We are fortunate in that our health insurance is a benefit of my corporate job. We are with Cigna and all three of us have full coverage including dental and vision. Our deductible has become increasingly higher since 2012 and we are now at a Silver plan which gives us a $5000 deductible each. Our prescription plan is less than stellar and we maintain our insurance primarily for our daughter and for unforseen medical circumstances. While on the road though we typically see an Urgent Care physician which costs $35/visit. We currently pay $430/month for health insurance.
I understand there are monthly costs to van dwelling, but I am in a unique situation being at school. I have a free gym membership that has all the amenities. I have friends with houses, apartments, yards, etc. where I can freely park and utilize some of their amenities. I have access to WIFI anywhere on campus and bathrooms everywhere I look. I have a different scheduled each day and a part time job. I am ALWAYS on the move. From an outsiders standpoint, I feel as if I would mesh right into the van dwelling life. I want to live a less material life. I own too much random…. stuff. I want to minimize my living “standards.” I want to remove anything in my life hindering me from experiencing life.
Connectivity is a big topic for full time travel, and we’ve managed to keep ours down. We used cheap pre-paid cell phone plans and use older phones. We are on cheap 15GB/month Total Wireless from Walmart for our phones and were able to get our hands on a AT&T Mobley this past summer (now unavailable) that keeps our internet cost down. Total we spend less than $100/month on this category.
Staying in campgrounds makes it impossible not to be closer to nature. In a good way! I love being outside, but when we were living in a traditional sticks and bricks house, I found myself not getting outdoors as much as I would have liked. Or if I did, it was just to the deck or patio and never in grass, among trees. There is just something calming and therapeutic about being surrounded by Mother Nature.
Had either my husband or I ever so much as driven an RV? Nope. Had we even really camped much? Nah. But as soon as we settled on the notion, things started to come together. We began to seriously move forward in March of 2017, and we sold our house in November that year. Our official launch date was January 5, 2018, and we’ve been on the road for six months now.
Even for the rare folks who RV full-time with unlimited cash, getting by on less money becomes ingrained in the RV lifestyle. Tracking spending and working from a budget becomes second nature on the road. Before you head out get in the habit of logging daily spending on everything to learn where money goes. And check in with experienced RVers for advice – and get ready to write down ideas fast because every RVer has favorite tips to stretch dollars on the road.
Magnetic Car Phone Mount Holder – I’m always surprised when someone gets in my car or truck and says something about my cell phone holder. Maybe it’s because after living for four years on the road and still not knowing our new city very well, the first thing I do put the address of where I’m going into my phone. What do people do when they have to use the navigation apps on their phones and don’t have a holder? Hold it in their hands? Lay it on the center console? When it comes to safety, I’m super uptight conscientious and this little contraption is wonderful. We put a magnet inside our phone cases and the phone effortlessly sticks to the mount that is in our truck’s cd player. We also have one that mounts in the air vent in our other car. Love these things. They are convenient and make using a navigational app safer.
Thanks for the article, Tim! I really enjoy hearing and reading about folk’s experiences when living and traveling small. I never made time for it even though it was a dream and, now that I’m old, it will be one of those things that I’ll say, “If only…..”. Everyone reading this article: Please do everything you can to have a bucket list, and then do it! Don’t have regrets. I DO have a bucket list now and will do everything I have time for. Your story encourages me to keep going.
The majority of our income comes from my web design business, Donna. We don’t have health insurance…it’s still cheaper to pay the fine than the ridiculous premiums for those of us who want to travel frequently between states. More on that in one of our latest articles, which though it is about living in a van, the insurance part applies to RVing or any other method of full-time travel.
Even though our current income is more than what unemployment insurance pays, that experience helped to change my attitude and taught me how to be content with what I had. I decided I had a choice – since I couldn’t change how much money we had I could be thankful for what we did have and be creative in learning how to manage, or I could become depressed and have a sour attitude about life in general. The choice seemed clear.
When we first started RVing we signed up to just about every camping club out there, Sam’s Club, Escapees, Club USA etc. In retrospect (again because of where/how we like to camp) these were not worth it. The only camping club I currently consider is Passport America, mostly for short stops and I do like the Escapees Days End list, but even these have mostly been replaced by overnight “freebies” when we need them. The rest of the time we’re out in nature/boonies where club memberships do not go. For some people clubs are great and they can certainly be cost saving if you make use of them, but for us they’ve simply not made the cut.
Like many others who have responded.. Thanks for posting your Top 10. The wife and I are in the planning stage for full time RV’ing and you have answered many of the things we were questioning and listing other web sources of information is extremely helpful. We hope to be full timers in a year or so. One question you did not address in this blog was the question “Gas or Diesel?”. I realize it “depends on where you are going” but, in your opinion what has been your experience? We are leaning strongly to diesel because we do plan to go west of the Mississippi.
I’ve been traveling since then, staying exclusively at spots where I can spend the night for free — Walmart parking lots for the most part. They have all welcomed me warmly when I ask at customer service if RVs are allowed to spend the night. It helps that I use a smartphone app to find Walmarts that do allow you to stay ahead of time, but I always confirm when I get there regardless.
We knew what to expect in the way of weather, having lived in the northeast for years. We knew that once we got situated at our site, it would be very unlikely to get out with the RV until spring. We knew that winter RVing would mean insulating the water hookup to avoid freezing. We also knew that at this particular NJ campground, we would only have water and electric hookups and would have to rely on their weekly honey wagon to empty the tanks.
I loved reading this, ty! My husband and I have been thinking about this with our 3 kids who are 6, 2, and 4 months. Can you tell me what homeschooling method your using? He’s a builder and I just sold my salon so we would be doing this to get to travel and stack some cash. I love the idea of doing this while homeschooling because they can see it, instead of hear about it thru school. I did a lot of traveling growing up my husband has not, so we are both really into this idea. Any pointers with two in diapers?
For these reasons, RVs smaller than 25′ didn’t really appeal to me at the time. With my space requirements and budget in mind, I searched for Class A and Class C RVs no larger than 30′. Many RV Parks and Campgrounds only accommodate RVs less than 30′ so I figured anything smaller would also manage well on the forest roads and remote places I wanted to go.
Why we recommend the Heartland Sundance fifth wheel: When it comes to looking for something truly lightweight but spacious, few fifth wheels can offer a dry weight of a mere 8307 pounds and be 30 feet long (view the Sundance 269TS). This itself makes it a perfect camper for couples looking for fifth wheels for full time living as it can only have 2 people. Of course, if you’re interested in the larger ones, floorplans such as the Sundance 3700RLB and the Sundance 3710MB are available as well!
Many National Forests and most lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allow RVs to camp outside the confines of their campgrounds. Also, it is generally legal to park in public parking areas and rest areas that are not posted with signs prohibiting overnight parking. And you can always camp out in a friend’s driveway! The price for these kinds of overnight stays is $0. However, you need to equip your rig to run without hookups to take advantage of these places for an extended period of time.
Greetings, I so enjoy your blog and love the perky and positive style. It’s so fun to read. You guys are very adventurous. I know because we are “nomads” too, having sold our house in Hawaii almost 2 years ago. Now we are part time USA-RVers, part time international travelers, carry-on bags only, thank you. We just spent 5 months in 7 countries in Asia. This life is super! I love how you share so much about your life, including the details, and encourage you to keep it up. To hell with the grump-sters. But as a blogger myself, I understand how criticism dampens the spirit….Keep it up and write more. I love reading it! You can check out the tales of our 2 years of adventure on http://carolsuestories.com. Roll on!
So interestingly enough we’ve not seen much of an inflation factor impact in our budget over the last 7 years. For example fuel prices have varied enormously during our time on the road (anywhere from $2.00 to $4.50 per gallon), yet our fuel numbers have not really reflected those changes simply because we adjusted how far we traveled each year. I DO think it’s good practice to add an inflation factor to any budget you look at (we do this in our long-term retirement budget planning too), but you may find the actual impact (once you’re on the road) to be less than you expect.
Thanks for your comments Maria. It’s easy to get confused as there is a lot of misinformation floating about. You must have seen the HGTV episode. We didn’t pay $208,000 and we owned our Monaco Vesta for 3 years. Everyone’s budget and spending habits are different. We list our general costs of living, not the cost of our RV (all costs are variable per person, especially RV’s). Yes depreciation is a factor when purchasing an RV, as with anything.
When I travel on a 6-8 week roadtrip with two people, my expenses average about $100/day. That includes food, fuel, and lodging. I drive a lot (20,000 miles/ yr), so my expenses are high. When I stay at an RV park in FL for the winter, my expenses are lower because I have little to any fuel expenses. Lots of RVers spend less than I do because they drive fewer miles and often do free camping on Federal land. Also, some don’t include food expenses because those expenses would be the same if they didn’t do RV travel.
While most full-time RVers change as much as they can to electronic, there are still some things that will be mailed. Many full-time RVers use a family member’s address, and still others use mailing services. Even if you use the former, you’ll need to include a budget to reimburse them if you need something forwarded to you. If you use a mailing service like the one offered by Escapees, you may have a monthly expense of $16.25 to $19.50 depending on the package you choose.
Luckily, Birgit & Greg, whose site we're using, were nice enough to let us tap into their super-size external propane tank (we'll be paying for the propane we use, of course). So propane shouldn't be a problem, but we'll still want to keep our usage to a minimum, since it's expensive, and propane use can cause excess moisture to build up in the rig.
I think it’s important for any couple to purchase an RV that fits comfortably in their monthly budget. You need to consider the monthly RV payment, insurance, fuel, maintenance, repairs, general upkeep, campground fees—and still have money left for other day-to-day expenses and discretionary spending. In most situations your first RV won’t be your last RV, so it is practical to find an affordable RV that won’t break the bank, as the old saying goes.
I think it’s awesome you guys do this! I would love for me and my husband to do the RV for awhile just to try it out. I also wanted to let you know that I wrote a post on Low Cost Housing options and linked to your post here! Thanks for the great tips! Here’s the post if you want to check it out: http://www.tidyandteal.com/low-cost-housing-options/
The following comparison shows precisely what would be typical for me and my family, which includes mom, dad, three kids (two toddlers and a teenager), and grandma, a family of 6. Your results may vary. The “Home” table reflects averages for the entire US. We then compare it against our own costs, and those of average prices for new and used RVers, except where those costs wouldn’t change based on the rig you have. Links to sources inline.
I just love reading about your experiences. This question is for Paul assuming he does most the wrenching? Paul, when do you decide to take your rig in for “fix-it’s” compared to do it yourself. Some basic things I have tackled have been very stressful (trying to save a buck) yet rewarding when accomplished. And what is your tool box situation? Huge weight factor as I have a huge roll around at home but only certain tools make it in my rig. (30′ class A HURRICANE) I keep basic stuff such as small cord less drill/driver/impact to help turn stubborn screws and bolts that I cant break loose due to health, it also has adaptors for sockets which I carry a small assortment, then the plumbing and electrical stuff. I keep some extra wire and connectors, stripers, tape etc. plumbing is easy with connectors and pliers? but I find I want to have so much more from “the big box” at home. Also carry rainy season stuff to help prevent those leaks I found this year. frightful to say the least when you find a leak in your roof. My RV tool box is approx.. 8″x20″x8″ yet weighs a ton. Try to keep something in it to fix anything. Best tool is a good bright flashlight that has a beam or if extended has a wide light like a small lantern
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.
With our retirement within 5 years, your blog is a continual source of information, inspiration, and encouragement. Thank you so very much. As far as saving money, have you read “Retire to an RV” by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak and Alice Zyetz? It’s an e-book that I found on-line and downloaded (PDF-format). It seems to be a great source of “living in an RV” information including how to save money. Thanks again. Neal
It took a long time. Three days of about four hours a day with a few breaks for phone calls, snacks, and to track down a tiny dog who thinks she can chase bighorn sheep up on the cliffs. But finally, I was done. One end had two cords (one for the 30-foot length and one for the 6-foot length) and the other end had one cord (for the other 30-foot length).
Remember to boil the bones of chicken and beef with a little vinegar to bring out the best, the chicken feet have great collegen.. bone broth is great for you. Kombucha is also for the immune system and easy to make. Make all the food you can.. it is very satisfying and better for you and tastes better. get a book and homemade medicine and try the young living essential oils.. The woods is full of medicine. Let me know if I have helped or hindered or can help in the future.
Never allow your black tank to freeze unless you want to deal with a disgusting mess. Use a PVC pipe for your sewer hose – it’ll have less chance of freezing than a regular hose. If you plan on leaving the tank hooked up, add a layer of insulation around the sewer pipe. However, it’s a good idea to keep your tank closed until it needs to be dumped.
I really think it has helped us learn who our kids are as individuals and people. It also allows us to be here for them when they have a question or problem they need help figuring out. We give them as much space as we can, and as they get older they are venturing out more and more on their own at the campground, museums, etc. But it has been great to be such an important and big part in their lives and to continue to spend so much time with them.
One of our biggest worries is noise we may encounter from other campers. How has your experience been with that? Have you found most locations to be quiet? We are worried about having to listen to other people’s music, outdoor tv’s barking dogs, people being noisy outside next to you,etc. Would really love to know how that has been for you over the years?????
This morning as I lay in bed awake but with my eyes closed, I listened to Thing 4 breathing near my cheek and felt the warmth of Brent’s body against my back. The night had been rough with Thing 3 waking up multiple times in tears and Thing 4 needing to be nursed for what seemed like a million times. But now with the soft grey light curling around the blinds, everyone but me was sleeping soundly. It was cozy. I didn’t want to wake up because that meant letting go of the comforting blanket of peace that surrounded us and embracing the everyday chaos of taking care of a toddler, baby, and two teens. Instead, I thought about how whole and safe I feel in our nest of a bed tucked away in the slide out of the RV. Eyes still closed, I reached out to tighten the curtain when my hand abruptly fell through the imagined wall.
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:
Steven wanted to go on the road for years, but Joyce said she wouldn’t do it unless he made her a home office where she could write a book. Steven gutted the little room in the RV that had a bunk bed and turned it into an office for Joyce that even has a sliding door. Together they remodeled much of the interior, adding sunflowers, a reminder of Joyce’s home state of Kansas, and their RV has a washer and dryer.