Having more than a Hobbit-sized refrigerator: If Hobbits had fridges, I'm sure it would be similar to the one we have in our RV. It's more like a dorm fridge with a small freezer on the top. Oh, and RV refrigerators don't operate like the one you buy down at Sears. Oh, no. These babies work by what's known as gas absorption, which entails heating ammonia that magically cools the fridge. I won't go into the gory details, mostly because I'm not too versed in the wizardry behind it. Just know that it is usually too cold (your veggies are going to freeze) or too warm (your veggies are going to rot) and you may have to fiddle with the buttons to keep things right.
Each monthly report includes fixed costs (vehicle payment, insurance, mail forwarding service) along with variable costs (food, entertainment, gas, RV supplies). The lessons learned section is where we share tips that helped us or mistakes to avoid. We include a quick snapshot of stats for the month with cost per day, miles driven, generator hours, MPG, nights of paid camping, nights of free camping and meals eaten out.
While living by yourself in a camper allows more space and freedom, it sure is nice having another warm body around, ha. But seriously, it does keep you a lot warmer at night if you’ve got your lady or your man by your side, so if they are up for having an experience they’ll remember the rest of their lives, have them move on board with you for a bit. And believe me, you really get to know someone when you share a 10 ft. long living space with them!
Yes on the dual sided heated mattress pad. Your friend in the winter! This winter I slept on an 8″ memory foam mattress, topped with the heated mattress pad, then a 3″ memory foam on top of that. I turned on the mattress pad about an hour before I go to bed (if it isnt already on!). I cranked it up to High and turned it down to 3 or 4 when I got in bed. It will warm up the top pad. When you get in bed the top MF is soft and as you sink into it you get the warmth rising. This winter I was in a really, really cold cinderblock house in the Midwest. Last winter I did this in my Teardrop trailer with a 4″ regular foam mattress, the heated mattress pad and the 3″ of MF.
3) They are willing to think small and used for their first RV. This is so they can keep a large reserve of cash for unexpected expenses… RVs can (and do) break more often than a house or a car… because it’s a house moving down the road like a car! Most houses just sit in one place. A RV is subjected to the same potholes as a car, but with 5 times the weight.
We try our hardest with this aspect of our budget. We like to eat fresh, healthy, and regional so we try to visit farmers markets and local farms/ranches/dairies when possible. We also buy bulk items at CostCo, Fresh Market, etc. in order to keep staples on hand and get the most for our money. However, with a 3-year old we go through a lot of milk (at $4.85/gallon or so), snack foods, apples, and nuts. Have you seen the price of pistachios lately? One things we do splurge on is typically meats (we like good, grass fed beef), beer, and ice cream. Even life on the road doesn’t have to be sparse.
Can anyone help me with this one. We’re new to the winter RV life and are travelling around BC, Canada skiing. We have winterized the motorhome and its going very well. The only issue we have is that the rear tyre’s do not like to spin when we first start her up. Even with idling and warming up the engine. Reversing is fine, its when we put her into drive the tyres drag and don’t spin. We have been lucky enough to get it working after some persistence and luck (being parked on big flat locations where we can reverse and eventually kick in.
Also having spent lots more time in very windy areas (where we often have to pullin the slides to protect the toppers) I’d recommend buying an RV where everything is functionally usable with the slides in. That’ll help when you’re overnighting somewhere, or just want to stop for lunch say too. Ours is totally functionally usable (which is great!), but it’s total luck coz we didn’t actually think about this when we bought the rig.
Our situation is fairly unique (I think) because I work away from my family for 2 weeks and then i’m back with them for two weeks. I work in northern Alberta ( we are Canadian) and for the 6 really cold month of winter we could be anywhere in the US or Canada. For the 6 not so cold months she wants to set up camp in northern Alberta. near where I work. Our family is very concerned for the safety of my wife and kids while I am gone away at work for two weeks. do you have any advice on this or know any other fulltime families that have a similar situation?
I love to cook as well…but then I like checking out the local brewski scene even better. About 80% of our going out during the winter is at the Elks which is cheap for both food and beer…$5.50 a pitcher and dinner for $9…but in the travel season we tend to eat at the local Elks maybe 10% and the rest at various hole in the walls. I don’t think we could get to your numbers even if we cut out the DirectTV fees and workamped…but then travel style is different for everybody…and one of the big drivers is what you can afford to spend. We’re fortunate that we can (mostly) not really budget…we could get down to JC’s 6K per month if we needed to without much strain…and if we needed to we would…but we don’t so we don’t. Our secret was to turn all of that money stuff over to a financial planning service up in the DC area when we went on the road…sure, we’re paying their annual percentage but we’re in a medium growth and income portfolio profile…we’ve averaged about 5% return since 1/1/13 and have taken out about $50K over that time frame for big ticket items like the new truck, trip to Ireland, trip to Alaska, etc.
If at all possible, buy well before you plan to embark on your trip, and spend some time in it on short weekend trips and vacations. An even better option, especially if you were overseas like we were, is to rent an RV for a vacation. Even consider doing it more than once if you can. Just remember that living in it and vacationing in it are two very different things.
Thanks for the great expenditure report. I am getting our home ready for sale and heading toward the full time lifestyle. It honestly scares me because I am on fixed income of much less than shown in your totals. I will find a way! You might check into a company called Bestmark. Having a Chevrolet you can sign up for oil changes, tires etc. And get paid plus reimbursement. All you have to do is tell them how your visit was. Basically gaining upwards of $75. Plus free service or parts. Just thought that may help you. Thanks again, looking forward to your next post.
We have taken two such tours, and they were a lot of fun. In each case we were given two free nights at the RV park, and at some point during our stay we took a 2-3 hour tour. The sales technique is the “hot seat” method, but it is easy enough to smile and say “no” politely if you aren’t interested. One of our tours was at the Havasu Springs Resort.
When they are grown men and looking back at their childhoods, our biggest hope is that they know they were loved. An older wiser mom once told me that kids have “fuel tanks” and to make sure it’s filled with love every day because if it’s filled with love they are less likely to look for other things to fill it. Despite all our parental imperfections, baggage, and failures, we want them to know we love them “bigger than the sky times infinity”. We want them to leave home with filled love tanks. Our me-culture may tell us to do what’s best for us and “radical self love” is almost a religion these days. (BTW I’m all for “radical self love” when it’s not at the expense of others.) However, selflessness acted out with pure intentions in regard to the other may not be sexy but it is still and will always be one of the purest forms of love. And one of the hardest. Selflessness doesn’t come easy for me. I usually scoop myself the biggest bowl of ice cream. And take the biggest piece of cake. And tend towards putting my feelings above others.
Have a “fun fund” for those spur of the moment adventures. If you decide that today is the day you want to go for that hot air ballon ride, do it! Having money set aside for these experiences will make that transition to RV living more enjoyable and fun. We always seek out free and cheap things to do in our travels, but there are some experiences that are worth the splurge.
How do we do it? We do 99% of our spend through credit cards (where we actively collect points too**) and I’m old-fashioned so I import all my bank & card data into an Excel spreadsheet. I do this every month, allocate each line to a category (e.g. entertainment, RV parks, insurance, groceries etc.) and then churn out a pretty pivot table to display it in one place. I’ve been tracking our spend this way for over 13 years and before that I used paper, so I literally have detailed spend numbers going back to when I was around 17 years old (crazy, I know).
Volunteering & Workamping: We also haven taken fun volunteer positions from time to time – such as interpretive hosting at a lighthouse in Oregon. We get to do something incredibly fun and give our time for under 20 hours a week, and get a full hook-up site in a gorgeous location. With our full time work commitments however, we rarely have time for the extra hours however. Many campgrounds will accept ‘workampers’ for a few hours a week in exchange for a site – check Workamper News for more information.
The Cougar X-Lite 32 FBS was the first travel trailer floor plan we came across with a rear master bedroom. When we went to Indiana over spring break, we saw it in person and loved it. There is a ton of space in the back bedroom and there is more floorspace in the Cougar front bunkhouse than some other travel trailers due to the slide out closet and two as opposed to three or four bunks.
Great article! We have 2 young boys (4 and 8 month) and we are strongly considering this full-time. Working in a downtown setting feels like my soul is being sucked out of me everyday. We were originally inspired by the documentary Surfwise. Must be great to sit around a fire every night or lay under the stars with your kids instead of staring at a TV. Im in the middle of launching 2 online businesses and planning on quitting job in July. Maybe we’ll see you out there!
My wife found your site last night and we love it. Next year around June we are looking to go full time RVing. We have a 2013 Tundra with a 4.0 v6 to pull at the most a 22ft. trailer. We’ll probably look to install a larger radiator and tranny cooler first and will be going with the anti sway bars setup. We lived in a 34ft. motorhome for a year in Sacramento in a trailer park in 2007 with 2 dogs and a cat who adopted us (he was left behind from one who moved out, we still have him along with another and a golden retriever). We plan to stay with the truck and smaller trailer for a year or so to see how it goes. We’ll do some boondocking, and mostly look to stay someplace for a month at a time, and work camping.
We use a mail forwarding service (Alternative Resources in South Dakota) to manage our mail. They keep our mail at their office until we ask them to send it to us. Most RV parks will accept mail or you can send mail as “general delivery” to a local post office and pick-up it later. The address we have in SD also serves as our address on record for the purposes of taxes, voting, car/RV registration, insurance and drivers license. When we established domicile with them we had to make sure we got to South Dakota within a certain time-frame to get our drivers licence (can only be done on-site). You can read more about establishing domicile here:
If you are staying in a park or resort, find out who maintains, roads, parking, sidewalks, etc. and how often. What amenities are available to you at the park; are there laundry facilities, showers, pools, exercise equipment, and so on? What other forms of recreation are available in the local area? Are there other people staying through the winter and do they get together to socialize?
Well, it’s been close to 2 years now living in my little motorhome. I’m on the road nearly every night in a new place, doing my best to live comfortably, healthy, and happily. There are moments that are very trying, like coming home from a winter trip to find the couch and bed soaked with water and frozen solid. And yes, it’s very difficult to dry out a waterlogged bed and couch inside a 95 square foot motorhome in the Alaskan winter, but it’s possible.
Fortunately, there are lots of RV parks that are designed with this conundrum in mind, offering activities for kids and adults alike. For example, the Jellystone Parks family of RV resorts has fun, themed activities and tons of amenities like swimming pools, water slides, and bounce houses, making it one of the best solutions to RV vacations for families.
$795 Cell Phone Expenses – Nikki is still on Verizon ($432) and I’m on AT&T ($363). We both have the bare minimum talk and text plan, with (grandfathered in) unlimited internet. Basically I’m throwing my money away 50% of the time because AT&T’s coverage outside of major cities is CRAP! My contract is up in January so I’ll probably switch over the Verizon (even though I’m going to lose my unlimited internet, yes….AT&T has been that bad). Doubt we’ll be able to save any money here, but at least I won’t be wasting money on a phone that doesn’t get reception.
But a multi-player video game might just be a great way to spend a rainy afternoon — or even a sunny one on which mom and dad just can’t take one more off-campsite excursion. It doesn’t even have to be a fancy, expensive new model. The Nintendo Wii, for instance, has tons of fun and interactive multi-player games and can easily be purchased for less than $100.
We are avid birders and love the solitude of nature. We imagine we will be staying and volunteering in wildlife refuges, state parks and boondocking for the most part. We are looking at the Northwoods Arctic Fox 32-5M (34’11’).( We love our daily yoga practice and need a floor plan that fits 2 yoga mats) We are heading to the Northwoods dealer in Oregon in the beginning of april to see about trading our truck in for a diesel long bed and buying the fifth wheel. Northwoods just came out with a new fifth wheel floor plan that rocks(35-5z) but it is 38’11”. In regards to bigger is not better do you have any guidance here to help our decision making process? I know this is a very personal decision. ANY input will be helpful. It is just the two of us and our binoculars, camera, bird books, and laptop computers for the most part. This is such a huge decision and we will be living with it for a long time.
During this 30 day window I lost 10 pounds (no time to stop and eat!) and slept about 4 hours a night… but we did it. We downsized to what we could fit into our RV and our cars. Yes, my husband’s car did turn into our garage for a few months. And we only ended up with about 4 storage bins which we kept in my parent’s basement. They were mostly filled with photos and other family memories.
Thanks to my OCD, I’ve been checking Craigslist multiple times day and came across the Crossroads Zinger 29DB. We really like the back bedroom and how the bunks lie horizontally in the front cutting down on the length and weight of the trailer. While we don’t LOVE this RV, it’s affordable and would be comfortable for our family without adding debt. Since it’s used I wouldn’t have emotional hang ups about painting brand new cabinets and walls. It would be so much fun to do another RV makeover!
So those are just 10 things I have learned so far – and I know there is so much more learning to come. We are happy about our decision and what we are doing and sometimes we have to stop and sit back and say – is this really our life?! It is funny if I hear about someone else doing something like this or see a blog about it I get the feeling like – Wow that is awesome! I wonder how they are doing it?! Then I say – oh yeah that is right – we are doing it!
- You may need ventilation to replace humid inside air with drier outside air. Plugging and insulating ceiling vents with something that seals the vent but also can be removed easily is important. To insulate ceiling vents, purchase factory-made vent plugs or use rigid insulation cut to the size of the opening and wrapped with duct tape to strengthen it.
The number one thing you can do for your RV during winter is skirting! Anything you can find: snow, dirt, foam board, insulation, plywood, anything you can place around the exterior of your RV will help keep the heat inside. I cannot tell you how important this step is for keeping your RV pipes from freezing. Also if your tanks are exposed under your RV you can wrap a heated blanket around them to keep them from freezing. The small space heaters will be helpful, and keep your propane heater set to 55-60 degrees if possible (a $30 propane bill is better than a $500 water pipe/pump issue).
My husband and I have decided to sell our home and look for a place that is more “us” while he has to travel for work. We currently have 3 children and two dogs and have looked extensively at RV’s before deciding on a 5th wheel sprinter with a bunkhouse. I know the journey will be something to learn and get used to but we decided that if he has to travel with his work then we want to travel with him. Going from a 2k+ sq ft home to even a large 5th wheel is a very very hard thing for myself and my teenage girls, but when we look at the larger scale and we will finally have to travel it gets so much easier. More time with dad and going places we couldn’t before because our house ties us down with mortgage and bills. My 3 yr old son is just happy to have his dad around more often. I have been looking for all the advice I can on the net and this has been useful for the start up, less is better for us because along the way you may acquire more. I make jewelry one of my daughters is an artist and my other daughter is into design so we have sat down to make sure we have gotten our priorities right. For me living in the RV until we are able to find our place is a way to learn to let go and focus on what matters. I spend little time with my kids doing the stuff we want to do and more time cleaning and organizing and running errands to keep all that up. And when my husband gets to be home we end up spending more money just to get out and spend time together with the kids. So for anyone out there who is also considering this way of life, I say find out what it means to you. Take good advice from blogs like this and enjoy! Thank you for the great advice blog and to those who commented more great advice!
I totally concur with you on the fuel costs. We did the math, if fuel went up $1/gallon and we drive 10k miles – at our fuel economy, that’s a $1500/year increase. Heck, when I owned a home I had an insurance bill that went up by that much in one year. With the fuel, you can at least move at a slower pace to cut the expenses if you need it. Or cross a state line and save a few pennies.
I only had one fire truck called on me. I was shopping in the grocery store and the intercom came on with a man saying, “License plate Y-RENT, your vehicle is on fire.” I finished shopping, checked out, and walked outside to see about 70 people pointing at my RV and a fire truck with firefighters pulling up. I told the firefighters that I just had a wood stove going inside the camper and everything was fine (I thought the chimney would make it pretty obvious, but I guess some of the bystanders didn’t know any better).
The time living on the road has been a lot of fun, and a big learning experience. I’ve met countless people that have influenced my life and heard stories that have rearranged my perspectives on life’s shenanigans. Most encounters have been very positive and the RV has helped open windows of connections with people that I would not have had otherwise. As for the other end of the spectrum, I’ve only had a couple of run-ins with people telling me to move on to another camping spot (literally only 2 times the last couple years).
South Dakota, Texas and Florida are all home to major mail forwarding services that will help you become a legal resident, help you register and insure your vehicles and help you become a registered voter. Your postal mail will be sent to your address at the mail forwarding service. They will then sent it to you, wherever you are. You will have to show up in person in your new home state to get your driver’s license. The terms for renewing a driver’s license vary from state to state.
Love, Love your posts! We have listed our home for sale and are searching for our RV. We are excited with caution. We have children across the USA and found there is no reason to stay put any longer. Because of your posts we have a lot of reading to do. It has taken several weeks to find your blog and thankfully we did. My parents lived in RV’s after retirement until they had to come home for their final journey. So, I remember well their travels. Need more information on the address matters. We were going to have our mail forwarded to us as we will be slow moving from place to place. Thank you for all the information.
Our recreation expenses are all over the place. There is no right or wrong, black or white, night or day. Some months it covers a movie rental or two while others it serves as admission into a children’s museum. This past month it paid our way into 3 different state parks, an iTunes album, 2 television episodes, a fishing road and fishing license, and some craft supplies for my daughter.
I always imagined that you should try to buy the biggest RV you could afford. After all, who doesn’t want lots of space? Our travels over the past years, and perhaps more specifically the kind of travel we like to do (camping in public campgrounds, forests, state parks, off-the-beaten-track spots) has taught me that bigger is not always better. Our “beastly” size is super-comfortable but requires me to do quite a bit of detailed planning to make sure we can fit into the kinds of spots we like to visit. In retrospect, I would have wished for a smaller RV. For those camping mostly in private parks this is not a consideration, but for our kinda camping it sure would be nice with a few less feet.
I’m widowed a while now and planning on moving from south to northwest. I plan to purchase a good size camper. The two main reasons 1)I will be hooked up at my son’s property and my home is becoming nightmares ‘re:repairs and general up keep. I’m 64 and should I find a special someone, my son & wife wish to purchase my rig. Thanks to all for the tips and welcome any advice. Have you or know someone who has done this? It’s me and pup, any suggestions on camper must haves, things to look for and size etc?
We have a two-week rotation of clothes for both warm and cold weather, and since we started traveling we have replaced almost all of these garments. Commercial washing machines are hard on clothes and they wear out. Our biggest clothing expense is shoes. We replace our hiking shoes and running shoes regularly, and we buy high quality, expensive shoes. As a side note, if you get a credit card from Cabellas, REI or another outdoors store, and put all your living expenses on it, and pay it off each month to avoid interest charges, you can use the points each year to get your hiking shoes or other camping gear for free.
Not being “full-timers” ourselves, but are in a category called “extended stay travelers” (one to three month trips). Being rather young to retire last year in our early 50’s, health insurance is the big monkey on our back. Yes, we do have insurance thru my union, but since O-Care ( Obama ) monthly rated have gone up 250% in the last 5-6 years, and coverage gone in the toilet. I guess it is what it is.
6) They’re willing to live frugally. This can NOT be stressed enough. At the ages of 25-35, full timing can either be a joy or a chore. They’ll be surrounded by old people, in perhaps less than stellar conditions, in a cramped hovel that’s difficult to either keep cool in summer or warm in winter. But… they can move with the weather. And frugal living helps them afford to do that.
My husband and I are considering fulltime rving. I have been reading different blogs and how to start and all. I am wondering on jobs. Unfortunatly we are not independently wealth and still have not won the lottery. Our thought is to travel to area work for month or two and then move on. Do you have any suggestions on jobs or really good website for that info. We are at a point in out lives we just want to go and see the world why wait until its to late. We are young and ready to go just have to take that leap.
@Chris: Wood stoves have killed many an unlucky sleeper. Combusting wood in sleep quarters can kill in a multitude of ways. Of course, wood smoke is an established carcinogen. Wood stoves in a small mobile high vibration environment are double jeopardy. Fail to be vigilant in the daily maintenance and wake up dead. On the bright side all the bumps on the road might knock the creosote build-up off the stack walls, but then again it might not. Probably the biggest risk with a wood stove is human nature/carelessness/extenuating circumstances/etc. At some point the operator will be tempted to operate the vehicle with live coals in the stove…
I am an aspiring homesteader on a journey to become self-sustainable and free. In my past, I've worked corporate jobs to make ends meet and get ahead a little; it didn't make me happy or confident in my future. Since taking the leap to self-employment and living a more simple life, my happiness levels have increased greatly and I've never felt more alive. I finally understand what I want in life and how to get there, and that is what this blog is all about.
Groceries – This figure can vary based on location as the cost of living fluctuates by region and if you are near metropolitan areas or tourist attractions. In addition, taxes can vary. Note: You may choose to put household items like cleaners, shampoo, dish soap, etc. as a separate line item. Since we purchase them with our groceries, we just include them here.
Gosh young folks! This may sound critical:-) You don’t seem to have enough good ideas how to live frugally or even inexpensively. You could do fine for half the amount you spent. Just look at your clothing expenditures or the $845 for houseware? D-oh! Hey we find Columbia sportswear and other sick stuff at Goodwill and ARC. You just have to make it a habit to check em out and go to the ones in the nice part of town! Learn to horsetrade and to borrow and lend use of things like kayaks, bicycles and sporting goods or cars. Don’t buy everything! Buy hardly anything brand new! its fun! Add an extra fuel tank and always fill up when in the cheapest regions. Saves a lot.A new laptop battery could be bought online for very little for most any model including MACs. Our phones with limited web access and unlimited text are only $30/month. Always stay at least on model behind the latest and greatest high tech gear. It costs half the price. I am typing on a MB Pro that is not quite as thin as the latest model:-) Who cares?
lived full time 3 years, in Colorado in mountains in a optimized 1989 truck camper (since upgraded to a bigfoot 4 season camper built in british columbia specifically FOR winter camping. The bigfoot should allow water in pipes not to freeze, so I am told. they also make class C rvs. the construction is the best of any RV I have ever seen. better than artic fox truck campers because its 2 pieces of boat hull fiberglass clamshelled together top and bottom, no seams, just the windows. plus extra insulation.
Your personal diary of events and budget is not uncommon. However me and my husband lived in North Eastern Utah in a new RV park for only $350 month, which included ALL utilities except our propane. We also renovated a used 35 ft fifth wheel becasue we did not want to be in debt. We also stayed on a budget and never had the expense you all did. We to own land but voted to stay in town at an RV park. I can tell you from experience our total expenses were not over $600 and this includes most of your list.
$827 Costco – Because we didn’t find many farmers markets or affordable natural food stores on this portion of our trip, we renewed our Costco membership. For the amount cooking we do, Costco is the best way for us to get reliable organic, natural, and affordable food items. Yes you must purchase in bulk, however we try not to over-purchase, and we rely on Costco for our staples only like tomatoes, beans, hummus, chips, etc. Sometimes we’ll even find local venders in Costco from coffee roasters, to pastry makers, to exotic cheeses made from nearby farms….and that’s why we choose Costco over Sam’s Club.
Joyce Ann Seid (84) and Steven Seid (77) bought their first RV in 2001 to travel on weekends to see the grandkids and visit casinos and parks. By 2010, they moved into the RV full-time. “We rented our house and wound up getting a bigger RV and then we wound up living in it because we liked it so much,” Steven said. “If we don’t like our neighbors, we just pack up and leave.”