When we transitioned to full time RV living, the nerd in me freaked out. The unknowns would keep me up at night. How do I plan a budget when I don’t even know what state we’ll be in next month, let alone what expenses we might face? We’ve not just driving a vehicle – our HOUSE will be on wheels.
How much should I plan for maintenance and repairs?
AND, we’re going to be in all these cool places we’ve been dying to see… how much should I plan for activities and admission? It’s not like we’re going on vacation here… this is real life.
Well, we’ve been on the road now for 15 months and, as mentioned previously, I’m a total budget nerd. We’re frugal in some areas but we still try to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime experiences this lifestyle affords.
Most of our expenses stayed the same. Some went up and some went down. But there were some things we’d never paid for regularly before. Here’s what our data tells me that I didn’t know when we started….
6 NEW budget line items to add when fulltiming:
- RV and car maintenance and repairs – $1,000/month. What we don’t spend every month we shift to our emergency fund (and I do a happy dance) because the months when we have a repair it’s typically a pretty BIG HAIRY REPAIR and, believe me, we SPEND IT (and dip into that emergency fund I mentioned).
- Camping/lot fees – $1,000/month. Everything I read leading up to our departure said to budget $25/night ($775/mo). We just found that wasn’t enough in the northeast when we got started so after over-spending for months, I finally just adjusted our expectations. We typically stay in state parks, national parks, and occasional private parks (working remotely, internet access is key for us). We boondock sporadically. After spending a week in Lassen National Forest with no hookups and no fees, we’re way ahead this month. But, I know that it will average out or that we’ll have a little room to splurge on a week with full hook ups.
- Diesel – $400/month. We usually only move once per week. We try to stay within 300 miles each move. We tow a Jeep. We tackle mountains. ((If your rig runs on gasoline, expect this line item to increase when towing your TT or toad!))
- Jetpack – $100/month. We need internet to work from the road. Our plan is through Verizon and is actually 200/mo, which includes our two phones and the jetpack.
- Admission – $100/month. We used to do fun things and have memberships to the local zoo and art museum and play baseball and all the stuff. Now we buy an annual National Park Interagency Pass (a STEAL if you go to more than one park in a year) and occasional entrance fees. Last week we spent a totally worth it $10 to enjoy the afternoon at beautiful Sand Harbor at Lake Tahoe (a Nevada State Park). On the other side of the spectrum I’m considering a splurge trip to Alcatraz next week because it’s the first place that my 8 yo has repeatedly asked about before getting there ($80 for me and the kids I think?? Yikes!).
- Public transport/parking/tolls – $40/month. This number will fluctuate depending on our plans (ummm a week near Seattle? Totally spent that whole amount on one ferry ride to Victoria!), but $40 is what I generally set aside. As a family, we love to experience the different modes of transportation that other people have as part of their ‘regular life’ – Subways in DC! Ferries in the Olympic Peninsula! Train in NYC! Monorail in Seattle! Amazing. Regarding tolls – we usually don’t see them but then we’ll hit a state that loves them so I’ve added it to our monthly budget just in case (OH, PA, TX, WA, MD, VA, NY – I see you and your “we’ll send you a bill in the mail cameras!”).
2 more NEW line items that might apply to you:
- RV/trailer and/or truck payment – If you’re taking out a loan to get yourself the wheels you need to take off. We happened to know a guy who knew a guy (whose name was literally Guy) who was trying to get rid of an RV, so we spent all our cash to get started. That’s another story for another day.
- Homeschool – $40/month – Obviously only applies if you have school-age kids. We didn’t homeschool before we took off, so this was a new line item for us. I’m still feeling it out. I went berserk buying curriculum in June and discount school supplies in August but haven’t really spent much since.
Every dollar counts
Whether you’re on the road (or dreaming about it!) to save money or see the world, I know every dollar counts. Your expenses will no doubt differ from ours, but this will give you an idea what to expect. If you’re already on the road – how do your numbers compare? If you’re a dreamer – what other future unknown expenses keep you up at night?