Our 1 year Budget Review
Developing a budget for full time RVing is a daunting task. No two set ups, rigs, experiences, and spending habits are the same. This makes it rather challenging to really gauge what it costs to RV full time. Before we took the plunge to RV full time, we did as much research as possible to try and find out what it costs to RV full time. What was most helpful for us was examples of other people’s budgets for full time RVing. While everyone’s budget and costs will be slightly different, seeing where they spent their money, how much money was allocated to different expenses, and seeing a broad range of budgets helped us get a general idea of what it costs to RV full time. What we came to realize after actually living on the RV full time for a year is that our original “planned” budget was WAY off from our actual costs for full time RVing! Since we were way off from our original budget estimate, we wanted to share our actual 1 year of RV expenses so you can see what it costs to RV full time for us. In this video and post, we break down how much we spent in a year, our average for each month, where we spend our money, and things to plan for in your full time RV budget. Watch the video below to get all the details!
We want to go over all the juicy details of our budget so you can see exactly why we spent so much in our first year. We realize everyone’s experiences, set up, and spending habits are different than ours. There are definitely ways to have a lower overall cost for full time RV life, and there are many other examples of full time RV budgets that weren’t as high as ours, like Heath and Alyssa who lived for under $30,000 in 1 full year (although they lived SUPER frugally), or this couple who lives for around $3,000 a month (that’s closer to our budget in year two). Our first year cost us way more than we ever expected. One reason our first year expenses were so high was unexpected repairs, accidents from being newbie RV’ers, not knowing our camping lifestyle, and upgrades we wanted to do to the rig. Our second year RV’ing will likely be far less than our first as we don’t expect any big upgrades to the rig, and now that we have solar far less RV parks which all equals savings for us! If you have suggestions on plans or programs that can lower our budget we’re open to suggestions, so comment below! Please do not tear our budget to shreds, we realize it’s a work in progress and we’re focused on keeping costs down while still enjoying our lifestyle of full time RVing. So here it is: What it costs to RV full time for Eat See RV!
Our 1st Year Budget Review |
Total Monthly Average: $5,071
|Item||First 6 Months Total||Average by Month||Second 6 Months Total||Average by Month||Total for Year||Average for Year Per Month|
|Insurance (RV, Truck, Motorcycle)||$1,772.93||$295.48||$1,622.96||$270.49||$3,395.89||$282.99|
|Diesel & Propane||$2,769.58||$461.59||$3,360.96||$560.16||$6,130.54||$510.88|
|Miscellaneous Items for Home/Truck/RV||$2,535.01||$422.50||$1,821.25||$303.54||$4,356.26||$363.02|
|Parking Car & Uber/Lyft||$741.45||$123.57||$104.37||$17.39||$845.82||$70.49|
|1st Six Months Total Spent||1st Six Months Total Monthly Average||2nd Six Months Total Spent||2nd Six Months Total Monthly Average||Total Spent For Year||Total Average Monthly Spent for Year|
Because I’m a nerd…here’s the numbers in graphs! 🤓
What it Cost Us to RV Full Time (Our First Year)
Groceries | $1,056 per month
We realize our budget of $1,056 is expensive for most. We typically buy health food products, which are often more expensive than generic or more popular brands you’d find in any store. It’s one of the reasons we like to shop with Thrive Market, which delivers our healthy products to us where ever we are in the USA for typically 25% – 50% discount from health food store prices (if you want to try it out, see our blog post & video here as well as the link to get 25% off your first order). That helps us save on groceries. We also eat in the house 95% of the time which means we spend less overall on food compared to eating out 25% of the time or more. If you actually break down the average of 30 days in a month, three meals a day, we’re only spending $11.73 per serving or $5.87 per person per serving! We feel pretty happy with that number considering we eat really high quality food that is organic, natural, fresh, and as local as possible. Since your grocery budget is your own, take a look at what you spend now and add $100 – $200 to stay on the safe side. We spent almost that much before we lived in an RV full time, so it will likely stay relatively the same for you too.
As we mentioned in the video, we went “ham” in our first three months which is why our average ended up bing nearly $900 (what the heck did we do 😵🤑). As newbies, we wanted to do everything, see everything, take this tour, do that excursion. We ate out way to often and went to every brewery and winery we passed! That lifestyle wasn’t sustainable. In our first six months, we spent an average of $1,432 per month just on “fun” most if it being in our first three months alone. Our second six months was much much much more conservative at an average of $299. As we move into year two, our budget is around $350 per month for play. We feel that number is a moderate budget and allows for a meal or two out a month, a few breweries or wineries, and possibly an excursion or two. If we’re going to a big city or big destination we may save up for a while and spend less so we have more to spend once we get to our big destination.
Another way to save here (and what we’re doing more often now) is doing lots of FREE outdoor activities; hiking, biking (if you have bikes), free sight seeing, and just being outdoors. Rather than paying for a gondola ride up a mountain for $50 per person, we’ll hike up the mountain. It’s a great workout, we probably we see more (possibly animals too), and the views are just as rewarding.
We suggest budgeting….
- $100 – $200 if you’re trying to be conservative with your budget, although you will miss out on a lot of opportunities or activities as you travel.
- $225 – $350 if you’re in a moderate budget, trying to save and be on the lower end while still enjoying some activities and outings.
- $375 – $650 if you’re able to spend a bit more per month and not as conscious of keeping a lower budget. You will get to do a lot with this budget
Things will break, repairs will be needed, and maintenance is a must. It’s inevitable no matter what year rig you have or what your set up is. It’s best to start off with a “safety net” to cover any big unexpected items we suggest around $2,000. Each month put your allotted budget for repairs into a special “Repairs” savings account. That way, when something does happen you have money saved up for it and it doesn’t break the bank as bad (hopefully). We were shocked at how much we spent in our first year on repairs. Thankfully, we have a warranty and our manufacturer covered a lot of these expenses for us, so we actually paid around a 1/3 of these out of our own pocket. It’s important to note we also have a separate tire and structural warranty so that has reimbursed us a few times as well. We still put the total amount so you can get an idea of how much it can cost for repairs.
In our first year we repaired or needed…
- The mass airflow sensor on our truck 3 times – out of pocket expense
- Clogged DPF filter in Exhaust, needed manual regeneration – out of pocket expense
- 9 new tires for the truck (includes spare) – out of pocket expense
- Replaced the shocks on the truck when we first bought it – out of pocket expense
- 4 broken leaf springs – reimbursed
- Broken landing jack (we ripped it off at our very first campsite 😣) – paid insurance deductible
- Awning Replaced (it went through a freak rain storm and collapsed our first week of owning the rig) – paid insurance deductible
- Leak in auxiliary tank, repair leak, replace insulation, and fix underbelly – reimbursed
- Window shattered in garage – out of pocket expense
- 5 trailer tire replacements from blow outs or bubbles in tires (includes spare) – partially reimbursed
- Microwave broke (replaced)
- Battery upgrades (since they only gave us 1 12 volt battery for this huge energy hungry coach…)
- Oil and Filters for Truck & Generator
We suggest budgeting….
- $200 – $300 if you’re trying to be conservative with your budget, although this may or may not cover all of your needed expenses monthly.
- $300 – $400 if you’re in a moderate budget. This should cover your bases but may have a few repairs that cost more than this. (This is where we fall now)
- $400 – $500 if you’re trying to cover all your bases and never be tight on RV repairs that are needed.
This category includes diesel, gas (for motorcycle and generator), and propane. We traveled roughly 14,000 miles in our first year. We get around 7.5 miles to the gallon in our diesel dually truck (which is terrible). The average cost of diesel at the time we did our trip was $3.50 for diesel. The more your travel the higher this expense. The less you travel the more savings you capture. This will also greatly differ from full time RV’er to full time RV’er based on their rig, type of fuel, average cost for fuel at time of travel, and MPG rating of your vehicle.
to estimate your fuel budget needed….
- Determine your “route” more or less on google and get an idea of the miles you will travel that month or year.
- Assuming your already know your vehicles average mile per gallon you can use the following formula…
(Total miles of trip ➗ Average vehicle MPG) ✖️ Average Fuel Cost at Time of Travel (per gallon) = Rough Estimate of Cost $ for Fuel
Even though you no longer have a brick and mortar house, you still need a place to park your home on wheels. You save on property taxes and insurance, but it’s made up in your cost to camp. This budget varies from person to person based on their preferred style of camping such as mostly or all RV parks or boon docking for cheap or free, long term camping like one month or more or shorter term which you pay by night or week, or if you have any memberships that help give you further discounts or potentially free camping, like Boondockers Welcome or Harvest Hosts (mention Eat See RV when you sign up and get a month free).
As we move forward into year two, we are budgeting $350 a month for this category.
Rough Costs for camping….
- RV Parks: $30 – $60 a night with hookups (can be more if you’re in a big city). Paying by the week often brings the rate down slightly. Paying by the month brings it down greatly, but you do pay for your electric usage when it’s by the month.
- State Parks: $15 – $45 depending on the state if you’re in a moderate budget, this won’t cover big one time upgrades though! Most states offer a discount card for in state residents or seniors which lowers your camping fees by nearly half!
- National Parks: $15 – 45 often with no hookups and typically has a fee to enter the park (not included in camping fee). If you have a senior pass this lowers your camping fees by nearly half!
- Boondocking: Free – $15/$20 depending on if it’s true public lands, national forests, or paid public lands (it varies).
We suggest budgeting….
- Mostly boondocking, $200 – $350 is a good estimate for a budget.
- Half and half, closer to the $350 – $500 mark is a safe estimate for your camping budget.
- Mostly or all RV parks, $800 – $1,000 a month is likely (if your traveling, less if your in one spot the whole month).
We spent a lot of money in our first year upgrading our RV to meet our needs as we full time RV. Think of it like buying a house or moving into a new apartment. While some of your old items work in your new space, you will likely purchase new items that better fit your needs in your new home. We have a video that talks about the items we needed immediately after buying our RV to be comfortable (or in general – use it). That alone was a lot of money. Then as we traveled more, we realized there were items we wanted to upgrade to give us a more comfortable lifestyle on the road.
This category will be 100% different for everyone! You may not want to purchase the items or upgrade your RV like we did. Most of the items we upgraded were completely optional and are considered a “one time” cost. Now that we’ve shelled out the money and upgraded the item, we won’t have to pay again. So we realize this may be inflated for you. We still wanted to share with you what we upgraded in case you’re interested in doing something similar!
In our first year we purchased or upgraded…
- Washer/Dryer Combination (if you don’t have your own washer dryer I’d budget $40 per month for laundry for two people, more for a family).
- 2,000 Pure Sine Inverter
- Composting Toilet
- Tools for changing spare tires
- Tools for installing solar/inverter
- 120 Watt Portable Solar Panel
- 300 Watt Rooftop Solar Kit
- Tools and Materials to Wash RV, Motorcycle, and Truck
- We Boost Wifi booster (watch full video on why we chose this set up & how we installed it)
- Wheel Chalks, Leveling Blocks, Adapters for 50 to 30 amp, 30 amp to 15 amp, and hoses
- Random household items like books, games, broom, DVD’s, pillows, etc.
- Title & Tag renewals or registrations for vehicles
We suggest budgeting….
- $50 – $75 if you’re trying to be conservative with your budget, although this may or may not cover getting items you want or need.
- $75 – $150 if you’re in a moderate budget, this won’t cover big one time upgrades though!
- $150 – $200 if you’re trying to cover all your bases and never be tight on items you want in your home or upgrades.
Since we operate a real estate investing business from our RV it’s imperative that we have good connectivity. We have AT&T for our cell phones which currently has 12 shared gigs of data. We also have a Verizon Mifi Jetpack that has 200 gigs of data per month. The plan we have for the verizon jetpack is no longer offered (we found out after trying to refer a friend), so this cost could change for you based on the current offerings of the service providers – which changes all the time. As far as we’ve seen our budget seems to fall pretty smack dab in the middle and sees to be comparative to other’s plans and budgets for this category.
Like many of the other categories here this will change dramatically based on your rig and set up. We need insurance for the truck, motorcycle, and RV so our insurance is higher. We also didn’t do a ton of shopping when we got our insurance and could probably get this lowered if we shopped around more.
We suggest budgeting….
- $100 – $200 for one to two newer (10 years or newer) vehicles.
- $200 – $300 for two or more vehicles.
Health insurance is it’s own topic and is why we’re dedicating a separate post and video to this very subject. We still wanted to share with you our costs for this category to give you an idea. We’re both very healthy and almost never go to the doctor. The coverage we currently have is for out of pocket medicine for Liz that she was getting monthly for about 8 months of this 1 year budget, and Dennis’s Health Insurance. We also had Liz’s previous employees coverage for 3 months out of our budget so we didn’t have to add this cost up until later on in our trip. We are budget $250 per month for this moving forward.
Memberships are a totally optional category of full time RV’ing. That means it’s not a bare-essential or requirement for this style of living. We have several memberships now that we feel are essential for us on the road. Here are the following programs, or memberships we pay for each month. If you’re interested in joining any of them please click the links below to help us out! We do receive affiliate commission from some of these programs although we are referring them because we are members and believe in them, our opinions of them are our own.
“Cable” Memberships/TV Membership….
- Hulu (stream cable TV, get access to movies, & stay up to date with your favorite shows without commercials) $11.99 per month
- Netflix (stream TV and movies – this is a must for us since we don’t have cable or satellite) $7.99 per month
- Prime TV (a part of Amazon Prime’s membership)
- Mailbox Forwarding (scans our mail for us to view online, forwards to an address we request, and/or shreds unwanted mail. Join with code: for 40868 for 1 month free)
- Thrive Market (healthy, sustainable, organic, non-gmo food delivered to you wherever you are. Discounts on products on average of 25% – 50% stores). Read more about this membership & watch the video of our product haul!
- Amazon Prime (free 2 day shipping is a must when you’re traveling often)
General RV memberships
- Escapees (we joined our first month but are no longer members since trying to keep costs down). Has a great network for RVer’s to meet up and learn!
- Harvest Hosts (camp at farms, breweries, vineyards, and historical places throughout Canada and the United States. There’s nothing like a free spot to camp with wine!) Mention “Eat See RV” when you sign up!
- Boondockers Welcome (camp in backyards of fellow RV’ers and make new friends. Beautiful locations, wonderful people, and best of all free camping!)
Obviously this category would only be applicable to you if you have pets. We feel our budget of $70 a month is very moderate. If we don’t have any pet visits, we actually spend closer to $40 a month, but it’s better to budget slightly more and not have a big surprising bill (that you don’t have the money for) after an unexpected vet visit!
This is another part of our budget that falls into the non-essential category of full time RVing hard cost. We added it in because we spent money on it, and are showing you our true break down of our budget in our first year. We almost exclusively used this category when we visited big cities. In our first year we used Uber or Lyft or paid for parking (like lots, garages, etc) in Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Portland, Bar Harbor, Houston, New Orleans and a few other cities. This is definitely a luxury cost to add to your budget and we’ve enjoyed having the treat of either Ubering a few places, or having the opportunity to drive into town and see the sights parking our car somewhere close.
We suggest budgeting….
- $5 – $10 if you rarely visit cities (where you’ll need to pay to park) or Uber/Lyft on a super rare occasion.
- $10 – $20 if you plan on visiting a few cities in your trips, even 1 a month will eat up this budget.
- $30 – $50 if you want to Uber/Lyft when you’re in cities and plan on visiting several bigger cities during your travels.
We are Dennis and Liz! We’re two travel loving, real estate investing, foodies exploring North America full time in a Grand Design fifth wheel toy hauler. We share our lessons learned as full time RV’ers, travel tips and tricks, and the best places to eat and see in the US with you!
Liz and Dennis visit Yellowstone National Park for the very first time! They share the top things to do in Yellowstone in their video and post. If you’re planning a trip to Yellowstone you won’t want to miss this post!
Liz and Dennis visited Grand Teton in early Spring. They were instantly blown away at how beautiful this area is and what a special park Grand Tetons really is. In this post, they share their favorite vistas, hikes, and animal sightings in this beautiful national Park.
See how Liz and Dennis plan their RV route. They even share their top 3 resources they use to help them find camp sites, cool and unique excursions, restaurants, and more!