With our system, we can use the faucet to fill our fresh water tank. However, you can not leave it hooked up to a hose when the weather drops below freezing. The hose has to be disconnected from the faucet so that the faucet can drain to down below the freeze line. If you leave the hose hooked up the faucet will freeze and break. That is an expense and inconvenience you don’t want in the middle of winter.
Stuff — You don't buy "stuff" anymore since there is no room to put it in your RV. So while you might frequently buy furniture, cutesy pillows, paintings and other home décor, you don't spend that money when RVing. While some people live to shop for clothes, you can't do that given the one-foot space you have in your closet for hanging clothes and the limited space for shoes. I rarely bought "fancy" clothes, and I lived in jeans or shorts. I estimated I saved $175 every month, but it was probably more.
I am fortunate in that my company pays for my cell phone. This includes the grandfathered “unlimited” data plan. However reliable that is though we still look for campgrounds and camping sites that offer reliable WiFi and relish in those moment we get to a cafe or a friends house that will allow us to download a movie or two for future watching. Let it be known though that our call phones and our ‘net connection are essential to our livelihood and therefore our lifestyle. My wife does have a Verizon “Pay As You Go” that we purchase minutes for on a semi-regular basis (every four months or so). For a good look at what WiFi on the road may cost though feel free to check out the expenses of Technomadia.
The majority of our income comes from my web design business, Donna. We don’t have health insurance…it’s still cheaper to pay the fine than the ridiculous premiums for those of us who want to travel frequently between states. More on that in one of our latest articles, which though it is about living in a van, the insurance part applies to RVing or any other method of full-time travel.
Jessica warns it’s not all fun on the road. “Instead of mowing the lawn, we do maintenance on the RV. Things don’t last as long as they do in a house. The level of chores is about the same,” she said, adding that they have to go to the laundromat now. “But it gives us the freedom to be by the beach one day, a mountain the next or a lake. It’s made all the difference for us.”
Costs will vary greatly from RVer to RVer. For example, whether or not you choose to finance a brand new RV or pay cash for an older one will greatly impact your monthly expenses. Likewise, an RV that is 10 or more years old may require more monthly maintenance costs. Also, you can find free parking all over the country or choose to enjoy amenities at RV resorts.
Just wondering of you add anti-freeze to your grey and black water tanks. We are currently plugged in at a campground in Benson AZ where it’s getting down to the teens at night. Last night our water pump froze over but we managed to thaw out with no damage. Went and purchased 2 of the tiny ceramic heaters (one for the inlet side and one for the water pump side) and insulated all of the lines we could find…set the gas heater a little higher (last night we had it at 47 degrees for fear of using up too much propane and the lines froze anyway). Anyway…just wondering if we should be adding the anti-freeze and if so, how much (we have 40 gal holding tanks). Thanks for the great article!
Thanks for sharing these details. Just signed up for your newsletter to get more helpful tidbits as you post them. We are planning on downsizing from our SF Bay Area home to a full-time traveling RV and need to work from the road. It’s especially helpful to us to see connectivity costs, which we were thinking would cost us quite a bit each month. Thus it was shocking for us to see folks being able to spend only $600 total per month. We will be lucky to keep our expenses to $2k/month! Looks like a $3K monthly budget could work even after eating out and buying quite a bit of booze 🙂
I’ve been traveling since then, staying exclusively at spots where I can spend the night for free — Walmart parking lots for the most part. They have all welcomed me warmly when I ask at customer service if RVs are allowed to spend the night. It helps that I use a smartphone app to find Walmarts that do allow you to stay ahead of time, but I always confirm when I get there regardless.
Life as a suburbanite isn’t all bad. Like most of life, it’s a matter of perspective and attitude. I’m slowly incorporating things that I used to enjoy about being in one place like going to libraries and getting in my favorite cashier’s line at the grocery store. <== I’m obviously the life of the paaartay. Simple things that I didn’t realize I missed. I’m an introvert and homebody so it’s hard for me to get out and meet people but it’s happening. Slowly.
New in 2017 for us is storage fees as we switch back and forth between boat and RV. RVs can use storage lots across the country which should be fairly affordable (in 2018 we’re splurging on covered storage as hail is a very real concern in central Texas). Long term, we have purchased a lifetime lease at an Escapee’s Co-Op park in Arizona – which will be our storage spot for the bus, our winter base camp and a ‘casita’ for storing stuff. The actual costs of this remain to be seen.
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.
2011 – We bought a 31-foot camper with our tax return, moved with our three children into the camper, and began our off-grid, small homestead on family land with cash. Nearly one year after he was laid off, my husband was hired by another woodworking company. The new pay rate did not meet our previous living expenses, thus our new lifestyle was still the best route for us.
Penni hung a “less is more” sign in the RV and has become an expert at cooking on a stove top that’s about a third the size of a typical range. She used to run a small business in Vermont making drapes, blinds and other home decor and still does some work for clients in the RV. She sets up a folding card table for her sewing machine and sends Chip outside to clean the vehicle so she can have more space.
This number will depend on whether or not they are hitting the road with a job. We’d recommend six months of RV living costs if you don’t have a job, and three months if you do. A lot of things can go wrong during those few months on the road, and you want to be prepared for it. This sounds obvious, but worth pointing out—don’t spend more than you have!
My husband and I are planning to transition to full-time RV living in the next 2.5-4.5 years once our oldest kids graduate high school (youngest will come with us and homeschool). We are concerned our biggest expense will be self funded health insurance. In your financial reports you say you haven’t purchased health insurance. What about now that Obamacare penalizes you on your taxes? Have you still chosen not to purchase health insurance and take the penalty or have you found a more affordable option? We have some medical expenses so likely couldn’t go completely uninsured. Hubby is considering a remote work job with benefits for this reason but really we’d like to travel for 1 full year without huge work commitments then do something like seasonal park ranger half the year and travel the rest of the year. Any advice or insight in this area would be awesome! Thanks for sharing your financial information. It is very helpful!
During this 30 day window I lost 10 pounds (no time to stop and eat!) and slept about 4 hours a night… but we did it. We downsized to what we could fit into our RV and our cars. Yes, my husband’s car did turn into our garage for a few months. And we only ended up with about 4 storage bins which we kept in my parent’s basement. They were mostly filled with photos and other family memories.
Getting ready to travel full-time can be overwhelming, but if you take the advice and guidance of those that have done it before, things can be a bit easier to navigate. Take it from me: if you plan correctly, this will be one of the best decisions of your life. If you’re still on the fence, take a look at our other articles covering RV travel for some inspiration and practical tips.
For internet most RVers sign up for a cellphone data plan with either Verizon or ATT and use a MiFi to distribute it to all their devices. You’ll likely have to adjust your data usage quite a bit since cellphone plans are much more limited than what you’re used to at home. Also, you’ll want to consider buying a booster to help boost the signal in more marginal spots. My best advice is actually to buy this book written by fellow RVers and techno-mads who’ve dedicated 226 pages to this exact question:
Clothing is something to consider as well. You’ll likely have less space to store a huge wardrobe, but you will also likely be exposed to more climates and variety of venues – thus requiring a well balanced selection. We tend to do a lot of thrift shopping for our clothing, this helps us affordably adapt to local weather & venues. But we’re also not afraid to spend good money for quality staples in our wardrobe.
We embarked on the first leg of our planned trip: over to Indiana to visit my three sisters. We continued down through Ohio, the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, a stop in South Carolina to visit a close friend, and another stop in South Carolina to see Mark’s sister. We continued on down to Georgia and finally to Bradenton, Florida, where my mother-in-law lives. We had not seen most of these people in at least two years, and some we had not seen in as long as five years.
Food — Studies have found that the average home in the U.S. wastes 25 percent of their food. This is due to spoiled food or uneaten food. When you live in an RV, space for food is limited. It is rare to throw something out because you didn't see it at the back of your small refrigerator. I think you also tend to eat healthier since you are hiking in the outdoors more. Assuming an average $440 per month for two people, you save about $75 a month.
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. 🙂
Emergency Fund – The most important part of savings is your emergency fund. Conventional wisdom suggests you should have at least six months of expenses in a savings account. I know a lot of people scoff at the idea of a traditional savings account where you might only earn 1% interest annually. However, if you think about it anything is better than earning 0%, or not having savings and going into credit card debt for emergencies, which will cost you 10% in interest or more.
My fiance and I have two northern Michigan winters under our belts already and are getting ready for a third! We have a propane company bring us a 120 gallon pig, put plastic on all the window, have an efficient space heater running so the furnace doesn’t come constantly kick on, we keep a little heat lamp underneath by the water hook ups, and use w inch foam as a skirt around the bottom of the camper! The best investment is a heated mattress pad for those cold days because the heat rises so it might as well rise into you, our dog is actually impossible to get out of bed when that’s on ❤️ It’s a lot of work but it really is a blast. We also have a dehumidifier plugged in because to much moisture can rot the rig!
Mark had almost 120 days of terminal leave to kick us off. We took advantage of the free year of HHG storage provided by the military upon retirement and flew out of Germany in August of 2016 with four suitcases and our cat in his kennel. We planned to travel until we either found the perfect place to live, or until the start of the next school year.
I once read an article that said having adventures, big and small, were the secret to long lasting happy marriages. I think about all the people I know who are happily married, not the ones who manage to get along and check off life’s boxes like efficient business partners, but the ones who delight in each other, the ones who share a certain noticeable energy that seems to propel them through life. I’ve noticed most of these people make adventure a way of life whether it’s driving across the county to see an iron bridge, taking a different way home just because, trying new restaurants, challenging their minds together, or spontaneously flying to France because they found cheap tickets online. (Umm…that would be my crazy parents.) This past year we’ve been so overwhelmed by adjusting back to a normal life with things like electric bills and school commitments that we’ve almost forgotten to have fun. It was like suddenly after 16 years our honeymoon was over.
Don, I liked your post. I like the idea of modifying an existing system to make it better. Another trick I discovered while boondocking for the past 6 months, I extended my furnace and generator exhaust to blow on my drain and tank outlets. These outlets are the first to freeze since they poke down from under the insulation. Just be sure your unit is sealed, and use a CO2 detector, as you should.
Jay, you have made some very big assumptions here and they are wrong. As for our expenses, they are very accurate and contrary to popular blogging beliefs we don’t all get everything for free. Our meals, fuel, insurance and all of our day to day expenses that everyone else has, are not free. We pay for everything, including our RV. We have actually gotten very little for free over the years and when we do get something in exchange for review, you’ll see it noted. Expenses vary greatly per person. Even within these comments you’ll see others spending way less and way more. We blog, because we like sharing our experiences and helping others. If you don’t find that we are doing that for you, then you are correct, time to move along.
Steven wanted to go on the road for years, but Joyce said she wouldn’t do it unless he made her a home office where she could write a book. Steven gutted the little room in the RV that had a bunk bed and turned it into an office for Joyce that even has a sliding door. Together they remodeled much of the interior, adding sunflowers, a reminder of Joyce’s home state of Kansas, and their RV has a washer and dryer.
When my husband and I left for our travels, towing our 16-foot CampLite trailer, we’d never spent a single night in an RV. Ever. The reason why we were so ill-prepared was because of our financial situation leading up to our departure date: We’d paid off our mortgage earlier in the year, which meant we had to sell our home first before we could buy a truck and trailer. So, we closed on our house, bought the truck and trailer, packed up our rig, and left the next day. It was a whirlwind of stress and insanity that, in retrospect, we should have done differently.
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!
Beginning with my generation and thrown into full swing by the millenials after me, though it seems like we’re living in “the future” we’ve actually decided to take back something from America’s past that the baby boomers through away. Specifically, working for yourself, not a big company. Corporations lured us in with the promise of pensions (then yanked them or learned they could just fire people before they were due to collect), but really all they did was make us dependent on them. 1-3% raises per year while their profits headed into the billions.
The first year of RVing I struggled to find the kinds of campgrounds (natural, green, spacious) that we like to visit. It was a constant battle of going to one website, through a ton of clicks, then another website, then to a map, then to another spot and back again to try and figure out which one matched our route. Early this year I discovered uscampgrounds.info and my planning life changed. If you like public camping there’s simply no better resource out there and I use it as the base for all our travel planning now.
We quickly learned that we didn’t like that he had to be at the table working all day while the kids and I were out exploring all of these amazing places! Plus, having to go back to Wisconsin was expensive and limiting how far we could travel. California is quite a drive from Wisconsin, especially if you want to go back and forth. The cost of him flying back alone would add up, not to mention I just did not want him leaving us for a week.
I love your site and the ideas/videos, but I’m perplexed by your statement that propane RV furnaces introduce moisture into the coach. Yes, propane combustion does give off significant water vapor, however with a vented furnace (which most RVs have) all of the combustion materials including water vapor should be vented directly out by the furnace and never goes inside the coach: zero added moisture. Can you clarify? Thanks
Now, when that fear wells up again, gratefully embrace it and say, “Thank you for the warning, but this is a safe risk. Look at my budget. Here is my savings account for emergencies. This is how I will make more money. Everything will be alright,” You may have to do this many times, but eventually your fear will turn to hope as it embraces your new life. Then, come, and join us as we travel the road of carefree destiny.
We began our search for a new RV the moment we decided to sell our old one. My heart bleeds gypsy blood and to not have an RV would make the next few years feel even more like a prison than it already does. Okay, so I’m being a little dramatic but we love having an RV for many reasons. It makes traveling affordable. RVing allows us to be remote or as urban as we want to be. It’s one of the ways our family connects and creates forever memories. RVing allows for more comfortable and extended visits with family. I love my family but I also love my space.
Remember to boil the bones of chicken and beef with a little vinegar to bring out the best, the chicken feet have great collegen.. bone broth is great for you. Kombucha is also for the immune system and easy to make. Make all the food you can.. it is very satisfying and better for you and tastes better. get a book and homemade medicine and try the young living essential oils.. The woods is full of medicine. Let me know if I have helped or hindered or can help in the future.