What does it cost to RV full-time? Welcome to this month’s RV Budget and Expense Report where we share our RV budget and costs for the month of September 2021.
This post will contain various RV cost categories, detailed cost numbers, budget vs actual comparisons, with graphs and charts so you can see what this lifestyle costs!
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Why Are We Sharing Our RV Budget and Expenses?
This section should remain the same each month so anyone new to our reports can understand our motivations for sharing! Feel free to skip on to the next section if you’ve previously read this part!
Before we dive into sharing our budget and actual expenses for full-time RVing this month, we wanted to let you know why we’re sharing these numbers!
There are several reasons we decided to start sharing what it costs us to full-time RV:
- When we first started RVing, there wasn’t a lot of comprehensive information readily available for us to plan how much the RV life would cost us. We did our best, but we grossly underestimated some costs (and thankfully overestimated some others)! We want to share the information we wish we’d had to help others planning on full-time RVing, or even those currently doing this that wonder how their expenses compare and if they can make any adjustments.
- The whole goal of our website, YouTube channel, and social media accounts is to share, educate, and inspire others to follow their dreams and live their adventures. The financial piece to doing that can be daunting, so if sharing our numbers can help others realize it’s possible, or help them plan the steps to get there, that would be awesome!
- We’re tracking it anyway, so why not let it help others also! We started budgeting years ago, though not as soon as we should have. It has helped us tremendously to be on the same page as a couple, to spend within our budget, and to plan, save, invest, give and otherwise enable the future we envision for our family. We feel empowered having the data and being able to analyze our expenses and steer our spending to work for us. We want the same for you!
Current RV Budget
We are operating on the same RV budget as last month. If our baseline monthly RV budget changes, we’ll put a shout-out to that effect right here! Changes will be made to our baseline budget if the data is showing we consistently over/under spend in a category and a change is justified/can be supported, if our goals change or for other applicable reasons. If you’ve read this section before, scroll on down to the section “Summary of RV Life This Month” for now!
This is our current RV Budget. This has evolved over time as we’ve adjusted various categories based on data we’ve gathered about our spending, goals we’ve set for our spending and savings, and various changes we’ve made over the years. A few of the more impactful changes include: purchasing a Thousand Trails membership which allows us to stay for free in associated campgrounds after paying our dues, upgrading our battery bank to lithium and installing an RV solar system to enable us to do a lot more boondocking, shifting from eating out a lot to cooking mostly at home.
If you’re not familiar with our family yet, we are a family of four, with two young kids. We also have a dog. You can learn more about us here. Depending on the size of your family, the age of your kids if you have them, if you have any pets, and other variables, these may impact your own budget and expenses.
*Not included: business expenses, savings, charitable donations
Other expenses that we don’t have that others may want to consider including:
- Truck and RV Payments: Our truck and RV are paid off but typically you would also have a monthly payment for each of these. There are various calculators online that could help you get an idea of what a monthly payment for these might be.
- House/Rental: We sold our house after renting it out for a while initially. If you plan to keep your home, you will have associated costs for that or renting it out may entail management fees or other costs.
- Storage Fees: We store some things in a family member’s storage unit at no additional cost to us, but if you want to keep things in a storage unit yourself, you would have a monthly fee.
- Laundry: We have a built in washer and dryer in our RV so we don’t need to pay extra to use laundry facilities at RV parks or in a community laundromat.
- Firewood: We invested in a propane fire pit after the first few years. So this does increase our propane costs at times but we save on firewood.
The following chart shows the percentage each category is of our planned monthly RV budget:
Summary of RV Life This Month
The cost of RV life can vary dramatically based on quite a few variables. Depending on how far and frequently we travel, what part of the country we are in, where we park the RV, what we choose to see and do, whether we had any necessary maintenance or unexpected expenses each month, and so on, can cause big changes both up and down in various budget categories. So we want to give you a quick summary each month to provide some perspective and shed some light on why the numbers might be a bit higher or lower than normal.
In the month of September, we were mostly still in Washington. We spent our time in Washington entirely camping in various Thousand Trails RV parks which is an excellent way to make the most of the Elite membership we have. We pay our monthly fee and an annual assessment fee and nothing additional for the campsites no matter how much or how little we use it. The more we use it the more we save. If you’re interested, you can save $100 off an annual camping pass by going through our affiliate link, for which we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you: https://mbsy.co/3rD6vL
We finished up exploring North Cascades National Park by doing various short scenic day hikes that we highly recommend. Then we moved on into Oregon for the last week of the month. We did a few days of boondocking and then went to Wallowa Lake State Park. This stay went into October but the entire cost is in this month’s RV Rent numbers so we are slightly over budget in that category because of that. The Wallowa Mountains of Eastern Oregon are amazing and there is so much to do including riding the steepest gondola in North America, the Wallowa Lake Tramway. Riding the tramway was a bit pricier than expected and we are over our entertainment budget this month, but it is such a worthwhile activity that we recommend just planning ahead for the cost.
Everything else was under budget so our monthly cost was pretty low for September. That’s good because we know there will be some additional costs around the holidays coming up.
Cost of Full-time RVing This Month
So how did we do? We not only share what we spent, but how it compares to the budget we set for ourselves shown in the above section. This will show you how things can vary month to month. It also shows that although we do our best with sticking to our budget, we’re still a work in progress, sometimes the choices we make of where to travel or what to do are worth it to us to go over budget, sometimes things happen that we can’t control, and sometimes we know it will average out throughout the year.
You’ll see that in some categories we go over budget and in other categories we come in under budget, and these cancel each other out and don’t worry us too much for the most part as long as we are under the overall budget. Even then, if we are over, we try to come in under in a subsequent month to even it out and try to address the things within our control that caused us to be over in a certain category for the next month. If it is a consistent over or under situation, we would take a harder look at our baseline budget in that area to determine if it needs a permanent adjustment for the future.
*Not included: business expenses, savings & investment, charitable donations
**Rounded to the nearest $
You can find details on the memberships we use and other resources we would recommend on our Resources page.
The following graph shows our established monthly RV budget compared to monthly actual costs incurred RVing. Each report will show past and current months year to date. It’s worth noting that since we started full-time RVing at the end of February 2018, we track our RVing year from March to February. Each future report will include each subsequent month, until we reach the end of the year. At that time we’ll publish an annual summary and then start over for the next year!
We’d love for you to check back next month as we’ll again share our monthly RV costs. We also have several RV budget videos with more to come, on our YouTube channel playlist: RV Budget & Cost Saving Tips. We’ll have the RV costs of our first 6 month trip in our travel trailer before kids, and years 1, 2, and 3 of full-time RV living. There will be associated blog posts with monthly averages and graphs and charts. In the future we’ll also be discussing our budget of living in a house in the past vs RVing, and various ways to reduce the costs of RVing.
We’d love for you to sign up for our newsletter, subscribe to our YouTube channel, or follow us on social media if you’re interested in any of these topics so that you don’t miss them! If you see anything missing that you are wondering about or that we might have missed that you would like us to add for next month, please let us know.
You can view all of our RV Budget series posts here.
Do you want to create your own tables, charts and graphs like the above? You can sign up to download the free spreadsheet and input your own budget and actual costs!
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