Although some people cover their windows with Reflectix, I have to have light in winter, so last year we covered our windows with a combination of bubble wrap and shrink plastic, and this year I made storm windows out of plexiglass and removable Velcro covers for the screens from clear vinyl.  I wrote a separate blog post about my experiences with various cold weather window protection methods; you can read it here.
Joe, thank you for your information on full time RVing. My husband and I are in the process of getting rid of all our stuff, house and cars to get ready for retirement in 13 months. We are learning all we can about the RV lifestyle so we will be as prepared as possible and are so excited about this upcoming chapter of our lives. After a lot of research, we decided to go with a Forest River Cedar Creek Silverback 5th wheel and 2500 Diesel truck as our new home. Now the search is on. We have heard a lot about the All Stay app and would love to be entered in your giveaway. We had planned on getting it prior to hitting the road.
Kindle – Most of my mentions of my Kindle are met with but “I love the feel of paper books.” I do too. More than the feel of paper books I the smell but when you live in an RV or travel a lot you need to make choices and finally getting a Kindle was one of the best purchases ever. In fact, we now own four Kindles, one for each person who can read. Two years ago, I got Brent the Paper White as a Christmas gift and since have confiscated it for myself. I love that I can take hundreds of books, a booklight, and a “highlighter” with me in one light device. Our Kindles include a Kindle Fire, a Kindle Touchscreen and an earlier generation of this one. Out of the three, the Paper White is my favorite. I really like the adjustable built-in light for night reading. Unlike my phone or a computer screen, the Paper White doesn’t give me a headache while reading at night. A Kindle is a perfect gift for RVers and travelers.
$4,000 Eating Out: We made a rule, we eat dinner out once per week at a quality restaurant recommended by the hip locals. Sometimes the bill would be cheap and other times not so much. Of course we would eat lunch out, or purchase a coffee every once and a while. This includes all expenses spent at a Restaurant, Pub, Bar, Happy Hour, Cupcake Shop, etc.
We only had our little Gypsy cat just over a year when she snuck outside in San Diego during our pre-desert stay. The next month was filled with constant searches, fliers, and talking to anyone in the neighborhood, but we never found her. A short time later, our older cat Dylan was diagnosed with lymphoma. This is something most cats can live with, but six months after losing Gypsy, we lost Dylan, too. We did learn about coordinating intensive long-term medical care for a pet on the road and where all the animal oncologists on the west coast practice. Thankfully, our initial oncologist was so helpful in making sure she was looped in with what was happening along the way that we felt we had a primary vet on staff.

never stayed at RV park & I never put fresh water in my old camper in winter. I bought several 1 gallon water bottles to use. I would NEVER put water in black tank in winter, only “flush” with RV antifreeze, poured out of the bottle, (the toilet kind, not the automotive engine kind fyi). pouring out of the bottle allows for fine control of amount of liquid you are pouring in your very limited black tank as well as antifreeze. I would always seek other places to use restrooms whenever possible, but would use mine in a pinch. preferably guys, can recycle the water bottles as well, to save room in black tank for what is really important, but you still need some antifreeze else will get frozen. I find putting 1 gallon antifreeze in when empty is a good start and then add about 12 oz each time #2.
Again, we're not stuck to a vacation timeline. We are not on vacation, this is our life. So instead of pulling in for a week and cramming our days full of sightseeing, we balance our days with work and play. We choose what we would like to see, but don't feel compelled to "get our money's worth." We may stay a few days or a few weeks depending on what we want to explore in the area. During this time, we're carrying on a normal life similar to a resident by shopping at local stores, eating at local restaurants, and participating in daily life. I cannot say we are true citizens by any stretch, but it does give us a better sense of place than a vacation usually does.
Emily, you have done an absolutely fabulous job of compiling tons of useful information and we avidly read your blog and go back over things as we prep to hit the road full-time. We love the way you think, your personality and just everything we read. You have been so kindly open with your budgets etc but there are two things we are just curious about being of similar ages and not able to get pensions or SS at this stage in our lives.

Full disclosure: When I went full timing in ‘04, I had the proceeds from the sale of my house & belongings, so I bought my RV outright, but also had over $100K in the bank plus a retirement fund to fall back on. I volunteered for a free space or earned money for fun, not because I had to. I also am healthy and had NO health insurance for nearly 8 years. Paid cash when necessary. I know how to be cautious. I eventually signed up at the VA as I’m a veteran.


Our second year of roadschooling was similar to our first year as we continued to explore the United States with the exception of Thing 1’s work. His work was more challenging than the previous year and we began to do some testing. I did not do standardized testing but subject testing so he would learn test taking skills should he need them later down the road. 
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….

I could “camp out” in my hangar at the airport. The hangar has two offices with baseboard heaters, as well as a full bathroom. My furniture is already there, so it’s just a matter of reorganizing it to meet my needs for the few months I’d need to live there. Unfortunately, I didn’t think my landlord — the folks who manage the airport — would like those arrangements.
2017 Update – TOTALLY. In 8 years on the road our expenses have actually been flat to slightly down every year despite increasing health care costs. We keep camping expenses low by volunteering in summer and boondocking (= free camping) in winter, and we manage gas costs by how we travel. The point is there is lots of flexibility on the financial side, and my viewpoint on this hasn’t changed. Earlier this year I finally updated our cost posts, so you can now read a detailed account of our RV costs (including tips for budgeting & saving) for the past 7 years HERE and HERE.
You could use LED’s from amazon or ebay, but I have used 12 volt led STRIPS that I wire right into my 12v light sockets. I sometimes uses a 50 watt 12 volt windshield heater to keeps my hands from freezing. I have used black tar on my roof and COMPLETELY stopped the leaking,don’t know why folks are having more leaking problems after that..probably doing it wrong. If you have to snake a 120 volt cord outside your RV to run a window a/c or heater..cut the cord as short as possible. It draws less. Buy brand new breakers, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be in the middle of a meal and have flip the breaker every 5 seconds because it’s 120 degrees outside and I just want a cool 98 inside the RV. It sounds trashy, but I bought a roll of that textured windshield sun-blocker and cut it to fit my windows,thereby blocking a crap-ton of sunlight and heat from entering my poor RV. I use bricks and the outriggers to further stabilize the trailer,because outriggers alone will NOT make all RVs stable. ALWAYS CHECK YOUR ANODE AND HEATING ELEMENT HOLY CRAP! it sucks when you jump in the shower and out comes liquid ice. yeah we all have propane…but propane is for cooking…and maybe the furnace once in a while. If you have to live in an RV, don’t be afraid to REMOVE furniture from it! I removed a pullout couch, kitchen table and the useless cabinets inside my bedroom(don’t know what they were thinking with that curved wall and I was always hitting my head on the cabinets). I removed the stock microwave and put a toaster oven in there. Let me tell you, you can cook damn near anything in that oven. Microwaves suck…especially when you have limited amps available, but you can stick that oven on 180 and cook a damn pizza all the way in about 10 minutes. ALWAYS defrost your fridge and freezer once a month! I actually have a small dorm fridge tucked into a corner that has come in quite handy.
We have met several full-timers who are members of the Moose Club and Elks Club and use their RV facilities on a regular basis. This seems like a terrific option, although we have not joined either organization yet. Membership requires a sponsor, but each time we’ve stopped in and inquired, people have offered to be sponsors right at the bar! The membership fee is on the order of $100 or so a year and overnights in the RV parks are $10 to $20 or so. Some lodges without formal RV park sites may allow members to dry camp in the parking lot if there’s room.

My boyfriend and I are ready to hit the road. We are in our late to mid to late twenties. We’ve always worked at dead end jobs. We currently live with my boyfriends parents and we were saving some money. Unfortunately, I just got laid off from my job a while back. I haven’t been able to find a job since then. Is their a van rv or something we can get for cheap? We don’t have much money saved. In the very low thousands range. What kind of jobs can we do on the road so we can make money yet still explore while we are at our destination? Also, traveling with animals (a cat to be exact).

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/

It will be an interesting learning curve to be sure. Because neither of us have ever done this. Ideally I want to boondock a lot. We have a swiss shepherd who is traveling with us and I like the idea of giving him more space. However, since we know nothing I am wondering if we should invest in the New Mexico State Park Pass and use the hookups until we know our trailer. Maybe start boondocking in Utah and on our way home. Any sage advice for us? I have a million more questions I am sure. Reading these blogs are priceless. Thanx
5.  I would’ve understood that low mileage doesn’t necessarily mean an RV is in good shape – RVs need to be driven. The longer they sit the more things dry up and crack. If I had to do it over again,  I’d ask if it was stored inside or outside, how much it was driven and how often routine maintenance was done. If the owner doesn’t know this and doesn’t have records, I’d either take it to a mechanic before purchasing or keep looking.
We lived full time in a camper a couple of years ago while we were building a house. It DOES has its challenges… The biggest one we encountered was the campground we stayed at… But once we got that fixed it was actually very nice… Some things I would think about/plan for: laundry, make an outside living space, make sure you have reliable internet, and food storage.
Knowing how to budget for the RV Lifestyle is done when potential RVers understand why they want to become full timers and what they want to accomplish. It’s a lifestyle choice that should be carefully thought out and may take a great deal of discussion between a couple who are thinking of doing it. They should ask themselves what kind of traveling they plan to do—long distance, a slow ramble, or only move once or twice a year. Do they plan on working to subsidize their savings, or is this a once-in-a-lifetime trip? Be clear and understand the pros and cons. Understand what is required to enable you to make the decision of becoming full time RVers.
Definitely! The “fun” budget is something I include in our “entertainment” category and that’s definitely a part of the flexible budget that’s worth planning for when you go fulltime RVing. We actually spend less on entertainment than we did when we lived in a stix and brix in CA (mostly because we go out to eat less than we did when we both worked in a corporate job), but we do spend something in this category every month. It’s year-round entertainment now 🙂
I wasn’t sleeping in my nest-bed in the RV. I was sleeping on a new bed in a new house, a house without wheels. I wasn’t going to wake up and walk a few steps to our kitchen. I would walk up a flight of stairs. I wasn’t going to wake the boys up from their bunkroom 20 feet away to get started with their homeschool. I would go to each of their separate bedrooms to wake them up to go to school. I wasn’t going to have a day exploring new places. I was going to drive the same streets to the same places.

Yes, we visit amazing places and there’s usually plenty of free stuff to do – but sometimes to enjoy them a little money goes a long way to enhance the experience. Unlike when you might be living more stationary where you might save up for a few splurges in the year (aka ‘vacation’) – on the road there’s constant temptation. A museum, a concert, an event, an entrance fee, etc. For us we found the discretionary fun budget is more spread out year round, instead of in vacation blips.
how workable do you think it is to slowly accumulate a group of websites of whom you’re an affiliate (rv’ing stuff?) to help or maybe even completely pay your RV’ing costs as you traverse the country (sounds like a doable niche in itself to me) ? I’m a retired programmer and on SS now, but would like the security of knowing I wasn’t completely dependent on SS while travelling. I love your site, BTW. Thanks – Bob
Okay, so I hope that in Part One I convinced you that you want a site with a sewer hook up.  Now, about that hook up, you want to keep the dump valve closed until you have at least three-quarters of a tank so that you get a clean dump.  You need the force of moving liquid to move the solids.  That's as nice a way of saying as I could think of.  .  It is critical that the sewer hose has a constant decline to the sewer.  If it does not have enough of a drop, waste will collect and freeze in the hose.  Many people (myself included) run the hose into or through a PVC pipe to make sure that there is no ‘sag’ in the line.  Other folks use a section of rain gutter as a bridge that holds the hose.  Either of these systems will work.
My husband always laughs but I also feel very lost when I walk into a new grocery store in a new city we are visiting. I don’t know where anything is and I end up walking around the grocery store at least twice before I am done since I can never find everything I need the first time through. Then again we have found some great food and brands around the country that we didn’t have in our home town so I guess it isn’t all bad.

We are with Progressive Insurance. It helps that we have been with them for 10 years now through various vehicles, have no traffic infractions, and have not once relied on our deductible. Other than that though Jerry (which is comparable to your history) I don’t know. We don’t use an agent but rather deal directly with the insurance company, we are a one-car household, and keep low miles (by their standards).
In my experience a 38 foot 5th wheel takes up as much, if not more space than a 40 foot motorhome, specifically because of the big truck. I can squeeze our little toad in just about anywhere (often we just park it across the front of the MH), but with a big truck you may have to find a separate parking spot, depending on the campground. Many campgrounds will offer that, but it just depends.

We specifically shopped for a four-season RV when we chose our Keystone because we knew we would be spending winters in cold weather.  However, some people do camp in cold weather in campers that don’t have all of these features.  Here are a few cold weather camping tips I’ve seen from people who live in climates colder than ours or who maybe don’t have all of the features we have:
Your post regarding the expenses is exactly what I want to know. Thank you so much for sharing. I have one more year before I retire and the plan is to sell the house and get rid of as much stuff as possible. My husband and I will be living on 2 social security checks, 1 pension check and our 401k savings. We still need to sit down and crunch the numbers. I’m thinking like one of your other responders that I am hoping it will be cheaper living and traveling in a motorhome than a house that comes along with a mortgage, taxes, maintenance and heating, electric and water. We were also thinking we would need a 36’+ motorhome but are also rethinking much smaller and of course used. Thanks again for all of your info it is most appreciated and good luck with your downsizing and continued travels!
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.
You don’t have to have a “home” to have an address. There are multiple companies that offer mailbox services. Which means you get an address for a mailbox that is located in one of the cities that the business is located in. The company then scans your envelopes and sends them to you via email (you can let them know if you want them to keep it to mail it to you or throw it away), mails your mail to you once a month – wherever you are, or some even open the mail and scan it and send it to you. It is all for a monthly cost but it is very reasonable. The only thing is you have to have domicile in the state they offered in. The main one’s for Full Time traveling families are Florida and Texas – since the homeschooling laws are best there. However we had heard that Texas wasn’t good for state health insurance since they didn’t offer a nation wide plan – not sure if that matters to you. Here is a link from a full time RVing couple about how to handle mail and a few other things: http://www.technomadia.com/2012/07/chapter-9-nomadic-logistics-domicile-mail-taxes-banking-and-voting/ Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.
To break the cycle I needed to let myself grieve. It felt silly to grieve something that I realize I was very fortunate to experience like grieving a stain on a designer blouse. You know, first world problems. But judging my feelings only served to keep me on the disconnected emotional hamster wheel. So now I let myself grieve as needed and try to suspend judgment on my feelings.
So I am curious. Why can you talk about the cost of the RV? You mention you aren’t allowed to discuss the cost of the Windy, and you only suggest you are leasing the new one. My concern is that it may be false representation of the life style. I am sure many people would like to do what you do and can. However, not many people under 30 years of age can drive around in a 200K RV doing what you are doing. I tend to think the RV’s are discounted to you or even loaned to you as part of financial agreements with companies you work for. If this is true, this isn’t something the average person can do. Can you please be more transparent if you are in fact trying to promote this life style. (I am not trying to be a hater, i just want to better understand how you are doing this).
+ $300 or 30,000 Points – Credit Card Points is something I haven’t talked about before. With my credit card we get 1-2 points per $1, and sometimes we get up to 7 points per $1 during specials. We pay with everything on CC and that is what helps me keep track of these expenses, and at the end of the month we get cash back. Consider that money a bonus, put it in the bank, or go out and buy yourself something you would pay “real” money for….and that’s exactly what we do: A Splurge! It is free money right? Of course I you play the points game you must pay your CC off each month otherwise your points are pointless (HA pun intended!)
Health insurance costs are totally individual, and the coverage for everyone is evolving. We do not have health insurance. Other younger full-time RVers have posted some terrific articles about health insurance and the impact on one’s choice of domicile state. Check out the excellent posts by Wheeling It and Interstellar Orchard. They both reference insurance agent Kyle Henson of RVer Health Insurance who is quickly becoming the go-to agent for all RVers’ health insurance needs.

Last winter, we spent the week leading up to the new year with around 40 other rigs in the Anza-Borrego desert. It was truly one of the most memorable New Year's Eve nights we've ever experienced. We sang karaoke (well, not us, we watched karaoke), burned a plywood borrego, and ate like kings at a potluck out in the middle of nowhere. It was pretty fantastic. From there, we broke off with a smaller group in search of better internet and continued with the community happy hours. We then hiked it up to Quartzsite for an Xscapers convergence and another gathering of close friends. It was a pretty great way to spend a month, especially before we all dispersed in different directions for the spring.
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