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 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°.
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.
We’ve just completed our seventh 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.
In March we finally left the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) where we had been stationary since December 27, and moved to a campsite on BLM land about 10 miles south of Wickenburg, Arizona where we camped for 14 days. After that, we traveled a short distance north to Yarnell, Arizona where we have been driveway-surfing on some property owned by friends.
Since we did some moving around this month, our fuel costs were up (details below).
We did get some significant entries on the positive side of the ledger in March. First of all, we got very nice tax refunds on both our federal and state returns. Secondly, I received an unexpected check from my last employer, due to a new incentive program that they had implemented in 2018 as part of our compensation package. At the end of the year (in March 2019), employees received bonuses based on group or company performance, and I received a check for the seven months that I was still employed there in early 2018. Woo-hoo!! The downside is, now I have to file another state tax return in Mississippi next April–that sucks!
We also had some major non-RV expenses in March, as Andy had some dental work done in Yuma under our COBRA dental insurance. We were able to use our Health Savings Account to cover the non-insured portion of the cost of his crown and deep cleaning, so no harm done.
Here are our expenses for March.
Camping fees + Electricity
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).
February: $63 – Still in the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA, so no actual expenditures, just the prorated cost of our annual passes.
March: $68 – No out-of-pocket camping fees for the LTVA, the BLM site on Vulture Mine Road, or driveway-surfing inYarnell. This figure is just the prorated cost of our annual passes.
Seven month average: $181
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.
February: $48 – Dumped our tanks and filled up with fresh water every 6 days @ $12/visit at the nearby Chevron station.
March: $56 – Dumped three times @$12/visit at the Chevron station by the LTVA, and then twice @$10/visit in Wickenburg while on BLM land on Vulture Mine Road.
Seven month average: $27
Fuel for the RV
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. We also started using our solar panels which drastically cut down the number of hours we need to run the generator.
February: $0 – Stayed in place all month, 20.4 generator hours and we still have about half a tank of gas left from the last time we filled up in December.
March: $141 – Filled up the rig twice. The first fill-up was in Yuma when we left the LTVA. It was the first time we had filled the tank since December 27, so almost all that fuel was used by the generator over three months’ time. The total generator time in that period was 56 hours. The second fill-up was later that same day, after the drive from Yuma to Wickenburg. It took us 23.4 gallons to drive 173 miles, averaging 7.4 MPG.
Seven month average: $157
Fuel for the Truck
January: $59 (17.7 MPG)
February: $113 (17.6 MPG)
March: $92 (18.9 MPG)
Seven month average: $141
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.
February: $62 (17.7 gallons) – The weather got a little cooler in the middle of February, but then it really warmed up in the past week, so our heating costs remained about the same, as did our cooking usage. Propane is still $3.49/gallon at Chevron.
Propane: $56 (17.4 gallons) – The weather continued to warm up in March. We topped off the propane four times. The first two were at the Chevron by the LTVA at $3.49/gal, and the last two were in Wickenburg at $1.99/gal. That’s a great example of the difference in fuel prices and taxes between California and Arizona.
Seven month average: $35
February: $558 – This month appears higher but it’s kind of a timing thing as we did a big Costco haul on February 1, and we also bought weekly groceries on February 28. We’re not eating or drinking any more than usual.
March: $539 – There isn’t a Walmart store in Wickenburg, so we did our grocery shopping at Safeway and Basha’s (once). Grocery prices in those stores are at least 25% higher than they are at Walmart where we usually shop, and the quality was not any better on the produce.
Seven month average: $499
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.
February: $184 – We go to the nearby casino every Friday morning for their $5.95 breakfast buffet. We had lunch in Los Algodones (Mexico) once this month, and we also had lunch at a Mexican restaurant in Yuma called Chretins (family operated since 1946). We had our Valentine’s Day dinner at an Asian restaurant called Sesame’s Kitchen because our first two choices were overbooked.
March: $243 – While we were in Yuma we treated ourselves to the breakfast buffet at the nearby Quechan Casino every Friday morning ($5.95 plus tax). We also tried out several Mexican and Italian places in Yuma, Wickenburg and Yarnell. We did not eat at a single chain or fast-food restaurant. Eat local!!
Seven month average: $219
NOTE: These numbers include coffee and snacks that we buy when we’re really there just to use the wi-fi. 🙂
household / furnishings
February: $205 – Includes purchase of Turbotax software, an external hard drive for my laptop, a new chair for Andy to use when working on jewelry (someday), and a new vegan cookbook which was authored by some of our favorite full-time RVers.
March: $193 – Includes $99 annual subscription for 1TB of space on Dropbox, which we use for cloud storage of our files, including backups of important data.
Seven month average: $98
These numbers include things like toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, small household items for the kitchen, etc.
January: $40 – Stocked up on cat food, treats and litter.
February: $7 – Kitties are doing very well!
March: $46 – Replaced the litter box with a large storage tote, dumped all the old litter and started with fresh. We’ve switched to a more expensive litter that is dust-free and odor-free, and it seems to have helped Molly’s allergy problem.
Seven month average: $66
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
Seven month average: $266
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 by $66/month unless the plan rates go up.
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.
February: $45 – Had mail forwarded twice to get all the tax documentation. Also extended the scanning service for another three months at $10/month.
March: $10 – Paid the nearby Chevron station $3 to accept packages for us so Andy could order some maintenance items from Amazon. Had mail forwarded to us once in Wickenburg.
Seven month average: $18
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.
February: $17 – One trip to the Yuma laundromat, three large loads.
March: $25 – Did the regular laundry once in Yuma. In Wickenburg we had to wash all the bedding once when one of the kitties had a little accident on the bed.
Seven month average: $20
attractions / entertainment
January: $72 – We visited the “Center of the World” which cost us $10.
February: $96 – We visited the Yuma Territorial Prison Historical Site, which cost us $14. Also includes parking fee and tips for musicians for our daytrip to Los Algodones, a puzzle book for me, and a Kindle book for Andy.
March: $103 – We spent $30 to visit the old Vulture Mine site (overpriced, IMO). I also purchased a new hiking pack with water bottle for desert hiking.
Seven month average: $90
These numbers include our subscriptions to Netflix, Audible, and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited book plan, as well as entrance fees to places we visit.
February: $40 – Annual membership dues for Escapees (they handle our mail service and we get discounted rates in their parks).
March: $136 – Annual membership fee for AAA Roadside assistance. We have the premium plan that also covers the RV.
Seven month average: $41
Equipment for RV
January: $0 -FINALLY, a month when we didn’t buy any new equipment for the rig!!
February: $28 – Andy ordered a new high-tech caulking gun to take care of some maintenance on the rig.
March: $35 – Caulk removal tool, tubing for use in filling the fresh water tank, a turkey baster to use when filling the house batteries with distilled water, and a utility knife and blades.
Seven month average: $421 (Includes over $2K in solar equipment purchased in November 2018.)
RV Maintenance & REpairs
January: $108 (replaced the water pump and strainer)
February: $28 – Hooray, nothing broke on the rig this month! We bought two tubes of Dicor lap sealant so Andy can do a little preventative maintenance on the rig.
March: $24 – Replaced the air admittance valve under the bathroom sink to remove odors coming from the black tank ($8). Also purchased some shop towels and mineral spirits for caulking work (that still hasn’t been done).
Seven month average: $101
truck maintenance & repairs
March: $70 – Oil change, filters replaced, got the truck washed
Seven month average: $12
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 107K miles on it, and it’s super-dependable.
We have insurance through Progressive and get a multi-vehicle discount. Right now we’re paying $57/mo for the RV. In March, the monthly cost for the truck increased from $40/mo to $49/mo.
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:
January Total: $1,677
February Total: $1,904
March Total: $2,257
Seven month average: $2,520
It obviously makes a huge difference whether we’re moving around a lot or staying in one location for an extended length of time. 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, February and March, we had much better months 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. However, it was already starting to warm up significantly and the winds were really annoying, so we decided to move on even though we still had some time left on our pass. We’re still camping for free, so it doesn’t really matter. We will continue to boondock as much as possible to keep our expenses lower.
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.