Do whatever you can to practice living in an RV full-time before you actually hit the road. Practicing will help you learn what you need to enjoy this lifestyle and, more importantly, what you don’t. Practicing will help you get comfortable living in a small space and towing it to different campsites. The RV lifestyle will become more familiar, which will make the transition easier when it becomes part of your daily routine.
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?
This is a tough one. Many of us live lives of quiet desperation, hating our jobs, and just enduring our life. We meet our obligations and conform to societies dictates. On the surface, all looks good. But on the inside is a desperate but muffled cry for a life of passion, adventure and travel. Summed up in one word it is a cry for FREEDOM!! This is probably overstating it, but if you look at your life, you can probably find some element of it in there. What holds us back? Why can’t we break out of our rut into a new and exciting life? For most of us it is fear. We have an unconscious fear that “An unpleasant but acceptable present is better than an unknown and dangerous future.” So, how do you overcome your fears? Allow me to lead you through an exercise to overcome a fear.
Regarding storage, I found it to be a total loss. By time I paid the monthly rent while I full-timed almost 2 years, I could’ve replaced the furniture and tools with the latest styles for less money when I returned. If you have items that can’t be replaced, put a value on them and assess. If those items are that meaningful, you’ll probably want them with you.
During this 30 day window I lost 10 pounds (no time to stop and eat!) and slept about 4 hours a night… but we did it. We downsized to what we could fit into our RV and our cars. Yes, my husband’s car did turn into our garage for a few months. And we only ended up with about 4 storage bins which we kept in my parent’s basement. They were mostly filled with photos and other family memories.
At the same time, this non-resident residency impacts the local politics of the cities and towns where the biggest mail forwarding companies do business because of the huge number of absentee voters. These voters may vote like each other — full-time RVers have a lot in common with each other — but they don’t necessarily vote like the other residents of their adopted hometowns.
All these questions factor in. I’d say if they can buy the RV outright, if they’re knowledgeable and handy so they can fix or direct the repair of most things on an RV after some study, they could make it with $30,000 in the bank. That would give them close to 2 years to learn the ropes of the road. If they’re frugal. No eating out. No $100 concert tickets. No spurious or unessential purchases. No staying in expensive RV parks. Not too much travel. And assuming they work part time while on the road for either cash or a free RV spot whenever possible.
So the big swing number that I see in what you wrote is camping costs. We workamp/boondock at least 4 months of every year which brings down those costs to around $10-$12/night on average. That’s been our norm for the past 6 years. Last year was the sole exception traveling out East, but even then we only hit $24/night. We have no TV, we travel on average only 6,000 miles per year and we don’t eat out much simply because we love to cook (when we do it’s mostly for beer tasters and a cheap lunch).
Close family ties. People accustomed to frequent visits with family and friends need to consider how they will adjust, and how they will stay connected from across the miles. Some people find it difficult to leave a physical community or geography. On the other hand, we have met RVers who delight in their RV lifestyle as the perfect way to visit with friends and family geographically scattered around the country.
I would say that depends on what the couple intends to do and what their price point is. We wanted to minimize our expenses, so we purposely sought out something used and less expensive. If you’re looking to be constantly traveling, then a smaller, more gas-efficient RV would suffice. If you want a huge home on wheels that provides all the same comforts of your conventional life, then a Class A would work well. The cool thing about RVs is that they finance like a house, so your payment ends up being much smaller due to the longevity of the loan.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a really big challenge in our lives (we don’t actually have this… but you know how it is), and we had to buy extra high-quality lights just to make ourselves feel alive! The good news is these lights don’t take much power (we’re off grid and rely on solar power, so power isn’t always in abundance) so we can keep them on without guilt.
Every RV comes with a manual and you two should spend some quality time together. Learn your way around the electrical system and the fuse box. Don’t be intimidated by basic plumbing. Be prepared to patch leaks in the roof and around windows and doors with sealants. Establish a routine to perform the annual chores recommended by the manual. These are not onerous tasks, but essential ones to making life easy on the road.
I’ve been daydreaming about purchasing a 25′ Airstream trailer and hitting the road full time, and have enjoyed many of the posts on your site. Of all the posts across the blog, this is the one I’ve come to the most times as it’s rare to find such detailed and thorough listing of expenses, which is incredibly useful for a total newbie! Our lifestyles and spending habits seem similar, so I find myself returning to this page frequently while planning my would-be road finances.
I grew up in a travel trailer for many years. And now my husband and I are going to do it with our three kids. We looked into it financially and found out, it was a very good option the storage unit, truck, trailer and our land payment would add up to be less than the rent we pay. So when we build, the house will not be such a financial burden, if any. Your post has helped me believe it will end up being the best option even with all the kids.
Emily, you have done an absolutely fabulous job of compiling tons of useful information and we avidly read your blog and go back over things as we prep to hit the road full-time. We love the way you think, your personality and just everything we read. You have been so kindly open with your budgets etc but there are two things we are just curious about being of similar ages and not able to get pensions or SS at this stage in our lives.
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.
What will you do when you reach an age that you can't travel anymore? There comes a time in every full timers life when they travel less frequently and maintain a more traditional residence. It can sometimes be due to health issues, aging, wanting to be close to relatives again, or any number of things that occur. That doesn't always mean selling your RV and buying a house again though. Many find a park where they want to stay indefinitely and still enjoy life without a house.
Carrying a washer and dryer is an option however they take up a lot of space so if you’re planning to go small (under 35′) you might not have space for one. There is also the option for the ‘All-in-One’ washer and dryer which washes and dries your clothes in the same unit however we’ve had many RV’ers say they dislike this as it takes 2 hours per load and the loads are very tiny.
Wow. The lots in SW Florida must be insanely high. We have brand new real nice RV Parks in East Texas with carports, storage buildings etc. that will only cost you about $350 per month. And there are several pretty good parks coming in at $250 around here. You might consider East Texas a few months a year just to pocket some serious cash. My wife and I have talked about this kind of living on and off for a while. Our expenses living in a duplex is about $400 less than yours right now. And our utilities are $350-$400 a month. But, we are considering trying to purchase a lot instead of traveling around. That’s great freedom. Kudos! I worked for 11 years in the corporate world. I never did find a company that bought into the telecommute thing for more than 2-3 days at a time without coming into the office.
Great to hear some ideas of traveling in the cold. I will use the skirting idea for sure. This is our first year rving. Never the less traveling from the cold to a warm climate a few times during the winter. I have a smaller motorhome and my water tank is protected already so that is a start. I would like to know if anyone else goes from cold to warm temps a few times in winter and how they plan. As when I get south I would want to use everything as normal. I guess I will try heat tape. Non chemical antifreeze and I have space heaters as well as the furnace. Of course using the skirting as well. Any ideas???
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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!)
I may be relocating from Idaho to Concordville, Pennsylvania for a job. My concerns are that the cost of living may be more than I can handle financially, but I could live in a travel trailer easily. What advise can you offer a person who has not even gone camping much less RVing. I’m sure there is much to know about the area and does it accommodate this style of living?
I really did enjoy this article. I haven’t camped in Alaska but I have camped in some very cold weather in a tent camper, so I do have a couple of hints. I warm my camper up on very very cold nights with three oil lamps. I use ultra pure lamp oil because it does not smell at all. I have a couple very small oil lamps that I use when we go to bed. I turn them down very low and can turn them up if I have to get up in the night. This saves battery power. If you can place bubble wrap over your windows it lets in light and keeps out the cold.
For the past year, we felt the wind shifting but we were in denial. We tried to continue on course against the wind hoping that things would return to what they were. However, in the quiet of night, I knew the change I was hoping for wasn’t going to happen. In those silent moments of raw honesty with myself what I wanted, as ridiculous as it sounds, was for the older boys to quit getting older. I wanted them to stay my babies forever and shelter them from life’s hardships. Living in the RV seemed to slow down time and kept them close. Kept them safe.
$1237 Editing Software – We finally purchased Adobe Photoshop CS6 ($600), I’ve been using an old version for the past several years. We also purchased the newest version of Lightroom ($150). Both of these programs allow us to view, edit, and post our RAW photographs more beautifully and professionally. If you’re not heavy into photo editing or design I DO NOT recommend purchasing Photoshop, it’s a bulky, expensive, and difficult to understand program. Save your money and get a more consumer based photo editing program. I also purchased a great video plug-in for Adobe Premiere Pro video editing software. This new plug-in suite from Red Giant ($480) allows me to make similar enhancements to my video that I can make on my photos.
You don’t have to have a “home” to have an address. There are multiple companies that offer mailbox services. Which means you get an address for a mailbox that is located in one of the cities that the business is located in. The company then scans your envelopes and sends them to you via email (you can let them know if you want them to keep it to mail it to you or throw it away), mails your mail to you once a month – wherever you are, or some even open the mail and scan it and send it to you. It is all for a monthly cost but it is very reasonable. The only thing is you have to have domicile in the state they offered in. The main one’s for Full Time traveling families are Florida and Texas – since the homeschooling laws are best there. However we had heard that Texas wasn’t good for state health insurance since they didn’t offer a nation wide plan – not sure if that matters to you. Here is a link from a full time RVing couple about how to handle mail and a few other things: http://www.technomadia.com/2012/07/chapter-9-nomadic-logistics-domicile-mail-taxes-banking-and-voting/ Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.
My fiance and I have two northern Michigan winters under our belts already and are getting ready for a third! We have a propane company bring us a 120 gallon pig, put plastic on all the window, have an efficient space heater running so the furnace doesn’t come constantly kick on, we keep a little heat lamp underneath by the water hook ups, and use w inch foam as a skirt around the bottom of the camper! The best investment is a heated mattress pad for those cold days because the heat rises so it might as well rise into you, our dog is actually impossible to get out of bed when that’s on ❤️ It’s a lot of work but it really is a blast. We also have a dehumidifier plugged in because to much moisture can rot the rig!
I think the best thing a person could possibly do if they KNOW they’ll be wintering in their RV is to buy an RV that’s set up for all-season use. Those have better insulation and even heated basements to prevent pipes from freezing. They cost more (of course) and are likely heavier, but I will never spend another winter in a cold climate in an RV that isn’t set up at the factory for winter use.
By the time we got serious about the idea, we had about eight months to plan. This included me flying Space-A back to the states to buy a 42-foot, fifth wheel trailer. It had two bedrooms and two full bathrooms, with about 380 square feet of living space. My husband and kids, ages 12 and 14 at the time, thought the video I showed them of it was pretty cool.
Another aspect to consider is that when you’re new to full-timing, you don’t know what you will want in a rig, especially when you’re living in one day in and day out. If you buy an expensive camper, you’re going to lose a lot of money when you upgrade or change models. Buying a used camper might be the best and most affordable way to try this new lifestyle, and figure out what setup you’d most like to have. If you end up loving full-time travel, you can always upgrade to a new rig in a year or two.
I wasn’t sleeping in my nest-bed in the RV. I was sleeping on a new bed in a new house, a house without wheels. I wasn’t going to wake up and walk a few steps to our kitchen. I would walk up a flight of stairs. I wasn’t going to wake the boys up from their bunkroom 20 feet away to get started with their homeschool. I would go to each of their separate bedrooms to wake them up to go to school. I wasn’t going to have a day exploring new places. I was going to drive the same streets to the same places.
This is something we cannot advise you on. Our experience is life on the road is a little less expensive than sedentary life. I do know there are several people out there living extremely inexpensively in an RV, but I’m not sure where to direct you. I would think living in an apartment would be less expensive and more comfortable than trying to live in an RV. The one piece of advice I can offer, don’t purchase a motorhome (RV with an engine) if you’re going to leave it sitting, purchase a towable that does not have an engine.
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.
Our health insurance we have gotten through Healthcare.gov. This cost is relatively low because we enrolled in catastrophic health plans and qualified for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. It has changed every year, and this year they got rid of PPO plans that have in-network doctors across the country and not just in one state. Next year we may be looking into joining a Health Share program if prices continue to rise and coverage drops.
When my husband and I left for our travels, towing our 16-foot CampLite trailer, we’d never spent a single night in an RV. Ever. The reason why we were so ill-prepared was because of our financial situation leading up to our departure date: We’d paid off our mortgage earlier in the year, which meant we had to sell our home first before we could buy a truck and trailer. So, we closed on our house, bought the truck and trailer, packed up our rig, and left the next day. It was a whirlwind of stress and insanity that, in retrospect, we should have done differently.
Great blog! lots of ideas for “newbies” — we have been fulltimers for almost one-year now and are in agreement with many of the items on your list (size and taking your time especially!) We have also been fortunate to meet helpful people on our travels and certainly fellow bloggers encourage and guide us! Keep up the great posts and we hope to get to meet you in person soon!! Martha
If all you need is a little connectivity on your phone I’d suggest looking at one of the ATT-based Straight Talk plans at Walmart. If your phone accepts it you can buy a SIM at Walmart and then you just pay flat $45 per month for “unlimited” talk/text/data. I put the unlimited in quotations because the fine print says that you get unlimited talk/text but only 5GB of full-speed data (after that you’re throttled pretty heavily). That might be enough for you though? The nice thing about Walmart is that it’s non-contract plan so you can try it for a month and if it doesn’t work out you can just ditch it and do something else. ATT doesn’t get you as wide coverage as Verizon, but it’s pretty darn good. We have it on our phones right now.
We had to skirt our first RV and it worked like a champ. We called the Miller Family from RVSkirting.com and even though they couldn’t install the skirt for us they helped us get set for a last minute freeze in Breckenridge, CO and gave us the confidence that we could install it ourselves. Most manufacturers and dealers don’t understand skirting so make sure you do lots of research or give these guys a call if you have questions about winter camping.If you plan to be in an area with snow you can try the poor man’s skirt, it works pretty well: Take a shovel and pile up snow all around your coach up to the bays. Pack the snow well and it can last for months. During an extreme freeze put a space heater under your coach, don’t worry it shouldn’t melt the snow…I call this the Igloo effect!
Our boat has two diesel Cummins 370 engines, and we’re still tracking our burn rate (with a 440 gallon tank and our slow poke style, it takes a while to get numbers) – but we’re expecting it to be about 1.25 – 2 miles per gallon. A typical ‘driving day’ will likely be 15-30 nautical mile range at 7-8 knots. While our fuel “economy” sucks in comparison to our RV, we anticipate we may cover a 1000 miles a year. So thus our fuel costs boating will be similar to our RVing costs on a monthly basis.
“Variable costs” are lifestyle expenses that are essentially optional — at least for a while. They can be deferred to a later month, foregone all together, or can make a fun splash in the current month. The great thing about these expenses is that they are controllable. If fuel costs skyrocket or you are short on funds, then stay put and save money! If you’ve got a more modest budget, consider staying in each location for a month or a full season to take advantage of the monthly or seasonal rates at RV parks. If you really want to skimp, boondock or at least stay in the dry camping sites at any RV park or campground that will allow it and has them available.
We moved from Tennessee to California & we are basically starting over again. We are currently living with a family member until we can find a rental place or buy an RV. We can’t afford to buy a house right now so I was thinking of buying an RV for a family of 7 & live in it until the house prices drop. I like the idea of RV living because if we don’t like the place we are at we can easily drive to another place. My question is how well does the water pressure for taking a shower & also for the plumbing? I think it’s a great idea to live in RV to save money but my husband doesn’t think it would be a great idea since we have 5 yr old triplets & two teenagers. My husband wants to rent a house & I want to buy an RV to live in temporary until we can buy a house.
On the one hand, these are supremely useful posts. Costs are a huge question for anyone who is considering getting on the road and one of the most searched-for items for newbie fulltimers. I remember it was one of the top things we fretted about before we went fulltiming and we had such a hard time figuring it out. Could we afford it? For how long? What kind of budget would we need? We found several blog posts, but no-one seemed to be able to give us an exact number. How are you supposed to work with that??
I believe it’s around 10amps at the highest setting, but like an oven, when it reaches pressure/temp, it turns the heating element off (and back on when needed). We have 320w of solar and 400 amp hours of lithium ion batteries. They key though is having a large enough inverter to run things like the instant pot. You would need at least a 2000w pure sine inverter. Ours is 3000w.
Some people leave both their gray and black tanks closed during cold weather and only open them for dumping, but we really wanted to be able to leave our gray tank open and not have to worry about it. After researching, I realized that unless we were in a climate where liquid could freeze in the amount of time it took to travel through the hose (which we were not), it would be okay to leave our hose hooked up and our gray tank open as long as it could drain quickly without any places where liquid could collect.
We typically try to cook our meals from the RV. Typically our groceries are less than $100 per week. On travel days, we tend to grab fast food or “cheap eats” for convenience, and only eat out at restaurants 2-3 times a month. We also included the cost of dog food because well, they are our children and that means there are 2 extra mouths for us to feed!
You asked if any one read or cared about the expense reports, I do. We are in the downsizing mode and it will be 1 1/2 years til we full time. ( We just bought a fifth wheel that is in storage and have no truck at this point) I have visited several other sites and keep returning to yours. I think I could write a blog on preparing and down sizing but have no idea how to start one. Please keep up the expense posts.
So I’ve noticed you folks had 3 different motorhomes, with the last one I saw was a Fleetwood Excursion, I didn’t get its name? So I was wondering what the thought process was for the changes? I’m playing with the idea of going to a fulltime status, selling my house, divorcing, and having ten more years of work, what RV will be best for ME. I’m a avid outdoors person with a custom built jeep and motorcycle. I first thought just get a Gas RV to use, pay cash for a used one. But now I’m thinking maybe get something to have for twenty years, make payments for the Home Owner tax benefit, and a strong RV? When I retire I would be in Alaska, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, western U.S outdoor living. I was looking to hear your feeling would be?
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 . . .
Gift Cards – If the gift card is for a full-time RVer, try to stick to larger national chains or internet stores like Amazon. Even though RVers take their kitchens with them, it’s still nice to not have to cook all the time so restaurant gift cards are nice as well. Or an Amazon Prime Membership is a great gift for full-time RVers if they don’t already have one. Our Prime Membership made getting items while traveling full-time so much easier.
Their kids are raised and living their own lives now, so this couple is living it up now! They are what you’l consider luxury RVers and they are proud of it. They travel and live full-time in their beautiful and spacious Fifth Wheel Toyhauler with their spoiled cat. This couple still works from the road and finds time to enjoy outdoor adventure and tourist activities.. They typically stay in one place for a month, which gives them a much better rate at the RV resorts they stay at. They have no desire to boondock because they love the convenience of full hook ups and various amenities. Now, that’s the life!
Most RVs aren't rated for extreme temperatures and most full-time RVs head to warmer climates during the coldest months. But what do you do when moving south isn't an option? There are a few improvements you can made to your RV to make it warm and comfortable and get you through the winter safely. Carolina Coach & Marine, serving Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and Greensboro, SC, wants to see you safely through the cold and ice, read below then visit our dealership for more help preparing your RV.
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.
We already knew we enjoyed Vermont having traveled up to the southern part of the state a few times when living in the area. But we were still surprised by how much we enjoyed Burlington once we got up there. We only had a few weeks, but could have easily spent the whole summer there. It really seems to come alive and Vermonters make the most out of the season. Brandon was able to dive Lake Champlain multiple times and explore a wreck only a handful of people had seen before. And seriously, we're out of maple syrup, so we may need to go back this year.