Budgeting The RV Lifestyle

by andrewodom on February 20, 2014 · 15 comments


IMG_2059Let me begin by saying that our RV story is not the typical one. In fact, you can read what brought us to this point through these entries.

A quick rundown though would remind you that this is our first full-time RV excursion, we are living in a borrowed fifth wheel camper (so no payment or loan to service), we chose to come to highly seasonal park IN-SEASON in an effort to escape the cold, snow, and ice of our eastern North Carolina home, and we had no prior expectations to what our budget would look like. As many r(E)volutionaries know I am a tele-commuter (and therefore am location-independent so long as there is high speed Internet), we budget wisely (lessons learned from a tiny house lifestyle, we don’t have a retirement, pension, or 401k to live off, and we certainly are not independently wealthy.

We saved for five months prior to our departure to have our rent money in cash, a modest grocery budget in cash, and gas for the two vehicle in cash. I might also add we saved EVERY quarter we got our hands on for those five months so we could do laundry at a rate of 2 loads per week (with 1 additional load every 3 weeks for bed linens) without having to pull from our budget or rob Peter to pay Paul, as it were.

From January 15, 2014 (our check-in date) to February 15, 2014 these were our average monthly fixed costs:

Lot Rent $1,015
Auto Insurance $67
Propane $60
Utilities $41.12
Auto Fuel $110
Tolls $6
Laundry $23
Mail/Postage $9
Groceries $400
Eating Out $200
Recreation $13
TOTAL     $1,944.12

 

Lot Rent. This is obviously the largest expense we incur. It is also the most important though. The biggest difference is that we don’t pay rent on our land in NC. It is paid for and therefore does not effect our monthly overhead. However, it is equally important to note that this cost includes our water, a generous spot for our fifth wheel as well as a concrete patio for outdoor living, access to a large, heated pool with jacuzzi, access to a full recreation calendar including shuffleboard, weekly dances, Wednesday morning breakfasts, poker games, etc. Most importantly though it gives us access to a community of people we have found to be loving, genuine, and quite friendly. That is worth its weight in gold!

Auto Insurance. We maintain our 2007 Dodge Caliber while we are here as the city is not completely pedestrian-friendly, has only a mediocre mass transit system, and is quite spread out. Our insurance policy covers us while out of state and because we pay up front for a 6-month policy this expense was not one we had to pay during the month but one that ultimately took away from our pre-trip savings.

Propane. Our fifth wheel comes equipped with 2-30lb. propane tanks. Our furnace, hot water heater, and stove run off propane. When we arrived we had to use the furnace for almost three weeks as – like the rest of the nation – unseasonably cold weather had gripped South Florida. Coupled with cooking and daily showers the propane went a little quicker than we had hoped. However, the RV park offers on-site propane service so we only have to sign up for a Tuesday or Thursday delivery, leave the tank at the edge of our lot, and pay our money at the front office. It is quite convenient and the price per pound is comparable to any we have seen outside of the park.

Utilities. This expense covers electricity. We have interior lights, a “porch light” which burns all night, the electrical outlets to keep our devices charged, a toaster oven, and a fan when needed. Compared to our rates back in NC it is cheaper here per KwH than there.

Laundry. There are 2 laundry rooms on site and there is never a wait for a machine. A wash load costs $1.75 and a dry load is $1.00. The dyers are pretty awesome and I have not had to restart the dryer for any load yet. I am very pleased with this aspect of living here.

Mail/Postage. This expense really just covers sending in some tax documents a week or so ago and sending out some very kitschy postcards I couldn’t resist.

Groceries. As with most things groceries are more expensive down here because this is a tourist area for the most part (and especially this time of year). Milk is $3.99/gallon and nasty beer (sorry Bud Light people) is almost $8 for a six-pack. We admittedly have splurged some in this area as the citrus is hard to resist and we have had to pay more for meat than we usually do. The budget for groceries could easily be reduced but we save specifically for this adventure so we haven’t felt the need to pull back quite yet.

Recreation. Right now this is fairly limited to a few iTunes rentals. There is so much to do right here at the park that we haven’t fully explored the area around us. However, we just finished a planning calendar and next month our rec budget is sure to be considerably higher.

I do want to add that the above budget doesn’t include anything work related (office supplies, postage, travel, memberships, etc). Most of those are provided by my company and so therefore have no bearing on our income. The budget also doesn’t include personal effects like clothing and/or gifts. You may also notice there is no line item for hygiene products. We take advantage of coupons and specials (and even hotel “gimmees”) during the year so we rarely have to purchase these items when one before it runs out. I didn’t include them because they aren’t necessary for life on the road. Shampoo, toothpaste, etc? Sure. In the past though we have lumped that in with our grocery budget.

Likewise, the above budget doesn’t include personal insurance coverage such as life, health and disability. We carry all three of these types of insurances through my company and recommend you do the same. Your costs will vary greatly though based on age, health, and value of coverage.

What we have found this first month is that traveling and living in an RV is a very affordable endeavor. Based on this budget a family of 3 could live comfortably for as little as $25,000/year if you make fiscally responsible decisions, work to pay cash-on-the-barrel as much as possible, and control your spending.

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