Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Thrifty Full Time RV Living and Travel


I’ve gotten several messages on different forms of SM asking about how to save money, and how to get out there, travel and enjoy life!! For purposes of posting and referencing, I'm going to focus on doing Full Time only. OK!

This budget is DOABLE FOR $1,000 A MONTH, plus food. It’s up to you.
           If you have that much a month in retirement, you can do this. If you can make at least that much money on a traveling job, then you can do this. I can’t expand further on the different ways, mostly Internet based, to make money as this is mainly concentrating on thrifty and full time travel. How you come up with that much money every month is up to you, but a simple adventurous life surely waits.
The first list is going to be a BASE LIST of bills, (most of these I have set to auto pay since the amount doesn’t change) that doesn't fluctuate much, depending on whether we would be traveling or in a stick built, and then we'll get into traveling specifics based on your needs, your family's, and your Rigs'. The cost of the vehicle and Rig are not included in this budget.
Your base/fixed bills for a family might include;
Phone - At least have that. Certain packages will include Internet too.
Internet, not a necessity, unless it's required for you to make money.
Cable, not a necessity. Although these 2 aren’t necessities, if you have children you probably want them. You can easily get a free membership at your local Library and can even get online and rent free movies with them.
Vehicle Insurance
RV Insurance - This blog is intended for those with at least one vehicle, and one RV.
Membership dues, not a necessity.
Storage, not a necessity. Keep things minimal. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
Mailing Service, not necessity if you choose to have all your bills paperless.
Phone/Internet: $55 (phone not included)
I have a used Android phone with AT&T'S monthly plan. SIM cards are usually free. It's a great deal. You know how they finally let user’s data just slow down, instead of charging for going over? Well, they've been doing that on the month to month plan for at least 4-5 years!
In fact, they've almost tripled the high speed data allowance in the last 2 years alone! And you get $5 off with auto-pay.
You can buy different data and calling packages with them, and other phone companies do it too, but with traveling so far I haven't had many problems.
Cell coverage is your #1 priority
Especially in an emergency!
In desolate wilderness, AT&T might not work. The coverage overall is pretty good though.
Even when cell service expires after 30 days if you haven't made a payment, you can still get online. It's a 30 day plan, not a monthly, so the due date will vary slightly. The money needs to be in your account the day before, in order to save $5 on auto pay, otherwise it's $60 a month.
You get:
Unlimited calling.
Unlimited texting.
8 gigs of 4g, and then slow after that. (As of 2017)
It's fast enough for a mobile device to access most sites and use apps, provided there isn't 17 things running at the same time. If you rarely use the Internet, you could stream a few movies once a month. :)
It's not fast enough to run Google Maps without glitching. In fact, download a few trucking map apps, just to check the different routes.
Cable: $60 (dish and receiver not included)
I'm doing a rough guesstimation on this, as my husband is in charge of added movie packages. Without the premium movie channels, the most common package is $60. It's another monthly plan, but this time from DISH.
DISH - The ONLY pay-as-you-go satellite service that there is!
As with the AT&T plan, the phone wasn't included, but there are a lot more of those lying around than dishes and receivers. You buy the receiver and pick out the dish and mount, tripod or roof, and pick a plan. When the 30 days is up, no hidden charges, taxes or late fees...it just goes off, like the cell phone.
The hardware is $150-300 based on type of receiver, type of satellite dish, and type of mount, and if you already own of those things. We got a great deal on a used portable dish that sits on the ground next to your RV. You still need to point it in the right direction and program it whenever you move.
Car insurance: $99 (my average)
We're starting to get into 'It depends on you'.
If you happen to be a mom in her 40's with a clean driving record and also using the same broker for several years, you can get killer rates too.
'If you're having lead foot problems, I feel bad for you son,
But I got $99 and a high bill ain't one'.
2 adults,
2 vehicles,
1 full coverage,
1 Liability,
Both road side assistance

RIG Insurance: $75
There is a big difference in price based on whether you have a Motor home (big vehicle with engine) or a 5th wheel (trailer with no motor).
I have a used, still fully functional and operating motor home. If you get one less than 20 +/- years old, based on your state/broker laws and fully insure it, you won't need pictures. After that, when you start up or make large changes is when you will be asked for photos. You may see a broker, but there is someone at an office somewhere analyzing the photos and detailing every feature and value, and to make sure it still exists. ;)
Getting an extra large policy on a 20 + year old rig is going to take a massive amount of picture proving. Maybe even 3 extra pictures of the VIN number based on a certain way the sun shines on it.
35 foot Class A Motor home with less than 100k miles.
Insured for:
Blue book value
Personal Property - all loose items in rig
Other People’s Property
For Structural damages (something that big could go through a structure in a big way)
Road side service - BE VERY WARNED
The trucks needed to tow you, or even just get you unstuck if you are a motor home, are the same big tow trucks for Semi trucks. You could be waiting up to 24 hours for one to be available.
However, if you are stuck somewhere unsafe or in the way, police are able to magically summon that very truck within an hour, where you can then retrieve your rig from impound for the same price as a year’s insurance.
Don’t get stuck. Always always have a spare tire and battery. A 3 ton jack wouldn't hurt either.
Have emergency funds, unless you're ok with staying where you break down.
Storage: $75
So you can put all that stuff you shouldn't buy because it's only going in storage but you do it anyway because its s.... Oooh Something Shiny!!
Obviously, not everyone needs to rent a storage. This is easily something to live without if you keep things minimal.
Mailing service: $100 Average yearly, if needed
If you don't have family or a base house that you park at on and off that can receive mail, or any other address that is legal to use, then you might need to set up a PO Box or use an outsourced mail box company. UPS and Amazon Lockboxes are also available resources.
Membership dues:
Camping World / Good Sam's
KOA - Rarely stay there, too expensive to qualify for thrifty. A primo spot at a popular park will cost you more than $50 a night.
There are a plethora of camping, forestry, mining, camp hosting, state jobs and memberships as well as the Federal Park discount for seniors and disabled, and every State Park has its own. California has a ‘half off for life on all State Parks and State Campgrounds. I highly suggest looking into this locally.
**So far, it's costing you $300-$400 a month, and you haven't even left the house, or town, yet. These are the bills that you’ll pay every month, no matter where you are. Make sure you know that amount when you figure your own budget for the actual cost of traveling between destinations.**

Variable Bills and Travel Costs
This is a specific list of bills associated with traveling, not stationery in a park;
Rent – In RV parks, mobile home, camp grounds, state parks, wherever you pay money to stay overnight.
Power – Usually included in the price of parks, but if using the generator then power is mostly gasoline.
Propane – The is to run the stove, sometime central heater, and for the water heater and the fridge, especially while driving.
Gasoline – The cost of gas to travel, as well as how much you’ll go through if using the generator for power.
Miscellaneous – There will always be something you need for the vehicle, rig, extra tools, unforeseen occurrences, and expensive things that break, etc. Bargain shop these items and tools 2nd hand as often as possible. Sometimes you can rent what you need.
Entertainment/Savings – If you got some left over for it, awesome. Save save save is all I can stress!

Park Rent:
The average cost of an RV Park, on a monthly plan with utilities included, based on the amenities and distance to conveniences in the area, is roughly $500-750 a month. This would be your typical rent/power bill. Propane cost goes down some if you're not boon docking.
Gasoline is $0.
You may not have any other expenses than that besides food and household which puts your base bills plus rent and conveniences (not including food) at $750-$1,050 total. The amount you spend in conveniences has to be weighed against food costs.
BUT, Who said you had to stay in one spot?!
You CAN travel for that, and even cheaper in some places!
       How much you can handle the inconveniences of boon docking (dry camping, truck stops, and rest stops, forest land, anywhere you're not hooked up) would determine the price of that answer.
       You can't set up the satellite dish tripod out in the woods on BLM land. Well you can, but I don't recommend it. Being comfortably set up in a park is a different way of living, than never being in the same spot for more than a few days and always having to secure things when you move around.
       Go through your stick built and turn every light and powered device off that doesn't need to be on. You will probably be running the fridge and a few clocks or electronics. Though it’s not much, it is still power. This is equal to about a gallon of gasoline a day in a Rig. (At least figure that into your average cost of power for gas/propane per day, if you run nothing else.)
If you are on bare minimum usage, 30 gallons of gas, roughly $100 a month based on location and calendar season, should last you. And that's "Rent". You're already own your home. You’re just parking it in different cities/towns/forests all the time. If you are using your coffee pot, microwave, AC or TV several hours of the day, your fuel usage will dramatically increase.
(I have not included food cost in this budget due to its wide variable, including having a completely different diet or shopping habits than others. If you’re smart with your money, you’re food budget shouldn’t be high either. You could have 6 people in your family, and your food bill be $500 more than the single person, who can still use this base budget as well.)
Propane: $25 (may vary slightly)
In the morning I use the propane stove to percolate coffee. If you have a 3 way fridge, such as Norco, which runs on gasoline, propane and AC, then you don't need the generator on all night, as the fridge pulls power from the propane, which is ignited by the
12 volt shore battery that you MUST have.
Average stove and hot water heater use of propane will run you about $25 + monthly. In very cold weather, turn your hot water heater off until you need it.
If you are hooked up, your propane use should go down some from the fridge not running off it, or if you take showers in the ones provided at the campground/RV Park)
When Boon docking:

We rotate the generators time on and off by doing the following:
2 Hours in the morning of having every electronic device charging, watch TV, do all the 'this needs to be plugged in' type of activities or cooking. After that, we can use whatever charged device we choose, or read, or play games, or go outside, or leave, or any number of activities that do not require electricity.
The generator is off for several hours at a time. (The fridge is still on from using the propane, and you can still cook on the stove, and most overhead lights are powered by the battery. That’s how you hang out all day without using gas for the generator, assuming that all aspects of your rig are working.
1 -2 hours in the afternoon. Same thing. Recharging stuff or running the microwave or AC for a bit to cool down. Always remember to start the engine at least 1 daily. You should have 2-3 batteries, and know how much shore power you're using. One is the ‘Starting Battery’ that starts the engine, and the other is the ‘Shore Battery’ that runs the lights and fridge. Get large, well-powered batteries.
2-3 hours at night. Heavier use. Using small appliances for dinner, watching a movie, any numerous plug-in options including closing everything down and running a heater for a short time to warm it up for the night. Most hand held devices will charge up in this amount of time, and still usable long enough to read or watch a movie on your tablet or laptop.
No matter what, you can’t run more things than the allowable amps available.
The more things you plug in, the more gas you eat up. Conserving water is another story.
6 total hours average a day running the generator, and being able to do SO much that you barely notice the inconvenience of not being powered up all day, for the most part is equivalent to roughly 60-75 gallons of gas a month. It's worth it to fill up as often as you can wherever you find gas the cheapest.
"Travel Rent" $200-300 in gas. This is the cost of rent to live wherever you want, if it's legal for you to stay there, avoiding No Overnight parking signs, if you have to move every few days, or you need to get to an RV park so you can shower and dump tanks. Otherwise, parking wherever you are able to, and staying as long as possible in each spot, will get you cheap 'rent'. Dumping the tanks and refilling up your water reservoir is probably about $10 a pop at most RV parks, and even free at some truck and rest stops. You really want to be self contained!

Don't forget the convenience of having a gym membership that will allow you to take showers for a small fee. This is a great deal for car and van Dwellers. The electricity you use would be smaller based on having a converter/extra battery that you would need to charge daily. Again, don't let both those batteries go dead.
Let me assure you, there is not 6 inches of wall insulation on that Rig so unless you’re in a tiny house in which there's a lot more than 1/2 inch of foam insulation, you may have more costs from temperature control.
Do NOT fill up the tank in the motor home, drive until you run out of gas and money, and then just stay there the rest of the month. It sounds fun but not having any money for food and supplies and gas for the generator is a downer. You’re really going to want to cook, take a shower and live feasibly comfortable somewhat for the next 3 weeks. AT LEAST, fill up the tank again when you get there, and you might make it boon docking all month on that.
If you CAN do that, make sure you explore as much as possible in the surrounding area before heading out the next month. Some adventures need to be planned, especially on a budget. Take advantage of all the free entertainment you can get your hands on. Visit the local library whenever you're staying in a new area. Not only will they have amenities, but usually carry an ample amount of books and magazines on local things to do and places to go.
Don’t forget >  Generators are designed to stop sucking gas out of the tank when the tank reaches a ¼ full. It’s a safety measure. Before you go boon docking 'way wayyyy out there, go with a full tank of gas and all the supplies you need, so you don't have to move for a week and the engine can still start.
WARNING >>> In extreme temperatures, you may be running a floor heater or the AC'S on top and that means running the generator twice as much, if not all day and night long. The AC can warm up quick and not run as effective, as well as a lot of heat can escape or come in through the windows. Tinting and reflective material greatly help keep costs down, and regulate the temperature inside your rig.
Your "Travel Rent" could go up easily to the same cost as a park. If that happens, and you find yourself not having travel money, I suggest you immediately reevaluate your finances and cut what can be. You could be at a park that lets you to run the AC all day, and provides nice amenities, but you could also find a boon docking spot that's actually a better climate with less people and that way you'll save gas money for driving to your next destination.<<<

You could also travel to areas that are always nice in weather, but you will have a harder time finding a paid site, which might make boon docking the only plan you have.
Misc: Laundry. Dump station fee. $50
If you decide to travel a day a week, or one week a month, you'll need to dump your tanks, replenish your water supply, stock up on supplies, get more gas or go to the Laundromat at least once a week anyway.
Entertainment/Savings - Your own variables and personal choices after all the bills are paid. I've been a single mom, anywhere from staving off the inches between us and the actual pavement to, traveling all over the West Coast experiencing incredible things in majestic places while Road Schooling my twin boys. Not everything you do has to cost money.
Life is beautiful!
Your own list can vary greatly based on your needs, wants, location, hobby interests, convenient seeking or rugged living desires.
How much you want to travel, how often you travel and what you're traveling in will change the budget.
This is a very doable list for $1,000 a month.
Your food budget will always vary based on the amount of people in your group. Go to food banks, churches, shop sales only, learn to can, hunt, dehydrate, or fasting once a week. Anything to cut costs without risking your health.
If you are working, you can comfortably start at $1,000 and add about $200 extra per person after that. There are greater variables if you’re working such as commuting in your tow vehicle, tools required, meals, additional unforeseen expenses, damages, etc. Working, usually means you're on a schedule, and may need to pay for repairs, instead of spending time doing them yourself.



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