Tag Archives: full time

2016 – End of the Year Expense Report

doing-the-budgetEvery year since we became fulltime RVers I’ve posted an expense sheet, but 2016 wasn’t a typical year. As I’ve written in previous entries to this blog we took an unexpected break from traveling to serve as interim pastor. That assignment lasted six months. Add to that around five months (January-March and then November-December) volunteering at San Jacinto Battlefield/Battleship Texas and there’s not much of the year left!

Our campground costs this year, as you can guess, have no connection to what anyone else would pay. Also, our F350 pickup has been mostly parked. We have a small car that doesn’t travel with us when we are on the road, but this year we ran the wheels off of it. In other words, our camping and travel costs in 2016 wouldn’t be of much help to anyone.

Basically, our expenditures are just living costs and don’t have anything to do with fulltiming. Because of that I’m not publishing an expense sheet for 2016.

A few months ago I did a blog entry on Second Wave Expenses. This was a terrific year for us to take on several replacements and do some upgrades. We also had a couple of major unwelcome expenses: a new air conditioner for the 5th wheel and a major repair on the car. These two items amounted to several thousand dollars. The fact that we weren’t traveling enabled us to absorb these biggies.

And, as I said, we had some other, more voluntary, expenses. They included stuff like:
• A new backup sewer hose
• Two-Way Radios
• Wilson WeBoost and antenna to replace our worn out Wilson Sleek
• Replaced all incandescents with LED Lights
• Two new Recliners
• Heated Mattress Pad (nice on winter nights)

All said and done, even with the major repairs plus all the voluntary purchases we came out on the positive side of the spreadsheet. Had we traveled as planned, I think we would have been about on budget but maybe a bit behind on the year.

Our plans are to return to touring in the early spring and to make our 2017 Adventure a good one. Stay tuned!

Reflections on our 2016 Adventure

Things didn’t go for us as planned in 2016. Our intention was to head west to Moab, Utah and then north to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, and then east to the Black Hills of South Dakota before turning south again in the late fall.

Instead, we left our winter volunteering position at San Jacinto Battlefield and Battleship Texas and drove less than 100 miles to Conroe – and then right back to the Houston area, having accepted an interim pastor position at our home church, Clear Lake Church of the Nazarene in Webster, Texas. Our stay was an enjoyable and blessed six months of ministry during the pastoral transition. We also were glad to be close to family through some challenging days. Once our time of ministry at the church was finished it was back to San Jacinto to begin another winter of helping out on Battleship Texas.

As you can guess our 2016 travel map isn’t very impressive and our expense sheets wouldn’t be especially helpful to anyone who is looking into the fulltime RV lifestyle.

One of the neat things about this life is that we have wonderful flexibility. In small ways it is seen when we decide to change our travel plans to stay an extra day or two in a spot while we wait for better travel weather. In a big way it showed up as we scrapped an entire year’s worth of travel plans to do what we felt the Lord wanted us to do.

Moving on to a less lofty discussion, I’ll mention that not having campground fees or big diesel costs this year allowed us to spend money on several extras. Some were unwelcome, like a major repair to the car; and some were purely an extravagance, like the cruise we booked. We spent money on the 5th wheel, taking on projects both large and small, including buying two small recliners.

We’re looking forward to a return to our touring RV lifestyle in 2017. In the early spring we plan on heading to the southeastern part of the country, then we’ll head north looking for cooler summer temperatures, and then we may try for the Black Hills again in the fall.

Those are our plans. That is, unless the phone rings.

The more things change the more they stay the same

camping

It goes without saying that moving to fulltiming from a traditional “stix and brix” life is a major transition. We made the move and have never looked back. While the many changes are obvious, I’ve concluded that more stays the same than some might think. In spite of the downsizing involved, I think most people morph to a life that is similar to what they lived before. Now, let me hurry to say that if the move to fulltiming is connected to retirement or a new livelihood lots of major changes are baked in, RV lifestyle or not.

P2248680.JPG If, for instance, you enjoy watching TV, there’s a good chance that you’ll want a decent TV solution in your RV – probably satellite TV and a nice TV to watch. If you spend a lot of time surfing the Internet, you’ll want the best cell Internet package you can afford.

P2248685.JPG I see people on forums debating whether or not to have a washer/dryer in their RV. The answer is actually pretty easy: if you had a washer/dryer in your house you’ll probably want one in your RV. If you enjoyed going to a laundromat before, you’ll probably want to keep going to one. Admittedly, this approach has its limits – for instance, while dish washers are available, they aren’t all that common so you might have to surrender to dish washing in the RV even though you always used a dish washer in your old life.

Without doubt, living as a fulltimer means that some things will be more challenging than they were in your pre-fulltiming days. There will be times when you won’t be able to get the satellite signal or when you are camping without a sewer connect, thus limiting your use of the on-board washer. It’s all part of the adventure and you will have to find ways to accommodate such things.

Still, though, thinking that one is going fulltime and that once you are “out there” that everything will be different is probably mistaken. Lots of things will be different – hopefully, in great ways. However, you will still be the same person who wants oatmeal for breakfast most mornings, wants to do your laundry “at home,” and wants to watch the evening news on TV. Knowing this will help you make decisions about stuff like whether or not to sign up for a big data cell plan or buy a combo washer/dryer or get a fancy satellite setup.

Downsizing in preparation for fulltiming

garagesaleA lot of people ask for advice on downsizing in preparation for fulltiming.  Given that everyone’s specific circumstances are unique, there’s no one size fits all approach to this but I can tell you what we did.

Related post: What does it cost to start full time RVing?

Early on in the process we just did a more thorough than usual spring cleaning.  It’s amazing how much stuff we accumulate through the years that just needs to be put on the curb.  For us the focus was on the shed and the garage.

As we moved forward, we picked a little used room in the house and emptied it out.  It became our “sorting room” where we began to put things we knew we didn’t intend on keeping.  We also cleared a wall in the garage for stuff we didn’t want in the house, but intended to get rid of.  We worked through each room of the house, moving items into the sorting room, more or less putting them into boxes with similar things.  That room got surprisingly full.  One key to this process is, I think, at first, if you don’t know what to do with an item, just leave it and move to something you do know you don’t want.  That stops you from getting constantly sidetracked.  It’s kind of interesting, but as the house began to empty, some things that froze us in our tracks were much easier to deal with when they were all that was left in a closet or room.

We also invited family to put their claim on items they wanted.  Those items stayed in place, but we knew they were spoken for.

As we got to a more serious level, we began to put larger items on Craigslist.  I also created a custom group of local friends on Facebook and posted those items there.  Being in a metro area probably helped, but a lot of stuff went out the door.  Usually, items sold for about half what they would have cost new.  We were much more interested in downsizing than we were in making money.  Our bicycles, couches, and dinette made some people quite happy.  Selling them made us happy too.

At that point we took another room, now empty, and made it our “holding room.”  Items we knew we were going to keep (plus those promised to family) were moved into that room.  The house was starting to feel pretty empty.

It was now time for the big garage sale.  All the items in the “sorting room” were priced at yard sale prices and we staged everything for the sale.  A LOT of stuff walked out the door over those two days.  We concluded the sale by loading all that was left and heading for Goodwill.

Family was given a deadline for getting their stuff, a few items (winter clothes, photo albums, and the like) went to a family member’s attic. We moved into the 5th wheel and our new, less-cluttered-with-belongings life began.

Budget: Second Wave Expenses

Dollar-signMany 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.