If you are considering living in an RV and traveling, think about where you’d like to see yourself spending most of your time. We live in an RV because we like an ever changing backyard, which means we pack light in order to move easily. Many people downsize to an RV to save money, but are looking to stay put in RV parks and can hang onto a lot more stuff.
Living in a camper, RV, trailer whatever you want to call it is a wild ride filled with amazing travels! We have also realized that living this life has made us appreciate a lot of things that we took for granted when we lived in a house. RV living is definitely a different kind of living. Being on the road means there are really good times and also times of frustration and struggles where you miss the comforts of a house.
Love reading this! We do not live in an RV but we do live in an 800 sq ft 1969 Model mobile home at this time. It’s hard for a family of 6 space wise but we have made it work for the last almost 4 years. We will however be moving next week into a 2700 sq ft home that is definitely a fixer upper so the price we got it for is just amazing. Good things come to those who wait! Good Luck to you in your Journey!
This item is here because it is a regular part of the boondocking lifestyle (you’ve gotta go every two to three weeks at a minimum). Many RV dump stations are free, but if you have to go to an RV park to dump the tanks because there aren’t any free ones nearby, it will generally cost anywhere from $5 to $15. Our RV dump station page has other tips and tricks related to managing the holding tanks.
Another aspect to consider is that when you’re new to full-timing, you don’t know what you will want in a rig, especially when you’re living in one day in and day out. If you buy an expensive camper, you’re going to lose a lot of money when you upgrade or change models. Buying a used camper might be the best and most affordable way to try this new lifestyle, and figure out what setup you’d most like to have. If you end up loving full-time travel, you can always upgrade to a new rig in a year or two.
In our case there are months we pay almost ZERO here (e.g. when we are sitting still in one place and either volunteering or boondocking) and there are months we chose to splurge. Either way we are able to completely manage how much we want to spend and can ramp it down (or up) as needed to match our income. Honestly if we’d fully understood the power of this flexibility we probably wouldn’t have fretted quite so much over costs before we got on the road. This is a BIG DEAL!
There were also build sheets, diagrams for each fuse box and information on roadside assistance. We referenced all the information many times throughout our first year of RV living. When a fuse goes out at 1a.m., you’ll want to know which fuse box to check. Our first RV had four fuse/breaker boxes and two of them were outside. When it’s pouring rain outside, it’s not fun to run around wondering which breaker box to check.
Let's start by keeping that cold weather outside and the warm air in. To do this, you need to increase insulation and reduce cold air infiltration. Your windows are a great place to start. Most RV windows are single-pane and many do not seal well. Some sort of storm window is needed, and there are a lot of possibilities: Some folks use foam core board to cover the windows from the inside. This works well, but it's pretty hard to see through! Other folks use sheets of Plexiglass or Lexan cut to fit the windows and held in place either with small brackets, velcro or tape. This helps seal the windows and you can see through it, but then you will be faced with storing the storm windows during the summer.
My wife and i,along with our red Aussie shepherd and 2 cats just sold our 10 acre spread in tx…horses ,tractor, chickens,any thing that we couldn’t take in our 38 ft.redwood 5th wheel. We did buy into coast 2 coast membership,before discovering other free or 1/2 price deals.we are only moving about 250 MI. Each move, so far we only pay 100.00 per month to camp,granted we do have to be on the move but that’s the point of RVing rite?we are really enjoying ourselves so far and the people we meet are great and we learn Tons of rv tips as we go.what do yall think about the newer toy haulers? We have a golf cart and a harley as well.we currently pull the cart behind the 5th wheel on a 10ft trailer,and we had to store the bike…your thoughts on this please!
Emily, you have done an absolutely fabulous job of compiling tons of useful information and we avidly read your blog and go back over things as we prep to hit the road full-time. We love the way you think, your personality and just everything we read. You have been so kindly open with your budgets etc but there are two things we are just curious about being of similar ages and not able to get pensions or SS at this stage in our lives.
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Pete, the ugly truth is: RV MSRP is a joke. Most people end up purchasing a new RV for 20%-30% off the MSRP. If you purchase a unit that’s new and last years model you can expect to get 35% – 40% off MSRP. Of course everything depends on supply and demand, and how long the dealer has the unit on the lot. If you want the biggest discount purchase a used RV that’s 2-3 years old, and buy an extended warranty.
Sure, it means you may have to wait a little while ‘till you can afford it, but it’ll be worth it. We all want to be on the road ASAP, and there’s a certain excitement to throwing caution to the wind and going for it, but we always recommend being financially prepared first. There’s no need to add financial stress to your RV experience. Buy what you can afford, or save ‘till you can afford what you want.
And we closed that chapter in our lives and moved on to the next one. Well, not that easily. I did cry every day for the first week. Luckily, my sister and her family had moved into the campground with us – and were staying right next door. That definitely made the transition easier. Gradually things got better, and I started to realize what we had been looking to do. Hours weren’t spent on cleaning any more. All of our stuff was manageable and there was more and more focused family time.
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.
Below is the breakdown of our costs, if you want more details read the posts from 2012 and 2011 as we pretty much spend the same way each year. As usual I’ve rounded the numbers to keep it simple.$2,137 Groceries, housewares and booze – Costco still being the largest ($1,088) also includes Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joes, TJ Maxx (we get some of our specialty foods here) Wal-Mart (for RV supplies), local natural grocery stores, and Cash at Farmer’s Markets.
Instant Pot – A favorite among RVers, the Instant Pot was my Christmas gift from Brent in 2014 and we’ve used it nearly every day since. In fact, I just heard it beep signaling that our BBQ chicken is done. The multi-functional kitchen warrior is perfect for RVing as it serves many purposes: pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, saute/browner, yogurt maker, and warmer. We have the 6qt IP-DUO60 7-in-1 and it’s plenty big enough for our family. Regularly, I double recipes and as of yet I haven’t had a problem fitting it all in the pot. We LOVE our Instant Pot.
The other huge and unexpected expense was for internet access. We have been very disappointed at how difficult good service is to find in campgrounds. We use the lodges as much as possible but still need a hot spot with smart phone / ipad etc…. We are now up to $300 on this item just to have backup hot spot. We are thinking about a second service such as Millicome (sp) so that will add another $100 month. Our wifi ranger has made a huge difference but it is still only as good as the router it picks up. Our Wilson has helped with the phone connection. Once again here was another big expense we hadn’t expected.
You are inspiring. My husband and I just made the decision to leave our busy life in Florida, purchase and renovate an RV, homeschool our 3 boys (ages 8,6, and 4) and start traveling. I am still struggling with all the logistics of it all, and how my husband can stay busy with his website business and still have time to spend with the boys and I exploring all the places we travel to. But I’m excited for the adventure. We hope to be in our RV and traveling in 6 months from now.
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.
Hi, This is our 1st year at trying wintering in our motorhome and have gotten a lot of useful ideas from this forum that we have put into use. What we have not found a solution for yet, hoping one of you would have experience or idea with is our Atwood 50,000btu tank less hot water heater that came with a winter kit on it only works until -15 below. We are getting below that now and it is freezing up. We have been able to thaw it out but afraid we are going to break something and would be nice to wake up to hot water. So if anyone could please HELP with a suggestion for this we would appreciate it. And Thank You All for the ideas we are using of yours now that are working 🙂
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.
I’m recently widowed, May 2017. This idea has been tugging at me for years! Do you see women traveling alone? Everyone has told me, don’t make any big decisions for a year. He didn’t leave me with extreme wealth, but I’m really thinking this would be good for me right now. I am 58, not very active, but I need to come out of this with some new perspective and zest for a more natural peace. What is your view on this idea?
I admire your stamina and am jealous of your bravado and lifestyle. Just a note to tell you how to fix almost all of the things you mentioned as extra-difficult living in an RV in the winter in Alaska. I have seen RVs designed specifically for use in such conditions. The alterations are designed in from the beginning and built into it. The era your unit was built, they didn’t do these things and I’m sure buying one that is equipped this way costs WAY more than the one you bought, but I can also say I suspect you could sell yours to someone living a bit more southerly for a pretty good penny, though I also suspect you’re not particularly interested in making a change since what you have is actually working for you.
Gradually, things started to clear out again and our mindset continued to shift. Then came the big day! An offer on the house – things just got real! We ended up having a huge rummage sale at my sister’s house since she was located on a busy street. We didn’t price anything but instead told people to make an offer on what they wanted. This was WAY easier. And we made an agreement that nothing would come home with us. We sold a lot and everything else was donated.
There really is a lot of variation out there and the variation certainly does match income, as you would expect. Folks on a limited income typically travel more frugally (smaller rigs, more workamping/boondocking, less eating out etc.) and make it work for less, whereas folks on a more abundant income go ahead and spend more. I do think there’s a pretty distinct bottom number (It’s really hard to get below $1500/mo as a couple IMO), but I don’t think there’s necessarily any upper limit. There’s certainly no one answer and no one “right” way…
2017 Update – YES. The more time we spend on the road the less we find we need. We end up donating half our clothes to charity almost every year and our outdoor stuff has been cut down to a select set of “glamping” basics. Plus we FINALLY got rid of our big storage unit (whoo hooo!). Paying $$$ for storage all those years was one of our biggest regrets and something we (in retrospect) would not recommend if you can avoid it. It took 7 years for us to tackle ours, but we finally got it done! You can read about my take on storage HERE and how we got rid of ours HERE, HERE and HERE.
We pull a 44’ Fifth Wheel with our Chevy 3500 HD Truck. We typically stay in place 4-6 weeks before moving which helps keep costs down, but the truck is also our only vehicle for local drives. In addition, Sean has to travel quite a bit for work and we are typically about 1 ½ hour away from a major airport and have to drive there and back a couple of times a month. For 2018, we plan to keep a separate log of mileage from moving with the Fifth Wheel, driving in the local area travel, and traveling to and from airports.
Sewer Hose – Use a PVC pipe for your sewer line instead of the standard RV drain hose, it will hold up much better in the freezing temps. If you have a constant water supply and you want to let your grey water drain the safest thing you can do is wrap the sewer pipe with additional insulation, if temps will be freezing for multiple days you may want to install heat tape around the PVC pipe. I always recommend keeping the black tank closed off and dumping only when necessary, getting a #poopcicle stuck in the drain is not a good way to start the day.
Tank heater pads aren’t of much use if the rest of the tank isn’t insulated. As was pointed out, RV skirts are a really good idea and I know of the old trick of putting light bulbs in compartments and under the skirted RV to keep spaces at temperatures above freezing. This works effectively in RV sites with electrical hookups, i.e. relatively limitless electricity at 30 Amps (3600 watts).
To get around this, you can look up the nearest warehouse distribution center for either FedEx or UPS and have the package shipped to that distribution center with “Hold for Pickup” written on it. You will not be charged a fee at pickup. However, you will need to track the package and you will have 5 days to pick up the package before it is returned to the sender.
I have been following your blog & youtube videos for awhile now and thoroughly enjoy them. In fact your video on the composting toilet has convinced my sister & I to get a natures head installed in our rv as soon as spring comes along. We plan on fulltiming early 2016 & can’t wait. Too bad you have encountered negative people, you two have been wealth of information for people exploring fulltiming in my opinion. Please keep putting out the great content that you do, it is much appreciated here!
Within the last month I moved out of my apartment, purchased a new tow car and a 21′ travel trailer (monthly financing less than what I was paying for rent, and I will own them). I was really excited and didn’t quite think things through about where I was going to boondock. I work for Wal-mart and made arrangements with my store manager, but it is an awkward experience. Now to the point, I can’t be without internet. I use non contract boost mobile and pay $50 a month, this includes “unlimited” call, text and date plus my phone has hot spot capabilities. It allows for 2.5 gig a month of data and then when you reach the limit it slows your speed but you still have access to internet.
$2,500 Insurance: Includes RV insurance, Car insurance, Life Insurance, Renter’s Insurance (to cover our belongings at home), Jewelry Insurance, and a Rider policy for camera/computer gear. We switched to State Farm Insurance halfway through the year and it saved us nearly $75+ per month vs. Geico and Progressive. We do not currently have health insurance, I know don’t yell at us… (est. savings $900)
Andrew, that was an interesting blog entry, because it gives a snapshot of what’s important to your family, you seem to have a good balance between enjoying your life and maintaining your expenses. But the part that really grabbed me about this post was that it reminded me of George Orwell’s “Road to Wigan’s Pier” in that you outlined your expenses. If you get a chance, please have a look at that book (it’s available for free on the internet) and read the part where he reports on the expenditures of different coal miners in the early 1900s Northern England. We’ve all become wealthier, but even after all that time, nothing has really changed, we still make choices to in our lifestyles and our spending choices may be one of the purest epressions of who we are and choose to be.
A non resident has to leave the country after his staying permit expires which is usually after 6 months (Max) so we cannot do it full time but I consider ourselves as “Summer full timers” that have 2 residents:one at our home in Israel and the second on wheels in North America-this is for as the optimum and we are enjoying it for the last 10 years.
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).
After the baking is done and the oven is off, we keep the oven door open for a while so we can enjoy the residual warmth as it cools down. By the way, we recently discovered Chiquita banana bread mix, which is absolutely delicious and tastes just like a loaf made from scratch. It requires two bananas, and lately Mark has been adding raisins to it too.
There is a silent attacker you may not be aware of, it’s name, Humidity. Humidity is already an issue in RVs, which is why we use our dehumidifier a few times a week. However, as the temperature began to drop outside and we ramped up the heaters on the inside we noticed our windows began to develop a crazy amount of water on them, which would then begin to freeze. This left frost on the inside of our windows so we made sure to wipe the windows down and run our dehumidifier every day.
Hi, folks! I just finished a 2-week car trip with my dog, Monk. It was fun! Such freedom! I’m retired and considering hitting the road permanently in an RV. This is more than a bucket list thing, it’s a dream. I’ve spent years flying back and forth over America and, although I’ve been in every state at some time, I haven’t stopped to smell the roses. Your article is a great resource for expenses. I don’t plan on doing this without checking out the realities. Because I moved around for my job quite a lot, I enrolled my dog in the Banfield Pet Hospital Wellness program. It’s a flat rate each month ($41.00/month, includes an annual dental cleaning), which covers most of the things you mentioned in your article for your furbabies (wellness checks, vaccinations, x-rays). There are some things that happen outside of the plan, but there is a discounted rate for scripts and other procedures not covered. Banfield is associated with Petsmart, so there are many across the country. In a 2300+ mile journey, I researched at least 8 along the way. All pet needs met in one spot. Just a suggestion
My family and I are really contiplating this in the next month. My husband is a general contractor and I just had my 3rd baby, we have a 6 year old, 2, & 4 month. What kind of homeschooling do you use? I sold my salon and I’ve been looking into working from online especially if we do decide to travel the country. Any tips would be great, ty for this blog!
If we really wanted to cut back to a minimalist lifestyle we could probably manage early retirement at this point. Instead, since we love what we do – we’ve opted to work a while longer and be a bit indulgent (like pursuing our boating dreams). Because life is short and we have a lot of things we want to do! So, a lot of our income goes into a discretionary spending account for adventures, upgrades and fun. When that fund builds up, we go on a little spending spree.
New or Used – Our first two trailers were used and they held up great. Normally, we buy everything used so it was a big deal for us to buy a new trailer when we bought the Gateway. We had looked at probably over a hundred floorpans and it was the only one we loved everything about and it was new that year. Of course. We decided it was worth it to purchase the Gateway even though we rarely purchase new. We are facing the same problem again, a few of the floor plans we love are new this year. Obviously, we would prefer to keep cost down and purchase used. However, we don’t regret our purchasing the Gateway new at all. Surprisingly, it held its value very well and we sold it quickly. Since we had such a great experience with a new rig (the warranty is nice) we are considering new.
Again, we're not stuck to a vacation timeline. We are not on vacation, this is our life. So instead of pulling in for a week and cramming our days full of sightseeing, we balance our days with work and play. We choose what we would like to see, but don't feel compelled to "get our money's worth." We may stay a few days or a few weeks depending on what we want to explore in the area. During this time, we're carrying on a normal life similar to a resident by shopping at local stores, eating at local restaurants, and participating in daily life. I cannot say we are true citizens by any stretch, but it does give us a better sense of place than a vacation usually does.