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Old 08-22-2011, 05:02 PM   #1
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Saving money Fulltiming - Legend or Fact?

Having fulltimed since 2005 I finally sat down and did some really hard math. Here is my experience. The savings weren't as much as I had expected, but there were some really odd savings that I hadn't anticipated. I'm not going to quote exact figures but only tell you the differences between home ownership, renting, RVing in my personal case.

First, homes appreciate, RV's depreciate. Not exactly true since 2008, but in general,that's the myth.RV's DO depreciate, and the harder you use them the faster they go south. Fulltiming IS harder on an RV than storing one under cover 40 weeks of the year. When I sold my house in 2005 I added up the cost of all of the repairs I'd dumped into it over 17 years. It was built in 1917 so some were real cha-ching $$ items that most of us wouldn't have. Here are a few of the highlights:
  • new water heater - twice
  • $$ slate roof tear off, flashing replacement, reinstall
  • kitchen remodel
  • bathroom remodel on 2 bathrooms
  • $$ re-wire and eliminate knob and tube wiring
  • $$replace sewer line - the old one was terra cotta
  • $$replace 36 windows (5 basement ones still needing redo)
  • refinish floors
  • routine stuff like painting and re-replacing 8 thermopanes the neighbor's BB gun hit
  • lawn care
  • repointing basement bricks - did myself but OMG
  • replacing oil furnace with 2 zone heat pump
  • replacing compressor on one heat pump 5 months after warranty expired
  • exterior painting - twice - the house was 3 stories @ 10 feet and an English basement, I'm not getting up on scaffolding that high
So... appreciated huh? Well, every time you watch "This Old House" come back here and read this list! BUILD this old house - brand new - and you'll save money!

Routine maintenance on a newer home over 17-20 years isn't trivial. You will do a kitchen or bath remodel, paint or side the house, replace a heat pump and two water heaters and one way or another pay for lawn care either by giving up every Saturday or by paying outright. Unless your house has a metal roof or brand new shingles, you're going to be right on the verge of a big replacement job there. I figured out that I spent about $2K per year in "routine maintenance" that couldn't be attributed to "old house" syndrome. So 17 years = $34K in maintenance/upgrades. The "profit" I made when selling was $100K before maintenance. The INTEREST I paid on the mortgage? Only offset 20% by the tax credit.
Even without the "old house" expenses, and paying ahead it was so close to break even it isn't funny. Add in the "old house" stuff? OMG, spent a fortune on "charm".

BUT we all have to live somewhere, whether we rent, own or roll! And it always costs money to have an abode.

So, what about fulltiming as a big money saver? Not as much as I expected, but still some savings. The big areas that cost more than I'd like?
  • The Mutha Truck - I always owned gas sippers before I got the Airstream. Who really would own a 3/4 ton truck or SUV if they weren't towing? Mine gets good mileage for a 3/4, but I'm spending about $200 more per month for fuel than I would with a compact or even a sedan. Oil changes on a diesel? Arg. I could get a Smart or other subcompact to zip around in, but Virginia charges a personal property tax - and then there's the insurance - and the headache of where you garage a second vehicle. If you've got a business that can lend you a tow vehicle or a daily driver, or if you stay in 1/2 ton territory, then you could save more than I do.
  • The time share cheap campground - I have to move off every 5th week, and it closes for 2 months in winter. Not a major pain, but there are NO cheap $8 per night camps in this area, it's touristy and I PAY for those off weeks. Even State run campgrounds charge $30 per night. If I were a military retiree, there's great inexpensive camping at Oceana Naval Air Station (except for the jet noise!).
  • I find I can DO a lot more of my own maintenance on the Airstream than I could on the house. It's a lot lower to the ground... but I still pay others for quite a bit simply due to laziness, lack of character, or lack of workspace and tools.
Compared to a nice apartment, I'm saving $150 - $300 per month - but then I paid for the Airstream which I wouldn't have had to do up front for an apartment. I also have less square footage by a huge amount. In my case, not a big negative.

I'm also saving the rest of the money in utilities. Water, gas and electric would run me about $200-$300 per month if I had to pay them directly. I do have my own wifi, though many campgrounds offer it free. That's a business expense, so I run that through the company, ditto for the cell phone... that's questionable though. I have no land line.

So total savings:
$450 to $600 minus $200 for fuel/vehicle costs =
$250 to $400 per month.

$3000 to $4800 savings per year isn't to be sneezed at, but it's less dramatic than I would have thought. So I started to ask myself... why do I seem to have SO much more money than before? Most of it came from dumping the money pit old house. The difference between normal maintenance and "old house" maintenance looks like $4000 per year. I don't want to look too closely because it's probably higher! The rest? Living a simpler life. I replace the two runners I use in my Airstream about every 18 months... or buy some new throw pillows. For $100 I feel like I just redecorated. In a house you spend eight times that on chatckas (sp?) that you throw away seasonally. My "Christmas Crap" is a couple of battery operated candles and a wreath. Halloween, I might buy ONE pumpkin. When I entertain, I do it in a restaurant for a really nice dinner, when you visit, it's a weenie roast with s'mores for dessert. Oddly most people enjoy that better than the big do's I occasionally put on at the house.

-----------------------
Before you jump into fulltiming as a lifestyle, my best advice is:
  1. be extremely honest with yourself about your need for other people around you. I'm VERY comfortable alone with a good book on my Kindle or a sewing project. I can be friendly with other people in the campground, but I've been in a few scarey campgrounds, and a few where 9 out of 10 RV's were Prevosts - I was Royally snubbed. If you need many friends of long duration surrounding you, stay in the sticks and bricks!
  2. Make sure you can be comfortable in a small space. I one friend who literally gets antsy if she spends 15 minutes inside with the door closed. She'd talked about getting her own Airstream, but couldn't stay the night in mine - and had no idea she was claustrophobic.
  3. Really do the math - three or four times, then have someone else whose financial sense you respect check your figures. There ARE always alternative ways to live and have financial sanity.
There are tremendous regional differences, so a very careful analysis of what's available and what the future trends are especially for campground rates is very important. I think more and more will start metering individual sites for electricity. After all, why should I have to pay as much as a 50ft Moho with 2 A/C's, all electric appliances including the water heater, plus an electric golf cart, and two Segways?

Paula
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Old 08-22-2011, 11:49 PM   #2
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Our Discoveries

So far what we've discovered about our budget in our meager 3 months on the road:

We spend less on groceries (that go bad before we can eat them) because we don't have that massive pantry to store them in.

Campground fees are a bit more than expected but we have been hitting very popular places (Glacier National Park, Little Big Horn, Custer SD) in the peak season.

We spend less on junk because we don't have a place to store it.

Laundry can be more expensive than you'd think. We've had to pay up to $3.50 to wash a load but most places it's been between $1-$2.

Truck maintenance comes up more often.

Montana can still get down into the 30's at night in mid-summer.

Of course it's still early in the game and more than a few more months is needed to really get good data.....
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Old 08-23-2011, 12:42 AM   #3
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Oh Paula I love you. You're so thoughtful & always have interesting observations to contribute. Thanks for going to the trouble of putting that post together.
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Old 08-23-2011, 12:46 AM   #4
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Hi, after our first really long trip, we are, somewhat, considering going full time. Living in our trailer is so simple and easy to maintain. But while traveling the gas prices were a killer. My tank holds 30 gallons but a fill up is usually about 22 gallons. In California it cost me around $80.00 per tank, but in Alaska and Canada, I paid as much as $150.00 per tank. OUCH. On the road, I haven't washed any of my vehicles until I get home. I also have the tools and abilities to do many repairs and maintenance on my vehicles, but while full timing, I would have to pay some one to do these for me. When we got home, 50 days later, our jungle was over grown, tons of mail, two faucets to replace, and a garbage disposal to replace. Now we are in the process of cleaning our trailer, which includes removing all of the curtains. It's nice to have a home with tools and my own washing machine [and dryer] to do this. Some of the campgrounds charged a lot to use their crappy machines, that didn't do a good job cleaning. The coin machines only do a simple cycle, mine have several choices and I chose the longest cycle with a double rinse. We toured a motorhome factory and one of the models that we liked had a washer and dryer built in. Do we full time with a motorhome and a smart car in tow. Or do we buy a larger truck [F-250/350] and maybe a 30' plus Airstream Classic. Like my Safari, A Classic makes more sense to us than an aluminum interior model. These are just a few of the things that we are thinking about now not to mention having an address for mail, insurance, and billing.
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Old 08-23-2011, 12:48 AM   #5
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Paula:

VERY NICE and thorough analysis of your experience. Thanks for sharing. This ought to be required reading for anyone who's considering full-timing. Looks to me as if you hit all the high spots.

BTW, one more reason why you might be saving more than expected is two "stuff" categories: first, clothes ... ya' simply can't go out and buy a bunch of new outfits and just put them in a spare bedroom's closets or in the basement. Things need to do multiple duty and work for multiple seasons. Same with tools. I can't take even a tiny fraction of my stick home shop's tools with me ... no welders, plasma cutter, planer, lathes, table saw, band saw, etc. So the "on the road" collection has to be whittled down to "what ya' actually need." And that's a huge dollar difference for me. ('course, all of those tools are for auto, home, aircraft, power equipment, etc. repair, and what I can do myself saves me a ton of money, right? Even after I buy that shiny new tool I need to do the job ... Right? Right?)
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Old 08-23-2011, 07:38 AM   #6
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Thank's Paula. Great Info. Have been crunching numbers (in General) and i would agree with your info. We hope to "Pull the Pin" next year and go full time. We might only be able to full time it for 1-2 years but we have to do it.
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Old 08-23-2011, 10:19 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBERTSUNRUS View Post
These are just a few of the things that we are thinking about now not to mention having an address for mail, insurance, and billing.
This is a bit easier than you'd think. There are several mail forwarding options. I don't know a lot about the others but we joined RV escapees. They provide you with an address to put on your insurance, billing, and banking. Every two weeks or so we have them send the mail to a post office that accepts general delivery.

We also went online or direct draft with 99% of of bills.
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Old 08-23-2011, 11:03 AM   #8
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Thanks Paula, for sharing this info. A lot of good information.


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Old 08-23-2011, 11:06 AM   #9
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Foiled Again - Great post! We have been retired 2 years from Teaching and are considering FT. We are not sure about being away from Grand kids for long periods. How do any of you handle that? Any suggestions?
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Old 08-23-2011, 07:57 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by tkasten View Post
Foiled Again - Great post! We have been retired 2 years from Teaching and are considering FT. We are not sure about being away from Grand kids for long periods. How do any of you handle that? Any suggestions?
Well, I cheated. I let my sister have my kids.

Seriously though, my Aunt Jean had an Airstream - the silver suppository. I wanted MY family to have those koool vacations, but it wasn't meant to be.

If your grandkids are past the damp diapers and temper tantrum stage, TAKE them on a trip! Even if it's only 3-4 days 20 miles from their home, they'll never forget it (especially if there's a pony ride thrown in). If you're fulltiming, who says you can't visit the grandkids for weeks at a time if you want?

All things are possible with forethought and creativity!

Best wishes, Paula
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Old 08-23-2011, 08:34 PM   #11
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Thanks for the very helpful information Paula. I too have given much thought to fulltiming.

Maybe I'm fooling myself ... or maybe I haven't sufficiently done my analysis. But I think we could save a significant amount of $ by transitioning from a home to a RV. We have a fairly new home (less than 5 years old). This past weekend was spent having a garage sale which included getting rid of those "pain in the rear to keep looking clean" black appliances and purchasing replacement stainless steel appliances. A whopping $4K on new appliances. Then add the property taxes which approach $8K annually. Add the cost of maintaining the pool. Add the monthly utilities (water bill alone this month almost $300). Then add the mortgage payment and the other utilities (electric, gas, cable, etc).

I think we could easily save lots of $ by making the transition. But you know what would give me a greater "peace of mind"? Knowing we have no financial obligations ... especially if either of us were to loose our job in this struggling economy. Just worrying about that every day is a greater burden to me. Does anyone else feel this way?
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Old 08-23-2011, 09:03 PM   #12
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Knowing we have no financial obligations ... especially if either of us were to loose our job in this struggling economy. Just worrying about that every day is a greater burden to me. Does anyone else feel this way?
That very thought is one of the reasons we used to talk ourselves into getting an Airstream.
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Old 08-23-2011, 09:38 PM   #13
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I lived in a trailer on a private lot in the country for 7 years. The best day of my life was moving from that trailer into a bricks and sticks house with a garage so I could start buying STUFF!
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Old 08-23-2011, 09:59 PM   #14
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Thanks for the great post. I love reading financial posts from people actually full timing. I'm finding you can full time comfortably for 3k a month. That's the target we are aiming for. To top it off I want to keep a stick built small home that's paid for and rent it while we're on the big trips. That'll give us income to help cover living on the road, income we wouldn't have if we occupy the home, therefore getting paid to full-time. Makes it even more affordable.....Woohoo!

My greatest fears....I'll be a horrible empty nester and miss my kids like crazy. We will have grandkids and not want to be away from them. Or it just won't be everything we dreamed it would. But we will at least try.
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