Some people are very private about their finances and expenses. We are not those people. We are proud of how we live, and we want to share our tips with you! We have always lived pretty simple and for the most part within our means. There were times in our sticks and bricks house we had car payments or credit card payments but not often.
When we had our 2nd daughter we made the decision that I (Stacy) would become a stay-at-home mom. Which I did for 12 years. So we shared a car, used coupons, and shopped at thrift stores. Which by the way is awesome!!! Fast forward all these years later, we realize that living like that has allowed us to do what we are doing now. (though admittedly there were times I’d get a twinge of envy when someone in our family or circle of friends would get a new car or the latest and greatest of “something”). We look at “stuff” very very different now.
When we started to research full-time RV living and travel we made a budget. That budget flew out of the window very fast. It was realistic in some aspects, but very off in others. So we are here to share our experience with you. 2019 finances. What we spent. Now I will tell you that we don’t keep track of groceries, dinners that are eaten out, or visiting a local brewery or ice cream shop on occasion.
One of the biggest questions we get asked is “What does it cost to travel full time in an RV?”. We always find that question so hard to answer. Do you have personal loans? Do you have car payments, RV payments? Do you stay in RV parks, or do you boondock? What sort of insurance do you carry? Do you eat out a lot, or cook at home a lot? Do you have pets? Do you pay for your medical insurance? Do you travel full time or are you stationary? All these things make a difference. You can’t base someone’s full-time RV life off your own. With that being said, we are here to share our finances with you. To possibly help you understand some of the things you may have forgotten, or may not realize when planning your own full-time RV travel life.
We find it very sad when we hear people excited to live their dream, and then realize they just can’t afford the RV life. YOUR finances are YOURS alone. Only YOU can figure out what works for you, and what kind of lifestyle you currently live. What your needs and wants are will be so different than my wants and needs. So be realistic with yourself. If at all possible, when you live on your full-time RV life – leave debt-free. Not everyone can do that.
It all comes down to choices. We live within our means every month. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things we’d love to have, but creating debt to have those things isn’t worth it to us. We know if we end up with some debt, we’d most likely have to stop the lifestyle we so love. Being stationary in an RV isn’t something we’d enjoy.
Our Stats for the Year
- We drove 15,831 Miles
- We drove through 21 States
- We boondocked 329 Nights
Our military retirement pays a little over $1,800 a month. We aren’t old enough to collect social security, and we have no other pensions coming in. That may not sound like a lot, and I guess it’s really not. But we actually make it work! Did I mention, we live simply? We also do not have any medical insurance costs since we are retired military. This is a huge deal. Had it not been for that we would not be able to afford full-time RV life. We find that very sad, but we know so many people spending more than half their monthly salary on medical insurance. About a year after being on the road, Stacy started a very small, part-time remote job, making about $1,200 a month. Stacy’s monthly income varies each month but $1,200 is a good average. TOTAL: $3,000 Income. We live within our $1,800 a month, and we put most of Stacy’s paycheck into savings.
Our 2019 Travel Map
You can view our clickable map here which includes pictures, cell phone speeds, and other information. This is every single stop our RV made for the night. For the entire year! (Our other yearly maps are available too!)
Our Fuel Costs
Yes! I actually wrote down every single time we went to get fuel, propane, or gas. It was a chore but I really wanted to keep track of this for a whole year.
First off – Thanks to the only mod we’ve done to our truck (2012 Dodge Ram Dually) The Stealth Performance Module we installed has been a huge saving to us! We are getting 3 mpg more than we did. But most of all, much better power. 3 mpg might not seem like a lot, but when you’re traveling the way we are, it’s huge!
- Diesel – 4,390.79
- Gas (generator) – $103.61
- Propane – $889.10
Our Camping Fees
$710.58 – This is actual campground fees for the year. This does not include any memberships we bought (That is calculated below) We didn’t plan to do as well this year as we did in 2018, where we spent a total of $48 in camping fees for the whole year. Why? Because last year we had something to prove to ourselves. When we left on this epic life-changing journey, dragging a 40 foot RV behind us, so many people told us we’d never boondock. And if we did, we’d be staying at Walmart most of the time. NOT TRUE! We wanted to show everyone that in a big rig you can absolutely stay in epic places. You can read our blog here. We still met our goal of being under $1,000. Not bad if you ask us!
Our Big News for the Year
On Mother’s Day this year, we also found out we were expecting our first grandchild. Life is about chapters. This would be a brand new chapter for our daughter, and also for us. We very much want to spend more time on the east coast near our daughters, our new granddaughter and honestly, we haven’t explored as much of the east coast as we want so it’s a win-win! With that, YES there are amazing places to boondock, but it is less available if you’re wanting to be in a certain area. We did about 6 months of research and decided to go with a Thousand Trails membership. You can read our blog here.
We spent $0 on dump and water fees. YAY US!!!! We were always able to find free dump and water. You can read our blog here on how to find RV resources.
$810 – This was a hard one for us to calculate because we don’t really keep track of stuff like this generally. But we decided it was still part of our finances. We are lifetime members of The Xscapers, and a few times a year love meeting up with our road family. Moab, UT. Colorado. The first Freemont Street Experience in Vegas. And so much more. The events are amazing, fun, busy, fantastic, and a chance for us to not only meet new people but hang out and bond with our friends we’ve not seen in a while. Those moments are priceless. But we did keep track of the costs associated with the events we decided to join. We wish we were able to do more of them! But we do live on a budget so we pick a few a year.
$424 – Again, a super tough one for us. As stated above, we don’t keep track of a trip to the movies, or a fun night out with friends to try a new brewery. What we did keep track of was anything like white water rafting trips, big tour events, or live plays or concerts we attended. We even did an amazing midnight, full moon kayaking trip on the Intracoastal waterways. Definitely worth the $15 each! So it’s stuff like that we put under this category.
- Boondockers Welcome – $30
- Thousand Trails – $6,000
I know we will get this question! Why did we spend so much on our Thousand Trails Membership? Boondocking will always be our #1 choice. It’s easy, open, free, and beautiful. There are no check-in or check-out times and we never have to hear the TV show the neighbor is watching. It’s our very favorite way to camp, and we surely won’t be giving that up. But we also want the freedom and ease of being in PA with our new grandbaby. And after lots of research, there just were no places we could really stay where we had as much access to them. We also want to explore the New England area of the USA. And there happen to be amazing Thousand Trails choices up there.
Here’s how we figured out the worth. Our Thousand Trails membership was a one-time fee. We will need to spend about 150 nights in a campground to break even. Not per year!!! Per our lifetime!!! Totally doable! And that’s using $40 per night in our calculations. Some campgrounds are ridiculously more! We recently heard of a campground in CA charging $120 a night. Wait. What? Yes, TT has annual membership renewals, but that’s quite cheap and would only require about another 2-3 weeks to even out the annual renewal costs. So after months of research, we justified this purchase, and so far, so good!!
You can read all about our Thousand Trials fees here: Full-Time RV Life – Thousand Trails Costs
WiFi – How We Stay Connected
Stacy works a small remote job on the side, and Justin is in an online college. So yes, we have to have an internet connection all the time. We have two unlimited, un-prioritized, and un-throttled hotspots. One from Verizon and one from AT&T. We have no affiliate at all and are not paid by this company, but we are truly just satisfied customers. We have had our hotspots for over a year and have never had any problems, throttling issues, or prioritizing issues. All services are exactly what they promised. I highly recommend MyFi Connect. No contract. When you stop paying, they turn off your service. No fees whatsoever! You can find out more information MyFi Connect here!
Update for 2021 – Looks as if prices are going up to $100 a month. We are currently still paying $80 per month.
- Verizon – $960 per year ($80 per month)
- AT&T – $960 per year ($80 per month)
We do not choose to have any sort of TV cable or Dish TV service. We definitely stream our share of Netflix and again, have never had any problems doing that with the hotspots we have.
- Truck – We had very minor maintenance done on the truck this year. We did a few oil changes and then a total fuel line/filter change due to receiving bad fuel from a gas station. Fortunately, we didn’t have to pay for the fuel issues. The gas station stepped up and paid for everything. No new tires in 2019. But I do think that will be coming in 2020. Yikes!
- RV – We did break a shackle this year. So we upgraded to Morryde 4000. $565
Remember, your finances are yours alone. I hope some of our advice has helped you. And we are always happy to answer any questions. Don’t stop dreaming! Keep traveling! Live Simply, Give More, and Expect Less! You got this!!!
Here are some really helpful links to some blogs we wrote
- RV Boondocking vs. RV Campgrounds
- Free Camping in Idaho ~ 5 Epic Boondocking Areas!
- 12 Ways To Document Your Travel Memories
- 10 Reasons You Should Live in an RV
- The Most Unique (and Useful) RV Products You’ll Love
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