January 2017 marks three years on the road for us. It feels like it was only yesterday that we started this journey, yet we can hardly remember our lives before. We've had many ups and few downs living an in RV, but we're quite content with our lives. Part of this may come from the transformation we've experienced since we've been traveling full-time.
Once Heath refined the idea, found us a sponsor, and convinced me to film the adventure for our first ever documentary (but mostly because of the sponsored honeymoon part), I decided his idea wasn’t half bad. I would like to note, however, I had absolutely ZERO experience in film at the time. I YouTubed and googled the whole process to act like I knew what I was doing.
There were also build sheets, diagrams for each fuse box and information on roadside assistance. We referenced all the information many times throughout our first year of RV living. When a fuse goes out at 1a.m., you’ll want to know which fuse box to check. Our first RV had four fuse/breaker boxes and two of them were outside. When it’s pouring rain outside, it’s not fun to run around wondering which breaker box to check.
Will they be traveling a lot, or will they settle in an area for extended stays? Can they work from their RV on the road? Do they have skills (like nursing) that are in demand everywhere and can lead to temp jobs? Have they investigated (and plan on taking advantage of) volunteer opportunities with RV parks, state or federal volunteer positions available that provide free RV space? Will they be taking jobs at commercial businesses on public lands? Will they be selling a home with equity?
We embarked on the first leg of our planned trip: over to Indiana to visit my three sisters. We continued down through Ohio, the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, a stop in South Carolina to visit a close friend, and another stop in South Carolina to see Mark’s sister. We continued on down to Georgia and finally to Bradenton, Florida, where my mother-in-law lives. We had not seen most of these people in at least two years, and some we had not seen in as long as five years.
Hence the idea started brewing about first downsizing then freeing up time and money and, finally, traveling. We had been planning to homeschool the kids since our oldest was 2, so that opened a huge door since we weren’t stuck on the school schedule. My husband had a job in IT which meant he was working remote 1 day a week and could potentially do more remote work or find another job which offered that.
The answer to this question will vary greatly depending on your RV lifestyle and choices. It really is a highly individual thing. We like full hook-up campsites which cost a bit more. On the other hand, we like to travel slowly staying in an area for at least a month, which costs quite a bit less. In this article, we discuss the typical budget line items. Also at the bottom of the article, we’ll share our average monthly budget expenses.
Have a “fun fund” for those spur of the moment adventures. If you decide that today is the day you want to go for that hot air ballon ride, do it! Having money set aside for these experiences will make that transition to RV living more enjoyable and fun. We always seek out free and cheap things to do in our travels, but there are some experiences that are worth the splurge.
First of all, I had to do a lot of research to better understand the difference between fifth wheels, motorhomes, truck campers, pull-behinds, etc. Ultimately, we made our choice on motorhome because we liked the idea of having our vehicle and home be all in one. We enjoy being able to walk to the back and use the restroom or make food, without having to leave our vehicle while we’re traveling.
Winterize your pipes, water heater, and water pump. Drain your fresh water and waste water tanks and kiss them goodbye for the winter. Believe me, it’s not worth trying to keep them flowing. Pipes will crack, tanks will break, and you will have a very expensive and time-consuming problem when spring rolls around. Trust me, heat pads and heat tape are not going to cut it, so don’t even try (they take way too much electricity to keep things thawed, so they are useless in off-grid or low-electricity situations).
My first rv, an older 28′ class A motorhome, was a gift from family member, and we used it part-time, mostly in Arizona, since we lived at Lake Tahoe, with long, snowy winters. My second rv, a 32′ diesel, with double panes windows, but no slide-outs, no basement, and no levelors. A great rv, but our 33 ft, 2014 motorhome with 2 slide outs, automatic levelors, ample basement storage, and nice size refrigerator is great for us as we are still part-timers. I do miss the diesel (so much quieter), the double-paned windows, and our small truck which we towed, carrying our bicycles. I preferred the view from the first 2 motor homes as the built-in dinette with large window was across from soda bed, which also had a large window. We now have no view on passenger side except for small kitchen window. My second rv also had a better arrangement for queen bed, which faced forward, enabling view out front dashboard window, with two regular size windows on sides of bed. If you like to camp in gorgeous nature, as we do, views are important. When we did extended stays, we alternated camping in “nature areas” with minimum or no hookups for a week or more, then moving to private campgrounds with laundromats, and some food services for a few days. We especially enjoy the national and state parks. I enjoy the motorhome over a 5th wheel or trailer as we do not have to get out in the rain when we arrive at a campground, and, as we did one night, when we didn’t feel safe, just started the engine and left. I would enjoy trying full-time Rv living, and realize there will be days that will range from glorious to trying.
Once we retire, my wife and I are planning on spending winters (at least) heading south from Chicago in an RV for maybe 3 months at a time. I’m an over-researcher according to her, but also an accountant. 🙂 I’d love to play with your budgeting worksheet. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the link on your website. Is there a specific page where I can find it?
When we first started on the road we rushed like crazed animals on stampede to see as much and as far an area as we could possibly see within the timeframe given. It took several months before we realized none of this was necessary. In fact taking more time to enjoy our surroundings not only saved us money, but we’ve met more people, seen more local gems, created a sense of community and felt more in-tune with the journey. Our 2-month trip through New Mexico earlier this year was a great example of how this attitude has really made sense for us. We are progressing more and more into “sitters” (RVers that spend several weeks in one spot) rather than “movers”. It may not be for everyone, but I sure recommend giving it a try.
Jan Wesner Childs is a journalist and wife of a 26-year Army Special Forces veteran. She has lived, worked and traveled around the world and the U.S. She is currently a freelance writer based in Florida, where she writes about anything and everything, including local schools, the space and tourism industry, and military spouse and family issues. Her blog, “Beyond the Gilded Cage,” details her family’s RV adventure and gives the scoop on transitioning to life after the Army. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Then there is boondocking, where you basically stay on BLM land or National Forests for free (check out campendium.com regardless of what kind of camping you think you want to do). There are no hookups, so you need a generator (which increases gas consumption) or a solar power setup (and having both is typically necessary, since the sun doesn’t shine everywhere, every day). The cost is often free, or very cheap, to stay at these places.
Luckily, Birgit & Greg, whose site we're using, were nice enough to let us tap into their super-size external propane tank (we'll be paying for the propane we use, of course). So propane shouldn't be a problem, but we'll still want to keep our usage to a minimum, since it's expensive, and propane use can cause excess moisture to build up in the rig.
We are concerned about how this one would do in colder climates though so we will be doing some more research. Also the front bunkhouse is a little tight if there is an outdoor kitchen but it’s fine without the outdoor kitchen. A few more with this great floor plan are the Prime Time Lacrosse 336BHT and the Prime Time Avenger 32 FBI. We aren’t familiar with the Prime Time brand but we love the layouts.
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.
This is why it’s so important to create a budget for your new lifestyle, and do your best to stick to it. You’ll cut down on your expenses by traveling less, working or workamping more, boondocking when you can, and cooking healthy meals at home. You can also save more by using a travel rewards credit card, which can earn you extra money on gas purchases.
I’ve mentioned before that living and traveling in an RV full-time can either be very expensive or very affordable. It all depends on your lifestyle, goals, and self-discipline. When we first hit the road, our expenses skyrocketed. We were traveling almost daily, staying in higher-priced RV campgrounds, and eating out at restaurants almost every night because we didn’t feel comfortable cooking in such a tiny kitchen.
Hello, I am a female, 50, and am on disability due to my spine being fused from my shoulders to my tale bone. I am very interested in living in an RV. I would sell my personal belongings to enjoy the adventure. i already live a very frugal life style. I want to see the world our Lord created. i am very nervous but still desire the adventure. Have you found it to be safe traveling? How often do you travel from one location to another? Are the camp sites dog friendly? Do you recommend any RV groups to travel with?
We too fish and hunt and eat everything we harvest. Although we have enjoyed the trips we have taken in our motorhome, my husband is reluctant to travel for more than 2 or 3 months at a time. He does not want to miss out on Spring and Fall turkey season and Fall deer season. How do you afford to hunt and fish outside of your home state? Non-resident hunting and fishing licenses are very expensive in many states.
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 have left out some expenses as they might be comparable regardless of your situation. Those expenses are gasoline, home owner’s associations vs. RV clubs, phone and internet costs. While you may think the average RVers spends more on gas / year, we don’t. There is no daily commute, and no one said you have to, or even realistically will, drive hundreds of miles every day. Here are our findings on that (and all things environmentally friendly about living in an RV).
Retirement – Once you have an adequate emergency fund, and are debt free, the next component of savings is your retirement savings. We follow Dave Ramsey’s plan which suggests putting 15% of your gross income into tax-favored plans such as your company’s 401(k) and Roth IRAs. Don’t wait until later to start saving for retirement. You just never know what may happen in the future!
I loved your article!!! We own a 74 Winnebago Brave and live in it during the summer. We were always wondering if it would even be possible living in it during the cold Canadian Winters. I guess it is!!! I especially love the part about your GF. I feel sometimes it is hard living in an RV fulltime too because of society’s view about how women should look. Sometimes I couldn’t even tell my employers where I was living or I wouldn’t get hired. Thank you for your article. 🙂
When we say new, it's only new to us, but that's how we prefer it. Let someone else shake it down. After hemming and hawing over trading in our previous RV, we finally decided to go for it. We knew our old one was too big for us and we didn't want to invest in upgrades like solar when we didn't feel like it was ours. It was the right choice and we're very happy with our current set-up. We installed solar panels, so we didn't have to worry about the batteries overnight or running the generator twice a day like on our old coach. We have more options as to where to stay with our smaller size and off-grid capabilities and that makes us very happy. Now we just need to redo the interior a bit and it will be all ours.