3/ decorations – we bought a bunch of RV type decorations (e.g. Hanging lamps for our awning) that we never used and ended up giving away. My advice is don’t buy too many decorations until you get on the road, since you’ll quickly figure out what you use and what you don’t. Some camping chairs and a small collapsible side-table will get you started on your outdoor gear. Add on from there as you go.
These days everything is available online and if you’re putting most of your spend on credit or debit cards* it’s super easy to import it into programs (e.g Quicken or Mint) that will summarize and keep track of exactly where your money is going. Not only will this give you a solid idea of your starting point, but it will be key to pointing out places you can possibly save once you change your lifestyle and get on the road.
Avoid bringing the items you could easily just buy while on the road if you absolutely needed them, especially if your space is limited. It’s easy to go overboard buying all sorts of accessories for the RV. We recommend getting the bare minimum and then you can always purchase more as you, if there are items you wish you had. It’s much easier to do this then deal with the frustration of having too much crammed in!
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.
We were city dwellers before heading out on this never-ending trip. We drove daily to work in big cities like Dallas and the area around New York City (for her part, Kerensa will readily admit she took public transportation daily in NYC and was already out of practice). Doing it in a car is one thing, but in a motorhome is an altogether different experience. Cars tend to zip around you and most people don't realize how long it takes for an RV to stop. It can be a little nervewracking. To combat this, we try to avoid rush hour and may take alternate routes. PSA: Don't cut off an RV in traffic. You may think you're jumping ahead, but you may be dooming yourself to being rear-ended by something 5 times your size.
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?
The electric blower motor in your furnace in your RV uses MOST of the electricity usage, in your RV, BY FAR. I had 4 of the biggest deep cycle batteries walmart makes in my RV, each 29 size and each 125 amp hours, so 500 amp hours. (for my truck camper) vs class A with 500 amp hours, you are woefully underpowered for dry camping, unless you want to be running your generator a lot. I have ad a honda 1000 generator, but I found i never needed to use it, and the inconvenience of dragging it out, gassing it up, chaining it up, and then packing up and storing, was not worth it. I DID however have zero guage wire from batteries to alternator in truck to recharge them that worked great. batteries lasted 2 years before needed replacing. Id reccomend the 29DC – MAXX not the regular 29DC, as maxx has 1 year warranty (used to be 2), and slightly more amp hours and better built.
We offer free stays for anyone wanting us too build for them their dream home and if we don,t that’s ok We at least have made a new friend and life Don,t get any better than that. We will even guide DIYers or maybe just build them one of our shells. I HAVE GOT TO SAY THIS,I have enjoyed your arrival as much as any I read,it covered some very important facts and aspects of living on the road.Please keep writing and let’s all be thankful too Kent Griswald for his super blog. My best to you Timmy & Kage
Within the last month I moved out of my apartment, purchased a new tow car and a 21′ travel trailer (monthly financing less than what I was paying for rent, and I will own them). I was really excited and didn’t quite think things through about where I was going to boondock. I work for Wal-mart and made arrangements with my store manager, but it is an awkward experience. Now to the point, I can’t be without internet. I use non contract boost mobile and pay $50 a month, this includes “unlimited” call, text and date plus my phone has hot spot capabilities. It allows for 2.5 gig a month of data and then when you reach the limit it slows your speed but you still have access to internet.
Living in an RV or any small space can have its challenges. The first year of full time RV life flew by in the blink of an eye. As we celebrate our three years of RVing, I want to share some tips that helped us survive the transition to RV living. Whether you’re a solo RVer, family of five or a couple with a dog, I hope you find these tips helpful.
And to add some encouragement for you, years ago when my children were young, I homeschooled/unschooled them for the majority of their education. We were fortunate to have moved across the country for work a few times and had the opportunity to do a lot of camping. They are now both rising seniors in college and doing extremely well. They are pursuing their passions instead of checking a box. I know their unconventional formative years are a contributing factor to their life choices.
There is little risk in joining these programs, as they are cheap to join and you do not have to renew if you don’t like the program. Sometimes they even offer a money-back guarantee for the first 90 days. However, because the member parks are independently run, RV parks join and abandon the programs as suits their individual business needs. When you make your reservation, double check that the park is still a member of your program.
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!
I was about to say the same thing. 2,500 is way too much. I was hoping with discount plans to be able to hit the road with about $400k, paid for Truck and 5th wheel and spend about $1000 a month. Just leaving the cash in a normal retirement plan which would return about $700 a month (grandpa is on something similar at the moment) and Social Security (if still available) should be a couple hundred more. Figured out of my pocket I would be spending about $300 – $400 of my own money per month. That would last me pretty much forever and a lot left over for nephews and nieces.
I make some money blogging, but it’s not a significant portion of our income. I could probably make more if I were more aggressive with product promotion/partnerships and advertising, but it’s simply not my style nor is it the style of the type of writing/blogging I do. I’m very picky about the types of products I promote and work hard to keep my blog honest and relatable. It’s primarily about RV travel and sharing that love of travel online. Everything else is a bonus 🙂
Did you say,only 50k miles? When I was working, I recall 1 week, on night service, well what with the heat ( 93, or 94 ) but that was 1500 miles in NJ, my last car 355k miles, anyhow , if I ever go on the road it probably HYMER 1.0 but it would only. Be me.Wife can’t ever see anyone living in a vehicle, the other is my age 77, and 1.35 million miles, so I now only use a 1/2 tank per month ! 2013 Ford Taurus.
If you’ve got the girl, what sounds like a relatively compatible possible future career path, and are willing to live minimally, this could certainly all work out for you. Getting a vanagon in Alabama or somewhere in the south would be likely cheaper, but your options will be much more vast in Washington and Oregon. Just watch for rust, the ocean isn’t kind to these old girls.
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.
Most RV parks have wifi, but the speed is slow and it might make you want to pull your hair out. If you’re going to be working out of your RV full-time, I would highly recommend investing in a cell booster that amplifies your sign signal. A cell booster will amplify your signal while camping in places with low signal. We use the WeBoost cell booster (affiliate link) and it makes a huge difference in allowing us to get internet in remote places.
Now I’ll tell you what I will do. I will show you how an average lower-middle class family can not only survive financial difficulty, but thrive despite it and use the situation to invest in their future. I’ll tell you what we’ve learned about financial responsibility through our hardship, and I’ll give you some encouragement on your own journey to financial freedom.
Also, there are endless ways to earn an income on the road. Photography, writing and other freelance gigs come to mind as the most obvious, but even many company jobs are now location independent. Our accountant is a full-time RVer, while another good friend in sales recently convinced his large corporate employer to let him travel full-time. When he laid out the cost, it was actually cheaper for the company than the monthly airfare / hotel costs he was racking up while traveling a few days each week. The point is, the options are endless.
So, we take our $7200 and leave on our new life of freedom until we need more money. Then, we choose a place we want to be for a while, stop there, and get a job paying as much as we can, but at least $7 per hour . For that month we take home about $1000. We spend half of that to live on, and now have $500 in savings. Actually, we should have more since we won’t be driving much (some of us will ride our bike, scooter or motorcycle which we are carrying on a bike rack or trailer). So we can take that $500 and are off again. Or we can spend several months at one place and then travel several months. Maybe you like to ski so you spend three months at a ski resort working and skiing on the weekends. Then you have the next three months off to do whatever and go wherever you want. When you need to work again, you drive up to Glacier National Park and get a job there doing dishes at the resort. You spend your summer weekends hiking and taking pictures. Three months later, you are free again. Or maybe you are a history buff. So you drive to Gettysburg and get a job there. You spend your weekends exploring the Amish country and Philadelphia. You then go to New England to photograph the fall colors and spend a month exploring Washington DC. When you need to work again you drive to Orlando or Miami, get a job, and explore Florida. If you are adventurous you can work your way down to a beach resort in Mexico where you work for the next three months and surf, fish and snorkel on your weekends. Working in the tourist industry you probably double your wage in tips and living in Mexico is very cheap so you save even more than usual. Now you can take the next six months off in the U.S., or maybe nine months off in Mexico. You keep doing this to your heart’s content!
It kinda depends. Most places you can be somewhat creative on how you park, but you do want to factor some space for your extra stuff. I would start by booking larger sizes until it get a feel for how you can arrange everything on-site. We’ve been able to park in most 40-foot sites with our little toad squeezed sideways in the front. We’ve even made it into smaller sites as long as access was good and the site provided some overhang. Then again, there are some 40-foot sites that won’t fit us at all because trees are in the way, or roads turns are tight etc.
An RV is a luxury item that depreciates rapidly, so I advise young people to get as cheap and small a unit as possible. A used popup tent trailer is wonderful because it fits in the garage and doesn’t need much storage space. Any kind of light 11’ to 12’ trailer is a great way to start. Going used at first is preferable, but if they are well off, buying new is always much nicer. I recently wrote an article about learning the RVing lifestyle with a small RV: http://roadslesstraveled.us/learn-the-rving-lifestyle-with-a-cheap-small-rv/
I am currently in the process of getting a job in Malaga. The Wenatchee and surrounding areas look beautiful, though I am not one for apartment life (I prefer cheaper living and green space.) I’m trying to figure out a way to have an RV or a tiny house out there, though I’m not sure where to start. I’ll be in the area this Friday (I currenly live in Michigan), do you have any suggestions on finding a lot to rent or take care of in exchage for rent?
$2,500 Insurance: Includes RV insurance, Car insurance, Life Insurance, Renter’s Insurance (to cover our belongings at home), Jewelry Insurance, and a Rider policy for camera/computer gear. We switched to State Farm Insurance halfway through the year and it saved us nearly $75+ per month vs. Geico and Progressive. We do not currently have health insurance, I know don’t yell at us… (est. savings $900)
Nina – another great post! This is the first winter that we have spent (prior two winters spent in Florida) traveling in the West, and we are finding that there are many more opportunities to manage camping costs out here, as compared to the east cost. In general, RV site costs in Florida and Georgia, are a bit more expensive than Arizona, New Mexico, Texas. We (like you and Paul) have a large RV, and have found a lot more public campgrounds and public land in the West, that we can fit in. In Florida, state park reservations can be hard to get, and many of the campgrounds primarily have smaller sites (at least this was our experience).
The most popular inexpensive campground membership is offered by Passport America. They charge an annual fee of $44 ($79 for 2 years, $399 for lifetime) and offer a 50% savings off the nightly rate at any of the 1,900 member RV parks. Another similar membership program is Happy Camper which costs $40 per year and also offers 50% off at their 1,200 member RV parks.
We save so much money and stretch our dollar just by RVing. Not only do we save on the cost of hotels, but we save on not buying plane tickets! We have priced out the cost of driving versus flying to our destinations along with the cost of a hotel, and we save hundreds. Even with the cost of the RV payment over the year, we still make out better every time!
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.
Well I’m happy I could help alleviate some of that angst. You’ll be in great company out here -> lots of folks all doing this same RV thing, and I’d care to venture almost every one of them had some level of anxiety about it before they started. Just be open to the experience, and see where it takes you. Even if you end up not liking it, it’ll give you new and amazing experiences. Plus you will never have the regret of saying “I only wish I had tried it”.
RV shows are great places to meet fellow RV’ers, the forums like irv2 are great for chatting and asking questions and membership groups like escapees are there to help people through the process. Then of course there are blogs like ours where we try to share helpful information and a general glimpse into the lifestyle. Blogs are a fantastic resource and if you spend some time watching videos and reading through you will learn a ton.
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, being able to “thrive” depends not on someone else’s description of the term, but on our own. Each of us, you and I both, need to decide what makes us happy in life. Deciding that you don’t need to be like everyone else is the first major hurdle jumped in living debt-free, and every person who decides to live without debt has their own reason for doing so.
Hey Joe – to be honest we never had an issue getting in/out of a gas station with our toad. We try to fill at Costco’s and they always have plenty of room but even small country gas stations have worked. However to your point, you can’t just drive in and expect to make it out, there is some planning that needs to happen to ensure you can get in and then back out without having to disconnect the toad. Which radio do you have?
I grew up in a travel trailer for many years. And now my husband and I are going to do it with our three kids. We looked into it financially and found out, it was a very good option the storage unit, truck, trailer and our land payment would add up to be less than the rent we pay. So when we build, the house will not be such a financial burden, if any. Your post has helped me believe it will end up being the best option even with all the kids.
My VA business focuses on providing social media, blogging, and email marketing support for small businesses and my husband is now coming on board to focus on web design and SEO work. Outside of that, we continue to work on monetizing our travel blog and using our blog as a way to encourage other families to travel more and to also live their dreams now!
Hi!…..Thank you for all this great information. My husband and I have decided after a few years in the making to finally sell all, put our house for rent and get on the road. We have accomplished plenty of things already for the trip but we are still looking for work online specially because we are in the medical field. We will be putting our home for rent and hopefully find jobs soon enough to make our dream come true. We always had issues finding trusting dog sitters therefore decided to get an RV. Being that we are money conscious and simple people, we decided to get a fantastic older class C to travel with our dogs. We also purchased an older jeep cash and for dirt cheap, not only for emergency driving but also for off roading fun. We have been taking small trips here and there and love it. I never thought one day I would look at my house and feel the need to leave it all behind like I do now just to cram in an RV with a man and 3 dogs. In order to make this happen we put a date on our calendar as our departure whether we make it or not on that day, its happening in a few months. We are not waiting for retirement to start living and there is not a single thing that matters more to me as much as spending quality time with my husband, our dogs and our close friends. I realize this travel bug is not for everyone but its definitely for us. We rather spend our money seeing new places and meeting new people than just hanging in the same old house, falling into the same old work-home routine with the 2 week vacation once a year. Your articles are of much inspiration, Thank You.
Someone briefed over the Webasto heating system a while back and they do work great but use a bit more fuel than makes me comfortable. I saw a guy who uses a system from an RV hot water tank and ran much diluted antifreeze through it. Piped it through hot water radiators in the unit and built a system of black pipe around the engine block giving it just enough heat to keep the engine warm. He heated the coach and engine with that and only used the pilot light on the propane water heater. There was also a reservoir in the coach where he could ad more water or antifreeze if required and it radiated a ton of heat. Now, before building this, I would want to discuss it with someone much smarter than I am because I thought it was not too bright to heat antifreeze in this manner before it boiled. Everything was circulated with a little pump that drew its power from a small wind generator not much larger than that for a bicycle lamp and charged a little independent battery which he drew the power with. When I seen this it was dam cold out -40 and very warm in the coach (thermostat by open vent) Cheap heat and I am not sure what I am going to do but the areas I am in, your heater will be great and I can access lots of wood but might check out this other method also. My holding tanks, fresh and grey can all be built into the coach of the cube van.
There are other flexible costs which are smaller than these two, but can also be managed to match your individual needs. This includes things such as groceries, entertainment, electronics, gifts and clothing. In our case we spend about the same on groceries as we did before we hit the road (we love our food), somewhat less on entertainment and electronics, and way, way less on clothing (we don’t need much of a wardrobe on the road!).
Marla- good stuff, if one owns their property…those working and staying in campgrounds probably wouldn’t be able to do the mods you did. Digging definitely a no-no, but campground water/sewage has closer hook ups to use a heated/electric hose. All in all good initiative and networking! Kudos on a LIFE…being lived…Given all you do/have done… I hope you are finding ways to SHARE this kind of life w/ other women and young girls…self-confidence, self-reliance, and independence is essential to building stronger women and breaking the cycle of abuse in women and children! Namaste-
We started with the curriculum below but after about six months gave “unschooling” a try before going back to a more scheduled approach. I’m glad we tried unschooling but it didn’t work for us at that point in our lives or perhaps I just didn’t give it time. Another post all together. After our failed unschooling attempt, I added an additional writing program because I wasn’t thrilled with Sonlight or Rod and Staff’s writing components.
Just found your site. Wish we had found it sooner. Just sold our home to go fulltime rving. We have signed up with Dakota Post. Started to change addresses with credit cards and banks and they want a residential address. We could give sons in CA but then will have to pay taxes there and we had planned to domicile in SD. I was told this is part of ” The Patriot Act” Do you have any suggestions for us?
I’m a little late to be answering this, but you are so right about the floor plan needing to be functional with the slides in. We were careful about that when we bought our 5er, because we had lived in a short Class C for a year and knew what we wanted. Some of the floor plans look great with the slides out, but then you can’t get to the fridge or bathroom with the slides in, especially the kitchen island set-ups. Our fifth wheel may be a little cramped with the slides retracted, but it is completely usable.
I have a very unique situation, I think. I hope you can read the basics here and give me some advice. Single mom, works seasonally. I home school and already work in remote areas. This would be perfect, but what about winter? What happens if the power goes out? Does gas cost a ton? I have a ton of questions, but don’t want to write on a message board, can you email me ?
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?
It is always hard to sell a house and leave family and friends behind but today’s technologically rich world makes the parting a much sweeter sorrow. WIFI hotspots are becoming more prevalent around North America, especially for travelers. Many campgrounds and visitor centers are wired for your WIFI-enabled devices. Before you leave check out the many service providers and re-sellers who can keep you online and tapped in to the world while on the move. Your rig can also carry along its own satellite dish, hard-mounted or mobile. You can choose how connected you want to be in your RV.
For healthcare we keep $8,000 in our HSA account (tax-free health savings account). This not only covers our regular yearly self-pay checks, but also covers the individual deductible on our health care plan in case we should ever need it. We keep an additional 4-6 months of savings in ready cash (e.g. cash, money market, savings) for unplanned RV, pet & other expenses and regularly add to these savings through our monthly budget.
RV living requires a bit of planning and scheduling. For us, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t, and when plans overlap or scheduling gets off, things get a bit hectic! For example, when it rains, we have Wii tournaments, and when it rains all day on laundry day, supper time is a bit interesting! There is chopping, jousting, sauteeing, cheering, and clothes everywhere! Complete chaos!
Just reviewing your sage wisdom once again as I make further preps. Got the truck, mail forwarding service (Dakota Post per your recommendations – they’re every bit as brilliant, friendly and economical as you said) and just this minute joined Escapees (also per your recommendations, of course – who else would I listen to?). I made sure to mention you as referrers in gratitude for your honest, spot-on advice.
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 have setup our lifestyle as a lifestyle of freedom. No set schedules or times that we really need to be anywhere and our reservations can always be changed. This is amazing yet causes problems. Since our time is ALL ours. We could all stay in our pajamas all day if we wanted to every day. Of course we can’t do that because we do have to work and the kids won’t sit still that long.
For me, there used to be an underlying pressure to choose the “best” curriculum similar to researching and picking the safest car or best vacuum. (<== OCD much?) I may have traded a few months of my life researching curriculum when we first started homeschooling 6 years ago. It seemed like, if I just read every. single. review. and every thread on every homeschooling message board on the entire internet I would find that perfect curriculum and my kids would be on their way to Harvard before their 13th birthdays.
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)
Chip took Penni to a used RV lot just to “check it out” in 2015, but they ended up buying a 395-square foot camper they call “Daisy.” They say they love this lifestyle now and have no plans to return to a typical home. Penni is selling her condo in Montpelier because they don’t think they’ll need it anymore. They track how many states they have been to on a map on the side of their RV. The current tally is 25.