Electricity: If you plan on using a generator, check to see if yours has a winter setting, switch if necessary. Furnaces use considerable battery power to cycle off and on. If you're not plugged into power, you need a solar panel system or an inverter or some other method to keep your batteries fully charged. Look for winter camping spots that provide a good source of power. It avoids many other problems.
Great article and right on IMO…I think what you have written is not only true for full time rving but living in general…the key words here are what you wrote in the beginning… that you are providing a formula not necessarily the details….and it will be different for everyone depending on what is important to them…and we always budget for travel, food, wine and fun….:)
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.
Once again, the answer may not be what they want to hear. The amount a young couple should spend on their first RV is what they can afford. It’s really as simple as that. Unless they know they can afford and support debt, then they should buy what is affordable, whether it’s a smaller used RV or something new. It’s much easier to upgrade than downgrade, so think about what is actually needed versus what is wanted. We sometimes get caught up thinking we need all those fancy gadgets and toys when it may be possible to get on the road much sooner if we become more realistic with our needs.
Slide outs – Are slide outs a must? If so how many and where? Two slide out bunkhouse trailers tend to put one in the back bedroom and another one in the middle living area. Three slide out trailers have a few more options. Some have one in the back bedroom and two in the middle. Others have two in the back bunkroom and one in the middle. A few have one in each room. Regardless, if we decide we “need” slide outs, we are trying to decide if we want more space in the living room or bedrooms. We are leaning towards extra living room space but trying to decide how important double living room slide outs are to us.
We got through that next round, and things were starting to clear out. At this time we hadn’t sold our house yet, so the pressure wasn’t on. We didn’t have a leave date in sight, so we were taking our time and letting our mind-set shift. In comes Christmas . . . I always went crazy at Christmas and bought the kids so many gifts. Even though I knew they’d only play with a few presents and the rest would be quickly forgotten.
I would have to say we love the idea of someone living and getting of the grid per say. We have a few hurdles though we are major preppers so we worry about storing our stockpile and we have kids and pets. The kids are teenagers so it would be easier to get them out on their own before downsizing. Our pets though are family how well will that work we wonder and what about weather. We live in Indiana south of the lakes so our weather is unpredictable and sometimes very severe blizzards, tornados, ice storms and hail. We wonder about durability and temp control during super hot humid and super sub zero. Has anyone else confronted these things? We have 5 years to prep and have 2 year stockpile for 6 people is it realistic and feasable for us to accomplish?
The Meinhofers and a dozen others who spoke with The Washington Post about this modern nomadic lifestyle said living in 200 to 400 square feet has improved their marriages and made them happier, even if they’re earning less. There’s no official term for this lifestyle, but most refer to themselves as “full-time RVers,” “digital nomads” or “workampers.”
Bryanna, My husband and I are in the beginning stages of talking about selling everything and moving into an RV full time. One question I do have is…do you have to have a “home” address? We did live in our RV for about a month and 1/2 last Feb./March in between homes, one sold very fast and the other wasn’t ready to move into. At that time we had a PO box near where we were set up. I do most of our bills on line any way and know that I won’t have that many in the future, but was wondering about car tags, insurance things like that. Thanks for your help, Michelle
I understand there are monthly costs to van dwelling, but I am in a unique situation being at school. I have a free gym membership that has all the amenities. I have friends with houses, apartments, yards, etc. where I can freely park and utilize some of their amenities. I have access to WIFI anywhere on campus and bathrooms everywhere I look. I have a different scheduled each day and a part time job. I am ALWAYS on the move. From an outsiders standpoint, I feel as if I would mesh right into the van dwelling life. I want to live a less material life. I own too much random…. stuff. I want to minimize my living “standards.” I want to remove anything in my life hindering me from experiencing life.
The Solar question is a great one. We haven’t had nearly the problems w/ getting adequate solar coverage w/ the fixed roof-panels as we’ve had w/ the fixed satellite dish. For our satellite we have to have direct line-of-sight and a few trees (or even branches!) will easily throw it off. For the solar, although it’s best (of course) to have full sun, we’ll often be fine as long as we can get an adequate amount of sun for at least a few hours. We dry-camped in pretty heavy forest both in NM & CO where we got part-sun and it was enough to recharge us daily. I’ve been very happy w/ the set-up.
First up is getting space heaters for inside your RV. We used a combination of two space heaters, one being our fireplace and the other a small space heater we picked up. For those of you who winter camp you probably already know the cost of propane can add up quick if you are using it as your only source of heat. With space heaters you’re able to generate heat without burning propane. By using space heaters you’ll be able to go longer in between propane fill ups, saving you money and time.
Induction Cook Top – Campground fees almost always include your electricity so it makes sense to use electric appliances when possible and conserve your propane. This is why we regularly use an induction cook top. Another benefit is that it frees up another burner if you are cooking multiple dishes. Our induction cook top has held up well but if you are looking for something a little fancier with a little more wattage there is this one. Note: You must use cookware (I’m eyeing this set.) made out of magnetic-based metal to work with induction cook tops. Induction cook tops make great gifts especially for the very utilitarian RVers.
Full disclosure: When I went full timing in ‘04, I had the proceeds from the sale of my house & belongings, so I bought my RV outright, but also had over $100K in the bank plus a retirement fund to fall back on. I volunteered for a free space or earned money for fun, not because I had to. I also am healthy and had NO health insurance for nearly 8 years. Paid cash when necessary. I know how to be cautious. I eventually signed up at the VA as I’m a veteran.
I Have just spent almost 2hrs reading your posts, thank you thank you and to all who replied. I am in the process of getting rid of stuff, my target date is end of July or first of Aug to take off after selling my house and car. Planning of buying a Class C 20′ to 30′ gently used. I am 81 and ready to go. I have two pages of notes from this blog so far. Thanks again Pat
Obviously, electric blankets on your bed make for more comfortable sleeping conditions during the cold winter nights. I discovered another great use for electric blankets by accident. I draped one over the sofa and left it on a low setting. Even when I wasn't on the sofa, I left the blanket on. The temperature radiates into the air, adding wonderful warm heat to the RV. My sofa was built in to an extending unit on the RV, so it was a very drafty area to sit on cold winter nights. The heating blanket worked wonders for keeping me warm.
Bedroom Layout – At first it seems like the only travel trailer floor plan option was a back bunkhouse and a front queen bed with the head of the bed situated at the front of the trailer. But then I found the front bunkhouse models. These typically have more room around the master bed and since the littles sleep in our room with us (they do in our house too) this would be much more comfortable and give Brent a good space to work for extended trips. The tradeoff is a smaller bunk room but the teenagers they don’t need as much space as they once did since we aren’t full time. Even in our Gateway they spend a lot of time lounging in their beds so we are leaning towards a larger master bedroom.
When RVing, we use mainly public coin laundry facilities. It’s nice to get 2-3 weeks of laundry done in under an hour, and many campgrounds/marinas have laundry facilities on site. The cost of a load of laundry can vary widely by location and facilities. We’ve had them cost everything from free in Louisiana State Parks (seriously!) to up to $5-6. Average is probably around $2.50-3.50 a load. On a monthly basis, we maybe spend $20 on laundry – its not worth micromanaging.
Thanks! It is definitely challenging with kids but we figure they are only young once so why not spend as much time with them as possible. And who knows maybe your wife would be on board – this was never in our plan when we got married but we saw an opportunity and went for it. I also like the idea of extended trips. Now that we have been traveling this way I couldn’t imagine going on vacation for only a week – we need at least 2 to 3 weeks in a location to truly experience it.
RV maintenance depends on how handy you are and what kind of rig you have. I do all of my regular maintenance on the Airstream, so I usually only have to budget for maintenance parts and not labor. That’s only a couple hundred dollars a year. Since we have a tow vehicle, maintenance of that will also be lumped in I guess. I’m not really a person who has done strict budgeting, but I think a couple thousand bucks a year to put away as an emergency fund is a good idea.
Months away from family and friends can be scary, no doubt. Though we too worried about missing close ones, Brittany and I actually found that we spend more time with friends on the road. We rarely enter a state without connecting with a college friend, former colleague or relative, and more often than not, end up parking our Winnebago View in their driveway (saving on campground fees, too!).
$600 RV Camping – The largest savings compared to our 2011 expenses. The main reason for the change in camping fees: We’ve stayed at several parks that have comped our stay and paid us to shoot a video on their parks. It’s not great money, but it’s saving us money and helping us pay some bills while extending our travels on the road. We haven’t shared many of the campground videos on our site yet, but we’ve just launched a new tab aptly named campgrounds. You’ll find the videos to be pretty happy since we were paid to shoot the parks, but in the text you’ll find our personal take on these RV Resorts (not all the reviews are paid, and we won’t lie and tell you a place is great when clearly it’s a piece of crap). Also we’ve saved lots of money by Driveway Surfing at our follower’s homes; and special thanks to my mom for fitting the bill when she joined us in Montreal Canada.
This was going through each room to figure out what to keep and what to get rid of. This is where the mind shift started to happen. Did the kids really need 5 sweatshirts what are we going to do with all of these books?! Did we really have to keep all of those Christmas lights when we only used half of them. Things like that. We started looking at our stuff differently and really evaluating what we wanted to have versus what we had just because we didn’t want to make a decision to get rid of it or not. Just keeping it had been easier.
Remember Annie. This is my families expenses. It is not meant to be “the be all that ends all” or the average monthly expense for nomadic living. Not to mention this is from the “winter months” wherein we splurge and stay at an RV resort in SW Florida where prices are premium because of snowbirding. Do some searching around on sites like Technomadia and Gone With The Wynns or even the Snowmads to see examples of other working budgets.
We find most RV resorts typically only require that you put a small deposit down. We are still able to lock in great prices, keep on budget, and we usually can guarantee a prime site as well. In addition, we are also on several emailing lists for different RV Resorts. You would not believe the offers we get throughout the year, particularly on Black Friday, to book for the following year. As a result, we save hundreds staying at luxurious RV resorts.
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.
You don’t have to have a “home” to have an address. There are multiple companies that offer mailbox services. Which means you get an address for a mailbox that is located in one of the cities that the business is located in. The company then scans your envelopes and sends them to you via email (you can let them know if you want them to keep it to mail it to you or throw it away), mails your mail to you once a month – wherever you are, or some even open the mail and scan it and send it to you. It is all for a monthly cost but it is very reasonable. The only thing is you have to have domicile in the state they offered in. The main one’s for Full Time traveling families are Florida and Texas – since the homeschooling laws are best there. However we had heard that Texas wasn’t good for state health insurance since they didn’t offer a nation wide plan – not sure if that matters to you. Here is a link from a full time RVing couple about how to handle mail and a few other things: http://www.technomadia.com/2012/07/chapter-9-nomadic-logistics-domicile-mail-taxes-banking-and-voting/ Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.
We are about to enter our second winter living in our fifth wheel, and since we bought the RV in summer of 2016 we have been parked stationary in Kansas City (on the Kansas side). (In case you are wondering right now why we don’t just move south for winter, it’s because we are tied to a job here for now.) The climate here is not as severe as some places people might be living or camping in the winter, but it can get pretty cold.
From our experience, what ever you spend now (food, entertainment, shopping habits…) is probably what you will spend on the road. While our expenses are a little less on the road than when we had a sedentary life, it’s not drastically different, so don’t expect to save a ton of money unless you are going to be making some serious spending habit changes while traveling. We live a comfortable life on the road and we like it this way!
I really appreciate it when you pointed out that being an owner of an RV means that I should learn a little about electrical, plumbing, and roofing work so that life on the road will be a little easier. Maybe it is time that I get myself a book and educate myself about the basics of troubleshooting. After all, I do intend to get an RV for myself soon since my dream job is to be a nature journalist. Thanks for the tips.
As for Thing 2, the goal has continued to be keep learning as fun and interesting as possible. He reads, reads, and reads. He isn’t crazy about math but I’ve insisted that he keep up with “requirements” because math is one subject that is hard to catch up should we decide to stop homeschooling. He, too, enrolled in a virtual school math class and also received an A both semesters. The biggest change for him was more independent learning. The previous 5 years I was more hands on but with Thing 3 in the picture it became increasingly difficult. Thing 2 really stepped up and took initiative to complete assignments on his own.
If all you need is a little connectivity on your phone I’d suggest looking at one of the ATT-based Straight Talk plans at Walmart. If your phone accepts it you can buy a SIM at Walmart and then you just pay flat $45 per month for “unlimited” talk/text/data. I put the unlimited in quotations because the fine print says that you get unlimited talk/text but only 5GB of full-speed data (after that you’re throttled pretty heavily). That might be enough for you though? The nice thing about Walmart is that it’s non-contract plan so you can try it for a month and if it doesn’t work out you can just ditch it and do something else. ATT doesn’t get you as wide coverage as Verizon, but it’s pretty darn good. We have it on our phones right now.
Consider using two different circuits, not just different outlets, since two or more electric heaters can draw more than the 15 amps allowed on any one circuit. This can be tested by shutting off circuit breakers to determine which outlet is on which circuit. If you must use the same circuit, use a 15 amp power strip that prevents overloading a circuit and plug both heaters into that. (former firefighter)
Welcome to Little House Living! My name is Merissa and it’s nice to meet you! Here you can learn how to make the most with what you have. Whether that’s learning how to cook from scratch, checking out creative ways to save money, and learn how to live simply. I’m glad you’ve found your way here. Make sure to keep in touch by contacting me with questions and signing up for our newsletters.
The form your money is in makes a difference in how you RV and what your expenses will be. If you have a big income that comes from a limitless source (a pension and/or Social Security), then a large personal loan on a new luxury Class A motorhome may be just fine and the nightly expense of high-end RV parks won’t be a problem. However, if you are trying to make a small nest egg last to your dying day, and you are not even retirement age yet, you may be best off spending a portion of it to purchase your RV outright, rather than paying interest on a loan, and you will also be looking to save money on camping and overnight parking.
For us, we sold everything and quit our jobs, so we had zero income at the start of our journey. It was important to track all our expenses carefully so that we could stay on the road for as long as possible while not bringing in any income. We had enough in savings to comfortably go a year or two without making any money. You’ll want to figure out what your limit is so you don’t find yourself hitting the bottom of the bank before you make any changes.
Well…that was an error!! I’ve fixed it, thanks to you. That’s what happens when you stay up past midnight finishing posts after working a 15 hour day!! So we appreciate your comment. Love that you mentioned that its all about balancing expenses and income flow. We are working on building a program to teach our budgeting strategies, as well as share the tool we created that we use to budget each month. It’s not about how much money you make, its about how you manage it and control it. RV life allows a lot more flexibility in monthly expenses, we… Read more »
I went back and got to work. The biggest chore was attaching the heat tape to the pipe and insulating it. The big challenge there was straightening the PEX. It does straighten, but it straightens easier when it’s warm and it does require muscle. (Needless to say, I was sore the next day.) I cut off about 70 feet of the stuff and ran it across my driveway from the water source to my RV’s water connection area. Then, with the sun shining full on me the next morning, I brought out a clean damp rag (to clean away dust on the PEX as I worked), set up a chair, and got to work.
Our monthly expenses vary depending on where we are and what we are doing. We can go a couple of weeks at a time with the only expenses being groceries and water if we are boondocking and not moving. In that case, we can get by with probably 50 bucks a day or less. Otherwise, we can easily double or triple that budget depending on gas prices and where we are. So maybe on the average, we are spending about 100 a day. Bottom line: $1,500-$3,000 a month.
Using your RV in the winter? Make sure you have a show shovel, window scraper and some kind of ice chipper (i.e. an axe). If you don't have these on hand, guess what? The first time out you will be sure to need them. Also pack a bag of rock salt (sand or kitty litter) to sprinkle on walkways and to put around your tires in the event you get stuck in snow or end up on slippery patches of ice.
Your personal diary of events and budget is not uncommon. However me and my husband lived in North Eastern Utah in a new RV park for only $350 month, which included ALL utilities except our propane. We also renovated a used 35 ft fifth wheel becasue we did not want to be in debt. We also stayed on a budget and never had the expense you all did. We to own land but voted to stay in town at an RV park. I can tell you from experience our total expenses were not over $600 and this includes most of your list.
- You should remove snow from slide-outs regularly to reduce water damage. As snow accumulates on top of the slide-out, the heat from inside the RV can melt the bottom layer of snow, creating an ice dam. You also can add insulation by using rigid insulation sealed to the camper body. However, angle any insulation you place on the top of the slide-out to allow water to drain away from the RV.
Well congrats on the upcoming adventures! For an easy “entry” into RVing I would most definitely recommend the New Mexico State Camping Pass. Not only are all the New Mexico parks quite lovely, they’re spacious with lots of trails (very dog friendly) and you’ll get to travel around and see a lot of variety at very low cost. Plus you can test out your rig and dry camping skills. I think it’s an excellent idea! Good luck and good travels!
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.
Make sure to do your research before going gung-ho for solar panels. Depending on how you’re using your rig, they may end up being a waste of money. If you’ll be at a campsite with full electric hookups, you probably won’t need them. Maybe you anticipate a lot of driving. Just by cruising down the road, you’ll recharge the batteries; but again consider the effects cold has on your battery life. Or lastly, if you’re going to be mostly boondocking, solar panels may be a good option for you.