$2,070 Cat Expenses: For safety we had to board our cats for several days during the festivals we attended, and for 3 weeks during our Best of the Road competition. Singa had to visit the vet for a cut in his eye from chasing lizards into the brush, and both cats got caught up on their shots/vaccinations. This price also includes their Food, Litter, and Wild Caught Salmon from the grocery story (yes they’re a little spoiled)
We budget $6k per month and usually have a hard time sticking to it. I guess you would have to put us into that ‘upper’ bracket. We track every penny (we use YNAB as our budgeting tool-Google it), but still don’t deny ourselves anything we really need or want. We moved into the rig in July 07 with a nice portfolio and then suffered through the 07-08 market collapse. We dropped about 38%. We slowed our spending down a bit, workcamped for a season (Crazy Horse Monument in the Black Hills) and within a couple of years our portfolio had returned to pre-recession levels. In fact, our portfolio today is actually just a bit larger than the day I retired. And what’s our secret? Low cost passive index funds from Vanguard.
I went on your site today for some inspiration and ideas. I feel like you two are taking the words right out of my mouth, I have said so many of the things I read here. I love that you are so honest and up front about everything. I’m planning on selling my home and buying a cabin with a few acres but when I search for information on living a simple life the lists i find are just things anybody could tell you, and I find myself saying “well “duh” thats obvious.” This is when I found homesteading sites with folks living off grid.
I was wondering what your thoughts are on a woman (myself) doing this alone? In two years my teenage son will be 18 and my plan is to sell the one bedroom condo we live in and hit the road. You are actually the first site/blog I read when I googled how to rv? I am a very adventurous person and have always wanted to travel. I desperately need so peace and relaxation in my life and love nature. I will continue to research and read your blogs to get as much info as possible. I haven’t even checked pricing yet but I was think buying an rv and living in it and traveling full time makes a lot more sense then putting my money right back in a condo. I want to feel free and I always feel that way when I get out of town. Any advice or direction as to where I should start would be very much appreciated.
Groceries – This figure can vary based on location as the cost of living fluctuates by region and if you are near metropolitan areas or tourist attractions. In addition, taxes can vary. Note: You may choose to put household items like cleaners, shampoo, dish soap, etc. as a separate line item. Since we purchase them with our groceries, we just include them here.
When you trade your home address to live on the road in an RV, you need to decide how to receive mail and what to call “home” on your tax returns. Some of the full-time RVers we meet retained the state of residence where they were living before they hit the road. Most of them still own property in that state, and they often have a relative or friend who forwards their mail.
Enjoyed your posts and input from others. We have a 33 Ft 5th wheel with 3 slides and a F350 Diesel Dully. We use electric heaters when plugged in at the RV parks. We got two at Sams. Most of the time one keeps us cozy. Saves a bunch of propane and the electricity is included in the cost of the space. We have 30amp service on our trailer so many times our spaces are cheaper than the 50amp spaces. My number one requirement for a RV is that it must hold a recliner. I have a bad back and a recliner is a must. Advantages of a fifth wheel over a motor home and a car. Wind and eighteen wheeler’s do not blow your rig around. When you are in a camp ground the truck is much safer for local driving than a small car. I learned that most RV’s do not have proper wheel alignment from the factory. I have blown several trailer tires because the wheels and frame were not aligned properly. Took my 5th wheel to a big truck frame shop. They aligned both axles and the frame. Now my tire blowing problem is gone. My preferred RV repair shop in Oklahoma City, AAA Fiber Glass, arranged for the alignment then added supports to the frame and tandem axle setup. They say that nearly every RV they look at is out of line. It takes all wheel alignment to make everything work right. They work mostly on large motor homes. Farmers Insurance sent me to them to get a problem fixed. The slides give you room to move around. Two of ours are opposite each other in our living and dining room. We regularly feed six large people in our trailer without anyone being cramped. We camp with several different RV buddies. The women get together plan the meals before the trip. The evening meal is at a different RV each night. Breakfast is usual optional and lunch most of the time are sandwiches at a picnic table. Still working 4 days per week Most of the money goes to the grand kids and camping. I am 74 and look forward to retiring and full timing it before long.
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!
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.
And beyond RVers, we have met many interesting people living all over this nation. We've watched artisans work their magic in New Orleans and listened to teachers in small towns describe what it's like teaching in a school of fewer than 10 students. Traveling has shown us different perspectives. Moving around the country, we realize that people are more alike than different. They all have their individual struggles and are just trying to get by the best way they can. What brings us together is a sense of community and we love to help foster that.
Gear / Modifications – Your RV dealership may or may not provide some of the basic “gear” that is needed to live and travel in an RV (see our Gear Guide here). You may also want to complete certain upgrades for safety or convenience. For example, we were not happy with the tires that came on the Fifth Wheel, and purchased all new tires (at our own expense). Many RVers like to boondock, or camp off-grid, and outfit their RV with solar. Others remodel and paint, change flooring or fabric to make it their own. This is often an ongoing expense that you should budget for as just like in a sticks and bricks home, people like to upgrade and make changes to improve their daily lives.
Relax. Every second of every minute does not need to be planned out to make the most of your vacation. Instead enjoy laying in bed as a family for 2 hours in the morning. Spend hours swimming together in the pool or at the beach. Don’t worry there will still be time to do some activities. Some of the best moments are on the unscheduled and unplanned time you have together as a family.
It was Tuesday evening November 18 where I found myself doing something I rarely do. I was packing to leave my “home on the road” for a few days and drive to Summit County, about 2 hours south here in Colorado. I had to find my travel bag and remember the “stuff” I needed when leaving home. My goal? Three days on snow – skiing VERY early in the season, and for two of them facing “PSIA Examiners” (ski instructor examiners) who would either pass or fail me in an important certification I have been working towards.
It’s a good tip. We used to have business cards and still exchange them on occasion, but I have to admit we’ve gone mostly online now. I connect with lots of folks through either Facebook or Instagram, and of course there’s also RVillage where you can check in and see where various folks and groups are on a map. Lots of good ways to stay connected.
Someone briefed over the Webasto heating system a while back and they do work great but use a bit more fuel than makes me comfortable. I saw a guy who uses a system from an RV hot water tank and ran much diluted antifreeze through it. Piped it through hot water radiators in the unit and built a system of black pipe around the engine block giving it just enough heat to keep the engine warm. He heated the coach and engine with that and only used the pilot light on the propane water heater. There was also a reservoir in the coach where he could ad more water or antifreeze if required and it radiated a ton of heat. Now, before building this, I would want to discuss it with someone much smarter than I am because I thought it was not too bright to heat antifreeze in this manner before it boiled. Everything was circulated with a little pump that drew its power from a small wind generator not much larger than that for a bicycle lamp and charged a little independent battery which he drew the power with. When I seen this it was dam cold out -40 and very warm in the coach (thermostat by open vent) Cheap heat and I am not sure what I am going to do but the areas I am in, your heater will be great and I can access lots of wood but might check out this other method also. My holding tanks, fresh and grey can all be built into the coach of the cube van.
Try to limit yourself to 1 or 2 of each of the following items: coat/jacket, swimsuit, sweatshirt and sweatpants, tennis shoes, etc. Find solid clothes that can pair well with many things. People often refer to this as the “capsule” wardrobe. While there are variations, the concept is to have around a dozen staple pieces of clothing in coordinating colors that can be worn often and interchangeably, thereby saving closet space but still giving you up to 30 or more different outfits. Google it and you’ll find tons of resources to help!
If you are planning to work camp in exchange for an RV campsite, or if you will be working part-time jobs as you travel, or working via the internet from your RV, your choice of overnight parking spots may be based more on your job’s requirements than on the whims of your travel interests, and your camping costs and the kind of work you do will subsequently be tightly linked.
I really appreciate the informative comments. My wife and I are tossing around the idea of selling our house and purchasing an RV. We’ll be able to afford to pay cash for a Class A motorhome or (for less fear of problems when sitting still long term) a top of the line camper trailer so payments are not part of our expenses. My greatest concern, as with most folks, is the monthly cost of staying in a campground. Can you enlighten me on what a “membership” might cost and which ones you would recommend…if indeed you do recommend joining a camping club. We’re not the type of people who would want to stay in a state or national park. Our income should allow us to stay where water, sewer and electricity is always supplied. We simply need to know if our daily expenses will outweigh what we now spend living at home…which is about $1,500 per month, including water, electric, cable, phone, groceries, three (paid for) cars and property tax. THANKS!!
He did not seem like he wanted to move . . . we all quickly ran up the hill on the side of the path and waited for him to pass . . . He made a few grunting noises at us and walked past. In the meantime, Craig had gotten his bear spray out just in case! We were glad it wasn’t a bear but were all still a little freaked out. Luckily he just walked by and went on his way.
We lived full time in a camper a couple of years ago while we were building a house. It DOES has its challenges… The biggest one we encountered was the campground we stayed at… But once we got that fixed it was actually very nice… Some things I would think about/plan for: laundry, make an outside living space, make sure you have reliable internet, and food storage.
I love that wood stove and it sure is the answer to heat. My unit when finished should be around 120’ or if I say to hell with a back shed I can use the entire cube it will be 144’ “haven’t decided yet”. With lots of head room I can put in a queen Murphy bed that will turn into an office when folded up and I can mount it high enough to clear the tops of lots of seating area when being used as a bed. I might need a little step to get into it or maybe a rebounder. I intend to also have a comfort buddy by the time it’s completed if I find a fine lady who wants to live like that and cozy up to my pudgy but extremely cute parts but will probably end up with another Border collie. My last old girl loved getting away on our trips but I would have to kill a bunch of people to get her back and they are all tougher than I am so will have to find a replacement (yes dog lovers, it is not fair to have a Border in a camper but you argue that one out with Maggie and she will chew on you like she did the two big guys who tried to enter our comfy abode on a dark night).
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.
Thanks for the information. It’s funny but I was just contacted by a friend I haven’t heard from in 4 years and they recently sold everything off about three years ago and are enjoying the RV lifestyle. They just spent the summer in Alaska and currently my friend is playing Santa Claus here in Las Vegas. We are getting together tomorrow and I am sure we will have a big discussion on how things have been going so far. He has already recommended I grow my beard in for next year and play Santa. Of course I will have to die the beard as I am not quite white yet. LOL. I will keep on searching your site and thanks again for the update…
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.
Well there’s no end of online stuff you can do such as website development, coding, trading, writing, jewelry making, hobby-crafting (and selling on Etsy) etc. You may even be able to find jobs that cater to your kayaking/hiking lusts such as mountain guiding, Kayaking jobs etc. Or, do seasonal jobs such as Amazon Camperforce, Ski Instructor etc. where you make all your money over a few months and spend the rest of the year playing. In the end it all depends on how physically active you are, what your skills are and where you can best apply them. The sky is the limit!
Remember, look for areas most likely to lose heat, windows, doors, seals, and reinforce them with additional insulation. Consider investing in some portable electric heaters to keep warm without burning through all of your fuel, and make sure you wrap any and all water pipes in insulation and then electrical heat tape. If you don't have any other option than to ride out the winter, you can keep warm and safe, and Carolina Coach & Marine, serving Asheville, NC, and Spartanburg, SC, is ready to help you do it. Visit our dealership, or set an appointment with our service department, and let our staff help you prepare for the coldest months.
Your numbers are more complete than others that I have seen. We have been full timing for 9 years so I know there are a lot of things that need to be considered. It appears that laundry is in your misc. entry. Maybe other things are hidden in there too but I wonder about propane, co-pays for medical and drugs. I think you should have a line item for RV and Jeep maintenance and repairs. This can be a significant amount. Another item is admissions and entertainment. Don’t you buy gifts for each other or for relatives? I didn’t see anything about that. The last item has been mentioned in other remarks but I have to bring it up again and that is RV parks. You mentioned in August, 2016 that you spent 21 nights in RV parks and only spent $260. That is an average of $12.38 per night. I don’t know how you found sites this cheap unless you were in a membership campground such as Thousand Trails. If that is the case then you need to add in the prorated purchase price and the annual fees. If it is not the case then good for you. I have budgeted $25 per night and more recently $35 per night. Going to the east coast is more expensive than the midwest or western states. I agree that boonbocking can save some money but it seems like your numbers are pretty unrealistic.
Good post Nina…but I’m a little skeptical about 3500 being a reasonable budget unless you either boondock/workamp a lot…or don’t go out much. I won’t say money is no object for Connie and I…but we’re plenty comfortable due to long term investing when we were younger…my guess based on talking to folks in general for the past 5 years is that we’re probably better off financially than 80% of the full timers we run into…not to brag about it but just giving you a little flavor for this post. We’ve averaged 30.46 a night since summer of 12 for about 925 a month in parking…plus another 80-100 a month from Nov to April for power at our winter site. From actual 2016 expenses…add in DirectTV, phone data plan, and MiFi data plan and that’s another 500 a month or so. 450 a month for groceries, 345 for eating out, 120 for brews at the Elks, 275 for diesel fuel (we do about 10K miles a year on our truck)…that’s already up to 2700 a month not including medical insurance and bills, misc other stuff, and any repairs on rig or truck or vehicle expenses. While we could economize on some of those…our average for 2016 was about 6700 a month (that doesn’t include our truck payment which comes directly out of our investments and is our only expenditure from investments currently). We could economize of course…eating out and too many brews at the Elks could somewhat go away if needed and we could get that probably down to 300 instead of 500 without feeling too deprived. Like you said…what you spend depends on you…and how much you got but we at least would feel pretty cramped by a 3500 a month budget.
After five years of relying on free wifi signals for internet access and using pay phones for phone calls, we got a Verizon MiFi jetpack in 2012, and we now use it for all our communications, including phone calls. This figure includes both our Verizon account with 10 GB of data per month and our $2.99/month Skype account that lets us make unlimited phone calls to the US and Canada no matter where we are in the world (this was very helpful while we were on our sailboat in Mexico). We’ve gotten used to using the laptop as a phone on Skype. It’s a little weird because the person you are talking to ends up on speaker phone, which they may or may not appreciate, and some calls get dropped, but it works well enough.
Crack open a window or vent for air circulation (especially in the bathroom and kitchen); close your blinds and drapes at dusk to keep in the heat and leave desiccant crystal moisture absorbers in several places. These crystals control mildew and can be purchased at RV dealerships or in most stores such as Canadian Tire and Wal-Mart or those with a household cleaning supplies department.
In the late fall Harvey and I explored all of my favourite parts of the Rockies. Initially I was nervous about what I would do to park it, after a couple nights of ‘creative camping’ searching for a parking spot became routine. Advice for anyone looking to camp out of your vehicle, pay for it. Initially it seems like a great way to save money but the stress of parking somewhere where you might get a knock on the door doesn’t allow for a good nights sleep. During the fall season most campgrounds have reduced rates or are free provided you can get into them. The National parks are notorious for parking. If you’re planning on spending time in them make sure you prebook campsites! British Columbia has a great service (I believe Alberta does too) with Recreation sites. These are always my preferred campsites, as they are free and in beautiful locations tucked away in Crown land across the province. The only difficulty with Rec sites is that they are often down logging roads which makes them inaccessible during the winter. Another great way to find spots to park is talking with the locals! Ive often been directed to overnight parking lots or even allowed to stay on their property, the world is a amazingly friendly place if you open yourself up to it!
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.
This is such great info and good to know the numbers. It sounds like it depends on the size of the Rv and where you are staying. I stayed at an RV park for a month for $500 in Florida all utilities included. I had a travel trailer at the time. I also have noticed on the fees at some parks charge large class A motorhomes additional fees. So much to learn! Trying to go full time soon. 🙂
Can anyone help me with this one. We’re new to the winter RV life and are travelling around BC, Canada skiing. We have winterized the motorhome and its going very well. The only issue we have is that the rear tyre’s do not like to spin when we first start her up. Even with idling and warming up the engine. Reversing is fine, its when we put her into drive the tyres drag and don’t spin. We have been lucky enough to get it working after some persistence and luck (being parked on big flat locations where we can reverse and eventually kick in.
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.
We spent years preparing to get on the road but didn’t give much thought for preparing to get off the road. There were practical and financial challenges like starting over with nothing in terms of furniture and selling our truck and RV to replace them with something more weekend friendly. The month following Thing 4’s birth our family couldn’t go anywhere together because our truck only sat five people. There were emotional challenges like letting go of my dream to homeschool the boys and watching our friends travel while we sit still. There were physical challenges like having a new baby and the hormonal sleepless nights that followed. There were relational challenges of connecting with each other in the mundane and finding friends in our new community. It was so easy to connect with other nomads but we’ve found it hard in a town of 500,000+ people to find our tribe. After four years in the slow lane, I had forgotten how busy people are and it’s been overwhelming. I can’t and don’t want to keep up and often feel like I’m on the outside looking in. To top it off, there is the spiritual challenge of having found my identity in the external, being a nomad, instead of finding it in the internal, which for me is God. Nothing like a little identity crisis to keep the emotional roller coaster oiled.
Some of the perks of getting older are the sweet discounts you can get! You’ve weathered through some of life’s toughest storms and seen a few of its biggest triumphs. We think you deserve a break, and so do some of our favorite campgrounds. Check whether your AAA or AARP cards are accepted at local campgrounds and put some change back in your pocket. You’ll never know if you don’t ask. What’s the worst that will happen?
hi we are David & Kathy Harrington I plan to sell our home this spring and buy motorhome or 5th wheel but leaning on motorhome 40 ft. any thoughts on this would be helpful our granddaughter lives with us so we can’t hit the road until she is 18 yrs. old and gone I hope but still plan to sell& buy this spring and live in it until then so I will continue to gather as much info I can from you guys as yawl willing to share thanks GOD BLESS all of you marry Christmas & Happy New Year may all your travels be BLESS
What puts an RV on the list: There’s obviously a huge difference between RVing once in a while and RVing full time. To make sure you get the closest feeling of living in a home we’ve hand picked the ones with a good mix of bunkhouse and regular floorplans. We’ve also made sure they have enough 40 feet+ length floorplans since space can be a concern when RVing full time. After a few spec comparisons it all boiled down to the ones which had the best reviews. Here are the Top 5 Best Fifth Wheels For Full Time Living.
BLM JUST upgraded their website last year and they REMOVED all of the wonderful links and maps they used to have on there!! For example there is no longer ANY information on LTVA camping, nor any information on MANY of the free or low-cost campgrounds we’ve used over the years. Plus that interactive map with all the clickable layers I used to use and which I linked to in that blog post? Completely gone!! I honestly have no idea why they decided to remove all this valuable info from their site, and I’ve yet to update all my old blog posts to reflect this massive change (I’ve got SO many broken links right now). You can still get map info if you physically walk into a BLM office and ask for it, but I no longer know how to find these maps online. Wish it weren’t so.
And finally there’s just the whole money thing. Money is a “hot” topic and these kinds of posts almost always generate heated debate about how much it really costs. What one person might consider “a pretty good deal” could be construed as “ridiculously expensive” to some one else (“you spend that much on xxx??” is a common response). So I’m going to say this up front. Don’t take ANY of these numbers as fixed. Rather use these posts as a guide together with other folks who publish their data (which I’ll link to) to create your own, individual financial plan.
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!
I live in Ga and have an open DFCS case because my son and I stayed in a van. I wanted to buy an RV however I do not know how legal it is to stay in an RV, Im unsure about how I will argue that it is a perfect alternatuve to staying in a van. Do you have any advice on how I can get clearance from DFCS so that my son and I can stay in an RV legally do you know anyone I can talk to about it.
In early February, 2016, a bill was introduced in South Dakota that would effectively deny anyone using a South Dakota mail forwarding service as their legal domicile the right to vote. The history behind this bill was that in Pennington Country a vehicle tax increase of $60 came up for a vote, and prior to voting day, certain politicians assumed that the nomadic RVers with legal domiciles in that county would unanimously vote against it.
A simpler solution is to use shrink film on the insides of your windows. This film is readily available at home supply and hardware stores. It is a clear film that you cut to size and affix to the window frame using double-sided sticky tape. Once the film is stuck down good, you use a hair dryer to shrink it until it is smooth and tight. This not only slightly improves the R factor of the window, it makes the window airtight. This will eliminate those annoying cold drafts and also help reduce condensation on the insides of your windows. After the winter, you simply peel it off and throw it away. Getting the tape residue off the windows can be a bit of a hassle, but rubbing alcohol works well to remove the sticky stuff. It's a great, inexpensive storm window and is relatively easy to apply. I do almost all of my windows, leaving one window at each end of the rig uncovered so that it can be opened on warmer days.
In Florida, cruising sailors have relied on St. Brendan’s Isle mail forwarding for ages. To my knowledge, they were the first (by at least 5 years) to provide a virtual mail service where you could see a scanned image of your mail in an email message. This kind of service is now provided by America’s Mailbox and Escapees and others as well. Other mail forwarding services in Florida are Nato Mail, Escapees, Good Sam Club and My RV Mail.
Volunteering & Workamping: We also haven taken fun volunteer positions from time to time – such as interpretive hosting at a lighthouse in Oregon. We get to do something incredibly fun and give our time for under 20 hours a week, and get a full hook-up site in a gorgeous location. With our full time work commitments however, we rarely have time for the extra hours however. Many campgrounds will accept ‘workampers’ for a few hours a week in exchange for a site – check Workamper News for more information.
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’ve been involved in RVing for over 40 yrs — including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking at home, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller, you’ve got a good idea of who I am.
We actually have a hard time with naming the worst things. That's not to say everything is perfect and all rosy in RV living, it isn't. It's just that nothing seems so awful that it needs to be called out. Maybe it's our more laid back attitude or just knowing things like dumping the black tanks are just part of life, but it never seems that bad. Still, we feel compelled to come up with something, so here are our least favorite things about living in an RV.