This is a question that I am asked quite a bit and mainly from people who are considering life on the road either seasonally or full-time. Currently, my living expenses hover around $800 a month (this is in U.S. dollars and includes medical and dental insurance) or less than $10,000 a year.
With that said, I live a pretty simple life. I only eat red meat on occasion, which lowers the cost of my groceries. The list does not include gas or campground fees if I choose to stay in fee-based campgrounds when I travel for shows or dining out, which I might do about once a week. I purchased a permanent RV lot that serves as a home base throughout the year. I also own my RV and a little car that I boot around in for errands when I’m at my home base.
Below is a breakdown of my average monthly expenses since I began full-time RV living.
• Food – $150 (or just $5 per day for 3 meals)
• Household Supplies – $10 (RV toilet paper, shampoo, etc.)
• Co-op/Maintenance Fees – $220 (for the permanent lot – includes WiFi, water, amenities)
• Electricity – $30 (for the permanent lot – metered usage)
• Phone – $117 (includes unlimited data and a WiFi hotspot)
• Unleaded Gas – $40 (for local travel only)
• Propane – $25 (for heat, fridge, stove in RV)
• Laundry – $10
• Insurance: RV and Car – $145
• Insurance: Medical – $66 (thanks to the ACA)
• Insurance: Dental – $13 (again, thanks to the ACA)
Total = $826
When I’m on the road, I often don’t have to pay for overnight parking or camping. I often overnight it by boondocking on streets, in parking lots where RVs are allowed to park (more on these subjects later), on BLM land (free camping on public land operated by the Bureau of Land Management) or in friend’s and family member’s driveways.
If you are considering this lifestyle, here are some other notes that might help you assess or prepare your own budgets, which will vary greatly from person to person depending on your needs and desires.
In general, camping in parks, campgrounds and RV resorts will cost anywhere from $15 to $75 a night depending on many variables such as location, amenities, whether or not you choose to dry camp (no water or electrical hookups) or hook up to utilities, season, etc. On longer trips I personally like to break it up a bit and boondock half the time, spending the other half of the time in campgrounds. I do this mostly to refill my freshwater tank and dump my black and grey water tanks.
Currently, my living expenses hover around $800 a month (including medical and dental insurance) or less than $10,000 a year.
Most RVs get very little mileage. Believe it or not, some may get as little as 6 mpg. Gypsy Rose gets about 11 mpg when she’s fully loaded with my art gear and the water tank is full. Gas prices, at this time in the U.S., can range from under $2 per gallon to over $4 depending on the market and location. Quite often I’ll time it so I fill up in a state that I’m traveling to if the gas prices there are significantly less than where I am traveling from.
The other important budget element to keep in mind is the good old slush fund for mechanical fixes, diagnostics, mechanical upgrades, oil changes, etc. This expense will vary, of course, from year to year, but it is pretty much guaranteed that you will need to pay for some of these every single year.
There are lots of variables that will dictate what your expenses will be like for your style of travel and living, but the good thing is that you can conserve and cut down on expenses when you need to by using less gas or volunteering to work trade as camp hosts in campgrounds or in other ways like convincing your uncle with the big farm in Kentucky, that you’d make a great farmhand for a summer.
* All text and images are copyrighted and protected by copyright laws. Use or reproduction of any kind are prohibited. All rights reserved. © 2019 Carolyn Quan / The Happy Little Bird / Dream World Media LLC.