I talked about how we make money on the road in How We Afford Our Full-Time RV Life but I didn't break down our monthly expenses. If you've been considering converting to living your life on wheels, expenses are a huge part of your decision process.
Everyone's expenses are different when full-time RVing. Different rigs are going to cost different amounts. There are ways to go about it cheaper and on the other hand be much more expensive then what we pay.
This is a breakdown of what we have and how much it cost us a month to live on.
Necessary Monthly Expenses
These are the expenses that you absolutely need if you want to be full-time. As I said, everyone's expenses are a bit different, for instance, if you live in a Class C, you won't need the truck payment. On the other hand, if you do have a fifth-wheel, as we do, you might pull it with an older truck that is paid off eliminating the need for a truck payment.
These are our necessary monthly expenses:
Your payments might be lower than ours because you might have more to put down, better credit, or you might purchase something less expensive than what we did. However, this is what we are paying at the moment. We have a budget in place now (as long as the world doesn't end again) that will have our truck and fifth-wheel paid off in a little over a year.
Once that happens, our necessary expenses will drop by $1200 a month! That's $660-1,110 in monthly expenses.
You often hear people say living tiny means tiny expenses. That can be true, but if you're like us, we didn't have the cash laying around to pay off our home and truck right off the bat. And that's ok!
When we get it paid off, we will truly have small monthly expenses and get to live a little larger while planning our future.
Yes, different seasons call for different monthly expenses. The summer we pay more in electric bills (because many parks charge for electric if you pay by the month) but in the winter, our electric bill drops and our propane bill rises. In our fifth-wheel and in many RVs, we use propane to heat the camper and run our water heater.
Touching back on our electric bill, there is a way to track how much electricity you use in order to monitor your bill, such as Emporia Vue, and modify different things in order to lower your bill.
We bought a tracker with the intention of monitoring our electric use to plan accordingly when we want to buy solar. However, the tracker has come in handy for seasonal expenses as well.
We are quite frequently parked in the desert which means our electric bill in the summer is much higher than it is in the winter. We broke down 3 months ago and bought a 3rd AC unit which has been a lifesaver because when the temperature gets over 100 degrees, it's hard to keep the camper cool.
Our electric bill did go up (naturally) after we bought the 3rd AC, but I believe it saved the longevity of the life of our 2 rooftop AC units. They don't work near as hard as they did before we bought the 3rd AC unit. Will it be worth it to you?
You absolutely can find RV parks that include your electric cost in the monthly fee, however, sometimes it is cheaper to pay separately.
The electric tracker has helped us determine how much we use in any temperature and we know to switch to an all included monthly fee during the really hot months.
No, you aren't going to use as much electricity in the wintertime because you are turning your AC unit off, which is the cause of the high electric usage. But you will go through much more propane!
During the summer we go through a 30 lb propane tank every 3 months, but in the winter we can go through as many as 8 30 lb tanks of propane a month. Each fill costing about $25.
Mid-winter this last year we invested in a couple of Dyson space heaters which were lifechanging. We had one in the bedroom, one at the top of the stairs (pointing into the living room), and one in the back of the camper.
Ever since we started using the space heater, we have limited our propane usage from 8 30 lb tanks to 1 or 2 a month!
Before we bought the space heaters, this is what our winter utility bills looked like.
Once we started using the space heaters, this is how our utility bills changed.
I don't know about you, but I'll take that drop in price any day! The Dyson space heaters can be pricey, however, the units we have double as fans so we use them year-round. Plus, we bought them on Amazon deal days so we got a good deal on them and they have paid for themselves after half a winter using them!
Modern Convience Expenses
I talked about the basic things you need in order to live full-time in a fifth-wheel, but what about your modern conveniences? Those are important too! After all, we aren't cavemen.
Ok, but name a person who can really live without the internet or Netflix. I'll wait...
It might be ridiculous but there's only so many times you can watch the same 5 DVD for movie night. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we have them. Sometimes we stay in remote places that make streaming hard to do, but it would suck to not have it for the 98% of the time we can stream.
Internet is something I cannot live without. It wouldn't be able to write or maintained my blog without it. Therefore, it is something we have to have.
Another modern convenience that you need to budget in (if you're OCD about it like Grant and me) is carwashes. Most RV parks don't allow you to wash your car (or rig) in the park, therefore, you have to take your car to a carwash (or rig to a rig wash).
We typically spend anywhere from $30 to $60 washing cars a month. We wash our rig about every 6 months and we have had good luck finding places that wash 18 wheelers that do a good job and will only run you about $70.
I could continue to go on about our household monthly budget such as groceries, outside entertainment, or clothes, but that seems silly to me. Everyone's household is different therefore those things will be prioritized differently.
You might be feeding a family of 5 which causes your grocery bill to double or triple what we budget for groceries. You might not move as much as us so your gas budget could be half what ours is.
This is where you incorporate your "normal" life budget of what you need into the budget I provided with full-time RV expenses. You know best how to budget for your family, I know RV things. Find your happy medium between the two if you're wanting to go RVing full-time!
To bring all the numbers in one space so you don't have to scroll up and down, here's the summer breakdown of expenses for full-time RV life.
This is the winter breakdown.
Play around with the numbers on the truck and trailer in particular. Those are going to be the biggest ones you can change and if you can eliminate those expenses quickly, the better you will be!
Grant and I knew we wanted to live full-time for a long time, therefore, we spent a little more on our fifth-wheel and truck for the model we really wanted and a unit of better quality.
So many people look at RV life as being freeing and cheap. That it's a way to break out of the normal life of paying a mortgage. It can be that, but it can also be just as expensive as living in a "normal" house.
For Grant and myself, it was about freedom. Yes, it is important for us to save money, however, we know once we have our truck and camper paid off, we will be able to live on a much more flexible budget.
Plus, we are paying off something that we own. No, it's not as good of an investment as a house, but at least you get some money back when you decide to move on.
I'm curious. Was the breakdown of our full-time RV life what you expected? Would you be able to do it? Leave a comment below or shoot me a message on our contact page.
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