It’s time once again for our monthly expense report where we share the costs associated with our full-time RV life.
First, a reminder of the caveats. 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.
We’ve just completed our fifth full month on the road. In this post, I’ll be sharing the most recent three months’ expenses as well as our average-to-date for comparison, since line items can change drastically from month to month.
We spent the entire month of January boondocking (camping without hookups) at the Pilot Knob LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It’s located in southern California, about seven miles west of Yuma, Arizona. When we arrived here in late December, we purchased the annual pass for the entire winter season for $180, which allows us to camp for free at any of the seven winter LTVAs through April 15, 2019. The only time we moved the RV all month was to drive it one mile round-trip to the nearby Chevron station to dump the tanks and refill the fresh water and propane tanks.
Staying in one place for the entire month radically affected our expenses for the better. Here’s how our spending went for January.
Camping fees + Electricity
November: $137 (Nov 1-3 @ Elephant Butte SP, Nov 4-17 @ Leasburg Dam SP, Nov 18-30 @ Pancho Villa SP, all at $4/night on annual pass. Expense number also includes prorated cost of the annual pass.)
December: $166 (1 free night in a Chevron parking lot, 1 free night in Camping World parking lot, 16 free nights on BLM land in the cactus forest, 7 nights in RV park in Glendale at $19.50/night, 5 nights in our current location in the BLM LTVA where we paid $180 for the annual pass, good through April 15 which comes out to $1.89/night which I’m pro-rating on this expense report.)
January: $68 – Entire month in the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA. We actually did not spend any money at all this month for camping fees, but for monthly reporting purposes I am prorating the cost of our annual camping passes for New Mexico State Parks ($225 for 13 months) and BLM LTVAs ($180 for December through April).
Five month average: $227
December: $16 (While boondocking we had to pay to dump our tanks at the Pilot/Flying J stations.)
January: $70 – It costs us $12 to dump our tanks and fill up our 50-gallon fresh water tank at the nearby Chevron station, although one time they only charged us $10 for some reason. We dump our tanks every 5-6 days depending on how often we shower.
Five month average: $17
Fuel for the RV
November: $79 (Drove 172 miles, 0 generator hours, 8.8 MPG)
December: $367 (Drove 767 miles, 91.5 generator hours, ~9.1 MPG net of generator use.) We started using the generator this month since we were boondocking without electrical hookups. The generator uses gas from the RV fuel tank.
January: $0 (Stayed in place all month, 21.9 generator hours and we still have almost 3/4 of a tank of gas left from the last time we filled up in December.)
Five month average: $192
Fuel for the Truck
November: $52 (17.7 MPG)
December: $221 (20.0 MPG)
January: $59 (17.7 MPG)
Five month average: $147
November: $31 (12 gallons) – We use propane primarily for cooking. In November we began using the onboard propane furnace more as the temperatures got colder, running it for a little while in the early morning to supplement the small electric heater.
December: $32 (10 gallons)
January: $67 (19 gallons) – Propane was our sole source of heat in January since we were never connected to electricity, but we only used it early in the morning until the sun warmed up the rig. Right now propane is $3.49/gallon at the nearby Chevron.
Five month average: $26
Five month average: $479
I’m really surprised at how consistent this number is every month. We do almost all our grocery shopping at Walmart, so I’m assuming that that explains the consistency from month to month. 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.
December: $253 (mostly while we were staying in Glendale, running errands all over the place.)
Five month average: $221
These numbers include coffees and snacks that we buy when we’re really there just to use the wi-fi. 🙂
household / furnishings
Five month average: $58
These numbers include things like toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, small household items for the kitchen, etc.
November: $5 (we were well stocked up from October)
December: $246 – We took both the cats to the vet in Glendale after Maggie got sick on the drive and showed signs of having worms. Both have been treated and are doing fine.
January: $40 – Stocked up on cat food, treats and litter.
Five month average: $82
These numbers include cat food, litter, treats and the occasional toy for our two kitties, Maggie and Molly. Will also include vet visits when needed.
verizon cellphone / internet
November: $254 – This month we upgraded to the next higher level for unlimited data so we won’t get throttled so much.
December: $286 – Charge increased as we’re now on the higher data plan.
Five month average: $261
These numbers include a prorated charge for the purchase of our iPhones when we bought them in the fall of 2017. We both have the iPhone 8+ which we use for internet access as well as hotspot wi-fi for the laptop and the Roku. We are now on the AboveUnlimited data plan so we can go longer without getting throttled. Once the phones are paid off this fall, the monthly charge should drop significantly unless the plan rates go up.
November: $16 – We had mail forwarded twice, but also requested one additional shipment when Andy’s mail-order prescription meds came in.
December: $37 – We had mail forwarded once to Glendale AZ, but with the holidays and weekends, it did not arrive before we moved on, so that packet will get sent back to Livingston where it will be added to a future mail forwarding. Lesson learned: always specify “Priority Mail” with a tracking number when requesting mail forwarding. Also, we signed up to have our mail scanned for the next two months since it’s tax season. This way we can see what has arrived at our mailbox in Livingston, and we can pick and choose what we want to have sent to us and what can be shredded. If anything of a time-sensitive nature comes in, we’ll also know to have that forwarded to us right away. The scanning service is $10/month.
January: $7 – Had mail forwarded once early in the month, but with the new scanning service we were able to just check online to see what mail had arrived in Livingston throughout the rest of the month. There was nothing that was time-sensitive so we decided to wait until early February to have the next packet sent, which should include all the tax-related forms that arrived in January.
Five month average: $14
November: $22 – We did laundry twice, first in Truth or Consequences where the machines were bad and expensive, and the second time in Deming where the facilities were much nicer and less costly.
December: $18 – We did laundry once in Glendale, but we also washed all the quilts and blankets from the bed. One of the kitties had a little accident after the stress from the vet visit.
January: $29 – We did our regular laundry once in Yuma, but then we had to make a second trip to the laundromat to wash the quilts and blankets again. Another little kitty accident (or are they just trying to punish us for something??). The laundromat here in Yuma is more expensive than any we’ve seen, but it’s also very well-maintained.
Five month average: $20
attractions / entertainment
December: $137 – I’ve started a new hobby of geocaching, so I paid for a one-year subscription to the premium version of the geocaching app that shows ALL the caches in the area instead of just the very few that were shown in the free version. I also had to renew my annual “plus” subscription to my Evernote app, which is my online notebook for EVERYTHING.
January: $72 – We visited the “Center of the World” which cost us $10.
Five month average: $86
These numbers include our subscriptions to Netflix, Audible, and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited book plan, as well as entrance fees to places we visit.
November: $49 (annual renewal for Sam’s Club membership)
Five month average: $22
Equipment for RV
November: $2,215 (ordered solar kit including three 100-watt solar panels and a Kodiak portable solar generator. Here’s a link to the kit we purchased.)
December: $388 (Solar charge controller + cables and wiring supplies, black tank cleaning wand, 50amp dogbone, battery tester, moving blankets to protect solar panels when driving)
January: $0 -FINALLY, a month when we didn’t buy any new equipment for the rig!!
Five month average: $577
RV Maintenance & REpairs
November: $22 (changed out the water filter)
December: $472 (replaced both house batteries, replaced toilet when foot pedal flusher began to fail, replaced weather stripping over cab area)
January: $108 (replaced the water pump and strainer)
Five month average: $130
truck maintenance & repairs
Five month average: $3
We have insurance through Progressive and get a multi-vehicle discount. Right now we’re paying $57/mo for the RV and $40/mo for the truck.
VEhicle License and registration
Of course we paid the annual license and registration up front in September but for expense tracking purposes, I’m prorating it across the year. It’s $22/mo for the RV and $17/mo for the truck.
So those are our RV living expenses for the last three months:
November Total: $3,852 ($1,637 excluding the purchase of the solar kit)
December Total: $3,309
January Total: $1,677
Five month average: $2,697
It obviously makes a huge difference whether we’re moving around a lot or staying in one location for an extended length of time. Except for the huge hit on the solar kit that we purchased, November was a very good month in terms of expenses. We lived very well while spending very little. In December we drove more, continued putting together our solar system, and had some additional maintenance items to attend to, so our expenses were higher than we would have liked, even with the free boondocking. In January, we once again had an excellent month in terms of our pocketbooks while eating well, entertaining ourselves, staying warm and dry and enjoying the beautiful surroundings and interesting culture along the southern border.
Since we purchased the annual pass to the BLM Long Term Visitor Area for $180, we are allowed to boondock for free at any of the seven winter LTVAs in Arizona and California through April 15. We’re starting to think about moving to a different LTVA just for a change of scenery, but have not made any specific plans. We’re very comfortable where we are right now, so we’ll see how itchy our feet get in February. Any time we decide to move, it will impact our expenses for fuel, so stay tuned to see what happens.
We’ll continue to closely monitor our expenses and will report them here on a monthly basis. So if you’re interested, 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.