“Variable costs” are lifestyle expenses that are essentially optional — at least for a while. They can be deferred to a later month, foregone all together, or can make a fun splash in the current month. The great thing about these expenses is that they are controllable. If fuel costs skyrocket or you are short on funds, then stay put and save money! If you’ve got a more modest budget, consider staying in each location for a month or a full season to take advantage of the monthly or seasonal rates at RV parks. If you really want to skimp, boondock or at least stay in the dry camping sites at any RV park or campground that will allow it and has them available.

Our fifth wheel is a 2005, which means it needs repairs quite frequently (we have a new issue come up about every 6 weeks or so). We try to do repair projects ourselves (thanks to YouTube) to avoid the outrageous costs of paying an RV mechanic. We also cook in the RV often and typically turn on the heat during the cooler evenings, which uses up our propane. It costs about $20 to refill our propane tank each month.
Recently my wife and I have been thinking that it would be really fun to RV full-time, since right now we just seem to sit at home. We have always loved traveling, so it would be perfect to have our own space. It sounds like it can be a fairly good idea for those with some good retirement set aside. First, we should probably start looking around at nice RVs to see if we can find anything that we like. I will also see if we need to get things like internet put in, as well as looking at any other features that we may need added. Thanks for the great post!
I apologize very much for not giving you proper credit for your work. I have adjusted the post to direct people to your website for skirting. I’m sure you don’t remember but you helped my wife and I purchase the tools we needed to prepare our RV for a last minute winter storm in Breckenridge. Without your help I know our pipes would have frozen and it would have costs us hundreds in repairs.

Yes, we'd say having our car catch on fire in west Texas definitely ranks as a low point. We had stopped at a pull off area in between the small town of Alpine and the smaller town of Marfa looking at wildflowers when Brandon noticed the car smoking. Brandon ran back and found a fire in the engine compartment. We pulled our small fire extinguisher out of the trunk and knocked the flames down. Brandon was able to pull everything out of the car while Kerensa called for help. The signal is very spotty out there and we were able to maintain signal just long enough to get our location to the operator. When she asked for a call back number in case we were disconnected, the line died and the signal never recovered. Thankfully, the sheriff and fire department were already on their way and they were able to put out the fire and take us back to the campground.
It’s good to have an idea of where to go, what to do and how long to stay but don’t have a rigid plan. Be flexible enough to have the option to stay a few extra nights or leave early. Every town we drive into is a new experience. Sometimes we love the town and sometimes it’s just not our cup of tea. Having a flexible schedule means we can stay longer in places we enjoy and take off early if we’re not feeling it.
I love to cook as well…but then I like checking out the local brewski scene even better. About 80% of our going out during the winter is at the Elks which is cheap for both food and beer…$5.50 a pitcher and dinner for $9…but in the travel season we tend to eat at the local Elks maybe 10% and the rest at various hole in the walls. I don’t think we could get to your numbers even if we cut out the DirectTV fees and workamped…but then travel style is different for everybody…and one of the big drivers is what you can afford to spend. We’re fortunate that we can (mostly) not really budget…we could get down to JC’s 6K per month if we needed to without much strain…and if we needed to we would…but we don’t so we don’t. Our secret was to turn all of that money stuff over to a financial planning service up in the DC area when we went on the road…sure, we’re paying their annual percentage but we’re in a medium growth and income portfolio profile…we’ve averaged about 5% return since 1/1/13 and have taken out about $50K over that time frame for big ticket items like the new truck, trip to Ireland, trip to Alaska, etc.
Curtis, thanks for the tips. We don’t spend much on campgrounds now and have not signed up for Passport America becuase the campgrounds have not been on our route yet. And we do shop at farmers markets frequently and love them! We have been looking into some alternatives for phone plans. If you run across something that looks great, let us know. And as for the reward points we use the heck out of those things! We agree they are super awesome and we almost never pay cash for anything.
Yes on the dual sided heated mattress pad. Your friend in the winter! This winter I slept on an 8″ memory foam mattress, topped with the heated mattress pad, then a 3″ memory foam on top of that. I turned on the mattress pad about an hour before I go to bed (if it isnt already on!). I cranked it up to High and turned it down to 3 or 4 when I got in bed. It will warm up the top pad. When you get in bed the top MF is soft and as you sink into it you get the warmth rising. This winter I was in a really, really cold cinderblock house in the Midwest. Last winter I did this in my Teardrop trailer with a 4″ regular foam mattress, the heated mattress pad and the 3″ of MF.
$1237 Editing Software – We finally purchased Adobe Photoshop CS6 ($600), I’ve been using an old version for the past several years. We also purchased the newest version of Lightroom ($150). Both of these programs allow us to view, edit, and post our RAW photographs more beautifully and professionally. If you’re not heavy into photo editing or design I DO NOT recommend purchasing Photoshop, it’s a bulky, expensive, and difficult to understand program. Save your money and get a more consumer based photo editing program. I also purchased a great video plug-in for Adobe Premiere Pro video editing software. This new plug-in suite from Red Giant ($480) allows me to make similar enhancements to my video that I can make on my photos.
Well we just closed the deal. We have our new 2012 Monaco Vesta 35PDB. We will pick it up at the end of this week. They need to prep it and I am having them install solar panels and a satellite dish. I do have a queston on tire pressure monitor system. I have been reviewing them on Amazon and not sure which one to go with. I never had one on our 2001 36′ Winnebago but I would like to get one for the Vesta. What do you have and how do you like it?
I think RV living would be awesome but I’m not sure if we could do it full time (or that my wife would want to) but I could see us trying an extended trip someday. I couldn’t imagine it with 3 kids though – our 1 daughter keeps us busy enough 🙂 I’m glad to hear that shifting to RV living full time has been a good experience and that your online work seems to be going well! Enjoy the experience!
Regular hose, however, was not recommended by the heat tape manufacturer, which clearly specified metal or plastic water pipe. A hose was not a water pipe. Perhaps it wouldn’t work as well. Or perhaps it would degrade the hose and cause problems. I could imagine being poisoned by the breakdown of chemicals in my hose. (Seriously: I have a pretty good imagination sometimes.)
Those are the top things that have been a challenge for us to overcome as RV'ers. RV travel falls somewhere between having the comforts of home and camping – and your mileage may vary depending on your budget. The sky is the limit when it comes to RV's – you can buy something that's affordable that may require a few sacrifices, or there are ones that will make you feel like a rock star. 
$2,070 Cat Expenses: For safety we had to board our cats for several days during the festivals we attended, and for 3 weeks during our Best of the Road competition. Singa had to visit the vet for a cut in his eye from chasing lizards into the brush, and both cats got caught up on their shots/vaccinations. This price also includes their Food, Litter, and Wild Caught Salmon from the grocery story (yes they’re a little spoiled)
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.
Every RV comes with a manual and you two should spend some quality time together. Learn your way around the electrical system and the fuse box. Don’t be intimidated by basic plumbing. Be prepared to patch leaks in the roof and around windows and doors with sealants. Establish a routine to perform the annual chores recommended by the manual. These are not onerous tasks, but essential ones to making life easy on the road.
Hi Ray. Best of luck with your new plans. It is a big change indeed but could be a very rewarding one. I don’t think I have the right insight on this but will try to point you to people who do. I would definitely check out the Boyink family at Ditching Suburbia. They are Christian RVers who have great resources on their site. I’ve interviewed them on the podcast twice before. Really good people. Also, if you haven’t found them already, the Full-Time Families page and the Full-time Families group on Facebook is comprised mostly of RV people. They are an eclectic bunch, but I’m sure that there are people there who have better info on what you’re looking for. Best of luck Ray, and let us know how it goes!

The biggest problem for full-timers is covering their personal belongings. Anything that was not originally sold with the RV and is not attached (imagine turning the RV upside down to find out what’s “not attached”), is considered “Personal Effects,” and most RV policies include some kind of coverage for Personal Effects. However, from my research, this coverage is woefully inadequate if you have anything beyond basic camping gear in your rig.


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.
Hello I am considering hitting the road now that we are bill-less. Tell me how do you have a permanent address? For your drivers licenses, tabs and things like that. I ask this because I will be traveling with my special needs child and I will need monthly supplies wherever we are at. I have gotten most everything on line now but supplies are are different matter. Do you think I will be restricted in our travels? If we get to travel at all? I am also getting a 40′ because I can’t do it in anything smaller, not that I have a lot of stuff but because of what I need. I have lived in a 37′ fifth wheel when we were younger and we both loved it, had it for 4 years of living. I am going motor home this time around. I have done a lot of research on it and although there aren’t very many parks that can handle 40′, more and more are popping up. I found your postings just today and sucked up most everything. Your blogs also confirmed my research and also made me aware of things that I did not know. Even if I can’t travel because of this, I will still be buying a motor home for us to live in. Please be blunt if you choose to respond on whether you think I should or not do the travel part. Thank you.
Did Verizon let Nikki upgrade her phone without changing her Internet feature? We’re also wondering what you use to tether your phone to the computer – other than buying Verizon’s $20 hotspot feature, I found an article that says iPhones can tether without this feature using the phone’s web browser and tether.com for $30 a year. Thanks so much for your advice!
4. Be comfortable with minimalist living. If ever there was a lifestyle that demanded a downsizing of material possessions, full time RV living is definitely it. You must be able to decide exactly which clothing items you can’t live without and get rid of the rest. The same goes for furniture, dishes, electronic gadgets, hobby items and a lot more. You could have a yard sale to get rid of the excess. You could sell on eBay or give items away to charity or friends and family. You might even decide that you’re not ready to completely rid yourself of everything and put some items in storage. However, if the latter holds true, then it could be possible that you aren’t truly ready for a full time RV lifestyle.
Clothing is something to consider as well. You’ll likely have less space to store a huge wardrobe, but you will also likely be exposed to more climates and variety of venues – thus requiring a well balanced selection. We tend to do a lot of thrift shopping for our clothing, this helps us affordably adapt to local weather & venues.  But we’re also not afraid to spend good money for quality staples in our wardrobe.
Over the past few years we’ve received too many questions and demands from rude people in regards to our spending; so this will likely be the last time we post any business expenses or personal expenses that are not related to RV Travel. Our monthly expenses seem to be pretty similar so if you need to know our expenses in more detail scroll down to the toggles for 2013 and older.Below is a breakdown of our travel costs and expenses from January 01, 2014 to March 28, 2014. In future Full Time RV Expense posts you’ll only see these categories.
a tip for those that may come upon a bear or timber wolf or large cat; carry a boat horn with you. you can get them at any boating outlet or cabellas or dicks. it’s pressurized and is very very loud. i put a lanyard on it and carry it around my neck. if a creature that can do me harm is within sight, I give it a blast or two and they hi-tail it out of there. it would be helpful in finding me as well if i were injured or lost.

There are lots of long term RV Parks that run anywhere from $350 a month to $1500 a month depending on the park and location. Could be more comfortable (less expensive than hotels) and easier than packing up and dealing with storage units often. As for finding an RV park, that is as simple as a google search once you know the area you are headed. You can look at sites like rvparkreviews.com to read what others experiences have been.
You can set the Netflix download quality. We have it set to “lowest” quality which used 0.3 GB per hour. So, it just depends how much we stream that month. And yes, we do get connectivity most places we go, even the boonies. There’s occasional spots we don’t have it, but we usually make it a priority to stay where we do. We both need it for work, so it’s a pretty important part of our daily lives. We have both ATT & Verizon PLUS we have boosters so we can pull in signals from fairly far away.
We are about to enter our second winter living in our fifth wheel, and since we bought the RV in summer of 2016 we have been parked stationary in Kansas City (on the Kansas side).  (In case you are wondering right now why we don’t just move south for winter, it’s because we are tied to a job here for now.) The climate here is not as severe as some places people might be living or camping in the winter, but it can get pretty cold.
​We have two dogs who are ages 10 and 12, and thankfully both are still very healthy. These monthly costs are mostly food (buy from Costco, so gets bunched in with the Grocery/Household category a lot), heartworm preventative, flea and tick treatments, etc. We have had to take them to vets for lump removals and sudden illness (got better fast), and both dogs got dental cleanings done in 2017. We reduce our costs some by doing a lot of home pet care (for skin things, minor cuts, etc) and by going to vaccination clinics where you can get rabies and annual vaccinations for fractions of the cost. 
Fortunately, there are lots of RV parks that are designed with this conundrum in mind, offering activities for kids and adults alike. For example, the Jellystone Parks family of RV resorts has fun, themed activities and tons of amenities like swimming pools, water slides, and bounce houses, making it one of the best solutions to RV vacations for families.
We already knew we enjoyed Vermont having traveled up to the southern part of the state a few times when living in the area. But we were still surprised by how much we enjoyed Burlington once we got up there. We only had a few weeks, but could have easily spent the whole summer there. It really seems to come alive and Vermonters make the most out of the season. Brandon was able to dive Lake Champlain multiple times and explore a wreck only a handful of people had seen before. And seriously, we're out of maple syrup, so we may need to go back this year.
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