Total Expenses for this time period: $18,377$1532 Fuel Cost – From the Jersey Shore, through PA, into Indiana for Service, to St. Louis for a wedding, Dallas, Cloudcroft New Mexico, and into Lake Havasu City. We logged a lot of miles across this great country in both the RV and the Smart car. Can’t really balk about this expense, it’s a lot lower than the both of us taking a few flights. If you’re curious about mileage check out the post Monaco Vesta Fuel Economy you’ll find way more info than you’ll ever need to know on our fuel economy, and how to calculate your RV Fuel MPG.$76 RV Park Camping – Camping for next to nothing: Possibly the biggest “Happy” Point for our 2012 travels across the Eastern part of North America! Thanks to our Thousand Trails membership, several nights of Wal-Mart & Truck Stop camping (if you’ve never stayed at Wal-Mart in an RV you must watch this Video Boondocking at Wal-Mart it’s actually our most popular video of all time!), and a few friendly people who opened up their driveways, we were able to stay for next to nothing the past 5 months. Also we’ve been doing a few trade-outs with campgrounds providing video and photography of their campgrounds for a small fee plus free camping. Goes to show you if you have something to offer a campground, reach out to them and see if they’re willing to do a trade (we know several people who camp for free because of a specific service they offer the campground).$982 Smart Service and Repair – This is the first major service we’ve had to complete on our little SMART car. Apparently we’ve been a little rough on this little guy, when we were in for our SMART’s yearly oil change, we were informed he sprung a small leak in the oil pan from a puncture wound. Considering we drive our little SMART off road, over mountains, and tow it behind our RV for thousands of extra miles, I’m not complaining one bit. On a happy note: We only busted 1 tire in the past 5 months (and ZERO rims) and my tire warranty paid for the replacement. Also in these expenses is a $300 spare rim and tire (our tire and rim warranty covered the replacement of a busted rim from the beginning of the year, I paid $200 to have the rim repaired, and $150 for a new tire to go on it. Now for the first time since owning the SMART we have a spare rim and tire! What a relief, now when we bust a rim or tire there will be a swap available in the RV….ahhhh the little things that make life a little more simple and stress-free).$220 RV Service and Repair – No issues over the past 5 months. We did take the RV to the “new” Monaco factory in Wakarusa Indiana for service however all our issues were covered under warranty. The TX registration sticker cost $220 for renewal to keep our plates up to date.$1034 Insurance – Carrying the same insurance coverage as the previous report minus the SAAB as I’ve now sold that….and no we still do not have health insurance. Although I did get a quote for catastrophe coverage and the cost was nearly $300 per month and we would pay the first $10,000, then the insurance would pay 80% of anything over $10k. Health insurance for individuals who own small businesses just plain stinks! Oh and if you’re like us and working from the road with expensive equipment you must purchase a ‘rider’ to make sure your gear is covered while traveling outside of the RV. Our policy sent me a check for nearly $3,700.00 when I dropped my camera into the creek. See the previous post for details.$2893 Gone With the Wynn’s Website – In case you haven’t noticed we have a completely new look! From tip to toe we’re sleeker and sexier (or at least we think so). Downside is these enhancements didn’t come for free. In order to dish out this contemporary new look we were hit with website theme fees ($100), Hosting Fees ($100), Email Distribution Fees ($120), Video Hosting Fees ($100), Facebook Fees ($120), and so on and so on! We also had to hire a website designer and a website developer to help us make the move, address all the unknown issues that came up during the transition, to help us customize the site to fit our niche needs, and for that we spent a lot more than we ever anticipated: $2353. Needless to say for a website that doesn’t directly make us any money we’re forking over a lot of dough to keep this thing going. OK, enough bitchin’ right? Let’s move on to something more fun….
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.
another outstanding post–and very timely for me-have finally reached a decision re hitting the road after following your blog and so many others–a great source of inspiration and information. have been doing lots of research on the forums and just signed up for the Escapees Boot Camp as a walk-in. will finalize my thinking re rig size and other items soon and this input is great!! hope to hit the road by the end of the year as the “downsizing” is already completed and most is in storage–need to “just do it”!! thanks again for all the info–really enjoy your posts–you guys have been a big inspiration
I am grateful that I found your site. My hubby and I are seriously thinking about selling our home (fortunate to have a lot of equity) and purchasing a RV to live in with our three boys. We live in Southern California and have owed several RV’s over the years (my current car is a class B roadtrek). Feeling really nervous about making that move even though are children are completely supportive of the idea. How did you make this transition? We have gone through Ups and Downs financially since 2008 but also feel to our bones this is the move to make. I have not seen a family living like this (most blogs are couples). What would you do different and what size is your RV. God Bless
Thanks for discussing the cost of living in an RV. I love the breakdown of the typical budget for an RV owner. It is smart to factor in the cost of repairs and maintenance. You made a good example when you mentioned replacing the pump that makes your shower run. You couldn’t live too long without that! My husband and I have been considering buying my uncle’s old RV, so repairs are something we would need to think about!
​As I said before, our monthly lodging expense is relatively low because of free boondocking, staying with friends and family, and our use of RV Memberships. We stayed at places owned by family or friends for 142 days in 2017 at no cost to us (THANK YOU!! We love you all!). Besides Boondocker’s Welcome and Harvest Hosts for the occasional stay, we heavily relied on our Thousand Trails Zone Passes. We received our first one for 2015-2016 for free with the purchase of our RV (perk from dealer), and then we purchased Buy One Get One passes for $545 for the entire West Coast. The first 30 nights were included, and then it was $3 a night after that. We ended up staying 143 nights in Thousand Trails campgrounds with our NW/SW Zone Pass, which brought our average cost per night staying at these (mostly) full hookup sites for less than $6/night.
I once read an article that said having adventures, big and small, were the secret to long lasting happy marriages. I think about all the people I know who are happily married, not the ones who manage to get along and check off life’s boxes like efficient business partners, but the ones who delight in each other, the ones who share a certain noticeable energy that seems to propel them through life. I’ve noticed most of these people make adventure a way of life whether it’s driving across the county to see an iron bridge, taking a different way home just because, trying new restaurants, challenging their minds together, or spontaneously flying to France because they found cheap tickets online. (Umm…that would be my crazy parents.) This past year we’ve been so overwhelmed by adjusting back to a normal life with things like electric bills and school commitments that we’ve almost forgotten to have fun. It was like suddenly after 16 years our honeymoon was over.
Propane allows us to run the furnace, cook, and (if we choose) have hot water. We try to use it sparingly by cooking outdoors on the grill, wearing ample clothing during cold seasons, and use campground showers when possible (and inviting enough.) Filling our propane is easy enough as a number of RV resorts offer on-site fill or contract a company to fill your tanks on-site. You can also exchange tanks or fill them at truck stops like Flying J, Loves, and others. The average in most states is $22 for exchange and $18 for a refill of a 10lb. tank.
I have owned a few RVs so far and would love to have another for full time use. The problem is I live and work in a very large city. There are very few places where I could park it and be close to work without having a long commute. I do hope one day I will be able to do the same things you guys are doing. I will be following your blog and I enjoy watching your videos. Keep up the good work and I am looking forward to watching the next one!

Hi Kirsten, those are great questions! I have written a number of posts about organization, personal space, etc. You may be able to find what you are looking for on my blog by using the search box on the bottom right hand side, using search terms like organization, small home living, camper living with kids, etc. You will also find videos of the inside of our camper on http://youtube.com/americanfamilynow. Our 31′ camper is a bunkhouse. It has four bunk beds on one end and a full size bed on the other end, with a couch, table, and kitchen area in between. We shopped around quite a bit until we found what we were looking for. Campers come in all shapes and sizes! Thanks for reading!
Skirting your RV – If you have an RV without insulated bays, or a trailer, you will need skirting in extreme weather. The majority of RV’s are not made for extreme cold so chances are if you plan to be in consistent freezing temps you should look into investing in this. In some cases if temperatures drop below 0 degrees you will need to run a space heater under your coach (inside your skirting) to keep it warm. I stay away from propane heaters and use an electric commercial heater under our RV.
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.
Well congrats on the upcoming adventures! For an easy “entry” into RVing I would most definitely recommend the New Mexico State Camping Pass. Not only are all the New Mexico parks quite lovely, they’re spacious with lots of trails (very dog friendly) and you’ll get to travel around and see a lot of variety at very low cost. Plus you can test out your rig and dry camping skills. I think it’s an excellent idea! Good luck and good travels!
Today is the first time I’ve wandered down through the comment sections, and I have to say I was shocked with some of the hostile responses! Kudos to you guys for handling the negativity well, and know that for every Negative Nancy shouting off in the comments about your personal spending habits, I’m sure there are dozens of unvoiced happy readers delighted with your candid and thoughtful post. Keep it up!
Pay no mind to the ignorant few; the rest of us really find value in the information you share. We’ve been transitioning away from the “american dream”, sold our house, are doing some major downsizing now and learning to live on less than half of what we made before. We are putting all our time/effort into selling our stuff and inventory from our micro inventory-based business (i.e. Ebay/Etsy shop) and transitioning to multiple streams of revenue that allows us to travel lightly. We only pay for essentials right now so we can save the rest. People just don’t know the whole story and like to play the victim game when they hear of people leading fulfilling lives and assume you are loaded; like you we are choosing to empower ourselves and our dream, not be stuck in fear and everyone else’s view of what life should look like. Bravo Nikki and Jason!
Since I’m in a wheelchair and can’t do as many outside chores as I used to, we decided that water was too big a problem and so don’t use it in our unit – except for in the toidy, in which we use antifreeze. We drink distilled water anyway, which we purchase in handy 5-gallon plastic jugs, so it’s no big deal. While it’s easy enough to wash oneself in most RV parks, we always carry Huggies soaked in a sterilizing liquid (one part vodka to five parts water) and that keeps what needs cleaning nice and fresh. 😉 We also use One-Step hand sanitizer routinely. Where we like to park, there are excellent rec centers not too far away, so on laundry day we enjoy a good long soak in the hot tub, and then a little time in the sauna, before heading for the showers
5. You should have a bit of DIY knowledge. You don’t exactly have to be a mechanic or a plumber or and electrician, but a little knowledge in all of those fields will be helpful for this lifestyle. This is especially the case if you will be moving often and putting a lot of miles on the RV. There is more maintenance involved with an RV than a regular home. Therefore, it would be best to get to know your owner’s manual and what it suggests. Basic plumbing and electrical knowledge will go a long way, as will knowing what to do if your roof or windowsills leak. It is also a good idea to have a maintenance routine that you go through on a set schedule.
In early February, 2016, a bill was introduced in South Dakota that would effectively deny anyone using a South Dakota mail forwarding service as their legal domicile the right to vote. The history behind this bill was that in Pennington Country a vehicle tax increase of $60 came up for a vote, and prior to voting day, certain politicians assumed that the nomadic RVers with legal domiciles in that county would unanimously vote against it.
In the case of Nationwide (Allied), there is a four page description of how personal effects are covered and the capping methodology used, including more than a page of listed exclusions. Some highlights: There’s a cap of $500 per individual item. Groups of similar types of items are capped differently, for instance items grouped as “camera equipment” or “fishing gear” or “musical instruments” are capped at $1,000 per group while items grouped as “computer equipment,” “tools” and “silverware” are capped at $3,000 per group.
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.
When you live in an RV, you adopt a mantra: one in, one out. There just isn’t the room to collect things. We started paring down our collection of stuff in preparation for living in an RV, but once you're in it, the lack of extra storage space really helps to curtail any retail therapy you may employ. The fact that we no longer watch much TV and even fewer commercials means we're not as bombarded by messaging to buy, buy, buy and have less impulse to go shopping. We now collect memories and sunsets with a few smashed pennies and stickers thrown in for good measure.
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