As a blogger and online content creator (my main blog is BabyRabies.com, a pregnancy and parenting site), a book author and photographer, I am able to work full-time from the road. My husband left his job and manages most of the road-schooling and the other moving pieces of, well, moving. It’s nearly a full-time job just booking sites and planning our route!
For us, we sold everything and quit our jobs, so we had zero income at the start of our journey. It was important to track all our expenses carefully so that we could stay on the road for as long as possible while not bringing in any income. We had enough in savings to comfortably go a year or two without making any money. You’ll want to figure out what your limit is so you don’t find yourself hitting the bottom of the bank before you make any changes.
Just wondering of you add anti-freeze to your grey and black water tanks. We are currently plugged in at a campground in Benson AZ where it’s getting down to the teens at night. Last night our water pump froze over but we managed to thaw out with no damage. Went and purchased 2 of the tiny ceramic heaters (one for the inlet side and one for the water pump side) and insulated all of the lines we could find…set the gas heater a little higher (last night we had it at 47 degrees for fear of using up too much propane and the lines froze anyway). Anyway…just wondering if we should be adding the anti-freeze and if so, how much (we have 40 gal holding tanks). Thanks for the great article!
Yes, we do have a permanent address. We use a mail forwarding company in SD that acts as our address of record for drivers license, voting, taxes etc. We can also get stuff mailed there (and forwarded to us), but meds may be different and certain meds (e.g narcotics) may be controlled. I know many RV folks who get their meds through nationwide pharmacies (e.g. CVS) and just get the prescription transferred to the local shop to pick up as needed. I also know RV folks who get their docs to write 6-mo (or longer) prescriptions which allows them to travel further before needing new prescriptions. Since we take no meds ourselves, I don’t know much more about this so you’ll have to research more. But I have heard from folks who make it work.
Annual maintenance costs will vary depending on the type of RV, age, mileage, driving conditions, and other variables. If you are towing a trailer, the maintenance costs for the RV could be less, but you need to maintain the tow vehicle, too. A used motorhome might require more maintenance expense than a new motorhome would, simply due to age. And the more mileage you put on the tow vehicle and/or RV, the more frequently the routine maintenance expenses add up. You also need to consider things on the RV or tow vehicle that wear out over time, like tires, brakes, windshield wipers, and the additional expenses for emissions testing, inspections, license plate renewal fees, and taxes.
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.
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You got it, those should be included in everyone’s budget, but there are a ton of variables. Some people go for a trailer or van they pick up for $1000 while others could go for a brand new motorhome at $300K. No matter what our expenses are, yours will be different. We decided to share our general monthly expenses to help others. If you think its gibberish (poo on you), fine but there are plenty of others who appreciate the information.
That’s a pretty big size nut for living in an RV. $1100 for the month for lot rent seems rather against the tenets of tiny house living which seeks to reduce your overhead. Throw in laundry and utils cost and you’re about $1300/month. I can lease a darn nice house around here for a lot less. One other thing I’m confused about is you say you pay $600/year for auto/trailer insurance and then your monthly budget is $196. That doesn’t add up.
If you’re looking for physical jobs some Workamping positions do offer pay (check out Workampers.com), plus there are seasonal jobs such as Amazon and See’s Candy (both hire seasonally for Christmas), gate keeping (in Texas for oil companies), and the Dakota Beet Harvest (in late fall). We also know folks who work at fairs or sell their wares at markets.
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Those are the top things that have been a challenge for us to overcome as RV'ers. RV travel falls somewhere between having the comforts of home and camping – and your mileage may vary depending on your budget. The sky is the limit when it comes to RV's – you can buy something that's affordable that may require a few sacrifices, or there are ones that will make you feel like a rock star.
Help! I am in school and traveling my way to spending my life in debt. Not from school but trying to decide living options. RVS are so expensive I have thought about travel trailers and tiny homes. I never know which way to go. People urge me towards equity in a home and stability for my son but we live in oklahoma with no beautiful landscape and can never take time off from work because our jobs are perpetually oppressive. I need to know that this works. It’s not scary, it is healthy and people are safe on the road aswell. We are battling obesity and other health related issues at only 25 from a sedentary and work driven lifestyle any support would be awesome!
I’m terrified and excited at the same time! We’re both In our early 50s and planning to sell our home to live a simpler life. My fear is being in a small space while a crazy storms is going on around us (our home base ATX so we won’t be on the road) or if the weather drops below 20s. My hubby wants a 5th wheel but I’m not sure because we want to try this for a year and see how we do, but of course need to make the right choice because money doesn’t grow on trees. We have two 10yr old chihuahuas who hate the thunder! Any advice?
Great question as we have just made some changes in this department. For the past 2 years we’ve been on contract: Me with AT&T and Nikki with Verizon. My phone only worked 70% of the time while hers worked 95% of the time. Now we have just upgraded to Verizon 4G and it’s literally 10x faster than our old 3g phones. Nikki is still grandfatherd in on an unlimited plan with Verizon so we both share her phone and tether it to our computers for internet. It’s a bit of a hassle considering it’d be nice to use the wifi hotspot, but that would be another $20 per month.
Our fourth year of roadschooling has been a big year for Thing 1. Per his request he wanted a challenging curriculum because wanted to make sure he is “keeping up with school kids”. It has been a struggle for me because, frankly, I see much (not all) of traditional school as a lot of nonsense and wasted time. While we’ve kept up with the core subjects, we’ve allowed plenty of room for freedom to explore, create, and have avoided traditional textbooks and boring assignments. Brent and I have encouraged the boys to think out of box and question the status quo.
“My team is very much self-managed for the most part,” he explains. After experiencing a few lessons in human resources, Bearded Brothers can now pinpoint the right employees to facilitate Caleb and Kristy’s unconventional lifestyle. “We want people who are more self-motivated,” says Kristy. “We want to continue to travel knowing that we have a team that likes to be left alone and self-sufficient.”
Our highest month was August in Cocoa Beach, FL. We both went on a bioluminescence kayaking tour which was $84. Also Julie got the deluxe adventure package at the Brevard Zoo which included an aerial adventure obstacle course, zip lining and kayaking for $57. We discuss how much fun we had on the Space Coast in our inaugural podcast episode. Our least expensive month was again at Fort Belvoir because there are so many free activities in the Washington DC area (i.e., Smithsonian museums, monuments, and hiking galore).
So, we take our $7200 and leave on our new life of freedom until we need more money. Then, we choose a place we want to be for a while, stop there, and get a job paying as much as we can, but at least $7 per hour . For that month we take home about $1000. We spend half of that to live on, and now have $500 in savings. Actually, we should have more since we won’t be driving much (some of us will ride our bike, scooter or motorcycle which we are carrying on a bike rack or trailer). So we can take that $500 and are off again. Or we can spend several months at one place and then travel several months. Maybe you like to ski so you spend three months at a ski resort working and skiing on the weekends. Then you have the next three months off to do whatever and go wherever you want. When you need to work again, you drive up to Glacier National Park and get a job there doing dishes at the resort. You spend your summer weekends hiking and taking pictures. Three months later, you are free again. Or maybe you are a history buff. So you drive to Gettysburg and get a job there. You spend your weekends exploring the Amish country and Philadelphia. You then go to New England to photograph the fall colors and spend a month exploring Washington DC. When you need to work again you drive to Orlando or Miami, get a job, and explore Florida. If you are adventurous you can work your way down to a beach resort in Mexico where you work for the next three months and surf, fish and snorkel on your weekends. Working in the tourist industry you probably double your wage in tips and living in Mexico is very cheap so you save even more than usual. Now you can take the next six months off in the U.S., or maybe nine months off in Mexico. You keep doing this to your heart’s content!
We learned this lesson the hard way winding through a tightly tree’d campground in FL in our first year on the road. We didn’t watch the back end of the rig as we turned through a narrow curve. The front made it through fine, but our back end swung out just slightly and the palm tree sheared off the entire slide topper cover on that side. Oops! We’ve never (cross fingers and paws) made that mistake since, but heavily tree’d parks are always difficult for us, and the bigger your rig the more this is true.
For income, the pair relies on occasional real estate investments, though they are currently out of the real estate game and filling in as campground hosts in Florida in exchange for free rent. Their job entails greeting and assisting fellow RVers, keeping an eye on the campground and driving a tram that runs to the beach. They still look at potential real estate opportunities as they travel, but they’re not too eager to invest.
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!
However, this is extremely personal. We are of the mentality of having a solid savings account before heading off. Stuff is going to come up: you’ll need new tires, or a new transmission, or you’ll decide you want a huge battery bank with solar and a monster inverter. You’ll want some money socked away to handle these issues as they arrive. A lot of young RVers are living paycheck to paycheck, and they have a tough time making their savings account grow. While that can be fun and exciting (and it certainly works for some people), we recommend having a solid amount of money in savings first. We didn’t feel comfortable leaving until we had $20k+ in our savings. What if you’re unemployed for a few months? What if something big goes out? We think it’s better to be prepared. There’s no one dollar amount that’s going to be ideal for everyone, but we think it’d be smart to have 6-12 months of living expenses in your savings account before heading off.
We live five months a year in our motorhome spending 7 months in our Mexican casa down in San Felipe, Baja. This has been our life style since 2005. Looking over your expenses have you every shopped on eBay for software products? You can save bundles. . . . I buy a ton of our “needs” on eBay with great savings and success just shipping it to where ever we are staying. Also, I am a thrift store junkie. I love nice, expensive (brands) clothes and kitchenware but don’t like paying full price. I find great bargains in Goodwill and Saver stores. It makes it fun to seek out these stores in all the different stops we make. I “cleaned house” this summer back east in their Goodwill stores. Just a thought. . . I enjoy your website very much. . . you’re having a lot of fun in your travels. I also would rather stay at a Harvest Host site versus Walmart!
We find most RV resorts typically only require that you put a small deposit down. We are still able to lock in great prices, keep on budget, and we usually can guarantee a prime site as well. In addition, we are also on several emailing lists for different RV Resorts. You would not believe the offers we get throughout the year, particularly on Black Friday, to book for the following year. As a result, we save hundreds staying at luxurious RV resorts.
Since we rarely move more than two or three times a year, we are huge fans of plywood skirting, most of which we can pick up for next to nothing at building sites and dumps. We tape fiberglass panels, sealed in Mylar. to the wood and it works extremely well. We haven’t found we’ve needed any additional heating under the rig, but then we don’t leave a lot of space for air to accumulate.
Allison, the Thousand Trails resorts have been mostly great campgrounds. We have really only visited one that we would never want to go back to. The amenities were nice but the rest of the campground was a bit rough. There is a TT in between Savannah and Charleston that was great and we also really liked the parks in PA. I will get it together soon and write some reviews.
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).
In a five year period, a brand new rig (that is, a motorhome/car combo or truck/trailer combo) will typically lose 30% to 50% of its value, and by the end of a decade it will be down to 25% to 40% of its original MSRP. The only way to know what the full-time RVing lifestyle really costs is to know both what you paid for your RV at the beginning and what you sold it for at the end. The difference, divided but the number of months you lived in it, is the true cost of ownership.
There is a silent attacker you may not be aware of, it’s name, Humidity. Humidity is already an issue in RVs, which is why we use our dehumidifier a few times a week. However, as the temperature began to drop outside and we ramped up the heaters on the inside we noticed our windows began to develop a crazy amount of water on them, which would then begin to freeze. This left frost on the inside of our windows so we made sure to wipe the windows down and run our dehumidifier every day.
With the bigger rigs I always feel it’s harder to back-in and maneuver in tight spaces (always better with a spotter since there are so many blind spots in a big rig), whereas the smaller rigs drive more like a car and can more easily be parked without help in just about any space. Also the smaller rigs use smaller (= much cheaper) tire sizes, can get serviced at a regular oil change place (instead of a specialty truck spot), and are easier/cheaper to maintain. All stuff I’d prefer as a solo traveler.
Using a combination of all three, we were able to keep our rent down to around $250 – $300 when we were last in the US. This was typically spent primarily on state parks (10 – 15 nights / month), another 15 – 20 days / month boondocking, and the final costs coming in when we wanted to stay at an RV park for a day, twice a month, for the convenience of something…nicer showers, a day at the pool, washing machines, etc.
Just as a reminder to anyone considering or who owns any RV with slide out partitions, You should always keep the tracks lubricated and run them in and out at least once a month to spread the lubrication. Proper maintenance goes a long way in worry free use, especially when you are living in it full time. I even live in mine all year round in northern latitudes and lived in Alaska for ten years in an rv with “tip outs”. You can “skirt” even a non winter RV and heat the under side to keep your tanks from freezing. Old flexable/cloth backed, highway advertizing signs do a good job when purchased. painted and fitted to your rig. They have great insulation value too. I would happily explain any winterization process that any one would like to know about. This blog is a great place for information for anyone considering living full time in an rv. There is a lot of good usefull information contained within.
I found living in our Airstream (31′) in winter, in places in Ontario, Vancouver B C, Whitehorse Yukon, back in 1972 to 77; very comfortable. Airstreams have windows with double glazing, so that was a big help. Furnace worked fine. Hot water heater worked fine. Used more propane which was expected. When we were plugged in to AC power we had water (had a heat line) and sewer hook ups. I closed the bottom in with snow. We managed the humidity issues, and everything was fine. Traveled up the Alaska highway with snow and glare ice, the trailer towed perfectly with our rear wheel drive Chevy Suburban.
Yes, we are new to RVing full time, but not to camping, we have camp in a tent to a diesel pusher for the past 44 years. We purchased a Landmark 365 42 ft fifth wheel and have a F350 4×4 dually, and I have a CRV Honda. My husband is a transpo drive for a RV dealer during the winter and is comfortable hauling the mighty beast. I drive my car to where ever our destination for the summer will be, be it 1000 miles or 500, I don’t mind driving.
That was very nice of you to list your expenses like that. Many of us appreciate it. As you mentioned, this is your lifestyle choice. Personally, I think it is a great one. I don’t get why some other posts are trying to compare it with monthly expenses for owning a home. You and your family are living the life you want. Good for you. You are open and honest. After reviewing your expense sheet, it is my opinion that you and your family are living a frugal lifestyle compared to most of us. I love the simplicity of your life without the baggage of all the stuff. Blessing to you and yours!
The RV furnace is designed to keep the interior warm even under the most frigid conditions. However, the longer the furnace runs, the faster the propane burn. I always lowered the furnace temperature or turned it off when I was cooking, as the heat from the stove more than sufficiently heated the entire RV. At night, I lowered the furnace to 55 degrees and used electric heating blankets. On less cold nights, I used electric space heaters to supplement and conserve of propane burn. Never set the thermostat lower than 55 degrees during cold months. Temperatures below this could cause internal water pipes and tanks to freeze or crack.
Brent and I so badly wanted to raise our oldest boys out of the box and in the slow lane of full time RVing until it was time for them to take flight on their own. We had so many ideas and plans for our family. During the first three years it seemed possible that they would grow up on the road happy and fulfilled but then they and their needs, particularly Thing 1, started to change. It was gradual but it became clear that full time RVing was no longer the best fit for our family. We were reluctant to admit it because Brent and I enjoyed our life as it was but we knew in our hearts that continuing to full time RV as a family would be…well…selfish. It wasn’t like we had to stay on the road. We weren’t following Brent’s work. We weren’t living in a RV because we were going through hard times. We were doing it because we loved the simplicity of life and it was fun. Crazy fun!
Author bio: Bryanna, her husband Craig, their 4 kids and 2 dogs sold their house, everything in it, and bought an RV and are now traveling around the US. They blog about their adventures at www.crazyfamilyadventure.com. Their goal is to inspire families to get out and travel more. When they aren’t out hiking to the top of mountains you can find them on the beach or at the local donut shop searching for the best donut in the US! You can find them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat.
After a year of full-time RVing, we slowly added these items to our home on wheels and they greatly improved RV life for us. We never expected to want or need these items when we first started out and love sharing them with newbie RVers! If you’re interested in finding out what these items are, check out this post: 5 Items That Improved RV Life for Us!
My husband and I are doing the same right now Toni. First we were considering selling everything and moving to a Caribbean island but after a lot of research we realized that it isn’t easy getting a job on some of the islands and the places where you can get jobs are crime ridden. So, we turned back to our life long dream of buying and RV and traveling the country. We are still in our early 50’s so we are too young to retire but through our research we discovered a website called flexjobs.com that is a great site for finding jobs that offer the ability to work remotely. It is a legitimate site without all of the scams and network marketing type of stuff. We also just discovered camp hosting on a website called workampingjobs.com. There are a lot of camp grounds in a lot of different states that offer various types of opportunities for couples to be camp hosts. Some are just for a free place in the camp ground in exchange for work but some also offer salaries to go with the free stay. I’m becoming more excited than scared now. My only concern is health insurance.
For months after settling down, I struggled on and off with depression It’s a rather long story but the short of it is I did not adjust easily back to life in a house after four years on the road. It’s been hard. Really hard. At times, I’ve felt like I’m 19 again but not in the life-is-an-open-road-awesome-way but in the lost lonely what-am-I-doing-way. It sucks to be 39 and feel like a depressed confused 19 year old.
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.
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.
hairyleggedjebjeb: Come back and talk to me about it when you've been doing it for more than 50 years (as I have). RVing can be a terrific lifestyle, but to think that it does not involve sacrifice is dreaming. There's plenty of that, and the longer you live this life, the more you will see that this is true. Far too many people jump into it thinking it will be all fun and freedom only to find that, just like anything else, it has its problems. The disappointment this brings often causes people to give it up, so to protect them a bit, I wanted them to see the realities.
Spray the bottom of the camper with spray foam. This isn’t something I can recommend from personal experience; it’s just something I know some people do. If I were going to do it, though, I would want to make sure I didn’t do any spraying that would prevent me from accessing certain systems if they needed repair. An alternative is to attach foam board insulation to the bottom of the RV.
It will be an interesting learning curve to be sure. Because neither of us have ever done this. Ideally I want to boondock a lot. We have a swiss shepherd who is traveling with us and I like the idea of giving him more space. However, since we know nothing I am wondering if we should invest in the New Mexico State Park Pass and use the hookups until we know our trailer. Maybe start boondocking in Utah and on our way home. Any sage advice for us? I have a million more questions I am sure. Reading these blogs are priceless. Thanx
We made the transistion slowly. (Our son is very resistant to change.) Each day we’d play out in the camper a little longer and slowly move his toys into it. Finally after about 2 weeks of this and moving things over we spent the night and didn’t have any issues! I’m not sure what we would do differently, we are pretty happy with how everything has gone. Our RV is a 39 foot bunkhouse. (So it has 2 rooms)
So those are just 10 things I have learned so far – and I know there is so much more learning to come. We are happy about our decision and what we are doing and sometimes we have to stop and sit back and say – is this really our life?! It is funny if I hear about someone else doing something like this or see a blog about it I get the feeling like – Wow that is awesome! I wonder how they are doing it?! Then I say – oh yeah that is right – we are doing it!
Propane heaters are awesome and most RVs come standard with them. But the fan that runs the propane furnace is extremely draining on your battery (most normal deep cycle 12v batteries will only last about 8 hours). Once you kill your battery, you lose your lights and heat, and you’ll have to find a source of electricity to get a full charge again. Propane furnaces also fail often, and if your only heater fails, you’re in big trouble.
What has been cool about year 2 is that we have really started to see more transformational type of changes in us as people, as a family, as business owners. It has been quite the journey! Year 1 was about learning how to live this way. In year 2 we already knew how to live this way so it became more about choices, decisions, options, etc around working and living full time on the road.
Next was digging the trench across my driveway. Although I’m fortunate that there are very few rocks in my primary building site — which also made the septic system guy pretty happy — the driveway did have a layer of gravel over it. I had to dig through that gravel and into the softer dirt beneath it. Later, I had to shovel all that gravel back. Hard work!
I am preparing to become a fulltimer. I am in the process of purchasing a travel trailer to tow behind my truck. It will be myself and 2 english bulldogs hitting the road in the next couple months. I am enjoying reading all the posts and learning a lot. Like you, I will put a few things in storage but I have already told myself 1 year max. I’ll admit, it’s exciting and scary at the same time but if I don’t try I will never know.
If you drove 12,000 miles / year, getting 7 mpg, which is pretty likely with a Class C or truck/trailer combo, I believe that would put you at around $500 / month in gas. Of course, this is the one area you have the most control over, because you can certainly drive less than that if you’d like. It all depends on how much commuting you do (drives to town for groceries, sightseeing, etc. still happen) and how far you travel each month.
So I might know where I am supposed to go but getting there is always interesting – what lane turns right, can I do a U-turn here, I see where I want to go but how the heck do I get in there and where is parking? We eventually find everywhere but it isn’t always easy. Then there is the fun of grocery shopping in a new grocery store every week . . .
I’ve been trying to feel grateful for the life we had and I do. I feel extremely grateful but when I only focus on being grateful and try to bury all of the other emotions, I feel bad. I feel angry at myself for feeling any other emotion other that gratitude. Then I feel disconnected from the people around me because “they don’t get it”. And mostly I feel guilt. Guilt for feeling angry and disconnected and for basically feeling anything else other than gratitude. So then I try harder to feel grateful and the cycle would continue.
Anxious and excited is how most of us start out, it’s crazy. To be honest, you’ll hear a lot more of the storms in the RV (thinking of your dogs) and you’ll have to take extra precautions for extreme wind, tornadoes, and cold weather. It’s all doable, but you’ll need to be prepared. If you’re staying in one spot, a 5th wheel can feel very residential and may suit your needs. If you aren’t sure that you will stick with it, look for something budget-friendly. If you want to sell or trade it later, it won’t hurt as much.