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.
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 wanted to know all these things before changing so I hope this helped anyone with any different doubts or thoughts. One thing to add; no matter where you go there will be people with their own thoughts on how you should raise your kids, their own huge judgements and this will not help that. I feel this area is really good to be in for that; there are many full time rvers in Fl-young and old. That was a huge concern of mine but actually there was always judgements on what kind of parent I was no matter where we lived. Not much of a difference. What makes your family happy is really what is best for all of you. Most here are not even surprised and when we told the local librarian she showed us a couple of really great fulltime rv living books. There is a retired older man that does a puzzle each week there and my daughter has gotten to be a helper and friend to him and they are there with the kids in the after school programs. There are also kids at the rv parks here.
I’ve been involved in RVing for over 40 yrs — including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking at home, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller, you’ve got a good idea of who I am.
When we’re driving in sub-freezing temps we do 2 things: Run the small space heater in wet bay and run a large space heater inside the RV. If you have solar it should keep your batteries charged no problem, otherwise you’ll need to run the generator. We only do this when the temps are around 25 degrees or below outside. Also we have a digital wireless thermometer in the wet bay so we can monitor when it gets too cold.
Choosing to drive fewer miles obviously helps conserve your gas mileage. Not only are you using less fuel to move around, but putting down some temporary roots at a campground you really like can also bring other monetary benefits your way. The longer you stay at a campground, the deeper your discount (especially if you’re traveling off peak season). The decision to stay in one spot also gives you the opportunity to thoroughly explore your new home away from home. Who knows, maybe you’ll find something exciting on one of your adventures!
3. Keep the fresh water and pipes from freezing: In my humble opinion your tips and tricks are spot on. I do have an observation and suggestion to make. Your efforts are targeting the “sewer bay” on the driver side of the RV. When we froze in Louisiana, it was the passenger side that was vulnerable. Our fresh water tank has an overflow vent on the passenger side. When the water in the tank freezes, like a pond the top of the water freezes first. In our case that prevented us from putting water into the tank and we ended up with a small crack in the tank. Fortunately, it was on the edge and was easily fixed. I think the freezing occurred because our efforts were on the “sewer bay” side and not the other. I think the answer here is another small space heater on the passenger side of the RV.
Good post Nina…but I’m a little skeptical about 3500 being a reasonable budget unless you either boondock/workamp a lot…or don’t go out much. I won’t say money is no object for Connie and I…but we’re plenty comfortable due to long term investing when we were younger…my guess based on talking to folks in general for the past 5 years is that we’re probably better off financially than 80% of the full timers we run into…not to brag about it but just giving you a little flavor for this post. We’ve averaged 30.46 a night since summer of 12 for about 925 a month in parking…plus another 80-100 a month from Nov to April for power at our winter site. From actual 2016 expenses…add in DirectTV, phone data plan, and MiFi data plan and that’s another 500 a month or so. 450 a month for groceries, 345 for eating out, 120 for brews at the Elks, 275 for diesel fuel (we do about 10K miles a year on our truck)…that’s already up to 2700 a month not including medical insurance and bills, misc other stuff, and any repairs on rig or truck or vehicle expenses. While we could economize on some of those…our average for 2016 was about 6700 a month (that doesn’t include our truck payment which comes directly out of our investments and is our only expenditure from investments currently). We could economize of course…eating out and too many brews at the Elks could somewhat go away if needed and we could get that probably down to 300 instead of 500 without feeling too deprived. Like you said…what you spend depends on you…and how much you got but we at least would feel pretty cramped by a 3500 a month budget.
Never allow your black tank to freeze unless you want to deal with a disgusting mess. Use a PVC pipe for your sewer hose – it’ll have less chance of freezing than a regular hose. If you plan on leaving the tank hooked up, add a layer of insulation around the sewer pipe. However, it’s a good idea to keep your tank closed until it needs to be dumped.
Obviously, electric blankets on your bed make for more comfortable sleeping conditions during the cold winter nights. I discovered another great use for electric blankets by accident. I draped one over the sofa and left it on a low setting. Even when I wasn't on the sofa, I left the blanket on. The temperature radiates into the air, adding wonderful warm heat to the RV. My sofa was built in to an extending unit on the RV, so it was a very drafty area to sit on cold winter nights. The heating blanket worked wonders for keeping me warm.
Thanks for sharing these details. Just signed up for your newsletter to get more helpful tidbits as you post them. We are planning on downsizing from our SF Bay Area home to a full-time traveling RV and need to work from the road. It’s especially helpful to us to see connectivity costs, which we were thinking would cost us quite a bit each month. Thus it was shocking for us to see folks being able to spend only $600 total per month. We will be lucky to keep our expenses to $2k/month! Looks like a $3K monthly budget could work even after eating out and buying quite a bit of booze 🙂
First of all, I had to do a lot of research to better understand the difference between fifth wheels, motorhomes, truck campers, pull-behinds, etc. Ultimately, we made our choice on motorhome because we liked the idea of having our vehicle and home be all in one. We enjoy being able to walk to the back and use the restroom or make food, without having to leave our vehicle while we’re traveling.
RV living holds a romantic appeal to some people. In fact, many people dream of dropping out of the 9 to 5 and living in an RV full-time. Many will dream about it, but few families actually pull it off. One of those families are the Royals, and today I talk to Bryanna Royal about RV living. In addition, we discuss what it’s like moving from large RV living to progressively smaller vehicles.
So if you can live off the grid / rough it a bit, and keep your rent to around $300…that puts you at a total of about $1100 / month in expenses, which would seem to work for your expenses. I’m sure there are other ways you could spend that money that I haven’t listed here, but maybe you could use this as a basis and go from there. Note that this doesn’t make for an easy life always. But I personally find it to be infinitely more fulfilling.
Today is the first time I’ve wandered down through the comment sections, and I have to say I was shocked with some of the hostile responses! Kudos to you guys for handling the negativity well, and know that for every Negative Nancy shouting off in the comments about your personal spending habits, I’m sure there are dozens of unvoiced happy readers delighted with your candid and thoughtful post. Keep it up!
Two adults, four children, and a dog all living in a 2006 class C motorhome!! Now, that’s downsizing! This adventure seeking family stays busy by traveling every week to 2 weeks. As you can imagine, they keep busy running a business on the road, enjoying kid-friendly tours and attractions, and lots of outdoor activity. They try to cut costs by utilizing their RV park memberships and boondocking a few days a month. However, that’s a lot of mouths to feed!
lived full time 3 years, in Colorado in mountains in a optimized 1989 truck camper (since upgraded to a bigfoot 4 season camper built in british columbia specifically FOR winter camping. The bigfoot should allow water in pipes not to freeze, so I am told. they also make class C rvs. the construction is the best of any RV I have ever seen. better than artic fox truck campers because its 2 pieces of boat hull fiberglass clamshelled together top and bottom, no seams, just the windows. plus extra insulation.
They also shed themselves of furniture, artwork, anything that takes up a lot of space (such as hobby materials, holiday decorations, boxes of family photos, libraries, magazines, newspapers or collectibles), pets, unless they are very small, bulky electronics, excess clothing (especially bulky items), duplicate household goods (such as second sets of dishes and silverware), decorator items, heavy cleaning equipment (such as full sized vacuum cleaners), duplicate tools and recreational equipment (such as kayaks, skis and clunky sports equipment).
Well…that was an error!! I’ve fixed it, thanks to you. That’s what happens when you stay up past midnight finishing posts after working a 15 hour day!! So we appreciate your comment. Love that you mentioned that its all about balancing expenses and income flow. We are working on building a program to teach our budgeting strategies, as well as share the tool we created that we use to budget each month. It’s not about how much money you make, its about how you manage it and control it. RV life allows a lot more flexibility in monthly expenses, we… Read more »
Renter’s Insurance provides tenants with a policy that is much like a homeowner’s policy, covering all the items in the home whether the loss occurrs in the home or somewhere else. These can be set up with small deductibles (like $50) that make sense for a $2,000 loss. However, you must be renting a stationary home and you must provide the address of the place you are renting. Unfortunately, your mail forwarding address or a relative’s address don’t count, and using an address where you are not living constitutes insurance fraud.
I make some money blogging, but it’s not a significant portion of our income. I could probably make more if I were more aggressive with product promotion/partnerships and advertising, but it’s simply not my style nor is it the style of the type of writing/blogging I do. I’m very picky about the types of products I promote and work hard to keep my blog honest and relatable. It’s primarily about RV travel and sharing that love of travel online. Everything else is a bonus 🙂
I’m widowed a while now and planning on moving from south to northwest. I plan to purchase a good size camper. The two main reasons 1)I will be hooked up at my son’s property and my home is becoming nightmares ‘re:repairs and general up keep. I’m 64 and should I find a special someone, my son & wife wish to purchase my rig. Thanks to all for the tips and welcome any advice. Have you or know someone who has done this? It’s me and pup, any suggestions on camper must haves, things to look for and size etc?
Honestly if you’re looking at a loan to buy a new RV, I would recommend scrapping that idea and looking at paying cash for a used, quality RV. RV’s depreciate like crazy, and new RV’s are mucho $$. There are tons of quality used rigs out there where you can get A LOT more for your money and still leave cash to spare for repairs and travel. Plus with a used rig most of the depreciation will be already accounted for, and you’ll get more back of your original $$ when you sell too.
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.)
Costs will vary greatly from RVer to RVer. For example, whether or not you choose to finance a brand new RV or pay cash for an older one will greatly impact your monthly expenses. Likewise, an RV that is 10 or more years old may require more monthly maintenance costs. Also, you can find free parking all over the country or choose to enjoy amenities at RV resorts.
However, life as they knew it began to feel confining. They started thinking about RV living as a way to explore more with their kids. The transition wasn’t quick or easy. For example, it took almost a year from when they decided to try RV living to actually selling the house and living in an RV. “At first I thought ‘Why wouldn’t everyone do this?'” says Bryanna upon reflection. “Then once we started I understood. It’s hard.”
Life as a suburbanite isn’t all bad. Like most of life, it’s a matter of perspective and attitude. I’m slowly incorporating things that I used to enjoy about being in one place like going to libraries and getting in my favorite cashier’s line at the grocery store. <== I’m obviously the life of the paaartay. Simple things that I didn’t realize I missed. I’m an introvert and homebody so it’s hard for me to get out and meet people but it’s happening. Slowly.
Thanks for the reply. Can’t wait to get out there and start living. Great advice. i will definitely be contacting the folks you left links to. Question: do you two caravan with other folks sometimes or always on your own? I thought it would be a lot of fun to to caravan along with some of the great people out there, does that happen or do people just move on and say so long.
You must spend more time in open or private sites than we do. We spend most of our summers in forested public parks and we were almost never able to get a satellite lock on that roof dish. We honestly couldn’t use it more than half the year. Last year we completely ditched the roof-dish (in fact we ditched Direct TV altogether) and it’s been a great decision for us.
Many retirees choose southern British Columbia because of the milder weather. Vancouver Island is very popular with year round RV parks that have all of the amenities needed to accommodate most people's needs. The Sunshine Coast has many possibilities, as well as the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan. Many of the choices will depend upon the interests or needs of the RVers.
I traded couches for hammocks and couldn’t be happier. There’s a reason why pictures of hammocks are associated with vacation and relaxation. I dare you to try lying in a hammock and not feel absolutely in heaven while you are there. We have an ENO Hammock which you can hang from trees so wherever we are we can lie back and watch the sky. The benefits of getting horizontal on your adrenal health is incredible. If we ever move back into a house, I’m hanging a hammock inside.
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/
When asked what advice she’d give to anyone considering RVing full-time, she mentions the word balance. In the life of a full-time RVer, balance means a number of things. It means researching and planning, but it also means driving west with no other goal than to see the surf of the Pacific. It means camping in cities and drinking beer in crowded breweries, but it also means spending weeks alone in Montana, camping on the outskirts of Glacier National Park amongst the fields of beargrass and turquoise lakes. Mostly, it means embracing a life defined by travel, even if other real-world problems like finding a doctor and sticking to a budget do arise.
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It’s been over three years and I still love living in an RV with my five kids. I realize living in an RV and traveling with kids is not on most people’s bucket list and for good reason. It’s challenging and requires a great deal of perspective. Most days I do have to stop and remind myself why this is a conscious choice made with intention. There are many reasons I love this lifestyle, but here are seven of the reasons I wake up excited to be living in an RV and traveling the world with my kids.
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).
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.
I spent months trying to figure out what to take on the road before we started out. I already knew (instinctively) that we wouldn’t need much, but I wanted to try to cover all the bases. The truth is that we needed even less than that. I took ~10% of my then-wardrobe with me, and I currently use about 10% of that. We brought along tents and other equipment we never use. We ALSO ended up buying a bunch of nifty (so we thought) “RV stuff” before we’d really spent any time in the rig on the road, another thing I’d now consider a no-no. In retrospect spending some time on the road before loading up would have made alot more sense. We’re planning a major cleaning-out when we get back to our storage in San Diego this winter and will end up much lighter for it (no doubt). If we keep this up the storage might end up going too…
This morning as I lay in bed awake but with my eyes closed, I listened to Thing 4 breathing near my cheek and felt the warmth of Brent’s body against my back. The night had been rough with Thing 3 waking up multiple times in tears and Thing 4 needing to be nursed for what seemed like a million times. But now with the soft grey light curling around the blinds, everyone but me was sleeping soundly. It was cozy. I didn’t want to wake up because that meant letting go of the comforting blanket of peace that surrounded us and embracing the everyday chaos of taking care of a toddler, baby, and two teens. Instead, I thought about how whole and safe I feel in our nest of a bed tucked away in the slide out of the RV. Eyes still closed, I reached out to tighten the curtain when my hand abruptly fell through the imagined wall.
This is an excellent post, Nina. People ask us all the time what it costs to RV full time, and we’ve come up with just about the same answer as you —we figure $3500 for a comfortable and varied lifestyle that includes a mix of state and federal parks, some boon docking, occasional expensive RV resorts, and camp hosting. We travel a lot of miles every year driving from the Pacific Northwest to Florida and back, which I realize isn’t typical.
Thank you for providing so much good info. Sorry to hear the internet trolls have been critical. Ruins it for the rest of us that want to learn. It appears your average cost of leaving is ~$10k per quarter. Really appreciate you both share what your doing. Don’t know if you have posted this, but would be interested in what each rig cost. Feel free to email direct if you like. The way you live / travel appeals to us and we are trying to figure how much it will cost initially to start the RV life style. Thanks again and safe travels 🙂
We know we changed as the years passed, but this was recently confirmed when we visited some friends from college. The last time we had visited was two years ago, only one year into traveling full-time. This visit, they couldn’t get over how much we’ve changed, especially Brandon. It helped us to see there were more changes than we realized happening and we knew it all stemmed from our experience on the road.