When Robert was offered a job in Atlanta working for an airline, they didn’t think they had enough money to buy a “proper house” for their two kids, their dog and their cats. So they decided to take the plunge on the RV lifestyle. Jessica convinced her company to let her work remotely so she could home-school their children and work in the RV anywhere in America. Robert works four days at the airline and then gets four days off, which he spends with his family in the RV.
So the big swing number that I see in what you wrote is camping costs. We workamp/boondock at least 4 months of every year which brings down those costs to around $10-$12/night on average. That’s been our norm for the past 6 years. Last year was the sole exception traveling out East, but even then we only hit $24/night. We have no TV, we travel on average only 6,000 miles per year and we don’t eat out much simply because we love to cook (when we do it’s mostly for beer tasters and a cheap lunch).
I used to spend a lot of money on internet service and full package cell but this last few years I’ve changed. Now I bring a cell phone for emergencies but it is not activated as 911 does not require activation. I use the kind of phone that can be used by purchasing a card just in case but have not yet needed to do so. In almost every town the public library allows you to use their computers for doing business and just finding were to go can be fun and a good way to see the place. I use Google chat to talk for a few minutes to special people and download a few pics to face book. Our philosophy now is to travel shorter distances per day, travel slower, and see more. Pretty near all of our budget goes to restaurants and gas.
You are going to need a set of solar panels. Forget a generator. I don’t know why almost every RV I ever come across is running a generator. I’m here to tell you that a gas-powered generator is almost completely unnecessary. A good set of solar panels placed properly on your roof (you want at least 60 watts, I’d like to have more one day) will give you enough power every day (even cloudy days) to charge your cellphones, power your lights all night, power the propane furnace for increments when the wood stove isn’t running, and watch movies.
Spray the bottom of the camper with spray foam. This isn’t something I can recommend from personal experience; it’s just something I know some people do. If I were going to do it, though, I would want to make sure I didn’t do any spraying that would prevent me from accessing certain systems if they needed repair. An alternative is to attach foam board insulation to the bottom of the RV.
I am fortunate in that my company pays for my cell phone. This includes the grandfathered “unlimited” data plan. However reliable that is though we still look for campgrounds and camping sites that offer reliable WiFi and relish in those moment we get to a cafe or a friends house that will allow us to download a movie or two for future watching. Let it be known though that our call phones and our ‘net connection are essential to our livelihood and therefore our lifestyle. My wife does have a Verizon “Pay As You Go” that we purchase minutes for on a semi-regular basis (every four months or so). For a good look at what WiFi on the road may cost though feel free to check out the expenses of Technomadia.
I really appreciate the informative comments. My wife and I are tossing around the idea of selling our house and purchasing an RV. We’ll be able to afford to pay cash for a Class A motorhome or (for less fear of problems when sitting still long term) a top of the line camper trailer so payments are not part of our expenses. My greatest concern, as with most folks, is the monthly cost of staying in a campground. Can you enlighten me on what a “membership” might cost and which ones you would recommend…if indeed you do recommend joining a camping club. We’re not the type of people who would want to stay in a state or national park. Our income should allow us to stay where water, sewer and electricity is always supplied. We simply need to know if our daily expenses will outweigh what we now spend living at home…which is about $1,500 per month, including water, electric, cable, phone, groceries, three (paid for) cars and property tax. THANKS!!
I am currently in the process of getting a job in Malaga. The Wenatchee and surrounding areas look beautiful, though I am not one for apartment life (I prefer cheaper living and green space.) I’m trying to figure out a way to have an RV or a tiny house out there, though I’m not sure where to start. I’ll be in the area this Friday (I currenly live in Michigan), do you have any suggestions on finding a lot to rent or take care of in exchage for rent?
3/ decorations – we bought a bunch of RV type decorations (e.g. Hanging lamps for our awning) that we never used and ended up giving away. My advice is don’t buy too many decorations until you get on the road, since you’ll quickly figure out what you use and what you don’t. Some camping chairs and a small collapsible side-table will get you started on your outdoor gear. Add on from there as you go.
Utilities: Depending on how much you cook and how cold the temperature is outside, you might need to fill up on propane once every month or two. A full 20-pound tank costs about $19 to fill, so let’s say $19/month for simplicity’s sake. Sometimes you have to pay extra for your electric, internet, etc. at your campground, but this is usually built into the rental cost. Finally, your phone bill is likely $75-$100 per person per month.
@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…
Hi Nina, thanks so much for the prompt reply. Follow up question to your comment “couple who had a large 5th wheel last year and they had so much low overhang on the back of their rig that it kept bottoming out on bumpy roads” Are you referring to the distance of the furthest rear axle to the back end of the 5th wheel or simply the ground clearance at the back end of the 5th wheel? I can see it being a problem the greater the distance between the rear axle to the end of the trailer on any bumpy road as being a problem, and I have seen some motorhomes that would have the same issue.
The biggest difference in costs between living in an RV full-time and living in your own stick-built house is that the RV will depreciate very quickly while the house will appreciate over time. The recent real estate collapse notwithstanding, housing prices always increase as the decades go by. In contrast, RVs, cars and trucks quietly make their way to a value of $0 and eventually breathe their last breath in the crushing facility.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area experiences hot, humid summers, with temperatures approaching or exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit during July and August. Mild winters offer temperatures from approximately 35 to 55 degrees. The months of May and October typically see the highest rainfalls, up to 5 inches, while January typically experiences the lowest rainfall, with an average of less than 2 inches.
If at all possible, buy well before you plan to embark on your trip, and spend some time in it on short weekend trips and vacations. An even better option, especially if you were overseas like we were, is to rent an RV for a vacation. Even consider doing it more than once if you can. Just remember that living in it and vacationing in it are two very different things.
[…] I think we will end up trying to travel with the weather but we have not decided on exact plans yet. Luckily there a LOT of people that travel the country and there are so many helpful websites, blogs, instructional and educational videos out there. I have also heard that full time RVer’s are very kind and helpful and care about their communities. I have found some awesome tips about RVing with dogs, Rv campsite review websites, public land camping and free locations to park, and all kinds of amazing videos about how to replacing flooring and painting the walls and of course all kinds of lists like the “10 things I wish I’d known before RVing“. […]
Get custom skirting made: Custom vinyl skirting can be ordered from multiple upholstery companies. Getting vinyl skirting made has its advantages. It has to have some give to it, so when the ground freezes it won't push up the bottom of your trailer, denting the trim. The main idea of skirting is to create a dead air space below the trailer. This acts like insulation. Also custom skirting can be removed and installed in minutes and can be stored easily in a compartment. A definite must have for winter camping!
I’ve heard that vehicle insurance rates are based on the demographics like population on a county-by-county basis (as well as each person’s age, driving record, etc.). Are you aware of any significant differences in insurance rates between the counties in South Dakota where the mail forwarding services are located? A couple of them are in very sparsely populated counties, but I haven’t seen them promoting this as a reason to choose their services.
The first thing on my list of things to do was replace the standard RV drinking water hose that ran from my city water source across my driveway (in a makeshift conduit I’d created) to the mobile mansion. I needed to run some kind of water line that I could run heat tape along. Heat tape (or trace heating) uses electricity to apply a small amount of heat to pipes to prevent freezing. I had some experience with it from my Howard Mesa cabin, where we’d used it on a very short length of hose between a water tank and the building. But rather than a 6-foot length of the stuff, I’d need 66 feet of it. That meant two 30-foot lengths plus one 6-foot length.
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.
When the temperatures dip below freezing, we make sure to run our propane heater so it can blow into our storage bay and keep our pipes and tanks warm. But we use electric heat as backup for when we run out of propane in the middle of the night (because sometimes we are irresponsible and forget about our propane tanks) and because it’s cheaper for us as a main source of heat when the temperatures are above freezing.
Wow..we have been following your post since we saw the special on TV. Was hoping to get some information on RV-ing, but did not know you would provide great detailed information. We hope to start traveling in about 5 years and the cost have been on our minds alot this year. Your expense details really help us. Hope to see you on the road sooner than 5 years. Thanks for the posts.
It’s been just over a year since we moved out of the RV. Even though we knew our decision to stop full time RVing was the right one, moving out of the RV was easier said than done. With the help of some friends, it only took a few hours to get all our stuff out of the RV. The emotional “moving out” has taken much longer. For Brent and I, it’s been a surprisingly difficult painful new “road”.
Brent and I gave it our best to make full time RVing work for them as teens. We met up with road friends and family regularly. We traveled with other families when the opportunity arose. We spent two winters in the mountains snowboarding. We took Thing 1 to a music camp. We sought out opportunities for Thing 2 to pursue interests like gold panning. We let them have a say in the travel planning. We found online classes when we felt like we couldn’t meet their educational needs.
But no matter what kind of trip you’re taking, whether it’s just a quick weekend, a month-long circuit of the National Parks, or even the foreseeable future, living in a motorhome with a family is a totally different animal than going solo or with a spouse. We want to ensure your family RV experience is a pleasant one, not a nightmare — so here are our best tips for living in an RV or camper with kids without going crazy!
Once we retire, my wife and I are planning on spending winters (at least) heading south from Chicago in an RV for maybe 3 months at a time. I’m an over-researcher according to her, but also an accountant. 🙂 I’d love to play with your budgeting worksheet. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the link on your website. Is there a specific page where I can find it?
Theresa first let me say YOU GO GIRL! Lots of women travel alone, so you won’t be the only one but many women are too afraid to travel alone, so yeah for being brave! I would join a group like NuRvers and/or fulltime families. There are lots of great people to meet up with along the way so you will feel a part of a community and it gives you a broad group of people to reach out to if you are having any issues or questions.
Sheepherder wagons have a long history of wood/dung stoves but we don’t see them in the Wally World parking lot belching smoke from their long chimneys protruding from steeply sloped sheet-metal roofs do we? One has to wonder how the modern RV roof holds up, with or without a spark arrester on the stack, so close to the exhaust opening? Wonder how you would like it if somebody parked an RV in front of your house and then the creosote buildup in the stack flashed and blew a blizzard of sparks across your property and vehicles? 😉 Burning birch is not option in most parts of the country. Maybe Kent should discuss the types of wood he prefers and why ….
After completing 2 weeks of travel, I have spent a total of $240 on diesel fuel. Having spent $0 on lodging, and having a supermarket available at almost every stop, I have lived as well as anyone else — either on the road or parked — for the sum total of less than $500 a month, excluding the cost of food. (Food is a fixed cost that you have no matter where you are.)
It is a large chunk, yes. You would have to read my full story (www.tinyrevolution.us) to understand the basis of this post. Not every month is the same. But that is the reality. Some campgrounds/parks/villages/resorts are more expensive than others. We treat ourselves for 3 months a year by living in SW Florida where it is sunny and warm rather than endure the winter other locations have. I would guarantee you that if you chose to do the same you would find identical costs. And no, I wouldn’t say it is against the tenets because it is only by choice that we are able to escape in such a way. We have the choice to appropriate our money each month as we like because we aren’t saddled to debt be it consumer, mortgage, personal loan, etc. You are right Joe. You can lease a darn nice house in a lot of places and that is your choice to do so if you are financially free to do so.
While part-time RVers may love “Home is where you part it” yard signs, cute camper trinkets, and adorable awning lights, the full-time RVer may be less enthusiastic about such gifts. The simple reason most full time RVers are concerned about space and weight and only carry what they really need or love. When your RV is your home, it forces you to be very selective about your belongings. Ask your favorite RVers if there is anything that they need or if you are unsure stick with gift cards or consumables. Please don’t gift your full-time RVing friend or family member large bulky items without asking first. If you really must purchase them a large gift that you think will be just perfect, buy it from a nationwide chain store and include a gift receipt. It’s not that full timers aren’t appreciative, it’s just the reality of living in a small mobile space!
Part of living as entrepreneurs means we have to be OK with a level of fear and stress around making sure we are bringing money in. There are no paid vacations or sick days. It has definitely been an adjustment and something we continue to learn how to live with, but it is also really cool and makes us proud that we are living our own life and setting our own schedule.
Jessica warns it’s not all fun on the road. “Instead of mowing the lawn, we do maintenance on the RV. Things don’t last as long as they do in a house. The level of chores is about the same,” she said, adding that they have to go to the laundromat now. “But it gives us the freedom to be by the beach one day, a mountain the next or a lake. It’s made all the difference for us.”