We all have those items that are our staples. You’ll sit there and try to justify whether you should or should not bring them along. Our advice: BRING THEM! Make room for them. Make it work! If they make your life easier/better, they deserve to make the cut. You don’t even have to justify it. We are so happy we chose to bring along the items that we love and have used for years, even though some of them may seem unnecessary when your space is limited.
@Chris: Wood stoves have killed many an unlucky sleeper. Combusting wood in sleep quarters can kill in a multitude of ways. Of course, wood smoke is an established carcinogen. Wood stoves in a small mobile high vibration environment are double jeopardy. Fail to be vigilant in the daily maintenance and wake up dead. On the bright side all the bumps on the road might knock the creosote build-up off the stack walls, but then again it might not. Probably the biggest risk with a wood stove is human nature/carelessness/extenuating circumstances/etc. At some point the operator will be tempted to operate the vehicle with live coals in the stove…
That was very nice of you to list your expenses like that. Many of us appreciate it. As you mentioned, this is your lifestyle choice. Personally, I think it is a great one. I don’t get why some other posts are trying to compare it with monthly expenses for owning a home. You and your family are living the life you want. Good for you. You are open and honest. After reviewing your expense sheet, it is my opinion that you and your family are living a frugal lifestyle compared to most of us. I love the simplicity of your life without the baggage of all the stuff. Blessing to you and yours!
I also soon learned how to juggle the use of coffee maker and hair dryer in conjunction with the heaters. Normally, using both at the same time is not a problem. But with the draw of the electric heaters, plugging too many things into the wrong line shut down the electricity totally. This meant a trek outside to unscrew four tiny wing nuts (virtually impossible to do in winter gloves) to get behind a panel to reset the breaker. Try doing this in the dark in the wee and snowy hours before daybreak and you don’t make the same mistake twice.

6. Insurance is a big deal, so make sure you have it. However, don’t just go with the first policy you come across. This is where it’s best to do a bit of homework, as there are many different options with many different policy payouts and a lot of fine print. There are also some discounts and other options you will want to familiarize yourself with before making a final decision. You will need to types of coverage if something happens to your RV. One type of policy covers the RV itself in the case of damages or theft, and another for personal belongings, much like homeowners or renters insurance. Consider what type of lifestyle you’ll be living, for the most part, and what types of problems you might run across. There is also a medical insurance just for full time RV’ers.
We budget $6k per month and usually have a hard time sticking to it. I guess you would have to put us into that ‘upper’ bracket. We track every penny (we use YNAB as our budgeting tool-Google it), but still don’t deny ourselves anything we really need or want. We moved into the rig in July 07 with a nice portfolio and then suffered through the 07-08 market collapse. We dropped about 38%. We slowed our spending down a bit, workcamped for a season (Crazy Horse Monument in the Black Hills) and within a couple of years our portfolio had returned to pre-recession levels. In fact, our portfolio today is actually just a bit larger than the day I retired. And what’s our secret? Low cost passive index funds from Vanguard.
Jennifer, good questions! We have always thought about building our own RV/Tiny House/Trailer too! Sometimes what you really want doesn’t exist and the best way to get it is just to make it yourself! Considering you are not planning on moving the house a lot, the rain capture system will come in super handy! So, here are my top (at least that I can think of right now) suggestions.

As a budget figure, if you are a future full-timer, and you are excited by the $0 figure here, and you plan to boondock a lot but haven’t don’t it much yet, include a “slush” camping fee figure of $350 per month in your budget until you find out if you really like it. Some folks plan to “free camp” all the time but find it isn’t practical for their lifestyle once they hit the road.
Note that the cheaper you go, the more likely you’ll need to put work into it. You’ll want to get the Bentley Guide to Vanagons which will give you a good amount of the info you need to work on it yourself. It will break down, eventually, and maybe often, depending on how well cared for it was in the past and how well you continue to care for it. Our 78 Bus requires near daily attention, though certainly other people get better rigs and don’t have quite so much work on their hands.
Pete, the ugly truth is: RV MSRP is a joke. Most people end up purchasing a new RV for 20%-30% off the MSRP. If you purchase a unit that’s new and last years model you can expect to get 35% – 40% off MSRP. Of course everything depends on supply and demand, and how long the dealer has the unit on the lot. If you want the biggest discount purchase a used RV that’s 2-3 years old, and buy an extended warranty.
RV insurance – It is important if you are living in your RV full-time to specify this to your insurance company so you are covered not only for the RV, but your contents as well. If your RV is financed, you will want to be sure that it is insured for the full payoff value. If it is not, you will have to decide the replacement value. Just like car insurance, you will choose your deductible level as well.
These kinds of campground membership programs are a complicated, and the companies change the rules as their profitability and growth plan requires. It is best to book your stays 90 days or more in advance and there may also be a complex set of rules to follow regarding staying within the network and outside of it. Sometimes an alternative campground network is offered so you have somewhere similar to stay when it is time for you to stay outside your home network. Two we’ve heard of are Resorts of Distinction and Adventure Outdoor Resorts given as the alternative networks.
But more important to her than saving money has been the wealth of experiences living in an RV has given her, especially with her son. "We’ve been way more creative about everyday things, making them more fun," she said. "If we lived in a house, I wouldn’t be taking him outside to look at bugs. It's definitely forced me into a whole different level of parenting."
Fast forward 7 years and SD is still one of the least expensive states for fulltime RVers to domicile, but some things have also changed in that time frame. For example registration/insurance costs have risen (this was a state-wide thing that happened in SD a few years ago) and health insurance options for our age-group have deteriorated to the point of being abysmal. If we were choosing domicile today, we’d probably chose a different state.
Make sure to do your research before going gung-ho for solar panels. Depending on how you’re using your rig, they may end up being a waste of money. If you’ll be at a campsite with full electric hookups, you probably won’t need them. Maybe you anticipate a lot of driving.  Just by cruising down the road, you’ll recharge the batteries; but again consider the effects cold has on your battery life. Or lastly, if you’re going to be mostly boondocking, solar panels may be a good option for you.
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.

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Hi Dian, did you used to work in Denver? I knew a dian there that i worked with, and she went full time. This is a dream that i want to make into reality for myself. i am deciding right now on what would be the perfect size rig for me as i will be a woman “rving” by myself. i don’t want something “too big” nor “too small” I’m thinking maybe a 30 ft class A?? how do you handle your laundry situation? I sure hope this is you.
During this 30 day window I lost 10 pounds (no time to stop and eat!) and slept about 4 hours a night… but we did it. We downsized to what we could fit into our RV and our cars. Yes, my husband’s car did turn into our garage for a few months. And we only ended up with about 4 storage bins which we kept in my parent’s basement. They were mostly filled with photos and other family memories.
Full-timing can be done in many different ways, and whether or not a young couple needs a big nest egg depends entirely on how much money they can earn on the road. Someone with a mobile, high paying profession, like contract nursing, doesn’t need a big nest egg. Someone that will be relying on work camping at campgrounds and RV parks may want more in the bank to handle emergencies that will require more money than their salary can provide.

Departure – Before you depart the campground in cold weather turn on the engine block heater for a minimum of 4 hours and run the generator for 30 minutes with a low-medium load.  This routes the fuel to the generator but not all the fuel is burned.  The fuel that is not burned follows a return line back to the fuel tank, effectively warming up the fuel and giving the engine warm fuel for a better start.  Make sure your engine and transmission have time to warm up before jumping directly onto the highway.


That was very nice of you to list your expenses like that. Many of us appreciate it. As you mentioned, this is your lifestyle choice. Personally, I think it is a great one. I don’t get why some other posts are trying to compare it with monthly expenses for owning a home. You and your family are living the life you want. Good for you. You are open and honest. After reviewing your expense sheet, it is my opinion that you and your family are living a frugal lifestyle compared to most of us. I love the simplicity of your life without the baggage of all the stuff. Blessing to you and yours!
[…] The down-time is also giving us some space to plan our next steps. In the last big storm we discovered yet another leak in…guess what?…our”big” slide on the front drivers side of the rig. This same slide, and the woes of getting it fixed was the very reason we rushed ~1000 miles cross-country to Oregon almost 3 years ago. Back then the main problem was in the back of the slide near the fridge. Now, the front has moved out of alignment with the front edge dangerously close to catching under the rim of the RV. Simply put it’s just a poorly engineered design and we should never have bought a rig with a heavy object like the fridge in it (one of our “10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Fulltime RVing“). […]
Volunteering & Workamping: We also haven taken fun volunteer positions from time to time – such as interpretive hosting at a lighthouse in Oregon. We get to do something incredibly fun and give our time for under 20 hours a week, and get a full hook-up site in a gorgeous location. With our full time work commitments however, we rarely have time for the extra hours however. Many campgrounds will accept ‘workampers’ for a few hours a week in exchange for a site – check Workamper News for more information.
Track your expenses. I just recently started doing this, and it really puts things in perspective. I use this Google sheet to track all my income and expenses (just go to “File” -> “Make a copy” so you can edit it). Once you see where you’re spending too much, it’s easier to cut back! Plus, it makes you think twice before spending (do I really want to track this?).
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?
Great information! My husband and I just purchased our first motorhome, a Thor Challenger 37GT that has 3 slide outs. We will be full timers and will be living in the rv in the cold, cold (and hot in the summer) Midwest for the next couple of years until we retire and head out to see the country. My question is, how do we keep the slide areas warm in the winter? Would you skirt the bottom of the rv, then also skirt around the slides? Or is there a way to insulate around the slide when it’s out? Looking forward to comments. Thanks!

I am hoping you can answer some questions for us with what we will need. I have already started a budget based on your article and answers to questions above. Our goal is to raise the funds through private, like-minded products/corporate sponsorship. What we would love is some advice about where to start with purchasing an RV. We need some way – even if it is a small motorbike to get around once with visit each town. Also – we are open to a trailer and truck combo…just not sure what you’d recommend. We are leaning towards a decent looking RV (if we can raise the funds) so there is a level of professionalism with the tour and because we would like to make that our home after the tour is over to continue our teaching on the road. If we don’t raise too much, we may need other options.
While living by yourself in a camper allows more space and freedom, it sure is nice having another warm body around, ha. But seriously, it does keep you a lot warmer at night if you’ve got your lady or your man by your side, so if they are up for having an experience they’ll remember the rest of their lives, have them move on board with you for a bit. And believe me, you really get to know someone when you share a 10 ft. long living space with them!

Ya’ll are killing me with these videos! Each one gets funnier and funnier! Super great info for people who might be dreaming about RV living! We have friends who lived in an RV with their 3 kids! Talk about space issues! Pretty sure they stuck to warm climate areas so they could utilize the outdoors! Here’s to warmer weather…and a house someday soon!
This is an important budget item. In our third year of fulltiming, we had huge repair expenses including the clutch and air conditioning going out in our tow car (2 year old Forester that just had engine replaced by Subaru because of oil consumption issues). We seem to go through tires quickly on the Subaru too even though we are religious about rotations and alignments. Our RV steps cost over $600 to get repaired (three different places over 2 states). We also had to have a $300 repair on the propane heater. Our Tiffen motorhome is 15 years old, has undergone major refurbishment and in great shape but you have to expect repairs, just like in an older home. Better than having a “house” payment to us. Our motto has become “Expect the unexpected”. If you are lucky and don’t have any problems, enjoy the “bonus” at the end of the year.

Most of the bigger mail forwarding services now offer some kind of “virtual” service where you can see a scanned image of each envelope as soon as it arrives and then request to have the envelope opened and the documents inside scanned as well, with further options to do something special if the document needs to reach you physically right away or to shred it.
Very informative site, thank you for all the work putting it together. My wife and I have a small rv and are intending traveling from Fl. to the Jackson Hole/Yellowstone area and would like to know how much hard cash we should carry. We are not trying to skimp, we don’t need to(thank God) and besides we want to enjoy ourselves, but feel we should have some cash with us but not too much.
Anything below $1500/mo is tough IMO especially if there’s two of you and you throw health care, insurance and other fixed costs into the mix. The folks on this end of the spectrum are super-budget and generally travel in vans or smaller rigs (= lower maintenance & insurance/registration costs), boondock or workamp most of the time (= ultra-low camping fees), limit their travel (= less gas costs) and cook at home most of the time (= low entertainment costs). It requires some frugal dedication, but it’s do-able. We know several folks traveling this way who absolutely love the freedom of their super-budget lifestyle.
I have a question to ask. Try not to laugh too hard at my extreme paranoia lol. First you should know it is our sincere goal someday to rv full time. We loove to travel and we are both photographer hobbyists. However. I have zero experience visiting or ever even being in a desert and I am extremely frightened and paranoid of snakes, scorpions and mostly–spiders. How often have you run into these creatures boondocking in the west/in the desert? And no, this issue won’t derail our plans or anything, but just wondering what I am in for! Thanks for putting up with my silly question!
As for our tanks, they stayed plenty warm, having the warmth from the storage bay radiating through the floor on one side, and because our skirting kept them warm enough on the other side.  For people who need extra protection against frozen tanks, tank heaters are an option.  However, it’s important to make sure that pipes in addition to tanks are protected from freezing.
7. Being thrifty should become second nature. Unless you’ve won the lottery or have a handsome retirement package, you can definitely benefit from making every dollar stretch to its maximum potential. Before you embark on this lifestyle, you should make a habit of logging every dollar spent to see exactly where your money is going, and for what. Doing this allows you to see where cuts can be made and where it might benefit you to stock up on certain things that you buy often. A good rule of thumb is to check with other RVers who already live this lifestyle and ask for their input on this matter. Everyone has their own favorite tips and solutions so be prepared to take notes.
It was a matter getting rid of the things we knew we wanted to get rid of and just hadn’t taken the time to do it. We used online tools like local Facebook garage sales pages and Craigslist to get rid of a lot of our larger items. Then we tried a garage sale, but given where our house was located, we didn’t get a lot of action. And we spent a lot of time pricing everything… I think we overpriced a lot, too. It seems like we thought our stuff was worth more then it really was.

South Dakota, Texas and Florida are all home to major mail forwarding services that will help you become a legal resident, help you register and insure your vehicles and help you become a registered voter. Your postal mail will be sent to your address at the mail forwarding service. They will then sent it to you, wherever you are. You will have to show up in person in your new home state to get your driver’s license. The terms for renewing a driver’s license vary from state to state.
Tim, I liked your story,it’s wonderful to see someone living outside the square. I live in Australia and will soon head off to the Kimberleys and beyond in a tiny caravan, just me and my cattle dogs,I will spend the rest of my life travelling Australia. I did it once before in my twenties for 4 years, but now i can’t see the point of rattling around on my own in a big house. I’m a signwriter, so will be signwriting to pay my way. I can’t see myself stuck in one place forever.The older i get ,the more i realise, not what i want, but what i don’t want, like the tv, which i tossed out years ago. I have a little 2001 jeep soft top, and the caravan i will get is a Little Robin Mini, and the smaller version is called a Little Robin Mini Mini. I hope to read more of your adventures.Beautiful dog.
I have a question to ask. Try not to laugh too hard at my extreme paranoia lol. First you should know it is our sincere goal someday to rv full time. We loove to travel and we are both photographer hobbyists. However. I have zero experience visiting or ever even being in a desert and I am extremely frightened and paranoid of snakes, scorpions and mostly–spiders. How often have you run into these creatures boondocking in the west/in the desert? And no, this issue won’t derail our plans or anything, but just wondering what I am in for! Thanks for putting up with my silly question!
We cook with an electric plate, which works well for us, as our diet is simple because we’re both diabetic. We only use propane to run the fridge when we’re traveling, and have disconnected the propane hoses from the stove and furnace – we never use either – and we stuffed the vents with loads of rags years ago. We’ve never had a problem with rodents or bugs in any season.

$795 Cell Phone Expenses – Nikki is still on Verizon ($432) and I’m on AT&T ($363). We both have the bare minimum talk and text plan, with (grandfathered in) unlimited internet. Basically I’m throwing my money away 50% of the time because AT&T’s coverage outside of major cities is CRAP! My contract is up in January so I’ll probably switch over the Verizon (even though I’m going to lose my unlimited internet, yes….AT&T has been that bad). Doubt we’ll be able to save any money here, but at least I won’t be wasting money on a phone that doesn’t get reception.

RVs aren’t cheap. Well, new ones aren’t at least. We bought our 1994 Coachmen Leprechaun in 2014 and sold him 48 states and 22K miles later. After buying an renovating “Franklin” for 12K and selling him for almost 10K, we really only spend $2,000 for our home. This is the definition of a steal and probably the main reason why I highly recommend buying used.
Monthly Stays – Marinas tend to charge by the foot for monthly stays, ranging from $10 – 30 per foot (we’re 47′ long, so anywhere from $500-1400, plus electric and liveaboard surcharges).  Like RV Parks, these are the cheapest marina rates and we’re looking forward to a slow pace of travel spending time in marinas in cool downtowns with lots to do in walking range.
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
Remember Annie. This is my families expenses. It is not meant to be “the be all that ends all” or the average monthly expense for nomadic living. Not to mention this is from the “winter months” wherein we splurge and stay at an RV resort in SW Florida where prices are premium because of snowbirding. Do some searching around on sites like Technomadia and Gone With The Wynns or even the Snowmads to see examples of other working budgets.
If you are planning to work camp in exchange for an RV campsite, or if you will be working part-time jobs as you travel, or working via the internet from your RV, your choice of overnight parking spots may be based more on your job’s requirements than on the whims of your travel interests, and your camping costs and the kind of work you do will subsequently be tightly linked.

While you can certainly live for free out of your van, especially if you get a Northwest pass (I think that’s what Washington’s is called…or maybe you won’t need one if you’re working for DNR) then there’s ample free camping up in the Evergreen State, but you’ll still have costs. Gasoline, a solar setup if you want to have power, and propane if you want to have heat and a stove, which I would think you might in Washington…


Instead, buy a 5-gallon water container and carry all your drinking and cooking water in by hand. Set up your RV sink to drain directly into a 5 gallon bucket, then you can just dump your dishwater at any gas/RV dump station. Get a gym membership or take showers at a friend’s house. Get a small 5-gallon porta-potty with a hand-pump flush system. Fill the flush reservoir with RV antifreeze. Believe me, you will definitely want a bathroom when it is cold outside, not to mention, you can’t just “go” anywhere when you’re in a city or neighborhood… or else you risk making a bad reputation for yourself and start pissing people off.

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.
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