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 eleven full months 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 all of June and July in a free boondocking site in the Coconino National Forest on Forest Road 151 (also known as Hart Prairie Road), off Highway 180 northwest of Flagstaff. The weather has been near-perfect for boondocking, and there are plenty of empty camping spots along this road so we haven’t felt any pressure to leave this area.
Because we stayed in one spot all month and didn’t move the rig except to dump the tanks and refill propane and water, our camping expenses were lower than average in June and July. However, this month we decided to replace our cheap deep-cycle lead acid batteries and invest in a couple of lithium batteries for our solar system while they were on sale in Flagstaff, so our expenses did jump significantly in July because of that one line item (see Equipment below). But the change has already made a significant difference in our camping experience since we don’t have to babysit the batteries or constantly monitor our electrical usage at night or on cloudy days.
That said, here are our expenses for the past three months:
Camping fees + Electricity
May: $207 – We boondocked for free for 24 of the 31 nights. The seven nights we spent in the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park in Williams cost us $27/night which was a 50% discount on their normal rates with our Passport America membership, for a total of $189. The remainder is the prorated cost of our annual pass to New Mexico state parks (expires October 31).
June: $17 – We boondocked for free for the entire month in the National Forest, so there were no out-of-pocket expenses. The $17 is the monthly prorated cost of our annual pass to New Mexico state parks (expires October 31).
July: $17 – Same as June.
Eleven month average: $152
May: $42 – We didn’t have to pay to dump while we had full hookups in Williams. While staying on FR 320, we dumped three times at an RV park in Tusayan for $14 per visit. Technically, we could have driven into the Grand Canyon National Park and dumped at their campground for free, but we still would have had to visit the Tusayan RV park to buy propane, and Andy decided it was easier to just get everything done at one location.
June: $40 – We dumped the tanks and refilled our fresh water four times at Black Bart’s RV Park in Flagstaff at $10/visit.
July: $40 – Same as June.
Eleven month average: $33
Fuel for the RV
May: $111 – We moved three times, but only filled up the rig twice. We drove a total of 239 miles and used the generator 22.2 hours. We bought 34 gallons of gas and averaged approximately 9.6 MPG, net of generator use. Our average gas price in May was $3.22/gallon–another effect of being in a high-tourism area.
June: $62 – We filled up the RV one time toward the end of the month, and basically it was just the expense of running the generator all month plus taking the rig into town four times to dump the tanks. We bought 21 gallons of gas at $2.99/gallon, and ran the generator for 14.7 hours, and drove the rig 118 miles.
July: $0 – The RV was only moved four times in July, when Andy drove it into Flagstaff to dump the tanks, a 30-mile round trip. We ran the generator 14.7 hours in July (same as June, seems to be a pattern here), which equates to about 6.3 gallons of fuel.
Eleven month average: $129
Fuel for the Truck
May: $115 (37 gal, 19.6 MPG)
June: $95 (30 gal, 19.5 MPG)
July: $43 (15 gal, 18.8 MPG)
Eleven month average: $120
May: $76 (15.9 gallons) – Most of our propane purchases in May were at the RV park in Tusayan, where the cost was $4.85/gallon + tax = $5.28/gallon. They were the only propane supplier within reasonable driving distance, and they knew it and admitted it. We had some very cold weather, including sleet and snow, so we ran the furnace a little more than we usually do. Fortunately we had one week with full hookups in Williams when we were able to use the electric space heater, which offset at least a portion of the propane cost for the month.
June: $38 (12.5 gallons) – Warmer weather means less propane usage. And after the high prices in Tusayan last month, it was nice to get back to some reasonable propane prices. We filled up twice at Tractor Supply in Flagstaff, at $2.79/gallon.
July: $22 (7.7 gallons) – Another good month for propane usage. We filled up once at Tractor Supply in Flagstaff at $2.83/gallon (including tax).
Eleven month average: $39
May: $464 – We were a little surprised at this number being down so much, as grocery prices in Williams and Flagstaff are a little higher than we’ve been paying. But when we saw what we spent on dining out (see below), the grocery figure made sense. Many of our restaurant meals involved doggie bags that provided us with an extra meal at home. And usually, when we ate lunch at a restaurant, we were too full to eat dinner later.
June: $466 – This was a fairly typical month for groceries, all of which were purchased at Walmart in Flagstaff.
July: $418 – Our grocery cost was down a little bit this month, as I cooked more one-pot meals that could be spread over two or three meals, and we also ate out a few more times this month.
Eleven month average: $492
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.
May: $464 – We spent way more than usual on eating out in May. We had a nice lunch in Sedona ($76); ate three times at the Grand Canyon Brewing Company which was conveniently located right across the street from the RV park where we stayed in Williams (twice we only had drinks and appetizer, total for three visits was $103); ice cream and coffee at Twisters on Route 66 in Williams ($19); dinner at El Corral Mexican Restaurant on Route 66 in Williams ($41); two visits to We Cook Pizza in Tusayan ($71); brunch at Toasted Owl Cafe in Flagstaff ($49); lunch at the Bright Angel Lodge Harvey House Cafe in the Grand Canyon National Park ($37); breakfast at McDonald’s on the way to the Canyon ($26 – highway robbery!); and a few other miscellaneous charges including reloading Andy’s Starbucks card for $25. When we dine out, we pretty much order what we want and don’t worry about the prices, especially if it’s an unusual place with high-quality food. But hopefully we can get back on track in June and get this line item back in budget. 🙂
June: $192 – We did much better on dining out this month, thanks in large part to finding Fratelli Pizza in Flagstaff where they have a pizza-by-the-slice lunch special for $10 that we are now addicted to. We also visited Cornish Pasty Company in Flagstaff where they have delicious vegetarian/vegan options, and we also hit the local Pita Pit and IHOP (twice). Oh yeah, I think I remember stopping for some ice cream in the historic district one afternoon… 🙂
July: $246 – We tend to be creatures of habit, and once we find a good deal, we stick with it. So we had lunch at Fratelli Pizza 3 times and brunch at IHOP 3 times (we like to eat a big breakfast before we go grocery shopping). We also spent $20 on food and drinks at the Flagstaff Art in the Park festival, and another $20 for crepes in downtown Flagstaff. And then a weird thing happened–someone fraudulently used my Starbucks gold card (or at least the card number) in Brooklyn, NY to buy $16 worth of whatever. The only reason I found out about it was because I have that card set up so that whenever the balance on it falls below $10, it automatically reloads the card with $25 from my Paypal account by charging one of my credit cards. And I have my credit cards set up to send me a text message whenever ANYTHING of any amount is charged to the credit card. So when I got a text message one morning from my credit card company saying that I had just reloaded my Starbucks card, I knew something was wrong. I called Starbucks, and they reimbursed me for the $16 and then created a new gold card for me with the remaining balance from the old card, and cancelled the old card. They also moved the $25 that had been reloaded onto the old card over to the new card. Long story short, this month’s dining costs include that $25 for reloading my Starbucks card. And a big shout-out to Starbucks customer service for handling this issue to my complete satisfaction!
Eleven month average: $239
NOTE: These numbers include coffee and snacks that we buy when we’re really there just to use the wi-fi. 🙂
household / furnishings
May: $149 – Includes $76 for a new Blu-ray player to replace our old one that quit working. We don’t play DVDs very often, but while we were camped on FR 320 we had very little cellular service and could not do our usual streaming of Hulu and YouTube, so we fell back on our DVD collection. When the old Blu-ray player wouldn’t play the discs without freezing and skipping, we replaced it with a newer, “smarter” version from Walmart.
June: $25 – Nothing this month but the necessities.
July: $36 – My flashlight bit the dust, so I got a new one for $16. Otherwise, just the typical paper products and cleaning supplies.
Eleven month average: $131
These numbers include things like toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, small household items for the kitchen, etc.
May: $24 – Just food and litter.
June: $24 – Another month of just food and litter.
July: $48 – In addition to food and litter, the babies ran out of treats this month so we had to restock. Those things are EXPENSIVE, but our babies love them. 🙂
Eleven month average: $57
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
Eleven month average: $269
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 about $30/month unless the plan rates go up.
May: $30 – Renewed our mail scanning service for another three months. This service allows us to see the front of the envelope that is sent to our mailing address in Livingston, Texas, and then we can choose to have it shredded or added to our next mail forwarding. Because of this scanning, we were able to see that there was nothing urgent in our mail this month, so we did not have anything forwarded to us in May. It will instead be held until our next forwarding request, probably in early June.
June: $7 – Had our mail forwarded one time, nothing of any interest in there. Probably won’t have it forwarded again until August.
July: $7 – We wound up having our mail forwarded once. When we checked the website to see what incoming envelopes had been scanned for us, we saw that the renewal notices for the license plates on both vehicles had arrived, so we had them forwarded this month instead of waiting until August.
Eleven month average: $17
May: $15 – Did laundry once at the RV park where we stayed in Williams. I also had to wash the top quilt on our bed because Maggie puked on it (she’s not sick, I think she just gagged on a hair in her throat). Oh, well, at least they’ve stopped peeing on it!! 🙂
June: $25 – It just worked out, timing-wise, that we did laundry twice this month (we usually average going to the laundromat about every three weeks).
July: $28 – We did our regular laundry once, but then we had to make a special trip to wash the bed linens, as one of the kitties tried to baptize us one morning.
Eleven month average: $20
attractions / entertainment
May: $58 – Just the monthly subscriptions listed below, plus a bag of assorted puzzle books that I picked up at the Goodwill store in Sedona. NOTE: We visited the Grand Canyon National Park several times for free with Andy’s “America the Beautiful” senior lifetime pass for which he paid $10, right before they increased the price to $80. But even at $80, it’s still a tremendous bargain if you visit any of the national parks or monuments, especially since it’s a lifetime pass. Can’t wait until I turn 62 so I can get mine!! 🙂
June: $85 – In addition to our monthly subscriptions (see below), we checked out the Flagstaff Folk Festival ($10). We also purchased a few items to carry in our hiking packs in case of emergency (lessons learned from Andy’s big adventure). We visited the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, but got in free with Andy’s “America The Beautiful” senior pass (saved $25). We also visited the Arizona Snowbowl and took the chairlift ride to the top of the ski lift, but thanks to a fortuitous conversation with a couple in the parking lot, this excursion was also free (details here). This month we dropped our subscription to Netflix and replaced it with a subscription to Hulu, where I binge-watched 11 seasons of “Frasier” and am now working my way through “This Is Us”.
July: $68 – In addition to the subscriptions listed below, I also paid $11 for a one-year subscription for the Elite upgrade to my Walkmeter app on my iPhone. This is the app that I use for hiking (my entertainment of choice) to map my routes and keep track of my time and distance, as well as the weather and other stats. It helps keep me motivated to exercise, so I think it’s worth it.
Eleven month average: $81
Note: These numbers include our subscriptions to Hulu, Audible, Spotify, and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited book plan, as well as entrance fees to places we visit.
May: $127 – Annual renewal fee for Amazon Prime. Currently questioning whether or not we should drop this next year.
Eleven month average: $37
Equipment for RV
May: $0 – Hallelujah!!
June: $17 – New tire pressure gauge and valve caps.
July: $1,719 – No, that’s not a typo. This month we decided to take advantage of a 10%-off sale on Battle Born lithium batteries at Northern Arizona Wind & Sun. We replaced our two pathetic 25-amp-hour lead acid house batteries with two 100-amp-hour Battle Born lithium batteries. We were tired of having to be so miserly with our energy usage at night and on cloudy days, and since we made the upgrade, we’ve had plenty of power of spare. We can finally run our fan at night without worrying about whether or not there would be enough sunshine in the early morning to replenish what we used overnight–now a full charge will last us for 3-4 days without having to top it off at all. And when we finally make that trip up to the Pacific Northwest, we’ll be better equipped to deal with the cloudy days that are so common up there.
Eleven month average: $427 (Includes over $2K in solar equipment purchased in November 2018.)
RV Maintenance & REpairs
May: $35 – Bought two replacement lights (the amber teardrop-shaped clearance lights) for the overhead cab area to try to prevent water leakage into the rig.
June: $15 – Bought SeaFoam gas treatment for the generator. We also purchased new LED light bulbs for the interior, but we used our Discover Card reward dollars for those.
July: $15 – Oil for the generator, two cans of compressed air for blowing the dust out of the solar panel cable connectors.
Eleven month average: $76
truck maintenance & repairs
Eleven month average: $8
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, but I think we’re going to need to have the brakes looked at pretty soon.
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. 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. Based on the renewal notices that we just received, the expenses for the next year will be $11/mo for the RV and $6/mo for the truck.
So those are our RV living expenses for the last three months:
May Total: $2,337
June Total: $1,529
July Total: $3,127
Eleven month average: $2,467
After blowing our budget in May while staying in touristy spots like Williams, Arizona and the Grand Canyon, it feels good to have the purse strings under control again. If we exclude the cost of the new batteries that we bought this month, this would have been our best month ever in terms of expenses–so it was probably the right time to bite the bullet and spend the money.
We’re still camped at about 8,100′ just northwest of Flagstaff, and the forecast calls for high temperatures between 75° to 79° for the next two weeks. It’s hard to predict exactly because the published forecast is for the city of Flagstaff, and we are about 1200′ higher than they are. The monsoon season has arrived, so we’re getting rain almost every day now. Usually it’s just an afternoon shower, but earlier this week we got a couple of days of almost constant drizzle. As long as we don’t get too warm or too soggy, we plan to stay in the Flagstaff area as long as we can. We like where we’re camped, and we like being in close proximity to good shopping and services. Of course, last week there was a wildfire in the area, the Museum Fire; and while we were never directly threatened by anything more than some smoke, it was a reminder that we could have to evacuate at any time if a fire breaks out near us, or if the Forest Service decides to close off an area due to dry or dangerous conditions.
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.