One of the most common questions asked by people looking to full-time RV is “how much does it take?”. Since we’ve been on the road for over a year now, we have a good 10 months experience on this since we did our last post on budget in April 2010. Back then our view was “whatever you have” and honestly our view hasn’t changed much. There are people who full-time on $1K/mo and those who full-time on $5K/mo and then there are those who work along the way, either volunteering at campgrounds or picking up workamping jobs to close the gap.
Since we live off our investments we have to be flexible in how we spend our money and the beauty of full-timing is that you can be exactly that. The key is to manage your variable costs to whatever you have available, and as long as you’re willing to do that, the sky’s the limit. The biggest portion of our variable budget is camping fees, gas, groceries and miscellaneous buys and managing those costs gives us the ability to stay flexible on the road. Here’s how I look at our budget on a monthly basis:
|RV Payment (1)||$ -|
|Health Care (2)||$ 200.00|
|Internet/phone (3)||$ 150.00|
|RV/Car insurance (4)||$ 115.00|
|RV/Car registration/tags (5)||$ 35.00|
|RV/Car maintenance/repair (6)||$ 150.00|
|Mail Service (7)||$ 25.00|
|Pets (8)||$ 200.00|
|Storage (9)||$ 110.00|
- We do not have any RV payment. For some this might be a monthly cost.
- Health Care includes our monthly high-deductable insurance premiums ($150/mo), plus $50/mo for extra expenses (yearly check-ups etc.).
- For Internet/Phone we use Verizon 5GB/mo broadband plan plus we have a Verizon smartphone with unlimited dataplan.
- We use Geico for RV/Car Insurance. Costs include Good Sam’s Emergency Roadside Assistance, Good Sam’s Extended Warrenty Service.
- Registration costs reflect rates in South Dakota. In SD Motorhome costs depend on weight and age (Click here).
- Costs include regular yearly car and motorhome maintenance as well as money set-aside for repairs and major service items in the future.
- For Mail Service we use Alternative Resources in South Dakota. Costs include our yearly membership, plus mail forwarding fees.
- Pet costs include food for all 3 pets as well as yearly vet visits & money set aside for emergency funds. For some people this cost would be zero.
- We keep a small storage in San Diego for our stuff from our old home. For some people this cost would be zero.
|Gas||$ 100.00||$ 350.00|
|Camping||$ -||$ 600.00|
|Groceries||$ 300.00||$ 500.00|
|Propane||$ 20.00||$ 40.00|
|Entertainment||$ -||$ 200.00|
|TV||$ -||$ 60.00|
|Gifts/Charity||$ 10.00||$ 50.00|
|Clothing/Books/Misc.||$ 20.00||$ 200.00|
I’ve just used a range of very general numbers here, but it’s easy to see that the variable costs are KEY to overall budget.
Camping Fees: If you boondock or volunteer your camping costs can be zero or very close to it. There are people who boondock year-round and only pay small monthly fees to dump, and there are lots of people who enjoy workamping at campgrounds, State Parks, National Forest, Wildlife Refuges and other areas which provide a free campsite. On the other hand those looking to splurge might pay upwards of $1,500/mo in camping fees for fancy “resort-style” campgrounds.
Gas Costs are entirely dependent on how much you travel. As an example our Motorhome uses ~10 miles/gallon. Current gas prices are $3.50/gallon, so for $100 we can travel ~285 miles and for $350 we can travel 1000 miles. In active “travelling” mode last year we averaged ~$350/mo for both motorhome and car combined. In winter we did a lot less than that.
Grocery costs on the road are likely to be very similar to what you use at home. There are ways to save by smart-shopping and using farmers markets. We like our food and continue to like it on the road so our budget on this is fairly liberal.
Propane: Propane use can vary a lot depending on how much cold-camping you do (and thus how much you use the furnace). Daily propane use for cooking and refrigerator (when not hooked-up) is fairly modest. We plan our RVing around warmer climates and only filled-up our 40-gallon tank twice last year.
Other Costs are very personal and variable. Some are very similar to what you currently spend at home and some will change. We currently have satellite TV, but are planning to get rid of it when our contract expires (we just don’t use it enough). For clothing we only used $8/mo last year, and our personal entertainment costs are close to zero as we eat in the RV most of the time (we love to home-cook). Depending on your interests and habits you might have other costs in this category that we don’t have.
There are a lot of other good sites that list example costs and budgets:
- RV Dreams – Example budgets
- Kirk & Pam – 5 Years of full-time living expenses
- Technomadia – Cost of living
- Road Less Travelled – Example budget
- RV.net Forum – Thread with downloadable spreadsheet
And for those looking to live off their investments, hubby has an excellent set of posts explaining the concept of Safe Withdrawal Rates for retirement portfolios and how to implement them:
- How much does it take to retire?
- How to implement 4% safe withdrawal rate
- Living a better retirement: withdrawal rates higher than 4%
- Higher retirement spending by staying flexible
The bottom line is that the costs of full-timing are accessible as long as you are willing to be flexible. We’ve seen people who full-time in pop-up campers or trailers that they bought for $10-$20K and volunteer the majority of their time, and then there are people who full-time in $500K rigs and splurge on resort-style camping and going out on a nightly basis. Where there’s a will there’s a way, and that certainly goes for RVing too.