Tag Archives: planning

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.

Planner or freelancer?

compassPlanner or freelancer, which will it be?  That’s a question I come across fairly often, and I’ve written about it before.  Should a fulltimer create a travel calendar, make reservations, and follow a schedule?  Or should a fulltimer go with the flow, setting sail in the morning, not worrying about where they will spend the night till closer to the end of each day?  I think there’s room for individuality on both sides of this issue (and certainly some compromises to be made on either side).  A lot, though, depends on your travel style and budget.

If you don’t mind a bit of uncertainty and enjoy the adventure of dropping anchor in an unknown port, freelancing can be a lot of fun.  You’ll have some misadventures along the way, especially if you try to be a pure freelancer who doesn’t even plan for  summer holiday weekends.  However, that will become part of your story.  After all, there’s most often a Walmart or a grocery store in the area that allows overnight parking.  Also, people who like to boondock on public lands are especially suited for freelancing.

Other than the boondockers, though, freelancers often end up paying more than their planning counterparts.  There are some great camping deals out there, but they generally go to planners who research campgrounds in an area and make advance reservations, sometimes months in advance.  For people on a tighter budget this is a bigger deal that it is for others.

Planning has it’s advantages but lacks the spontaneity some people associate with the RVing lifestyle.  Still, many of us simply enjoy working with maps and researching – looking for the perfect campsite and the best route to get there. They are able to land in some of the more popular spots on busy weekends.  Such travel is generally easier on the expense sheet; not only because you aren’t at the mercy of the campground owner who has the last available spot in the area but also because you tend to travel point to point rather than wandering between undetermined destinations.

If you’re on vacation, you most likely want to be a planner.  No one wants to waste precious vacation camping nights parked at a truck stop.  I think fulltimers are more likely to be planners, although there are a lot of fulltime freelancers out there.  Even then, though, most fulltimers make reservations for holidays, planning to arrive early and then stay on a day or two after all the poor weekenders have to return to the daily grind.   Even fulltimers who do a lot of freelancing tend to set a few hard dates and then freelance between them.

Fulltimers, more than most people, tend to march to the beat of their own drummer so there’s lots of wiggle room on this one.  Really, there’s no right or wrong way to do it – just “your way.”

2016 – Our travel map is now available

20160505_164414.jpg I’ve just added the 2016 version of our travel map. Really, it’s kind of pitiful! We’re enjoying our interim pastor assignment at Clear Lake Church of the Nazarene in Webster, TX so no complaints at all. Still, it seems strange to be off the road. For now, we’re at a nice RV Resort: Advanced RV Resort in Pearland, TX (on the south side of Houston). We expect to at least do some Texas traveling late this summer or early in the fall. Till then, we’re glad to be of service right where we are.

Tip: Other uses of Google Maps

I use Google maps a lot for planning. I mostly use it for routing. Sometimes if I’m unsure of a section of highway (or want to check out the campground entrance) I check out the street view and virtually drive along a section of highway to see what it looks like. Here’s a nifty website that automates journeying the street view.

If I’m in unfamiliar country and concerned about taking the 5th wheel over a highway I’ll go to Google Earth view and zoom in close enough to see what kind of vehicles are on that road. If I see a few 18 wheelers or campers I know I can drive it too.

camper from space2.jpg I’ve also used Google Earth to scout out campgrounds. It helps to see an overview of the campground when making reservations. For instance, I’ve used it to pick campsites closer to a lake.

camper from space.jpg Recently, just for fun I was looking at San Jacinto Monument (and Battleship Texas) where we volunteered last winter and will return to in less than a month. I was surprised to see that sometime during our stay there last winter the area was photographed by Google Earth and our camper was photographed from far above. Cool, huh!

Just thinking: for those who dream of going fulltime in a RV

PHOTO_20140922_162438.jpg No one knows just how many fulltime RVers there are. For one thing, there’s no official definition of just what a fulltime RVer is! It’s obvious that there are a lot of us who are, as it has been called, “living the RV dream.”

Since I post a lot of fulltime budget information my blog has attracted folks who are still in the “dreaming” stage and researching information on the lifestyle. While I’m no expert and there are lots of people who know more about this stuff than I do I’m glad to share what we are learning. This post is directed to those dreamers who want to sell everything and hit the road in a RV. (It isn’t for people who have jobs that require or allow them to travel or people who have lost their jobs and are thinking of getting a RV as a source of housing, etc.)

Recently one of the better known fulltiming couples had a health emergency. I’m glad to have received good news on the immediate prognosis but this crisis will quite likely change the rest of their lives. Some folks have concluded that one lesson to be learned from this is that they should stop dreaming of going fulltime and jump to it while the jumping is good. On one hand, I agree that for some people this is a good takeaway. For instance we met a couple who actually retired and went fulltime. However, his previous employer made the man an offer he couldn’t refuse so he went back to work for a short stay. That short stay has now lasted three years! It’s their business but I can’t help but wonder if the day will come when they will wish they had returned to the RV dream rather than stay in the 9:00-5:00 environment.

Frankly, though, I’m not sure “just do it” is the right message for everyone. Again, these remarks are in reference to those who see fulltiming as pursuing a dream and not for those who are considering the RV life as alternative housing and such so please read this from that point of view.

  1. First, “now” isn’t the right time for everyone. There’s a right time and a wrong time for all the stages of life. While I’m not saying that you need millions of dollars socked away before you go fulltime you do need an income that will support the lifestyle and that includes a source of health care insurance. Put more directly: if you can’t afford to go fulltime then don’t. Instead, continue working toward a fulltime RVing retirement by planning, preparing financially, and taking care of yourself physically.
  2. Second, don’t get in if you don’t have a way out. Don’t mortgage your future for the present. You may not have an exact plan but have a way to conclude your fulltime life and move to the next phase of life. Aside from those who suddenly pass away, sooner or later everyone has to hang up the keys. Hopefully, that will come as the result of the decision that you’ve “been there and done that” but it may come in the form of a trip to the emergency room. As you contemplate entering this lifestyle be sure to include at least a basic framework and capability for leaving it. Also, related and worth mention, is that your vehicle(s) and RV have a limited lifespan. While you don’t need money to replace them hidden under your mattress there needs to be at least some thought given to what you will do if and when your need to upgrade these vital items.
  3. Third, remember that life is uncertain but is also a blessing. Don’t squander today dreaming only of pie in the sky. Appreciate what you have right now: family, friends, health, and other good things. Make planning for the future part of the joy of this day.
  4. Fourth, know that real life continues even out on the road. Hitting the road in your RV means leaving a lot of things behind. However, a lot of stuff will follow along too, some things good and some things bad. Fulltime RVers get sick, as did the person I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Vehicles break down and accidents happen. If you think that pursuing the RV dream means everything will always be wonderful you are in for some big disappointments.

Don’t get me wrong, we love being fulltime RVers. It’s our chosen retirement lifestyle and we would do it all over again if we had to choose. If this life appeals to you then we’d say come on in, the water’s fine. Still, remember that part of moving to this lifestyle is preparing for getting into it, maintaining it, and then leaving it. Don’t forget that being a fulltimer doesn’t exempt you from real life problems. Beyond all that, remember that life is precious. Appreciate the blessings of each day even while dreaming of the next big thing coming down the road.