pretty poor and can rarely handle it.
Thanks for the information.
My budget is around $ 1,500.00/ month, but it is interesting to see how others are full-timing.
Ralph E. says
I have changed my budget spreadsheet to reflect the real world conditions that I will live in if we full time RV. I added savings, taxes, computer blog, and Coach.net. I realize that Coach.net was part of your RV insurance costs, but wanted to form a separate category for that. Tentatively I had some extra dollars leftover after the amount that I want to save yearly so I added a miscellaneous category since I will be purchasing the lifetime National Park Pass for seniors. in year one So now the budget spreadsheet equals my projected monthly income. I forgot to include dividends in the income so the budget just got a little larger. I want to take a closer look in detail on all the links that Nina provided as well.
I have found out that Social Security isn’t taxable in Oregon so the tax hit budget wise will not be that large and get the benefit of zero sales taxes in year one. We can always change domiciles once we are forced to take out money from the wife’s 403B plan.
If one counts the Mobile Home website as 19 separate budgets and having their average right, then I came up with an average budget of $2,463 in Nina’s links. One caveat on the number is that I should take out anyone on the Mobile Home website list who has their own link on Nina’s list.
For start up costs, I have savings including emergency fund, travel trailer, tow vehicle, and merchandise categories. I just increased the budget on those.
Ron Parr says
Wow you guys keep really good record. Great info. Certianly being parked in one place for 4-5 months will influence the budget greatly. So if one does not want to park for 5 month,… will double gas and camping line. Your info is very helpful. Thanks for 3 great posts about spending.
FANTASTIC post and series! Thank you! I love the tips for newbies and all of the links. Thanks for putting so much time and love into this.
I didn’t see this addressed here, but I’m wondering in you plan your travels in advance or if you fo where the wind takes you?
Thanks for the weekly inspiration. 😀
Trip planning is a fabulous topic! Everyone has their own approach but our style is to plan for the high seasons (big holidays, summer everywhere we go, and winter if we stay in FL) and wing it in the low seasons (spring, fall). I have a full 3-part series on travel planning starting at this post:
You’re the best! Thank you!
We're the Russos says
Great post Nina and thank you for including us! Look forward to meeting you and Paul when our paths cross. – Joe & Kait
Such an amazing and thorough post. I’ve been following you for a few years now but I still had to go back and read some of your links again. I love your self healthcare post and so many more. Thank you for all your resources and info. I’ve learned so much from you over the years!
Thanks for such a detailed post for us “potential” fulltimers. This will be so helpful when and if we make the leap after we sell our house and husband retires in a year or so. I have been following your blog off and on for years as well as the Wynns, Russos and Technomedia. First time I really looked at the maps in detail and love them! We bought our 38′ motorhome last year and have really enjoyed our vacations and boondocking trips and as we venture elsewhere your maps will be super helpful. You mentioned traveling east this year and if you mean NH (we live there near Dover/ Portsmouth) or ME send me an email. We can maybe accommodate your “beast” at the bottom of our driveway for a night or so or at least guide you to some local areas. The Northeast is beautiful but very limited for big rigs compared to other parts of the country. Safe travels!
Thanks for the great info. Been following your blog for a couple months now. Your lifestyle sounds very similar to how we plan ours to be when we get to full timing (unfortunately 9-10 years away). It is very helpful planning even that far out. Love the stories, it gets us more anxious to get out. We do RV now but more weekend stuff.
Ralph E. says
I saw this on one of my political blogs. However, this particular post deals with future gas prices. So I thought that current full times could plan more on their gas budget and only reason why I am posting the link.
Mary McCauley says
My husband and I are in the thought process of buy an RV. Husband is in the military and we are PSCing moving to a new duty station at Fort Lee, VA. We have a house here in Georgia and have two daughters currently living with us and going to college herein Savannah. We do not want to sell our house because our girls will be living there. My question for you would be will it be cheaper to invest in an RV to live out of for three years while we are stationed in VA?
I’d say that depends on a few things. First you need to look at the price, location (and quality) of the RV parks in the area where you plan to be in VA. Then you need to think about winter. Most RV’s are not very well insulated and the majority of fulltime RVers avoid this issue by traveling south to warmer climes like FL, TX & AZ in winter. There are RVers who stay north in their rigs, but it requires some preparation and keeping them heated with propane over a long winter can cost $$$. So, I’d investigate those two items first. Research the parks in the area you plan to be, check whether they are open all-year (or only seasonally) and whether they offer yearly discount pricing. Then talk to long-term folks staying there to see what it’s like to be there year-around, including how bad (or not) winter is and how much they spend on propane to keep comfortable. Hopefully that’ll help you make a decision.
Ralph E. says
To keep this on topic:
Nina, do you consider RV replacement the same thing as RV maintenance? By RV replacement I mean things such as dinette, mattress, refrigerator, sofa, washer/dryer, etc. If not, then what is your budget for those things?
Another question on the budget is how much do you allocate for RV upgrades such as WiFi ranger elite pack and the screen that you purchased since it seems that you don’t want to disclose that financial information?
I am all about the financial numbers as I don’t want to get into financial difficulties if we full time RV. After looking at all the links and the financial information that you have provided, I have increased my budget to $2,468 so it is now over what your average budget ($2,409) was in your links and the one you posted. The emergency fund should be close to $14,500 based on the $2,409 average monthly budget. Plus one should have a fund to pre pay for campgrounds and tourist attractions of perhaps $5,000. I added a “tourist attraction” line item to the budget. I just put in an amount to up the budget as per above so it wouldn’t come out of the savings line.
I am getting sort of upset since the dream Travel Units travel trailer is now over $57,000 with a dozen or more things to be added to the price. Some things say Quote on them so there is no way of knowing how much those things are going to cost me. Anyways I changed the design before pricing it out. I eliminated one slide out and made one slide out smaller to save roughly $1,650, which paid for the mor ryde suspension system for 2 axles or if only one axle then the mor ryde suspension system plus making the TT 8.5 feet wide. The pantry isn’t in one of the slide outs now plus 6 inches smaller so those are side benefits of the new design. I was hoping to keep the design to less than 30 feet so I could potentially camp in Arches, but doesn’t seem to be feasible to do so with my wish list. However, I will keep on working on various design plans in an attempt to make the travel trailer shorter. If we are really going to be in the $70 – $75K range budget wise, then I was thinking about making that one slide out (the non bedroom) bigger with putting in a desk and a hamper so it will really be a dream TT. I was going to use the dinette or the sofa with a TV table to use for computer work before I came up this tentative design plan. Since you said that you had trouble with the refrigerator being in a 15 foot wide slide out, would having a desk with storage, a 3 foot wide 18.3 cubic feet refrigerator, and sofa be too heavy to run into slide out problems? This would be approximately 11 feet wide. Would it be possible to add in a two foot hamper for dirty clothes with those?
With start up costs now being $157,000 with the travel trailer being budgeted at $65,000, I was thinking of only putting a 20% down payment on both the travel trailer and tow vehicle. I would still be able to save 5 figures every year if we take out loans. The tow vehicle would be paid in full after two years if things go according to plan. The travel trailer would be paid over in five years. When I get the oil change, I will see what the auto loan rate was in October last year that we paid to make sure that I used a reasonable number for that.
I did change some of my techniques:
1. For out west I am planning to stay in one state for 13 weeks if possible for the most part with the exception of Alaska, which will be 5 months as I intend to only go up there once. This way potentially I won’t have to travel as far in between destinations in theory. This sort of goes with your 2.5 hour travel rule although sometimes the drive would be longer than that if we didn’t stop at a full hook up place.
2. For camping I intend to camp for 2 weeks when possible to do so with some 1 weeks thrown in. After boondocking or dry camping for 2 weeks, then go to a full hook up campground to do the chores in 2 days such as groceries, laundry, maintenance such as black tank flush real good, etc. This increases the number of campgrounds per year, but doing the laundry at full hook ups will pay for most of the full hook up campground fee. Just curious, how many loads of laundry do you and Paul have to do in two weeks time? I was using 12 loads as a goal based on what I read online with using extend-a-line to dry the clothes on.
Yes, for replacements I include those in the RV Maintenance budget. We haven’t had to replace much in our unit since we started (just small stuff like bulbs and such) so it hasn’t been significant for us. We did buy a new mattress this year (in Jan) so that’s going in the maintenance numbers for 2017.
For the WiFi equipment and other special upgrades it just depends how much money we have in our flexible budget that year (and whether we can get any deals with the manufacturers). Might be a couple of hundred, might be thousands (e.g. our solar upgrade).
Home at last! This info is not only helpful, but also entertaining. We’re not out here wheeling alone! Thanks
I’m currently renting in an expensive part of the county and considering full time RV-ing. I pay $1,250/mo for a 1 bedroom apt. I’m early retired 40-something and have passive income from investments that support me (but barely!). I’m very curious when I run the numbers how the cost of full time RV-ing would compare to my current overhead renting. I would have higher gas costs, maintenance and repair costs, and then RV insurance, propane costs, campground costs (would try to boondock some and try some passes, maybe workcamp). But then I wouldn’t have $1,250/mo in rent. Very curious if the additional costs I would incur full time RV-ing (campgrounds, gas, maint/repairs, propane) vs. renting would be less or more than my $1,250/mo rent. Of course I would also have large up front costs of getting started that I do not have renting (initial cost of RV rig set up, if I bought used repairs and maint to get it up to speed, all the additional gadgets I would need like generator, solar, etc…).
Ralph E. says
The family just paid off the mortgage on Friday. So that leaves us with one loan to pay off. However, we will be going to the Philippines in 2018 as one of my wife’s nephews is getting married so that sets us back quite a bit.
I had to do the budgets over again as my wife said that she wants to do international travel. So in order to please us both I am trying to find a way budget wise that satisfies both of our needs. I drew up 3 budgets.
One – 4% withdrawal on 403B plus retirement income – I don’t really like this one as I want compound interest to work for us rather than against us. I wanted to wait the maximum time before the withdrawal has to start. The plus side is that initially this is the highest budget.
Two and three – just retirement income so same monthly budget. One with taking out tow vehicle and RV loans and the other not. I like the loan one better just so that I know that we can last until the 403B has to be taken out.
I did appreciate all of Nina’s budget information and links.
For the person above – everyone’s budget won’t be exactly the same. Everyone’s comfort level in spending everything that they make is different. To get started, here is what I am doing:
1. RV budget for purchasing an RV
2. tow vehicle budget
3. merchandise budget – things that you need when living the dream
4. Emergency fund – 6 months your monthly expenses
5. compound and tourist attractions cash flow – this will vary by your particular lifestyle but I would use $5,000 since some places require advance reservations.
For the monthly budget I would add these to Nina’s list:
2. tow vehicle loan if needed
3. RV loan if needed
4. RV upgrades
5. tourist attractions
6. taxes – don’t forget for this or Uncle Sam will find you
Wendy Fivash says
New here in the RV world. Getting ready to sign up for Passport America. Read all your comments and the article on the different clubs to join – but that was 2 hours ago and now I am on this page.
The question is:
Do you want me to use your name as a referral since it was your article (mostly) that got me in their direction? And what is the info I need, if you do? The following is the questions PA asks.
“Please provide the account number of the member who referred you.
Numeric Portion Only”
Hoping to be full time RVers by fall.
Matt & Wendy
Sure! That would be most kind of you. We’ve got a regular membership (annual) and the number is R-0279953. It’s under my name Nina Fussing.
Thank so much for thinking of us!
Ralph E. says
“compound and tourist attractions cash flow” – I obviously meant campground etc. Our dryer would have to go out right after we paid off the mortgage.
Ralph E. says
I am disappointed in my mortgage company. I had called them up to find out the final payoff amount last month. This month they tried to claim that we still owed them money. It is just another reason why I am not longer interested in trying to deal with the banking/mortgage industry.
Loved reading your articles on full time RVing. We are 318 days away from going full time so your blogs are very helpful.
Our first trip will be to Maine where my wife originates from. Noticed you were in Bar Harbor, Maine. Any suggestions for RV parks in that area?
Yes! We’re staying at Narrows Too in one of their premium waterfront sites. It’s $$, but I’m loving the location and views. I’ll be doing a full review of the park before I leave so I’ll give you the whole low-down. I also (highly) recommend our last two stops at Camden and Boothbay. I’ll be writing about those soon too!
Ralph E. says
I am disappointed that Travel Units took down their pricing list on their website. The good news is that I already had the prices for things that I wanted. I did have to calculate/estimate/find out things that weren’t on the website such as my dream refrigerator, solar cabinet, desk, dresser, panty, storage pods, etc. I was shocked to see how much my dream refrigerator was as it turned out to be over $3,300. I had only looked at the size and electrical aspects of it before. So the whole dream travel trailer with 6% sales tax costs a tad under $77,000, but might want to put in a linen closet and a dirty laundry closet. I have several choices to make on things such as having the plumbing and things done to put in a washer/dryer at a later date to save me roughly $1,500 or to come up with more down payment with a bigger RV monthly payment.
I am going to have calculate out where to domicile again. It takes one day to go to Indiana with spending two nights there to check things out. It would take 7 days to go to Oregon and 14 days to set up domicile and do shopping. It would take another 4 days to go to Marvin and spend 10 days at Marvin’s as I wanted Marvin to do some other things besides solar (would have to check with him if he would be willing to do the other things). Then it would take me another 4 days to get to my first destination. I am wondering if it is all worth the time and expenses to put on a new tow vehicle and the travel trailer and just easier to get everything done at Travel Units and then head straight to Texas to set up the domicile.
Ralph E. says
The second design did look a lot nicer to me. Since I rushed it I accidently flip flopped the dinette and pantry as I want a rear dinette in case we ever have a scenic spot. However, I did like the new way better. Then, I did some more research. I ran into some potential design problems. I learned that the refrigerator is supposed to be curbside instead of streetside so how important is that change since I noticed manufacturers do have street side refrigerators? Then, I learned of another problem with putting the kitchen sink in a slide out for one of my potential fixes to the problem. In addition, I read that people want to have access to the refrigerator and bathroom while pulling the RV to the side of the road to eat or for lunch. I had planned on having an ice chest with a portable propane stove (or barbecue) for lunches. So I am going to have to put things differently if doing this option. In Michigan there are always restrooms in rest areas such as the Lake Huron Thumb drive. A potential thing to do is to move the desk from the bedroom to the living room, but will have to check to see how much room I have to go to the bathroom with the slide in. So here are the solutions to fix everything and which one would people do?
1. Take out the sofa, move the refrigerator curbside, and place the kitchen in a slideout streetside. We would only have sleeping for 4 (5 if I slept on the bedroom floor) under this method and keep the travel trailer at 32 feet.
2. Make the travel trailer 3 feet longer to total 35 feet long and move the refrigerator curbside next to the kitchen. This moves the sofa 3 feet so people would have access to both the refrigerator and bathroom. This wouldn’t be as bad as people think since I was already over the Redwood National Park 31 feet limit and the next national park campgrounds are 35 feet. This would make the dream travel trailer equivalent to a 39 foot motorhome. However, the motorhomes couldn’t do my design without getting out of the vehicle since I have objects on each end.
I had two wardrobes next to the bed so I could turn one into the laundry area and one could be the linen. This would eliminate one slideout as the washer/dryer would have room to be able to go outside for repairs without a slideout.
So I am going to have to do a third design (rough draft). At least one person wanted to do the above under 30 feet as well, but there is no way that this is possible without making things smaller such as the bathroom and having a twin bed.
So much info! Great to see the price breakdowns piece by piece. Getting the recurring costs under control is absolutely necessary for any long-term travel/life on the road. Another great mail forwarding service is Your Best Address http://yourbestaddress.com. They are FMCA’s preferred mail forwarder, operating out of SD. As many people know registering a vehicle in SD, TX, & FL can save you tons of money!