We rarely buy new clothes and other personal items (where would we even put them?) and we limit our spending on nearly everything. We wish we could find free parking more often, but it’s not usually a huge priority. We travel often because that’s the main reason we chose to full-time RV. We love seeing as many new places as possible as often as possible.
Last but certainly not least, we no longer have the diesel 3500 Chevy dually to pull the RV. After some discussion we decided that we didn’t want to continue paying those expensive truck payments for a truck that our entire family couldn’t fit in. In hindsight, we should have bought a less expensive truck that seated six. Or maybe not. Six of us in a truck would have been tight especially with two car seats. So after a lot of research we decided to buy a diesel Ford Excursion. I’ll do another post on buying the new SUV because a lot of research went into it but the short of it is that it can seat six people comfortably and it can haul a heavy load giving us more options for travel trailers, the point of this post.
Cheap Heat Options – We’ve seen 2 options that seem to work well for heating the RV inexpensively in the winter (when you’re staying at an RV park for a month or more you will often have to pay for electricity, so space heaters might end up costing you some extra money each month in electricity bills). Of course you have to calculate the expense of the product and the install costs:
We haven’t eliminated our stress. In fact, I’d say our stress levels hover around the same as they did before we sold our house. We simply swapped one kind of stress for another. But we have four kids, so it would be unrealistic to think we could live a stress-free life, no matter where or how we lived. We deal with the same parenting struggles we did before, but we like to joke that the views are better this way.
Full-timing can be done in many different ways, and whether or not a young couple needs a big nest egg depends entirely on how much money they can earn on the road. Someone with a mobile, high paying profession, like contract nursing, doesn’t need a big nest egg. Someone that will be relying on work camping at campgrounds and RV parks may want more in the bank to handle emergencies that will require more money than their salary can provide.
Not everyone embraces RV living out of a desire to opt out of life's rat race—some have the decision forced upon them. "You are insane," Jacqueline LaDue remembered telling her fiancé, Josh, when he floated the idea of living in an RV. "I will never in my entire life do that." The couple and their 4-year-old son Brayden had left a luxury apartment (complete with swimming pool) in Raleigh, North Carolina, after Josh's sales job didn't pan out and temporarily sought shelter at the home of Jacqueline's father near Boston.
2017 Update – TOTALLY. I still recommend a contract-free approach whenever possible. This gives you the flexibility to sign-up to the best plans (and offers) whenever they became available which has improved our own set-up and saved us many $$ over the years. The whole Mobile Internet landscape has changed dramatically since 2011 (e.g. Millenicom is now caput and gone), but there are still many contract-free options for mobile travelers. You can read about our current internet, phone & boosting set-up HERE.
I love your site and all the insite you give. We are planning on going on the road in 3 to 5 years and getting all our ducks in a row to do that. Down sizing is hard do do with our hobbies and family pass downs as well as tools that we may need.. We are planning on an older Class A in a price range of 30k so we have no payments. We will keep following your blog..Thanks, Jack and Diane Indy
Sandra, you are not the first to think we spend too much or too little. Everyones lifestyles are different and we don’t live on a shoe string budget, nor do we post our expenses for any reason other than to help others get an idea of what it costs us, with our lifestyle to live on the road. We buy local, fresh and organic food as much as possible. We like good all natural food that doesn’t come in a box or can and that isn’t something we plan on changing if we don’t have to. We work from the road (not retired or independently wealthy) and our websites are not just your average wordpress sites and we do a lot to keep them secure, backed up and so on and so forth. Our phones are a huge part of our business and we have to have smart phones with internet and such. Sure, if we didn’t work and didn’t have to have solid internet, this would be a lot less. Just not an option for us right now.
In Florida, cruising sailors have relied on St. Brendan’s Isle mail forwarding for ages. To my knowledge, they were the first (by at least 5 years) to provide a virtual mail service where you could see a scanned image of your mail in an email message. This kind of service is now provided by America’s Mailbox and Escapees and others as well. Other mail forwarding services in Florida are Nato Mail, Escapees, Good Sam Club and My RV Mail.
Winter RVing is loads of fun, but figuring out how to stay warm in an RV on those chilly winter mornings and long cold dark evenings makes all the difference between having a great time and wishing you were in a house. Going to a southern state is a good start, but it may not always fit with your overall full-time RVing itinerary. You might get caught in an early winter storm, like we did in one year in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Or you might get whipped by a blizzard on your way south, as has happened to some of our snowbirding friends who wanted to celebrate the holidays at home in Montana before trekking south to Arizona in January.
We got through that next round, and things were starting to clear out. At this time we hadn’t sold our house yet, so the pressure wasn’t on. We didn’t have a leave date in sight, so we were taking our time and letting our mind-set shift. In comes Christmas . . . I always went crazy at Christmas and bought the kids so many gifts. Even though I knew they’d only play with a few presents and the rest would be quickly forgotten.
Your water hose WILL FREEZE! Do not leave your water hose connected during freezing temperatures. There are special water hoses you can plug in to keep warm, you can also make a heated water hose using Pipe Heating Cable (Heat Tape) and Insulating Foam Pipe Covers. During extreme freeze your ‘heated’ water hose may still freeze. Numerous times I’ve seen people in the bathroom trying to thaw their heated hoses. Save money and save hassle, just fill your fresh water tank and disconnect your hose, repeat when necessary (it’s really not a big deal and it will save you money and you won’t have to store a bulky winter water hose all year)
If you are planning to work camp in exchange for an RV campsite, or if you will be working part-time jobs as you travel, or working via the internet from your RV, your choice of overnight parking spots may be based more on your job’s requirements than on the whims of your travel interests, and your camping costs and the kind of work you do will subsequently be tightly linked.
I’ve heard that vehicle insurance rates are based on the demographics like population on a county-by-county basis (as well as each person’s age, driving record, etc.). Are you aware of any significant differences in insurance rates between the counties in South Dakota where the mail forwarding services are located? A couple of them are in very sparsely populated counties, but I haven’t seen them promoting this as a reason to choose their services.
I also soon learned how to juggle the use of coffee maker and hair dryer in conjunction with the heaters. Normally, using both at the same time is not a problem. But with the draw of the electric heaters, plugging too many things into the wrong line shut down the electricity totally. This meant a trek outside to unscrew four tiny wing nuts (virtually impossible to do in winter gloves) to get behind a panel to reset the breaker. Try doing this in the dark in the wee and snowy hours before daybreak and you don’t make the same mistake twice.
I’ve got to give props to my girlfriend Kage, who has been living along with me on the road (and her husky Tobias). Being a man, the camper life isn’t too difficult, but for a woman, it’s an entirely different challenge. According to Kage, it is definitely more difficult to live in a camper full-time as a woman (where society expects you to still look good, as well as having to take care of feminine things), but she really does make it work somehow.
In South Dakota, one of the largest mail forwarding services is America’s Mailbox just outside of Rapid City in Box Elder near the Black Hills in the western part of the state. We have the Platinum plan with them and have been absolutely delighted with their service. We call them once a month and tell them where to send the mail. Mail forwarding providers in South Dakota include:
If they are new to RVing and unsure if the lifestyle fits, they should go cheap but functional. I have Airstreamed all my life, but our first trailer was a 24’ Nomad that cost $3000. We learned a LOT in that trailer. Lots of what to do, and even more of what NOT to do. We had repairs and enhancements to do. We sold it 1 year later, but that was due to my parents giving us their Airstream.
I am fortunate in that my company pays for my cell phone. This includes the grandfathered “unlimited” data plan. However reliable that is though we still look for campgrounds and camping sites that offer reliable WiFi and relish in those moment we get to a cafe or a friends house that will allow us to download a movie or two for future watching. Let it be known though that our call phones and our ‘net connection are essential to our livelihood and therefore our lifestyle. My wife does have a Verizon “Pay As You Go” that we purchase minutes for on a semi-regular basis (every four months or so). For a good look at what WiFi on the road may cost though feel free to check out the expenses of Technomadia.
It makes me sad to see that you have to stop sharing things on your site because of the judgement you get from people, but I completely understand. While we currently do not have an RV, our hope is to buy a sound used RV in the next few years and begin to travel as our schedule allows. My dream would be to travel full time for at least a year while working along the way. Until then, I'll just have to live vicariously through you guys while we get our ducks in a row. Great job and don't let the internet trolls get you down! You guys rock!
After a year of full-time RVing, we slowly added these items to our home on wheels and they greatly improved RV life for us. We never expected to want or need these items when we first started out and love sharing them with newbie RVers! If you’re interested in finding out what these items are, check out this post: 5 Items That Improved RV Life for Us!
Capital depreciation is an important consideration because the years go by and you eventually pay for the value in your RV that has been lost over time. That shouldn’t keep you from getting a brand new rig if you can afford it, but it does have to be part of the overall financial assessment of the costs of going full-time. You can see the rigs we chose here. I’ve written an outline of things to take into account when choosing an RV for full-timing here. I recommend starting with a cheap and small RV to practice and learn on here. I’ve got some notes about the thing I think is most important in a full-time RV — the carrying capacity — here.
Lovely to “meet” you on the blog! You know regarding safety the *only* time I’ve ever felt even close to unsafe is in the center of big cities. We had one incident (in San Antonio) a few years back that sent us running, but other than that I’ve never felt unsafe. Whenever we’re in smaller cities or the boonies I’ve always felt perfectly fine. So, I guess I’d recommend getting out of the bigger spots and into some more rural areas…more space for the boys too?
All of these expenses hit the bank account with a resounding thwang and can’t be ignored or wished away. You may not know exactly what your hobbies will be when you start full-timing, but put some kind of figure into your budget that allows for replacing your computer and phone as often as you have in the past (if you plan to use them as much) and for buying the various things that will make your favorite pastimes possible.
Life – This is an area than many people leave out to cut costs. However, if you are relatively healthy, it is pretty inexpensive and can significantly help your family in the event something happens. Any adult who contributes to income should have enough life insurance to help cover the loss of that as well particularly if you have any outstanding debts, like the mortgage, credit cards and car loans. In addition, all family members (including children) should have enough life insurance to cover expenses like funeral and burial costs that can overwhelm a grieving family.
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I paid cash on a used F250 and will do the same with the trailer, as well as making some changes upfront that you and Mark recently discovered made vast improvements in driving your rig. While my plan is to boondock more often than not (friends are already beckoning me to their driveways across the country!), there is the matter of being a tech nomad. However, I’ve been living in the country with a Virgin USB stick (and a looped slice of aluminum soda can attached w electrical tape as an additional antenna) about ten miles from the nearest tower for the last few years, so more of the same there. The main budget changes I’ll notice are the absence of an electric bill and addition of laundromats.
Variable expenses are the ones that fluctuate from month to money and in RVLife you actually have a LOT of control over these expenses. As you’ll see in our Lodging/Camping expenses category, we have been able to significantly decrease this expense over the years by getting better at free boondocking and utilizing RV Clubs like Boondockers Welcome, Harvest Hosts, and Thousand Trails. However, if you decide to park in an RV Resort in downtown San Diego for example, it could cost you upwards of $1000 per month.
For your expenses, you’re going to have both fixed and variable expenses. Fixed are going to be the same every month and HAVE to be paid. These are things like cell phone, internet, and insurance bills. If you have a loan on your RV or vehicle, they would also fit into this category (*Note: we highly recommend eliminating this monthly expense if possible by buying less-expensive used RVs/vehicles.) Trying to get these Fixed Costs down is key to a low-cost lifestyle, so try to find way to eliminate or reduce these when possible.
Personally, I prefer the smaller the better, but you will need to make that choice on your own. Check out this service if you want to try and give a couple of different types of RVs a spin before you buy, even if it’s just for a weekend here or there. Probably less likely to get a truck / trailer combo on that setup, though, but look around, you never know!
I’m 25 years old and have a 3-year-old son. My husband and I will be debt free within a year and have fallen in love with the idea of becoming full-time travelers and world schooling our child. My biggest question is, how do you plan out the cost of living? I work virtually so we’d have 1 full-time income and my husband is investigating ways to make money on the road. We don’t want wait until retirement to travel and we want our son to experience the world (or at least our continent)! Any help is greatly appreciated!
The eclipse was one of the most intense and beautiful 2 minutes and 20 seconds of my life. It was sublime in the truest sense of the word. Mind blowing. My body buzzed for a full 30 minutes afterwards. The moment when the last sliver of sun disappeared, that moment of totality when I took off my glasses, was like instantly being transported to another world. Everything familiar but so different. Completely surreal. A 360 degree sunset. And the corona of the sun… No words. Just awe.
- Check to ensure the tanks are insulated. Electric holding-tank heaters are available and will reduce the chances of tanks freezing. You also should empty the tanks periodically instead of letting them empty continuously. Keeping the exterior drain pipe from freezing will be very difficult. Do not rely on flexible drain hose, which easily can become brittle with extreme cold; instead, install PVC pipe into drains.
I really appreciate it when you pointed out that being an owner of an RV means that I should learn a little about electrical, plumbing, and roofing work so that life on the road will be a little easier. Maybe it is time that I get myself a book and educate myself about the basics of troubleshooting. After all, I do intend to get an RV for myself soon since my dream job is to be a nature journalist. Thanks for the tips.
As they travel, they often pick up jobs to earn money since they don’t want to tap their modest retirement savings, which they dipped into to buy the RV. Right now, they are working in the Amazon CamperForce program that hires about 700 people for warehouse jobs and pays their campsite fees. It’s hard labor — they often go to bed rubbing each other’s feet — but the money they earn from September to Dec. 23 is enough to allow them to take the winter and spring off. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)