Last week I shared the trip highlights from our year on the road living in an RV, an event otherwise known as Project Escape. This week I wanted to share some of the numbers involved in making that happen. I tried my hand at making my own infographic, holy hell, do I love Canva.com!
A Few Explanations
You can find all 55 weeks of Weekly Wanderings in my Series section. And I’d like to personally acknowledge my friend Katie of Domestiphobia who I think commented on every single one, she was such an immense supporter of Project Escape!
The 5 RV Mishaps were 2 tow-related issues when we lost brake attachment near Bryce Canyon (#1) and on the way to Palouse (#2). The slideout related cable issue we had on our trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to Phoenix (#3). And two electrical issues. The first one in Las Vegas which impacted floor heating and an electrical panel fixed when we got to Red Bay (#4). The second losing our washing machine when the electricity died twice in our RV park in Palm Springs(#5).
We made it through the entire year only having to unhook once to turnaround. I think that is some kind of RV record and I am knocking on wood that it continues! When you have a tow vehicle like our Jeep, there is an elaborate system for hooking it up to the RV and making sure it brakes, signals, etc. It’s dirty and it takes about 10 minutes to do, so it’s not something you want to do multiple times a day. Therefore you need a large turning radius to make turns and to move around (together we’re about 60 feet long).
There are no u-turns in an RV unless you have a free and clear 4-lane road…and when does that happen? We were always super anal about getting the turn right, but at the Love’s gas station parking lot in Troutdale, Oregon they don’t have an exit sign when you are finished pumping. We guessed wrong and ended up boxed in so we had to unhook, get ourselves turned around, and rehook. We only had to do that ONCE the entire year!
The two Jeep mishaps were finding ourselves in a ditch in Palouse (thank you nice farmers!) and getting a flat tire in gator infested Everglades National Park.
We got very, very lost in the RV finding our way to the RV park in Palouse (thank you to the nice lady who let us turnaround in her farm!). And we got lost 4x4ing in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the area the topographical map covered had been altered by weather (we think).
I’ve only just begun writing about RV parks. There is so much to say and it isn’t all good. But there are some gems out there and those are the ones I want to highlight. As the RV industry continues to grow, RV Parks have a lot of work to do to attract newer, younger (65 and below!) clientele.
Lastly, I didn’t add this to the infographic, but I read 40 books! I shared some of them in my monthly Currently posts, but 40 is way too many to list out.
I really struggled with how to best present the budget, our expenses, etc. I absolutely do not want to discourage people to RV. We had an amazing experience and at the end of the year it was cheaper to live the year on the road, than a year in our “regular life.” So in the end, I have decided to represent our expenses as a percentage of our overall budget. I don’t think the total amount matters. I whole-heartedly believe that you can RV at any budget level!
(Although if you are interested in RVing and want to understand how to make money while doing it full time, I have found no better source than Michelle Schroeder-Gardner’s blog Making Sense of Cents. She is a full-time RVer earning an incredible income while on the road, not the least of which is over $50k a month(!) in affiliate marketing activities, one of the reasons I took her Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course.)
I should note that I did not add in insurance costs (medical, life, etc.) as they would be something we paid whether we were in the RV or not, although they were quite expensive!
As you can see, the largest part of our budget was RV Parks, our RV loan, and groceries. Trust me, if we had had access to better food, that grocery budget would have been a larger part of our budget! Foodies we are! We knew what we were getting ourselves into and brought a ton of our own food supply. Jessica’s food was also included in our grocery budget.
We definitely could have saved money when it comes to RV parks. One thing we learned way late in the process is that most of the time it is better to book for a month even if you are only planning to stay two weeks. Or by the week, even if you are only planning to stay a few days. It is usually far cheaper. Also, we conscientiously treated ourselves to some luxury resorts that were quite expensive. Since we were under budget overall for the year, we were okay with that.
We sold our home in the San Francisco Bay Area and put the majority of our proceeds into savings for the purchase of a future home. We put a down payment on a new RV (a 40-foot motorcoach) and the rest of the rig was financed with an RV loan. Our loan payments were the second-biggest item in our budget. The good news is that RV loan interest is tax-deductible!
Our next biggest expense was fuel. We way over-budgeted for fuel. Diesel and gas prices were better than we anticipated. Our RV is a diesel-pusher so we purchased diesel and DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) a solution which cleans diesel emissions. We liked the Love’s brand, their stations were usually better than others. We probably could have saved more money if we went to smaller stations, but we preferred to remove the element of surprise.
Having a brand new RV our maintenance costs were low. We paid for a 6,000-mile and 15,000-mile maintenance service on the Freightliner engine/chassis. All other repairs were covered by our warranty and we spent three weeks in Red Bay, Alabama having our rig serviced at the manufacturer for free.
RV insurance is another essential item. We probably were over-insured, but better to be over than under!
Dining, like groceries, would probably have been a much larger chunk if we hadn’t been in the middle of nowhere for most of the year!
Misc. expenses included Mr. Misadventures’ airfare for our Viking River Cruise in Portugal along with other items that didn’t fit into other buckets, things like household items (dish soap, paper towels, etc.).
We thought we would spend more on propane, haircuts, and clothes, but in the end, we used very little propane (until the last month of our trip where we spent a lot of time in the snow); I only paid $20 for my (usually) lousy haircuts and we didn’t need a lot of clothes!
So that’s it! What would I do differently? To save money, I’d do a better job at park reservations. If I was really serious about staying in the RV long term, I would have invested in satellite internet. It costs about 6,000 for the equipment, plus a monthly service fee, but it would probably have meant a few less grey hairs. Extravagant, but rolled into the initial expense of the RV, it might not have been so bad.
Where do I think you could save money? RV parks for sure. We treated ourselves to some resorts, that is obviously not a must. Fuel. If you are willing to go to some smaller service stations you could save a bit on gas. Food. We are gourmands and spent a lot of money on food whether we are living in an RV or not. I am sure you could do a better job economizing on food. Those were the main expense categories and there is plenty of room to reduce cost.
How about you? Do you have any questions on the RV numbers? Have you had similar experiences in your RV? Does this make you want to hit the road? Do tell!