We spent six weeks in the New Mexico desert. Every morning we woke up to purple-hued skies, dusky mountains, and a silence so complete we felt like the last people on Earth. On our morning walk, the frigid air would be filled with the resinous smell of creosote, while jackrabbits bounded ahead of us on the path. We saw very few people day to day; it was only us and the desert.
We’re Millenials, so we can relate to the desire to have new and shiny stuff we can’t afford. A lot of Millenials these days want instant gratification: we want what our parents have without realizing it took them 30-40 years to get there. Who wouldn’t want a big $200-300k diesel pusher? As a young, first time RVer, with less disposable income than most retirees, buy used! RVs depreciate faster than just about any other purchase. Buying used can save you a huge amount of money. Most people use their RV about 4 weekends out of the year, so “used” models are almost new. You can save $10k-50k buying a year or two used. Plus, used RVs usually have all the bugs worked out. New RVs have more issues than used ones. Don’t be surprised for your brand new RV to spend 3-4 months in the shop the first year, getting all the bugs worked out from the warranty. If you buy an RV that’s a year or two or 10 old, the bugs will already have been fixed under warranty.
For those who can’t go a day without the Internet, mobile devices, and other gadgets of the Digital Age, RV camping may elicit more groans than exclamations of excitement. Is RVing new to you and your family? Consider these RV camping hacks to create a home-away-from-home that will ease newcomers into the RV lifestyle. Here are a few tricks of the trade from veteran RVers.
$1264 Dining Out It’s beautiful to go back through and see where we spent our money eating out. The only chain is Chipotle which we ate at 4 times this quarter. The rest is made up of coffee shops, small restaurants, and different breweries. Of course this number is skewed a bit as 10% of these expenses likely belong in the grocery category because we purchase whole bean coffee and specialty beers from many of the coffee shops and breweries we visit.
Many National Forests and most lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allow RVs to camp outside the confines of their campgrounds. Also, it is generally legal to park in public parking areas and rest areas that are not posted with signs prohibiting overnight parking. And you can always camp out in a friend’s driveway! The price for these kinds of overnight stays is $0. However, you need to equip your rig to run without hookups to take advantage of these places for an extended period of time.
A little more on internet: If you’re planning on working on the road, never plan on “just using the RV park wifi” to accomplish anything. They are notoriously slow or non-existent. You cannot RV full-time with purchasing a jetpack or planning on using your phone’s hot spot. You can also buy wifi boosters and other expensive techie products, but a jetpack is going to be your most affordable, easy-to-use option.
I’m a Thousand Trails zone pass member. I pay $35/mo +$3/night. En route to TT Parks I generally use my 50% discount with Passport America to keep it under $20/night. On average, I pay close to $200/month lodging, utilities included. My average trip costs me $60 in gas. Averaging around 3 moves per month puts me at a little less than $400 per month in travel/lodging.
I remember a year or so ago Thing 1 and I were talking. He was having a hard time wanting both the adventure of RV life and the stability of being stationary. He missed our life in California but at the same time enjoyed our life of travel. It was a conversation we had often as we gauged the boys’ needs to make sure full time RVing was still working for everyone. During this one particular conversation his big brown eyes were contemplative and he asked,
Our recreation expenses are all over the place. There is no right or wrong, black or white, night or day. Some months it covers a movie rental or two while others it serves as admission into a children’s museum. This past month it paid our way into 3 different state parks, an iTunes album, 2 television episodes, a fishing road and fishing license, and some craft supplies for my daughter.
We already discussed becoming more social, but meeting other full-time RVers in this community is one of the best things that has happened to us. There are some people we consider friends that we haven't even met in person yet. The RVing community is welcoming and open and we often start friendships online through Facebook groups or Instagram before crossing paths in real life.
Most RVs simply weren't designed to be used in the winter. They were built for family outings and weekend getaways during the warm months and were intended to be stored away when the weather got too chilly for outdoor picnics. Fulltimers are faced with living in their traveling home, whether it is well designed for cold weather or not. Luckily, there are lots of things that you can do to make your RV more comfortable during the colder months.
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.
If you install solar power, a big battery bank, or upgrade your converter or inverter or have any kind of add-on that is pernamently attached to the rig, and you have an older rig that you are insuring for Actual Cash Value, that upgrade will be part of the Actual Cash Value figure that the insurance adjuster will be calculating at the time of a claim. If you are insuring for Replacement Value, check with your agent how best to cover major upgrades.
We have been camping for all our married life from tent to now a Class A. We have been taking 5 months in the winter for FL for the past 4 years and will be going full time this next year. My husband loves to meet new people and learn about different adventures and we always feel a little let down when we all move on, like leaving a new friend. We noticed a lot of full timers had RV business cards. So we decided to get them and a binder to keep them in. Then when we are traveling we just send out an email to see if any of our new friends are near and want to meet up and visit again, or to pass on any good or bad info about camp areas. Can’t wait to go full time! Everyone enjoy!
State Income Tax – Texas doesn’t have State income taxes. There are other states out there like South Dakota, Florida, and others that many RV’ers claim residence to save on insurance, income tax, and vehicle registration. We are actually from Texas so I cannot help you with this info, but I do know there are several locations to find it…you can start with searching the escapees program.
The highlight of our travels this year was visiting our 49th state, Alaska! During the long drive through Canada and Alaska, we listened to many audiobooks like Call of the Wild, White Fang, Hatchet, and Jason’s Gold as we drove through and visited many of the places in the stories. Thing 2 also developed a fascination with gold panning so he spent many hours reading about gold panning and then gave it a try himself near Girdwood and Chicken, Alaska. Roadschooling at its best!!!
These days everything is available online and if you’re putting most of your spend on credit or debit cards* it’s super easy to import it into programs (e.g Quicken or Mint) that will summarize and keep track of exactly where your money is going. Not only will this give you a solid idea of your starting point, but it will be key to pointing out places you can possibly save once you change your lifestyle and get on the road.
Yes, we do have a permanent address. We use a mail forwarding company in SD that acts as our address of record for drivers license, voting, taxes etc. We can also get stuff mailed there (and forwarded to us), but meds may be different and certain meds (e.g narcotics) may be controlled. I know many RV folks who get their meds through nationwide pharmacies (e.g. CVS) and just get the prescription transferred to the local shop to pick up as needed. I also know RV folks who get their docs to write 6-mo (or longer) prescriptions which allows them to travel further before needing new prescriptions. Since we take no meds ourselves, I don’t know much more about this so you’ll have to research more. But I have heard from folks who make it work.
Just an additional idea for your windows, cut some of the refectx bubble insulation to your window sizes. Then plastic bubble side will adhere to the window without any tape and give you additional insulation under your curtains. I did this in my small vintage camper this past winter and it helped a lot.(although I was not in Alaska it was cold in the lower 48 too!)
Yes, I’m sending you a hug Raven! RV living has been lifted up quite a bit in alternative media lately, but it is never an easy decision. I go through my own emotional roller coaster of emotions about our living situation. Earlier this fall I found myself in a hard place because I started thinking about how we are about to spend our third winter here. But I am reminded every time of all the reasons I am glad we are here and how I wouldn’t change it – even if I am looking forward to our new house. The plan is to lay the foundation in the spring, so that gives me hope. Make small goals for yourselves and be encouraged every time you reach a small goal – all those small goals add up!
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…
For propane heat, we have two 7-gallon propane tanks. Even though I tried to be, I wasn’t very meticulous in my propane record keeping last year, but here is a rough estimate of our propane usage for a few of the winter months based on my rough notes. We buy propane either from a nearby U-Haul, which is more expensive (over $3/gallon including their base fee), or from Tractor Supply Co., which is cheaper ($1.86/gallon last winter, and they don’t charge any additional fees) but is unfortunately located 30 min. away from us.
Propane Heater – This device sips propane compared to the furnace installed on your RV, yet it keeps the inside even warmer. Best part is this heater doesn’t use electricity like a space heater but it heats just as well. The downsides: There is no anti-tip shutoff so it’s not good if you have pets. The install can be simple but should be completed by a professional. The propane is un-vented and therefore produces deadly Carbon Monoxide so you must keep a vent open at all times and constantly check your CO detector to make sure it is functioning properly. Also as discussed propane heat produces humidity. Our friends the RV Geeks use this propane furnace and swear by it in their Winter RVing post
I have a question to ask. Try not to laugh too hard at my extreme paranoia lol. First you should know it is our sincere goal someday to rv full time. We loove to travel and we are both photographer hobbyists. However. I have zero experience visiting or ever even being in a desert and I am extremely frightened and paranoid of snakes, scorpions and mostly–spiders. How often have you run into these creatures boondocking in the west/in the desert? And no, this issue won’t derail our plans or anything, but just wondering what I am in for! Thanks for putting up with my silly question!
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.
Use your andriod phone for internet service it’s extremely cheap if you have a prepaid cell plan. you pay extra $10 for hotspot unlimited cell and net service.There’s a device called autonet which can provide 4g speed to for asmall fee.The device it self seela for under $300but, it’s worth it cause you move from the rv to the house.The best part is with autonet you can access any tv shows via the net.
Or you could “upgrade” to living in an RV. You pay some amount of cash for this home on the road, and set off on a journey. That initial cost is probably similar to what you’d spend on a downpayment on a house. That is, if you would have lived in a $500,000 house, you buy a $250,000 rig. If you’d have lived in a $150,000 house you buy a $35,000 RV. And yet others find their way into single digit thousands and work on them as we go.
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.
Regular shower and/or bathroom: At first, a small bathroom seems just fine – until you've been in there a few times. The walls close in. The shower is smaller than most broom closets. Your elbows will touch both sides, as will a lot of the rest of your body at certain times. While it's totally doable to take a shower and still feel like you are OK to go out in public, it's certainly not luxurious.
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.
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.
For a period of time, we also had a gym membership to Planet Fitness. It cost $20/month and we had access to over 800 locations across the country. If you’re trying to stay in good shape while you’re traveling I would definitely suggest Planet Fitness. They typically have really nice facilities for showering and workouts, plus free massage chairs and tootsie rolls. Need I say more?
Thanks for the great expenditure report. I am getting our home ready for sale and heading toward the full time lifestyle. It honestly scares me because I am on fixed income of much less than shown in your totals. I will find a way! You might check into a company called Bestmark. Having a Chevrolet you can sign up for oil changes, tires etc. And get paid plus reimbursement. All you have to do is tell them how your visit was. Basically gaining upwards of $75. Plus free service or parts. Just thought that may help you. Thanks again, looking forward to your next post.
Great article! We have 2 young boys (4 and 8 month) and we are strongly considering this full-time. Working in a downtown setting feels like my soul is being sucked out of me everyday. We were originally inspired by the documentary Surfwise. Must be great to sit around a fire every night or lay under the stars with your kids instead of staring at a TV. Im in the middle of launching 2 online businesses and planning on quitting job in July. Maybe we’ll see you out there!
r(E)volutionary disclaimer: We live on the road as an expression of freedom and discovery. We look for places that are either in the sun, near friends and family, or in proximity to a learning opportunity for our daughter. We live without consumer debt and have whittled away our monthly overhead. While I have a corporate day job it is a telecommute position allowing us to be on the road as a relatively young couple with a growing young lady. Our monthly income is consistent and we live on a budget.
The figure here is our average monthly fuel cost for a six month summer season of travel. We drove a loop from Phoenix, Arizona through Nevada to Crater Lake in central Oregon and then went from northeastern Oregon to Sun Valley Idaho and Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and finally dropping south through Ouray Colorado and into northern Arizona and back to Phoenix.
For the merchandise budget I allocated $30,000, which includes such things such as solar power, computer and internet related gear including two brand new laptops, new photography gear (have Nikon cameras, but want digital). Currently up to $28,000 on my list, but still have things to add to the list. The budget for the merchandise could even be low.
Health insurance is definitely a tricky problem, especially for pre-Medicare folks like us. This coming year will present more challenges as it seems insurance companies are continuing to limit their coverage range (e.g. BCBS is dropping nationwide PPO plans in several states for individual plans). I’ll keep reporting on the blog as/when changes happen. It’s just one of the things we must tackle as nomads.
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.
Staying in campgrounds makes it impossible not to be closer to nature. In a good way! I love being outside, but when we were living in a traditional sticks and bricks house, I found myself not getting outdoors as much as I would have liked. Or if I did, it was just to the deck or patio and never in grass, among trees. There is just something calming and therapeutic about being surrounded by Mother Nature.
Just like the cupboards in your house, everything has a place in an RV. The difference is, when the RV is going down a bumpy road and that bottle of vinegar gets loose because it was put back in the wrong place, you might end up with a mess on your hands. It also makes packing up a much faster process because you know where all the pieces of the puzzle go.
My greatest concern is the plumbing. Tanks can be insulated and heated. Some RVs, even smaller B+ have the fresh water tank inside. However, those small tubes for the water system will freeze very quickly if the temperature is below 32F. Heat tracing is a solution, and there are some very good industrial products. However, at present it seems I’ll have to extensively modify any RV I buy with insulation, heat tracing and heat pads. Adding those things isn’t all that difficult. Doing it in such a manner as to avoid excessive electrical energy usage – that’s the challenge!
An RV is a luxury item that depreciates rapidly, so I advise young people to get as cheap and small a unit as possible. A used popup tent trailer is wonderful because it fits in the garage and doesn’t need much storage space. Any kind of light 11’ to 12’ trailer is a great way to start. Going used at first is preferable, but if they are well off, buying new is always much nicer. I recently wrote an article about learning the RVing lifestyle with a small RV: http://roadslesstraveled.us/learn-the-rving-lifestyle-with-a-cheap-small-rv/
A suggestions to lower your costs. 1. Passport America 50% camping and/or America the Beautiful Pass. We average about $8-$10 a night camping at these parks, while camping in some of the most beautiful locations. As well as hitting many free camping locations. State parks can be obscenely cheap and nice. 2. Plenty of farmers markets on the east coast, you just have to look for them as many of them are in small towns outside the cities you have traveled to. 3. I forget the name right now, maybe one of the other Rvers can chime in, but there is an alternative to Verizon that uses Verizon infrastructure that gives you unlimited phone and internet. We don’t full time right now so it’s not a concern. 4. Stay longer which lowers your fuel and camping fees. 5. REWARD POINTS, pay with everything with a rewards credit card.
Sheepherder wagons have a long history of wood/dung stoves but we don’t see them in the Wally World parking lot belching smoke from their long chimneys protruding from steeply sloped sheet-metal roofs do we? One has to wonder how the modern RV roof holds up, with or without a spark arrester on the stack, so close to the exhaust opening? Wonder how you would like it if somebody parked an RV in front of your house and then the creosote buildup in the stack flashed and blew a blizzard of sparks across your property and vehicles? 😉 Burning birch is not option in most parts of the country. Maybe Kent should discuss the types of wood he prefers and why ….
Thanks for posting your Rv travel expenses, that’s really a generous thing to do and it really helps those of us in the planning stage to get a better idea of how we can achieve this lifestyle change. I can’t understand why people are being rude about it. No one would ask them what they spend in their lifestyle would they? It’s a bit hopeless that people can’t be happy for others generous and brave enough to share their lives! I know I couldn’t do it, so thanks!
Richard is working at with the Amazon CamperForce program for the second year. He’ll be at the warehouse from September to December. It’s very different from his career in IT, but the income allows the family to live this nomadic lifestyle. He earned $11.50 an hour at a fulfillment center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., which went to $15 an hour in November.
When we first started RVing we signed up to just about every camping club out there, Sam’s Club, Escapees, Club USA etc. In retrospect (again because of where/how we like to camp) these were not worth it. The only camping club I currently consider is Passport America, mostly for short stops and I do like the Escapees Days End list, but even these have mostly been replaced by overnight “freebies” when we need them. The rest of the time we’re out in nature/boonies where club memberships do not go. For some people clubs are great and they can certainly be cost saving if you make use of them, but for us they’ve simply not made the cut.
Hi. We have a Balboa Toy Hauler, which is insulated and semi winterized. One of the furnace vents forces hot air into the tank bay under the floor. This heats the floor under the bathroom and kitchen area, but you must leave the furnace on and burn propane. Our first experience was the poopsicle at Jackson Hole, WY at -18! tried to hammer that out with a hatchet, and of course, the hose was brittle and broke! Then it thawed 2 days later. AAAGGGHHHH!!!!. Next we camped 6 weeks in Glenwood springs to ski Aspen and Snowmass all winter. A fellow camper left his sewer drain open after he left and the whole system froze so we couldn’t even use the facilities toilets. Fortunately the manager brought in the big guys with a water jet to unplug the whole system. This was extremely expensive and took a full day. Then 2 weeks later the same camper returned, (gas well inspector) and did it all again. Wow. Poor park owner ate that bill twice.
We have camped at Tiger Run also and the temps got down to -9 F. We got the extended propane tank rented from the campground. We had all the issues and made a cardboard skirt and put a ceramic space heater underneath. That worked, though we left our sewer hooked up and only drained once a week and used the built in facilities during the day. We wrapped the exterior drain pipes with heat tape and insulation. We added hot water to the grey and black water tanks before flushing. Didn’t have a problem. Also made the heated water supply hose with heat tape and insulation. That never froze either. This year we are going back (in 2 weeks! YAY!) and are having a custom skirt made. Combined with the ceramic heater underneath, this should keep the whole thing warmer as well as stop any freezing of the water bay and plumbing. There is one weak link in our trailer, the water lines run through a cabinet, then back out behind the toilet, then under the bath tub, and then into another cabinet where the pump is. This froze twice. I rerouted one of the heater vents to heat the first cabinet by removing the vent exit and setting the vent tube to blow half of it’s air into the cabinet. Ugly but effective in an emergency. This year we are going to try running an LED rope light along that pipe run. This will double as a night light. They use very little power, and don’t get as hot as incandescent bulbs. Allegedly, the skirt and ceramic heater should fix everything but you never know! We’ll follow up as things progress. We agree that winter camping allows us to enjoy snowboarding and skiing places like Breckenridge Aspen, and Jackson Hole and actually afford it! And of course you can bring your doggie or kitty too.
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.
Pay no mind to the ignorant few; the rest of us really find value in the information you share. We’ve been transitioning away from the “american dream”, sold our house, are doing some major downsizing now and learning to live on less than half of what we made before. We are putting all our time/effort into selling our stuff and inventory from our micro inventory-based business (i.e. Ebay/Etsy shop) and transitioning to multiple streams of revenue that allows us to travel lightly. We only pay for essentials right now so we can save the rest. People just don’t know the whole story and like to play the victim game when they hear of people leading fulfilling lives and assume you are loaded; like you we are choosing to empower ourselves and our dream, not be stuck in fear and everyone else’s view of what life should look like. Bravo Nikki and Jason!
One thing we learned from camping in cold temps (and sorry if this has been mentioned already) – is that the basement bays won’t be kept above freezing unless the furnace is running, and while using space heaters up above, our furnace wouldn’t always cycle on. So, interestingly our water was more apt to freeze at 25 degrees than it was at 15 degrees, because at 15 degrees the space heater couldn’t keep up, and the furnace ran more, keeping the basement warmer. If that makes any sense. Bottom line, if the furnace isn’t running, the basement gets cold. That was the case in our coach, and I know not all coaches are the same in this respect.
We had been accustomed to a two car garage, and now got a new perspective on the task of shoveling the driveway. After one storm, the cars were just barely peaking through the drifted snow. We had to clear an area 40 feet long by 10 feet wide in order to pull the cars in and park them. Our efforts left us with a snow bank just about as long and wide, and about 8 feet high. The good news: our self-constructed snow bank served to block the wind. Well… sort of.
I think living in an RV before you try to get fully into it isn’t a bad idea at all. Rental RV’s are a great way to do this. Just try it out for a while, travel around to get a feel of living in the thing in different areas and see how you feel. We’ve met many traveling nurses who fulltime and enjoy the comfort of having their own bed/home wherever they go. Good luck with everything!
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.
Most modern nomads need jobs to fund their travels. Jessica Meinhofer works remotely as a government contractor, simply logging in from the RV. Others pick up “gig work” cleaning campsites, harvesting on farms or in vineyards, or filling in as security guards. People learn about gigs by word of mouth, on Workamper News or Facebook groups like one for Workampers with more than 30,000 members. Big companies such as Amazon and J.C. Penney even have programs specifically recruiting RVers to help at warehouses during the peak holiday season.