By 2015, our trailer was 8 years old, and signs of wear were beginning to show. Unfortunately, when it rains, it pours, and we had four major unexpected repairs that totaled $6,782. The repairs included a trailer axle replacement, an RV refrigerator replacement, extensive plumbing repairs including a fresh water tank replacement, and a complete suspension replacement underneath the trailer.
Well if you’re interested in fulltime RVing I’d probably recommend a smaller trailer or Class C, and then I’d focus on the SW. New Mexico offers lots of great State Parks and has their yearly camping pass which is an amazing deal -> $225 for one year of dry camping! It’s a great state for spring through fall, but gets too cold in winter. For winter I would head over to Southern Arizona where you can free camp on public land. There are quite a few single ladies I know that do this, and it can be done on limited income.
Some people leave both their gray and black tanks closed during cold weather and only open them for dumping, but we really wanted to be able to leave our gray tank open and not have to worry about it. After researching, I realized that unless we were in a climate where liquid could freeze in the amount of time it took to travel through the hose (which we were not), it would be okay to leave our hose hooked up and our gray tank open as long as it could drain quickly without any places where liquid could collect.
Note that the cheaper you go, the more likely you’ll need to put work into it. You’ll want to get the Bentley Guide to Vanagons which will give you a good amount of the info you need to work on it yourself. It will break down, eventually, and maybe often, depending on how well cared for it was in the past and how well you continue to care for it. Our 78 Bus requires near daily attention, though certainly other people get better rigs and don’t have quite so much work on their hands.
For toys/kids stuff we are building a special area for his clothing. Baby things are hard to hang up so I’d rather have drawers. Toys will have one area in the camper. That way it’s all contained in one spot, we can have minimal things, and there is always a place for the toys to go back to. I also plan on having a special area with learning things. Paper, markers, stickers, any activities that we will do together. We can think of this as our “school drawer.”
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 🙂
There are 5 main steps we followed in order to stay warm during freezing temperatures. With this being our first winter in the RV I’m sure we’ll continue to learn as we travel and experience different challenges. In this post I’ll go into more detail on the tips we’ve learned so far on winter camping, but be sure to check out some of our favorite resources at the bottom of this post.
It is best to choose a bag that has a lower temperature rating than you expect to actually encounter. For example, if you predict the weather will be 35 degrees Fahrenheit, select a bag that will tolerate down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, that way if you become too warm, you can simply vent the bag to promote more air circulation, or even shed a few layers of clothes.
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.
The second issue we had was when one of our propane tanks ran out at 5:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day. We had an extra full tank of propane, but when we hooked it up, the furnace wouldn’t ignite. We could hear it trying to ignite every 30 seconds or so, and the fan was blowing, but no heat. I checked the stove to see if we we were getting gas there, and it was working, but with a lower flame than usual. After doing a little Googling, I realized that the propane was probably not getting good flow due to the outside temperature, which was -9 F. We bought an extra space heater thinking it might thaw out the tanks, but it didn’t really make a difference. I also bought some Reflectix to line the door to the propane area, which I discovered was not insulated at all, but while that may help in the future, it didn’t do anything to warm up the tanks.
Our initial budget estimate was somewhere between $2500 and $2800 per month. We are very happy that we’ve been able to make this lifestyle work at much less, around $2000 per month (not including health costs, business expenses, and paying taxes). We continue to look for ways that we can reduce our overall monthly costs, and are still very frugal about what we buy and when.
This item is here because it is a regular part of the boondocking lifestyle (you’ve gotta go every two to three weeks at a minimum). Many RV dump stations are free, but if you have to go to an RV park to dump the tanks because there aren’t any free ones nearby, it will generally cost anywhere from $5 to $15. Our RV dump station page has other tips and tricks related to managing the holding tanks.
It can be a challenge to figure out what to bring for full time RV living. “Is one pair of sandals enough or do I need a second pair for campground showers?” We ended up having way too much stuff. After a month of RV living we decided to sell the bicycles because we never used them. A few months later, we performed a spring cleaning by re-evaluating everything in the RV. Many articles of clothing ended up in the donation pile because neither of us had touched them since we moved in.
My husband was working a remote 9 to 5 job and stopped a little less than a year ago and since then we have transitioned over to my virtual assistant business and our travel blog being how we make our income. We also just signed up to be DoTerra oil reps (we love essential oils!) and are in the process of starting a t-shirt company. You know, just a few things to keep busy.
But more important to her than saving money has been the wealth of experiences living in an RV has given her, especially with her son. "We’ve been way more creative about everyday things, making them more fun," she said. "If we lived in a house, I wouldn’t be taking him outside to look at bugs. It's definitely forced me into a whole different level of parenting."
It kinda depends. Most places you can be somewhat creative on how you park, but you do want to factor some space for your extra stuff. I would start by booking larger sizes until it get a feel for how you can arrange everything on-site. We’ve been able to park in most 40-foot sites with our little toad squeezed sideways in the front. We’ve even made it into smaller sites as long as access was good and the site provided some overhang. Then again, there are some 40-foot sites that won’t fit us at all because trees are in the way, or roads turns are tight etc.
This article isn’t personal financial advice, but it does show you how a wide range of RV experts handle the financial aspect of their lifestyle. We’re grateful to all the experts who responded—especially considering the fact that we asked for personal financial information. We really appreciate the sincerity, transparency, and humility of everyone who took part in this survey. Thanks, guys!
2017 Udpate – TOTALLY. Since that original “crazy” year on the road we’ve enjoyed a much more relaxed pace of travel (you can see all our travel maps HERE -> we average just over ~5,000 miles/year) and it’s made everything SO much better. For us this is a lifestyle, not a vacation and taking the time to enjoy each spot has made it a deeper, richer (and more enjoyable) experience for both of us.
Our health insurance we have gotten through Healthcare.gov. This cost is relatively low because we enrolled in catastrophic health plans and qualified for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. It has changed every year, and this year they got rid of PPO plans that have in-network doctors across the country and not just in one state. Next year we may be looking into joining a Health Share program if prices continue to rise and coverage drops.
Odd, why on earth would anyone snub their nose at you for showing all of your expenses? I personally believe that you have done a wonderful thing with all the work you put into this blog of yours and people can simply add or remove what doesn’t apply to them! You both found a way to still bring in some added income by running a small business on the road and believe this is valuable for many who may want to free themselves from the reigns of a 9 to 5 career who may have some retirement to be self supporting, yet want that little extra to enjoy a lifestyle full timing it on the road that’s a little more comfortable and not too limiting.
We moved from Tennessee to California & we are basically starting over again. We are currently living with a family member until we can find a rental place or buy an RV. We can’t afford to buy a house right now so I was thinking of buying an RV for a family of 7 & live in it until the house prices drop. I like the idea of RV living because if we don’t like the place we are at we can easily drive to another place. My question is how well does the water pressure for taking a shower & also for the plumbing? I think it’s a great idea to live in RV to save money but my husband doesn’t think it would be a great idea since we have 5 yr old triplets & two teenagers. My husband wants to rent a house & I want to buy an RV to live in temporary until we can buy a house.
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.
Another idea to save big time is to spend a few months in Baja California every winter, where food is crazy cheap, boondocking is abundant (you can even find spots with lots of other American / Canadian snowbirds if you’re concerned about safety, but it’s completely safe in our opinion after having been down in Mexico in general for a year), and in general the sun shines all winter long.
We use St. Brendan’s Isle in Florida for our mail forwarding, and use their Mail Scan Pro service. Their address also serves as our legal address of domicile for driver’s licenses, voting, vehicle registration, business registration, taxes, etc. They collect our mail, scan the front of the envelop and notify us via e-mail that we have new mail. We can then view our envelops online and decide what to do with them – scan, send or shred. We can request a shipment to whatever address we’re at. They’re super cool and we couldn’t be happier with the service we have received from them.
Yes, we'd say having our car catch on fire in west Texas definitely ranks as a low point. We had stopped at a pull off area in between the small town of Alpine and the smaller town of Marfa looking at wildflowers when Brandon noticed the car smoking. Brandon ran back and found a fire in the engine compartment. We pulled our small fire extinguisher out of the trunk and knocked the flames down. Brandon was able to pull everything out of the car while Kerensa called for help. The signal is very spotty out there and we were able to maintain signal just long enough to get our location to the operator. When she asked for a call back number in case we were disconnected, the line died and the signal never recovered. Thankfully, the sheriff and fire department were already on their way and they were able to put out the fire and take us back to the campground.
I cannot in good faith tell you that freezing camping is easy camping…but what I can tell you is: typically if you camp where it’s freezing you’ll have the entire place to yourself. Some of our favorite times to camp is in the off season, and freezing camping is always a fun challenge for us. I hope you’ll reconsider heading to the beach in cold weather, it is such a wonderful feeling walking on the beach all alone, bundled up, with the one you love 🙂
If water freezes in your lines, you're in for a bad winter. Full time RVing requires you to prioritize your plumbing in a way that you might not otherwise consider. Your city water hookup may need to be insulated and wrapped in electrical heat tape. Fresh water tank will need to be filled and emptied every day so it doesn't have a chance to freeze overnight, you don't have to top it off though. If you want to reduce your work on your plumbing, you can find RV tank heaters which can keep everything from freezing up under your RV. For your black tank, you might want to consider swapping your traditional sewage hose out for a semi-permanent PVC fixture, as long as it's at an appropriate slope your waste will drain right down without a chance to collect and freeze up the works.
Hi, I came across your blog and have so many questions for you! I think its amazing that your living in an RV with a kid and lately have been thinking how amazing the simple life would be to do that myself! I have two little ones, ages 4 and 2 and want to know what the real cost is for buying an RV, what do real monthly payments look like for you, water, gas, electric, RV site rental or camp ground? How did you get a custom RV or where? What about kids schooling? I would like to stay where we are state and city wise but want a more affordable option for living. Do you have a post where you address all these questions? I would truly love to hear more about this! Thanks
You can do wonderful things in a small RV. I grew up in a small trailer home. My parents and 4 kids lived in a 8X30 mobile home. My father built bunk beds in the ‘living room’ that folded up against the wall….we had just one sofa for all of us to sit on. Everyone else sat on kitchen chairs. Most meals we ate out side on a picnic table…or in rain we had some snack trays. Toys were kept under my parent’s bed or in the back of my parent’s car.
As soon as my house sells, I will use the proceeds to pay off all my remaining debt and my wife and I are planning a one year sabbatical traveling the country. We aren’t getting any younger and while I have had the luxury of traveling all over America with my previous jobs, my wife was raising our kids and not able to go with me often. This time we will travel together all over America and plan to write a BIO blog of our journeys. I am excited to start such an adventure before I am too old to do it. Sites like this one have been my inspiration to taking the leap of faith.
This was going through each room to figure out what to keep and what to get rid of. This is where the mind shift started to happen. Did the kids really need 5 sweatshirts what are we going to do with all of these books?! Did we really have to keep all of those Christmas lights when we only used half of them. Things like that. We started looking at our stuff differently and really evaluating what we wanted to have versus what we had just because we didn’t want to make a decision to get rid of it or not. Just keeping it had been easier.
Like many others who have responded.. Thanks for posting your Top 10. The wife and I are in the planning stage for full time RV’ing and you have answered many of the things we were questioning and listing other web sources of information is extremely helpful. We hope to be full timers in a year or so. One question you did not address in this blog was the question “Gas or Diesel?”. I realize it “depends on where you are going” but, in your opinion what has been your experience? We are leaning strongly to diesel because we do plan to go west of the Mississippi.
I wanted to know about the stove you have in your rig.cool idea about porta pottie. Also since I have a cat.in the winter I use a honey bucket with that clumping kitty litter.as soon as I’m done. I bag it and get rid of it.And I bubble rap the windows inside.and cover the ones outside. My situation is different from yours.I live in a 5 th whl.and its skirted completely. Like yourself.I don’t use the refrigerator in the winter.and carry 2-seven gallon water containers.I use something called fatwood to start fires.Also I like Tobias the big dog.God bless of you. Keep on trucking.
Jay, glad to see you decided to write back! Maybe you are referring to the sponsorships we get like our solar from Go Power or our Thousand Trails membership? We do a lot of writing, testing and documenting in exchange for those sponsorships…so it’s a lot of work, not freebies. As for the different ways we have found to save money or great discount programs we do write about those. For example: how to find free camping, fuel saving tips, mexico for dental and the list goes on. If you haven’t already, spend some time on our RV’in page and you’ll learn about a lot of the ways we keep our expenses down. If you can think of some specific questions, please ask away. We are happy to help put you at ease or help prepare you for those unexpected expenses.
Brent misses traveling full time just as much as I. The other day he told me he thinks about being in Alaska nearly every day. So even if it’s hard to connect over who is going to pick up the boys after school or do the grocery shopping, there is always the crashing waves along the Homer Spit or the golden leaves in Yukon. We can go there in our imaginations together as we continue to figure out how to have adventures while making sure the gas bill gets paid.
Just found your site. What a relief it is to find other like minded souls. My wife and I are currently in the scared as sh$* phase as we are putting the house up for sale next month. We did our budget and are more conservative (have higher monthly allowances) than you are showing so it is comforting seeing it can be done for that. Love the idea of living life as we choose and will be following your site and really digging into your tips and suggestions over the next few months. Keep up the great postings! They are very inspirational!
As a budget figure, if you are a future full-timer, and you are excited by the $0 figure here, and you plan to boondock a lot but haven’t don’t it much yet, include a “slush” camping fee figure of $350 per month in your budget until you find out if you really like it. Some folks plan to “free camp” all the time but find it isn’t practical for their lifestyle once they hit the road.
Wow. The lots in SW Florida must be insanely high. We have brand new real nice RV Parks in East Texas with carports, storage buildings etc. that will only cost you about $350 per month. And there are several pretty good parks coming in at $250 around here. You might consider East Texas a few months a year just to pocket some serious cash. My wife and I have talked about this kind of living on and off for a while. Our expenses living in a duplex is about $400 less than yours right now. And our utilities are $350-$400 a month. But, we are considering trying to purchase a lot instead of traveling around. That’s great freedom. Kudos! I worked for 11 years in the corporate world. I never did find a company that bought into the telecommute thing for more than 2-3 days at a time without coming into the office.
Love you guys! You have such great energy and enthusiasm and are ready for an adventure! We have been on the road for a year now and have discovered Corp of Engineer’s parks. They are lovely, well kept and reasonable. (for us older folks they are half off too… usually have elec. And water and run $14-20 a night. We do have solar and AGM battery so have boondocked on BLM land too, which is definitely a money stretcher. You probably know all this already. Best to you, Cathy
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.
While neither of us were ever crazy planners, Kerensa did like to have a general plan of where we were going and what was around when we got there. Sometimes that skill still comes in handy like planning for the Florida Keys, but for the most part, we don't make reservations anymore. We prefer to stay loose with our plans and be able to adjust quickly to meet friends, dodge weather, or choose a destination on a whim!