Just as the more commonly accepted THOW forums go there is always that one question that is asked over and over and over so to does the RV community. It usually manifests itself as some version of “How much does it cost per month to live full-time in an RV?” And as one would imagine there is no standard answer. The answer is highly personal and varies from person to person based upon personal living style and income.
r(E)volutionary disclaimer: We live on the road as an expression of freedom and discovery. We look for places that are either in the sun, near friends and family, or in proximity to a learning opportunity for our daughter. We live without consumer debt and have whittled away our monthly overhead. While I have a corporate day job it is a telecommute position allowing us to be on the road as a relatively young couple with a growing young lady. Our monthly income is consistent and we live on a budget.
From March 1, 2015 to March 31, 2015 part of our budget looked as follows:
|30-amp Camp Site||Woodsmoke Camping Resort||$1,050|
|Cody’s RV Park||$56|
|Reed Bingham State Park||$23|
|Auto Insurance (truck and trailer)||$196|
No matter what month it is the fixed travel costs remain virtually the same. They are primarily what the above budge is based on. Some months we certainly spend less and other months we go higher. But all in all they are the standards.
I am fortunate in that my company pays for my cell phone. This includes the grandfathered “unlimited” data plan. However reliable that is though we still look for campgrounds and camping sites that offer reliable WiFi and relish in those moment we get to a cafe or a friends house that will allow us to download a movie or two for future watching. Let it be known though that our call phones and our ‘net connection are essential to our livelihood and therefore our lifestyle. My wife does have a Verizon “Pay As You Go” that we purchase minutes for on a semi-regular basis (every four months or so). For a good look at what WiFi on the road may cost though feel free to check out the expenses of Technomadia.
We maintain an RV policy and a truck policy with Progressive. We have been with them in some way for almost 8 years. Our cost for RV insurance is $299/year and our truck policy (for a 2014 Ford F250 Super Duty Crew Cab) is $374/year. We are registered and insured in the state of North Carolina which is our “home” state.
We are fortunate in that our health insurance is a benefit of my corporate job. We are with Cigna and all three of us have full coverage including dental and vision. Our deductible has become increasingly higher since 2012 and we are now at a Silver plan which gives us a $5000 deductible each. Our prescription plan is less than stellar and we maintain our insurance primarily for our daughter and for unforseen medical circumstances. While on the road though we typically see an Urgent Care physician which costs $35/visit. We currently pay $430/month for health insurance.
Just as a mortgage might be this is the largest expense we incur. It is also the most important though. The biggest difference is that we don’t pay rent on our land in North Carolina. It is paid for and other than a very small yearly, personal property tax, is little liability. Lot rent is the payment we make to a campground, state park, city park, etc. to park our travel trailer, have access to water, electricity, and (more times than not) sewage, and parking for our truck. Most spots we choose also come with room for our daughter to play, us to have a small patio area, WiFi, and access to a number of campground amenities including a swimming pool, jacuzzi, shuffleboard, basketball court, playground, etc. So unlike personal home rent or mortgage payments our lot rent gives us exposure to a community of people who are like minded and love to live life to the fullest!
Propane allows us to run the furnace, cook, and (if we choose) have hot water. We try to use it sparingly by cooking outdoors on the grill, wearing ample clothing during cold seasons, and use campground showers when possible (and inviting enough.) Filling our propane is easy enough as a number of RV resorts offer on-site fill or contract a company to fill your tanks on-site. You can also exchange tanks or fill them at truck stops like Flying J, Loves, and others. The average in most states is $22 for exchange and $18 for a refill of a 10lb. tank.
This is a basic charge (per Kwh) for electricity on site. In our travel trailer we use standard grid electricity for interior lights, exterior lights, our television, our computer and devices, and our coffee pot. We have made an effort to reduce this expense though by changing all of our lights to LED bulbs and getting a low watt coffee pot.
The average cost we run in to is $1.75/load for washing and $1.25/load for drying. Most campgrounds have low-end but decent enough washers and dryers and you hardly ever have to run a load multiple time. It is important to note that many campgrounds and parks will not let you hang clotheslines so you can’t depend on that as a way to reduce expenses.
I love sending hand written postcards and letters and do quite frequently. We also send the occasional gift and in the course of the month spend a little over $10 to do so.
We try our hardest with this aspect of our budget. We like to eat fresh, healthy, and regional so we try to visit farmers markets and local farms/ranches/dairies when possible. We also buy bulk items at CostCo, Fresh Market, etc. in order to keep staples on hand and get the most for our money. However, with a 3-year old we go through a lot of milk (at $4.85/gallon or so), snack foods, apples, and nuts. Have you seen the price of pistachios lately? One things we do splurge on is typically meats (we like good, grass fed beef), beer, and ice cream. Even life on the road doesn’t have to be sparse.
Our recreation expenses are all over the place. There is no right or wrong, black or white, night or day. Some months it covers a movie rental or two while others it serves as admission into a children’s museum. This past month it paid our way into 3 different state parks, an iTunes album, 2 television episodes, a fishing road and fishing license, and some craft supplies for my daughter.
Living on the road seems like such a great way to live simply and spare spending money. The truth is it can be every bit as expensive as living in a sticks ‘n bricks and unless you prepare for it and keep track of your budget you could just as easily fall prey to bankruptcy as you could in a brick colonial in Anytown, USA.