Flights of Fancy Mom

I'm a mom with dreams.  I want to live my life with no boundaries.  One day at a time.

RV Budgeting That Won’t Break the Bank. What Can the RV life Cost?

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You all may remember a post I did on Six of my Favorite Campers. I went in and really researched what is out there that I could use if it were just me traveling. Now, keep in mind, I do hope to live in one while working from the road.  That is my goal once my daughter graduates high school and college, then moves on with her life. Although, you know mother and daughter relationships. She tells me now, “Don’t let me stop you. Go. Have fun.” Gee.  Thanks kiddo. 😛

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Well, I had received a comment from my brother that you have to have money to live in a camper and travel.  Well, yes and no.  It’s actually cheaper to live in a camper than it is to live in an apartment or home.  When you purchase a camper, it qualifies as a home. You can get a mortgage on it.  I was surprised by that revelation.  Thank you to my friend Karen who brought that to my attention when she and her husband were researching and ended up buying their own fifth wheel. Obviously you have to have money to live. Food, gas for your car, RV camp location fees, (unless you’re boon docking. Which we will discuss in another post) other day to day expenses and if you took out a loan on your new home, your SMALL mortgage payment.

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As a single woman, my expenses won’t be as high as those of you traveling as a couple. So, if you have a single male friend who loves to travel and will support someone working as a freelancer? Send him my way :).

Here is a breakdown

FIXED COSTS – Six Months – May 1 to Oct 31, 2014

I anticipate my fixed costs for the six months between May and October will be:

  • Food & Household Items – $300
  • Car/Camper Insurance – $150
  • Communications – $125
  • Propane – $50
  • Laundry – $25
  • Miscellaneous – $50
  • Mail & Postage – $35
  • Car Registration – $40
  • Personal Care – $40
  • RV Dumps – $5
  • Health Insurance – ?

Total Fixed Expenses: $820

Food & Household Items – $300 / month
This section covers all groceries, household items, toiletries, laundry detergent, OTC meds. These items are usually going to be found at grocery stores or “super” department stores such as Walmart, Target, etc. This number does not count any extras such as DVDs, new appliances and other things that are not part of monthly fixed expenses.

Car/Camper Insurance – $150 / month
This will include both SUV/truck and full-time RV insurance. This will vary depending on the state you have your vehicle and camper registered as each state has their own pricing strategies.

Communications – $125 / month
This section includes Cellphone and WiFi. If I end up boondocking, I’ll need to have my own WiFi access.  If I connect into an RV Camp for several months, I’ll have access to that sites WiFi and will be able to cancel my service until needed again.  I will need to look into other options to see if there is anyway of getting that amount down.

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Propane – $50 / month
Prices for Propane are widely varied, depending on where you are. This is an item that I will need to have all the time, but, will buy as needed. I anticipate, based on my research, that I will use approximately 15 – 20 gallons a month. Maybe a little more during the winter months when I have to run the heater, and obviously less in summer. If I stay in an RV park that offers electric hookups, I will use a lot less propane than this. If you have hookups and don’t have metered electricity, you can save on propane in the winter by using an electric space heater.

Laundry – $25 / month
Researching this, I would make sure to do laundry at RV parks as full time RVers say that their laundromats tend to be less expensive than going to a local laundromat. If I have a set up at a park, and I’m stationed there permanently, I would most likely use the washing machine and then line dry shirts and pants during the warmer months.

Miscellaneous – $40 / month
It’s not always a good thing to have a Miscellaneous section because anything can be dumped in here.   But, this would be more for smaller things at a gas station/convenience store such as a drink or quick snacks while driving to your next destination.

Mail/Postage – $35 / month
This would include both the mail forwarding service and monthly mail delivery as well as postage that is bought to send letters and packages. I’m not so sure about the letters as with technology, email, texts and messaging on Facebook keeps you in constant contact with your loved ones.

Vehicle Registration – $40 / month
This will be paid annually, so, just showing the monthly breakdown. The cost is approximate as with the Insurance as it will vary depending on your “home” state.

Personal Care Services – $40 / month
This section is an overall estimation for anything from hair cuts, to manicures, pedicures, massages, etc. This amount may change if I choose to do that once or twice a year.  Or, do one each month instead of all of them.

RV Dump – $4 / month
This item is apparently a regular part of the boondocking lifestyle every two to three weeks. Research showed me that RV dump stations are usually free, but if you have to go to an RV park to dump the tanks because there aren’t any free ones nearby, it can cost between $5 and $15.

Health Insurance — ?
Health insurance costs are totally individual, and the coverage for everyone varies.  As I will hopefully be working as a freelancer, I’ll be able to get insurance based on a “Company of One” rate. As I tend to have medical issues such as hypothyroidism and high cholesterol, I will need to make sure I have insurance to cover blood work and medicine. Although, as a heads up, make sure to check Rite Aid out. They have a plan for some medications that allow you to get cheaper 90 day medication than your insurance plan.  I’ve been getting my Levothyroxine through their plan for the past 5 years and it never touches my insurance.

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Variable Costs between May 1st and October 31st include:

  • Entertainment
  • Clothing
  • Restaurants
  • Upgrades
  • Maintenance/Repairs
  • Memberships
  • Supplies and Tools
  • Fuel

Entertainment 
Entertainment can include a random movie theater at the location you’re in. Monthly Netflix charge, if you sign up for Sirius. This can also include sightseeing that you may do in a new location. However, most locations have so many free things you can do, it may be better to stick with that.

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Clothes
As you don’t have a lot of storage in your camper, you cannot keep a lot of clothing. A two week rotation should be more than sufficient for warm and cold weather seasons. I’m only keeping this expense in because you will most likely need to replace your shoes more than you will your clothing. If you do a lot of walking, hiking shoes will be your best friend. And you will want good ones. Not the cheapest you can find. As a side note, I found from reading other RV blogs, if you get a credit card from Cabellas, REI or another outdoors store, and put all your living expenses on it, and pay it off each month to avoid interest charges, you can use the points each year to get your hiking shoes or other camping gear for free. Ummm, yes please!

Restaurants 
I don’t anticipate going into restaurants a lot. Probably only if I’m in a location I have friends in and I meet up with them. I prefer to cook my own meals to save money. Another time I may go to a restaurant is at a location that there is a MUST VISIT place.  You know.  Mystic Pizza in CT, Ellen’s Stardust Diner in NYC. I suppose if I hit a local brewery for a drink as well just to have people around me.

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Upgrades
Unlike Maintenance & Repair costs which have to be done, upgrades are entirely optional. These upgrades can include adding solar panels to your rig, installing a vent free heater or keeping a generator for back up. I’m leaving this one blank because until I know what kind of camper I’m getting, I couldn’t even guestimate what I’ll need to do.

Maintenance & Repair 

This item is hard to predict.  This section would include things like, oil changes, replacing tires, etc.

Memberships 
This includes both annual memberships for state parks and magazine subscriptions.

Supplies & Tools 
This category includes all the tools and supplies used to keep the rig in good shape. If you are handy, this will also keep other Maintenance and Repairs costs down. So, if you are downsizing to the RV lifestyle?  Don’t get rid of your tools!  You don’t want to have to repurchase everything.  Or, if you did, hit the second hand shops first!  Or, build up as you go.

Fuel
Fuel costs will vary depending on how much or little you travel.  It can be as little as $0 if you stay in one place and use a bike to get around the town your in. Or, if you travel from Alaska to Connecticut or Georgia, this cost will take most of your budgets!

For the variable costs, I didn’t include amounts. Just because, for myself? I can go a year or two without replacing clothing. Shoe replacing would be maybe every six months. Oil changes and replacing tires, is a wide variable because I may live somewhere for six months and not have to do either. In this section? My biggest expense will probably be the restaurants. Hitting local pubs or cafe’s when I’m in the mood for human interaction :). You know what though?  This may be my bigger expense because I could also be on the move every two weeks or a month.

So, looking further into it and researching these expenses. It is actually CHEAPER to live as a fulltime RVer than it is to live in an apartment or a home. RV Park rates can vary depending on location. They can vary from $300 to $900 per month.  Arizona and Vermont being among the most expensive places to stay.  If you decide to boondock, that is free. Locations in each state will be covered in another post :).

Have you looked into living the RV life? Or, do you do it?  What costs would you say you incur monthly? Are my amounts above logical or not high enough?

23 Comments

  1. Alli Rutherford Smith

    My husband would love to live in an RV and just travel around and visit all the different sites. I love how you broke down all the costs associated with living in an RV year round.

    Reply
  2. kraushousemom

    My husband and I want an RV so bad. We found out that it was deductible as a second/vacation home and were thrilled. We can’t wait to get one and travel.

    Reply
  3. Jenn @ EngineerMommy

    I’d love to try the experience of living in an RV. I think it would be so much fun traveling around the country and visiting different places every day. It’s great that you can budget all the expenses associated with this!

    Reply
  4. Pam Wattenbarger

    This is a great breakdown of the living costs for RVing. It’s important to consider all of these things and unexpected expenses.

    Reply
  5. Christy Maurer

    This is a great budget for RV living! I think I’d like to do it short term, but I’d have to have a really big one. I would need to bring my pets 🙂

    Reply
  6. Gwendolyn Mulholland

    I think this would be fun and something I would consider when kids are grown and gone. I think it is good that you have a plan worked out and are looking into the cost.

    Reply
  7. brandyellen

    We are thinking about getting an RV in the next year or so, maybe have to read more on your tips now that you have shared a few! I love that you are sharing how to budget so that others can enjoy RVing without breaking the bank for sure!

    Reply
  8. Liz Mays

    This is a really helpful breakdown. I’d love to start traveling with the family in an RV.

    Reply
  9. Amanda Love

    I admire you for your determination. I can never imagine doing this when the kids are living their own lives. I think it’s a great idea though and it’s a chance to travel, so it’s definitely worth it.

    Reply
  10. The Trophy WifeStyle

    What a great breakdown!!! We rented an rv for a few weeks once and it did get kinda pricey, then again we were newbies and just kinda paid whatever for things lol

    Reply
  11. ohnikkashae

    This is a great budget. I didn’t realize all the cost associated with having an RV.

    Reply
  12. Caitlin Strate

    i’d love to travel in a rv across the states! there are quite a few things in this budget that i would need to consider before doing that though 🙂

    Reply
  13. Terri Ramsey Beavers

    I’ve always wanted to live in an RV and travel the world. I actually just looked into an RV to fulfill that dream but it was too large for me to handle with my back injuries. If I can find one manageable, I’m going to print out your budget and stick to it.

    Reply
    1. Jacqui S (Post author)

      Terri, click the link for my post to my six favorite campers! It lists six similar sized campers from three different companies. It’s just me right now, so, I’m good with the mini sized ones!

      Reply
  14. Dana Peller (@Pellerini)

    I think traveling in an RV would be so much fun. It looks like you have researched absolutely everything – I love how detailed and organized you are!

    Reply
  15. Chubskulit Rose

    It would be nice to have an RV but hubby doesn’t like the idea. Traveling would be great when youhave one of those baby!

    Reply
  16. Marissa Zurfluh

    I have a friend who did the RV life for years, loved it.

    Reply
  17. Mimi Green

    I’ve always wanted to do the RV thing. Not long term, but about a week or two with my extended family. We would have so much fun.

    Reply
  18. Peachy @ The Peach Kitchen

    WOW! I didn’t realize that living in a camper would be a lot cheaper than living at home. I’d always imagine a camper as something used for a vacation as it is not common here.

    Reply
    1. Jacqui S (Post author)

      I was really surprised too! I can’t wait until I’m able to buy mine and hit the road! And honestly, even if I ended up parking it somewhere, some of these RV’s are nicer than homes, lol!

      Reply
  19. Erin

    I’ve actually been thinking about this the past few months. It would be so nice to have a bit of a nomadic lifestyle. I want to travel more, but I have my cat and it’s not fair to her to keep boarding her or leaving her alone for long periods of time, so living in an RV would be a good way to go. It actually does seem a lot more cost-effective. I could travel during the summer and during school terms where I don’t need to go to campus and then go back home when I have terms where I need to attend campus classes. I’m going to work towards doing this now. Thanks. This post was super helpful.

    Reply
  20. Jessica Meinhofer

    Thanks for sharing. We have been RVing with kids and pets for just under a year. Our budget is way higher! lol. Our biggest shock was the food budget. We are still working on decreasing this!!

    Reply
    1. Jacqui S (Post author)

      Jessica, looking at my budget, why do you think your budget is higher? Is it the RV Park fees? Have you tried boon docking instead?

      Reply

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