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 by roughly $400 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!