As a budget figure, if you are a future full-timer, and you are excited by the $0 figure here, and you plan to boondock a lot but haven’t don’t it much yet, include a “slush” camping fee figure of $350 per month in your budget until you find out if you really like it. Some folks plan to “free camp” all the time but find it isn’t practical for their lifestyle once they hit the road.
I once read an article that said having adventures, big and small, were the secret to long lasting happy marriages. I think about all the people I know who are happily married, not the ones who manage to get along and check off life’s boxes like efficient business partners, but the ones who delight in each other, the ones who share a certain noticeable energy that seems to propel them through life. I’ve noticed most of these people make adventure a way of life whether it’s driving across the county to see an iron bridge, taking a different way home just because, trying new restaurants, challenging their minds together, or spontaneously flying to France because they found cheap tickets online. (Umm…that would be my crazy parents.) This past year we’ve been so overwhelmed by adjusting back to a normal life with things like electric bills and school commitments that we’ve almost forgotten to have fun. It was like suddenly after 16 years our honeymoon was over.
I feel so fortunate I stumbled on to your blog. I’ve learned a lot already. My husband and I are newbies and when I mean new… we don’t even have our very little 14′ hybrid trailer. It is being built in Tucson as I type. It will be ready in late february. We will pick it up the 1st week in March and will bomb around New Mexico all of that month and most of April before we start heading back to Duluth, MN at the end of May. I want to leave tomorrow as it was -24º last night.
I remember a year or so ago Thing 1 and I were talking. He was having a hard time wanting both the adventure of RV life and the stability of being stationary. He missed our life in California but at the same time enjoyed our life of travel. It was a conversation we had often as we gauged the boys’ needs to make sure full time RVing was still working for everyone. During this one particular conversation his big brown eyes were contemplative and he asked,
Thank you a summary of your “road” costs. What folks generaly believe is somehow life is cheaper doing something else then what they are doing now. But we have a perpensty to do what is always do no matter what. Just because you are on the road dosn’t mean you have changed your personality. My wife and I are more like you folk so I’m guessing my expenses will be more in line with your summary.
Snowed in- snow is a good insulator no choice when it snows 4′ feet in a night. A pipe vent is good to keep the generator fumes away. Bubble insulation custom cut for each window and door. Velcro in place and then stick to walls and ceiling when not in use. Roll up large pieces and put in corners to store. Works great for the ceiling vent too. Battery operated car blankets are great to keep warm. We also have body warmers, hand warmers, and toe warmers for skiing and for sleeping. Check the door for snow build up often, so you can open the door in the morning after a storm. Leave some snow on the roof if you are driving in icy conditions for traction. Shovel often if snowing during camping. Carbon Monoxide will build up around the bottom of the door. Make sure you have extra batteries and an extra carbon monoxide detector in case of malfunction. If only camping for a few days, freeze is okay. The tanks will thaw when you reach warmer temps. Just keep the liquid levels down in the tanks ie.; grey, black, water. No need to use anti-freeze. If the temps warm up during the day above freezing the tanks will thaw too. If you have access to a dumpster, we use the bags and some dry chemical the toilet. When they fill up we just tie up the bag and dump. It saves room in the black tank. We skip showers for a few days of skiing. We carry 2 sets of chains for the front and back tires, for really dangerous snow and ice travel. Keep the thermostat at a min. temp of 50 degrees. Keep a dehumidifier on the kitchen counter. Put a outside windshield wrap for warmth and to keep the snow off. Four people can usually boondock for several days. Enjoy your winter adventure and don’t forget a couple of shovels.
Thanks for the reply. Can’t wait to get out there and start living. Great advice. i will definitely be contacting the folks you left links to. Question: do you two caravan with other folks sometimes or always on your own? I thought it would be a lot of fun to to caravan along with some of the great people out there, does that happen or do people just move on and say so long.
My husband and I are retired and are full timers that drive back and forth to Alaska each year. Our obvious largest expenditure is fuel. We use diesel, propane and gas. We seem to be spending similar to when we worked minus the saving part…..lol. We have our savings and dip into it only when helping our children in this economy. I guess I should start a log on how much we spend….but we are pretty frugal and wouldn’t change what we do until we can’t physically.
Thanks for the article, Tim! I really enjoy hearing and reading about folk’s experiences when living and traveling small. I never made time for it even though it was a dream and, now that I’m old, it will be one of those things that I’ll say, “If only…..”. Everyone reading this article: Please do everything you can to have a bucket list, and then do it! Don’t have regrets. I DO have a bucket list now and will do everything I have time for. Your story encourages me to keep going.
- You may need ventilation to replace humid inside air with drier outside air. Plugging and insulating ceiling vents with something that seals the vent but also can be removed easily is important. To insulate ceiling vents, purchase factory-made vent plugs or use rigid insulation cut to the size of the opening and wrapped with duct tape to strengthen it.
What’s amazing (and a big relief!) is that our “Upgrade” and “Maintenance” costs didn’t bring any unwanted or nasty surprises during the years we have been on the road, and they have remained much the same as they were in the first year, although there were plenty of years without any upgrades or big maintenance projects. As mentioned above, we barely ate out in the beginning and we splurged this past summer. We had mostly new clothes when we started and have replaced almost all of them, and we now see the importance of having the right tools and supplies for little “RV Owner” projects.
I always tell people that unless they have a reliable way to make money from the road, have at least 6 months’ worth of savings. That way you can at least enjoy an extended trip if you never find a way to make money. At some point, it will either be a lifestyle change if you can find a sustainable income stream, or it will just be an adventure before going back to a life with a normal job.
I have a question to ask. Try not to laugh too hard at my extreme paranoia lol. First you should know it is our sincere goal someday to rv full time. We loove to travel and we are both photographer hobbyists. However. I have zero experience visiting or ever even being in a desert and I am extremely frightened and paranoid of snakes, scorpions and mostly–spiders. How often have you run into these creatures boondocking in the west/in the desert? And no, this issue won’t derail our plans or anything, but just wondering what I am in for! Thanks for putting up with my silly question!
We use St. Brendan’s Isle in Florida for our mail forwarding, and use their Mail Scan Pro service. Their address also serves as our legal address of domicile for driver’s licenses, voting, vehicle registration, business registration, taxes, etc. They collect our mail, scan the front of the envelop and notify us via e-mail that we have new mail. We can then view our envelops online and decide what to do with them – scan, send or shred. We can request a shipment to whatever address we’re at. They’re super cool and we couldn’t be happier with the service we have received from them.
You can spend your time in fancy RV resorts that cost up to $100 per night, or at state and county parks that are typically $30 or under per night. On-base campgrounds are usually inexpensive, sometimes as low as $20, but they don’t always give you that “local” experience. We chose a mix, mostly staying in mid-range campgrounds both on and off base, as well as some national, state and city parks. We even stayed at a fairgrounds in Mariposa, California, near Yosemite. Boondocking wasn’t for us – we typically stayed in places that had water, sewer and electricity hook ups.
I could live in my RV, either in my hangar — there’s plenty of room — or on my property where it was already parked and hooked up. The trouble with that was that my RV, the “mobile mansion” is not designed for cold weather living. To make matters worse, I had parked it 66 feet from my onsite water source and I knew the hose running in a makeshift conduit under my driveway was very likely to freeze.
Looks like you gave a very solid plan! Kirk’s numbers are one of the budget references I plan to link to in my next post. And I totally agree that health care is the biggest single unknown in all this. It’s been (by far) the biggest impact we’ve had to our fixed expenses in the 7 years we’ve been on the road, and it’s one of the most difficult to predict. I have no idea what our costs are going to be next year.
Cover Windows, Doors and Stairwell – It blows me away how much cold air seeps in from the windows, the entry door and the stairwell, by adding insulation to these drafty culprits you can keep the inside of the RV much warmer. Purchase a heavy fabric and make curtains to keep the cold from coming in. You can do fun curtains or you can install snaps/Velcro around the windows and doors to add an extra layer of insulation. Some people use bubble wrap, the bubble insulation, or the R-Max Foam boards which are all practical but do not look very good. For the stairwell have a board cut and adhere insulation to the bottom of it, at night cover the stairwell to keep out the cold air.
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.
We are just putting our house on the market. timing is not perfect but at least we have made the decision. We are really looking forward to hearing more helpful information. The storage thing is a little difficult we have been married 50 years and we know that we will not be able to do this forever. We also know that we have a life style to come back to. So it has been a challenge. Happy trails
If we really wanted to cut back to a minimalist lifestyle we could probably manage early retirement at this point. Instead, since we love what we do – we’ve opted to work a while longer and be a bit indulgent (like pursuing our boating dreams). Because life is short and we have a lot of things we want to do! So, a lot of our income goes into a discretionary spending account for adventures, upgrades and fun. When that fund builds up, we go on a little spending spree.
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.
This year we also abandoned book science and took a hands on approach by taking advantage of our travels to national parks and museums. The boys earned over 50 Junior Ranger badges that year. It was also an amazing year for history as we read books like Johnny Tremain, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and Moccasin Trail and then visited the places in the stories.
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.
One time we had a package shipped via UPS to a post office General Delivery address in a small town. We tracked the package, and noticed its status was “On the truck and out for delivery.” This seemed to imply that the package was on its way to the post office, so we called the UPS distribution center to find out at what time of day the truck might get to the post office so we could drive in to get it.
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.
Last but certainly not least there is always the option to winterize your RV before you hit the cold weather. Whether you’re lazy, cheap, or you just plain don’t want to deal with all this crap I’ve rambled on about above, this option works like a champ. Before you hit the road purchase a couple 10 gallon jugs of water for drinking. Shower & use the toilets in the facilities at the campground (they’re usually heated during the winter). Of course this means when nature calls you have to high tail it through the freezing weather to use the Jon, but at least you don’t have to worry about your pipes freezing! If you decide to go this route make sure you stay in the site located closest to shower and bathroom facilities, you’ll thank me later.
One of our biggest worries is noise we may encounter from other campers. How has your experience been with that? Have you found most locations to be quiet? We are worried about having to listen to other people’s music, outdoor tv’s barking dogs, people being noisy outside next to you,etc. Would really love to know how that has been for you over the years?????
Totally depends on HOW you travel. I have male buddies who travel in vans that live this lifestyle for around $12,000 per year (look up ToSimplify, CheapRVLiving and Van-Tramp in my blog links), and I have friends who use much, much more. I would say you can do it on anything from $1,000/mo to $5,000/mo depending on how far you travel, where you stay, how frugal you are etc.
I’m a 57 widow, retired Air Force and have a great job that only requires me to be near an airport and have internet and cell phone access. Just traded in my 34′ Montana and 200 Ford F350 and Charger for a new Montana toy hauler, 2017 F350 and a 2018 Harley Road Glide. Selling my house and all but enough to furnish a small villa (when I tire of the Great Adventure) and I’m hitting the road this spring.
Our initial budget estimate was somewhere between $2500 and $2800 per month. We are very happy that we’ve been able to make this lifestyle work at much less, around $2000 per month (not including health costs, business expenses, and paying taxes). We continue to look for ways that we can reduce our overall monthly costs, and are still very frugal about what we buy and when.
Those dishes that do need to be washed are first wiped clean with paper towels. Wiping them first means less water used to clean them. Rather than use the sink(s) for dish washing, we use dishpans for washing and rinsing. The wash water can be used for flushing the stool and the rinse water can be reused as wash water by reheating on the stove. If you’ve followed the wipe before you wash suggestion, the rinse water will be very clean.
My State Farm agent Will Tweed set me up for success when helping me plan our insurance needs. Thanks to Will I just received a check from State Farm for nearly $3,700.00 to pay for my replacement camera mentioned below in the additional gear section. This brings our 6 month spending total to $19,164 that’s $1,597 per person per month for living full-time on the road. Not too Shabby.Expenses 02/01/2012 through 07/31/2012$22,864.00 Grand Total for 6 months of RV Travel for both Nikki and I to live full time on the road in our Motorhome. This is approximately $1,653 per person per month. At this rate we’re on target to spend a similar amount as 2011. This really stinks as I feel we’ve been more frugal this year on the road vs. 2011. In certain areas we’ve saved literally thousands, but in others we’ve added expenses!Here are few ideas on how we can save money: (if you have any ideas, we would love to hear them)
This is a big one. And to be honest, one I have mixed feelings about. There are still times I miss our old life and our old house. And I feel that by introducing all of us to this lifestyle it would be really hard to go back to what our old life was. My biggest fear is that our kids are going to continue traveling the world for their whole life and end up settling down all over the place so we won’t all be in the same location when our kids start having kids. Crazy right – then why the heck did we do this then??
I think a lot of expenses could be eliminated for sure. Dr electric you could easily convert to solar power. Solar panels can be quite inexpensive. The batteries for charging can be costly to purchase but in the long run will save thousands of dollars with solar. You can still hang dry your clothes on hangers in your rv. As far as washing, if you are at a park that provides water/sewage you could easily put in a portable all in one HE washer dryer. May cost around $800-$1200 but again will save $$$ in the long run. Stop eating out. It substandard food anyway and isn’t good for you. If you are all in the rv together on a regular basis, eliminate a phone. There no need for 2phones. If you are writing several letters in a week,unless it’s an emergency, you could have much news to share. I for one would rather have a portable internet connection. That would probably be one of my biggest expenses. Just some suggestions that may cost a bit in the beginning but will end up being the best purchases to save you money over a long period of time.