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.
It’s funny that several of the blogs I’ve come across with budgets have talked about judgment on expenses and what a commenter feel is an excessive expense. Everyone has priorities in their lives and budgets. I’m sure if you looked into the finances of these commenters, you could find spending that you may think is excessive to you, but to them it’s a necessity. People need to LIGHTEN UP! 🙂
Food — Studies have found that the average home in the U.S. wastes 25 percent of their food. This is due to spoiled food or uneaten food. When you live in an RV, space for food is limited. It is rare to throw something out because you didn't see it at the back of your small refrigerator. I think you also tend to eat healthier since you are hiking in the outdoors more. Assuming an average $440 per month for two people, you save about $75 a month.
Many people think you have to make a lot of money to travel full-time, but that’s not the case. In fact, full-time RVing can be as expensive or inexpensive as you choose. It can all depend on the type and year of the RV you purchase, how often you travel, where you park, and the activities you do in the places you visit. But, here’s a general idea of items you can expect to pay for each month if you choose the full-time RV lifestyle.
I just ran across this today. My husband and I are trying to gather info so we can set out on a full time RVing adventure. I have found this info very helpful since we have not fully committed yet by actually purchasing our RV. (He’s retired and I’m not quite yet!) My question is, what do you do about having a permanent residence for times when that is needed? (Like when it’s time to renew your driver’s license.) We plan on selling our home and this was one of the many questions that came up. Any info would be helpful in making a more informed decision. Thanks.
I would think that after 3 years of full time living on the road all of our fears about this lifestyle would be gone. Nope . . . they are still there. Things like safety in an RV park, weather (I HATE storms in the RV), going somewhere new and not knowing what to expect. We almost didn’t go to Canada this year because we were so worried about the unknown.
Life on the road can often get lonely, even for couples or families who travel together. Committing to the full-time RV lifestyle often means forgoing a sense of community, missing out on family events and waking up every day in a new, unfamiliar place. For the Nealys, this is the greatest challenge of full-time RVing. To cope, they’ve built a network of friends on the road, most of whom they met through the growing community of full-time RV lifestyle bloggers. Jennifer started the couple’s blog Nealys on Wheels to join this sort of makeshift social network. The pair began to make connections with other full-time RVers through their blog and through Instagram.
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.
Getting Personal Effects coverage above and beyond the $20,000 limit generally requires scheduling each item and giving it a value. Progressive requires each item to be appraised ahead of time and submitted as part of the application process for securing an insurance policy. Nationwide doesn’t require appraisals but asks for receipts showing prices paid and date of purchase so they can determine the depreciated value. I’m not sure how either handles the “outside the RV” scenario if the base coverage is higher than $20,000.
I’d agree. Campground internet is as unreliable as any I’ve experienced, but hotspot options from most major wireless carriers make for fast and reliable internet on the road. Depending on the carrier, it’s generally around $100-$180 per month (for the better networks) and we’ve found it to be very reliable. And, don’t forget about coffee shops and cafes, which offer a good excuse to immerse yourself in the local scene while snagging some complimentary internet.
I may be relocating from Idaho to Concordville, Pennsylvania for a job. My concerns are that the cost of living may be more than I can handle financially, but I could live in a travel trailer easily. What advise can you offer a person who has not even gone camping much less RVing. I’m sure there is much to know about the area and does it accommodate this style of living?
Love this interview! With 4 kids and dogs in an RV… We live in an RV with only 2 kids, and they don’t take many space (yet) as they are 2,5yo and 7mo. So I’m impressed 🙂 Love the tip about taking it one day at a time. That is what I should do more too. I have the tendency to plan ahead to much. Maybe a tip for other RVing families: come to Europe! Europe is great to explore in an RV, but choose a smaller vehicle because the roads and campsites are small compared to those in the US.
I heat my home with a very large woodstove and it takes up so much of my time in the winter hours. I have to collect firewood 12 months of the year just to stay stocked up and I live near St. Louis where it is mostly warm. If you could send me more info. about your cute little wood stove I “wood” really appreciate it. I need something smaller for my greenhouse.
I don’t know if a particular dollar amount works here, but the more you have on hand, the better. I think a couple needs to have a solid plan that will generate a steady monthly income while traveling and living in the RV. It would be wise to have money saved and set aside in the event of an injury or illness that could prevent you from working for a period of time. If I had to put a dollar figure on it, I would probably say a minimum of six months of income/expenses is a good place to start.
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.
For the merchandise budget I allocated $30,000, which includes such things such as solar power, computer and internet related gear including two brand new laptops, new photography gear (have Nikon cameras, but want digital). Currently up to $28,000 on my list, but still have things to add to the list. The budget for the merchandise could even be low.
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.
My first winter after living in the COMET for the summer and fall, I rented a TINY 50 square foot closet under the stairs in a collective house/commune and lived there over the winter. Yep, just like Harry Potter. It was less than $100/month and included communal meals and utilities/basic living supplies like soap and toilet paper (bulk items, basically).
Vehicle fuel – If you have a towable, you will need to estimate fuel for “moving days.” This can vary greatly depending on how often and how far you move. Our first year we came up with a rough itinerary with total mileage and an average cost of fuel per mile. In addition, for both tow and towed vehicles, you will need to budget for fuel in the local area.
Anytime we had questions or were unsure of what to do, we turned to the internet. Or, we’d kindly approach a fellow RVer and ask for assistance. It’s amazing how friendly and generous other RVers are with their time and knowledge. In two years on the road, we’ve met some amazing people who have been more than willing to troubleshoot issues or lend a helping hand.
I think a lot of expenses could be eliminated for sure. Dr electric you could easily convert to solar power. Solar panels can be quite inexpensive. The batteries for charging can be costly to purchase but in the long run will save thousands of dollars with solar. You can still hang dry your clothes on hangers in your rv. As far as washing, if you are at a park that provides water/sewage you could easily put in a portable all in one HE washer dryer. May cost around $800-$1200 but again will save $$$ in the long run. Stop eating out. It substandard food anyway and isn’t good for you. If you are all in the rv together on a regular basis, eliminate a phone. There no need for 2phones. If you are writing several letters in a week,unless it’s an emergency, you could have much news to share. I for one would rather have a portable internet connection. That would probably be one of my biggest expenses. Just some suggestions that may cost a bit in the beginning but will end up being the best purchases to save you money over a long period of time.
Public campgrounds: State, federal, county, city, etc. parks can range from $5-50/night (some are even free!), but generally have a 14 day limit on them. Amenities can range from dry camping to full hook-ups with electric/water/sewer. We generally love public parks, as they offer larger sites, more privacy, great views and access to active things to do out in nature… we spend a lot of time in them.
I was wondering what your thoughts are on a woman (myself) doing this alone? In two years my teenage son will be 18 and my plan is to sell the one bedroom condo we live in and hit the road. You are actually the first site/blog I read when I googled how to rv? I am a very adventurous person and have always wanted to travel. I desperately need so peace and relaxation in my life and love nature. I will continue to research and read your blogs to get as much info as possible. I haven’t even checked pricing yet but I was think buying an rv and living in it and traveling full time makes a lot more sense then putting my money right back in a condo. I want to feel free and I always feel that way when I get out of town. Any advice or direction as to where I should start would be very much appreciated.
Propane Heater – This device sips propane compared to the furnace installed on your RV, yet it keeps the inside even warmer. Best part is this heater doesn’t use electricity like a space heater but it heats just as well. The downsides: There is no anti-tip shutoff so it’s not good if you have pets. The install can be simple but should be completed by a professional. The propane is un-vented and therefore produces deadly Carbon Monoxide so you must keep a vent open at all times and constantly check your CO detector to make sure it is functioning properly. Also as discussed propane heat produces humidity. Our friends the RV Geeks use this propane furnace and swear by it in their Winter RVing post
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.
Tom Conces is a friend we’ve bumped into on the road several times over the past few years. He reached out to me a little over a year ago and asked “what do I need to do to survive in my RV during freezing temperatures?” Ya see Tom is a much crazier photographer than I am, he wanted to park his RV in subzero temps in order to photograph bald eagles as they swoop down in the snow banked rivers to catch fish. I told him you’re crazy, then I said read our post on How to Prepare an RV for a Freezing Winter Adventure. Needless to say Tom learned a few things while freezing his tail off in the Midwest during Winter, so I thought he should share his experiences (from the horse’s mouth as the saying goes).
2. I would have taken it to a mechanic before buying it – Being a 23 year old RV, I knew I’d have to put some money into it and I budgeted for that. But knowing WHAT I’d have to repair would have given me much needed peace of mind. Every time I took it out the first few months, I lived in fear of breaking down on some country road in the middle of nowhere. Knowing what was likely to break (and when) would have been comforting and allowed me to budget better.
Great article and right on IMO…I think what you have written is not only true for full time rving but living in general…the key words here are what you wrote in the beginning… that you are providing a formula not necessarily the details….and it will be different for everyone depending on what is important to them…and we always budget for travel, food, wine and fun….:)
@Van: Really? Mass generally correlates fairly closely with Weight. Maybe in Outer Space, the links you provide could be useful for a Tacoma truck camper set up for parking in low earth orbit. Forget traveling to new gigs, he could get work doing satellite repair. Just park in the satellite’s orbital path and the paycheck will come to him. Probably won’t be much colder up there than Alaska, but getting fire wood might be a problem. But then again those 60watts of solar panel power would probably be enough to run an electric furnace 24×7 … shoot I forgot about eclipses.
We’ve been RVing for three years and have tried quite a few options for coverage on the road. We’ve actually used something different every year because until this year, we have not been happy with our options. We recently changed healthcare providers and switched to a health-sharing ministry.Our previous health care solution was through the RVers Insurance Exchange and we also tried the Affordable Care Act one year. We currently pay $250/month for both of us on our health-sharing plan, which is significantly less than we used to pay through traditional providers.
I boondock often. The campground near my home town is $27 per night when I decide to stay there for a few days a month. I put $20 a week in the tank. My RV insurance is $189 every six months. Since my husband passed away I am eligible for food assistance (which I am very grateful for). My next “big” purchase is going to be replacing my tablet that recently broke – about $200. I live very comfortably on $700 a month.
Good article, I think the initial start up costs (besides repairs to a used unit) could be added to your article. We bugeted $10,000 and after full timing almost a year on the road now, we are fast approaching that number for: tow bar, base plate, braking system, drive shaft disconnect (our choice instead of a new toad) installations, modifications, grill, chairs, road side service, extended warranty, insurance, memberships, hoses, tools, heaters (no lpg available once) fans, tables, ladder, bikes, bike racks, etc.. It adds up fast.
We use St. Brendan’s Isle in Florida for our mail forwarding, and use their Mail Scan Pro service. Their address also serves as our legal address of domicile for driver’s licenses, voting, vehicle registration, business registration, taxes, etc. They collect our mail, scan the front of the envelop and notify us via e-mail that we have new mail. We can then view our envelops online and decide what to do with them – scan, send or shred. We can request a shipment to whatever address we’re at. They’re super cool and we couldn’t be happier with the service we have received from them.
I was surprised at the cost of insurance but then saw it is a Travel Trailer. Motorhomes are rather more expensive. As far as lot costs, we would/could not justify that as retirees. We pay $500.00/mo which includes water and electric in Denton TX., and traveling will require a fair amount of research as so many parks are above what many of us travelers can afford.
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….
Sheepherder wagons have a long history of wood/dung stoves but we don’t see them in the Wally World parking lot belching smoke from their long chimneys protruding from steeply sloped sheet-metal roofs do we? One has to wonder how the modern RV roof holds up, with or without a spark arrester on the stack, so close to the exhaust opening? Wonder how you would like it if somebody parked an RV in front of your house and then the creosote buildup in the stack flashed and blew a blizzard of sparks across your property and vehicles? 😉 Burning birch is not option in most parts of the country. Maybe Kent should discuss the types of wood he prefers and why ….
I have left out some expenses as they might be comparable regardless of your situation. Those expenses are gasoline, home owner’s associations vs. RV clubs, phone and internet costs. While you may think the average RVers spends more on gas / year, we don’t. There is no daily commute, and no one said you have to, or even realistically will, drive hundreds of miles every day. Here are our findings on that (and all things environmentally friendly about living in an RV).
As soon as my house sells, I will use the proceeds to pay off all my remaining debt and my wife and I are planning a one year sabbatical traveling the country. We aren’t getting any younger and while I have had the luxury of traveling all over America with my previous jobs, my wife was raising our kids and not able to go with me often. This time we will travel together all over America and plan to write a BIO blog of our journeys. I am excited to start such an adventure before I am too old to do it. Sites like this one have been my inspiration to taking the leap of faith.
Richard is working at with the Amazon CamperForce program for the second year. He’ll be at the warehouse from September to December. It’s very different from his career in IT, but the income allows the family to live this nomadic lifestyle. He earned $11.50 an hour at a fulfillment center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., which went to $15 an hour in November.