Many fulltimers are in it for the long run. We’re not just out seeing the country for a year or two before returning to “real life.” Rather, this is our preferred lifestyle and we intend to enjoy it as long as possible. We’re now well into our 4th year of fulltiming which is longer than many, but barely getting started when compared to some fulltime “pros.” We spent quite a bit of money getting started in this lifestyle. That included several upgrades to our used 5th wheel, a couple of camping memberships, and other related items. Now, we’re starting to run into secondary costs more and more often.
For instance, our air conditioner was laboring and not keeping up. When we had it checked out the tech said it was mostly just showing its age. He recommended replacing it rather than spending money trying to get it to hobble through the summer. If we were RV weekenders and vacationers it would have lasted longer, but, as fulltimers we wore it out sooner than would have happened otherwise. Even major appliances have a lifespan so it’s wise to keep some reserve budget money around.
Aside from the biggies some things we bought new for our RVing adventure have begun showing their wear. At the beginning of our adventure I bought a nice Wilson Sleek cell signal booster for use when we were out on the fringes of cell coverage. It died a few months ago and had to be replaced with the new version. When we started out we got a couple of nice chairs. The thing is, in a RV there are few sitting choices so the same chairs get a lot more use than they would in a house. We recently decided to treat ourselves to a couple of small recliners. Hopefully, they will give us another 3-4 years of good use. This is a “second wave” expense that everyone will have after a few years of fulltiming in the same RV.
Another thing to think about is camping, etc. memberships. We got multiyear Passport America and Escapees memberships. In a year or so they will have to be renewed. Our Coachnet vehicle policy (happily never used) has expired and needs to be renewed. This sort of thing is predictable, but it eats into the budget every so many years.
Having said all that, there are more common expenses that everyone faces but tend to come around more often for retired fulltimers than they do for other people. We often tell people that we don’t need as many clothes in our closet as we used to. However, that means that we wear the same sets of comfortable clothes quite often. This summer, for instance, I’ve had to replace a couple of pairs of jeans. I only own two pairs and wear one or the other most every day. So, while I only own two pairs of jeans, they do need to be replaced a bit more often than they would otherwise. Most of our clothes are the same: comfortable and worn a lot. It’s a sneaky expense that shows up surprisingly often.
Of course, beyond all these kinds of budget hits lurks the major one. Most fulltimers upgrade their RV at least once. Depending on what you buy, you can spend a year’s (or even more) budget in one purchase. Since RV’s are generally repairable (aside from something catastrophic happening) you may avoid this expense altogether. Still, sooner or later, most people end up replacing the motorhome, 5th wheel, truck, and/or towed at some point.
So, while you are running the expense numbers for the fulltime RV lifestyle you might be wise to look beyond initial costs, nightly camping fees, and the cost of fuel. You might want to think, for instance, about more than what the purchase of a nice RVer specific GPS costs and consider what it will cost when that one stops working or becomes obsolete.
I won’t spend time on it here, but there are ways to combat some of this. Fulltimers who have been hit with unexpected expenses will slow down their travel and save on camping fees by paying the discounted monthly rate or they will take on a work camping gig for a few months to save money or even make a few bucks.
Still, as you work on your fulltiming budget you might want to be careful that you aren’t bumping up against 100% of your expendable income. In a few years, you’ll face a “second wave” of expenses as things wear out, break, or just need upgrading. Sorry, but that’s life.