It’s a myth that RV living is a cheap alternative to sticks-and-bricks traditional living. No doubt, there are hacks to make it cost less such as boondocking (also called dry camping, living off the grid or wild camping) on BLM land where there are no fees, limiting driving to save on gas, etc. But, for average person, full-time RV living expenses can be as much as pre-RV life.
Like in my last Financial post where I estimated how much it would cost to change my life, I did an early estimate of costs of living on the road. While I continue to think my totals are correct within, say a 10% margin, I’m no longer certain the individual line items are.
Many RV bloggers provide financial information with expenses ranging from $1,500 – $4,000 per month. The higher end is, generally, for couples who travel in Class As (the big rig).
Becky at Interstellar Orchard and Sue at RV Sue and Her Canine Crew are two, admittedly, frugal women. Both have a Casita travel trailer and have expenses on the low end at $1,500 per month. Both boondock when they can. Becky doesn’t have pet expenses and Sue, as a senior citizen, pays half price for most camp sites. Neither spend much on fees for museums, tours, experiences, etc.
But the big difference between my situation and theirs is health insurance.
Becky pays $58/month based on her income and age. She’s young. And RV Sue is on Medicare. Becky was interviewed by Technomadia and at 28:00 in the interview is asked about her monthly budget and her health insurance expense.
I’m neither young nor Medicare age. My plan is to acquire health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I have only done a preliminary check on prices because there are other factors, not the least of which is whether there will be changes to the program after the election.
The cost of premiums is determined by age, previous year’s income and whether or not you are a smoker. How many plans you can choose from and the cost of those plans is different for each state.
The estimate I used was based on my current salary, age in 2014 when I did the calculation and living in Alaska. I do not smoke. As a fulltime executive-level professional, I won’t be eligible for discounts during the first year. Maybe not even the second year depending on the timing of my departure. After that, it should go down.
Once I have a domicile (declared state of residency), I will better know my options. I expect to have a future post on health insurance, probably several.
On the other end of the expenses is $4,000 which I have seen but more often I see expenses come in at $3,000. It’s mostly couples, under 65, with a large Class As who say their expenses fall in this range. See RV Dreams and We’re the Russos.
Expenses an RVer can’t control include insurance (health, vehicle), maintenance on the rig and vehicle (whether a toad or tow vehicle) and site fees at campgrounds. On the other hand there are expenses where the choice one makes can affect cost. Moving locations frequently results in higher monthly gas costs than if one remained stationary. Limiting dining out and entrance fees and other entertainment costs is yet another way to save money. Most say they spend on food what they did in their sticks-and-bricks life. I used that figured in my own calculations. However, what isn’t accounted for is how expensive food is in Alaska because it travels so far to get here. It’s a cost category I suspect will be reduced on the road. The pets’ budget line item in this estimate is what I budget for them now.
Since the beginning I’ve been a little obsessed with how I will bathe an 80 pound black Lab in an RV. Putting her in the RV shower is not an option, even if she could fit. All the hair would surely clog something. Many RVs have an outside water station which would be okay if leaving a bunch of shampoo on the ground wasn’t a no-no and I could get her to hold still. Getting a hotel room once a month was the only solution I could come up with. The bonus is that I could make use of the laundry facilities. Accomplish two un-fun tasks in one stop. Plus, now and again, I myself might enjoy a long luxurious bath.
I felt quite clever for having come up with this idea. I’ve never once seen an RV blogger talk about renting a hotel room. Lately it has kind of occurred to me that I’ve never once seen an RV blogger talk about renting a hotel room. Hmm.
Clearly, others have found a different solution. I don’t know what that is but am looking forward to discovering it. Hopefully it isn’t NOT bathing the dog.
I hope to find balance between cutting some expenses without forgoing experiences due to money concerns.
Because of this blog and the desire to stay connected, the only line item I think I figured too low is probably IT-related. On the other hand I used $100 for each of four categories (miscellaneous, things I haven’t thought of, gifts/donations and sundries) when, really, $100 per month might just cover all four combined.
When I made the estimation 27 months ago, I figured on the high side as I was still trying to determine whether or not full-time RVing was even an option, financially speaking. Once on the road, once I get the rig modified to be a lean mean boondocking machine and once I find the rhythm of travel that works for me, I will be able to report back real expenses.
My prediction is expenses will settle in at about $2,300 per month. Still not cheap and not less than the cost of living in a small apartment.
In a couple of years, I will have to remember to look back on this post and see how close my predictions were. Anyone else want to offer a guess?
Join me next month when the Finances post will be an exciting announcement about my plans!