To save money, we don’t have a cell phone. We estimate that since we started traveling this may have saved us about $50/month or as much as $4,500 all together. We have also equipped our trailer with solar panels and we camp for free virtually every night. These choices make us happy, but may not suit everyone. Here’s a description of our minimalist internet and communications solution and our tips for how to live off the grid in an RV.
Stainless Steel Wine Glasses – When we hit the road in our RV, we brought along our wine glasses. It didn’t take long until they all broke and we were drinking wine out of mugs. We put these stainless steel glasses on our wish list but ended up just drinking from mugs because we are classy like that. These are the only things on the list that we don’t own but wish we did. (Ahem) We think these would make a great gift for RVers even part-time ones. 😉
Choose campgrounds and RV parks that only have amenities you plan to take advantage of during your stay. Generally, the more services and amenities a campground has, the more it's going to cost. Campsite fees don't have to break the bank. State parks are a great low-cost option, as are many RV parks. Look here to find a campground or consider travel apps to help you find the campground that best suits your need.
Since we don’t eat out a lot and we try to buy organic, local food that tends to be a little more expensive, our grocery bill is one of our biggest. We shop a lot at Costco (you wouldn’t think a bulk store like this would work, but the prices are right for the things we like!) and Trader Joe’s for most of our groceries. We also lump in here things like cleaners, toilet paper, shampoo, new clothes, etc.
Joyce Ann Seid (84) and Steven Seid (77) bought their first RV in 2001 to travel on weekends to see the grandkids and visit casinos and parks. By 2010, they moved into the RV full-time. “We rented our house and wound up getting a bigger RV and then we wound up living in it because we liked it so much,” Steven said. “If we don’t like our neighbors, we just pack up and leave.”
Gear / Modifications – Your RV dealership may or may not provide some of the basic “gear” that is needed to live and travel in an RV (see our Gear Guide here). You may also want to complete certain upgrades for safety or convenience. For example, we were not happy with the tires that came on the Fifth Wheel, and purchased all new tires (at our own expense). Many RVers like to boondock, or camp off-grid, and outfit their RV with solar. Others remodel and paint, change flooring or fabric to make it their own. This is often an ongoing expense that you should budget for as just like in a sticks and bricks home, people like to upgrade and make changes to improve their daily lives.
Thank you for giving me some ideas. I am interested in going on long trips, and or living in an rv. Of course different lifestyles change the amounts of money. But, do you think a single person, in a realistically priced trailer, with a decent size truck, and doesn’t require a lot of entertainment and food, do you think I could make it? I am but a modest lady wanting to travel some. I appreciate your advice. Thank you.
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?).
The truck needs regular oil changes, new filters, new tires, alignments, and regular maintenance as it gets older and we put more miles on it. It also occasionally breaks. For us this number is relatively low since Tom and I do so much of the maintenance and repairs ourselves. We estimate that we’ve saved thousands of dollars in labor and parts by doing it ourselves. In 2016 we did have a big breakdown that we had to take it to a shop to get fixed (we can lift transmissions by ourselves) that brought our costs way up. Better to estimate high in this category and be pleasantly surprised than the other way around.
The Padgetts quickly reined in their spending by ceasing to treat their new lifestyle like a vacation, where they could always eat out, go on tours of local points of interest and hit up the night life. Their new frugal habits helped them pay off nearly $30,000 in student debt in four years. Their yearly budget in 2014, during which they visited all 48 states on the continent for a documentary, broke down to the following:
Beginning with my generation and thrown into full swing by the millenials after me, though it seems like we’re living in “the future” we’ve actually decided to take back something from America’s past that the baby boomers through away. Specifically, working for yourself, not a big company. Corporations lured us in with the promise of pensions (then yanked them or learned they could just fire people before they were due to collect), but really all they did was make us dependent on them. 1-3% raises per year while their profits headed into the billions.
Help! I am in school and traveling my way to spending my life in debt. Not from school but trying to decide living options. RVS are so expensive I have thought about travel trailers and tiny homes. I never know which way to go. People urge me towards equity in a home and stability for my son but we live in oklahoma with no beautiful landscape and can never take time off from work because our jobs are perpetually oppressive. I need to know that this works. It’s not scary, it is healthy and people are safe on the road aswell. We are battling obesity and other health related issues at only 25 from a sedentary and work driven lifestyle any support would be awesome!
We have a family HSA Bronze plan that we purchase through the Healthcare Marketplace, with a ridiculously high $13,800 deductible (but includes some preventative stuff and provider co-pays) with an included network that is fairly nationwide. For 2018 we’re sticking with our ‘on exchange’ Florida based EPO plan with BlueCross BlueShield that give us national access to their BlueSelect network. We don’t claim any subsidies, but being on exchange keeps the option open to claim them at the end of the year if we qualify (our income varies).
Having more than a Hobbit-sized refrigerator: If Hobbits had fridges, I'm sure it would be similar to the one we have in our RV. It's more like a dorm fridge with a small freezer on the top. Oh, and RV refrigerators don't operate like the one you buy down at Sears. Oh, no. These babies work by what's known as gas absorption, which entails heating ammonia that magically cools the fridge. I won't go into the gory details, mostly because I'm not too versed in the wizardry behind it. Just know that it is usually too cold (your veggies are going to freeze) or too warm (your veggies are going to rot) and you may have to fiddle with the buttons to keep things right.
Within the last month I moved out of my apartment, purchased a new tow car and a 21′ travel trailer (monthly financing less than what I was paying for rent, and I will own them). I was really excited and didn’t quite think things through about where I was going to boondock. I work for Wal-mart and made arrangements with my store manager, but it is an awkward experience. Now to the point, I can’t be without internet. I use non contract boost mobile and pay $50 a month, this includes “unlimited” call, text and date plus my phone has hot spot capabilities. It allows for 2.5 gig a month of data and then when you reach the limit it slows your speed but you still have access to internet.
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 am really scratching my head as to why you would not include the cost, finance, and depreciation of your RV in your calculations. I understand that everyone’s RV values will be different but by avoiding those calculations all the other calculations you’re are giving just gibberish. For example that $100,000 RV will only be worth $50,000 in five years. Just the depreciation alone over 5 years would be $833.00 per month! Then there is DVM fees, insurance,
Pay no mind to the ignorant few; the rest of us really find value in the information you share. We’ve been transitioning away from the “american dream”, sold our house, are doing some major downsizing now and learning to live on less than half of what we made before. We are putting all our time/effort into selling our stuff and inventory from our micro inventory-based business (i.e. Ebay/Etsy shop) and transitioning to multiple streams of revenue that allows us to travel lightly. We only pay for essentials right now so we can save the rest. People just don’t know the whole story and like to play the victim game when they hear of people leading fulfilling lives and assume you are loaded; like you we are choosing to empower ourselves and our dream, not be stuck in fear and everyone else’s view of what life should look like. Bravo Nikki and Jason!
All these questions factor in. I’d say if they can buy the RV outright, if they’re knowledgeable and handy so they can fix or direct the repair of most things on an RV after some study, they could make it with $30,000 in the bank. That would give them close to 2 years to learn the ropes of the road. If they’re frugal. No eating out. No $100 concert tickets. No spurious or unessential purchases. No staying in expensive RV parks. Not too much travel. And assuming they work part time while on the road for either cash or a free RV spot whenever possible.
My State Farm agent Will Tweed set me up for success when helping me plan our insurance needs. Thanks to Will I just received a check from State Farm for nearly $3,700.00 to pay for my replacement camera mentioned below in the additional gear section. This brings our 6 month spending total to $19,164 that’s $1,597 per person per month for living full-time on the road. Not too Shabby.Expenses 02/01/2012 through 07/31/2012$22,864.00 Grand Total for 6 months of RV Travel for both Nikki and I to live full time on the road in our Motorhome. This is approximately $1,653 per person per month. At this rate we’re on target to spend a similar amount as 2011. This really stinks as I feel we’ve been more frugal this year on the road vs. 2011. In certain areas we’ve saved literally thousands, but in others we’ve added expenses!Here are few ideas on how we can save money: (if you have any ideas, we would love to hear them)
Excellent read, but now more than ever, I want to head south before it's too late. I planned to head out of CT to IN for Nov/Dec, then go south. But the RV parks (just 2 that are open year round in that area) have an age restriction for their RV's. Mine is a 1985 Class C, though not in the least bit embarrassing. I'm afraid I'll run into this age restriction thing all over the USA but the fear of spending the winter in CT is getting to me, too. I can't even imagine my propane and electric costs to get through each month, not to mention the cost of skirting. Help!!! Can someone ease my fears about the age of my rig in regard to campgrounds during the winter months? Will I be stuck parking in Cracker Barrel's?
Starting by tent camping is also extremely helpful, because it requires very little up front investment. The advantage is that it gets you in the outdoors and gives you a chance to meet lots of RV owners at the campgrounds where you can talk to them and get answers to the many questions you have as a newbie. Plus, if you are nice and friendly, you might get invited in to see their unit and talk about its pros and cons.
We made the transition not long after college, so we really hadn’t accrued a lot of stuff. We had to get rid of a TV, few pieces of furniture, and a lot of our clothes, but other than that—not too much. This was probably much easier for us than it would be someone who has lived in a home for 20-30 years. I can understand the difficulty of what that might look like when I see my parent’s home where my brothers and I were raised. I can only imagine how hard it must be to give everything up.
Congrats on living the dream! I wish I could talk my Wife in to this, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. I’ve done some background acting and think this would be a great way to do that on a more frequent basis. Your husband and I look a lot alike and I think We would be good fits for the show Outsiders! lol I got to ask though, $5000 a month in expenses sounds like a lot. What are you paying on that rings up that much. Is it mostly the RV payment?
Let's start by keeping that cold weather outside and the warm air in. To do this, you need to increase insulation and reduce cold air infiltration. Your windows are a great place to start. Most RV windows are single-pane and many do not seal well. Some sort of storm window is needed, and there are a lot of possibilities: Some folks use foam core board to cover the windows from the inside. This works well, but it's pretty hard to see through! Other folks use sheets of Plexiglass or Lexan cut to fit the windows and held in place either with small brackets, velcro or tape. This helps seal the windows and you can see through it, but then you will be faced with storing the storm windows during the summer.
I came into life unexpectedly during my parent’s plans to fulltime in their 40’s. They elected to proceed with their aspirations with the condition of how I would adapt. In 1978, everything was sold and we left Missouri to “go west young man”. Over the next 10 years, we vastly traveled while Dad built banks. Every weekend was an adventure scoping out the gems the area(s) had to offer. Mom enrolled me in school at each location providing me social skills I would’ve not learned if home schooled. Almost in high school, they decided to retire and stabilize my education. Wow! What a culture shock! My most impressional years were spent in a 40′ fifth wheel, and then it all stopped.
$1099 Equipment Upgrades – The more Videos I shoot the more Hard Drives I need, and the faster my computer needs to be! I added a second Hard Drive to my Laptop, it’s a blazing fast hybrid drive and works perfectly as a ‘scratch disk’ for my video files (drive plus install kit $175). I had to purchase a new Wireless Lavaliere receiver due to my unfortunate accident of dropping the camera into the creek (see the previous post on expenses for the ugly details) however my insurance policy covered this cost, YEA! We bought a new “toy” it’s the Canon EOS M ($794), check my post on Secrets to HD Video on the Road for more details on how much we love this tiny camera (and what we don’t like about it). I purchased a new 3TB External Hard Drive for redundant backup ($130), you have to be prepared for a computer or hard drive to crash at any time, better safe than sorry right?
Anyone considering the purchase of their first RV, in my humble opinion, should spend the least amount possible. They should make a cash purchase with an allotment for repairs and upgrades. Start small! You can always work up when you have a greater understanding for how you’ll use your RV and what your RVing needs will be. While it’s fun to shop the newest, largest models, there is a definite learning curve when you launch your RV adventures, so start cheap, start small, and enjoy the journey.
Thanks for your reply. We would probably not have that much expense as we plan on living off the grid almost 100% of the time with the exception of say a few days out of the month. We also do not plan on driving really long distances like from one end of the US to the other (I.E. Florida to Washington lol). We plan on doing it slowly and staying in each place for a month or two before leaving that city. My sister is on disability so we have a fixed income and I do not make tons of money myself. We have been homeless together before so we have ways of doing things that probably a lot of people would not do or be able to do.
You may look around at your stuff and say, “Bah… I don’t have anything of real value here.” But imagine trying to replace all your clothes (winter and summer), shoes (running, walking, hiking, dress shoes, slippers, sandals, boots), jackets, sweaters, blankets, pillows, sheets, towels, everything in the bathroom vanity, food in the fridge as well as pantry, dishes, pots and pans, kitchen appliances, CDs, DVDs, BBQ, portable generator, tools in the basement, spare parts, musical instruments, laptops, printers, cameras, smartphones, bicycles, kayaks, books, etc.
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!
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.
Penni Brink (62) and Chip Litchfield (59) have a “Welcome to Margaritaville” sign outside their RV and the kind of easygoing spirit that immediately draws you in. The couple met in the late 1980s when they were working in the same business complex in Vermont, but Chip was married to someone else at the time. Their paths crossed again a few years ago at a craft fair and as their relationship blossomed, Chip suggested they travel in an RV. Penni was apprehensive at first.