Budgeting: Tips for reading fulltimer’s budgets

As I prepared to become a touring fulltimer I spent a great deal of time researching what fulltimers spend.  It was a big deal to us because we didn’t want to start something we couldn’t afford.  I’m grateful to those who are willing to open their lives just a bit and, because of their example, I’ve done the same.

As a “budget sharer” I’ve learned that not all budgeting information is created equal.   Here are my tips for reading fulltimer’s budgets.

  1. Some people are quite committed to living a minimalist lifestyle.  It’s impressive: using solar power, living on public land, growing and hunting their own food, doing without things (like health insurance) that many of us take for granted as necessary.  These folks are more into minimalism than they are into being touring fulltimers.  If this lifestyle appeals to you, hunt these folks down and focus on their resourcefulness and frugality.  If it doesn’t appeal to you, their information isn’t going to be especially helpful.  As I did my budgeting I tried to beware of people who seemed to be trying to impress me with how little they spend because that’s not how I want to live.  Instead, I simply want to live within my means.
  2. Workcampers are trading hours worked for a campsite and possibly a small salary.  When you look at their expenditures they might show that they spent nothing in camping fees.  If you intend to workcamp this information is valuable to you.  If not, you need to estimate the value they are receiving for their time.  If you were in the site next to them what would it cost you?  Also, some are receiving everything from cable TV to Internet access to propane in exchange for their hours worked.  One person told me they even received free admission to all the Branson shows so even entertainment was included in their workcamping pay.  In some cases none of that appears on their budget but, if you don’t intend to workcamp it will appear on yours.
  3. Not all budgeting information is created equal.  Some folks throw out numbers, thinking they are being accurate, but really, they aren’t keeping records at all.  They aren’t being dishonest, but they are quite possibly spending more than they realize.  Some of us obsess over this kind of stuff and we could take a tip or two on chilling out from these folks.  At the same time, I suggest that you try to look farther than simply accepting a statement that “we don’t spend nearly that much” when trying to put together a real working budget.
  4. Remember, you already have most of the information you need.  Most expenses of the touring fulltimer lifestyle are the same ones you already have.  You don’t need to know what I spend on:
    • debt
    • groceries
    • dining out
    • clothing
    • hair
    • medical and dental expenses
    • charitable giving
    • gifts
    • insurance (life, health, etc.)
    • entertainment
    • Cell/Internet/TV

    Those numbers will probably stay the same you, fulltime or not.  Focus on the reported RV related expenses of people who are doing what you’d like to do (touring, workcamping, minimalist, etc.).  Check out their:

    • campground fees
    • propane
    • RV maintenance
    • travel fuel
    • club memberships
    • etc.

If you are doing serious budgeting research you are going to have to work at it.  For one thing, some folks are doing a bit of “all the above” – they workcamp part of the year, boondock another few months, and tour the rest of the time.   You can’t just get on a forum and ask “what do you spend?” because the people who answer you might be living a very different fulltiming lifestyle than you intend on living.  As others have wisely answered, “How much do you have?”  Still, there’s information to be had in studying fulltimer expenses.  Just keep some of these tips in mind as you do research.

Further tips are welcome in the comments to this post.

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