It’s time once again for our monthly expense report where we share the costs associated with our full-time RV life. We live in a 2014 24′ Thor Chateau 22E Class C RV with our two cats, Maggie and Molly. We do not have a sticks-and-bricks home base, but travel wherever the weather takes us as we chase 70°.
We just completed our 14th month as full-time RVers. In this report we’ll be comparing our current month’s expenses to the same month one year ago, as well as looking at what our average expense has been for the past 12 months to see if we’re staying consistent from month to month.
First, a reminder of the caveats related to our expenses. Every RVer is different–different rig, different diet, different interests–so our expenses are unique to us. Also, I’m not going to share every single personal expense that we incur each month, but only the ones that are directly related to our RV life in some way.
So let’s get started!
Camping fees + Electricity
October 2019: $141
Same month last year: $323
Average for last 12 months: $97/month
We continued chasing 70° across New Mexico from north to south, taking advantage of our state parks annual pass which expired on October 31. The parks in the northern part of the state started turning off their water for the winter, so we had a lot of incentive to move south. We stayed in 5 different state parks: Coyote Creek (October 1 was the last night of an 8-night stay), Storrie Lake (5 nights), Elephant Butte Lake (9 nights), Pancho Villa (14 nights), and Rockhound (Oct 30-31), where we are currently located. Our annual pass allowed us to get a site with electricity and water for $4/night at each of these parks. This monthly amount also includes the prorated amount for our annual pass ($225/13).
Last year was higher because we spent three nights in RV parks as we drove across Texas toward New Mexico, and we also spent three nights in an RV park in Albuquerque for my birthday visit to Santa Fe. That was the month we discovered the New Mexico annual pass after spending two nights paying the full price for a site. This was also before we knew how easy it is to get a first-come first-serve site in these parks, so we spent some money unnecessarily making online reservations at $12 a pop. Lesson learned–we don’t do that anymore! 🙂
For the last year, we’ve kept our monthly expenses fairly low by (1) boondocking on public land, (2) buying the annual pass for the BLM LTVA for the winter in Yuma, AZ, and (3) buying the annual pass for the New Mexico State Parks where we spend the fall. Since we didn’t boondock at all this month, our expenses were higher than the 12-month average.
Our campsite at Elephant Butte Lake State Park near Truth or Consequences, NM
October 2019: $0
Same month last year: $0
Average for last 12 months: $34/month
Since we stayed in state parks that have dump stations this month, we didn’t have to pay to dump our tanks. That helped offset the money we paid for the campsite electricity.
Last year, while staying at RV parks in Texas and New Mexico, we had full hookups, including sewer, so there were no dump fees. And when we stayed at New Mexico state parks, there was a dump station on site, which was free.
Over the last year, we boondocked on public land for a good portion of the year, which meant we had to drive somewhere and pay to dump the tanks.
Fuel for the RV
October 2019: $102
Same month last year: $452
Average for last 12 months: $107/month
Fuel costs were lower this month because, even though we moved 4 times, two of the moves were less than 50 miles. We bought 40 gallons of gas (68 last month) at an average price of $2.55/gallon. We didn’t use the generator at all this month since we had electrical hookups. Our gas mileage was about 9.5 MPG over 483 miles, helped by the fact that we were driving downhill from the higher elevations in the north.
Last year, October was the month we left Livingston, Texas and drove all the way across Texas and then half of New Mexico. We drove a total of 1,335 miles that month at 8.3 MPG, and the average price we paid for gas was $2.85/gallon.
We were very close to our monthly average this month ($102 vs $107) since we’re moving around a little more. The next two months will move that average upward significantly as we make our way back to Mississippi for Thanksgiving, and then back to the Southwest for the winter. The yearly average includes a lot of weeks and months where we just settled in to a place and didn’t move around much, helping to keep fuel costs lower.
Fuel for the Truck
October 2019: $102
Same month last year: $245
Average for last 12 months: $101/month
This month we drove the truck 864 miles, including the four moves to new campsites as well as some sight-seeing and grocery shopping trips. We bought 41 gallons of gas at an average price of $2.52/gal, and we got an average of 21.3 MPG.
Last October, we drove the truck 1,549 miles as we left Texas and moved to New Mexico, including side trips and sight-seeing. We bought 86 gallons of gas at $2.85/gallon, and averaged 21.5 MPG.
Our expenses this month were almost spot-on with our yearly average. That’s going to change in November and December. The average price that we paid over the last 12 months was $2.68/gallon.
Driving the Enchanted Circle toward Taos, NM
October 2019: $11
Same month last year: $0
Average for last 12 months: $41/month
This month we bought 4.1 gallons of propane at a price (including taxes and fees) of $2.70/gallon. Since we had electrical hookups all month, we only needed propane for cooking on the stove and for running the furnace for a short time each morning to take the chill off in the rig. We didn’t need it for running the refrigerator or hot water heater.
Last October we were hooked up to electricity for the entire month and only needed propane for cooking on the stove. We had filled the tank the previous month and did not need to refill it again until after the month ended.
Propane costs per gallon have been all over the board this year, depending on where we were staying. Over the winter in Yuma, it was $3.76/gallon. In May when we stayed just south of the Grand Canyon, it was $4.80/gallon in Tusayan since there was only one provider. Over the summer in Flagstaff, we paid $2.83/gallon at Tractor Supply, which was nice!
October 2019: $438
Same month last year: $499
Average for last 12 months: $491/month
We did a little more eating out this month which helped lower our grocery bill. Since we have electrical hookups right now, I’m also starting to do a little more batch cooking. We do enjoy the convenience of just reheating something in the microwave rather than cooking from scratch every night. Batch cooking also helps lower the grocery bill.
NOTE: We primarily eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet so we buy a lot of fresh produce and whole grains, along with some wine/beer. We buy very little processed foods in boxes and cans, although we do buy canned beans and tomatoes, both salt-free. We do almost all our grocery shopping at Walmart because of the prices and because the selection is consistent across the area in which we travel.
Prepping vegetables for my favorite Thai peanut noodle dish
October 2019: $335
Same month last year: $194
Average for past 12 months: $256/month
What can I say, it was my birthday month. We splurged a little bit and ate out more than usual, especially since we were able to walk across the border and have lunch at the Pink Store in Palomas, Mexico–twice. We’ve kind of gotten into the (bad?) habit of going out to eat whenever we go to town for grocery shopping or to do laundry, so maybe we should cut back a little bit on that.
Last year we were still new to the road, and we were a lot more conscious of what we were spending on eating out. This analysis is a good reminder of where we might need to tighten the purse strings a little bit.
But over the course of the past year, we really haven’t eaten out as much as we used to when we lived in our sticks-and-bricks house. Much of the time we’re boondocking out in the middle of nowhere, so it’s just easier to cook our meals in the rig. But when we do decide to splurge, we try to pick places that have great meatless options, and then we become repeat customers (that might also be a problem! 😉 )
NOTE: These numbers include coffee and snacks that we buy when we’re really there just to use the wi-fi. 🙂
We found a wonderful Asian/Southwest fusion restaurant–Latitude 33 in Truth or Consequences, NM
household / furnishings
October 2019: $59
Same month last year: $52
Average for last 12 months: $124/month
Besides spending $29 to replenish our supply of toilet chemical pods and toilet cleaner, this month’s expense was just the usual paper products, kitchen supplies, etc. for the rig.
Last year at this same time, we were picking up some little odds and ends for the rig that we hadn’t anticipated needing when we started out, including an extra pillow for the kitties.
The average for the last 12 months includes the purchase of a new memory foam mattress ($496) in April 2019 to replace the original mattress that came with the RV. That was one of the best decisions we made this year when it comes to comfort and relaxation.
October 2019: $26
Same month last year: $45
Average for last 12 months: $51/month
This month we got off lightly, only needing their canned food and treats.
Last October’s figure also included a stop at Costco to pick up a big bag of their dry food, which lasts us for several months.
Over the year, in addition to food and litter, we paid for checkups for both kitties at the Apollo Animal Hospital in Glendale, Arizona while we were there for the Christmas holidays.
The campground kitty at Pancho Villa SP came around once or twice a day looking for food, and we fell for it
verizon cellphone / internet
October 2019: $282
Same month last year: $245
Average for last 12 months: $276/month
This was the last month that our bill will include a prorated charge for the purchase of our iPhones from when we bought them in the fall of 2017. Hallelujah!! Next month our bill drops by about $40! We both have the iPhone 8+ which we use for internet access as well as hotspot wi-fi for the laptop, Kindles and the Roku. We are on the AboveUnlimited data plan so we can go longer without getting throttled.
At this time last year, we were on a different plan with a lower data limit. After getting throttled several times, we soon found out that we needed an upgrade. 🙂
As long as our phones are working properly, we have no intention of getting new devices, so our 12-month average should continue to decline as long as the plan rates don’t go up.
October 2019: $14
Same month last year: $12
Average for past 12 months: $28/month
This month we had mail forwarded to us twice, primarily because we were waiting for Andy’s new passport to arrive so we could visit Palomas, Mexico for my birthday.
In October of last year, we only had mail forwarded once (and at non-priority rates), but we also paid for special handling to have our absentee ballots delivered for voting. Our mail service, Escapees in Livingston, Texas, is awesome about making sure that their members are able to have their votes counted, even when they’re on the road.
We typically have one, sometimes two, shipments of mail sent to us, although we’ve been going longer and longer between shipments as we handle almost everything electronically now. And we do pay an extra $30/quarter to have them scan the front of every piece of mail that arrives so that we can view it online, and then tell them to hold it for mailing or shred it.
We made two trips across the border into Mexico in October after Andy renewed his passport
October 2019: $12
Same month last year: $7
Average for past 12 months: $21/month
This month we made one trip to the laundromat in Deming where we did four loads of laundry. This laundromat is one of the most reasonably priced ones that we’ve encountered.
Last year we did laundry at the Enchanted Trails RV park in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when we stayed there for my birthday. Their laundry machines were less expensive, but they should have been, based on how much we paid for our site!
Since we’ve been on the road, we typically do laundry about every three weeks, unless there’s a cat pee emergency. When we have to wash all the bedding, the cost goes up. Fortunately, lately we haven’t had…..never mind, I don’t want to jinx it. 🙂
attractions / entertainment
October 2019: $105
Same month last year: $84
Average for past 12 months: $80/month
In addition to the monthly subscriptions to Hulu, Spotify, Audible, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, etc., Andy tipped the mariachi trio at the Pink Store $20 to sing a couple of songs for my birthday. I also paid $21 for a yearly subscription to the NY Times Crossword (includes additional puzzles like Tiles, my favorite). It’s a great way to keep the mind sharp.
Last year’s expenses were pretty normal in October.
Over the past 12 months, we’ve kept this line item fairly low by avoiding the temptation to slip into “vacation” mode just because we live in an RV. We are not on vacation, we are simply living our everyday lives. But we do occasionally like to visit those touristy spots, and we can save a lot of money primarily because of the Senior Lifetime Pass that Andy has for the National Parks, Monuments and Forests. We got free entry to the Grand Canyon (multiple times), White Sands National Monument, and several others, as well as half off the camping fee when we stayed near Prescott. And the pass only cost him $10–for life!! (It’s $80 now, but still a bargain!)
October 2019: $31
Same month last year: $60
Average for the last 12 months: $32/month
This month we renewed our annual membership at Costco ($60). We shop there primarily for the dry food for the kitties, as well as hearing aid batteries for my parents (Andy no longer wears his hearing aids). We also paid $39 for a year-long subscription to RV Trip Planner, an online application that has some wonderful tools for planning cross-country trips like we’re getting ready to make to Mississippi and back. These two expenses were offset by a credit of $68 that we received when we cancelled our roadside assistance coverage with AAA and switched to Good Sam. Since Good Sam offered us free coverage for the first six months if we switched, that will help lower our average monthly expenses for this line item.
In October of last year, we only had the Costco renewal as an expense item.
Over the last year, this line item has included things like AAA Roadside Assistance, Costco, Sam’s Club, Escapees, and Amazon Prime. We are also members of Passport America which gets us discounts at RV parks, but we’ve already paid several years in advance. We were also members of Harvest Hosts this year, but elected not to renew that membership since we only used it once.
The aliens have landed, and they look like Andy!
Equipment for RV
October 2019: $0
Same month last year: $207
Average for last 12 months: $370
Fortunately we didn’t need to purchase anything in the way of RV equipment this month.
Last October, we had to buy a new 30-amp surge protector after ours got fried during thunderstorm at an RV park in Van Horn, Texas. We also bought roof vent covers so that we could leave the overhead vents open with the fans running even when it’s raining (worth their weight in gold). And we had to buy another set of leveling blocks because a lot of campsites are just too sloped to allow the systems in the RV to function properly.
The yearly average is fairly high, primarily due to the November 2018 purchase of our solar system, which is comprised of three 100-watt solar panels and a 100 amp hour Kodiak solar generator which we purchased as a kit, two 100-amp-hour Battle Born lithium batteries, a Morningstar solar charge controller, and all the cables and wiring to connect everything. It was a big investment, but this system is what allows us to boondock and dry camp without hookups, saving us thousands of dollars in campground and RV park fees.
RV Maintenance & REpairs
October 2019: $140
Same month last year: $46
Average for last 12 months: $151/month
This month we finally replaced the water pump that gave us trouble several weeks ago. So far it seems to be working fine (fingers crossed), although we only use it on those nights when the temperatures get below freezing and we have to unhook from the campground water spigot.
Last October, Andy repaired the toilet and the gasket around the overhead fan in the bathroom.
Over the past year, in addition to replacing the water pump twice, we had some higher-than-normal expenses in August 2019 for generator repair, two new tires on the front, and an oil change and air filter.
Swapping out the water pump at 9:30 PM is not a fun time.
truck maintenance & repairs
October 2019: $5
Same month last year: $0
Average for last 12 months: $7
This month Andy gave the truck a quick wash (and not a very good one).
NOTE: We drive a 2004 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner pickup with a camper shell on the back as our chase vehicle (not towed). It has just over 110K miles on it, and it’s super-dependable.
October 2019: $111
We have insurance through Progressive and get a multi-vehicle discount. In our first year, we paid $57/month for the RV for full-timer’s insurance. That increased to $60/month beginning in September 2019 for the next year.
For the Tacoma, our insurance was $40/mo for the first six months, and then in March 2019, it increased to $49/month. When it renewed in September 2019, it went up to $51/month for the next six months.
VEhicle License and registration
October 2019: $17
Our annual license and registration for the RV when we first registered it in September 2018 was $260 (prorated at $22/month on our monthly reports). For the truck it was $201 ($17/month). Since this was the first year we registered the vehicles in Texas, there was an extra $95 charge on each vehicle to transfer them from out-of-state. When we renewed the registrations in September 2019, the expenses for the next year came in at $134 ($11/month) for the RV and $75 ($6/month) for the truck.
Late afternoon golden hour at our campsite in Rockhound State Park, NM
So our RV living expenses for October 2019 & 2018 and the past 12 months were:
October 2019: $1,932
Same month last year: $2,605
Monthly average for the last 12 months: $2,406
Like I said, this does not include personal expenses like gifts, charitable contributions, grooming and haircuts, clothing, medical expenses or health insurance–things that really aren’t a function of our RV lifestyle. Those types of expenses can vary wildly from person to person, so we don’t include them in this monthly report.
So we again had pretty decent results this month, up slightly from September with the replacement of the water pump. The increase in camping fees and dining out expenses were somewhat offset by savings on fuel and groceries.
Now it’s November, and we have a lot of traveling ahead of us this month. Sometime around the 10th, we’ll head east across Texas and Louisiana, into Mississippi to be with my family for Thanksgiving (hooray!!). And then we’ll turn right around on December 1 and head back out west to the BLM LTVA near Yuma, Arizona where we stayed last winter. We may possibly take a detour through Quartzsite to have our awning replaced–it’s starting to fray a little bit where it attaches to the top of the rig, and with the windy conditions during the winter in Yuma, we don’t want it to totally rip apart. So that’s a lot of driving (i.e. fuel + camping fees) coming up in November and December.
And we have already made our reservation for an exciting adventure in January 2020! We will be joining a group from the Escapees in Carlsbad, New Mexico, to spend a week working underground in the caves of Carlsbad Caverns as part of the annual “lint-picking” clean-up effort. We paid $299 to reserve a campsite with full hookups since there’s no telling what the temperatures and weather conditions will be in late January. We are really excited about being able to spend time in the caves “up close and personal” with the stalactites, stalagmites, and other natural features, doing important work to preserve this natural wonder.
If you’re curious as to what exactly “lint-picking” involves and what we’ll be doing, here’s a little peek:
Currently we’re parked at Rockhound State Park in Deming, New Mexico, which has quickly become one of our very favorite locations. We were able to get a first-come first-serve site with electricity (they’re a little hard to come by in this park). We just purchased our new annual pass which is actually good for 13 months since it expires next year on the last day of the same calendar month in which we purchased it. We are huge fans of the New Mexico state park system, and will definitely get our money’s worth from the pass.
Let us know if you have any questions about our monthly living expenses on the road, and we’ll be glad to answer if we can!
If you’re interested in our monthly expense reports or just our daily adventures, be sure to subscribe to this blog so you get all our updates. You can also find us on Instagram at Instagram.com/JustCallUsNomads to stay up with us between blog posts. We also have a YouTube channel where we post occasional short videos of things we’ve seen or done–you can check it out by clicking here!