​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. 
The window shrink film kit comes with double-sided tape, and all you have to do is outline the door with the tape, remove the backing, press the plastic onto the tape, trim off the excess and then heat it up with a hair dryer to make the plastic taught. It is best to clean the frame of the door with alcohol or film remover first so the tape adheres well.
The beauty of an RV Extended Warranty is that it picks up where a regular insurance policy leaves off. Our entire trailer is covered for all failures other than regular wear and tear. This includes having the frame crack or slides fail to come in and out or the suspension give up the ghost (it did) or having the air conditioner or refrigerator die (which it did too).
I’m in awe of you first, 4 kids all under 10, that’s incredible enough and then a blog, a virtual assistant business to boot. WOW. So nice to learn more about you and your family, Brianna. Funny that you can’t wait to go overseas and we actually haven’t seen much of our own country, the USA and can’t wait to explore more of it. Wishing you the best in your full-time RV travels and will certainly look to you for advice when we finally travel our home country.
Tom Conces is a friend we’ve bumped into on the road several times over the past few years. He reached out to me a little over a year ago and asked “what do I need to do to survive in my RV during freezing temperatures?” Ya see Tom is a much crazier photographer than I am, he wanted to park his RV in subzero temps in order to photograph bald eagles as they swoop down in the snow banked rivers to catch fish. I told him you’re crazy, then I said read our post on How to Prepare an RV for a Freezing Winter Adventure. Needless to say Tom learned a few things while freezing his tail off in the Midwest during Winter, so I thought he should share his experiences (from the horse’s mouth as the saying goes).
​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. 
$823 Specialty Stores – We don’t shop that often at chain stores however there’s certain luxury food items, cleaning supplies, kitchen utensils, etc we can only find affordable at places like TJ Maxx, Ross, Target, Michaels, CVS, Tuesday Morning, Wal-Mart, etc. When Nikki needs specialty spices for cooking, fancy truffle oils, a pack of tissue, or a random cleaning product we’ll swing into one of these places. From this amount I’m positive a couple hundred bucks was for clothing or shoes (Nikki found a sweet pair of Barefoot Merrill shoes one day) and the rest of the total amount was for non-clothing stuff. So all you who gave us a hard time for the amount of money we spent last time on clothing for the last report can rest easy, we’re NOT shopping constantly, the only reason we spent so much on clothing last report is we hadn’t purchased new clothes in quite a while, and we were running low on Summer outfits. So there…..YA HAPPY NOW? Ha 
What puts an RV on the list: There’s obviously a huge difference between RVing once in a while and RVing full time. To make sure you get the closest feeling of living in a home we’ve hand picked the ones with a good mix of bunkhouse and regular floorplans. We’ve also made sure they have enough 40 feet+ length floorplans since space can be a concern when RVing full time. After a few spec comparisons it all boiled down to the ones which had the best reviews.  Here are the Top 5 Best Fifth Wheels For Full Time Living.
Obviously these are not the same fixed costs for everyone. What kind of rig you buy, where you insure it, how much maintenance you do (incl. paid versus self-maintenance), whether you keep a storage unit and what kind of internet plan you get are all individual choice. But once you’ve made those decisions they’ll become fixed, recurring expenses that you should expect to pay each month.
Amy, we do shoot videos and photos along the way for pay that we don’t show on our blog; that is Jason’s chosen profession. As for me (nikki) I knew I would not be a makeup artist on the road. It’s impossible to do exactly what I did from the road. I was always on location for production/advertising work that would require me to be in a central location. So now, I market myself as on camera talent, writer and edit photos.
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!

Now, we’re not full-timers, but here’s how we keep our monthly expenses down when we are on the road: Budget, Book Early and Save $$$! In order to save money to increase our travel, we launched a new budgeting strategy several years ago. We began our plan, believe it or not, by shifting our yearly spending. It all began in the fall of 2008 when we completed our holiday spending several months early… by the end of October! Honestly, this is a terrific idea as you will find that most Black Friday Deals have the same pricing for sales offered in October. Seriously! Putting this away early allows us to begin to save and prepare for the following year’s travel season ahead of time. We then start to save money from November through January to use for RV travel! We are always ahead of the game! We book our vacations early and ask for “Early Bird Specials”/ AAA/ Good Sam Member/ or Military Specials for trips we plan to take starting in March and we plan trips through October.

We are thinking of buying a 40 ft. extended stay model by Jayco(40bhs I think the model is). it has a full size refridgerator and range which we thought would be better suited for keeping my two boys fed. But like you said bigger not always better. My wife and I have been camping all our lives. and are in our second RV since we have been Married(10 years). We currently have a 2007 Springdale 27′ with one slide.
This is mainly because it is our home and office and it can be disruptive. If we need to be out of the RV while work is being performed, we have to find somewhere else to work or wait with our pets. We've done this at the service center, at a friend's house, and once we just rented a hotel room because we didn't want to work in the car all day with two dogs and two cats. We don't think they wanted to sit in the car all day either. We've also spent the night at service centers which are not the most scenic locations, but really aren't all that bad. Sometimes you even get to plug into power.
Even though our current income is more than what unemployment insurance pays, that experience helped to change my attitude and taught me how to be content with what I had. I decided I had a choice – since I couldn’t change how much money we had I could be thankful for what we did have and be creative in learning how to manage, or I could become depressed and have a sour attitude about life in general. The choice seemed clear.
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.
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!
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.

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.


2017 Update – YES. Public Land is still our #1 camping choice. There are now many more options for finding these kinds of sites including ultimatecampgrounds.com (which has overtaken uscampgrounds IMHO), Benchmark Maps (which are excellent paper maps for public lands), AllStays (which also offers an app) and other resources. If you want to see how I plan our current travels, check out the 3-part series I wrote starting HERE.
Some of the most beautiful times of year to visit the country are also the coldest. From snow-frosted mountains and icy lakes, the winter turns green trees and pastures to beautiful seas of white. The unfavorable weather conditions are a deterrent for fellow vacationers during these cold times.  Why let the lower temperatures be the determining factor of when you take your camper out?
I always imagined that you should try to buy the biggest RV you could afford. After all, who doesn’t want lots of space? Our travels over the past years, and perhaps more specifically the kind of travel we like to do (camping in public campgrounds, forests, state parks, off-the-beaten-track spots) has taught me that bigger is not always better. Our “beastly” size is super-comfortable but requires me to do quite a bit of detailed planning to make sure we can fit into the kinds of spots we like to visit. In retrospect, I would have wished for a smaller RV. For those camping mostly in private parks this is not a consideration, but for our kinda camping it sure would be nice with a few less feet.
We use a similar method for personal hygiene.  Wet wipes can take care of most basic hand and body cleaning.  A bathroom sink full of water can be used multiple times before it goes into the waste tank.  If the park where you are staying has shower facilities available, make use of them.  If they don’t you may take what my mother called “possible baths”.  You wash down as far as possible, then wash up as far as possible and leave ‘possible’ for another time. When you do use the shower in your RV, wet down, turn off the water, lather up, turn water on to rinse.  Here is a video I found that shows another way to shower using a 2 liter bottle.
No, I don't. However, I've been RVing for more than 50 years and know which parks likely will have availability. When I'm not sure, I reserve..but I rarely do this. Availability is becoming a problem due to the huge increase in the numbers or RVers in recent years. If you're not sure, reserve, but bear in mind that if you have to cancel, they'll keep at least the first night's costs or charge a fee.
Hi. We have a Balboa Toy Hauler, which is insulated and semi winterized. One of the furnace vents forces hot air into the tank bay under the floor. This heats the floor under the bathroom and kitchen area, but you must leave the furnace on and burn propane. Our first experience was the poopsicle at Jackson Hole, WY at -18! tried to hammer that out with a hatchet, and of course, the hose was brittle and broke! Then it thawed 2 days later. AAAGGGHHHH!!!!. Next we camped 6 weeks in Glenwood springs to ski Aspen and Snowmass all winter. A fellow camper left his sewer drain open after he left and the whole system froze so we couldn’t even use the facilities toilets. Fortunately the manager brought in the big guys with a water jet to unplug the whole system. This was extremely expensive and took a full day. Then 2 weeks later the same camper returned, (gas well inspector) and did it all again. Wow. Poor park owner ate that bill twice.
Amy, we do shoot videos and photos along the way for pay that we don’t show on our blog; that is Jason’s chosen profession. As for me (nikki) I knew I would not be a makeup artist on the road. It’s impossible to do exactly what I did from the road. I was always on location for production/advertising work that would require me to be in a central location. So now, I market myself as on camera talent, writer and edit photos.
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.
Hi I was reading the comments and noticed you decided to hit the road. It was a few years ago I know but wondering how it went? I’m a single woman and will be traveling alone. I’m scared but what scares me more is not following my dream of seeing the world. I mean I don’t know what will happen and it does concern me. If I’m traveling and get sick where do I go if my medical Insurance is in la county. I have so much to learn.
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,
After a few years of messing with the little single-load washing machines at laundromats, we discovered that it is much better to use the biggest machines in the place because they are generally the newest machines, they do the best job, and they hold a heckuva lot. Dryers are usually 25 cents for a set period of time that ranges from 5 to 10 minutes, and we’ve found that most commercial dryers need about 35-40 minutes to get the job done. Washers and dryers at RV parks are usually much cheaper than those in the local laundromat.
My only issue with this article is the title “The real costs” which implies that you are about to tell us that full time RVing is not as cheap as some people might think. Instead you provided your expenses which I would speculate are much higher than the average. As a number of people mentioned your lot rent is perhaps two to three times higher than the typical rent.

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:
You must spend more time in open or private sites than we do. We spend most of our summers in forested public parks and we were almost never able to get a satellite lock on that roof dish. We honestly couldn’t use it more than half the year. Last year we completely ditched the roof-dish (in fact we ditched Direct TV altogether) and it’s been a great decision for us.

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.
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.
With a little creativity you can find ways to make money while you travel. The possibilities here are endless, only limited by your abilities and imagination. With access to the Internet, many traditional jobs can be done remotely as you travel. Here are some possibilities but they are just to jump-start your thinking. There are many books and websites with a huge selection of ideas:

RV’s have lots of moving parts and components. Which means, a pretty much never ending to-do list, and parts and labor can get pretty expensive. Thankfully, Brett is pretty handy, so he can tackle most of the jobs that pop up. We have also had really good luck in finding fellow campers that were experienced and willing to step in and help out when he got in over his head.  


When you trade your home address to live on the road in an RV, you need to decide how to receive mail and what to call “home” on your tax returns. Some of the full-time RVers we meet retained the state of residence where they were living before they hit the road. Most of them still own property in that state, and they often have a relative or friend who forwards their mail.
In the event that there is a partial loss, like theft of just a few items, there are caps on what is covered. With National General, if the theft occurs inside your RV, then the cap is 25% of the total value of all the Personal Effects coverage that you carry. For example, if you have a $20,000 Personal Effects policy, then this means there is a cap of $5,000 per claim. If the theft occurs outside the RV but on your campsite, then the coverage is 10% of the total value of all the Personal Effects coverage that you carry. Again, for $20,000 total coverage, this means a cap of $2,000 per claim. There is no coverage if the theft occurs away from the RV (i.e, your bike is stolen from the bike rack at the coffee shop in town).
Below is the breakdown of 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, and this time I decided to list in order of most expensive (hey great idea right?).$1,567 Mostly Costco for groceries; also includes Target, TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Wal-Mart, etc for clothing, housewares, and such.
This is an important budget item. In our third year of fulltiming, we had huge repair expenses including the clutch and air conditioning going out in our tow car (2 year old Forester that just had engine replaced by Subaru because of oil consumption issues). We seem to go through tires quickly on the Subaru too even though we are religious about rotations and alignments. Our RV steps cost over $600 to get repaired (three different places over 2 states). We also had to have a $300 repair on the propane heater. Our Tiffen motorhome is 15 years old, has undergone major refurbishment and in great shape but you have to expect repairs, just like in an older home. Better than having a “house” payment to us. Our motto has become “Expect the unexpected”. If you are lucky and don’t have any problems, enjoy the “bonus” at the end of the year.

Instead, buy a 5-gallon water container and carry all your drinking and cooking water in by hand. Set up your RV sink to drain directly into a 5 gallon bucket, then you can just dump your dishwater at any gas/RV dump station. Get a gym membership or take showers at a friend’s house. Get a small 5-gallon porta-potty with a hand-pump flush system. Fill the flush reservoir with RV antifreeze. Believe me, you will definitely want a bathroom when it is cold outside, not to mention, you can’t just “go” anywhere when you’re in a city or neighborhood… or else you risk making a bad reputation for yourself and start pissing people off.
We lived full time in a camper a couple of years ago while we were building a house. It DOES has its challenges… The biggest one we encountered was the campground we stayed at… But once we got that fixed it was actually very nice… Some things I would think about/plan for: laundry, make an outside living space, make sure you have reliable internet, and food storage.

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.
$648 Miscellaneous – Magazines for the Nook ($25), Stock Music for videos ($70), Shipping charges for mailing random stuff ($72 – Don’t ask me what I mailed, but it added up), Movie Theater *we went to 2 movies in 5 months ($24), Home Improvement Stores ($173), REI Outdoor specialty items ($63), Parking and Tolls ($85), half day boat rental for the family in Lake Havasu ($136). Also I’ve stopped putting propane as a line item since we really don’t spend much on this; in fact we didn’t even fill our propane in this 5 month period.

​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.
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.
The other huge and unexpected expense was for internet access. We have been very disappointed at how difficult good service is to find in campgrounds. We use the lodges as much as possible but still need a hot spot with smart phone / ipad etc…. We are now up to $300 on this item just to have backup hot spot. We are thinking about a second service such as Millicome (sp) so that will add another $100 month. Our wifi ranger has made a huge difference but it is still only as good as the router it picks up. Our Wilson has helped with the phone connection. Once again here was another big expense we hadn’t expected.

I have been thinking of closing up my home and going on the road. I am a military widow, no children, 4 dogs and was either looking at a class c or b. However, I do have a trailer tow package on my 2015 Explorer. How do I know the best option for me? I am a little overweight and sometimes I can not lift or set up things with the limited strength in my hands. However, I do really want to try this out. What would you suggest? I live outside of Dallas, Texas and there are a lot of RV Centers. Would it be best to go talk to a “salesperson” but I am concerned they will not take my issues into consideration and only try to “sell” me.
Before we hit the road, we upgraded our cell phone plan to the Unlimited Plan with Verizon. We use our phones as hot spots for internet, so we knew we’d blow through the data in no time. For the most part, we’ve had good coverage and no issues using our hot spots to get work done. We also use our hot spots to stream Netflix – on the rare occasion we want to watch TV.

To get around this, you can look up the nearest warehouse distribution center for either FedEx or UPS and have the package shipped to that distribution center with “Hold for Pickup” written on it. You will not be charged a fee at pickup. However, you will need to track the package and you will have 5 days to pick up the package before it is returned to the sender.

We love the power of our Diesel engine. It can go anywhere and drive any mountain. So, that portion I would probably try and keep. But size-wise I wish we’d gone a tad smaller…closer to 30 or even 35 feet. It can be tough finding accessible sites with “the beast”, and a smaller size would sure make that easier. We love our slides and would definitely buy with slides again (it makes the interior so much roomier) and our layout is good, plus I can’t deny the tanks in this rig are nice and big. There’s just the size thing 🙂
Inspiring! We are about 6 wks out to our new life on the road (with 3 kiddos & 2 tiny dogs). We are waiting on the final sale of our home, big estate/garage sale (everything will go), sale of our van then bye bye AZ hello open road. Some say we are crazy, many say it’s awesome. I cannot wait. We traveled for almost 4 months several years ago after hubby retired from the USAF & although there were issues here & there, the memories will last & what I treasure most. I love looking back on the photos & reading my posts about what we were doing & where we were. Cannot wait to do it full time for who knows how long. Roadschooling is on my agenda as well. Oh & I agree we can live without so much stuff. What’s the point really?
When we first started RVing many years ago we had a pop-up trailer that we loved. We would park it under the shade of the Sequoia trees in the Sierra Nevada Mountains or along the California Coast. It was perfect for that time of our lives. Since then we’ve discovered we love winter RVing so a pop-up isn’t going to work. We’ve also grown a bit and were spoiled by our 41’ Gateway fifth wheel.
As for our tanks, they stayed plenty warm, having the warmth from the storage bay radiating through the floor on one side, and because our skirting kept them warm enough on the other side.  For people who need extra protection against frozen tanks, tank heaters are an option.  However, it’s important to make sure that pipes in addition to tanks are protected from freezing.
Yeah I’m really, really disappointed. The old BLM website was a bear of a thing to navigate, but had so much useful info once you figured out where to find it. The new BLM website looks sleek and snazzy, but has literally zero useful info. I keep hoping they will “flesh it out” with some of the old stuff, but I’m starting to think this will never happen. It’s such a bummer.
Wow, you are SOOO patient, answering all the repetitive questions (that you have already answered) like it’s the first time!! I’ve been reading for hours. We have a 24 ft diesel class c and we love it, we usually only stay out about 4 nights at a time. We like to stay off grid but are not as careful with water and the tanks as we could be. Plus, we have J.O.B.S.
We are opening a Facebook group called RV to Freedom: Learning to Live in an RV where anyone can come and ask questions to learn about living in an RV. We truly hope to help people get over their fears, cut through the clutter of opinions and information on the internet, and learn how to live on the road. We hope you'll join us and share your experiences, too. The full-time RV community is welcoming and open and we want to encourage everyone to join, participate, and form connections. It makes us better prepared and better people. We hope to see you there and on the road!
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