Truth be told, cooking is the most difficult part (to me) of living in a camper in the winter. If you don’t crack open a vent so the condensation can escape, your camper will quickly begin to accumulate ice and mold, although the wood stove helps bake most of that condensation out. Also, make sure to wash dishes the second you finish your meal, because it gets much more difficult once they freeze… and you don’t want to carry any more water into the camper than you have to.
For example if you’re buying an older RV, you’ll want to plan for some initial $$ to fix the things that will undoubtedly need to be fixed before you can get on the road (e.g. new tires? oil changes? new hoses? new suspension? broken appliances?). Also you’ll want to buy some basic stuff (e.g. sewer hose, camping chairs, surge protector, TPMS) to set yourself up for starting on the road. Lastly, if you plan to do some upgrades (e.g. buy a cellular booster, install a solar system) you’ll want to plan for those too. These one-time expenses can easily cost $5,000-$20,000 depending on what the condition of your rig is and what you’re planning to do. Some of of them (e.g. upgrades) will likely spread across multiple years too, so include some extra $$ for these in your yearly plan as well.
Two adults, four children, and a dog all living in a 2006 class C motorhome!! Now, that’s downsizing! This adventure seeking family stays busy by traveling every week to 2 weeks. As you can imagine, they keep busy running a business on the road, enjoying kid-friendly tours and attractions, and lots of outdoor activity. They try to cut costs by utilizing their RV park memberships and boondocking a few days a month. However, that’s a lot of mouths to feed!
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.
In a few weeks I’ll be 27 years old, and my husband and I, with our four kids, are on our way to living debt-free. Before I tell you how we are making that happen, you should know what I am not going to share. I am not going to tell you how you can pay off your mortgage in two years, or quit your job and make money online. Our family has done neither of those things, and our journey to financial freedom has not been an easy one. Instead, we are among the rising number of families losing their homes to foreclosure.
The grand total for the third quarter (July 01 – September 30) of our 2013 Expenses of Living on the Road Full Time in an RV: $10,275Below is the brief breakdown of our costs and expenses of full time living in our RV, 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.$2,477 Groceries, housewares and booze – Costco still being the largest, groceries also includes Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joe’s, local natural grocery stores, and Farmer’s Markets.
I can go on for hours, but ultimately I can’t wrap my head around the fact I am going to pay rent for another year and get nothing in return in the long run. It seems like a waste of money. What are your thoughts? Is it possible to find a van in that state? Any aspect of van dwelling that you think might not mix well with the college environment? Am I a crazy 21 year old with far off ambitions?
I’ve spent a year so far living and traveling in a self-converted cargo van. I’ve been through four major purges of stuff. Just yesterday I combined the contents of two partially empty containers. Now I have a container to divest myself of. The thing is, I don’t feel like a radical minimalist. It’s just that I’m finding out I don’t need a lot of stuff I thought I would, and holding onto it just got in the way. The less I have, the more I can see and evaluate what’s left. If I can’t tell you exactly what’s in a box or cupboard, if I’ve forgotten some things I have, then they’re probably not necessary. If I don’t know I have it, it’s the same as if I didn’t have it. It’s rarely a case of, “Oh! I’ve been looking for that.” More often it’s, “Why was that once important to take with me?” So I like your advice to start out with nothing and then add only what you need. I know it’s not practical to always be acquiring things piece by piece, but it’s a good way to keep from being overburdened.
Thanks for sharing your personal info with us all. One thing about this lifestyle is that you live it and learn as you go. What you did last year will not be what you do next year. Goodwill and other such places across the nation now have right much of the items we started out with. Pretty sure we aren’t done donating yet. See you out there someday.
After a few years of messing with the little single-load washing machines at laundromats, we discovered that it is much better to use the biggest machines in the place because they are generally the newest machines, they do the best job, and they hold a heckuva lot. Dryers are usually 25 cents for a set period of time that ranges from 5 to 10 minutes, and we’ve found that most commercial dryers need about 35-40 minutes to get the job done. Washers and dryers at RV parks are usually much cheaper than those in the local laundromat.
Boondocking is basically camping at free spots without hook-ups. Several State Forests and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) locations have free dispersed camping. Typically, you can stay in one location for a maximum of 14 days. We have also found a few state parks have free campsites. While this option is free, you do have to find and pay for dump stations.
We did have one issue with freezing last year, when the city water pipe sticking out of the ground that our mobile home park was supposed to be responsible for winterizing froze. The only thing they had done to protect the pipe from freezing was to wrap it with insulation and plastic, and the part right next to the ground wasn’t adequately protected, and it froze during a cold snap where the high temperatures were in the single digits. After a neighbor helped us thaw the pipes with a crazy high powered industrial heater he brought from his place of work, I removed the park’s insulation, wrapped the pipe with electric heat tape, covered it with more insulation and plastic, then for good measure I lined a Rubbermaid storage tote with foam board and put it upside down over pipe. It did not freeze again, lol.
We’ve camped in Mammoth and Park City over the winter months. I haven’t needed chains yet but am seriously considering getting them. Have you actually ever put the chains on your rig? I have a Class A DP, 39′ and tried to find low profile chains for both the front and rear. I am not retired so I don’t necessarily have the flexibility of waiting out the storm.
My family and I are really contiplating this in the next month. My husband is a general contractor and I just had my 3rd baby, we have a 6 year old, 2, & 4 month. What kind of homeschooling do you use? I sold my salon and I’ve been looking into working from online especially if we do decide to travel the country. Any tips would be great, ty for this blog!
Inside, the RV is cool but not cold. Both radiators are on, although the one in the bedroom is set to low. I have an electric blanket on my bed so I’m never cold at night. The RV’s gas heater with its loud fan supplements the heat in the living room in the morning. I know I could keep it warmer if I’d just close the blinds, but I’d rather put on a sweater than miss out on the views outside my windows.
$795 Cell Phone Expenses – Nikki is still on Verizon ($432) and I’m on AT&T ($363). We both have the bare minimum talk and text plan, with (grandfathered in) unlimited internet. Basically I’m throwing my money away 50% of the time because AT&T’s coverage outside of major cities is CRAP! My contract is up in January so I’ll probably switch over the Verizon (even though I’m going to lose my unlimited internet, yes….AT&T has been that bad). Doubt we’ll be able to save any money here, but at least I won’t be wasting money on a phone that doesn’t get reception.
I really enjoy reading your website and watching your YouTube videos, I find your vidoes and website extremely helpful. My only child is now 19 and on the road to self-sufficiency via college. As a soon-to-be empty nester, I plan to keep a small townhouse for my young adult child to live in but I am going to travel part-time in a RV. I have the ability to work mobile in my employment and I am only 42 years young.
Well, it’s been close to 2 years now living in my little motorhome. I’m on the road nearly every night in a new place, doing my best to live comfortably, healthy, and happily. There are moments that are very trying, like coming home from a winter trip to find the couch and bed soaked with water and frozen solid. And yes, it’s very difficult to dry out a waterlogged bed and couch inside a 95 square foot motorhome in the Alaskan winter, but it’s possible.
In the event that there is a partial loss, like theft of just a few items, there are caps on what is covered. With National General, if the theft occurs inside your RV, then the cap is 25% of the total value of all the Personal Effects coverage that you carry. For example, if you have a $20,000 Personal Effects policy, then this means there is a cap of $5,000 per claim. If the theft occurs outside the RV but on your campsite, then the coverage is 10% of the total value of all the Personal Effects coverage that you carry. Again, for $20,000 total coverage, this means a cap of $2,000 per claim. There is no coverage if the theft occurs away from the RV (i.e, your bike is stolen from the bike rack at the coffee shop in town).
(40 ft). I live for FAR less. For starters, I currently pay $425/mo for a 30 amp site with full hookups and cable/wifi and I figure I will not pay more than $500/mo. I don’t tend to stay in “resorts” either. While traveling stays in parking lots (overnight), low cost or free public parks and half price Passport America private parks keeps my site rental down. The difference ends up in the fuel tank. You can live cheap in an RV or you can live expensive. Just like in a house. I do know that it is slightly cheaper for me to live in the RV than it was in my last house… and I have no yard to mow. I run into people who can’t live on less than $5K per month and folks who live quite well on $1K per month. Most folks fall somewhere in the middle. I will tell you that it is difficult to live fulltime in an RV (traveling fulltime) and have debt.
I’m a christian and the more I learn about and from God the more I realize we aren’t supposed to be living so that we can work. I feel like a prisoner in my home because the utilities control my ability to enjoy my home and then I feel like a prisoner at work because if I want those bills paid I have to work those 12hr shifts. So I appreciate your information on finding your land and your list of needs…. I’ve considered an RV for a temporary place between the selling and buying time after seeing it on your site.
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.
It seems like we are always planning our next move (in more way then one). I am ok with this since I like planning. But it can be overwhelming! When you don’t know where you are going to be parking the next month you need to make decisions and make a plan and it isn’t always easy. But again it is fun and worth it and over time this part gets easier.
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.
Pellet Stove – This device will warm up an RV faster and more efficiently than any other heater we’ve seen. The good news is there is zero moisture produced from the heat, the built in fan uses a fraction of the electricity of a space heater and it’s a pretty eco friendly option for heating. The downsides: Install is a crazy mod to both the inside and outside of your RV. If the fan shuts down (i.e. when boondocking and you run out of battery power) you now have a smoke filled RV. Takes up a lot of space so is best for larger RV’s. You have to carry and store large, heavy wood pellets in your RV. Some models you are required to vacuum out the ashes which can be a pain make sure you look at the pellet stoves with a removable ash tray.
We are about to enter our second winter living in our fifth wheel, and since we bought the RV in summer of 2016 we have been parked stationary in Kansas City (on the Kansas side). (In case you are wondering right now why we don’t just move south for winter, it’s because we are tied to a job here for now.) The climate here is not as severe as some places people might be living or camping in the winter, but it can get pretty cold.
This family loves RV life with or without the travel aspect. They’ve found a wonderful spot to park their 2006 5th Wheel for the long-term for work purposes. They’ve minimized their life to maximize experiences and pursue their passions, which will lead them to traveling soon. Outdoor activities where their young, energetic daughter (and dog!) can run around and play are a necessity. They also enjoy family outings together to kid friendly places.
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.
It is a large chunk, yes. You would have to read my full story (www.tinyrevolution.us) to understand the basis of this post. Not every month is the same. But that is the reality. Some campgrounds/parks/villages/resorts are more expensive than others. We treat ourselves for 3 months a year by living in SW Florida where it is sunny and warm rather than endure the winter other locations have. I would guarantee you that if you chose to do the same you would find identical costs. And no, I wouldn’t say it is against the tenets because it is only by choice that we are able to escape in such a way. We have the choice to appropriate our money each month as we like because we aren’t saddled to debt be it consumer, mortgage, personal loan, etc. You are right Joe. You can lease a darn nice house in a lot of places and that is your choice to do so if you are financially free to do so.
These kinds of activities are difficult to do when you pack up and move every week or two. They require a long term commitment. We could have sat still for months at a time in campgrounds but that isn’t why we bought a house with wheels. And even if we did stay put for months at a time, it wouldn’t address the real issue consistency and friendship. The boys would know that goodbye was just around the corner and that was hard for them.
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.
In my experience a 38 foot 5th wheel takes up as much, if not more space than a 40 foot motorhome, specifically because of the big truck. I can squeeze our little toad in just about anywhere (often we just park it across the front of the MH), but with a big truck you may have to find a separate parking spot, depending on the campground. Many campgrounds will offer that, but it just depends.
$1,277 Hawaii Trip – We flew to HI for a friends wedding, it’s amazing how expensive 1 week of travel outside the RV can be. Our friends paid for several dinners, entertainment, and our hotel room yet we still ended up spending this much! This amount includes Cat Hotel ($252), Food, Drink, Pedicure Spa day, and groceries. This price doesn’t even include our airfare! It’s nice to get out of the RV for a few days but the expense is hard to chew.$500 Stuff and Things – I’m sure I’ve missed a few things we’ve paid cash for like laundry, parking meters, tips, farmers markets, etc. so I’ve added this buffer.
Jill, we are early retirees and have been fulltiming for three years. We average about $600 a month in RV site expenses. We prefer state and national parks with electric but do a little boondocking and often in the winter stay longer, taking advantage of monthly rates. Escapees parks are the best for long term stays. We could lower this amount with some effort but it is still less than the taxes were on our home in Austin. Our most expensive stay was $85/night in Jersey City, in view of the Statue of Liberty. Considering hotels in the area are $3-400, we were ok with this in exchange for a short subway or water taxi ride to NYC.
2. Consider what kind of RV life you want to have. Do you want to be on the road all the time or do you want to set up in one spot for a longer period of time? You might want to set up in one place for a week, then move on to the next place. On the other hand, you might consider finding a spot that would let you stay for an entire month. Are you more comfortable in a secluded area, or do you prefer neighbors and community activities that you can take part in? These are all facets you will want to consider before embarking on your journey.
This future RVer and his 20-35 year old parents live and travel full-time in their 2014 Class A Motor home. They enjoy boondocking occasionally and find free spots about 1 week each month. Their stays are typically 2 weeks long before they are back on the road and somewhere new. This young family is always seeking outdoor adventure to share with their little one. They also love doing fun tourist activities in each place they visit.
My only issue with this article is the title “The real costs” which implies that you are about to tell us that full time RVing is not as cheap as some people might think. Instead you provided your expenses which I would speculate are much higher than the average. As a number of people mentioned your lot rent is perhaps two to three times higher than the typical rent.
I can access the maps on the BLM Navigator and zoom in without any problem. I do not see any way to remove layers as you describe. There are 7 different map “views” such as street or topography, but nothing underlying that can be altered. So I am not sure if the shaded areas (several different shades of green and a flesh tone) are BLM land, or something else. Is there a particular browser required? I am using Firefox and Chrome.
@Van: Really? Mass generally correlates fairly closely with Weight. Maybe in Outer Space, the links you provide could be useful for a Tacoma truck camper set up for parking in low earth orbit. Forget traveling to new gigs, he could get work doing satellite repair. Just park in the satellite’s orbital path and the paycheck will come to him. Probably won’t be much colder up there than Alaska, but getting fire wood might be a problem. But then again those 60watts of solar panel power would probably be enough to run an electric furnace 24×7 … shoot I forgot about eclipses.
Welcome to the blog! We know lots of fulltime families out there on the road, home-schooling and seeing the country. If you haven’t connected already I highly recommend Ditching Surburbia, and Fulltime Families. Both resources are focused on fulltime RV families on the road, and have LOTS of info for you. Ditching Surburbia, in particular has traveled fulltime with their teenage son & daughter for years. I met them a few years ago…lovely family!
(In fact, we had a Big Horn 3670 2008. Went to our dealership for some warranty work and was informed that the 2010 BH's were "in". This was about 5 months ago. Well, hubby and I know to never go into a pet store, because we will walk out with a pet. Same way with a trailer. There were just enough changes in the 2 years, that we decided to purchase the newer trailer. We love it.
* Safety: Do not make alterations or heat an RV in any way that could create a safety hazard. This includes using unvented heaters, such as space heaters or the gas stove/oven, in the living space. Unvented combustion heaters produce carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can be fatal, and almost ½ gallon of water per gallon of fuel. Any heaters that burn a fuel source inside the living compartment must be vented properly to remove poisonous gases. Make sure to have a fire extinguisher and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Next came starting a family. We started with 1, then unexpectedly got pregnant with twins, then had 1 more. So, in 4 short years we went from no kids to a family of 4 plus 2 dogs. During this time our house continued to fill up with more and more things. We literally had every toy you could imagine, and our friends would come over to have their kids play at our house so they could figure out what to buy their kids for Christmas. Seriously, we had that many toys.
Hi!…..Thank you for all this great information. My husband and I have decided after a few years in the making to finally sell all, put our house for rent and get on the road. We have accomplished plenty of things already for the trip but we are still looking for work online specially because we are in the medical field. We will be putting our home for rent and hopefully find jobs soon enough to make our dream come true. We always had issues finding trusting dog sitters therefore decided to get an RV. Being that we are money conscious and simple people, we decided to get a fantastic older class C to travel with our dogs. We also purchased an older jeep cash and for dirt cheap, not only for emergency driving but also for off roading fun. We have been taking small trips here and there and love it. I never thought one day I would look at my house and feel the need to leave it all behind like I do now just to cram in an RV with a man and 3 dogs. In order to make this happen we put a date on our calendar as our departure whether we make it or not on that day, its happening in a few months. We are not waiting for retirement to start living and there is not a single thing that matters more to me as much as spending quality time with my husband, our dogs and our close friends. I realize this travel bug is not for everyone but its definitely for us. We rather spend our money seeing new places and meeting new people than just hanging in the same old house, falling into the same old work-home routine with the 2 week vacation once a year. Your articles are of much inspiration, Thank You.
This may sound a little goofy, but a video of a fire burning in a fireplace is really fun and makes the rig cozy. The video simply shows logs in a fireplace burning down to embers, accompanied by the crackling sound a fire makes. It is surprisingly realistic, and quite funky. The crazy thing is that whenever we play it, the person sitting in the recliner closest to the TV always feels a little warm on the side by the fire!
We know we changed as the years passed, but this was recently confirmed when we visited some friends from college. The last time we had visited was two years ago, only one year into traveling full-time. This visit, they couldn’t get over how much we’ve changed, especially Brandon. It helped us to see there were more changes than we realized happening and we knew it all stemmed from our experience on the road.