A Revised Look At My Costs as a Full-timer

cost-of-full-time-rving1

The most recent version of this post may be found here, and includes all data through 2016.

Here you go prospective full-timers, a chart of my adjusted gross income and cost of living by year from 2011 to 2014. The income numbers were pulled from my tax documents, the living costs are something I keep track of myself. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a post on this subject, and now I have two full years of full-timing under my belt to report on.

Year

Adjusted Gross Income

Living Costs

2011 (My last year living a stationary life, working as a Vet Tech and sharing a lower-end apartment with a roommate)

$27,732 (I worked an average of 40-45 hours a week, and had two weeks of paid vacation time)

$17,694 (not including the $6,984 spent on the truck purchase, taxes, registration, etc.)

2012 (I quit the vet tech job at the end of January and worked at Best Buy from Feb until Sept. I lived in the Casita starting April 28, and started traveling full-time on Sept. 17). I worked in CamperForce for the holidays)

$18,495 (I worked an average of 30 hours a week at Best Buy, 40-50 hours a week at Amazon, and had about 6 weeks of “vacation” time where I didn’t work and just traveled)

$18,838 (not including the $9,440 RV purchase, taxes, registration, etc. but including other RVing items like leveling blocks, the hitch, water pressure regulator, and a laptop)

2013 (First full year as a full-timer. Worked at Lowe’s from Feb-April. Badlands Natl Park from April-Oct. And Amazon from Oct-Dec.)

$16,070 (Had about 8 weeks of vacation time)

Estimated at $15,300, but I do not keep as close of track now. I ended up earning a little more than I spent in 2013.

2014 (Second full year on the road. Volunteered in Florida Jan-Apr, worked at GA renaissance festival Apr-June, Zion Natl Park June-Oct, and Amazon Oct-Dec.)

$15,066 (Acting at the festival was only 2 days a week and less than $600 in earnings, so it’s almost like I had 6 months off this year.)

Estimated at just under $16,000, there was over $1,000 of work that needed doing between the truck and RV this year.

Things that should be noted about this chart

  • My cost of living averaged out to around $1,333 a month last year, but individual months varied wildly. I’ve had $750 months, and over $2,000 months.

  • Likewise, my earnings are not consistent. My savings account looks really happy just after Amazon ends, but depletes rapidly when I’m volunteering.

What this information says

  • If you lived frugally before you hit the road, and continue to live frugally after, don’t expect your cost of living to change much (this is me). If you lived more grandly while stationary, and start living frugally after hitting the road: yes, your cost of living will go down. If you lived frugally before hitting the road, and then decide you need all of the latest RVing gadgets, to stay at the upscale RV resorts, and want to see every tourist destination while you travel, expect your cost of living to go up.

  • The year you start full-timing will likely be the most expensive year, because the initial investment in the RV and gear is significant.

  • Work-camping (and many other income sources too) are very unpredictable with feast and famine months. Much less predictable than working a regular job. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have an emergency fund for full-timing to cover the lean times – I broke into my emergency fund in 2014 to make my dream of performing at a renaissance festival a reality, it wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

  • Before I hit the road, I was saving up a lot of money. From 2012 to 2014 I merely held steady. While I haven’t been hindered by it yet, eventually I will be. Whatever your full-timing plans are, I’d recommend slowly growing your savings even if you have an emergency fund. With that money you can replace your aging rig, upgrade your rig if you decide you need something else, squirrel away funds for retirement, get a good start if you decide to switch lifestyles again… basically it gives you more flexibility.

  • I could be making more than I am and in the future will strive to. If I had worked a paying job instead of volunteering the first quarter of 2014, I would have come out ahead even though I made very little the 10 weeks the festival ran.

  • Speaking of 2014, isn’t it kind of amazing that I came in only $1,000 behind from the previous year when I worked something like three months less? That’s because while I had 6 months without a seasonal job, I was earning money online the whole year. You can definitely make a living as a full-time RVer working seasonal jobs exclusively, but if you can diversify to other income sources that’ll give you more freedom to travel.

My last post about this topic can be found here, a look into how much it cost me to get started full-timing broken down into the preparation phase, the purchasing phase, and the on the road phase.

Any comments or questions? Ask away.

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38 Responses to A Revised Look At My Costs as a Full-timer

  1. JimS April 10, 2015 at 9:27 pm #

    Sorry if I missed this, but do you have solar yet?
    Best of luck at Yellowstone this summer. Sounds like a great way to see the place while earning some money.

    • Becky April 10, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

      Nope Jim I do not.

      I’m looking forward to Yellowstone too, thanks!

  2. Jodee Gravel April 10, 2015 at 9:29 pm #

    When you consider what people usually spend on a one week vacation visiting the places you’ve lived in for months the last couple years, this is pretty incredible! Those worried about limited income should find this most inspiring πŸ™‚
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..She Said Yes :-))My Profile

    • Becky April 10, 2015 at 10:30 pm #

      I hope so Jodee. I do feel like I have a really good life for the amount of money I live on.

  3. Darren April 10, 2015 at 11:01 pm #

    Becky: Great job on the site, I found your site a number of months ago. I haven’t been back for a while but I do enjoy coming back and reading your stories. Really inspiring. Keep up the great work.

    • Becky April 11, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

      Glad you’re enjoying IO Darren, thanks for reading. πŸ™‚

  4. Mike April 11, 2015 at 5:24 am #

    Thanks for the information. My estimate of the income I would need after staying at Sparks Marina over the winter was about the same.

    –Mike

    • Becky April 11, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

      You’re welcome Mike. Income and spending is such a taboo subject for many people but when I think hard about it, I can never come up with a good reason why I shouldn’t share my information with others.

  5. Barak April 11, 2015 at 5:40 am #

    Thanks for sharing. Very helpful information.
    Barak recently posted..Weeks 1 & 2 of 52 Weeks of GivingMy Profile

    • Becky April 11, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

      You’re welcome Barak, I hope it helps you. πŸ™‚

  6. Pete W April 11, 2015 at 6:50 am #

    Becky, when I was younger the thing that kept me from setting out on a wild life was health insurance, or lack of it. What do you do about that?

  7. Dwayne April 11, 2015 at 10:32 am #

    How did you decide to purchase the brand of trailer that you did?
    Been following your articles, very interesting.

  8. Terri April 11, 2015 at 5:03 pm #

    You inspire me to make the big life changes I am going to be making this year. I know I can live frugally – I do it already since I have my priorities in order. I know you don’t have the student loans I have, but it’s still amazing how one can live (happily) on so little. There are a lot of things that money can’t buy and happiness is one of them. I’m glad you got to fulfill your dream of acting at a renaissance faire. You may not have made the big bucks financially but I am sure you are taking away memories from it that are priceless and will last a lifetime. Thank you very much for giving us such an honest look at your finances. Money is such a taboo subject with so many people, and it’s sad that that is the case, really.
    Terri recently posted..Feeling blessedMy Profile

    • Becky April 12, 2015 at 9:57 pm #

      So glad you enjoyed this post Terri! How is the tiny house stuff going? I’ve no doubt you’ll see your dreams come true, you seem very driven. πŸ™‚ take care!

  9. Jim at Growing Faith April 11, 2015 at 7:31 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this with us. It is helpful to see how others are doing out on the road.
    Jim at Growing Faith recently posted..Admire CreationsMy Profile

    • Becky April 12, 2015 at 9:57 pm #

      You’re welcone Jim! Glad you found this post helpful.

  10. envious ;-) April 15, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

    Don’t have much to add, just wanted to thank you for sharing. It is immensely helpful to read this info from a variety of full-timers. Thanks again.

    • Becky April 15, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

      You’re welcome Envious, knowledge is power! I wish you the best of luck and hope someday you’ll be in the position to share your own information with future full-timers.

  11. Jack Stryker April 30, 2015 at 3:20 pm #

    Have you thought about what will happen when you reach the age when most people retire? I can retire in 13yrs. And while I like my job, I’m just tired of working. I’m finishing out the last 13 so I can have a pension to live on. Then I will RV full time. I couldn’t do what you’re doing and not worry about how I will support myself in later years when health may keep you from working. Or having to work until you die.
    I admire how you are doing it, just wondering what people in their 20’s/30’s are planning when they work seasonal. Great blog and not knocking your lifestyle. Just curious.

    • Becky April 30, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

      I have Jack, and I intend to work until I die or am physically incapable of working.
      Because to me, what I do now hardly feels like a chore to be endured. It’s a continuous working vacation, with a much better work-life balance than what I had those 5 or so years I was in the “real world” after college. I was already tired of working and the thought of being stuck in a 9-5 for 30+ more years was intolerable to me. What I do now, I feel like I could do forever without growing weary of it.

      Not that I’m just living for today and hoping the future takes care of itself. I do have an IRA, and while I haven’t put much into it the past two years (I did better when I was stationary and earning more) I intend to do better in the future, as I stated in this post. It won’t be enough to retire at 65 or whatever the standard retirement age will be by that time, but it’ll cover me if I get to the point where I am incapable of working before I pass on.

      Mind you, I’m also working on transitioning to online, location independent income sources that will be less physically taxing as I age, so that at 70 I won’t still be forced to deal with 50 hour workweeks of hard labor at Amazon…. although I do know 70-year-olds who manage it just fine, and I hope I’m still in good physical shape when I get to that age (part of the reason why I jog, eat salads, and take care to manage my weight).

      Now, there’s always the possibility something catastrophic will happen to me that will take away my ability to work before then and leave me destitute. But there’s also the possibility if I had decided to take a more traditional life path that something catastrophic would happen to me just after retiring, and that I’d never get to enjoy it.

      I do what I can to insure that I can live this life into my twilight years comfortably if I choose to (who knows, maybe I’ll be on to something else by then!). Life is full of uncertainties, but I refuse to be shackled by fear.

  12. Terri May 1, 2015 at 7:37 am #

    Becky, I always find your attitude to be so refreshing. To be able to be as happy as you are (and I know it’s not always a holiday), and to have found a lifestyle that is so sustaining for you – well, most people will never know that in their lifetime. There is still a part of me that wants to do what you are doing, so I look forward to all of your posts.
    Terri recently posted..What a difference a week makes, and other thingsMy Profile

    • Becky May 1, 2015 at 11:16 am #

      Glad you’re still enjoying IO Terri. And heck, you still could go full-timing someday. No adventure need last a lifetime, enjoy the Tiny House for now!

  13. John May 8, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

    Hi Becky,
    Glad your doing well. Your a wonderful writer, I enjoy our blog and look forward to your new posts. I just got my vehicle, a 2009 F-150 extended van with 98,000 miles, in pretty good shape, they seem to run well for a couple hundred thousand miles if the maintenance is done on time, which I do myself. I finally received my anual income total, which will be just at 17K per year.
    I will be boondockingon public lands almost all the time, I enjoy nature, allways have. My question is do you think at 62 years of age this will be enough income to last considering inflation for perhaps the next 15 years. You have a clear perspective, think ahead, and are currently living the life, so I thought perhaps you might provide a comfortable answer, some reassurance perhaps. I’m feeling a bit worried that over time, I may end up in dire straights.

    • Becky May 8, 2015 at 7:46 pm #

      I’m afraid I cannot give you a sure answer John, it’s impossible to account for all the variables. So much of full-timing is learning to be comfortable with uncertainty and being flexible. I don’t know what inflation is going to be like. I don’t know what your health is like, do you have any health issues now and do you have a plan for managing them? I don’t know what your spending habits are like, do you currently live on that amount now? Do you have an emergency fund saved up in case something happens? Are you willing to do some work-camping if it turns out 17k isn’t enough, either now or sometime down the road? Do you have a plan for health insurance and other essentials?

      I can tell you that as things stand now, 17k would be enough for me, although ideally with my living expenses at 16k I’d want to be bringing in a little more than that to build up my savings account more and keep contributing to my IRA. But I don’t know you like you know you. πŸ™‚

      There is no comfortable answer, not even for me for me. The good thing is, that nervousness you’re feeling (I feel it too, I bet all full-timers do to some extent) will keep you on your toes, will keep you thinking about the future and what you can do to ensure it works out in your favor. I believe we can do anything we put our minds to, but I won’t lie to you and say it’ll all go exactly as you hope and plan, it hasn’t for me! But I’ve had a blast anyway, best of luck to you!

  14. Aeta June 7, 2015 at 10:37 am #

    Hi. Just came across your awesome blog today. My wife and I are in the market for a small travel trailer that will be pulled by our 2003 Toyota Sienna (with a V6 engine and a maximum 3,500 towing capacity). I’m just wondering if that towing capacity is stretching it quite a bit with a Casita 16 or 17. I’ve looked at other small travel trailers out there and, so far, Casita trailers have made the most impressionable effect on me and my wife. So if we can’t pull the Casita 16 or 17 with our van, we might have to upgrade to a bigger vehicle. We are a loyal Toyota vehicle owners and have considered upgrading to either a Tundra or a Sequoia. Would this be a bit of an overkill on the towing power? We’d appreciate any suggestions. Thank you.

    • Becky June 8, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

      Hello Aeta and welcome to IO!

      I always tell people that the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the trailer you want to pull should never be more than 80% of the max tow rating of your vehicle (70% is better). Why? Because most trailers will reach their GVWR (max weight) well before all of their cabinets and storage cubbies are full (the lower dry weight number is irrelevant, you’ll never be towing the trailer empty except the day you pick it up), and the max tow rating of the vehicle assumes that the vehicle itself will be empty except for a 150 pound driver (which it won’t be if your camping – you’ll have a bunch of gear in it not to mention your partner).

      The Casita’s GVWR is 3,500 (same with the 16′ Scamps), and your Sienna’s max tow rating is 3,500 so that’s a no go in my book. If you want to keep the Sienna, look for a trailer with a GVWR of no more than 2,800 lbs. If you want to tow a trailer with a GVWR of 3,500, upgrade your tow vehicle to something with a max tow rating of 4,500 or higher.

      I’m sure this isn’t the news you were hoping for and I’m sorry, best of luck whatever you choose to do!

      • Aeta June 8, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

        Hi Becky,

        Well I was kind of expecting the same news I’ve heard from others. I just needed to verify from someone who actually tows a Casita trailer. Most of the response I got from others were towing trailers that were a lot bigger than the Casita 17. I personally have had my eyes on a Casita 17 for a while now and was in the market to buy one a few years ago.

        Back then I was debating whether or not to keep my then almost brand new Sienna van or trade it in for another vehicle with a larger towing capacity. I guess now it’s time to upgrade to a larger Toyota—maybe a Tundra or a Sequoia—and retire my Sienna.

        By the way, how is the shower and toilet in the lavatory of a Casita? Do they work just fine and you haven’t had any major problems with them?

        Aeta

        • Becky June 8, 2015 at 11:12 pm #

          I’ve actually never used the shower in my Casita, I always use the campground facilities where there is more room, more hot water, and no need to wipe down the bathroom after using it. That being said, most Casita owners use their own showers and have no issues. My toilet works just fine, I like how the black tank is directly below the toilet so that you can tell how full it’s getting (tank sensors usually get fouled up quickly and won’t give accurate readings) and tell if when you dump the tank everything, uh, empties as it’s suppose to.

          Over all, I’ve been very pleased with my Casita and it’s holding up quite well for being 16 years old.

  15. Angela June 10, 2015 at 9:20 am #

    Hi Becky. I just read your E-guide and really enjoyed it. I applaud you for your courage and thank you for your strength to do this solo! As a single female who is also an introvert, I related to much of your words and thoughts. I pride myself on being a self-sufficient, independent woman as well. You are a wonderful inspiration.

    I had to reply to this post specifically since it was posted on my 37th birthday. πŸ™‚ Anyway, question about health insurance. I apologize if you’ve already addressed it before, as I’m sure you have. Do you have it, how much is it or are you exempt, etc?

    Thank you in advance for answering this on an older post. I found you last year and bookmarked your blog but just starting to get back to reading your posts.

    • Becky June 11, 2015 at 9:57 pm #

      Hello Angela,

      Thank you very much for purchasing “Solo Full-time RVing On A Budget”, and I’m glad you’re finding it helpful!

      Yep I have written about health insurance, you can find answers to the questions you’ve asked right here: http://www.interstellarorchard.com/2014/11/17/south-dakota-rver-health-insurance-changes/

      Basically, with the Affordable Care Act going into effect this year, health insurance has changed dramatically from when I hit the road in 2012. I currently pay $71 a month for mine (yes, nomads do need to have it according to the new laws), however it really isn’t helping me and I’m planning to “move” to Texas later this year so I can get better health insurance.

      I hope this helps!

  16. Ron January 31, 2016 at 9:37 am #

    Becky,
    I really enjoy your blog, and envy the lifestyle you are enjoying. I am currently working full time+ and paying for my son’s law school, so its going to be a couple years before I can start my escape. In the meantime, I am saving money, and trying to learn from all the great people like you that share the good and the not-so-good. I look forward to opening my email and seeing a message from IO. Keep up the great job, and hope you have a wonderful time in Quartzite and Yellowstone.

    • Becky February 1, 2016 at 12:48 pm #

      Thanks Ron and glad you’re finding IO helpful. I think it’s a wise decision to start researching the lifestyle now even if you can’t go for a couple years yet. Best of luck to you and hope to hear from you on the road someday. Take care.

  17. Amanda June 20, 2017 at 11:38 am #

    Hi. Love ur blog. I noticed u mentioned Amazon as a source of income. Can u point me in the direction of that blog post so I read more about working from the road? Thanks.

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