How to travel full time on a limited budget.

We have been living full time in an RV of one type or another for over 10 years. One of the questions asked a lot is how much does it cost. Now everyone is different, but I thought I would provide some information on what we have found and how it works for us as a guide line to living in an RV.

Full Timers fall into 2 basic categories; Traveling and Stationary. One of these is more expensive than the other, can you guess which one J. For this article I am going to cover the information based on the category of full-timing.

Traveling Full-Timers. This group of RVers travels from place to place depending on many different circumstances. It could be job, adventure, seasons, commitments or any other personal reasons. They may travel hundreds or thousands of miles between stops. Their stays in any one place may be for days, weeks or months at a time. Titles for Traveling RVers include “snow birds”, “workkampers”, or just plain RVers.

Cost for traveling RVers generally are the same for other types of dwellers. You have rent, gas, fuel, insurance, food, clothing, entertainment, bills etc. One of the primary ways to reduce your expenses is by camping in a campground that has a reduced rate for campers. This could be a membership campground, discounts by associations such as Good Sam, AARP, Passport America, or some other organization. You can also reduce your cost by staying in a place for a month or more. Most campgrounds have monthly rates that are about the same as a 10 day stay. For example, if the daily rate is $35 per night and monthly rate might be $350. Another way to reduce your expenses (over time) is to belong to a campground membership. There are several out there, but it seems they are merging into bigger organizations. This is not a bad thing, at least at the moment. An organization that has hundreds of campgrounds, I think is a better deal than one with only 5 or 10 campgrounds, if you are going to be traveling. We belong to a membership organization that has quite a few campgrounds, mainly up and down the East and West Coast. Our stays in the campgrounds are free and include all the utilities. We are limited to 21 days per stay, but can move to another campground and start over again. We essentially live rent free as long as our wonderings allow us to use the campgrounds in the membership.

For those times that we cannot stay in a membership campground we have discount cards that allow us to stay at a reduced rate. The rate can be a percentage off or a flat rate. We have several different discount programs. Resort Park International (RPI) is a hybrid of membership and discount. You have to have a membership in another organization before you can purchase the RPI Discount. The rate of camping in an RPI campground is $10 a night. In our case we can camp for 14 days and then have to move on to another campground. Passport America is a discount club that does not require and memberships in other organizations. It offers a discount of up to 50% off the nightly rate at thousands of campgrounds around the country. Here you simply show your card and save. The Saving can be huge. A few days camping and you could save the price of the program. Save even more by becoming a lifetime member.

Next to campground fees, one of your biggest expenses will probably be fuel. Not much we can do about it other than keep the vehicles in good shape, tires at proper pressure, etc. But we can save a few cents per gallon and earn rewards to put some money back into our pockets. There are several programs out there to save a few cents per gallon. We have a diesel Class A. The tank is 80 gallons and we get about 7-8 MPG. Good Sam has a discount program with Pilot and Flying J that saves $.03 per gallon. It may not seem like much but if you travel full time going 20,000 miles a year, you could save up to $85 or so. Next our credit cards are reward cards as well. We earn 1.5% back on all purchases, even fuel. So that fill up of 60 gallons of diesel just paid back another $3.60. Again the 20,000 miles a year trip would return a little over $171.

Food is another expense for the RV that we all have. One difference for the RV family is that space is limited and the refrigerator is smaller as well. So shopping at the big clubs is not an option for savings. Fortunately, we tend to travel around the country where the weather is warmer. Which means fruits and vegetables are growing. Farmers markets are a great place to save money, get better quality foods and to meet and talk to people about the local area. You can search the web for local farmers markets or go to National Farmers Market Directory (http://nfmd.org) to find one near you.

Lets talk about utilities. Depending on the length of stay, campground and membership used your utilities may be free or you may have to pay for electric, cable and Internet. For us, because of our membership camping, most of our utilities are free. We get 30 Amp electric, water, sewer hookups free at the membership campground and discount campgrounds. We do have a satellite system which we pay for, but may campgrounds offer free cable and you can always use an antenna to capture the over the air local TV stations. Internet is another issue. While many campgrounds are beginning to offer free WIFI, the speed and connections leave a lot to be desired. Some still charge up to $7.50 per day for WIFI. There are solutions available including using your cell phones or dedicated cell phone plans to provide Internet access. They can be very expensive as well. Currently, I do not think there is one solution that meets everyone or even a majority of users requirements.

So what is the solution for us? Internet is important for us on the road. We keep in touch via email, search the web for things to do in the area, entertainment (Hulu, Netflix, etc.), download books, update our blogs and keep up with friends and family via Facebook. So what are the options? First, you cell phone plan will probably have data included. This is the most expensive option. Verizon for example can cost you easily over $150 a month if you stream video once a week along with heavy Internet usage. But for light users it may be the best option as most plans come with 10 GB of data monthly at ‘no additional charge’. Millenicom (www.millenicom.com) is another option for data users. They offer a plan for 20 GB a month for $89. They also use the Verizon Network so they have very good national coverage. Effective May 1, 2014, you can add increments of 20 GB per month to your account if you need more. This is much cheaper than Verizon for the same service. Still this is expensive for a lot of people. The next option would be to use the campground Internet, if it is available. Free is always the better option for those on a budget. But my experience is that campground Internet is usually poor. There are several reasons for this. First is that WIFI is a shared resource, meaning that the more people on it the slower the connection. Second it is distance intolerant. The further away from the antenna you are the worse the signal and your connection. There is not much you can do about the number of people on the network other than try to use it when others are not. Weekdays, early morning or late at night would be the best time. Weekends and evening are the worst time to try to use a shared network. There is something you can do about distance from the antenna. You could select a site close to the antenna. Ask at the office where you could park that would ensure a good signal. Or you could install an antenna and amplifier in your RV that would capture and boost the WIFI. There are several on the market. Word of advice, you want a unit that support 4G WIFI signals. These are new and just coming on the market as of 2014. Many changes in this area due to FCC regulations. The manufacturers have to have the units certified etc. and it is taking them some time. The advantage of having one of these systems installed is that you should be able to pull WIFI signals from up to 2 miles away for your use. The cost of the one we have is around $350 and includes a high gain antenna and amplifier.

The next area would be maintenance. We have full timed for over 10 years. We recently purchased a used Class A that we had to pick up from SC. Not knowing much about the rig, I decided to buy an aftermarket Extended Warranty Program. These programs cover repairs to the rigs when something goes wrong. Now let me say that the companies are in business to make money. In my case, I purchased a year program with a $1000 deductible. The cost of the insurance was about $1300. I will not be renewing it. I have had a change to go over the rig with our mechanic and RV technician. Both have given it a clean bill of health. What we will do is put money away for repairs.

Maintenance is very important for your rig. Annual cleaning and waxing is a must from top to bottom. A good car wash detergent with a liquid wax will do fine. Treating he roof with an appropriate cleaner and conditioner should be done at least once a year. Greasing or servicing the jack will keep them in working order for years to come. Depending on the type of rig (motorized) you may need to do oil changes, etc. just like on a car. I found that AMSOIL works well. 25,000 mile oil changes for full timers mean once a year oil change.

So there you have it, how to travel full time on a limited budget.  It can be done.  Those of you that are still working, can find work on the road.  I will write about it in another article.  Those that have a limited income, it can be done.

 

Final Maintenance Completed

Well, that is it! All the maintenance has been completed.  We have new slide toppers, new hot water heater and trickle charger for the coach batteries.  Will post some pictures of the completed rig tomorrow.  Daisy is at a XTU concert, so I get to do some packing and inventory.  Monday morning we depart Hatfield, PA for Lancaster, PA.  But first have to see if the truck tire place around the corner will take a look at the front tire (slow leak) as well as fill the tires to the proper pressure.  I can’t believe that it is here, retirement and our road trip.

For June we will be at PA Dutch Country in Lancaster, PA until the 17th.  Then we take a trip to Sea Pines near Avalon, NJ.

Daisy gets drivers training on the rig June 6 & 7 while we are at PA Dutch Country.  Watch for the pictures of that one 🙂

I am starting to re-learn the guitar.  Thanks to Dr Gerry Reinhardt (https://www.facebook.com/gerry.reinhardt.9) I have a great guitar to learn on.  It sounds great when others play it.  Maybe in a few months I will record a song and put it on here.  For now, I am the only one that hears me play.

I also want to thank a good friend, Jim Nugent for all of his hard work, making sure the rig is in good working order.  Jim owns Nugent RV and Mobile Home Repairs.  If you need something done anywhere in the Philadelphia area, contact him (610-213-1664).

Today was Daisy’s last day at work.  Fran and Lou took her out for lunch and presented her with a small gift for her hard work.  If you need a good lawyer for accident or injury, please contact Lou.  His contact information is:

1000 Germantown Pike Ste J6, Plymouth Meeting, PA, US, 19462 · (610) 239-7600.
Well all the thanks you are done.  Tomorrow will be picture day of the rig and packing up.  Sunday will be the inside of the rig, saying good byes and making sure we have everything we need.
I am so excited.

RVing on less than $1500 a month

My wife and I have lived in an RV full time for over 10 years. Starting in June 2014 we will begin our travels around the country. Many people have asked about the expenses of living in an RV full time, so I thought I would explain how we do it.

We recently purchased a used Class A (bus) RV and a campground membership. Total for both were a little over $50,000. Let me explain how this works. The campground membership was purchased used from a broker. It allows us to camp 21 days in a row before we have to leave. The campgrounds are mainly up and down the East and West coasts and within a few hundred miles of each other. The annual maintenance fee is $570 which works out to $48 a month for camping. This includes the water, electric and sewer.

I have not included the cost of getting started living full time in an RV as the cost will vary for everyone and some of it will be recovered in taxes and the sale of the assets. I also am not including any personal bills, just the cost of living while on the road.

I am going to start with an overview of the expenses. When you live full time in an RV your expenses vary depending on your lifestyle. For us, the expenses are fuel, repairs, food, medical, campground fees, miscellaneous and entertainment.

Our RV gets about 10 miles per gallon on average. We have serviced it using AMSOIL products so our maintenance is annual regardless of the miles (less than 25000 a year). The annual maintenance expenses are about $138.00 due to AMSOIL’s extended service interval. That works out to be about $12 a month. Because we only travel about 150 miles or so a month in the RV we spend about $60 in diesel fuel. The majority of our travels are with our car. Our 2007 Hyundai gets about 30 miles a gallon and we travel about 400 miles a month. The fuel costs are about $47 a month. The Hyundai is also using AMSOIL and its annual maintenance cost is about $60. Our total monthly transportation costs are about $124.

Food expenses will vary by family. It is just the wife and I and two small dogs. We spend about $300 a month on food and supplies.

Entertainment expenses can vary by family as well. For us, I have included satellite TV, books, videos, attractions etc. Our satellite TV is from DIRECTV and we have the basic package at about $30 a month. Both my wife and I like to read. We both have e-readers which we use with Amazon Prime ($80 a year) as well as other online services to download books, most of them are free. Our cell phone service is from Verizon and we spend about $80 a month on it. Being over 62 means we also get a discount at a lot of attractions. Total spending here varies each month, but on average we spend about $150 a month.

Maintenance expenses are a savings account that I put money into each month to cover the various costs of maintenance. I also have an extended warranty to help cover the cost of major repairs. This is the largest area of expense. The warranty is about $100 a month and I put another $150 a month into savings for a total of $250 a month.

Insurance will vary as well depending on your coverage, age and where you have the vehicles registered. We have found the cheapest place to register and insure vehicles is South Dakota. Our annual insurance for both the RV and the car is just under $1000 a year. Vehicle registrations cost about $400 a year and drivers licenses are good for 5 years (I recently heard they increased this to 10 years, but have not verified it). Our total vehicle insurance and registration costs work out to be about $120 a month.

Miscellaneous expenses are things like propane refills which may happen once or twice a year and other items that don’t fall under living or food expenses. I have yet had to fill our propane as we only use it for cooking. But it will be about $2.40 a gallon and we have a 30 gallon tank. So if we refill once a year our annual cost would be about $70 or $6 a month.

So there you have it, the costs of living full time in an RV and traveling around the country. We spend about $998 a month. Some months will be more and some months less. I am retired military and on early Social Security. More than enough to live on while traveling around the country.

I realize that every family is different. Some may not have the desire to live a simple lifestyle, will have more family members, higher start-up costs, more bills, etc. You may not have the level of income that we have. There are many ways to both reduce your costs as well as increase your income. That is up to you.