I have decided to live fulltime in aobut a year.
30' Safari Bunkhouse
Your description sounds like heaven. After reading your article
I am in feeling good about my decision.
I go back and forth between fear and anticipation. I plan to
look for work on the road such as UPS at xmass and inventory
counting and what I can find hear of there.
I can just about retire but if I want to afford restaurants and
primo campsights every once in a while then I must work too.
Here is an article I used to estimate costs. I made a budget
by taking these items and applying a 3% increace per year
to get to 2006. I had to add a few items also. Some items had
to be increased more than 3% per year! GAS...
Full-timers: Dollars & Sense of Full-timing
October 3, 2001
by Carl Pullum (used courtesy of TL Enterprises www.rv.net
OK, SO YOU’RE READY TO HIT THE ROAD. You want to be a full-time RVer: no mortgage, no job, no bills, no boss. You’ve learned a lot in the past several years about how others cope while on the road. Your atlas has many anticipated adventures outlined in red as you prepare for the big day. You know about mail-forwarding and voice-mail services. Perhaps you already own a cellular telephone or satellite or some other gizmo that makes life more comfortable. Knowing all that, you still have one remaining question: How much does it cost to live the full-time lifestyle? Ask a dozen full-timers and they will give you a dozen different answers. Some opt to boondock in a modest rig with no more than solar panels for power; others dread the thought of staying at any place with less than a five-star rating and 24-hour security while nestled in their first-class RV. Somewhere in between those two extremes is where most RVers will find themselves.
Before my wife and I started out on our journey, we had the same concerns about how much it would cost to full-time. Sure, we already knew the income required to cover “normal” re-occurring expenses, such as insurance and credit obligations, but we were in the dark when it came to constructing a realistic budget for those unknown travel expenses that we were soon to experience. To form a reliable working budget, we kept meticulous records for every dollar spent. The following categories represent those actual living expenses for our first 12 months while full-timing. Analyzing this up-to-date recap of those daily expenses will provide an excellent benchmark that you can use in order to calculate your own travel expenditures. Obviously, no two RVers will have the same lifestyle. However, by using these figures as a baseline, you can adapt each section to your own particular situation and arrive at an amount that meets your own needs.
In order to compare your estimated travel expenses to ours, you need to understand our situation: Who we are, how we travel, etc. We are both baby boomers. We are debt free and have taken a very early retirement in order to live “The Good Life.” For us, that means living as cheaply as possible. So far this has not been a problem, since we are both frugal in our ways.
We are in good health and travel with our small 12-year-old dog. Our 30-foot fifth-wheel is equipped with one slideout, a generator, an electric/propane 10-gallon water heater, a three-way 8-cubic-foot refrigerator, a computer and plenty of basement storage. What we don’t haul with us has been squeezed into a well-insured storage unit. We pull our home with a Ford F-250 SuperCab diesel pickup.
We do not have some of the comforts many RVers do, such as a satellite dish, a cell phone, solar panels or an inverter. Perhaps some of those will come in time.
We move our rig two or three times a month, and we explore each new area we visit in our own time. Most of our time is spent exploring and joining local activities.
The camping clubs to which we belong allow us to stay at an average of 60 to 75 percent off regular prices. We look for bargains at the nearest Wal-Mart, and we enjoy an occasional matinee. We don’t smoke or gamble (with the exception of a lottery ticket now and then).
Keep these points in mind as you analyze each of the following sections. You may spend more or you may spend less. The only correct amount will be that which fits your particular lifestyle and yours alone.
Food & Household Expenses:
Monthly average, $223; year, $2,676
Milk, bread, hot dogs or steak — it’s all entered in this section. Not included are extravagant items such as dining out, alcohol or tobacco; they are covered in the Entertainment category. We do, however, include all grocery items; coffee, sodas, snacks and similar items. Also contained here are minor household expenses such as laundry soap, shaving cream, hair spray, dog food and paper products.
Monthly average, $193; year, $2,316
We are now realizing considerable savings in this category. As you can see, this amount breaks down to less than $7 per day. We are able to achieve this due to membership camping. We are Life Members of the Good Sam Club and joined the Coast to Coast family shortly before hitting the road. Although we do not use membership camping exclusively, we do believe that it is a great asset for those who travel extensively. We calculated the total cost of belonging to the membership clubs we enjoy, and then compared that amount to what it would have cost us to camp elsewhere at a modest $15 per night. We have come out ahead considerably in the short time we have been using the membership parks.
With that said, a monthly budget of $250 may be a more practicable amount for this category in order to continue to cover the rising costs of some campground fees. You can also save by staying longer at each location as you travel. Weekly rates can save you as much as 10 percent or more off the daily rate, while monthly rates may be as low as half price! For us, camping fees have ranged from $0 to $16.50 per day.
Some campgrounds occasionally offer free camping for two or three nights if you attend a sales presentation of their properties. Speaking of free camping, some RVers look for the nearest Wal-Mart parking lot or truck stop as a way to save money. We have never included these locations as part of our travel plans, as we are much more comfortable with the conveniences offered at most campgrounds and the camaraderie of fellow RVers. To us, the increased chances of criminal activity and the relentless traffic throughout the night are certainly not worth the savings.
Fuel costs can be a major concern when on the road. We have a Ford diesel and pull a 30-foot fifth-wheel. We have traveled 18,910 miles and have towed our RV 6,180 of those miles, averaging 10 mpg towing and 14 mpg when driving solo. Diesel prices have varied from $0.83 to $1.35 per gallon. (We have noted that the price for a gallon of diesel or gas is usually about the same.)
We found that an average of $160 per month is more than adequate for our fuel needs. On a weekly basis, this allows us to use up to $40 for fuel. We normally pull our RV no more than 200 miles per week. At $1.10 per gallon (hopefully, this is still a little on the high side), this would cost us no more than $22 (200 miles @ 10 mpg x $1.10 per gallon), leaving approximately $18 of our weekly fuel budget for exploring the “Great Unknown,” once we unhook. With this amount we can travel solo 229 miles ($18 @ $1.10 per gallon x 14 mpg) for the week. This normally works for us. If we tow our RV more than 200 miles in a week, we usually stay at our destination longer, thus helping to keep our expenses in line.
Whether your vehicle uses diesel or gas, there are plenty of ways to help reduce those fuel bills. Here are four tips:
1) Always ensure that you have cash on hand for those many stations dotted along the highways that give lower prices for cash payments. Credit-card users may pay as much as an additional 5 cents or more per gallon at these stations.
2) Ensure that your tires are properly inflated on both your RV and tow/towed vehicle. Improper pressure can lead to tire damage and wasted fuel.
3) Don’t wait until you have to refuel; top those tanks off when you see bargain prices.
4) Consolidate outings when practical, to avoid unnecessary trips.
Monthly average, $127; year, $1,524
This is the most controllable category of all. Souvenirs, admission fees, dining out, a Saturday night at the local movie theater, golfing, fishing, sporting events — it’s all included here. You don’t have to spend money to have fun, but it sure helps! We’re frugal; for many, a higher dollar amount would be more reasonable.
Monthly average, $61; year, $732
Listed here are those charges that normally occur once a year: camping club dues, emergency roadside assistance, safe-deposit box rentals and other such items.
Monthly average, $50; year, $600
Preventive maintenance can save thousands of dollars in the long haul; this includes engine/transmission oil and filter changes, brake and wheel-bearing inspections, tire rotation and chassis lubrication. Remember that these costs can vary greatly, depending on factors such as vehicles involved, miles driven and driving habits.
Monthly average, $46; year, $552
This includes phone calls, voice mail, postage and mail forwarding. The above annual amount breaks down as follows:
$201 — We do not own a cellular telephone, but we do carry a regular phone with us since many campgrounds now include phone hookups. Other than that, we use pay phones and have an 800 number assigned to us that we use to make outgoing calls at 15 cents per minute. An automatic debit from our checking account was set up to pay for these charges on a monthly basis.
$146 — Our voice-mail provider charges 20 cents per minute. There are cheaper rates available, but we find ours more to our liking. We recharge our prepaid voice-mail card over the telephone when desired. Shop around, as many providers have a surcharge of around 30 cents for each call made from a pay phone in addition to the usage time.
$205 — This includes stamps, postcards and the cost of mailing parcels for occasions such as Christmas and birthdays.
— We are fortunate in having our daughter handle our mail. Some organizations, including the Good Sam Club, offer this service at competitive prices.
Monthly average, $16; year, $192
This category lists the actual cost for using washers and dryers (laundry soap and fabric softeners are included in the Household Expenses category). We do this dreaded chore once a week, normally two loads, sometimes three. We generally use campground facilities when available. There is seldom enough difference in price or quality to do laundry in town.
Monthly average, $8; year, $96
We have two 30-pound propane cylinders. We have an electric/gas water heater and refrigerator and normally operate them both on electric. Many parks have an extra charge for electric. When this is the case, we switch them both over to gas. We had our cylinders refilled 10 times throughout the year, and of those 10 fill-ups, our heaviest usage was during the month of January when we used three cylinders. Naturally, our furnace consumes the most propane. We spent our winter in southern Texas; consumption would be much higher in colder areas. Prices per fill-up varied from $7.55 to $11.77. Many campgrounds offer propane on site, but we have found that it is usually a dollar or two cheaper per cylinder when bought directly from a propane distributor.
Monthly average, $5; year, $60
For us, this is a very insignificant amount. We have had one electric bill for the month of December and one for a two-week stay in February. Water and sewer, when available, have always been included in the basic camping rate. Many campgrounds do, however, charge extra for some hookups, especially sewer and cable television. If you own a satellite, don’t forget to include those monthly charges. Expect to pay for your electric usage during most long-term stays.
Monthly average, $5; year, $60
We must now add the Other category. This includes all those other expenses not previously mentioned. For most people that would include big-ticket items such as insurance (i.e., medical, RV, truck, etc.) and mechanical repairs. Be sure to include items such as storage fees, gifts, jewelry, clothing and other obligations not previously mentioned. A breakdown of our expenses for this category is not included, since these expenditures can be quite extensive and will vary greatly from one RVer to another.
That is to say, some full-timers’ medical insurance policies are covered by retirement benefits, others by Medicare, etc., so the price of this particular item can vary greatly depending upon individual circumstances. Of these big-ticket items, health insurance can be a real budget buster. Even though we are both in good health, just the thought of this expense can make one sick! As noted above, we listed an annual Other category total of $7,608; medical and dental expenses, including insurance premiums, accounted for $3,441 of that amount.
Currently, we are covered by COBRA insurance, as are many recent retirees. However, not being eligible for Medicaid or Medicare, we will soon be obtaining individual policies after the 18-month COBRA coverage expires. For us, this was a real shocker, although for many people it may seem cheap. We now pay a $220 monthly premium and have a $250 deductible. The bad news is that after our COBRA expires we will be looking at a $2,500 deductible with a monthly premium remaining about the same. The good news is that we will be eligible for a Medical Savings Account (MSA). This is an “IRA-like” account well worth acquiring, if eligible. Monies put into this account can be used tax-free for medical expenses and are 100-percent deductible from your gross income. Interest earned is tax-deferred. Check with your insurance agent to see if the agency participates in this plan and if you are eligible.
Of course health insurance is another very individual expense that varies with factors such as age, health and state of residence. Many full-timers are fortunate in having worked for companies that provide either partial or complete medical and/or dental coverage in their retirement years. Some full-timers have chosen to set aside funds on their own to handle medical situations and have let their coverage drop. We feel that would cause a major financial strain for most individuals. In today’s world, medical coverage is a necessary evil, considering the ever-increasing cost of health care.
By totaling the sum of each category discussed, you can see that our first year of full-timing expenses amounted to $17,947 or $1,496 per month. A small price for freedom! If you are like many of us, you might be pleasantly surprised to find that the mobile lifestyle is much more affordable than you may have imagined. Full-timing is whatever you make it. Each new day is a new adventure. It affords you the opportunity to explore and experience this great land on your own terms. Full-timing is a dream, a dream that can come true. Hopefully this information will help you to realize that dream.