What is the Cost of Full-Time Living on the Road in an RV? Surprisingly it’s a lot more (and at the same time it’s less) than we expected. Here we outline our expenses and costs for life on the road full time in our Motorhome.
Everyone has a different experience with full time travel across North America but one things for sure: We’re all trying to live the dream while saving money where we can.
We hope this information will help you plan a realistic budget for your RV travels. However, it is important to realize travel is deeply personal and each person has their definitions of what they can or can’t live without. For us, we like great quality food (organic, local, straight from the source), great experiences (we’ll spring for the hot air balloon tour) and free camping (BLM, National Forest…). If you’re curious how we make money while living in an RV full time check out our post: Make Money and Travel – Gone With the Wynns
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!
Two things you will not see on our expenses is the purchase price of the RV or Smart car. RV’s and tow cars can be purchased for as little as $500 all the way to millions! You are going to buy what works best for you and fits in your budget, so what we paid for our RV and tow car won’t make a bit of difference in your budget planning.
No matter how you’re traveling across North America this page is here to help you plan for the unknown and the adventures that lie ahead. Here’s what it cost us to live and work on the road full time in an RV (your expenses may be totally different).
Sometimes I feel like I’m beating a dead horse when it comes to tracking expenses. Is anyone really interested in this stuff? I mean it’s basically the same junk just a different quarter…at least that’s what I keep telling myself! Then I start downloading our bank reports and before I know it I’m so interested in the numbers. So, weather you love or hate it, here are our full-time RV expenses from July 01 – December 31, 2014.
BTW – I’m using the organization categories from my Credit Card, sometimes I wonder how it gets these topics but I’m gonna stop fighting it and just embrace the randomness in the hopes of saving myself hours of time trying to re-organize everything to make sense.
This category includes magazine subscriptions, DVD rentals, Wineries, Campgrounds, Amazon purchases, etc. The big purchases here are our new folding bikes ($1,256.00) and the few RV parks we paid for ($926)
Auto Related: $3,418.71
This category includes Fuel, truck wash, car wash and pretty much anything purchased at an auto shop. The big expenses here are 2 new tires and a brake job for the Smart Car ($681.00).
Dining Out: $2,658.15
This category includes breweries, pizza joints, bakeries, chocolate shops, farm to table joints, farmers markets, coffee roasters, Ice Cream shops…pretty much everything important in life and travel. No major expenses here to note, just a few nice meals around the $100 range, but most of the bills are in the sub-fifty category.
This category includes Trader Joes, Whole Foods, local grocery stores, Food COOP, the occasional Target and Wal-Mart. It’s not a perfect system because sometimes we’ll buy small appliances, clothes, etc from the Big Box stores.
Lots and lots of bulk organic foods, the occasional small appliance, beer, wine, spirits, yadda yadda.
This category includes our State Farm insurance which covers our RV, Smart Car, Travelers coverage (for the big items like wedding rings, computers, cameras, etc) and a renters’ policy. New for December: HEALTH INSURANCE.
Health Care: $425.47
Misc. drug store expenses and our Massage Envy monthly membership…hey it’s all about staying healthy and preventive maintenance.
This category includes our Verizon cell and data plans. Big expense in this month is a new cell phone for Nikki ($160.50).
Home Repair: $99.11
Home Depot, Lowes, Hydroponic stores for Coco Coir, etc.
Pet Care: $773.62
Everything related to the cats. Big expenses here a big Vet bill for Singa ($502.06) and the yearly shots for both cats ($152.00).
Wow, what a mis-mash of stuff here. A few RV parks, city parking fees, USPS, a couple campgrounds, Amazon Prime membership, Cat Boarding and so on. I’d like to say none of these expenses are necessary but they’re pretty much a standard part of travel for us.
Why do we share our expenses of full time life on the road in our RV? To help others who travel like us. If you like the occasional splurge, fine bottle of wine, a couple of new outfits each season, and you don’t mind paying for a cool adventure then you’re expenses might be pretty similar to ours. If you don’t spend a lick on fashion or local sips and bites then your expenses will be nothing like ours.
Starting for Q2 we are sharing less info that has to do with our website expenses and trying to keep our detailed expenses very broad so it shows ONLY the travel & exploration part of our RV lifestyle. If you want more details read our older expense postings in this article. Remember you can live for a lot less than us or you can spend triple what we do, either way this is how we live and some people find this info helpful. Wanna know how we live? Check out some of our adventures and foodie reviews…we like to say we’re into affordable luxury.
Our RV Full-Time Living Expenses for April 01, 2014 – June 30, 2014
These dates take us from South Carolina into Michigan.
Dining Out – $1,416.00 Craft Breweries, Locally Roasted Coffee shops, Food Trucks, Bakeries, Chocolate Shops, Farm-to-Table restaurants, distilleries, wineries, local pubs and cafes. This might include takeaways like bottles of beer, liquor, chocolate bars or pounds of coffee. That pretty much sums it up.
Groceries – $1,174.00 Mostly Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other small natural markets
Costco – $914.00 Yep, Costco gets its own category cause we buy booze, beer, food, treats, and a plethora of other random items here.
Housewares/Groceries – $971.00 This covers Target, TJ Maxx, JC Penny, Macy’s, Wal-Mart and any of those types of places that we sometimes purchase groceries, cleaning supplies, a waffle iron, new pair of shoes, makeup, spices, hair products, clothes, and who knows what else.
Insurance – $1,220.00 RV insurance, Auto Insurance, Renters, Business Riders
Fuel – $788.00 Fuel for both the RV and Smart Car
Camping – $703.00 ($360 is a pre-payment to reserve our 12 day downtown Chicago parking pass)
Cell Phone and Internet – $564 Verizon family plan
Misc. – $215 Shipping, e-magazines, hardware store, AAA, redbox, itunes, etc.
So that’s our full-time travel expenses. Creating these expense reports reminds me how fast we travel and how we do our best to see, eat and drink everything we can as we’re passing through town. I wouldn’t change our travel style for the world.
Over the past few years we’ve received too many questions and demands from rude people in regards to our spending; so this will likely be the last time we post any business expenses or personal expenses that are not related to RV Travel. Our monthly expenses seem to be pretty similar so if you need to know our expenses in more detail scroll down to the toggles for 2013 and older.Below is a breakdown of our travel costs and expenses from January 01, 2014 to March 28, 2014. In future Full Time RV Expense posts you’ll only see these categories.
Total Spent – $10,578:
$2,272 Service – Prepare Windy (our Monaco Vesta) for sale
$1,663 Dining Out – Food and Drink
$1,525 Fuel – Smart and RV
$912 Insurance – RV, Smart Car, Renters, Business Riders
$820 Fleetwood Expenses – Decorating items for new RV (Fleetwood Roy), Install MaxxFan and MaxxAir cover, replace faucet.
$635 Costco – Mostly Food
$569 Cell Phones Expenses
$367 Smart Service – 30,000 comprehensive service and replaces Tire Valve Stem (couldn’t believe how cheap this was for a 30k service!)
$327 Wash and Wax RV
$175 – Campgrounds and RV Parks
$80 Renew National Park Pass
$33 RV Propane
$17 TollsHere are the items and categories we will no longer share in future expense reports as we feel it relates exclusively to the way we travel and doesn’t apply to the ‘standard’ costs of Full Time RV Travel. The Total Spent is $5,583:
$2,033 Website Expenses – Web development, Graphic Designer, Rafflecopter Giveaways, New Map Feature, New Website Hosting Company, Mailchimp, etc.
$1,557 New Camera Lens – Wide angle 16-35mm f2.8 L II Canon Lens
$770 Bookkeeping – CPA, Bookkeeping
$429 New Stickers – Print and install new graphics on the RV
$406 Entertainment – Video rentals, Books, Snowboard Rentals
$213 New Clothes
$185 TJ Maxx – Some clothes, spices, specialty foods, etc.
$25 USPS shippingOriginally we thought sharing all our expenses was a good idea so it would help others like us who need to work from the road, but it’s lead to more judgement and questions than we like to read. I hope our previous posts can help, and I hope our future posts will continue to help people plan for the expenses of life on the road.
The grand total for the fourth quarter (October 01 – December 31) of our 2013 RV Living Expenses: $11,971 Below is a breakdown of our expenses of full time living in our RV, if you want more details read the posts from 2011 and 2012. I’ve rounded the numbers to keep it simple.$2,014 Fuel – Gas for Smart Car and diesel for RV, we logged a ton of miles this quarter.
$1,762 Groceries, housewares and booze – Costco ($803)still being the largest, groceries also includes Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joe’s, local natural grocery stores, Farm Stands and Farmer’s Markets.
$1,625 Dining Out – Small coffee shops, local restaurants, breweries, wineries, bakeries and ice cream shops! (and we wouldn’t change this number a bit! We love eating and drinking our way through our destinations. This also includes some take home beer, coffee, etc.)
$1,326 New Computer – Nikki got a new Laptop Tablet thing and a few accessories to make her office more ‘compact’ for Roy our new RV.
$1,058 Bookkeeping – With the year end expenses and tax prep this covers my CPA and my Bookkeeper which help keep us legal on the road as a small company. This does not include the taxes paid to the IRS, etc.
$807 Website Fees – These are the fees we pay to keep our website online: Email Subscription Service, Website Updates/Repairs from web developer, Vimeo Membership, Yearly Website Hosting, Rafflecopter Giveaway Widget, Music License Purchase.
$702 Insurance – Auto, Property and Renters Insurance. (No Healthcare)
$605 Phone and Internet – Verizon Cell Phone and Internet Family Plan.
$505 Camping Fees – With our Wild Camping in BLM and National Forest, along with the occasional Wal-Mart and Rest Area we’ve managed to keep our campground expenses fairly low.
$330 RV Service – Service on Generator (Vesta).
$221 Clothing – A few new items for our winter adventures.
$42 Shipping – USPS shipping for Giveaways we hosted at the end of the year.
$39 Entertainment – Redbox, ITunes Rentals, Digital Magazines, and 1 movie theater movie.
$36 Propane – We only filled up 1 time this year.
$16 Car Wash – 3 Do-it-yourself washes for the Smart Car.-MISC-
$383 Home Improvement store $100; Tolls $9; TX Auto Inspection $40; Laundry $22; New Decor and Organizing for #FleetwoodRoy $212$500 Stuff and Things – I’m sure I’ve missed a few things that we’ve paid cash for like laundry, parking meters, tips, farmers markets, etc. so I’ve added this extra cash for a buffer.
This quarter we had some free driveway surfing and a few meals paid for by visiting friends and family. Maybe a few hundred bucks worth total if you want to add it to your planned estimates.
The grand total for the third quarter (July 01 – September 30) of our 2013 Expenses of Living on the Road Full Time in an RV: $10,275Below is the brief breakdown of our costs and expenses of full time living in our RV, if you want more details read the posts from 2012 and 2011 as we pretty much spend the same way each year. As usual I’ve rounded the numbers to keep it simple.$2,477 Groceries, housewares and booze – Costco still being the largest, groceries also includes Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joe’s, local natural grocery stores, and Farmer’s Markets.
$1,417 Dining Out – Small coffee shops, local restaurants, breweries, wineries, bakeries and ice cream shops! (and we wouldn’t change this number a bit! We love eating and drinking our way through our destinations.)
$1,049 Fuel for Smart Car and RV.
$668 Auto and Property Insurance.
$588 Verizon Cell Phone and Internet Family Plan
$520 Website Fees: MailChimp Email Subscription Service ($150), Website Updates/Repairs from web designer ($220) and Vimeo Yearly Membership ($60), Yearly Website Hosting ($90).
$450 RV Service – Oil Change on RV and Onan Generator.
$403 Clothing – REI, Anthropologie, TJMaxx, Nordstrom.
$325 Camera Equipment – A new ND filter and cable release.
$228 New Logo Stickers for the RV and more Business Cards.
$161 Pet Food, Litter and vaccinations.
$86 Amazon Prime Membership – signed up for a free trial and forgot to cancel in time…ooops. Now we get free 2day shipping and a few free TV shows and Movies to watch instantly. Its not a bad deal, I guess.
$78 USPS misc. shipping ($38 to ship our toilet for storage).
$27 Entertainment – Redbox, ITunes Rentals, Digital Magazines.
$21 Parking Fees (mostly in Seattle).
$0 Camping Fees – Thanks to Thousand Trails and BLM we’ve managed to skip out on paying for campground for quite sometime now.-MISC-
$1,277 Hawaii Trip – We flew to HI for a friends wedding, it’s amazing how expensive 1 week of travel outside the RV can be. Our friends paid for several dinners, entertainment, and our hotel room yet we still ended up spending this much! This amount includes Cat Hotel ($252), Food, Drink, Pedicure Spa day, and groceries. This price doesn’t even include our airfare! It’s nice to get out of the RV for a few days but the expense is hard to chew.$500 Stuff and Things – I’m sure I’ve missed a few things we’ve paid cash for like laundry, parking meters, tips, farmers markets, etc. so I’ve added this buffer.
This quarter we had a few meals here and there paid for by visiting friends, family, restaurants (because they found out we were bloggers), etc. Maybe a few hundred bucks worth total if you want to add it to your planned estimates.
Below is the breakdown of our costs, if you want more details read the posts from 2012 and 2011 as we pretty much spend the same way each year. As usual I’ve rounded the numbers to keep it simple.$2,137 Groceries, housewares and booze – Costco still being the largest ($1,088) also includes Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joes, TJ Maxx (we get some of our specialty foods here) Wal-Mart (for RV supplies), local natural grocery stores, and Cash at Farmer’s Markets.
$1264 Dining Out It’s beautiful to go back through and see where we spent our money eating out. The only chain is Chipotle which we ate at 4 times this quarter. The rest is made up of coffee shops, small restaurants, and different breweries. Of course this number is skewed a bit as 10% of these expenses likely belong in the grocery category because we purchase whole bean coffee and specialty beers from many of the coffee shops and breweries we visit.
$1,222 Fuel for Smart Car and RV.
$652 Auto and Property Insurance.
$533 Towing: $320 (ran out of fuel on a mountain and was blocking traffic) and $213 (turbo boot popped out of ‘fancy’ compression clamp on engine, tow truck responded and repaired on site with a $15 “old school” clamp).
$495 Verizon Cell Phone and Internet Family Plan
$460 Website Domain and Hosting: All Gone With the Wynns sites, Jason Wynn Photography, and The Makeup Junkie yearly fees.
$280 Website Fees: MailChimp Email Subscription Service ($110) and Website Updates/Repairs from web designer ($170).
$230 Ikea: New storage solutions and a cover for Nikki’s chair (Cleo slowly tore up the other one).
$139 Hardware stores (mostly for Composting Toilet Install).
$127 AAA Roadside Assistance for RV (yearly fee).
$105 RV Stuff: hot water tank sprayer, black and grey tank deodorizer, new fridge fan, etc.
$73 Auto parts: new headlights and wiper blades for the Smart car.
$57 USPS misc. shipping.
$29 Camping Fees (Crater Lake NP 1 night): Thanks to Thousand Trails and BLM we’ve managed to skip out on paying for campground for quite sometime now.
$25 Coco COIR for the new Composting Toilet (should last for 6 – 12 months)
$22 Misc. Parking Fees.
$0.75 ITunes: guess we didn’t watch many movies!
$3,472 *not included in overall expense* 2WynnInc Expenses – The corporate expenses associated with running our business from the road: Bookkeeping, Payroll, editing, etc. Doesn’t include state or IRS taxes. I’ve included my business expenses for this Quarter since we just posted our Make Money and Travel article. I don’t spend this much every quarter, it can vary widely depending on each project, but on average we spend around $1000 each month on the backend (i.e. not the website, email subscriptions, hosting, etc) to run our traveling business.
Below is the breakdown of costs, if you want more details read the posts from 2012 and 2011 as we pretty much spend the same way each year. As usual I’ve rounded the numbers to keep it simple, and this time I decided to list in order of most expensive (hey great idea right?).$1,567 Mostly Costco for groceries; also includes Target, TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Wal-Mart, etc for clothing, housewares, and such.
$1,191 Cell phones: Jason cancelled AT&T and switched to Verizon family plan. Nikki purchased a new phone at full price $600 (she didn’t want to sign a contract and lose unlimited internet). Jason purchased a new phone under contract for $200.
$1,134 Website Expenses for hosting, stock audio, design, developer fees, email service
$1,021 Fuel for Smart Car and RV.
$709 Dining Out includes Breweries and Coffee shops.
$644 Auto and Property Insurance.
$630 Groceries – Mostly Whole Foods and Trader Joes.
$500 Mexican Dental for Nikki and Jason.
$327 Camera and computer equipment.
$280 CO trip – Rental Car, Cat Boarding (flight, ski passes, and most food was paid by family and friends: Thanks guys).
$150 Car and RV Wash + Wax.
$140 Pet food, litter, treats, toys.
$80 National Park pass.
$65 Smart Vehicle Registration.
$57 RV Resorts – only resort we’ve paid for was near the petrified forest, the rest have been paid for through our work, or a free stay overnight at Wal-Mart, Truck Stops, and Rest Areas.
$44 Propane for RV.
$30 USPS shipping.
My goal from the last report on RV Living and Full Time Travel expenses was to cut overall expenses by 15%. Question is did we succeed? One big giant FAIL! I can’t believe it! I guess there’s no way we can cut our budget any lower with the style we like to travel.
Let me get a few things off my chest from the beginning:
• This report is for 5 months (not 6, so you can’t directly compare it with the previous numbers from 2012. My thinking is I’ll post expenses every quarter in 2013 this way I can remember ‘better’)
• If you’re interested in just the numbers read the bold items only, if you want to know how we ended up spending that cash then read the long winded paragraphs.
• We are NOT living on a shoestring budget. We work on the road, so we need special items to keep our business growing, and since we’re in front of the camera we need nice looking clothes so we’re presentable and respectable. We enjoy a bottle of Champagne and a fine dinner once and a while, granted we cook in most nights but we do splurge every now and then. In our opinion we’re living modestly and we’re sharing our expenses so you can learn from our budget and hopefully it will help you project yours. Let’s call our style of living AFFORDABLE LUXURY!
• If you live a different RV lifestyle please share it in the comments section below, no topic is more important for travelers than spending/saving $$$. Tell us how much you travel and how much you spend on the road; obviously you don’t need to go into ridiculous amounts of detail like my long winded report, but give us the cliff’s notes.08/01/2012 – 12/31/2012
Total Expenses for this time period: $18,377$1532 Fuel Cost – From the Jersey Shore, through PA, into Indiana for Service, to St. Louis for a wedding, Dallas, Cloudcroft New Mexico, and into Lake Havasu City. We logged a lot of miles across this great country in both the RV and the Smart car. Can’t really balk about this expense, it’s a lot lower than the both of us taking a few flights. If you’re curious about mileage check out the post Monaco Vesta Fuel Economy you’ll find way more info than you’ll ever need to know on our fuel economy, and how to calculate your RV Fuel MPG.$76 RV Park Camping – Camping for next to nothing: Possibly the biggest “Happy” Point for our 2012 travels across the Eastern part of North America! Thanks to our Thousand Trails membership, several nights of Wal-Mart & Truck Stop camping (if you’ve never stayed at Wal-Mart in an RV you must watch this Video Boondocking at Wal-Mart it’s actually our most popular video of all time!), and a few friendly people who opened up their driveways, we were able to stay for next to nothing the past 5 months. Also we’ve been doing a few trade-outs with campgrounds providing video and photography of their campgrounds for a small fee plus free camping. Goes to show you if you have something to offer a campground, reach out to them and see if they’re willing to do a trade (we know several people who camp for free because of a specific service they offer the campground).$982 Smart Service and Repair – This is the first major service we’ve had to complete on our little SMART car. Apparently we’ve been a little rough on this little guy, when we were in for our SMART’s yearly oil change, we were informed he sprung a small leak in the oil pan from a puncture wound. Considering we drive our little SMART off road, over mountains, and tow it behind our RV for thousands of extra miles, I’m not complaining one bit. On a happy note: We only busted 1 tire in the past 5 months (and ZERO rims) and my tire warranty paid for the replacement. Also in these expenses is a $300 spare rim and tire (our tire and rim warranty covered the replacement of a busted rim from the beginning of the year, I paid $200 to have the rim repaired, and $150 for a new tire to go on it. Now for the first time since owning the SMART we have a spare rim and tire! What a relief, now when we bust a rim or tire there will be a swap available in the RV….ahhhh the little things that make life a little more simple and stress-free).$220 RV Service and Repair – No issues over the past 5 months. We did take the RV to the “new” Monaco factory in Wakarusa Indiana for service however all our issues were covered under warranty. The TX registration sticker cost $220 for renewal to keep our plates up to date.$1034 Insurance – Carrying the same insurance coverage as the previous report minus the SAAB as I’ve now sold that….and no we still do not have health insurance. Although I did get a quote for catastrophe coverage and the cost was nearly $300 per month and we would pay the first $10,000, then the insurance would pay 80% of anything over $10k. Health insurance for individuals who own small businesses just plain stinks! Oh and if you’re like us and working from the road with expensive equipment you must purchase a ‘rider’ to make sure your gear is covered while traveling outside of the RV. Our policy sent me a check for nearly $3,700.00 when I dropped my camera into the creek. See the previous post for details.$2893 Gone With the Wynn’s Website – In case you haven’t noticed we have a completely new look! From tip to toe we’re sleeker and sexier (or at least we think so). Downside is these enhancements didn’t come for free. In order to dish out this contemporary new look we were hit with website theme fees ($100), Hosting Fees ($100), Email Distribution Fees ($120), Video Hosting Fees ($100), Facebook Fees ($120), and so on and so on! We also had to hire a website designer and a website developer to help us make the move, address all the unknown issues that came up during the transition, to help us customize the site to fit our niche needs, and for that we spent a lot more than we ever anticipated: $2353. Needless to say for a website that doesn’t directly make us any money we’re forking over a lot of dough to keep this thing going. OK, enough bitchin’ right? Let’s move on to something more fun….
$1237 Editing Software – We finally purchased Adobe Photoshop CS6 ($600), I’ve been using an old version for the past several years. We also purchased the newest version of Lightroom ($150). Both of these programs allow us to view, edit, and post our RAW photographs more beautifully and professionally. If you’re not heavy into photo editing or design I DO NOT recommend purchasing Photoshop, it’s a bulky, expensive, and difficult to understand program. Save your money and get a more consumer based photo editing program. I also purchased a great video plug-in for Adobe Premiere Pro video editing software. This new plug-in suite from Red Giant ($480) allows me to make similar enhancements to my video that I can make on my photos.
$1099 Equipment Upgrades – The more Videos I shoot the more Hard Drives I need, and the faster my computer needs to be! I added a second Hard Drive to my Laptop, it’s a blazing fast hybrid drive and works perfectly as a ‘scratch disk’ for my video files (drive plus install kit $175). I had to purchase a new Wireless Lavaliere receiver due to my unfortunate accident of dropping the camera into the creek (see the previous post on expenses for the ugly details) however my insurance policy covered this cost, YEA! We bought a new “toy” it’s the Canon EOS M ($794), check my post on Secrets to HD Video on the Road for more details on how much we love this tiny camera (and what we don’t like about it). I purchased a new 3TB External Hard Drive for redundant backup ($130), you have to be prepared for a computer or hard drive to crash at any time, better safe than sorry right?
$795 Cell Phone Expenses – Nikki is still on Verizon ($432) and I’m on AT&T ($363). We both have the bare minimum talk and text plan, with (grandfathered in) unlimited internet. Basically I’m throwing my money away 50% of the time because AT&T’s coverage outside of major cities is CRAP! My contract is up in January so I’ll probably switch over the Verizon (even though I’m going to lose my unlimited internet, yes….AT&T has been that bad). Doubt we’ll be able to save any money here, but at least I won’t be wasting money on a phone that doesn’t get reception.
$1,541 Grocery – Keeping to our roots we’re shopping local when possible. Didn’t see too many Farmers Markets over these past 5 months which is pretty sad, and many times we were stuck to Wal-Mart for groceries which is basically against our “religion”! Sometime when you travel you can’t always practice what you preach (see our post on Can an RV be Green), but do know if there’s an organic version of the fruits and veggies we need you better believe we’re going to buy it vs. the conventional. We’re heading back to the West in 2013 so we should be able to get fresh, local, and regional foods again.
$827 Costco – Because we didn’t find many farmers markets or affordable natural food stores on this portion of our trip, we renewed our Costco membership. For the amount cooking we do, Costco is the best way for us to get reliable organic, natural, and affordable food items. Yes you must purchase in bulk, however we try not to over-purchase, and we rely on Costco for our staples only like tomatoes, beans, hummus, chips, etc. Sometimes we’ll even find local venders in Costco from coffee roasters, to pastry makers, to exotic cheeses made from nearby farms….and that’s why we choose Costco over Sam’s Club.
$1,399 Eating Out – As per the last reports we try to enjoy our experience in new towns through food, drink, and good ol’ conversation. The easiest place for a weary traveler to pull up a chair in a new town…..the Bar, and this tradition has been the same since the beginning of time. On average we eat out 2 times per week, typically at a local eatery that’s come highly recommended by the locals. Here and there we’ve had a few meals comped for being travel writers, we’ve had few of our online friends buy us a warm meal or a brew, and we’ve been treated to a few home cooked meals at homes along the way, and for this we are extremely grateful. Nothing better than sitting down and breaking bread with a few fellow RVers who’ve been following our journey….and then they pick up the tab You Guys ROCK!
$792 Pet Expenses – This includes the 2 kitty’s specialty food, All-Natural Lavender litter, toys, bi-monthly supply of sardines in spring water, treats, and their medical bills. Of course the main cost over the past 5 months is we found out Singa has feline Herpes. When we returned from Spain his eye was irritated and mostly closed shut. We took him to the vet and they ran tests and thought he may have been in a fight (there was a few scabs on his head too) and his eye was scratched. Tests, drugs, antibiotics, etc and we’re lookin at $150. 1 week later he’s not doing any better, so we go in for a follow-up visit, the vet has no idea so I suggest we see an eye specialist (another $100). 2 days later we’re at a cat Ophthalmologists who diagnoses Singa with feline herpes. The doctor tells us it’s extremely common in cats, and the majority of cats carry this virus. He compares it to the herpes virus that causes cold sores in humans, and suggests Singa is showing signs due to us leaving town for 10 days and him not receiving the same amount of love and attention he’s used to. We’re sent home with a host of additional meds and what-nots and a giant bill ($250). A follow up visit 30 days later takes the eye doc 10 minutes to tell us Singa’s lookin good cost me another $120. The Doc told me to come back in 3 months and I told him to buzz off that Singa wouldn’t be back in unless he started showing symptoms again. Healthcare is such a racket, it’s like they’re printing money in that office. Forget that! We are thankful we understand what is bothering Singa, and we now know what the symptoms are in case he has another flare up. As I write this Singa is curled up in my lap after a long day of playing outside and eating smelly sardines….it’s safe to say he’s a pretty darn happy cat!
$823 Specialty Stores – We don’t shop that often at chain stores however there’s certain luxury food items, cleaning supplies, kitchen utensils, etc we can only find affordable at places like TJ Maxx, Ross, Target, Michaels, CVS, Tuesday Morning, Wal-Mart, etc. When Nikki needs specialty spices for cooking, fancy truffle oils, a pack of tissue, or a random cleaning product we’ll swing into one of these places. From this amount I’m positive a couple hundred bucks was for clothing or shoes (Nikki found a sweet pair of Barefoot Merrill shoes one day) and the rest of the total amount was for non-clothing stuff. So all you who gave us a hard time for the amount of money we spent last time on clothing for the last report can rest easy, we’re NOT shopping constantly, the only reason we spent so much on clothing last report is we hadn’t purchased new clothes in quite a while, and we were running low on Summer outfits. So there…..YA HAPPY NOW? Ha
$1,779 Spain Trip – This fall we decided to attend our first ever bloggers convention, mostly due to the fact it was being held in Spain. Sometimes you have to get out of the RV and explore a little differently. Only bad part about leaving the RV is your realize how expensive typical travel really is. We visited Girona, Spain and Costa Brava for a total of 10 days – 4 days at the conference, and the rest traveling the coast (oh yea and a 16 hour overnight layover party in Amsterdam). Since we were traveling to a bloggers conference we did get some special treatments from our travel industry friends and the event coordinators and hosts: We had our flights comped but we had to pay the fees ($215), our first hotel was 50% off but still cost $400 for 4 nights (the other hotel nights were comped), several of our meals were taken care of but we still ate out on our own several days ($639), ATM Withdraw ($278), Rental Car was 80% off, Public Transportation in the Netherlands ($25) and of course there were the conference tickets ($222 for both of us). These rates also include the credit card currency conversion fees, and the 2 ATM fees. It just blows me away that we had something like $4,000 comped during this trip and yet we still managed to spend nearly 2 Grand in 10 days. For those who think RV travel is expensive…think again!
$648 Miscellaneous – Magazines for the Nook ($25), Stock Music for videos ($70), Shipping charges for mailing random stuff ($72 – Don’t ask me what I mailed, but it added up), Movie Theater *we went to 2 movies in 5 months ($24), Home Improvement Stores ($173), REI Outdoor specialty items ($63), Parking and Tolls ($85), half day boat rental for the family in Lake Havasu ($136). Also I’ve stopped putting propane as a line item since we really don’t spend much on this; in fact we didn’t even fill our propane in this 5 month period.
$1,000 for good measure – As always we pay for some things like laundry with cash, I’m sure there’s parking fees, coin car washes, a few minor café fees, tips to waitress’ and so on that we pay for in cash. So for good measure and quality control I like to throw in an extra grand of whatever expenses to keep me “honest”.
+ $300 or 30,000 Points – Credit Card Points is something I haven’t talked about before. With my credit card we get 1-2 points per $1, and sometimes we get up to 7 points per $1 during specials. We pay with everything on CC and that is what helps me keep track of these expenses, and at the end of the month we get cash back. Consider that money a bonus, put it in the bank, or go out and buy yourself something you would pay “real” money for….and that’s exactly what we do: A Splurge! It is free money right? Of course I you play the points game you must pay your CC off each month otherwise your points are pointless (HA pun intended!)
My State Farm agent Will Tweed set me up for success when helping me plan our insurance needs. Thanks to Will I just received a check from State Farm for nearly $3,700.00 to pay for my replacement camera mentioned below in the additional gear section. This brings our 6 month spending total to $19,164 that’s $1,597 per person per month for living full-time on the road. Not too Shabby.Expenses 02/01/2012 through 07/31/2012$22,864.00 Grand Total for 6 months of RV Travel for both Nikki and I to live full time on the road in our Motorhome. This is approximately $1,653 per person per month. At this rate we’re on target to spend a similar amount as 2011. This really stinks as I feel we’ve been more frugal this year on the road vs. 2011. In certain areas we’ve saved literally thousands, but in others we’ve added expenses!Here are few ideas on how we can save money: (if you have any ideas, we would love to hear them)
- I considered cancelling my phone plan to save $1,000 per year, which I might end up doing before the end of the year (for now I lowered my phone and text plan to the lowest possible offering).
- We can eat out less and when we do, eat lunch (it’s cheaper). One of the best ways to get to know a city is to eat your way through it so we won’t give up eating out, we will just stick to a weekly budget of $50.
- We can give up alcohol and coffee……YEA RIGHT!
I know, it was a short list. For now we’ll try to cut corners where possible, and keep track of our expenses for the next 6 months. My goal is to reduce our costs by 15% for the next report! Can’t wait to see how we do! See below for the full breakdown of our Feburary – August 2012 RV living expenses:
$2,319 Fuel Cost – So far we’ve put a lot less miles on the RV this year (around 5,000 so far) however we’ve been driving our Smart Car loads more (probably double last year)! Everyone complains about fuel costs, but if you look at it our fuel isn’t our largest expense, and how much really does a 10 cent increase per gallon cost? You’re either going to travel or you’re not, I’m tired of hearing people use the excuse of fuel costs as a reason they don’t take out their RV. Suck it up, put on your big boy pants, and travel….you’ll thank me later as you realize the trip only cost an extra $25 because of the rise in fuel cost. Sorry for the rant, we just hear this excuse over and over and it’s a moot point.
$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.
$0 RV Maintenance – We had an oil change paid for by a new fuel additive company. We’re testing the fuel economy of our Monaco Vesta as market research for the company. (If you’re interested check out the post on RV Fuel Economy).
$30 Car Wash – We’ve gone cheap this year, maybe we’re too cheap. We gave Windy a bath just before we left Dallas, a second bath after leaving the Gulf Coast, and another Bath in Canada all at no cost thanks to our friends along the way. We have washed the smart a few times at the coin machine.
$1,600 Insurance – Covers the following: RV, Smart Car, SAAB SUV (we won this for Best of the Road, but it sold in July so we don’t have to pay insurance anymore), Renters Insurance Policy for general coverage, jewelry policy, rider for camera equipment, and probably some other stuff too. This also covers the yearly fee for the AAA RV program and the monthly fee for Chase Identity Protection (although I may cancel this as I spoke with a lawyer who said it’s a load of crap). For those of you wondering if we’ve purchased health insurance: I’m sorry to say we haven’t yet….we still can’t justify it. We have not paid for health insurance in almost 9 years because as self employed adults insurance is a joke and horribly expensive. Why start now? We have a nest egg saved for any medical emergencies.
$80 Propane – The electric part of our water heater has been broken since the beginning of May so we’ve been using more propane than expected (on the other hand I’ve rarely had to run the propane furnace this year as the East doesn’t get very cold at night).
$999 Phone/Internet – Nikki has Verizon $493. I have AT&T $506. In case you’re wondering ATT works 70% of the time, and VZ works 95% of the time (on the East). So if you have AT&T you might want to switch before you go full time.
$2,500 Eating Out – Similar to 2011 we find ourselves eating out 2 nice meals per week. This amount also includes the local breweries we purchase beer from and the local coffee roasters we support along the way. This number is a little askew as we’ve had a few of our meals comped or discounted some of the time when the owners find out we’re blogging about them (approx. savings $500).
$2,015 Groceries – Shopping local and organic when possible costs a little more money, but it’s totally worth it in our opinion.
$400 Cat Expenses – Updates on shots, basic checkup at vet, Heartgard, Frontline, litter, and food. Both cats are doing well this year and loving life on the road.
$0 Festivals – We’ve been to a few festivals along the way this year, but most were free to the public, and those which charged comped our tickets for filming our experience. This savings is bitter-sweet as some of our best memories last year were from Burning Man, Coachella and Sasquatch.
$5,800 Additional Gear – Well……I dropped my 5dmkii in the water; oops. So I had to purchase a new 5dmkiii and a few other small items I needed for filming. Insurance will likely cover the majority of these costs so I’ll take that into account on the next financial post. Also we purchased Nikki a new laptop (she was using an old one and the battery wasn’t working), now she sits happily outside while working on the blog.
$450 Tolls/Parking – Seems like everywhere you visit on the East charges for parking and each road you drive on charges you a toll! I mean COME ON! Whatever happened to the term freeway? Bridges, Roads, Highways, etc have totaled up to big numbers on the East…those bastards!
$1,200 Office/Website/Shipping – This amount covers the few shipments I’ve had to send out, the website changes we’re constantly making, and the few office supplies I’ve had to purchase.
$845 Housewares – Nikki purchased an Induction Plate and she loves it….unfortunately we had to purchase 2 new expensive pans that are compatible with this technology. We also purchased a couple new knives, spatulas, bread-maker, waffle iron….but it’s ok ’cause she’s cooking up a ton of great food with these new toys.
$3,026 Clothing – It’s been a while since we’ve purchased new clothes so this number is PAINFUL! Through most of last year we slowly donated clothes that didn’t fit, items we didn’t like, or we pieces we just plain wore out! So when Summer came this year we realized we didn’t have jack in our closets. Well, now we’re stocked up!
$1,000 Misc – For Good Measure! We always carry cash with us and spend it at places such as Farmer’s Markets, Small Purchases, Personal Expenses, laundry, etc. I’ve put the 1 Grand as I’m sure I’ve left out some expenses so this will help compensate my poor tracking skills.
For this road trip we knew we would have to adjust our lifestyle a lot! We saved our money for years to take this trip across the US and we knew we’d have to be more frugal on the road (mainly because we wouldn’t be making much money during our travels).There are a few things we wont compromise on: We are passionate about supporting small local companies who are involved with the community. A restaurant that serves local farm fresh food or buying beer from a small local brewery, etc. Of course this lifestyle costs a little extra money, but for us it’s totally worth it. So here was our plan to live more frugally on the road: Eat out less, purchase less expensive beverages, shop less often, and camp off the cord as much as possible.Below is the breakdown of our expenses from our 2011 Trip across the Western Half of the USA. We’ve rounded the numbers to make it easier to calculate, but this gives us a general idea of what it cost to live on the Road in an RV.
$38,105–Grand Total for both of us to live and travel full time in Windy the RV. ($6,350 Amount Saved during our trip through warranty, club rates, etc.)
Want to know how the heck we spent that much money? Us too! We have outlined the majority of our expenses in a little more detail here:
$5,525 Fuel Cost: We drove nearly 15,000 miles in the RV and 6,000 miles in the Smart Car. This includes fuel costs for the Smart Car too. We used a phone app that directed us to the cheapest diesel fuel in the area, this came in handy saving us as much as 15 cents per gallon. (est. savings $100)
$3,530 RV Camping: Includes RV resorts, State Parks, National Parks, etc. We purchased a National Parks pass that granted us free access to all National parks (approx. savings $300). We lived off the cord at BLM, National Forest, Rest Areas, Wal-Marts, Friends Driveways, etc. for 1/3 of the year. (est. savings $2,500)
$3,800 Camping/RV Supplies: This includes the towbar system, tire pressure monitor system, Camp Chairs, pretty much all the accessories we purchased to make our trip from camping world, REI, Scheels, Home Depot, Ikea, etc.
$1,000 Coach Maintenance: We were in the shop a few times along the road, but our warranty took care of most of the costs. We did pay for 2-RV Oil Changes, 2-Generator Oil Changes, 1-Wiper blade, 1-Fuel Filter, 1-Air Filter.
$500.00 Carwash: Includes 1-Hand Wash/Wax/Detail 4-Truck Stop Washes 3-Do it yourself wash 4-Smart Car washes. We were able to wash the RV a few times and the Smart Car several times at RV parks. (est. savings $150)
$700 Smart Repairs: Includes 1 oil change service, 2 rim replacements, 1 tire replacement. Because our Smart Car is the Brabus edition it has low profile tires and 17” rims in the back (BAD IDEA). We hit a few potholes along the way bending rims and shredding a tire. We purchased a tire and rim warranty and we have AAA for towing (est. savings $2,500)
$2,500 Insurance: Includes RV insurance, Car insurance, Life Insurance, Renter’s Insurance (to cover our belongings at home), Jewelry Insurance, and a Rider policy for camera/computer gear. We switched to State Farm Insurance halfway through the year and it saved us nearly $75+ per month vs. Geico and Progressive. We do not currently have health insurance, I know don’t yell at us… (est. savings $900)
$125 Propane: We only filled our propane tank a few times during our 2011 travels. We’re pretty frugal with our propane heater, but Nikki does cook a ton on the stove.
$2,300 Phone/internet: Nikki switched to Verizon when we hit the road. Jason’s still under contract with AT&T. Price includes the minimum voice plan, 250 text messages (so stop sending us texts for crying out loud! Ha), and unlimited internet. FYI – Verizon has better coverage across the US, and receives 3G more often than my AT&T phone.
$4,000 Eating Out: We made a rule, we eat dinner out once per week at a quality restaurant recommended by the hip locals. Sometimes the bill would be cheap and other times not so much. Of course we would eat lunch out, or purchase a coffee every once and a while. This includes all expenses spent at a Restaurant, Pub, Bar, Happy Hour, Cupcake Shop, etc.
$3,555 Groceries: We shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and if available local natural food markets. What’s most fun is trying to purchase local at each place; trying a new salsa, hummus, fruit, beer, etc. The ULTIMATE shopping experience comes at local farmers markets where you can purchase the most plump heirloom tomatoes ($2/lb), the brightest strawberries ($1.50/lb), and the best natural foods offered in the area. Best of all shopping at a farmers market supports the locals, and saves you money vs. buying at the grocery store. (est. savings $200)
$2,070 Cat Expenses: For safety we had to board our cats for several days during the festivals we attended, and for 3 weeks during our Best of the Road competition. Singa had to visit the vet for a cut in his eye from chasing lizards into the brush, and both cats got caught up on their shots/vaccinations. This price also includes their Food, Litter, and Wild Caught Salmon from the grocery story (yes they’re a little spoiled)
$2,000 Festivals: Coachella, Sasquatch and Burning Man. One major goal in our 2011 travels was to experience concerts and festivals like we’ve never done before. Worth every penny these festivals helped shape our lives in 2011, and give us a new perspective for 2012.
$4,000 Additional Gear: I purchased a new laptop, Video editing software, Carbon Fiber Tripod, GoPro all weather camera, Point and Shoot camera & a Camera Backpack. I also had my camera and lens professionally cleaned after Burning Man.
$2500 Misc: clothing, Laundry, RV accessories, movies, music, business cards, website hosting, etc.
Whew! So there it is. Of course there are some expenses we won’t have in 2012 but I’m sure others will pop up. So far 2012 is proving to be less expensive. We have settled into the lifestyle and become even more frugal (or cheap). We hope this helps you plan your budget.
What are your average monthly travel expenses? Do you have any money saving tips other travelers need to know about…by all means, don’t keep all the secrets for yourself!
If you have tips feel free to share in the comment box below, but PLEASE remember everyone travels their own way and budgets can be wildly different, so don’t be rude, this is a place for sharing and helping, not for judging. For all you weary travelers out there, keep it between the lines! Till next time….we’ll keep spendin’ and trackin’