Happy Friday everyone! My first week of (more than) full-time hours is over and I’ve enjoyed a relaxing if rainy weekend puttering around the RV and not doing much of anything really, it’s been nice. Rainy weather kept me from getting out today like I’d hoped so there is no adventure to blog about, so let me share with you a Q & A I did this weekend with a full-timing hopeful. These were some good questions and I figured if one person asked them, there are probably others out there who’d like to know the answers too.
Q: How much do you spend on gas when you’re at a workamping job, or how many miles do you travel per month while working? How far have grocery stores been from the workamping jobs you’ve had?
A: It’s a huge range and not something I track closely. When I’m work-camping I’m usually living close to work and don’t spend any more than the average American on gas (I’d recommend keeping track of your mileage and gas costs now so you can get a base to make estimates off of). When I’m traveling between jobs and putting over 1,000 miles on that number can jump to $400 or more in a month. It really depends on the price of gas (pretty cheap right now).
The good news is this is one variable of full-timing that is very controllable. If you don’t have a lot of money, don’t do as much sightseeing. At national park jobs and Amazon, people in the same campground often carpool to work (I do here in Texas right now) to save on money. Grocery stores have been as close as 5 minutes away to as far as 45 minutes (Yellowstone), although at Yellowstone I could walk to the general store at Old Faithful which had a limited grocery selection. This is one of the things you’ll want to look at when choosing a work-camping job – more on that later.
Q: I’ve seen on a post you wrote (http://www.interstellarorchard.com/2015/04/10/a-revised-look-at-my-costs-as-a-full-timer/) that your monthly budget tends to average at $1,333 while workamping. How do you make that much money? It seems like it would be hard to make anything more than $1000/month after federal taxes, if you’re working for minimum wage. Also, do you think you could survive without Amazon CamperForce stints?
Also, on that same post, you mentioned you had a job at Lowe’s while you were living in Cas. How did you manage to get a “regular” job like that, and where did you stay while you had it? How could overnight costs be cheap enough to afford?
A: My first year on the road (fall 2012 to fall 2013) I lived exclusively on work-camping income. It is doable if you’re frugal but no, I personally would not have been able to manage it without CamperForce. It’s possible that a person could if they worked longer (I worked 9.5 months out of the year that time) or searched harder for other better-paying jobs, but Amazon paid about twice about what I needed to live on, so it allowed me to save up a couple thousand dollars above my living costs and save for leaner times.
That first year I had to work another job between Amazon and my summer gig because I didn’t have any other income to fill in the gap, hence Lowe’s. I wrote about how to find “normal” temp jobs here (the next two posts after that one were about Lowe’s too). Lowe’s was not a living wage for me because I had to pay full cost for my camping spot (even though monthly rates are cheaper than overnight rates), but some jobs through temp agencies would pay enough if you’ve the skills or experience.
You might be surprised to learn that at the Badlands that first summer, I was earning a living wage even though I was only making $7.25 an hour. I managed to save a couple hundred dollars just because my cost of living was so low for those months ($1,333 was just the average, some months it’s as low as $700). In my post about working in national parks I wrote extensively about how to choose a good work-camping job based not just on the pay, but on the perks and cost of living for the area. The Badlands job paid the least per hour but was the most lucrative of the three opportunities I had that year.
Q: Do you have other income besides that from your workamping jobs? If so, how much and how do you earn the extra money?
A: Starting in early 2014, yes. I bring in money through affiliate advertising (the Amazon link at the end of most of my posts as well as the sidebar) and more recently through my e-guide, Solo Full-time RVing on a Budget. I highly recommend looking into alternative income streams because it offers a lot more flexibility, both on the types of work-camping jobs a person can work and still afford to eat, and also how much time a person has to spend “working” in a year. This year my monthly income from online sources has varied from $200, to an all-time high of $1,100 in March when my e-guide launched. It’s not very reliable income, but every bit helps.
Q: Finally, what do you plan to do in the very very far away future when and if Cas or your car is worn out and you need to buy a new car/trailer/RV? And if you don’t think you’d continue the lifestyle for the rest of your life, what’s your escape plan?
A: I have an emergency fund that I’m slowly building up over time to eventually cover replacement of Bertha or Cas, but they’re both in great shape for their ages because I don’t shirk on maintenance costs on either of them. You’re right that my lifestyle rides (pun intended) on them so I take very good care of them. Right now my fund sits at $6,000 (Bertha cost $10,500, Cas was $9,000). I wrote about my retirement plans here and my hypothetical escape plan here.
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Enjoy! For those who are looking for more answers, the “Useful Links” tab at the top of IO lists a lot of the posts I referenced in this article as well as other blog posts useful to the prospective full-timer.
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