Knowing how to budget for the RV Lifestyle is done when potential RVers understand why they want to become full timers and what they want to accomplish. It’s a lifestyle choice that should be carefully thought out and may take a great deal of discussion between a couple who are thinking of doing it. They should ask themselves what kind of traveling they plan to do—long distance, a slow ramble, or only move once or twice a year. Do they plan on working to subsidize their savings, or is this a once-in-a-lifetime trip? Be clear and understand the pros and cons. Understand what is required to enable you to make the decision of becoming full time RVers.
Hi Karen: Since so many people have an interest in full timing, I thought it would be a good idea to give them further details. I always tell people that if they can afford it, just close up the house and give full timing a try. If it doesn't work out, they will still have everything waiting for them back home. Most find that RVing is so great that the thought of going back to the house, the expenses, the work, etc is a drag. But others are happy they didn't just jump in with both feet. It's a big decision, that's for sure!
Our monthly expenses vary depending on where we are and what we are doing. We can go a couple of weeks at a time with the only expenses being groceries and water if we are boondocking and not moving. In that case, we can get by with probably 50 bucks a day or less. Otherwise, we can easily double or triple that budget depending on gas prices and where we are. So maybe on the average, we are spending about 100 a day. Bottom line: $1,500-$3,000 a month.

In addition, we get to utilize the mortgage interest off our RV payment as a tax deduction (it’s a second mortgage if you have a bathroom—see IRS laws). Besides the memories we make starting from the moment we drive out of our driveway, we are making our money go further. That means more money for more vacations! In addition you will save even more money making your own meals on your travels. Can you say “Ca-ching!”
How much money you save when you’re RVing depends largely on how you plan your trip. Taking a few minutes to think ahead about meals and travel routes can go a long way in your checkbook. Consider signing up for an online forum to share your ideas about RVing to make a little extra cash on the side if you’re really strapped and looking for something up your alley.

How have the Thousand Trails parks been? We stayed in one in Indio, CA which we disliked so much that we decided to speak no more of Thousand Trails. About the only money saving thing I can offer is monthly rates, rather than daily or weekly. But then, that sort of defeats the purpose of having an RV. I’m with you on coffee/alcohol! I’ll give up something else.
I have looked into propane wall heaters (and used them in houses) and using in the RV, but for simplicity, the stove effectively is 100% identical. not vented, burning propane at a fairly low rate. my truck camper would use 1 bbq tank of propane per 7 days in colorado winter. thats $20 exchange for BBQ tank. (bbq tanks can hold 20 lbs, when refilled, but only 15 lbs when exchanged because the exchange companies just want to make more money and charge more and give you less, so if your trying to calculate gallons of propane used, I dont know, I only know lbs, do your own conversion.) There are 2 kind of wall heaters, infrared & blue flame. I would say infrared is better at throwing heat further distance, but they are identical as far as CO and humidity goes, because they are not vented and burning the same amount of propane for same BTUs output. Blue flame is = stove top flame.
I love the slides in our motorhome because of the massive amount of space they give internally, but it seems some manufacturers go overboard. Our “beast” has a massive front drivers-side slide with refrigerator in the slide, something I now understand is an engineering no-no. The weight of the slide has been the cause of the only real issues on our home in 2 years. I love slides and will always want them, but in retrospect I would never buy another home with a fridge in a slide-out.
Typically there is one main bay that holds your black/grey/fresh tanks, your sewer connections, water pump, water filter, etc. This is the MOST important bay to keep warm. I purchased a tiny 200 watt (1.8 x 4.3 x 6.1 inches) ceramic heater and leave it running in the bay during freezing temperatures. It pulls about 5 amps and keeps all my pipes warm (exterior temp 20 degrees, inside bay 50 degrees). Some people recommend hanging a work light in the bay: I tried this and the bulb melted the plastic bay, and my water still froze so I don’t recommend this option.
In addition, we get to utilize the mortgage interest off our RV payment as a tax deduction (it’s a second mortgage if you have a bathroom—see IRS laws). Besides the memories we make starting from the moment we drive out of our driveway, we are making our money go further. That means more money for more vacations! In addition you will save even more money making your own meals on your travels. Can you say “Ca-ching!”
We really appreciate the transparency you have provided in your blog posts, detailing expenses. We have found it useful for our own budget planning. Such a shame that some people find the need to project their own issues around how and where you spend your money and live your life. I totally understand why you are not sharing that detail anymore, but do appreciate what you are willing to share. I guess if people want more detail they can book an hour chat session with you! Anyway, it’s good to have this awareness as we might think twice about the level of detail we are willing to share in our posts too.

Even knowing we began to freeze toward the end, I am still a big believer in skirting your RV to protect it from the cold. I feel this way because I’m certain if we had skirting that was better sealed around the entire RV we could have kept a lot of the cold air out. But, since we were using the full sheets of insulation we had a few cracks for the cold air to sneak in.

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.


For those who can’t go a day without the Internet, mobile devices, and other gadgets of the Digital Age, RV camping may elicit more groans than exclamations of excitement. Is RVing new to you and your family? Consider these RV camping hacks to create a home-away-from-home that will ease newcomers into the RV lifestyle. Here are a few tricks of the trade from veteran RVers.
However, Thing 1 is getting older and we wanted to respect his desire for a more traditional course of study. He has expressed that he wants to go to college and hopefully receive some scholarship money. That means “the game” of test scores and graduation requirements needs to be played to a certain extent. We know there are untraditional ways to gain entrance into college and receive scholarships but we do want to keep as many paths open as possible for him.
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!
Wow! What a learning experience we are having when it comes to finances on the road…. We have been on the road 3 months and I have been amazed at how expensive things can be if you are not careful. It is not a matter of denial of experiences but rather choosing wisely to enjoy the same things that keep our expenses manageable. An example would be eating lunch out instead of dinner. Usually 1/2 the price.
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.
We are just now in the “sell everything” stage, about to go full time in our RV, and we have two little girls — a four year old and a two year old. We’ve really been out in our RV so often that it’s no big deal for them. Come to think of it, we got our first camper when our oldest was just 6 months old, so she’s grown up around the camper (not that she’s really grown up yet LOL). Our girls absolutely love it! They get so excited when we start packing it up. I’ve talked with our oldest about what it will be like when we live in the camper and how it will be better to get rid of all our extra stuff that we don’t really need. She seems to understand it and we are all super excited about it. We have yet to see how it goes a few months into it, but I can’t think it would be any worse than our longest trips (about two weeks) which were wonderful times for us. I wish you the best of luck in getting yours all fixed up! I can’t wait to see the pictures because I might want to borrow some of your reno ideas!! 😀
I apologize if I seem off base but I did quickly see how you were able to get some things at a discount and that sparks my attention immediately as I am a disabled vet and will be working off of a set or close to set budget and I would love to know everything about how I can keep within that budget and if at all possible save some money along the way. The biggest fear for me is the unseen expenses that I either can not find or have not learned about yet going through all of the bloggers sites.
The Solar question is a great one. We haven’t had nearly the problems w/ getting adequate solar coverage w/ the fixed roof-panels as we’ve had w/ the fixed satellite dish. For our satellite we have to have direct line-of-sight and a few trees (or even branches!) will easily throw it off. For the solar, although it’s best (of course) to have full sun, we’ll often be fine as long as we can get an adequate amount of sun for at least a few hours. We dry-camped in pretty heavy forest both in NM & CO where we got part-sun and it was enough to recharge us daily. I’ve been very happy w/ the set-up.
Hi Kristen, if you haven’t already you will want to read the full Fulltime RV Living series, that should answer many of your questions. Costs are going to vary greatly depending on what kind of camper you decide you need. Our payment was $430 per month which we thought was rather high. Water, gas, electric, and site rental will depend on the campground and the season of the year. Our rv was not custom, it was a standard Open Range 413RLL model. Most that live in an rv fulltime (that are traveling) homeschool their children. If you are going to stay in one place you may have other options. I hope that helps!
Great read and well done! Being a 60 + newbie my wife and I had some angst about our new full-time journey but after reading your real-life experience we both will be resting a lot easier tonight in our 5th Wheel. Most all you Top 10 were planned out and made ready. We are prisoners to our storage costs but feel ok with that due to our 3, maybe 4, year plan. We will be down sizing at a minimum with cost but feel the short run and future needs make it ok. Again, great job, thanks for sharing, I got you booked marked. Do you have. Facebook page? Lionel
Consider using two different circuits, not just different outlets, since two or more electric heaters can draw more than the 15 amps allowed on any one circuit. This can be tested by shutting off circuit breakers to determine which outlet is on which circuit. If you must use the same circuit, use a 15 amp power strip that prevents overloading a circuit and plug both heaters into that. (former firefighter)
Propane heaters are awesome and most RVs come standard with them. But the fan that runs the propane furnace is extremely draining on your battery (most normal deep cycle 12v batteries will only last about 8 hours). Once you kill your battery, you lose your lights and heat, and you’ll have to find a source of electricity to get a full charge again. Propane furnaces also fail often, and if your only heater fails, you’re in big trouble.
Well…that was an error!! I’ve fixed it, thanks to you. That’s what happens when you stay up past midnight finishing posts after working a 15 hour day!! So we appreciate your comment. Love that you mentioned that its all about balancing expenses and income flow. We are working on building a program to teach our budgeting strategies, as well as share the tool we created that we use to budget each month. It’s not about how much money you make, its about how you manage it and control it. RV life allows a lot more flexibility in monthly expenses, we… Read more »
In a five year period, a brand new rig (that is, a motorhome/car combo or truck/trailer combo) will typically lose 30% to 50% of its value, and by the end of a decade it will be down to 25% to 40% of its original MSRP. The only way to know what the full-time RVing lifestyle really costs is to know both what you paid for your RV at the beginning and what you sold it for at the end. The difference, divided but the number of months you lived in it, is the true cost of ownership.
I have been following your blog & youtube videos for awhile now and thoroughly enjoy them. In fact your video on the composting toilet has convinced my sister & I to get a natures head installed in our rv as soon as spring comes along. We plan on fulltiming early 2016 & can’t wait. Too bad you have encountered negative people, you two have been wealth of information for people exploring fulltiming in my opinion. Please keep putting out the great content that you do, it is much appreciated here!
We lived full time in a camper a couple of years ago while we were building a house. It DOES has its challenges… The biggest one we encountered was the campground we stayed at… But once we got that fixed it was actually very nice… Some things I would think about/plan for: laundry, make an outside living space, make sure you have reliable internet, and food storage.
This RV couple is in between 35 – 45 years old and also lives in a travel trailer. They both quit their jobs and are currently living on saved up money, which requires them to boondock as often as possible to cut costs. They aim to to find free spots to park at least half of the month. When they arrive in a new destination they like to stay anywhere from 2-4 weeks. They enjoy both outdoor activities and exploring cities.
For internet most RVers sign up for a cellphone data plan with either Verizon or ATT and use a MiFi to distribute it to all their devices. You’ll likely have to adjust your data usage quite a bit since cellphone plans are much more limited than what you’re used to at home. Also, you’ll want to consider buying a booster to help boost the signal in more marginal spots. My best advice is actually to buy this book written by fellow RVers and techno-mads who’ve dedicated 226 pages to this exact question:

Then you move down the road of life to state parks. Now you walk out your little RV door and see nothing but trees and space, maybe a glint of your neighbor through it all, and certainly if they were to yell you’d hear it, but space is not only abundant, it’s beautiful. You’re now paying $20 per night. Rent has dropped to $600 / month. Utilities are still included (except for propane, we spend around $30 / month), though you won’t necessarily have a sewage connection, so you’ll need to drive over to the dump station every few days and let the pipes fly. Depending on your situation, this may happen two or five times a week. But it’s hundreds of dollars in savings in exchange for an hour or so worth of effort.


Ditch anything you can live without while you’re on your trip to keep the weight of the vehicle down. The heavier your load is, the more your gas mileage will suffer. Aside from leaving some of your favorite things at home, you can also consider emptying the majority of your freshwater supply and then filling up when you get to your campsite to further lighten your RV weight. This is a simple way to maintain or increase your gas mileage as you’re cruisin’ on down the road.
Monthly & Weekly Rates: For staying in RV Parks, monthly rates are the best rates followed by weekly, and help balance out shorter stays while we’re in transit. Urban locations are typically more expensive – so if we need to be somewhere like San Francisco, Austin, St. Louis, etc. – monthly rates can be $500-1300. Some locations have seasonal rates too, so if we need to be in Florida during the winter (where our family is), it’s more expensive. If we don’t need to be near an urban area, the lowest we’ve paid so far is $300/month.
When it comes to pleasure items, you will have to keep the list low. The more people who are trying to fit in the R.V., the less space you personally will have. Take the most special and most used toys. If you plan to take furniture, take smaller items and remember that they have to be secured or they will shift when driving. You can put extra items in storage units.
It’s a part of who he is and who he will be. You can’t tell me growing up and learning to run in sprawling national parks doesn’t leave an impression. We will likely end up in a traditional house again, and our children will likely go back to a traditional school. But travel will remain a priority for us, and we will design our future with that in mind.
[…] I think we will end up trying to travel with the weather but we have not decided on exact plans yet. Luckily there a LOT of people that travel the country and there are so many helpful websites, blogs, instructional and educational videos out there. I have also heard that full time RVer’s are very kind and helpful and care about their communities. I have found some awesome tips about RVing with dogs, Rv campsite review websites, public land camping and free locations to park, and all kinds of amazing videos about how to replacing flooring and painting the walls and of course all kinds of lists like the “10 things I wish I’d known before RVing“. […]
Have you ever thought about living full-time in an RV? Or wondered how you would choose where to live after military retirement? Jan Wesner Childs and her family did both at the same time! In this guest post, she shares her family’s experience as full-time RVers after her husband retired from the Army. They traveled for a year to explore the U.S. and decide where they wanted to settle.

Now… we aren’t full time RV living like most people – we are completely stationary and have no intentions of touring around the United States in our RV! That said, if that’s what you ARE interested, here are some quality blogs, YouTube channels and Facebook groups of folks that are doing such thing… hopefully they’ll be a great additional source of inspiration to you!


$1,541 Grocery – Keeping to our roots we’re shopping local when possible. Didn’t see too many Farmers Markets over these past 5 months which is pretty sad, and many times we were stuck to Wal-Mart for groceries which is basically against our “religion”! Sometime when you travel you can’t always practice what you preach (see our post on Can an RV be Green), but do know if there’s an organic version of the fruits and veggies we need you better believe we’re going to buy it vs. the conventional. We’re heading back to the West in 2013 so we should be able to get fresh, local, and regional foods again.
It’s been just over a year since we moved out of the RV. Even though we knew our decision to stop full time RVing was the right one, moving out of the RV was easier said than done. With the help of some friends, it only took a few hours to get all our stuff out of the RV. The emotional “moving out” has taken much longer. For Brent and I, it’s been a surprisingly difficult painful new “road”.
2017 Update – YES. We still feel the same way. Clubs are only useful IF you make use of them. There are RV folks who love their club memberships (e.g. Thousand Trails members who do nothing but stay at Thousand Trails), but for our type of camping (mostly public land, lots of State Parks etc) they simply haven’t made sense. The only membership clubs we currently have are Harvest Hosts, Escapees & Passport America. I always recommend that newbies wait on joining any camping clubs until they’ve spent some time on the road and figured out how they like to travel. Read more about my take on Camping Clubs HERE.

To make sure our hose drained quickly, we built a downhill track for it out of cheap vinyl guttering and cinder blocks.  (We did have one of those accordion folding type of sewer hose supports, but it was constantly falling over and we wanted something sturdier.)  Additionally, our sewer hose runs under the bottom of our RV and is fully enclosed with skirting, so frozen sewage hasn’t been a problem for us.

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.
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