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Old 08-28-2012, 12:31 PM   #1
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MH Budget Planning

You all are a great source of information for us new folks! So... We're working to go full time and working on a budget. Can anyone give me feedback--generally speaking--(as I don't won't you to share anything you aren't comfortable with) what I should be budgeting for. Here's what I have so far:

MH loan (if needed)
Insurance - suggestions here?
Fuel - approx $4.00 gal
Park Fees - varied. Generally $30.00 night
MH repair & maintenance

These would be MH specific. There are other items on my budget like health ins, toad ins, etc.

Thanks so very much for any help. Just want to make sure I have the clearest picture I can before moving forward.

2007 Monaco Executive, 45'. Director and Assistant Director for a non-profit.
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Old 08-28-2012, 01:16 PM   #2
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Fun stuff huh?

I think you've hit the biggies so far but don't forget to add the "living" expenses like food, entertainment, dining, etc, etc.

The comment has been made many times that when you go full time you need to make the mindset change from being on a long "vacation" to "living on the road". There is a difference.

When starting to full time, if folks approach it like they're just on a long vacation they can blow through a great deal of money very quickly so budgeting for this is important.

We found that Quicken has really helped us establish, track and manage our budget. We use one credit card and one debit card. Virtually everything we spend gets put on one of those two cards and we never carry a balance on the credit card. A one click update on Quicken and it retrieves all of our spending and, after it learns our habits, it categorizes expenditures and we can generate reports.

The one exception is cash. We draw pocket money from ATMs and simply categorize it as "cash". We don't bother tracking the detail in that category, just the total amount of cash we burn each month. This method has provided us with the resolution we need to understand our spending.

Best of luck.


Rick, Nancy, Peanut & Lola our Westie Dogs & Bailey the Sheltie.

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Old 08-28-2012, 01:51 PM   #3
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Propane, depending on your cooking, hot plate comes in handy.
Food, if you are buying large or bulk currently, lack of storage for bulk items in fridge, freezer or dry (wife would flip with no pantry).
If you are diesel, you might want to figure over $4 per gallon ( Ex San Francisco now 4.35). At the rate we are going...
My parents have had timeshare for a while, they keep track of expenses, for them it is worth it, others maybe not.
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Old 08-28-2012, 03:19 PM   #4
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You pretty well covered the categories you have to budget for, but the amounts can be tricky. Some of the categories will vary a lot depending on your lifestyle. Others, e.g. insurance and camping costs, can vary by region as well as other factors. Fuel obviously depends on mileage driven, and that varies by your lifestyle of as well.
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Old 08-28-2012, 03:47 PM   #5
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This does not answer your question, but when I first saw the title of the thread, I got tickled because one thing in my short 14 months of ownership is those two words together are funny. An oxymoron: RV Budget.

Seriously though, you have a good start. I was scribbling, adding, spreadsheet building for months before I bought my motorhome. I remember driving it home the first day from the dealer and telling my good friend (who helped me take delivery on it and rode with me home, his wife drove the car and followed us, they were lifesavers!) "this ticking on the hourmeter for the generator is driving me crazy, all I can think about is how much money it's costing me!" To which he said, "you better turn around and take it back, because if you have to worry about that, you'll never be able to enjoy it."

I also think because I bought mine earlier than was in my financial planning I was also chewing my nails off about the money end too.

When you do get it all figured out, then you'll find you just have to have this or that to make your next trip out perfect.....and so it goes.

You are on the right track, just make sure there's a slush fund or mad money fund somewhere aside for all the stuff you don't anticipate or think about now while in the planning stages.

Best wishes and above all, ENJOY!!
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Old 08-28-2012, 05:10 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Lincolnboy2
This does not answer your question, but when I first saw the title of the thread, I got tickled because one thing in my short 14 months of ownership is those two words together are funny. An oxymoron: RV Budget.

Seriously though, you have a good start. I was scribbling, adding, spreadsheet building for months before I bought my motorhome. I remember driving it home the first day from the dealer and telling my good friend (who helped me take delivery on it and rode with me home, his wife drove the car and followed us, they were lifesavers!) "this ticking on the hourmeter for the generator is driving me crazy, all I can think about is how much money it's costing me!" To which he said, "you better turn around and take it back, because if you have to worry about that, you'll never be able to enjoy it."

I also think because I bought mine earlier than was in my financial planning I was also chewing my nails off about the money end too.

When you do get it all figured out, then you'll find you just have to have this or that to make your next trip out perfect.....and so it goes.

You are on the right track, just make sure there's a slush fund or mad money fund somewhere aside for all the stuff you don't anticipate or think about now while in the planning stages.

Best wishes and above all, ENJOY!!
LOL... Never thought about it but you're right! And is it EVER financially right or the perfect time? We do have an emergency fund. Dave Ramsey taught us that. Gives us a piece of mind. Thank you for sharing!!
2007 Monaco Executive, 45'. Director and Assistant Director for a non-profit.
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Old 08-28-2012, 05:13 PM   #7
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Checkout " gone with the Wynns" on Facebook. They posted this today.
Cost of Living full time on the Road in an RV

Posted by gonewiththewynns on August 28th, 2012
What is the cost of living on the Road in an RV? Surprisingly it’s a lot more than we expected. Here we outline our expenses and costs for life on the road full time in our Motorhome. Everyone has a different experience with full time travel across North America but one things for sure: We’re all trying to live the dream while saving money. Hope this information will help you plan a realistic budget for your RV travels.

***Update on RV Travel Expenses 02/2012 through 07/2012
$22,864.00 Grand Total for 6 months of RV Travel for both Nikki and I to live full time on the road in our Motorhome. This is approximately $1,653 per person per month. At this rate we’re on target to spend a similar amount as 2011. This really stinks as I feel we’ve been more frugal this year on the road vs. 2011. In certain areas we’ve saved literally thousands, but in others we’ve added expenses!
Here are few ideas on how we can save money: (if you have any ideas, we would love to hear them)
I considered cancelling my phone plan to save $1,000 per year, which I might end up doing before the end of the year (for now I lowered my phone and text plan to the lowest possible offering).
We can eat out less and when we do, eat lunch (it’s cheaper). One of the best ways to get to know a city is to eat your way through it so we won’t give up eating out, we will just stick to a weekly budget of $50.
We can give up alcohol and coffee……YEA RIGHT!
I know, it was a short list. For now we’ll try to cut corners where possible, and keep track of our expenses for the next 6 months. My goal is to reduce our costs by 15% for the next report! Can’t wait to see how we do! See below for the full breakdown of our Feburary – August 2012 RV living expenses:
$2,319 Fuel Cost - So far we’ve put a lot less miles on the RV this year (around 5,000 so far) however we’ve been driving our Smart Car loads more (probably double last year)! Everyone complains about fuel costs, but if you look at it our fuel isn’t our largest expense, and how much really does a 10 cent increase per gallon cost? You’re either going to travel or you’re not, I’m tired of hearing people use the excuse of fuel costs as a reason they don’t take out their RV. Suck it up, put on your big boy pants, and travel….you’ll thank me later as you realize the trip only cost an extra $25 because of the rise in fuel cost. Sorry for the rant, we just hear this excuse over and over and it’s a moot point.
$600 RV Camping - The largest savings compared to our 2011 expenses. The main reason for the change in camping fees: We’ve stayed at several parks that have comped our stay and paid us to shoot a video on their parks. It’s not great money, but it’s saving us money and helping us pay some bills while extending our travels on the road. We haven’t shared many of the campground videos on our site yet, but we’ve just launched a new tab aptly named campgrounds. You’ll find the videos to be pretty happy since we were paid to shoot the parks, but in the text you’ll find our personal take on these RV Resorts (not all the reviews are paid, and we won’t lie and tell you a place is great when clearly it’s a piece of crap). Also we’ve saved lots of money by Driveway Surfing at our follower’s homes; and special thanks to my mom for fitting the bill when she joined us in Montreal Canada.
$0 RV Maintenance - We had an oil change paid for by a new fuel additive company. We’re testing the fuel economy of our Monaco Vesta as market research for the company. (If you’re interested check out the post on RV Fuel Economy).
$30 Car Wash - We’ve gone cheap this year, maybe we’re too cheap. We gave Windy a bath just before we left Dallas, a second bath after leaving the Gulf Coast, and another Bath in Canada all at no cost thanks to our friends along the way. We have washed the smart a few times at the coin machine.
$1,600 Insurance - Covers the following: RV, Smart Car, SAAB SUV (we won this for Best of the Road, but it sold in July so we don’t have to pay insurance anymore), Renters Insurance Policy for general coverage, jewelry policy, rider for camera equipment, and probably some other stuff too. This also covers the yearly fee for the AAA RV program and the monthly fee for Chase Identity Protection (although I may cancel this as I spoke with a lawyer who said it’s a load of crap). For those of you wondering if we’ve purchased health insurance: I’m sorry to say we haven’t yet….we still can’t justify it. We have not paid for health insurance in almost 9 years because as self employed adults insurance is a joke and horribly expensive. Why start now? We have a nest egg saved for any medical emergencies.
$80 Propane - The electric part of our water heater has been broken since the beginning of May so we’ve been using more propane than expected (on the other hand I’ve rarely had to run the propane furnace this year as the East doesn’t get very cold at night).
$999 Phone/Internet - Nikki has Verizon $493. I have AT&T $506. In case you’re wondering ATT works 70% of the time, and VZ works 95% of the time (on the East). So if you have AT&T you might want to switch before you go full time.
$2,500 Eating Out - Similar to 2011 we find ourselves eating out 2 nice meals per week. This amount also includes the local breweries we purchase beer from and the local coffee roasters we support along the way. This number is a little askew as we’ve had a few of our meals comped or discounted some of the time when the owners find out we’re blogging about them (approx. savings $500).
$2,015 Groceries - Shopping local and organic when possible costs a little more money, but it’s totally worth it in our opinion.
$400 Cat Expenses - Updates on shots, basic checkup at vet, Heartgard, Frontline, litter, and food. Both cats are doing well this year and loving life on the road.
$0 Festivals – We’ve been to a few festivals along the way this year, but most were free to the public, and those which charged comped our tickets for filming our experience. This savings is bitter-sweet as some of our best memories last year were from Burning Man, Coachella and Sasquatch.
$5,800 Additional Gear - Well……I dropped my 5dmkii in the water; oops. So I had to purchase a new 5dmkiii and a few other small items I needed for filming. Insurance will likely cover the majority of these costs so I’ll take that into account on the next financial post. Also we purchased Nikki a new laptop (she was using an old one and the battery wasn’t working), now she sits happily outside while working on the blog.
$450 Tolls/Parking - Seems like everywhere you visit on the East charges for parking and each road you drive on charges you a toll! I mean COME ON! Whatever happened to the term freeway? Bridges, Roads, Highways, etc have totaled up to big numbers on the East…those bastards!
$1,200 Office/Website/Shipping – This amount covers the few shipments I’ve had to send out, the website changes we’re constantly making, and the few office supplies I’ve had to purchase.
$845 Housewares – Nikki purchased an Induction Plate and she loves it….unfortunately we had to purchase 2 new expensive pans that are compatible with this technology. We also purchased a couple new knives, spatulas, bread-maker, waffle iron….but it’s ok ’cause she’s cooking up a ton of great food with these new toys.
$3,026 Clothing – It’s been a while since we’ve purchased new clothes so this number is PAINFUL! Through most of last year we slowly donated clothes that didn’t fit, items we didn’t like, or we pieces we just plain wore out! So when Summer came this year we realized we didn’t have jack in our closets. Well, now we’re stocked up!
$1,000 Misc - For Good Measure! We always carry cash with us and spend it at places such as Farmer’s Markets, Small Purchases, Personal Expenses, laundry, etc. I’ve put the 1 Grand as I’m sure I’ve left out some expenses so this will help compensate my poor tracking skills.
How are your travel expenses? Do you have any money saving tips we need to know? If so, share with us in the comment box below!

__________________________________________________ ______________________________
***Original Post for RV Travel expenses 2011
For this road trip we knew we would have to adjust lifestyle a lot! We saved our money for years to take this trip across the US and we knew we’d have to be more frugal on the road (mainly because we wouldn’t be making much money during our travels).
There are a few things we wont compromise on: We are passionate about supporting small local companies who are involved with the community. A restaurant that serves local farm fresh food or buying beer from a small local brewery, etc. Of course this lifestyle costs a little extra money, but for us it’s totally worth it. So here was our plan to live more frugally on the road: Eat out less, purchase less expensive beverages, shop less often, and camp off the cord as much as possible.
Below is the breakdown of our expenses from our 2011 Trip across the Western Half of the USA. We’ve rounded the numbers to make it easier to calculate, but this gives us a general idea of what it cost to live on the Road in an RV.
$38,105–Grand Total for both of us to live and travel full time in Windy the RV. ($6,350 Amount Saved during our trip through warranty, club rates, etc.)
Want to know how the heck we spent that much money? Us too! We have outlined the majority of our expenses in a little more detail here:
$5,525 Fuel Cost: We drove nearly 15,000 miles in the RV and 6,000 miles in the Smart Car. This includes fuel costs for the Smart Car too. We used a phone app that directed us to the cheapest diesel fuel in the area, this came in handy saving us as much as 15 cents per gallon. (est. savings $100)
$3,530 RV Camping: Includes RV resorts, State Parks, National Parks, etc. We purchased a National Parks pass that granted us free access to all National parks (approx. savings $300). We lived off the cord at BLM, National Forest, Rest Areas, Wal-Marts, Friends Driveways, etc. for 1/3 of the year. (est. savings $2,500)
$3,800 Camping/RV Supplies: This includes the towbar system, tire pressure monitor system, Camp Chairs, pretty much all the accessories we purchased to make our trip from camping world, REI, Scheels, Home Depot, Ikea, etc.
$1,000 Coach Maintenance: We were in the shop a few times along the road, but our warranty took care of most of the costs. We did pay for 2-RV Oil Changes, 2-Generator Oil Changes, 1-Wiper blade, 1-Fuel Filter, 1-Air Filter.
$500.00 Carwash: Includes 1-Hand Wash/Wax/Detail 4-Truck Stop Washes 3-Do it yourself wash 4-Smart Car washes. We were able to wash the RV a few times and the Smart Car several times at RV parks. (est. savings $150)
$700 Smart Repairs: Includes 1 oil change service, 2 rim replacements, 1 tire replacement. Because our Smart Car is the Brabus edition it has low profile tires and 17” rims in the back (BAD IDEA). We hit a few potholes along the way bending rims and shredding a tire. We purchased a tire and rim warranty and we have AAA for towing (est. savings $2,500)
$2,500 Insurance: Includes RV insurance, Car insurance, Life Insurance, Renter’s Insurance (to cover our belongings at home), Jewelry Insurance, and a Rider policy for camera/computer gear. We switched to State Farm Insurance halfway through the year and it saved us nearly $75+ per month vs. Geico and Progressive. We do not currently have health insurance, I know don’t yell at us… (est. savings $900)
$125 Propane: We only filled our propane tank a few times during our 2011 travels. We’re pretty frugal with our propane heater, but Nikki does cook a ton on the stove.
$2,300 Phone/internet: Nikki switched to Verizon when we hit the road. Jason’s still under contract with AT&T. Price includes the minimum voice plan, 250 text messages (so stop sending us texts for crying out loud! Ha), and unlimited internet. FYI – Verizon has better coverage across the US, and receives 3G more often than my AT&T phone.
$4,000 Eating Out: We made a rule, we eat dinner out once per week at a quality restaurant recommended by the hip locals. Sometimes the bill would be cheap and other times not so much. Of course we would eat lunch out, or purchase a coffee every once and a while. This includes all expenses spent at a Restaurant, Pub, Bar, Happy Hour, Cupcake Shop, etc.
$3,555 Groceries: We shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and if available local natural food markets. What’s most fun is trying to purchase local at each place; trying a new salsa, hummus, fruit, beer, etc. The ULTIMATE shopping experience comes at local farmers markets where you can purchase the most plump heirloom tomatoes ($2/lb), the brightest strawberries ($1.50/lb), and the best natural foods offered in the area. Best of all shopping at a farmers market supports the locals, and saves you money vs. buying at the grocery store. (est. savings $200)
$2,070 Cat Expenses: For safety we had to board our cats for several days during the festivals we attended, and for 3 weeks during our Best of the Road competition. Singa had to visit the vet for a cut in his eye from chasing lizards into the brush, and both cats got caught up on their shots/vaccinations. This price also includes their Food, Litter, and Wild Caught Salmon from the grocery story (yes they’re a little spoiled)
$2,000 Festivals: Coachella, Sasquatch and Burning Man. One major goal in our 2011 travels was to experience concerts and festivals like we’ve never done before. Worth every penny these festivals helped shape our lives in 2011, and give us a new perspective for 2012.
$4,000 Additional Gear: I purchased a new laptop, Video editing software, Carbon Fiber Tripod, GoPro all weather camera, Point and Shoot camera & a Camera Backpack. I also had my camera and lens professionally cleaned after Burning Man.
$2500 Misc: clothing, Laundry, RV accessories, movies, music, business cards, website hosting, etc.
Whew! So there it is. Of course there are some expenses we won’t have in 2012 but I’m sure others will pop up. So far 2012 is proving to be less expensive. We have settled into the lifestyle and become even more frugal (or cheap). We hope this helps you plan your budget.
If you have extra money saving tips, please share them below because we’re all trying to do the balancing act of saving money while living life to the fullest! Happy Travels.

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24 Responses to “Cost of Living full time on the Road in an RV”
Donna ReevesApril 27th, 2012
My husband & I have talked so much about “hitting the road” in our Class A, but I am still attached our house. Money wise your budget is way over what our fixed income is, sad. What do you all do for banking and mail while you are traveling?
My website is not up yet, but should be soon, hope you visit it. I have enjoyed your blog.
Thanks, Donna

The McNavigatorsApril 27th, 2012
Thanks for the transparency guys. It really helps those of us still off the road in preparation for the road. BTW…I’m pretty sure we spent more than that living at home! lol We better get on the road, we could be saving money!

The Johnson'sApril 27th, 2012
Hi guys, as we are planning our trip across America with our 8 year old twins this information is priceless! We know ours will be more expensive but it gave insight. We too, have decided to purchase the Vesta 35ft. Your blog’s have inspired us to say “Yes We Can!” Thank you tons, Allie

CathyApril 27th, 2012
Great info. Pays to keep records and then reflect on them….seriously. You both have very good heads on your shoulders! Thanks for sharing, it really does help. We have made a generous budget and know that the first year will be kind of “filling in the blanks”. You have to start somewhere. Happy travels to you.

JimApril 27th, 2012
Big thanks for showing us the costs… I really thought fuel would have been a lot more. I’m inspired!

David & Gia BarnesApril 27th, 2012
You did’nt add in the 30lbs of Hibiscus Tea for Nikki’s addiction! Just had dinner at Provisions and Jodi wanted us to say Hi from her, and she is looking forward to the post. Thanks for doing the leg work on the budget and I figure we can just buy all your used supplies at a huge discount!!!!! Happy Trails, and be Safe!!

Tawny- Captain and ClarkApril 28th, 2012
This is really great information. Chris and I will have to pick your brains about your smart car. It’s something that we’ve been considering for a while and would like to hear what you like/dislike about yours. Thanks for this post. We’ll be sure to pass it around! You guys ROCK.

dianeApril 28th, 2012
If you don’t mind me asking, did you two have any income for the year? If so from where and approx. how much. We are working/saving our way to a similar adventure real soon………….just trying to get all our ducks in rows. You two are an inspiration.

Jamie ColomboApril 28th, 2012
Thanks for your honesty in sharing your expenses! We full time as well….but we have not logged our expenses as well as you guys. I like that you guys try to support the smaller family businesses on the road. Those are the things that are interesting to experience anyway. Best wishes with your travels!

Getting Really Bizarre | RV Rental News TodayApril 29th, 2012
[...] The Cost of Living on the Road via @the_wynns [...]

TomMay 2nd, 2012
I am curious. Do you guys belong to any discount camping programs like Passport USA, Good Sam and/or KOA?

gonewiththewynnsMay 2nd, 2012
Tom, We are members of Good Sam and this year Thousand Trails. So far our Thousand Trails membership has saved us a ton. Keep your eye out for a post on Camping discounts soon!

GailMay 5th, 2012
great story. Just wonder how do you keep the cats from wandering off. Are they leashed?
Keep up the great stories.

gonewiththewynnsMay 5th, 2012
We leash them when we have to(state and national parks) but they are really good and follow and stick around the RV. They have always been indoor/outdoor cats so the transition was really easy.

TomMay 6th, 2012
Well we just closed the deal. We have our new 2012 Monaco Vesta 35PDB. We will pick it up at the end of this week. They need to prep it and I am having them install solar panels and a satellite dish. I do have a queston on tire pressure monitor system. I have been reviewing them on Amazon and not sure which one to go with. I never had one on our 2001 36′ Winnebago but I would like to get one for the Vesta. What do you have and how do you like it?

tiffany of camp1899May 7th, 2012
great post!! what so many dreaming of getting on the road want to know about, and we too found it more (much more in some cases) expensive than we thought.. not as a discouragement of course, but better to know than find out later! (; t.

RandyMay 7th, 2012
Heres my cheapy tips. Casino camping is usually free or close to it. Many give coupons if they charge for discounts in resteraunts. We recently paid 1.00 for a nice breakfast for 2! (2.99 x 2-$5.00 coupon.
And don’t forget to wander Costco ! You can walk out of there stuffed on the freebies!

paul vanMay 7th, 2012
Money means freedom to do what you want. Hard work pays off.

gonewiththewynnsMay 7th, 2012
Thanks Randy! We have not stayed at a casino yet but we hear they are great!

Neal DavisMay 11th, 2012
With our retirement within 5 years, your blog is a continual source of information, inspiration, and encouragement. Thank you so very much. As far as saving money, have you read “Retire to an RV” by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak and Alice Zyetz? It’s an e-book that I found on-line and downloaded (PDF-format). It seems to be a great source of “living in an RV” information including how to save money. Thanks again. Neal

RachelMay 15th, 2012
Hey! My husband are possibly going to buy an RV next year as we both work from home and just got married two years ago! One question, when you talked about staying in your friends driveway, can you explain more about that? Did you not plug into their house? Thanks!

gonewiththewynnsMay 15th, 2012
Hey Rachel! We would run a regular 120v extention cord to power our laptops. That’s about it. We cooked and showered in the house (so make sure they are good friends or family). We have our cats so we always sleep in the RV. It’s like dry camping and just using a bath house…

RachelMay 20th, 2012
Thanks so much for the response! I have one more question, sorry! Where do you have your mail sent to? Just something I thought of the other day in preparation for our travels : )

AlissaJuly 15th, 2012
Thank you so much for posting this info! It is exactly what I was looking for. My husband and I are considering taking our “working from home” arrangement on the road and we’re inspired by your appearance on HGTV. This info will greatly help our planning process.

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Old 08-28-2012, 05:51 PM   #8
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After reading grandpadaves post I went OMG is he crazy spending $4,000 a month then I realized its not to bad if you look at cost of owning a Rv and maintaininhomes ticks and bricks also. Things like food, phones, insurance,cars,clothing,all those things you have no matter were you live the only difference your house has wheels.
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Old 08-28-2012, 06:29 PM   #9
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OK, I'm a cheapscape or just thrifty....
Our monthly budget is only $1,000
Paid cash for our Winnie, NO payments...
We park at a nice RV park for the monthly rate (6 mths. or longer) so we can really enjoy the area we are in... (takes time to find the fishing holes)...
We spend right at $400 a mth for park fees & electric...
We do do StarBucks but get to read the local paper for free...
Eat out but normally Subway & split the sub...
Will be at Bastrop, TX in 2 weeks & stay for a year, has a historic downtown & lots of activities so will enjoy that....
Buying a couple of old 3-speed bikes & save on gas...
We try to pick a nice RV Park close to the stores, Starbucks, Wally World......
Now if I can just shed all of our extra STUFF & save on storage cost...
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Old 08-29-2012, 05:16 AM   #10
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 52
If you are interested in seeing the current annual budget of a full-timing couple pulling a 5th wheel, go to Our 2012 Budget . If you go to their "Financial" page, they have links to other discussions of finances and budgets, including all of their expenditures from the time they started full-timing in 2005 through 2010.

I've followed their journal for quite a while and they were burning through the cash pretty fast early on. The recession and its effect on their investments caused them to do some belt tightening and to start looking for income sources on the road.

As you can see, to get to a current budget of around $3K a month, they don't do a lot of discretionary spending, with a total of about $250 a month for dining out and entertainment. $450 a month for campground fees means lots of boondocking and state parks.

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