Jay, you have made some very big assumptions here and they are wrong. As for our expenses, they are very accurate and contrary to popular blogging beliefs we don’t all get everything for free. Our meals, fuel, insurance and all of our day to day expenses that everyone else has, are not free. We pay for everything, including our RV. We have actually gotten very little for free over the years and when we do get something in exchange for review, you’ll see it noted. Expenses vary greatly per person. Even within these comments you’ll see others spending way less and way more. We blog, because we like sharing our experiences and helping others. If you don’t find that we are doing that for you, then you are correct, time to move along.
We create a monthly budget. While many expenses are not monthly in nature (registration, insurance, maintenance, etc.), we choose to break them up into monthly line items for our budget, and put that amount into savings each month. This ensures we don’t come up short when the expense is due. For example, our RV and truck insurance is due twice a year. We divide the amount into six and that is what we put into savings each month.
New RVers may want to think about including inflation expectations into their budgets. We use a rolling multi-year budget, and incorporate expected cost increases. Lower fuel prices during the last few years, has been very good for RVer budgets, but this could change. Many economists are now expecting inflation (o.k. now I am showing my geek side) to increase with the new administration.
That said, it is not for everyone. We have met very few full-time RVers who boondock as much as we do. Most people who enjoy boondocking, or “free camping,” do it from 25% to 75% of the time, at most. For full-timers who work, it is hard to find a boondocking location near most jobs, and you have to pack up and go to the RV dump station every 10 days to 2 weeks, disrupting your life. Even if your work is location independent, and you work out of your RV, finding good boondocking locations that have adequate internet access to do that is not easy. During the summer of 2014 we spent 5 weeks camping in places that were 10 miles or more from the nearest internet access.
Having never driven more than an SUV, I certainly didn’t feel equipped to pull a 30-foot trailer with a diesel pickup truck (our setup last year). But like riding a bike, practice makes perfect. A few hours maneuvering around a Walmart parking lot, getting a feel for turns and backing into empty spaces, and we felt comfortable enough to head out on the open road. It’s always necessary to do an appropriate amount of route scouting in advance to avoid low overpasses or the possible restricted roads, but within a few weeks’ time, pulling and parking the rig was second nature.
What a shame that you dropped your 5D MkII in the water; however, I’m surprised that you could not return it to Canon to be repaired (unless it was salt water). The new MkIII — easily the finest full-frame semi-pro camera in existence and one of the best cameras ever made — is $3500 for the body alone, so it isn’t inexpensive. But for what you do, and your imaging requirements, perhaps the MkIII camera is a practical investment even though you guys are trying to save money! Good luck on your new travel plans!
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.
[…] Our life in that storage, or so we thought. But after a certain number of years you start to question that whole premise and whether your “life” is really worth the ever-increasing storage $$ you throw at it? 6 years on and we feel this more strongly than ever. In fact I’ve talked about it many times on the blog before and it’s one of the key regrets I featured in #8 on my popular post “10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Went Fulltime RVing“. […]
Below is the breakdown of our costs, if you want more details read the posts from 2012 and 2011 as we pretty much spend the same way each year. As usual I’ve rounded the numbers to keep it simple.$2,137 Groceries, housewares and booze – Costco still being the largest ($1,088) also includes Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joes, TJ Maxx (we get some of our specialty foods here) Wal-Mart (for RV supplies), local natural grocery stores, and Cash at Farmer’s Markets.
Regular shower and/or bathroom: At first, a small bathroom seems just fine – until you've been in there a few times. The walls close in. The shower is smaller than most broom closets. Your elbows will touch both sides, as will a lot of the rest of your body at certain times. While it's totally doable to take a shower and still feel like you are OK to go out in public, it's certainly not luxurious.
Our situation is fairly unique (I think) because I work away from my family for 2 weeks and then i’m back with them for two weeks. I work in northern Alberta ( we are Canadian) and for the 6 really cold month of winter we could be anywhere in the US or Canada. For the 6 not so cold months she wants to set up camp in northern Alberta. near where I work. Our family is very concerned for the safety of my wife and kids while I am gone away at work for two weeks. do you have any advice on this or know any other fulltime families that have a similar situation?
The Wildcat also has you covered in the features department, having some pretty impressive offerings ranging from a booth dinette to dual marine-grade outdoor stereo speakers. Of course, all of these are just the ones present in the vanilla version. Those looking to change a few features here and there can consider a myriad of upgrade options available such as a 2nd 13,500 BTU air conditioner and a king size bed!
We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.
We have camped at Tiger Run also and the temps got down to -9 F. We got the extended propane tank rented from the campground. We had all the issues and made a cardboard skirt and put a ceramic space heater underneath. That worked, though we left our sewer hooked up and only drained once a week and used the built in facilities during the day. We wrapped the exterior drain pipes with heat tape and insulation. We added hot water to the grey and black water tanks before flushing. Didn’t have a problem. Also made the heated water supply hose with heat tape and insulation. That never froze either. This year we are going back (in 2 weeks! YAY!) and are having a custom skirt made. Combined with the ceramic heater underneath, this should keep the whole thing warmer as well as stop any freezing of the water bay and plumbing. There is one weak link in our trailer, the water lines run through a cabinet, then back out behind the toilet, then under the bath tub, and then into another cabinet where the pump is. This froze twice. I rerouted one of the heater vents to heat the first cabinet by removing the vent exit and setting the vent tube to blow half of it’s air into the cabinet. Ugly but effective in an emergency. This year we are going to try running an LED rope light along that pipe run. This will double as a night light. They use very little power, and don’t get as hot as incandescent bulbs. Allegedly, the skirt and ceramic heater should fix everything but you never know! We’ll follow up as things progress. We agree that winter camping allows us to enjoy snowboarding and skiing places like Breckenridge Aspen, and Jackson Hole and actually afford it! And of course you can bring your doggie or kitty too.
RV parks have all your basic amenities—bathrooms, showers, washateria (not all of them), internet (typically slow wifi), and the occasional pool. One of the first things we realized early on was the difference between an RV Park vs. a Trailer Park. RV parks are places where RVers like us or retirees typically stay. A trailer park is… well, what you think of when you think of trailer park.
I hate to say this, but were I starting all over, I’d go with a 2009 – 2014 or so Ford E150 with low miles (probably run around $15000), build out the camper myself, pay someone to put a pop top on it (that’s big money though, $7k more or less) and spend more of my time traveling than working on this old girl. At this point, of course, I am in love with our VW and wouldn’t make the choice outlined in this paragraph. 🙂
i had the same idea, and i am willing to invest and become partner in such an adventure, but would be nicer to have 15 to 20 spots, we could go over costs , find a place not farther than 35 to 40 min from a city center with ammenities, resturaunts, shopping & movie theatre, i live in s. florida and theres alot of land for sale out west, and not too far from everything, i had an idea to do a shipping container homesite, doing the same thing, same idea,,, its hard to find like minded people wanting to co-exist but the living expenses would be so low, commpared to a house and great for retirees that do not have alot of savings,, we could be a community helping each other out, i am all for that idea. would have to get plans and find out from the building departments what we can do or cant do..
I grew up in a travel trailer for many years. And now my husband and I are going to do it with our three kids. We looked into it financially and found out, it was a very good option the storage unit, truck, trailer and our land payment would add up to be less than the rent we pay. So when we build, the house will not be such a financial burden, if any. Your post has helped me believe it will end up being the best option even with all the kids.
Having a wood stove allows you to heat and cook without propane, oil, or electricity, which means you truly have an off-grid setup. A wood stove will keep you warm, the wood heat will dry the air out in the RV, which will help get rid of condensation from breathing and cooking. There are not many wood stoves out there that will work in an RV. I personally chose a Kimberly wood stove, because it only weighs 56 lbs and it’s extremely efficient. There are a few other companies out there (such as Marine wood stoves, which are a little cheaper, but you get what you pay for).
6. Necessities and storage: ‘Take only what's necessary’ is easier said than done, but these tips should help. Have each family member lay out everything they want to take with them, and then have them pick out one thing they can do without until the pile is reduced as much as possible. Invest in some vacuum seal bags for clothing, and a hand-vac. Full-time RV living is a lot like camping, and necessitates much of the same equipment.
In the end, the decision was made easy by the amazing views out my window every day. From my perch high above the Columbia River and Wenatchee Valley, I could enjoy the ever-changing scenery, which varied throughout the day with changes in light and weather. I could watch low-level clouds form and dissipate over the river. I could see the shadows move and lengthen with the shifting of the sun. I would watch the moonlight play upon the hillsides and cliffs. And I could marvel at the lights down in the city, sparkling with color. Would I see all that cooped up in a tiny rental apartment? Or closed up in a cavernous hangar with just three windows? No.
We have received many Post Office General Delivery packages shipped by both UPS and FedEx without being charged a penny by the Postal Service. However, we have received just as many packages where we were charged a fee of as much as $12, depending on the size of the package, when we went to the post office window to pick it up. There is no way of knowing what the fee will be ahead of time, as it is out of the hands of the company that shipped the package and is entirely up to the local Post Office that delivers it to you via General Delivery.
We have setup our lifestyle as a lifestyle of freedom. No set schedules or times that we really need to be anywhere and our reservations can always be changed. This is amazing yet causes problems. Since our time is ALL ours. We could all stay in our pajamas all day if we wanted to every day. Of course we can’t do that because we do have to work and the kids won’t sit still that long.
I just love reading about your experiences. This question is for Paul assuming he does most the wrenching? Paul, when do you decide to take your rig in for “fix-it’s” compared to do it yourself. Some basic things I have tackled have been very stressful (trying to save a buck) yet rewarding when accomplished. And what is your tool box situation? Huge weight factor as I have a huge roll around at home but only certain tools make it in my rig. (30′ class A HURRICANE) I keep basic stuff such as small cord less drill/driver/impact to help turn stubborn screws and bolts that I cant break loose due to health, it also has adaptors for sockets which I carry a small assortment, then the plumbing and electrical stuff. I keep some extra wire and connectors, stripers, tape etc. plumbing is easy with connectors and pliers? but I find I want to have so much more from “the big box” at home. Also carry rainy season stuff to help prevent those leaks I found this year. frightful to say the least when you find a leak in your roof. My RV tool box is approx.. 8″x20″x8″ yet weighs a ton. Try to keep something in it to fix anything. Best tool is a good bright flashlight that has a beam or if extended has a wide light like a small lantern
We live five months a year in our motorhome spending 7 months in our Mexican casa down in San Felipe, Baja. This has been our life style since 2005. Looking over your expenses have you every shopped on eBay for software products? You can save bundles. . . . I buy a ton of our “needs” on eBay with great savings and success just shipping it to where ever we are staying. Also, I am a thrift store junkie. I love nice, expensive (brands) clothes and kitchenware but don’t like paying full price. I find great bargains in Goodwill and Saver stores. It makes it fun to seek out these stores in all the different stops we make. I “cleaned house” this summer back east in their Goodwill stores. Just a thought. . . I enjoy your website very much. . . you’re having a lot of fun in your travels. I also would rather stay at a Harvest Host site versus Walmart!
$827 Costco – Because we didn’t find many farmers markets or affordable natural food stores on this portion of our trip, we renewed our Costco membership. For the amount cooking we do, Costco is the best way for us to get reliable organic, natural, and affordable food items. Yes you must purchase in bulk, however we try not to over-purchase, and we rely on Costco for our staples only like tomatoes, beans, hummus, chips, etc. Sometimes we’ll even find local venders in Costco from coffee roasters, to pastry makers, to exotic cheeses made from nearby farms….and that’s why we choose Costco over Sam’s Club.
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.
We are about to enter our second winter living in our fifth wheel, and since we bought the RV in summer of 2016 we have been parked stationary in Kansas City (on the Kansas side). (In case you are wondering right now why we don’t just move south for winter, it’s because we are tied to a job here for now.) The climate here is not as severe as some places people might be living or camping in the winter, but it can get pretty cold.
We discuss the process of minimizing your belongings. Living in an RV means living with less space. A lot less space. That’s why minimalism plays an important part of the process for RV living. Getting rid of furniture and appliances is one thing, but what about kids’ toys? What about photo albums? Bryanna tells us more about their process in the podcast.
I think RV living would be awesome but I’m not sure if we could do it full time (or that my wife would want to) but I could see us trying an extended trip someday. I couldn’t imagine it with 3 kids though – our 1 daughter keeps us busy enough 🙂 I’m glad to hear that shifting to RV living full time has been a good experience and that your online work seems to be going well! Enjoy the experience!
Just like anything in life, you can’t please everyone and everyone doesn’t have the same amount of money Which makes this country great. In the US you can work hard and succeed. And those that don’t have nobody to blame but themselves and government that takes so much from those that do work hard. I just found your site and am hoping to find out the cost of going full timing. My hubby and I have no idea what the costs would be or how to determine how much we will need to live our life on the road. I’m hoping reading your site will give me more insight. What would be really nice is a book that gives a good idea what to expect. We have our unit already, after many tries I think we found the one that will serve us the best. If anyone knows of any books on this matter please let me know.
I like to read how people manage to live ‘on the road’. I (woman) am bussy now with an old Volkswagen LT and an old caravan Fendt Baronesse/Comtesse to prepare for long trips with my husband. I really like to read everything that you have done till now. I do have an suggestion; eventhough I am living in France I would like to offer help for travellers like you if you are in need because of engine-failure or something like that. The benefits are that you can park on our property and we know all the garages etc. in the neighbourhood. Also we have tools and friends who are mechanics. Share a meal and a cup of coffee with you will not make us bankrupt. I hope that other people will do the same. Enjoy your tour!
It’s official, we froze! Well, to be more clear our freshwater tank froze. After surviving months in the Colorado Rockies without freezing, imagine our surprise when we froze solid in AZ! Well, I honestly can’t believe it. After careful consideration, and a talk with the service technicians at Monaco here’s what I’ve learned about our Vesta, and this applies to most any RV that’s not completely sealed.
Most fulltime RVers sign up with a mail forwarding service and use that as their main address (and also often as their official domicile address for taxes, health insurance etc.). We have our service in SD (with DakotaPost), but there are many other good services out there (e.g. Escapees in TX, St.Brendans Isle in FL). Basically all our stuff gets sent to the mail forwarder where it’s collected and held. Whenever we want the mail we just ask for it to be forwarded from there to wherever we are. If we’re in a place that doesn’t accept mail, we’ll get it sent to the nearest Post Office as General Delivery and go pick it up there. We typically get our mail ~once per month.
Our recreation expenses are all over the place. There is no right or wrong, black or white, night or day. Some months it covers a movie rental or two while others it serves as admission into a children’s museum. This past month it paid our way into 3 different state parks, an iTunes album, 2 television episodes, a fishing road and fishing license, and some craft supplies for my daughter.
Yes we have a washer and dryer in our RV – but it is mini! So when you see one with industrial size washers and dryers that will dry everything in 25 minutes (instead of 2 hours like the RV one) you get really excited :)! It really does become about the little things you took for granted in a house when you live in an RV. And yes there are times I REALLY miss my large washer and dryer that we had in our house . . .
We are both foodies and people watchers and in our first month we were doing lunch and dinner in nice restaurants and a Starbucks to use he wifi almost every day. We went over our food budget by $2500.00!! the first two months…. Now we have found that we can go to “coffee shops”. Have a lite snack without liquor or expensive beverages and then go home and share a great bottle of wine over a wonderful campfire dinner. Third month is under budget! So I would have to say food and drink was our biggest expense surprise.
Thanks so much for the tips. I am in the process of moving out of my 1650 sq. ft. house into a 32′ fifth wheel, which I have parked on my two-acre property. My granddaughter and hubby are moving into the house to help with the mortgage payments on the property. I won’t be traveling anywhere, just staying put in my own yard, but your tips are invaluable. Keep ’em coming!
You may wish to put insulation around the waste hose to give the fluid more time to drain before the freezing temps cause a problem. I have seen people add heat tape to the drain hose also. I do NOT recommend that. Heat tape works fine on water lines that have water in them. Full lines are less likely to over heat. An empty sewer line may melt or scorch from the heat of a tape. There MAY be tapes made for this purpose, however I’ve never seen them.
We also keep the Careington Telemedicine plan offered by RVer Insurance that includes a telemedicine service, which gives us access to virtual doctors visits over phone/internet and a discount dental & vision network across the nation. The cost is $149/year for both of us – and we use this far more often than our insurance plan, as finding providers as we travel difficult.
Well Howdy! I am so glad to hear you will be joining us! You’re gonna love it (if you don’t, blame Jason)! The house sounds awesome (too bad it doesn’t have wheels) but nothing beats the freedom and ability to change neighbors and scenery whenever you feel like it! Thanks so much for taking the time to say hello and let us know when you hit the road!
Reservations & Pre-Paying: One consideration with the variability of camping fees, is that to score great spots during peak season in your desired location – you may find you have to pre-pay for your spot at time of reservation or put up a sizable deposit. So if you’re making your winter reservations during the summer – you could end up paying for part of your winter lodging, while still funding your summer lodging. Always be sure to check out the cancellation policy when making reservations in advance – sometimes they’re refundable, and sometimes there are fees involved.
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 🙂
Pro Tip: Even if you don’t insure your RV through Good Sam, you should definitely spring for their Roadside Assistance service. It’s $80 a year and completely worth it. Plus, if they can’t get to you in time for roadside assistance, they will pay for whoever does end up coming out to save you from the side of the Interstate. After getting a blown tire outside of Coalinga, California, I’m a HUGE fan of Good Sam’s Roadside service. Getting our tow dolly tire replaced billed us $150, which Good Sam promptly reimbursed us for. I’m a huge fan of any service that pays for itself. (PS They don’t pay me to say nice things about them, but they should.)
• If you live a different RV lifestyle please share it in the comments section below, no topic is more important for travelers than spending/saving $$$. Tell us how much you travel and how much you spend on the road; obviously you don’t need to go into ridiculous amounts of detail like my long winded report, but give us the cliff’s notes.08/01/2012 – 12/31/2012
The Meinhofers have met a lot of families with kids on the road, but they haven’t encountered many other Latinos. They think there’s a perception in some communities of color that doing this means you are destitute. They are trying to inspire others to join them with their YouTube channel, Exploring the Local Life, which has become so popular it is making them money.