Florida Roundup

May, 2017 – Bonita Springs, FL So we said adios to Florida after a full 7 months parked in one spot. You’d think I’d have a lot of inside information now on living in Florida and I do have a few insights although it is going to take more than one season to get to know this area. So here are some random thoughts, parting shots, and disorganized ramblings on the subject.

We LOVED our RV park. Bonita Lakes RV Resort is a gem! And if you are ever in the area off season I suggest stopping by for a while. But be careful, you may not want to leave. We met so many people that came for a week, or just one season, and now live there full time or have been coming back every winter for many years.

What makes it special are the people. The managers are the kindest, hardest working, most genuine people you could ever hope to meet. And the rest of the staff are equally nice and will go way out of their way to help you.

The residents are pretty special too. We wish we had had more time to get to know them and participate in more activities. There was certainly never any excuse to be bored.

The activities we did try we were made to feel more than welcome and invited back again. Game night, aerobics, kayak club, bean bag tournament, water aerobics; all things we only tried once because we got caught up in remodeling a house.

Some of the residents were pretty camera shy.

We did finally have a few good sightings.

Some of the more plentiful and less shy inhabitants were the lizards.

And the bunnies.

I have always wanted to see a roseate spoonbill and one afternoon right before we left one stopped by the park for a short visit.

We can’t claim to have experienced Florida during what they call “in season” because from Jan to April we were commuting 20 miles back and forth to our job site almost every day. The RV park did get awfully busy during those months with every site occupied and many parties sometimes late into the night.

The one thing that took some adjustment for us was driving in Florida. They have the streets designed in such a way that U-turns are often a necessity. You know our truck doesn’t U-turn well so this was something of an inconvenience for us.

But more importantly, if you were making a right hand turn you had to be very careful that noone in the left hand turn lane of the road you were turning onto was making a U-turn. I almost made a costly error a couple of times. Eventually I didn’t want to make any right hand turn when they had the green light often to the chagrin of impatient drivers behind me.

The other thing that was hard to get used to was the large number of pedestrians and bicyclers. They were everywhere, even more so near our RV park. The nearby neighborhoods had a large Hispanic population and walking or bicycling seemed to be their primary source of travel.

This was also primarily an issue when making right hand turns. Of course, if we hadn’t been working, we wouldn’t have been driving so often and it wouldn’t have been such an issue. And we learned to be extra cautious and attentive which we should be anyway when behind the wheel of an 8,000 pound machine.

Every local, full year resident we spoke to for any length of time had something to say about how different life was there during the other 8 months out of the year. I got the feeling that many of them shared the sentiment that this person advertised on his bumper. “Welcome to Florida. Now go home.”

So the verdict is in. We love Florida (always have) and we’ll be returning next winter. We don’t plan to be in one RV park for 7 months this time. But we will be back at Bonita Lake RV resort for some part of next winter.

We want a do over. We plan to experience Florida the way we intended to this year before we got caught up in the rat race. We expect to have lots of time to be active and healthy, to meet people, and to spend with family.

Anybody ever wonder what happened to Lance, the truck camper that we bought?

Well, we only took the one trip to Cape Canaveral with it. We did make some repairs to it. There was some water damage around the kitchen window and Jim fixed it which messed up the wallpaper. That gave me an opportunity to do a project I’ve always wanted to try, adhesive plastic tile squares.

It was so easy. The only tool necessary was a pair of scissors. And I think the results were a dramatic improvement.

When we bought the flip house we put the camper in the drive and used the kitchen to prepare our lunches until we got the kitchen in the house remodeled. We used the truck as a second vehicle, mostly on the days that I was babysitting so Jim could go his own way. We sold the topper and then the truck a week before we left.

If you don’t count the value of the work Jim put into it we almost broke even. But we did learn a valuable lesson: we’d be OK with a smaller rig in the future. We might get one to finally make that trip to Alaska someday or if we ever get tired of the road and move back into a house we’d consider a small motorhome or trailer for travel. But it does have to have a bed on the main level. We are too darn old to be climbing in and outta that over-cab bed and we ain’t getting any younger!

Welcome to Our New Home

Bonita Springs, FL – May, 2017 We had been mulling over the idea of a newer 5th wheel for a few months. Not a new one, mind you, but a newer one. We had managed to put the idea on the backburner for more than a full year since our brush with temptation in Palm Springs back in November of 2015.

But the idea kept creeping back into our psyche. We told ourselves we were just keeping an eye on the market. You know, in case something disastrous happened to our rig and we had to replace it.

We finally agreed we would seriously consider a newer rig if the flip house sold. We hoped to find something that would cost no more than half our profit from the flip house, around $14,000, plus whatever we could get out of our Alpenlite, maybe $10,000.

Ideally we would wait until we got back to Missouri because the house couldn’t possibly close until after we left Florida. This would also give us plenty of time to market the Alpenlite in a favorable market we are familiar with. So we weren’t seriously looking in Florida but we weren’t not looking. lol

We saw a 2014 Mesa Ridge by Open Range in our park that they were asking $30,000 for. We looked the 345RLS model up online and I really didn’t like the layout of the living room. I’d seen one like it before and just didn’t think it was what I wanted. And we weren’t seriously looking anyway so we forgot about it for a while.

I was talking to the manager of the RV park and mentioned we’d probably get a newer rig sometime this year. He said we’d be crazy not to look at that Mesa Ridge. That it was the best deal he’d seen in a long time. And that the owners had hardly used it and had taken meticulous care of it.

We went and looked at it and really liked everything about it. It did look brand spanking new. We decided the layout would actually work well for us.

Our favorite part is the private bath, the main point of contention with our old floor plan. We loved all the finishes, the storage, the beautiful kitchen with movable island!

It is so roomy. The living room slides are 42 inches deep!

I love having a full time dining room table again and a fireplace with heater.

Jim did some research on the brand and was satisfied. We offered the owners $25,000 and eventually settled on $28,000. It’s a little more than we hoped to pay but the rig is so much newer than we expected to find.

So there was the small issue that we were spending money we hadn’t yet made. Not very responsible of us. The flip house was under contract and the sale was going well but there were a thousand things that could go wrong. We threw caution to the wind and did it anyway.

We needed to leave Florida in a week so we didn’t have time to market the Alpenlite. No problem. Since the campground is so empty most of the summer you are allowed to leave your rig on your site and only pay $100 per month storage fee.

We figured we could sell it long distance in a month or so with the help of our daughter. But the park workers knew some full-time residents who had been living in a motorhome and were looking for more room. We sold it to them for $9500.

We’ve had a few problems with the Mesa, mostly related to it sitting for two years in Florida. The salty climate there is rough on exterior metal. It was very difficult to get the jacks up the first time. We’ve been working with them and applying lubricant and it keeps getting better but we still use a crow bar to get them to move sometimes.

The tanks were hooked up to sewer and the valves were just left open. The tanks were probably never rinsed. So the valves didn’t work and neither do most of the sensors that should tell us how full our tanks are. This is also getting better with time and care and will hopefully resolve itself.

Jim had read that a lot of people have trouble with the slide motors going out and he has already had to replace one. The good news is the replacement parts are said to be hardier than the ones originally installed in the factory. Also they are relatively cheap, less than $100, so we bought an extra.

We love some of the features available on this newer unit. My favorite is the electric awning.

If you’ve ever gotten up in the middle of the night to take down your awning because the wind unexpectedly picked up, you will understand my glee.

Jim’s favorite feature is the self-leveling jacks. At the push of a button (or several) it levels the rig and stabilizes it. The best part is it remembers the height where we pulled the truck out and returns to that position when it’s time to hook up.

It was hard to find everything we wanted without getting into a bigger rig. This one is just under 35 feet, almost 3 feet longer than our last one. But we had a rack on the back of our old one that stuck out 3 feet and held our kayaks.

We decided to get rid of the rack and keep the kayaks in Missouri where we use them most. We have enjoyed having them with us in our travels but have not used them enough to justify dragging them all over the country. We’ll carry our new inflatable kayak with us and will rent kayaks when necessary.

We have had our home for a month now and we are very happy with it. We moved into it in a hurry, then drove it back to Missouri in only three days. This is way faster than we prefer to travel but we had pressing matters to attend to at home.

We are going back and forth on what to do about solar power and/or generators. We definitely will install a solar system but can’t decide on whether to go with a very basic one or the fanciest one Jim can pull together. We’d love an on board generator that comes on with the touch of a button from inside but we haven’t really had that many occasions to use the two generators we have been carrying around. Decisions, decisions…

Flippin’ in Florida

January-May, 2017 – Naples, FL As I mentioned in my post about babysitting this winter, Jim was not twiddling his thumbs while I brought home the bacon. He did consider a part-time job and even inquired about a few but he never really got serious about it. He was sure he could find a way to make more than $15 per hour and not punch a clock.

He toyed with several ideas of how to make some money without working for someone else. He thought about fixing up an old camper and reselling it but just never found the right opportunity. He considered doing handyman work but pursuing a contractor’s license in Florida was too much of a hassle. He tossed around several ideas but hadn’t landed on one when fate intervened.

We had picked up some used bikes at a garage sale and were enjoying riding them around the Bonita Springs neighborhoods each morning. We rode into one cul-de-sac and stumbled onto a house for sale. It looked distressed, just our kinda place!

So I called the realtor and found out it was a foreclosure and was being auctioned on one of those online auction sites, zome.com. We took a look at it and really liked it, almost too much. We were sorta fantasizing about a pool and furnishings. The best feature of the house was there was just enough room to park our RV beside it.

Long story short, we lost the house to another bidder. We moped for a day or two. Then we admitted it was probably for the best.

Were we really ready to be that tied down? NO! We agreed we were not. But we did decide that buying a rental in the area, maybe even one we could eventually see ourselves living in, was not a horrible idea.

So when the realtor that had helped us with that first auction said that he had another property we should check out, we agreed. The second house he showed us was in nearby Naples in a working class neighborhood the opposite side of the interstate from the ocean. We liked it and agreed it would make a good investment.

We weren’t very optimistic about the auction process but we told the realtor how high we were willing to go and let him handle it. And he got it for us, for $7500 less than we were willing to pay. And that’s how we ended up owning real estate in Florida. Isn’t it beautiful?!

We decided to fix it up and try to resell it.

And if it hadn’t sold it would have made a great rental with good cash flow. Rentals are in high demand here.

We closed in only two weeks on December 28th. We immediately went to work. We were excited to polish this diamond in the rough and see it shine.

What? You only see coal? How bout now?

We hoped to have it mostly finished in 3 months, giving us April to sit back and enjoy our re-retirement Florida lifestyle. Of course that didn’t happen. We both worked on it pretty much full-time for the rest of our stay. Even when I babysat in the morning, I would usually go work on the house after that.

We were pretty pleased with the results. And we got really good feedback from everyone that saw it. We put laminate floors throughout.

The house didn’t have a garage but made up for it with a mother-in-law’s quarters, making it a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home, unheard of in this neighborhood and price range.

We skimped everywhere we could, painting the original bath vanities, salvaging as many of the bath fixtures as possible. We had a best case scenario budget and a max budget. We ended up scraping by just under our max budget and still didn’t do everything we wanted to the home.

We hoped to install a lanai but thankfully the eventual buyers were perfectly happy with the back yard as it was.

The sacrifice was big. We wanted to spend more time with our daughter. We hoped to explore much of the state. We certainly never imagined we’d spend the whole winter in Florida and not do any scuba diving.

Thankfully the payoff was pretty great and made up for most of it. We netted $28,000. We have worked way harder for way less before.

This was our most profitable short term flip ever. We’ve made more on homes we’ve held for a couple years but of the ones we bought to fix up and immediately resell, this is by far the winner. We have no regrets but aren’t in any hurry to do it again right away.

We are tired and ready to be re-tired again!

Lovers Key State Park

April, 2017 – Fort Myers Beach, FL We were nearing the end of our time in Florida, for this season at least, and there were so many things we hadn’t gotten around to seeing and doing. For one reason or another we had not gone kayaking with our daughter since she arrived, something we expected to do a lot of. And we had not explored a nearby gem of a state park, Lover’s Key. We decided to remedy both those items at the same time one weekday afternoon.

There is a 2.5 mile marked kayak trail through the park’s mangroves. It doesn’t look much different than the area’s rivers.

Even on a weekday it was relatively busy. We set off about the same time as a rowdy group of German twenty-somethings on a variety of water craft; one canoe, a couple paddleboards, and several kayaks. We dawdled a bit until they got out ahead of us.

I discovered this guy drying his wings. I love these creepy looking birds and but I hadn’t gotten a picture of one until now.

Manatee, dolphins, and alligators are wildlife you might spot here. Birds were the only things we saw but we did hear another couple at the launch say they had seen manatee. You’d probably have better luck seeing wildlife earlier in the day.

We later saw this beautiful guy.

If you look at the map of the park it looks like you could just put in and paddle straight to the backside of the beach and walk over to it. Unfortunately that is not the reality here. The put-in drops you into the maze at the middle of this picture.

You could kayak from the mangroves, out into Estero Bay, and eventually out to the ocean and beach. But that would be a very long haul and we had gotten way too late a start to go that far. If your goal is to kayak to a beach you are much better off launching at nearby Big Hickory than here.

We did make it a ways out into Estero Bay. Most of the floats in Florida have a very limited number of places to land so when you find a tiny beach it’s time to stretch your legs. We stopped for a bit then headed back.

Here’s Jim in our new inflatable kayak. When we went kayaking with the kayak club from our RV park, most of those people had this type of kayak. We were impressed with how they handled so we looked into them.

We wanted to try one out for ourselves and see if it might be an alternative to hauling our big kayaks all over the country. This one easily fits in our basement. We also thought it would be great to have 3 kayaks all winter in Florida so we wouldn’t have to rent one when we took our daughter with us.

We found a gently used Sea Eagle 370 on Craigslist and picked it up for only $150. It included deluxe seats which are a must. You can get the same thing on Amazon for about $325 right now. Here’s the view of it from the top.

This Sea Eagle is made for two. In fact, Jim says it handles better when both of us are in it. It carries up to 650 pounds and weighs only 32 pounds.

We are pleased with it so far and plan to keep it. It was perfect for most conditions in Florida and should be great on any lake in the country. We’ll likely use our regular kayaks in Missouri and possibly leave them there for our summer visits.

As for Lover’s Key State Park, it was a great park with a lot more to offer than just the kayak trail. There were hiking and biking trails and you could walk or take a tram to what we are told is an incredible beach. We didn’t have time to visit again before we left Florida but it will be high on out priority list if we return.

Miami Beach

April, 2017 – Miami, FL I’d been wanting to fit a trip to Miami into our winter itinerary so when our oldest daughter, Carie, expressed an interest in visiting us in Florida Easter weekend I suggested we meet there. She and her beau flew in and we made the 2 hour drive over. It was such an easy drive that our younger daughter, Heather, drove over on her day off.

I wanted to find a place on Miami Beach where we could all stay together but not be too cramped. South Beach is the most popular part of Miami Beach. About 6 miles north is what they call North Beach and accommodations were a lot more reasonable. The area seemed like a better option for a family vacation anyway.

I have surfed sights like VRBO and Airbnb before but I have never actually booked anything through them. They seemed like my only option for finding a rental with a minimum of two bedrooms and two baths. I initially searched for properties around $300 per night as that is about what it would have cost me to book 2 decent hotel rooms in the area.

I found several promising properties but the one that stood out was an apartment on a canal just three blocks from the beach. It had not two but three bedrooms and three full baths? Sound too good to be true? It was.

I messaged the host with a couple questions and they wrote back that the rate was inaccurate and thanks for bringing it to their attention. They then offered it to me for $450 per night but waived the cleaning fee. I initially thought “no way” and moved on to other options.

I messaged several other hosts offering 2 bedroom 2 bath condos in the area. Each time they replied that the units were booked even though the booking sights said they were available. I imagine they have them on several different sights and don’t bother updating all the calendars.

I was getting frustrated with this process. We reconsidered the option of two hotel rooms and did not like what was available. We looked at the three bed/bath unit again and it seemed perfect. I did not like the feeling of being duped by a bait and switch scam but I did want that unit. So I bit the bullet and made the reservation.

It turned out to be a great decision. Even though it was more than advertised it really was worth the price. Having all that space for our family to spread out really made the weekend special. Everyone had their own rooms if they needed a nap or some quiet time.

A full kitchen was great for preparing and enjoying meals together. And there was plenty of space to gather together and visit; the living room, the balcony, and this patio overlooking the canal.

By the way I stole that pic from the host’s website and it is the only one I recognized as actually being from the property we stayed at. We had the entire second story of one of two buildings that were broken up into apartment units. We arrived Thursday night and went to pick up the kids at the airport Friday morning. There was a great view of downtown Miami from the I195 bridge.

After meeting Heather at the apartment and getting everyone settled in we headed out to explore. Wynwood Walls was once a dilapidated warehouse district that has been transformed into an art district focused on graffiti and street art.

At the center is the official outside gallery which is free. Each piece is amazing and the scale is breathtaking.

It is an awesome place to get your picture taken.

For many blocks around the streets and storefronts are lined with murals. There are lots of restaurants, quaint shops, and coffee shops.

If you come to Miami do not miss this place. And bring your camera.

The next day Heather had to go back home to work so the four of us set out to visit South Beach. We did not want to mess with parking so we headed out on foot with maps of the free trolley system. We had to walk three quarters of a mile to the nearest trolley stop and then take two trolleys to get to South Beach. It was a great way to see the area without worrying about traffic. We got off around 17th Street and endeavored to walk to 1st street seeing as many of the beautiful Art Deco buildings as we could.

At 14th Street wandered closer to the beach and walked Ocean Drive where it seems practically every building is historic.

We made it all the way to 5th Street when our stomachs started controlling our actions and even though the street was lined with restaurants they just weren’t speaking to us. The kids called us an Uber and it whisked us back to our neighborhood.

There we enjoyed lunch at a local Cuban restaurant that had been recommended to us by our host. Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine was very good and gave us the stamina to make the walk home which was almost a mile. All in all we had walked about 5 miles that day so we spent the rest of the weekend with our feet up, enjoying our canal view, simple food, and good company.

A Renaissance Fair

April, 2017 – Tampa, FL We attended one small renaissance fair many years ago. So when our daughter, Heather, showed an interest in going to one of Florida’s large renaissance fairs we were completely on board. The nearest one was in Tampa. The Bay Area Renaissance Festival has been held each year since 1979.

The event takes place on 7 consecutive weekends and we put off our visit to the very last day, April 2nd. Since the fair is only held on Saturday and Sunday and Heather generally works weekends she finally had to ask for a day off in order for us to attend. She got a Sunday off and I babysit Monday mornings, so we made the 2 ½ hour drive up on a Sunday morning, took in the fair, and drove back Sunday evening.

We arrived just before lunch. I had no idea what to expect and thought maybe the last day of the event would be a bit lame. I was shocked to see the numbers of cars trying to get into the free parking area. They were backed up way down a busy street.

Once we were directed to a parking spot, it was a short walk to the entrance gate. The tickets were around $20 each which I didn’t think was unreasonable. It turned out to be a very good value.

Once inside we headed straight to the main event. There was a jousting match taking place center stage. It was fun to watch but it was incredibly hot with all available shade already occupied. I didn’t even think to get any pictures. We watched about 10 minutes before seeking a reprieve from the sun.

Most of the rest of the grounds had ample shade and it was a pleasant day to wander the 100 plus merchants booths. We ogled all sorts of odd merchandise you just don’t see every day; chains, leather goods, corsets. There were also lots of beautiful artistic pieces from glass, metal, paper, about anything you can think of. It was hard but we all refrained from making any purchases.

The actors wandering the grounds were one of the best parts. Hands down this guy was our favorite.

There were plenty of scarier characters as well, such as the Pewter Pirate.

This big fellow was magnificent and his handler was beautiful as well.

I loved these guys and was somewhat disappointed I didn’t make it to their bird show.

It was hard to find your way around and the map they gave you was pretty useless. We finally quit trying to figure it out and just wandered and enjoyed what we came across. There are 12 stages so there were a lot of entertainment options. These musicians were a lot of fun.

The Harmless Danger Juggling Show was even better.

He did finally let go of the wall and ride the unicycle quite well.

We really enjoyed the festival and would definitely like to attend another large fair like this one in the future. We learned a few things from the experience. I think we’d enjoy the next one even more.

This particular fair was incredibly dusty. Everyone’s feet were covered with soot. So I wouldn’t recommend flip flops, or in my case, a pair of brand new sneakers.

They didn’t search our bags as we expected so we would take a half dozen bottles of water and some snacks next time. I also wouldn’t forget sunscreen again. And I’d make sure everyone in the party had sunglasses.

It would have been nice to stay nearby so we didn’t spend the day dreading the drive home. I’d love to find one that would allow us to camp in the parking lot. A few adult beverage might have made the experience even better.

Budgeting and Such Update

I first wrote about how much it costs for us to live on the road after just 6 months of travel. In my first Budgeting post I addressed our careers, the source of our current income, and our decision to forego keeping our home.

Here’s how we are doing after a full two years of data. Some of the info below is a repeat of that first blog on the subject. But I do have some additional insights and someone might find them useful.

What it will cost for you to live on the road full time depends on your unique circumstances. I kept track of every single expense we had for several years in order to set a budget I felt we could work within. These are the categories in my budget.

Groceries/Liquor/Restaurants I have found our food budget has not changed one iota since we retired. I thought I might be able to save money in this category but that has not been the case thus far. I imagined buying fresh seafood from the docks and fresh produce from the farm at a substantial savings. With a few exceptions (meaning I can remember exactly 3) I found you generally pay a premium price in these circumstances.

It doesn’t matter exactly what I have budgeted for this. If you are making your own budget I suggest basing it on what you have been spending. I throw most miscellaneous items into this category: shampoo, toilet paper, etc. Pretty much any small expense that doesn’t fit anywhere in the budget gets lumped in here.

Lot Rent I budget $600 per month for campground fees, approximately $20 per night. If we splurge on a nice campground then we have to boondock at a free campsite to make up for it. You could easily spend twice this amount, especially if your rig is not set up with solar and/or generators.

After two years we are still doing well with this budget. This partly due to the fact that I have kept track of this expense like a hawk. I have a separate spreadsheet just for this category. Until we reached our current camp in Florida we averaged $565 per month in lot rent.

I had to make an adjustment to justify our rent here in Bonita Springs. We are paying $675 per month plus electric, which has averaged $50 per month. I correctly guessed that we would save money on gas so I made a temporary adjustment to our budget, borrowing $125 from our fuel budget to cover our lot expenses.

This category also includes all our camping clubs and memberships. The ones I have found most useful and will continue to subscribe to are Escapees, including their Days End Directory, and Good Sam Club. Passport America has provided me the most savings. For a membership of around $40 per year I have saved an average of $500 per year on campgrounds.

Fuel I try to keep our fuel budget to $400 a month. We averaged $550 a month during our first 5 months when we were really on the go. The next 14 months until we got to Florida we averaged $432 per month.

This depends so much on how you like to travel and what you travel in. Here are some of the specifics that affect our costs. Maybe you’ll find them useful in your calculations.

Our Ford F350 gets about 10 miles per gallon when we are towing and around 17 mpg when we are not. We put 30,000 miles on it our first year on the road and 20,000 miles the second. I expect our mileage this year to be around 20,000 as well. I do shop very aggressively for the best rate on fuel.

It should be noted that my fuel budget includes tolls. In 2 years we have spent $160 in tolls. Exactly half of these were in the northeast in Michigan, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Firewood/Propane I had no idea how much we would need for firewood and propane when we started so I took a stab in the dark and budgeted $50. During our first 5 months we averaged $75 per month so I raised it. But after a full two years I have actually lowered it to our 2 year average of $25 per month.

If you spend a lot of time boondocking where you experience cool nights then you’ll want to budget on the high end of this spectrum. If you spend your time plugged in to a cushy campsite then you’ll probably do fine on the low end. Cooking takes very little gas but you should consider what powers your water heater. We can choose electric or gas depending on our circumstances.

We have gotten to the point that we almost refuse to buy firewood. We love a good fire but it just seems like burning money. In fact, we haven’t bought any firewood in the last year. We gather wood when it is allowed and we scavenge wood that other campers have left in empty campsites.

Entertainment Movie rentals, Itunes charges, parking fees, kayaking shuttles, park entrance fees; I lump all these in to entertainment. I started with a budget of $50 and have raised it to $100. We are very frugal and still have a hard time keeping this category within budget.

Fishing If you have an avid fisherman in your midst it should be noted that out of state fishing licenses are very expensive. Jim spent $300 on licenses in 5 states in our first 5 months. Despite becoming more and more prudent about buying fishing licenses we still spent an average of $50 per month on fishing. This is due to replacing lures and equipment that have been lost or broken.

Laundry I didn’t know what this would run me so I have kept careful track of how much doing laundry in laundromats has cost us and it has averaged $19 per month. I usually use the campground laundry facilities. They are generally half as expensive as the commercial laundromats but the machines aren’t always maintained as well.

I also use the machines of friends and family when we visit. Invite me to dinner and I’m likely to show up with a laundry basket in tow. You’ve been warned!

Medical/dental/eye care/prescriptions These items haven’t change much for us since hitting the road. We see all our providers each summer when we pass through Missouri. Thankfully we haven’t needed any medical care away from home.

Health insurance This is the biggest chunk of our budget and it keeps rising. When we hit the road it was only $650. Now it’s almost $1200 per month. I’m sorry I’m not qualified to offer any insight on this subject. There are no easy answers.

Auto/trailer insurance We have both ours insured with Good Sam for $125 per month.

Auto/trailer maintenance This category is the one that is most likely to bite us in the butt. A major repair or, god forbid, needing to replace our truck or trailer is not something we have a contingency fund for. This is the primary reason we are looking for ways to make some extra money down the road.

I started out with a budget of $50 for maintenance which was just wishful thinking on my part. That barely covers our oil changes. We’ve averaged almost $500 per month during these last two years.

What really surprised me when I reviewed the numbers was that the trailer maintenance was almost half of that total amount. It included a ton of small expenses like replacing a sewer hose, more water hoses, slide lube, roof wash, etc. etc. etc! Then there were some larger items, like a new toilet and the repairs needed when we lost a tire on the highway and had to replace it and repair the damage it did to our rig.

The largest single expense we had in this category was when our slide motor went out last summer. It was not easy to find a replacement since Alpenlite is no longer manufactured. And when we did it was close to $1,000 with shipping.

The truck needs truck stuff. Oil changes get more expensive at higher mileages, tires wear out. I’m really surprised we’ve only had to replace our windshield once. Unfortunately our bumper to bumper warranty is about to run out so this category isn’t going to get any cheaper.

Property and income taxes In Missouri we have property taxes on the truck and trailer. And then there are those pesky income taxes. I’ve got a good idea how much I will owe the IRS.

Life insurance, cell phones, and clothing are the remaining categories in my budget. These items are very individual to your circumstance but easy to put a number to.

I don’t have any money budgeted for gifts. I use cash back from my credit card to cover graduation, wedding, baby, birthday, and Christmas gifts. I charge everything I can to credit cards that pay from 1-5% cash back depending on the category.

And I do mean everything. When my health insurer started letting me pay my bill on my credit card last year it gave me an extra $150 in points per year. I also keep an eye on those bonus categories and if another card is paying 5% back on something like fuel I switch to that card for those purchases. This system has worked out quite well for us.

You may wonder why we would ever need a vacation from our luxurious lifestyle, lol. We don’t. And that is why it is not a priority in our budget. We don’t need vacations but when we do want to splurge on a trip that takes us off the mainland we will have to save some money, possibly by boondocking more like we did to justify our cruise last winter, or make some money, by workamping or picking up a short term job.

With increases in our health insurance and truck and trailer maintenance we have increased our total budget to roughly $4400 per month. The additional funds came from money we planned to be saving for emergencies and future inflation. The future got here faster than we expected.