16. Make sure to have plenty of on-the-road activities available while traveling. Considering the fact that internet access may be intermittent, you will want to make sure you have some of your favorite DVD’s, cd’s and books at arms reach. Portable DVD players are a necessity with children in the RV and you will probably benefit greatly from an e-reader of some sort. If you have a laptop or tablet, these can easily be downloaded and there is a plethora of places to find free reading material.
Our monthly expenses vary depending on where we are and what we are doing. We can go a couple of weeks at a time with the only expenses being groceries and water if we are boondocking and not moving. In that case, we can get by with probably 50 bucks a day or less. Otherwise, we can easily double or triple that budget depending on gas prices and where we are. So maybe on the average, we are spending about 100 a day. Bottom line: $1,500-$3,000 a month.
My best friend and I just returned from a week away in her 24′ Winnebago. For two ‘very youthful’ middle-aged ladies on the road we couldn’t have had a better time! For the most part we played it by ear; she picked me up at the Atlanta Airport, we pointed the rig toward Savannah, Georgia (great state for RV travel and campsites) and kept going. Spent a few days in Savannah, headed over to Flagler Beach then up to St. Augustine. By far our favorite site of the entire trip was the last one in the Outer Banks. For whatever reason I wanted to go to Rodanthe so we found a very modest small campground for about $30/night right on the Sound side of Hatteras Island. WOW! The sunsets were breathtaking. Mike, the owner of the campground was amazing. Upon our return to PA I went over to the local RV dealer and picked out a 32′ SouthWind. Fell in love with it! Now I just have to figure out how to make money while on the road. Ironically, my primary business isn’t so transportable. Funny, my current business is processing homes, downsizing, relocation, re-directing unwanted personal property through auction and donation to charity, speaking, writing and consulting. It’s always tougher when it’s your stuff. I agree with not storing things – you’re not likely to need them again. I’m giving myself 2 years to clear all of my debt and transfer my income-generating efforts to fit a new, less complicated lifestyle.
For me, room to work and live with an 11 year old, 55 pound dog (Capone), who sleeps with me was a big consideration (sleeping in a cab-over wasn’t an option). While the whole idea of RV living was to be outside more, I knew I’d be inside working a lot and wanted a separate work/sleep space. I’m also vegan and love to cook, so a full kitchen was a must for me. Storage was also a big consideration. I sold everything I owned and didn’t want to pay for storage so all my worldly possessions needed to fit inside my RV (honestly it was just a few storage bins of stuff), And, because I wanted to start my new life debt free, I had a $10,000 cash budget.
Yes on the dual sided heated mattress pad. Your friend in the winter! This winter I slept on an 8″ memory foam mattress, topped with the heated mattress pad, then a 3″ memory foam on top of that. I turned on the mattress pad about an hour before I go to bed (if it isnt already on!). I cranked it up to High and turned it down to 3 or 4 when I got in bed. It will warm up the top pad. When you get in bed the top MF is soft and as you sink into it you get the warmth rising. This winter I was in a really, really cold cinderblock house in the Midwest. Last winter I did this in my Teardrop trailer with a 4″ regular foam mattress, the heated mattress pad and the 3″ of MF.
The number one thing you can do for your RV during winter is skirting! Anything you can find: snow, dirt, foam board, insulation, plywood, anything you can place around the exterior of your RV will help keep the heat inside. I cannot tell you how important this step is for keeping your RV pipes from freezing. Also if your tanks are exposed under your RV you can wrap a heated blanket around them to keep them from freezing. The small space heaters will be helpful, and keep your propane heater set to 55-60 degrees if possible (a $30 propane bill is better than a $500 water pipe/pump issue).
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.
This is pretty personal, and it depends entirely on your financial situation. In our opinion, some people shouldn’t spend more than $5k, and others can afford whatever they want. We have a lot of friends who finance everything: TV, couch, vehicles, etc. We are not a fan of this mentality. We realize you can write off your interest as a second mortgage for your RV, but we don’t finance anything, including our RV. We’ve never had a car loan, and we have always paid cash for our vehicles (including our tow rig and our Airstream).
With our system, we can use the faucet to fill our fresh water tank. However, you can not leave it hooked up to a hose when the weather drops below freezing. The hose has to be disconnected from the faucet so that the faucet can drain to down below the freeze line. If you leave the hose hooked up the faucet will freeze and break. That is an expense and inconvenience you don’t want in the middle of winter.
For years, Brent and I have talked about buying a vintage trailer or bus. In a post I wrote in March 2011, I mentioned my dream of rolling down a dusty highway in an Airstream, a shiny piece of Americana. We love bringing old things back to life. Although, we don’t have experience renovating a trailer, we did renovate two 1950s houses in California. A trailer can’t be that much harder to restore than a house, right? Years ago, when we bought our pop-up trailer, our tow vehicle was a Honda Odyssey so we were very limited by weight and budget. Today, we have a bigger budget and tow vehicle so maybe now is the time to pursue our dream of restoring and remodeling a vintage Airstream! We have a perfect space to park it while we work on it.
Always, always, always expect to incur maintenance charges each month. Expecting to pay each month for maintenance will save you many headaches and knots in your stomach when you inevitably break down, blow a tire, shatter a brake pad, or have a propane leak–all of which happened to us. You’ll need to be changing your oil and refilling on propane regularly anyway, so it’s best to just count this as a guaranteed expense.
Yes the kids still want toys and yes we still buy them some. However, they are also good at when they are done playing with something they pass it on to someone else or donate it. By April they were already donating some of the Christmas presents they had gotten. And when we left friends we had made in Miami they were giving them their toys as presents before we left. They aren’t attached to many things anymore either.
I’ve spent a year so far living and traveling in a self-converted cargo van. I’ve been through four major purges of stuff. Just yesterday I combined the contents of two partially empty containers. Now I have a container to divest myself of. The thing is, I don’t feel like a radical minimalist. It’s just that I’m finding out I don’t need a lot of stuff I thought I would, and holding onto it just got in the way. The less I have, the more I can see and evaluate what’s left. If I can’t tell you exactly what’s in a box or cupboard, if I’ve forgotten some things I have, then they’re probably not necessary. If I don’t know I have it, it’s the same as if I didn’t have it. It’s rarely a case of, “Oh! I’ve been looking for that.” More often it’s, “Why was that once important to take with me?” So I like your advice to start out with nothing and then add only what you need. I know it’s not practical to always be acquiring things piece by piece, but it’s a good way to keep from being overburdened.
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.
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
One very last thing to think about before you decide whether you can afford to fulltime RV is income. Whether or not you currently have an income, creating some $$ on the road can greatly ease the constraints of a tight budget and radically change your available budget. If you are pre-retirement and have an online job that you can take on the road, then absolutely do that. Otherwise there are lots of opportunities to create some income on the road. We’ve met folks who workamp, edit, write, invest, compose music, create art, make jewelry, tattoo, run online businesses, take on temporary jobs (Amazon, Beet Harvest, Christmas Tree sales etc.) or do a slew of other creative things on the road for money. Some make only a little money while others make pretty significant $$. And these opportunities are not just for young folks, either! We’ve seen all ages making money on the road.
We actually have a hard time with naming the worst things. That's not to say everything is perfect and all rosy in RV living, it isn't. It's just that nothing seems so awful that it needs to be called out. Maybe it's our more laid back attitude or just knowing things like dumping the black tanks are just part of life, but it never seems that bad. Still, we feel compelled to come up with something, so here are our least favorite things about living in an RV.
Jan Wesner Childs is a journalist and wife of a 26-year Army Special Forces veteran. She has lived, worked and traveled around the world and the U.S. She is currently a freelance writer based in Florida, where she writes about anything and everything, including local schools, the space and tourism industry, and military spouse and family issues. Her blog, “Beyond the Gilded Cage,” details her family’s RV adventure and gives the scoop on transitioning to life after the Army. She can be reached at email@example.com.
On our current Class A motorhome, we spend an average of about $600.00 per year on maintenance, but that is because I do a lot of the routine maintenance and repairs myself. Annual maintenance on an RV varies by type. A Class A or C motorhome will cost more annually than a Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer, because they have engines to maintain. But even with the trailers, you have to include the maintenance cost of your tow vehicle.
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.
On the one hand, these are supremely useful posts. Costs are a huge question for anyone who is considering getting on the road and one of the most searched-for items for newbie fulltimers. I remember it was one of the top things we fretted about before we went fulltiming and we had such a hard time figuring it out. Could we afford it? For how long? What kind of budget would we need? We found several blog posts, but no-one seemed to be able to give us an exact number. How are you supposed to work with that??
Since we started full-timing, we have upgraded both of our DSLR cameras twice and upgraded both of our pocket cameras twice. As for biking, we started out with cyclo-cross bikes but sold those when we found we were almost always camped near very rugged dirt roads. We replaced them with mountain bikes in March, 2014. Bike maintenance isn’t a huge cost, but it’s there. We also upgraded our bike rack a few years ago. And back in 2008 we splurged on a fabulous Hobie inflatable kayak that we loved for several years but eventually sold because we needed more room in the basement.
My husband realized that he doesn’t want to go back to work full-time, unless it is the perfect opportunity. I started focusing again on my writing career and am building a solid freelance business. I also volunteer with our local downtown revitalization association. Our kids are back in regular public school, doing sports and extracurricular activities and, slowly making friends outside the military.
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.
Your numbers are more complete than others that I have seen. We have been full timing for 9 years so I know there are a lot of things that need to be considered. It appears that laundry is in your misc. entry. Maybe other things are hidden in there too but I wonder about propane, co-pays for medical and drugs. I think you should have a line item for RV and Jeep maintenance and repairs. This can be a significant amount. Another item is admissions and entertainment. Don’t you buy gifts for each other or for relatives? I didn’t see anything about that. The last item has been mentioned in other remarks but I have to bring it up again and that is RV parks. You mentioned in August, 2016 that you spent 21 nights in RV parks and only spent $260. That is an average of $12.38 per night. I don’t know how you found sites this cheap unless you were in a membership campground such as Thousand Trails. If that is the case then you need to add in the prorated purchase price and the annual fees. If it is not the case then good for you. I have budgeted $25 per night and more recently $35 per night. Going to the east coast is more expensive than the midwest or western states. I agree that boonbocking can save some money but it seems like your numbers are pretty unrealistic.
Hello again! Enjoyed reading your helpful post and the comment about not having health insurance. That is one of the big items that the hubby and I are debating about right now as we prepare for full-timing next August! We are both pre-Medicare age by several years, and have no ongoing insurance provided by our current employers upon retirement. We are debating about having a “catastrophic” policy and dealing with general health care needs on a cash basis. Out of curiosity, how do you prepare yourselves for the potential of a catastrophic need – such as a big medical issue, or an accident? (heaven forbid either of these happen to either of you!) thanks for your insight!
Also, tanks and fittings are encased in the heated space, so electric pads and tapes aren’t necessary and the plumbing is all protected. This also means the floor is not the outermost part of the insulated envelope, keeping it MUCH warmer. The most hard-core of these units use hot water heat fired by propane or even diesel fuel (handy if the unit’s engine is diesel) and in that case, the heating system also partially heats the engine and fuel tanks to make it even more reliable in the truly bitter cold. The best ones run a heating line parallel to the plumbing lines keeping them all heated and protected. This heating system is really quite genius and the pump that moves the hot water uses surprisingly little power.
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• We are NOT living on a shoestring budget. We work on the road, so we need special items to keep our business growing, and since we’re in front of the camera we need nice looking clothes so we’re presentable and respectable. We enjoy a bottle of Champagne and a fine dinner once and a while, granted we cook in most nights but we do splurge every now and then. In our opinion we’re living modestly and we’re sharing our expenses so you can learn from our budget and hopefully it will help you project yours. Let’s call our style of living AFFORDABLE LUXURY!
But Yankee ingenuity prevailed on the part of our fellow campers. The gang put their heads together to deal with the trials of winter RVing. One guy had a large pickup that was not street legal, but could get around the campground. Another woman had a relative nearby with a big portable water tank they used on their farm. It fit in the back of the truck and held 300 gallons of water. Another guy had a pump that would pump water from the supply tank to RV fresh water holding tanks.
We didn't start doing this one right away, but, boy we were happy when we did! It really opened up the possibilities for us and made us love this life even more. Upgrading our batteries and adding solar upped our game and allowed us to get off the grid even if it's just at a Harvest Host or casino. But being able to camp among the red rocks of Sedona is something special, especially when it's just you or a small group of friends. It's a good breather between campgrounds and something we try to do as much as possible. And can you really beat the low, low price of free?