Your post regarding the expenses is exactly what I want to know. Thank you so much for sharing. I have one more year before I retire and the plan is to sell the house and get rid of as much stuff as possible. My husband and I will be living on 2 social security checks, 1 pension check and our 401k savings. We still need to sit down and crunch the numbers. I’m thinking like one of your other responders that I am hoping it will be cheaper living and traveling in a motorhome than a house that comes along with a mortgage, taxes, maintenance and heating, electric and water. We were also thinking we would need a 36’+ motorhome but are also rethinking much smaller and of course used. Thanks again for all of your info it is most appreciated and good luck with your downsizing and continued travels!
When you live full-time in an RV, you don’t just go to the RV resorts and the big towns, but find yourself in random locations around the country you probably never would have visited on a family trip. I like this as an individual, but also think it has been great to expose our kids to so many different ways that people live around our own country.
Thanks for your kind words Ree! Our goal with our writing/blog is to show the real deal and let people know it isn’t a full time vacation but is still life – with all the ups and downs. That is awesome to hear that you already live in a small house and have the RV! Yes – having a strong why is key to making your dreams a reality. On the other hand it may never be 100% defined so don’t wait for that – just go for it – and figure the rest out on the way. Happy Travels!
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.
Even for the rare folks who RV full-time with unlimited cash, getting by on less money becomes ingrained in the RV lifestyle. Tracking spending and working from a budget becomes second nature on the road. Before you head out get in the habit of logging daily spending on everything to learn where money goes. And check in with experienced RVers for advice – and get ready to write down ideas fast because every RVer has favorite tips to stretch dollars on the road.
I’m 25 years old and have a 3-year-old son. My husband and I will be debt free within a year and have fallen in love with the idea of becoming full-time travelers and world schooling our child. My biggest question is, how do you plan out the cost of living? I work virtually so we’d have 1 full-time income and my husband is investigating ways to make money on the road. We don’t want wait until retirement to travel and we want our son to experience the world (or at least our continent)! Any help is greatly appreciated!
Fuel – Before entering freezing temps make sure to add a Diesel Anti-Gel Supplement. Both Cummins and Freightliner recommend the Power Service brand of anti-gel claiming that it works best. After adding the supplement make sure you drive and run the Generator to get the additive inside the fuel lines. If possible fuel up with a winter blend fuel which can be found at many truck stops during the winter.
Winters are long and dark in Alaska. I’m not a TV lovin’ person, but it is pretty nice to get a nice fire going, make a cup of hot tea, and watch a movie. The new mini-flat screens are pretty nice and they’re actually reasonably priced (I bought my for a little under $100 w/ the shipping from the lower 48). Make sure to get an L.E.D. and not an L.C.D. The LCD (Liquid Crystal) will freeze in cold temperatures and you might ruin the TV. The LED TVs are made of LED lights, so there is nothing to really freeze. The 19” screen seems to be about perfect for my small home.
You are absolutely right Sondra although we are not at all looking to eliminate many of our expenses. About the only thing we are anxious to do is convert more to solar so we can boondock more in some of our natural parks. Our TT does not have any extra room for hanging clothes or a washer/dryer. We are a family of 3 (the third being a toddler) in 27′. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room, so to speak. As for eating out. Be careful what you say. Eating out is not synonymous with McDonalds and in our case involves some incredible farm-to-table establishments, seafood eats on the waterfront, etc. It is something we enjoy as a family and not something we are looking to cut back on. Your recommendations will surely be helpful to some though. Thank you.
I don’t quite understand why anyone regardless of available resources, would not want to cut costs. Even as a service to other RVers to collectively help lower costs for all. I hope your remote job doesn’t involve profit and expense decisions. I’m sixty years old retired Accountant and on SS Disability for a missing limb. I work part time although I’m not working currently. My home recently burned down so I’ve got about $12,000 in the bank. I saw a 2007 Denali Camper for $8,000 in great shape. the very best I can rent a one bedroom apartment for is about $800 plus utilities. I’m sure I can beat that RVing. My only problem is getting a 3/4 ton pick up to pull the camper. It’s tandem axle but not sure about the weight. I probably wouldn’t be moving but once maybe twice per year. It might be less expensive to rent a truck to move the Camper rather than buying one.
Even when things get tough on the road and I am wishing for the stability of a 9 to 5 job, a house, school for the kids, when I stop to imagine what that life would be like I know I would be bored in a few months and start to get itchy feet again. We have seen what this life is like and it is addicting! Then again there are still things we don’t like about being on the road. You can read about them here: 7 Things We Hate About Full Time Family Travel
Full time RV living can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. You really just have to settle into your own budget and determine what you can do and how far you can go in a given month. My family and I have been on the road for about two years now and our pace changes dependent upon that month’s budget, and that’s one thing I love about this lifestyle!
I have been throwing this idea around to my husband. He is a railroader and is gone many days at a time. I was thinking of getting a small cabin as a home base and an RV we could travel with him in and go other places when he is not working. It’s a big crazy idea! I keep going back and forth on it, but we really miss him and he misses out on my boys. What are some of the downfalls of this lifestyle?
It’s official, we froze! Well, to be more clear our freshwater tank froze. After surviving months in the Colorado Rockies without freezing, imagine our surprise when we froze solid in AZ! Well, I honestly can’t believe it. After careful consideration, and a talk with the service technicians at Monaco here’s what I’ve learned about our Vesta, and this applies to most any RV that’s not completely sealed.
Part of being a parent is giving our kids the wings and space they need to become who they are. We were willing to take that risk if it meant our kids could have this amazing opportunity to see the world and that we were able to do that with them before they left the nest and were on their own. Our hope is through the bond we are building as a family all of them will always find each other and us no matter where life takes them and we will find ourselves together more often then not.
We have camped at Tiger Run also and the temps got down to -9 F. We got the extended propane tank rented from the campground. We had all the issues and made a cardboard skirt and put a ceramic space heater underneath. That worked, though we left our sewer hooked up and only drained once a week and used the built in facilities during the day. We wrapped the exterior drain pipes with heat tape and insulation. We added hot water to the grey and black water tanks before flushing. Didn’t have a problem. Also made the heated water supply hose with heat tape and insulation. That never froze either. This year we are going back (in 2 weeks! YAY!) and are having a custom skirt made. Combined with the ceramic heater underneath, this should keep the whole thing warmer as well as stop any freezing of the water bay and plumbing. There is one weak link in our trailer, the water lines run through a cabinet, then back out behind the toilet, then under the bath tub, and then into another cabinet where the pump is. This froze twice. I rerouted one of the heater vents to heat the first cabinet by removing the vent exit and setting the vent tube to blow half of it’s air into the cabinet. Ugly but effective in an emergency. This year we are going to try running an LED rope light along that pipe run. This will double as a night light. They use very little power, and don’t get as hot as incandescent bulbs. Allegedly, the skirt and ceramic heater should fix everything but you never know! We’ll follow up as things progress. We agree that winter camping allows us to enjoy snowboarding and skiing places like Breckenridge Aspen, and Jackson Hole and actually afford it! And of course you can bring your doggie or kitty too.
Awesome list, and we pretty much discovered each of these too! Well, we actually never realized how easy it is to find great campgrounds, so that one’s off our list (wish we had known about that website!). And even though our fridge was in our slide, we didn’t have any problems with it (but maybe that’s because we sold it before the issues could emerge?). But other than those, I feel ya. 🙂
Legally you must carry chains to drive many mountain passes during snow storms (especially in California). If you don’t have chains on board and you get busted it’s a hefty fine. We’ve spent winters all over the states, and fortunately we’ve never had to put our chains on. Of course we watch the weather religiously before we plan to drive anywhere. If you’re flexible like we are and you know a storm is coming you have 2 options: 1. Bust out of there ASAP before the snow or 2. welcome the snow with open arms and extend your campground reservation a couple more days.
Many people think you have to make a lot of money to travel full-time, but that’s not the case. In fact, full-time RVing can be as expensive or inexpensive as you choose. It can all depend on the type and year of the RV you purchase, how often you travel, where you park, and the activities you do in the places you visit. But, here’s a general idea of items you can expect to pay for each month if you choose the full-time RV lifestyle.
You guys are terrific. Your details of showing your budget is incredibly helpful. Both with business info and now without (thanks to mean people) I love watching yalls videos. Been telling my wife about your adventures . I email her lots of rving videos and she watched the 2 bike Chicago videos and she is now hooked on watching your adventures. I have been talking full-time for 4 years, she kept saying no. Now she is quickly seeing what we could do fulltiming thanks to The Wynns. If ever in Houston Tx area yall can park on our back 1 acre with 110 plug, sorry no 30 or 50 amp. Better hurry tho, full-time might be coming next year for us. Fingers crossed. Thanks again for yalls openness and for sharing.
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).
2011 – We bought a 31-foot camper with our tax return, moved with our three children into the camper, and began our off-grid, small homestead on family land with cash. Nearly one year after he was laid off, my husband was hired by another woodworking company. The new pay rate did not meet our previous living expenses, thus our new lifestyle was still the best route for us.
This is in answer to Liz about our 5er. We have a 30’11” Crossroads Patriot, a 2011 model. The model number is 28 something or other. You can’t use the model number as the length, by the way. You usually have at least 2 more feet of trailer. We bought our 5er fully expecting to retire early and get back on the road. We were full time for a while because of my husband’s job. Since then we have become guardians of our now 16 year old granddaughter, and have a few more years left at home. I think I would reconsider to about a 30′ length Class A now that you can get shorter diesel pushers. I miss having enough room for family in the vehicle, being able to get to the bathroom without pulling over, and being able to get to the “bedroom” without getting out of the vehicle. There are lots of RV sites with info about choosing a trailer or a Class A or C. Just depends on what your preferences and needs are at your point in life. I think we will be happier with our trailer when we are living in it, doing campground hosting and/or whatever life hands us. Right now, we actually removed all the living/kitchen area furniture except the table and chairs. Our youngest son and his wife and daughter, and our 16 yr. old, all set up cots in that area and are able to join us to camp without packing all their gear. We enjoy being outside when we are camping, so this set up has been lots of fun, and we have camped in our local mountains in all kinds of weather. If you look at Nina’s Eagle Nest State Park photo in the blog, we were in that exact spot 10 days ago, but we have also camped in Santa Fe National Forest while it was snowing. Lots of variety here in New Mexico! Had to get in a plug for my home state! My advice, if you haven’t had a lot of experience with different RVs, is to get a used rig and get some experience, and don’t spend major money at first. There will always be things you like and don’t like, though, no matter what you choose!
My husband is possibly getting us transferred to Winnipeg, MB, Canada in the next couple months. Being that he’s never set foot in Canada and I am a sand person – not a snow person, we thought we would sell our house in Indiana, buy a fifth wheel and find a year-round place or campground to park, near his work. I said if it doesn’t work out, we’ll pack up and head straight for Florida (or someplace warm at least).
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$1,399 Eating Out – As per the last reports we try to enjoy our experience in new towns through food, drink, and good ol’ conversation. The easiest place for a weary traveler to pull up a chair in a new town…..the Bar, and this tradition has been the same since the beginning of time. On average we eat out 2 times per week, typically at a local eatery that’s come highly recommended by the locals. Here and there we’ve had a few meals comped for being travel writers, we’ve had few of our online friends buy us a warm meal or a brew, and we’ve been treated to a few home cooked meals at homes along the way, and for this we are extremely grateful. Nothing better than sitting down and breaking bread with a few fellow RVers who’ve been following our journey….and then they pick up the tab 🙂 You Guys ROCK!
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.
Those items vary greatly from person to person, so we simply wanted to show how your lifestyle, family size, and other factors impact your RV related expenses each month. We felt this would give you the greatest understanding of how much it costs to full-time RV…aside from what debt you have, how much you put into savings each month, or how you choose to spend your extra money.
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 🙂
It seems like I am really good at always finding something to do and I have had to tell myself to stop and relax and just enjoy the moment. Which does seem easier to do while being the RV. Maybe because we have less to maintain or else because I am truly amazed by the things we are seeing and the reaction that the kids are having. I will continue to work on being better at this!
As for the privacy inside the RV – anyone with young kids knows no matter where you are kids have a way of always finding you. But when we were at the house I could go hide upstairs and take a bath and they didn’t know I was there . . . not so much anymore. It has been an adjustment – but again it has been worth it and luckily we all love each other so much and enjoy being close to each other!
We are now the proud owners of a 2004 Fleetwood AX6 Wilderness Advantage w/4 slides. And we continue to work on getting it fully ready to be compatable with existing off grid in the future. Its been a long road for us, but I am glad we took it. We own our rig free and clear, and there is no way wed ever own a conventional home in 3 years preperation in todays world.
In the winter you’ll notice condensation accumulating on the windshield, on walls, etc. Condensation is your enemy. I know it sounds contradictory but you need to crack a vent or a window at all times. Condensation can build up, get in the walls, etc and cause mold. You do not want this! Simply crack a window and turn on a fan to circulate the air, if you’re already using a space heater with built in fan you don’t have to worry about running a separate fan. You can also put the dehumidifier pellets like Damp Rid or DriZair (you can purchase at most stores) in the areas that seem to draw the most condensation. We’ve found the condensation will not pose a problem as long as it’s 40% relative humidity or less inside the RV.
We have setup our lifestyle as a lifestyle of freedom. No set schedules or times that we really need to be anywhere and our reservations can always be changed. This is amazing yet causes problems. Since our time is ALL ours. We could all stay in our pajamas all day if we wanted to every day. Of course we can’t do that because we do have to work and the kids won’t sit still that long.
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.
I am 61, limited income, kids think I am crazy, but I am saying to myself is this it. Go to work, drive school bus, go home, to the house in foreclosure, and move to senior housing, ouch! I am frugal, but need hard facts for financial, safe running of a rv and all other practical day to day know how. I can be a bus aide anywhere in the country, they are always desperate or drive in any state, they train! But want to live, feel safe and explore. I will be following comments for buying and prob. financing a used rv, how to get mail and meds., I sell on ebay and that helps too, so need internet. I say why not, if it is not for me well I still have my rv and can park in my kids driveway but buffalonly ny winters are long and cold! Thanks! Wendy
5. I would’ve understood that low mileage doesn’t necessarily mean an RV is in good shape – RVs need to be driven. The longer they sit the more things dry up and crack. If I had to do it over again, I’d ask if it was stored inside or outside, how much it was driven and how often routine maintenance was done. If the owner doesn’t know this and doesn’t have records, I’d either take it to a mechanic before purchasing or keep looking.
I sell RV’s, and love it. The people I sell to are excited and eager to get on the road, love my customers. Anyhow, some things I would mention tell your RV sales person about yourself and your plans, most of us in the RV industry have experience and can help with idea’s and help find you the right coach with items or without items you may not even know you will need or that will greatly enhance your time. Also most RV sales people have resources, and it’s not a used car salesman tactic (well not where I work) we want to help and for you to refer us and come back. I full timed for 4yrs, with 3 kids a dog and a cat as a single mom. Let me say we did have our struggles, but I LOVED it. Now I get to help others too. So my suggestion is let your RV sales person help and ask them questions, they generally have a wealth of information.
We’ve always travelled with regular ceramic dishes and flatware. We just enjoy the feel of eating on the “real” stuff. I put “grip it” type dish separators between each plate and we’ve never had a problem with rattling or breakage in 5 years on the road. Many RV folks love Corelle, or melamine type dishware coz it’s really light, but we’ve never been able to switch away from the classic stuff.
Suddenly, it started getting dark. Being in denial that the Bigs are actually pretty grown up, I was still worried about them frying their eyeballs. Then someone said, “The sunset is all around us!” I stopped worrying about the Bigs taking off their glasses to soon and spun around to take in the most amazing 360 degree sunset. Next someone else shouted, “Look at the corona!” I pulled off my glasses and, overwhelmed by the beauty and the most pure light I’ve ever seen lost my mind. Lost. My. Mind.
Of course, the whims of the economy are beyond anyone’s control. In the spring of 2008 diesel fuel prices soared out of sight in just a few months. Half a year later the world economy fell apart. Yet, the full-time RVers that were on the road then just kept on going — like everyone else — finding ways to make the best of a grim situation. So, once you launch your full-time RV lifestyle, you will find yourself adapting as the world changes around you — just like you did at home.
“Character” – Before we went on the road we looked at a vintage bus and I loved it. It had so much character and personality. However practically outweighed personality for full time RVing. Since this one is for part time only, we are considering something more “fun” like a vintage camper. We love remodeling/renovation projects and think it would be fun to renovate and older trailer and make it something that “fits us”. However, vintage trailers sacrifice modern comforts and we just aren’t sure we want to sacrifice modern comforts.
8. Making money on the road is certainly not impossible. There are many parks and campgrounds at which you can work, but these aren’t your only options. Research the area where you are going for opportunities that fit your skill set. Once you have something in mind, prepare a resume and a nice reference list to have on hand that accentuates those skills and make stops throughout the area inquiring as to seasonal or temporary openings.
Brrr!! It does sound like fun, though. Reminds me of the four winters I spent on a 36′ sailboat in Boston Harbor years ago. In November the dish detergent would solidify. We knew it was spring when it liquefied again until April! Every morning the edges of our sheets would be frozen to the hull because the condensation had iced up and we’d have to peel them away from the hull! Crazy but fun memories!!
Nina – We are devoted readers of your blog. We ourselves are just getting ready to hit the road this spring, and as basic as this question may be, we would like to know what type of dishes you recommend. Do you travel with regular flatware or something more light and durable? We are hoping to find something that does not contain BPA. Just wondering if you could recommend a brand and/or source.
We rarely buy new clothes and other personal items (where would we even put them?) and we limit our spending on nearly everything. We wish we could find free parking more often, but it’s not usually a huge priority. We travel often because that’s the main reason we chose to full-time RV. We love seeing as many new places as possible as often as possible.
Become a virtual assistant. Being a VA is an amazing way to make money from anywhere with a laptop and an internet connection. In fact, Kayla and I just hired a VA to help us grow our business, and she lives in Madrid, Spain! (In case you didn’t know, a VA is basically someone who helps a business owner with various admin tasks from answering emails to gathering data, booking events, managing projects, and more. It’s very versatile!)
This obviously depends on whether they’ve already established a location-independent reliable source of income, or if they plan to seek such an opportunity after they have launched their journey. For the former situation, an emergency fund of $10,000 would give them a good cushion and peace of mind, though this is with the caveat that the couple is debt free, including owing their home-on-wheels and vehicles out right. If the couple is considering finding employment opportunities on the road, then in my opinion, their savings should include one year of expenses and an emergency fund.
Below is the breakdown of our 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.$2,137 Groceries, housewares and booze – Costco still being the largest ($1,088) also includes Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joes, TJ Maxx (we get some of our specialty foods here) Wal-Mart (for RV supplies), local natural grocery stores, and Cash at Farmer’s Markets.
Have you ever thought about living full-time in an RV? Or wondered how you would choose where to live after military retirement? Jan Wesner Childs and her family did both at the same time! In this guest post, she shares her family’s experience as full-time RVers after her husband retired from the Army. They traveled for a year to explore the U.S. and decide where they wanted to settle.
Boondocking/Free: We enjoy mixing in a lot of boondocking. This might range from awesome places on public lands (BLM, National Forests, etc), staying in lower cost public campgrounds without hook-ups, ‘blacktop boondocking’ overnight in commercial parking lots or rest stops, to driveway surfing with friends & family (got bus parking? We love invitations!). These low/free cost stays not only bring our average cost down a lot, they’re some of our most memorable stays.
I didn’t grow up thinking I would be an entrepreneur and it wasn’t a goal of mine until it was. Now that we have gone down this path it is empowering to see that we can make our own money. That we can set our own schedule, that we can sleep in on a Monday and work on a Sunday or really whenever we want to. The freedom is stressful, but also exciting!
This category includes all the tools and supplies we use to keep the rig in good shape. Mark loves to try new products and has a growing collection of tools in his toolbox. Before we left, he made the mistake of selling almost all of his tools. If you are handy and can work on your rig, don’t make that mistake too! He tried to “make do” with the bare minimum of tools for the first year, which is why this category didn’t used to exist for us, but now he regularly buys little goodies that make his maintenance tasks easier.
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.
I’m sorry it takes so much time and effort for you to feed your furnace. Have you looked at more efficient stoves? I’ve heard of two that take advantage of mass to store heat energy. They’re related and are supposedly quite efficient: Masony Heaters http://www.inspirationgreen.com/masonry-heaters.html and Rocket Mass Heaters http://www.richsoil.com/rocket-stove-mass-heater.jsp . I hope this helps!
On May 15th, we are embarking on a 30-city US tour to Raise The Vibration of America. Spending one week in each city/town, we will work with local communities, teaching workshops on how to heal inner and outer divisiveness. To share our journey with the world, a weekly episode will be released on our YouTube channel Raise The Vibration!, documenting the vibrational pulse of each stop along our tour.
Just as a mortgage might be this is the largest expense we incur. It is also the most important though. The biggest difference is that we don’t pay rent on our land in North Carolina. It is paid for and other than a very small yearly, personal property tax, is little liability. Lot rent is the payment we make to a campground, state park, city park, etc. to park our travel trailer, have access to water, electricity, and (more times than not) sewage, and parking for our truck. Most spots we choose also come with room for our daughter to play, us to have a small patio area, WiFi, and access to a number of campground amenities including a swimming pool, jacuzzi, shuffleboard, basketball court, playground, etc. So unlike personal home rent or mortgage payments our lot rent gives us exposure to a community of people who are like minded and love to live life to the fullest!
The majority of our income comes from my web design business, Donna. We don’t have health insurance…it’s still cheaper to pay the fine than the ridiculous premiums for those of us who want to travel frequently between states. More on that in one of our latest articles, which though it is about living in a van, the insurance part applies to RVing or any other method of full-time travel.
Richard is working at with the Amazon CamperForce program for the second year. He’ll be at the warehouse from September to December. It’s very different from his career in IT, but the income allows the family to live this nomadic lifestyle. He earned $11.50 an hour at a fulfillment center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., which went to $15 an hour in November.