Obviously, food is a point where budgets can vary widely by personal dietary preferences… but you’ll probably spend similarly to what you spend now, maybe a touch more. The biggest change is you may not have room to store bulk buys – so that could account for some increase. And you may be tempted to eat out a bit more while you’re traveling, mostly to sample local cuisines but sometimes just because it’s easier after a long day of driving, or cooking in a small space may be seem limiting.
Boy, do I know just what you are talking about, been there done that! We did just what you two are doing in Alaska. We bought property, cleared an area for driveway and cabin, then built the shell of the cabin – all while living in a 21 ft RV over a 2 yr period. But life threw us a curve, and we became full time caretakers of my in-laws….in Oregon. When we started over again, we knew what floor plan to look for. The 2nd RV was 36 ft with a 12 ft slide-out and a separate bedroom with a folding door, big difference. As we bought it 2nd hand, it needed a little work. Yes, the cushions and mattress upgrade is a must for full-time living. And again….life threw a curve. I am in Nevada now with the 2nd RV and have not given up on the dream completely. Still looking for the right piece of land to accomplish the goal. I so enjoy watching your videos and reading your posts about your progress. Brings back good memories of better times, thank you.
lived full time 3 years, in Colorado in mountains in a optimized 1989 truck camper (since upgraded to a bigfoot 4 season camper built in british columbia specifically FOR winter camping. The bigfoot should allow water in pipes not to freeze, so I am told. they also make class C rvs. the construction is the best of any RV I have ever seen. better than artic fox truck campers because its 2 pieces of boat hull fiberglass clamshelled together top and bottom, no seams, just the windows. plus extra insulation.
Would love to hear how you deal with four kids and car seats. We have a Winnebago tour which is set up for four passengers and haven’t figured out how to put the car seats in there according to regulation for our two grandsons. Did you have something special he installed or is the view just configured properly for your needs. Our extra seats are on a sofa with no back to Heather bolts and the seats would be facing sideways which is not ideal for children any tips would be appreciated
Slide outs – Are slide outs a must? If so how many and where? Two slide out bunkhouse trailers tend to put one in the back bedroom and another one in the middle living area. Three slide out trailers have a few more options. Some have one in the back bedroom and two in the middle. Others have two in the back bunkroom and one in the middle. A few have one in each room. Regardless, if we decide we “need” slide outs, we are trying to decide if we want more space in the living room or bedrooms. We are leaning towards extra living room space but trying to decide how important double living room slide outs are to us.
1. About the internet how exactly does that work? We do not plan on having a “home base” so to speak so we would be on the road 100% of the time living in various places. I have to have decent internet for my work so that we could continue to live the way we want. How hard is it to get internet if say you are living off the grid in the woods somewhere? This is an absolute must for us.
We haven’t eliminated our stress. In fact, I’d say our stress levels hover around the same as they did before we sold our house. We simply swapped one kind of stress for another. But we have four kids, so it would be unrealistic to think we could live a stress-free life, no matter where or how we lived. We deal with the same parenting struggles we did before, but we like to joke that the views are better this way.
Always, always, always expect to incur maintenance charges each month. Expecting to pay each month for maintenance will save you many headaches and knots in your stomach when you inevitably break down, blow a tire, shatter a brake pad, or have a propane leak–all of which happened to us. You’ll need to be changing your oil and refilling on propane regularly anyway, so it’s best to just count this as a guaranteed expense.
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.
HI there! I’ve just discovered your website and I’m very excited to start reading your posts. We are still about 5-7 years away from retirement but are planning a full time RV life, at least for a few years. I just booked 10 days at a campground in Old Orchard Beach for our August vacation and the $900 price tag almost gave me a heart attack! I started to worry that the full time lifestyle might be out of our reach so I thought I better do some research. Your’s is the first website I’ve found – hoping what I read doesn’t burst my retirement bubble!
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My wife and I are also kicking around the idea of becoming full time r.v.ers maybe this year. I have been doing some homework for health insurance, seems to me one of the better ones is First Health. The initial start is a little expensive around 600.00 dollars to start for myself then drops after that but it seems to be a good plan and it is not an HMO plan it is a PPO plan. Seems to be the best one.
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.
Solution: This issue happened twice in very cold weather. We decided not to bother with a fix since the temps were rising in the coming days. The issue could be fixed with multiple options but I would do one of these: 1) skirting adds an extra layer of insulation and will keep the basement compartment warmer, thus keeping the floors warmer. 2) Install pipe insulation around all lines that sit on the floor and/or touch the outside walls. If you’re planning to be in sub-zero temps for multiple days you might want to do both.
No one should toss the house keys to the new owner and point their new rig towards the open road without having experienced previously spending time in an RV. Not just a weekend or even a week but ideally an extended period of time. No trial run will exactly duplicate the finality of being without a home base but being on the road will help identify what kind of full-timer you will be. Do you prefer being a “mover” or a “sitter?” Do you prefer the solitude of a campsite alone in the woods or the activities found in a commercial campground? These test runs will also serve to clarify your most important decision before becoming a full-time Rver…
Avoid bringing the items you could easily just buy while on the road if you absolutely needed them, especially if your space is limited. It’s easy to go overboard buying all sorts of accessories for the RV. We recommend getting the bare minimum and then you can always purchase more as you, if there are items you wish you had. It’s much easier to do this then deal with the frustration of having too much crammed in!
Joe and Kait its been said before here, but i would really like to thank you two for being so very transparent with all of your financial information. For “us” newbies looking to get started it is a huge relief to know that the numbers that we have worked out for “our” full timing are realistic. My wife and two cats are in the process of downsizing and moving full time in too our 30ft 5th wheel. My wife is retiring in August 2017, but i will be working for a couple of two more years full time to get the last few bills paid off before we hit the road full-time. Looking at your way of living gives us both the peace of mind that we are making the right move. Thanks again and please keep posting, your insights and adventures are wonderful.
Fast internet access: You know that smokin' fast internet connect you have at home? You can pretty much forget about that as a full-time RV camper. Yes, there are options for getting reasonable internet speeds while on the road, but none of them matches the speed and simplicity that comes with a home broadband connection. Decent campground wifi access is a luxury, not the rule. Some places offer wifi for a fee; some offer it for free. A lot of campgrounds don't offer Internet access at all. Since we are working, we tend to plan our route around where wifi is offered, or where cellular signals are strong. There is a lot of thought and a fair amount of equipment that goes into keeping connected while on the road. That's a blog post for the future, by the way.
Tolls – Toll roads are becoming very commonplace in the US. In many areas, like around Orlando, it is difficult to go anywhere without using toll roads. Plan ahead and try to determine if there are ways to minimize costs and simplify payments. For example, on the northeast coast, you can purchase an EZ pass for tolls at grocery stores. The same applies for the SunPass in Florida.
We save so much money and stretch our dollar just by RVing. Not only do we save on the cost of hotels, but we save on not buying plane tickets! We have priced out the cost of driving versus flying to our destinations along with the cost of a hotel, and we save hundreds. Even with the cost of the RV payment over the year, we still make out better every time!
You added a lot of confidence that my wife and I are planning right for our expected expenses. I had used an average between Howard’s numbers at RV Dreams and Kirks from the Escapees Forum. Then added a figure for annual inflation (2.5%) based on going full time in 2019 when we originally planned on 2023. We are spot on at around $3,007 average in future dollars and with no debt. Our form of travel will include workamping at times so we will be parked at times.
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.
I’m a little late to be answering this, but you are so right about the floor plan needing to be functional with the slides in. We were careful about that when we bought our 5er, because we had lived in a short Class C for a year and knew what we wanted. Some of the floor plans look great with the slides out, but then you can’t get to the fridge or bathroom with the slides in, especially the kitchen island set-ups. Our fifth wheel may be a little cramped with the slides retracted, but it is completely usable.
We purposely headed into Colorado and Utah in the winter because we wanted to ski, and because we wanted to travel the opposite direction of most RV’ers who go south for colder months. We were prepared with tools to help our RV survive: a heated, enclosed underbelly on the trailer; heated hoses; space heaters, etc. We survived a low of 10 degrees one night just before Christmas in Green River, Utah, and on and off sub-freezing temperatures the rest of our trip. We even had about six inches of snow in South Dakota after Easter.
Of course, the best RV for your family individually depends on your travel style and individual situation. For example, a family of 4 might not require a large, Class A motorhome with slide-outs… but a family of 6 would almost definitely benefit from having the extra space. Also consider whether you and yours are more outdoorsy or simply into traveling for the scenery. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time inside, invest in extra space!
The key to our survival is good communication. There is limited room in an RV and it will start to feel small fast. If you’re frustrated or angry with each other, that space will feel even smaller. Sure you can take a walk, sit outside for a while or jump in the car (if you tow one) and go for a drive, but temporary distance won’t solve the issues.
As they travel, they often pick up jobs to earn money since they don’t want to tap their modest retirement savings, which they dipped into to buy the RV. Right now, they are working in the Amazon CamperForce program that hires about 700 people for warehouse jobs and pays their campsite fees. It’s hard labor — they often go to bed rubbing each other’s feet — but the money they earn from September to Dec. 23 is enough to allow them to take the winter and spring off. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
The Meinhofers and a dozen others who spoke with The Washington Post about this modern nomadic lifestyle said living in 200 to 400 square feet has improved their marriages and made them happier, even if they’re earning less. There’s no official term for this lifestyle, but most refer to themselves as “full-time RVers,” “digital nomads” or “workampers.”
We sometimes receive products for evaluation at no cost, and The RVgeeks participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. But our opinions are our own, you won’t pay an extra penny, and we only link to products we personally use, love and can recommend to friends with complete confidence.
We’ve had the Postmasters at several different Post Offices give us totally conflicting information. We pressed two different Postmasters to call their district supervisors to get the details clarified, and even then we got conflicting information. So it seems the Postal Service is is still working out its relationships with UPS and FedEx as far as General Deliveries go.
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.
When considering a potential extended-stay home, you will want to choose a manufacturer who produces solidly engineered units of the highest quality, who offers groundbreaking floor plans and provides the highest rated customer service. Grand Design RV has met these standards and has set the bar with our innovative “next generation” RV’s. Visit your nearest Grand Design RV dealer and you will see exactly what we mean!
For those who travel a great deal, it is a good idea to purchase emergency coverage that will not pay medical costs, but will, under the appropriate circumstances, provide regional medical referrals and oversight as well as a means of getting travelers and their vehicles back to their home bases at no cost. Good Sam Club sells one that costs around $110 per year and covers all travelers.
We cook with an electric plate, which works well for us, as our diet is simple because we’re both diabetic. We only use propane to run the fridge when we’re traveling, and have disconnected the propane hoses from the stove and furnace – we never use either – and we stuffed the vents with loads of rags years ago. We’ve never had a problem with rodents or bugs in any season.
*European type all-year RV’s (like Exploryx/Bocklet/Unicats/Action Mobil//etc, as well as the winter versions of Hymers/Concorde/etc.), will have some or all of three items: a heated fuel pre-filter, a heated airbox, and a diesel engine heater (works down to -40 Celsius). This unclogs/loosens/melts any wax in the diesel lines on the way to the engine.
a tip for those that may come upon a bear or timber wolf or large cat; carry a boat horn with you. you can get them at any boating outlet or cabellas or dicks. it’s pressurized and is very very loud. i put a lanyard on it and carry it around my neck. if a creature that can do me harm is within sight, I give it a blast or two and they hi-tail it out of there. it would be helpful in finding me as well if i were injured or lost.
I am so very excited I found this site! I Googled costs and you were on the front page. Consider this day one of my research into living out of an RV. I will absolutely be living on a smaller budget however this is all fantastic information. I have 10 months until my lease up. In this time I am researching making an RV me home. Feeding a wanderlust I have been fighting for about 8 years now seems appropriate. If you were on a much stricter budget, where would you suggest someone purchase a RV? I am currently slightly hung up on owning “a fifth wheel?” because I own an SUV with a hitch already. However both are options. Thank you in advance! I am going to watch all your videos! It’s cool, I have a very long 10 months to get through them.
I remember reading this a few years back when purchasing our first second hand motorhome and finding it most helpful. I was wondering if you still felt the same so thanks for your updates! Based on our experience at this pointI would make a minor qualification to #4 regarding heavy items on the slide out. And this probably varies between makes, models, and slide mechanics. I would avoid a design with heavy items on a “ramp” slide, but don’t feel it really makes any difference on slides that stay level and travel in and out on strong rollers. The ramp slide has to go uphill when retracting and that causes a lot of strain on the motor and rails, the others though slide easily even with a heavy load. Our large passenger side slide has the entire galley, a 20 cu ft fridge and a pantry filed with a lot of bottles and cans. Large rollers and a tile floor allow it to move easily and without strain.
Variable expenses are the ones that fluctuate from month to money and in RVLife you actually have a LOT of control over these expenses. As you’ll see in our Lodging/Camping expenses category, we have been able to significantly decrease this expense over the years by getting better at free boondocking and utilizing RV Clubs like Boondockers Welcome, Harvest Hosts, and Thousand Trails. However, if you decide to park in an RV Resort in downtown San Diego for example, it could cost you upwards of $1000 per month.
Usually we have the mail sent to a post office, addressed to us via “General Delivery.” We get the zip code for the post office online from www.usps.com. If we are in transit, we try to guess what town we might be traveling through in a few days. The post office holds all General Delivery mail for 30 days, so there is plenty of time to locate the post office and retrieve our box.
Budgets and actual expenditures vary over time. Most fulltimers find that they spend a lot more in the first few months of travel than they do once they have been out for a while. It takes some time, and quite a few purchases, to make an RV a home, and most of those costs come at the beginning. These are things like patio mats, camping chairs and grills, tools your suddenly discover you need, area rugs, throw pillows, kitchen gadgets, campground directories, travel guide books, and all those funky gismos they sell at Camping World that are just so perfect for the RV lifestyle.
How do we do it? We do 99% of our spend through credit cards (where we actively collect points too**) and I’m old-fashioned so I import all my bank & card data into an Excel spreadsheet. I do this every month, allocate each line to a category (e.g. entertainment, RV parks, insurance, groceries etc.) and then churn out a pretty pivot table to display it in one place. I’ve been tracking our spend this way for over 13 years and before that I used paper, so I literally have detailed spend numbers going back to when I was around 17 years old (crazy, I know).
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.
Having your children sleeping within an arm’s reach of your bed definitely changes your sex life. Here’s where the planning and scheduling comes in, again! Sometimes you get lucky and a campground has supervised activities for kids allowing the parents to enjoy adult activities. If so, ditch the bingo game, and go have some fun in your empty RV. No campground activities? Well then, you just have to get creative!
In the winter you’ll notice condensation accumulating on the windshield, on walls, etc. Condensation is your enemy. I know it sounds contradictory but you need to crack a vent or a window at all times. Condensation can build up, get in the walls, etc and cause mold. You do not want this! Simply crack a window and turn on a fan to circulate the air, if you’re already using a space heater with built in fan you don’t have to worry about running a separate fan. You can also put the dehumidifier pellets like Damp Rid or DriZair (you can purchase at most stores) in the areas that seem to draw the most condensation. We’ve found the condensation will not pose a problem as long as it’s 40% relative humidity or less inside the RV.
I hope you don’t mind me contacting you out of the blue. I am a researcher working for major independent production company Optomen Television in London. We are currently producing a new documentary series for Channel 4 in the UK about people who have quit the rat race and moved to live in remote locations the world. It will be an inspirational series following the incredible stories of ordinary people who are living a unique way of life in some of the most beautiful and breath-taking places. The presenter, Kevin McCloud, best known for presenting the hit TV series ‘Grand Designs’ will visit people in their wildness homes and get to experience first-hand the wonder of life in these stunning locations.
Jennifer, good questions! We have always thought about building our own RV/Tiny House/Trailer too! Sometimes what you really want doesn’t exist and the best way to get it is just to make it yourself! Considering you are not planning on moving the house a lot, the rain capture system will come in super handy! So, here are my top (at least that I can think of right now) suggestions.
$600 RV Camping – The largest savings compared to our 2011 expenses. The main reason for the change in camping fees: We’ve stayed at several parks that have comped our stay and paid us to shoot a video on their parks. It’s not great money, but it’s saving us money and helping us pay some bills while extending our travels on the road. We haven’t shared many of the campground videos on our site yet, but we’ve just launched a new tab aptly named campgrounds. You’ll find the videos to be pretty happy since we were paid to shoot the parks, but in the text you’ll find our personal take on these RV Resorts (not all the reviews are paid, and we won’t lie and tell you a place is great when clearly it’s a piece of crap). Also we’ve saved lots of money by Driveway Surfing at our follower’s homes; and special thanks to my mom for fitting the bill when she joined us in Montreal Canada.
When we’re driving in sub-freezing temps we do 2 things: Run the small space heater in wet bay and run a large space heater inside the RV. If you have solar it should keep your batteries charged no problem, otherwise you’ll need to run the generator. We only do this when the temps are around 25 degrees or below outside. Also we have a digital wireless thermometer in the wet bay so we can monitor when it gets too cold.
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.
Most RV fridges are tiny and hold ¼ of what a standard size fridge holds, so planning is a must before making the trek into town to the grocery store. You have to know exactly what you will be cooking and how much space you have. Throwing “extras” into the cart can’t happen. That’s why I don’t take Brett with me shopping. He is the worst about buying off the list!
I love it in Breckenridge! One of our all time favorite places to stop along our route from CA east and back is Copper Mountain .. last time we took the wonderful bike trail from Copper to Breckenridge .. was a lovely ride (until we had the brilliant idea to ride back up .. which I’d not advise unless you’re in amazing shape and / or used to the altitude :P)
Once we learned the ropes, RV living during good and bad winter weather was not a real problem. It was actually an enjoyable change to go for a brisk walk in a peaceful winter wonderland after so many years in very warm or hot climates (of course, we did have to invest in a pair of boots!). On the other hand, it did feel good to nestle inside our comfy RV when the temperatures dropped and the weather turned really nasty.
As summer dragged on employment opportunities were looking grim, I decided to shift my focus not on what to do but where to live and try and find a job once I lived somewhere. Living anywhere for me is tough, for the past 5 years I hardly spent more than 3 days at any one location. Instead of trying to break this migratory habit, i nurtured it and bought a RV to live out of during the winter.
Our fifth wheel is a 2005, which means it needs repairs quite frequently (we have a new issue come up about every 6 weeks or so). We try to do repair projects ourselves (thanks to YouTube) to avoid the outrageous costs of paying an RV mechanic. We also cook in the RV often and typically turn on the heat during the cooler evenings, which uses up our propane. It costs about $20 to refill our propane tank each month.
You also don’t want clutter. Make sure everything has a safe spot where it won’t get broken during travel. Invest in tubs, baskets, and storage items that will help you stay organized. You definitely don’t want your small space feeling even smaller because of all the items inside of it it. I hope these tips help you minimize your items in order to maximize your adventure! If you need more tips or suggestions for what to bring along in your RV, feel free to send us a message. We’re here to help.
*About the hose that will not drain properly. To be fair, that is what the person was trying to accomplish. By forming this "P-Trap" in the line they could leave their dump valve open all the time without sewer gas entering their RV. You could certainly do this where you need not worry about freezing temperatures. However, if it freezes, it will block the flow and possible rupture the hose.
I have owned a few RVs so far and would love to have another for full time use. The problem is I live and work in a very large city. There are very few places where I could park it and be close to work without having a long commute. I do hope one day I will be able to do the same things you guys are doing. I will be following your blog and I enjoy watching your videos. Keep up the good work and I am looking forward to watching the next one!