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Old 08-11-2014, 08:45 AM   #1
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Typical monthly expenses?

I'm a noob here and about to pull the trigger on becoming a full-timer. Wife and I are leaving the apartment life and rat race and joining the AS community but have no clue as to what lies ahead. We are not big spenders and are used to living simply and doing without. We will have a monthly income of about $2,400/month from a rental property but aim to find jobs on the road here and there, or longer if we find a small town we love. We're starting from southern California and want to make our way up through Utah, Colorado, and maybe Montana, Boise, and Oregon. Our plans are to purchase an AS in the next three months and unfortunately start out right before the winter months as rookies. Our first destination is St. George to winter with a close family friend living in town.

I did a search for "typical monthly expenses" but didn't get anything specific; I apologize if this is a repeat thread but I'd appreciate any input since I have NO IDEA what expenses are like on the road. We plan to stay at the more expensive campgrounds (i.e., $35-$50/night) one or two nights per week, and dry camp the rest to save money. We'd like to visit smaller towns in these states and hopefully find jobs. I'm a 55-year old geologist but want to try something else - anything else, including dishwashing. I have this romanticized idea of gaining new work experiences. My 48-yr old wife is a good cook. We hear stories and wonder if there's a lot of age discrimination out there.

Also, is there affordable health insurance out there? I've always had health insurance through my company and have never been without it.

Thanks in advance for any insight you can offer!

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Old 08-11-2014, 08:58 AM   #2
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It's actually not TOO difficult to figure out. Start with your present budget for apartment lving. Subtract the rent and utilities on the apartment you're living in now. Subtract your present fuel expenses. Pretty much everything you have left in the budget after that you'll STILL have to spend when full-timing. You still need to eat food and wear clothes. You still need to pay insurance. And so forth. So THOSE expenses don't really change.

So, what you presently spend on your apartment plus fuel now is what you are allowed to spend on camping and fuel when full-timing. I included fuel because depending on your camping habits you could pay more or less in fuel while full-timing than you do while apartment-dwelling, and the more you pay in fuel to move the trailer, the less you can pay on parking the trailer in a campground. and vice versa.

But a word of advice, try to have a few months' expense budget in reserve before you start, to cover on-the-road emergencies that fall outside your budget.

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Old 08-11-2014, 09:49 AM   #3
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Look before you leap! Remember, new solutions have new problems.

Health insurance is going to be a major expense especially at your ages. I believe that you can at least get two years of health insurance through Cobra at the same rate that your company is paying now. Find out what this amount is.

What if your tenant does not pay the rent? Now what?

Without some planning, I believe your venture may fail. I am not a big planner, but you need to do some planning and prep work.

Before you both quit your jobs, I would first buy your Airstream and do some camping in it. Learn how to boondock (camp without utilities). This will help you keep your expenses down.

Good luck, Dan
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Old 08-11-2014, 09:57 AM   #4
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Some great blogs of folks tracking their expenses...will give you an idea...
Aluminarium - Traveling Full-time in our Airstream
rvsue and her canine crew | Living on less and enjoying life more

RV due does mostly boondocking. I too am always interested in the budget since I hope to one day go fulltime or do some extended traveling..depends on how you want to travel.
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Old 08-11-2014, 10:26 AM   #5
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We are not full timers, but spent four months on the road last year July-October. Many savings tips have been identified here already. Boondocking at a Walmart or Cracker Barrel will save you lots and the meals are very reasonably priced. But, make sure you ask permission before parking over night.

The big variable cost for us was fuel which was $75-$100.00/day while moving. Fuel costs have dropped since last summer, but you'll find the more scenic the place, the more expensive the fuel - at least $4.00/gallon for regular at West Yellowstone. We've learned since that better travel planning can curtail some of this expense.

Good luck. We very much enjoyed our trip.
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Old 08-11-2014, 10:34 AM   #6
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If you are going to be around a certain area for an extended period, think about renting by month. I am paying $275 a month plus utilities, which is about 6 nights at a campground that costs $50 a night. By the way, the campground we are at is all grass and at the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. Dolphins, pelicans, etc.
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Old 08-11-2014, 11:01 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by TouringDan View Post

Without some planning, I believe your venture may fail. I am not a big planner, but you need to do some planning and prep work.

Before you both quit your jobs, I would first buy your Airstream and do some camping in it. Learn how to boondock (camp without utilities). This will help you keep your expenses down.

Good luck, Dan
This is what I thought. Good for Dan for saying it.

Get your Airstream, spend some time in it, and get at least several months of minimal expenses into a savings account.

Yes, this sounds a bit parental, and it is.

Setting out like you are thinking, relying initially only on rental income, is a recipe for disaster. I am all for the adventure, but you need a safety net, which it does not sound like you have.

Vehicles and trailers break down, people get sick, etc. You could find yourself in a homeless shelter, or worse.

Rethink and do some realistic planning.

Good luck,

🏡 🚐 Cherish and appreciate those you love. This moment could be your last.🌹🐚❤️
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Old 08-11-2014, 12:31 PM   #8
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Thank you all for the information and advice - pretty sobering. I like to get all the information before jumping and you guys here on the forums are a great source. Circumstances are pushing me to jump a bit faster that I'd probably like, although maybe they're what I may need to take that initial step out into great outdoors and life on the road. I admit I'm a bit of a romanticist and so your warnings will make me think twice.
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Old 08-11-2014, 01:33 PM   #9
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Check the folks here RV-Dreams Journal. Howard typically posts on a regular basis a spreadsheet of their expenses.
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Old 08-11-2014, 01:50 PM   #10
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I guess I wouldn't be as concerned as some folks here are, IF you're both able-bodied and able to work at whatever sorts of jobs you can find along the way. And especially if you have a reasonable savings cushion to deal with emergencies / health crises / blown tires, etc.

But do be mindful, as mentioned above, about fuel costs. If you sit in one place, you can indeed negotiate for a lower price or boondock to save on "lot rent." But if you drive and travel a lot, you can spend a LOT of money on fuel. I tow a small Airstream (23') with a diesel pickup, and so am pretty efficient ... averaging about 13 mpg. So a 400 mile day costs me about $125 in fuel alone. More for tires and oil changes and a lot more for depreciation. And the more you drive, the more maintenance you have to do and the more breakdowns you will have. So be sure to factor in some sort of maintenance / breakdown fund.

Good luck to you - do report back and let the community know how it's going!

And yes, check into COBRA (which likely will be quite expensive if your employer has a good plan) and Affordable Care Act, which may be a lot less expensive if you're willing to take some of the risk yourself.
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Old 08-11-2014, 02:31 PM   #11
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I did not mean to come across as being negative on what you are proposing to do. Like Airsdream says if you have a reasonable savings cushion, are both able bodied and can work if needed then why not. The worst that can happen after 6-9 months is that maybe you don't like it, but maybe, like you say, you find a little place to settle down in, then you are all set. Sometime you have to try something on your own to see if it is right for you. It will be one heck of an adventure at any rate. Keep us posted on whats up with your venture.

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Old 08-11-2014, 03:05 PM   #12
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Re: Travel Expenses

See link with info on COBRA health insurance:

I was laid off a couple of years ago and kept the same health insurance through COBRA. It was very convenient, as if I was still employed; same coverage, same deductibles, etc. However, I had to pay 100% of the monthly payment, since my employer no longer contributed to the plan. Consequently, our monthly share went from a couple of hundred dollars for my wife and I, to over $1,000.

I looked for alternate coverage, but found out I was in a high risk group; and private insurance would have been over $1,400. So, I retained the COBRA coverage for 18 months (the maximum time it is available), which coincided with my 65th birthday when I signed up for Medicare.

I strongly suggest that you investigate health insurance (especially, if you have any on-going health issues); as this can be a major expense that could spoil your plans, if going in blind.

Regarding monthly expenses, we recently took a 78-day roadtrip; and the financials for living semi-full-time in an RV are not like the expenses for an annual two-week vacation.

When on vacation, we used to travel relatively long distances every day, headed toward a planned destination with activities, which often were not free (e.g., Disneyland, versus fishing in a mountain stream, camped in the boondocks). So, fuel, restaurant meals (including fast food), and commercial campgrounds were a major portion of our travel budget. $50-100 in fuel and $50-75 in meals per driving day, plus $35-65 for each night in a KOA adds up quite fast (not to mention Disneyland 3-day park hopper passes for ourselves and two granddaughters).

For our 11-week roadtrip, we surprisingly used about 1/3 of the monthly allowance I had calculated for fuel. That's because after the first few days, we switched from driving and camping on alternate days, to driving for only a couple of hours one day, and then staying at a campsite for 3-5 days. The total fuel expense was the same, but it was divided over several months (kind of a "duh").

Plus, instead of commercial campgrounds with full hookups, we stayed in National and State Parks, many of which were discounted 50% with the "America The Beautiful - The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass". This reduced nightly camping fees to $7-14 for many National Parks, to $16-35 for most State Parks. (Note: Our trip was in the off-season, so peak-season rates would have been slightly higher.)

Surprisingly, we ate out very little. We prepared most meals in our Airstream, foregoing nearly all fast-food; and we ate out at nicer restaurants only a few times. Of course, this was personal preference; and your experience may be drastically different.

Regarding camping this winter, overnight lows in Saint George, Utah can be in the low-20s; so, long-term boondocking may be impractical. You will most likely need an electric hookup as a minimum, and plan on buying a lot of propane. On a recent winter trip to Colorado, we used one 30# propane tank every 3-5 days, which cost about $16-18 per fillup.

I suggest you run several budget spreadsheets to determine best and worst case scenarios, before embarking on this adventure. I don't want to put a damper on your enthusiasm. However, a solid plan with some backup emergency funds will increase your chances for success; versus, just jumping in and hoping for the best.

One last note, considering you and your wife's ages, retirement (specifically, Social Security benefit payments and Medicare eligibility) is probably 7-15 years away (or more). I strongly suggest that you discuss your plans with your financial advisor to make sure your 401k and other retirement savings aren't significantly affected. Reducing your income in the last 7-15 years of employment, which are usually one's highest earning years, could seriously affect your future Social Security monthly payment by several hundred dollars or more. In addition, using any or all of your retirement savings to fund this adventure would most likely guarantee a much different retired lifestyle from the one currently available in your future. In all likelihood, your current investments will double (or more) in value during this period; so it's really important to seriously consider any plans that would decrease the total in your retirement accounts.
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Old 08-11-2014, 03:17 PM   #13
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Health Insurance is the big kicker

I will not get into politics BUT Obama care is a mess. Our company's health care costs went up so much this year, with higher deductibles all around that we simply could not renew coverage (too many older workers with pre-existing conditions). When our employees went to the exchanges one younger one who had cancer before we hired her and wouldn't have been covered under our old insurance got the pre-existing condition covered .... for nearly $3000 per month ... with a huge deductible and only 80% paid. Others in their 50's had significant increases in premiums and higher deductibles + 80% coverage to a ceiling of $10K, 100% to $100K and then back to 80%. What a fiasco.

Now more than half of our staff have no coverage. I turned 65 so for the moment I'm OK. Heaven only knows what lies ahead for seniors, so...

We haven't had any employees wanting COBRA coverage for a LONG LONG TIME, so my information may be out of date, but the last time an employee wanted to carry it, the rate WAS higher than for the group plan. Of course we only paid a big percentage of the coverage (sort of always felt that the employees forget about the value of a benefit if they don't have to put a stake into it themselves), so not only did the former employee have to deal with paying his share but ours... but the basic coverage cost went up perhaps as much as $200 per month. The former employer has (or at least had to) the obligation to bill the employee and pay the insurance company - which is a pain if the employee doesn't keep paying. We had to go through all sorts of hoops and certified letters before dropping the insurance then had to try unsuccessfully to collect from the employee who decided to become a couch potato on his mom's sofa (at almost 30) and had no assets.

How long will it be before AARP or Good Sam or some other greedy corporation sets up a program so all of their members can be 1099 employees and get health insurance at group rates? Dunno, but it's got to happen.

Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present.
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Old 08-11-2014, 03:35 PM   #14
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This is probably not helpful, but after reading this book Silver Springs - Kindle edition by Jennifer Baisch. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ recommended by someone on this forum, it really hit home with me, all the things you don't think about when you are romanticizing life as a full timer. CAUTION: This is a self published book with poor proof-editing, but I found it a great read...and a cautionary tale for those seeking to cut ties with the rat race and find the joys of the open road. Best of luck to you!!

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