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°.
We just completed our 13th month as full-time RVers, so beginning with this post, 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!
In September we finally pulled out of our free boondocking site in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, where we had spent the entire summer, and got back on the road. That means higher fuel costs, as well as higher camping fees since we are now staying in developed campgrounds. But we still managed to keep our costs reasonable as you’ll see below.
Camping fees + Electricity
September 2019: $93 – After leaving Flagstaff, we traveled to northern New Mexico where we took advantage of the time remaining on our annual pass to visit three different state parks. In Bluewater Lake State Park we stayed two weeks in a site with electricity ($4/night). Next we moved to Storrie Lake State Park near Las Vegas, NM where we dry-camped on the lake shore for 7 nights (free). Finally we moved to Coyote Creek State Park near Mora, NM where we dry-camped for 6 nights (free) before we moved to a different site with electricity ($4) for the last night. This monthly amount also includes the prorated amount for our annual pass, as well as a $12 reservation fee we paid to use the online system (ReserveAmerica.com) for Bluewater Lake.
September 2018: $439 – Last year we spent the entire month of September in the Escapees Rainbow’s End RV Park in Livingston, Texas while we took care of getting all our domicile paperwork done (mail service, TX drivers licenses and vehicle registrations, voter registration, bank account, etc). The charge included both the site rental as well as metered electricity usage.
Average for last 12 months: $112 – We 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.
September 2019: $0 – Since we stayed in state parks that have dump stations, we didn’t have to pay to dump our tanks. That helped offset the money we paid for the campsite electricity.
September 2018: $0 – Last year, while staying at Escapees in Livingston, TX, we had full hookups, including sewer, so there were no dump fees.
Average for last 12 months: $34 – 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
September 2019: $174 – Fuel costs went up this month since we started moving around again. We moved three different times, driving a total of 538 miles. We bought 68 gallons of gas at an average price of $2.57/gallon. We used approximately 3 gallons of gas to run the generator for 7 hours to operate things like the microwave/convection oven and Instant Pot while dry-camping. Our mileage after factoring in the generator usage was about 8.7 MPG.
September 2018: $61 – This was the charge for filling up the tank on the day we arrived at Escapees in Livingston and settled in for the month. The gas price at that time was $2.60/gallon.
Average for last 12 months: $136 – We were definitely over our monthly average this month ($174 vs $136) since we’re back out on the road again. That will likely be the case over the next few months 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
September 2019: $144 – This month we drove the truck 1,216 miles, including both the moves to new campsites as well as some sight-seeing and grocery shopping trips. We bought 56 gallons of gas at an average price of $2.59, and we got an average of 21.8 MPG.
September 2018: $159 – Even though the RV was parked in the same spot for the entire month, we did a lot of driving around in the truck, taking care of getting our domicile established, visiting friends in Houston, sight-seeing and doing our normal grocery and supplies shopping.
Average for last 12 months: $113 – The yearly average is lower because of all the months that we would stay in one spot without moving between locations. The average price that we paid over the last 12 months was $2.72/gallon.
September 2019: $22 – We bought 8.3 gallons of propane at an average price (including taxes and fees) of $2.62/gallon. Propane is used for cooking on the stove, but when we aren’t hooked up to shore power, propane is also used for running the refrigerator, hot water heater, and for running the furnace for a short time each morning to take the chill off in the rig. Since we were plugged into electricity for two full weeks while at Bluewater Lake SP, all those items were done with electricity instead, reducing the amount of propane that we needed.
September 2018: $0 – During that month we were hooked up to electricity for the entire month and only needed propane for cooking on the stove. We had filled the tank before we arrived on September 1, and did not need to refill it again until after the month ended.
Average for last 12 months: $40 – 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!
September 2019: $512
September 2018: $444
Average for last 12 months: $496
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.
September 2019: $231 – We didn’t eat out as many times this month, but the places we visited were a little more expensive. We found the Oasis Mediterranean Restaurant in Gallup that was amazing, as well as The Alley Cantina in Taos which was so good that we already visited it again this month (October). But our favorite find was Charlie’s Spic & Span Bakery and Cafe in Las Vegas (NM) where we ate twice. Their breakfasts are off the chain, and not that expensive–but we always picked up several of their fresh-baked pastries to bring home with us for later, and that made it a little more pricey. Worth every penny, though!
September 2018: $217 – While staying at Escapees in Livingston, we didn’t eat out that often, but we did attend the weekly all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast ($5/person) held in the Care Center at the RV Park. 🙂 We also met friends from Houston for lunch and dinner, so that was a little on the pricier side for us.
Average for last 12 months: $245 – We really don’t eat 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.
NOTE: These numbers include coffee and snacks that we buy when we’re really there just to use the wi-fi. 🙂
household / furnishings
September 2019: $36 – This was just the usual paper products, kitchen supplies, etc. for the rig.
September 2018: $72 – In our first month of full-time RV living, we had to pick up a few items that we didn’t know we needed, like a whisk broom, chemical fresheners for the toilet, and a small room fan for the Texas heat. This was in addition to the usual paper and cleaning products.
Average for last 12 months: $123 – This 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.
September 2019: $49 – food and litter (twice)
September 2018: $73 – Included purchase of flea treatment, needed in the hot and humid areas of Texas and the Southeast
Average for last 12 months: $53, which in addition to food and litter, includes checkups for both kitties at the Apollo Animal Hospital in Glendale, Arizona while we were there for the Christmas holidays.
verizon cellphone / internet
September 2019: $282 – This number 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 in October, the monthly charge should drop by about $30/month unless the plan rates go up.
September 2018: $245 – We were on a different plan at the time with a lower data limit. We soon found out that we needed a different plan. 🙂
Average for the last 12 months: $273
September 2019: $0 – We did not have any mail forwarded to us in September (although we did put in a request on September 30 and it’s being delivered to the post office in Las Vegas on Friday, October 4).
September 2018: $0 – Since we were staying at the Escapees RV Park in Livingston for the entire month, we were able to pick up our mail daily at their mail processing headquarters right there in the park.
Average for the last 12 months: $28 – 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.
September 2019: $12 – We made one trip to the laundromat in Las Vegas where we did three loads of laundry.
September 2018: $25 – We did laundry at the Escapees RV park where the machines were reasonably priced, but we had to do it more often because of the high heat and humidity. We sweated through everything, and every piece of bedding and bath linen would get damp and musty, so we spent more on laundry than normal.
Monthly average: $21 – Since we’ve been on the road, we typically do laundry about every three weeks, unless there’s a cat pee emergency.
attractions / entertainment
September 2019: $74 – Just the monthly subscriptions to Hulu, Spotify, Audible, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, etc., but I also bought a new pair of Bluetooth earbuds. We visited the Chaco Culture National Historic Park, but got in free on Andy’s senior pass, only paying $2 for a printed guide.
September 2018: $80 – In addition to the monthly subscriptions listed above, we visited Lake Livingston State Park where they charge an entry fee just to drive through ($10), we visited the free breakfast buffet at the local casino and then spent $10 to play the machines, and one of us purchased a Kindle book on Amazon.
Average for last 12 months: $79 – We’ve kept this fairly low 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!)
September 2019: $0
September 2018: $0
Average for the last 12 months: $34 – This includes things like AAA Roadside Assistance, Costco, Sam’s Club, Escapees, Amazon Prime. We are also members of Passport America which gets us discounts at RV parks, but we’re 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.
Equipment for RV
September 2019: $17 – deep socket set, tent pegs to stake down the awning in windy conditions
September 2018: $77 – water hose and nozzle, roll of Reflectix to cover the windows and reduce the heat in the RV, 6-gallon water jug to hold extra drinking water when boondocking
Average for last 12 months: $387 – The majority of this figure is from 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
September 2019: $33 – Replaced the air admittance valve (and bought a spare) to get rid of the funky odor coming from the black tank.
September 2018: $4
Average for last 12 months: $143 – Includes higher-than-normal expenses in August 2019 for generator repair, two new tires on the front, and an oil change and air filter.
truck maintenance & repairs
September 2019: $12 – Had the truck washed after leaving our campsite in Flagstaff, which was constantly in a cloud of dust from passing traffic.
September 2018: $13 – Had to purchase a license plate holder for the front of the truck since Texas uses two plates instead of one.
Monthly average for last 12 months: $7
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 109K miles on it, and it’s super-dependable.
We have insurance through Progressive and get a multi-vehicle discount. For this past year, we paid $57/mo for the RV for full-timer’s insurance. That has increased to $60/mo beginning in September for the next year.
For the Tacoma, our insurance was $40/mo for the first six months, and then in March, it increased $49/mo. When it renewed this month, it went up to $51/mo for the next six months.
VEhicle License and registration
Our annual license and registration for the RV when we first registered it in September 2018 was $260 (prorated at $22/mo on our monthly reports). For the truck it was $201 ($17/mo). 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/mo) for the RV and $75 ($6/mo) for the truck.
So our RV Living expenses for September 2019 & 2018 and the past 12 months were:
September 2019: $1,820
September 2018: $2,043
Monthly average for the last 12 months: $2,462
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, per se. Those types of expenses can vary wildly from person to person, so we don’t include them in this monthly report.
So we had pretty decent results last month, even though we did start moving around again. The increase in fuel and camping fees expense were somewhat offset by savings on propane and dumping fees. It will be interesting to see what happens to these numbers over the fall months, as we have a lot of travel ahead of us. We’ll be traveling between state parks in New Mexico during October, and then in November 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. So that’s a lot of driving (i.e. fuel + camping fees) coming up in November and December.
Currently we’re parked (again) at Storrie Lake State Park in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Our mail is due to be delivered on Friday, October 4, and then we’ll head out to Elephant Butte State Park near Truth or Consequences, NM on Monday. We’re staying here over the weekend because we don’t have reservations at Elephant Butte, and weekends are not the best times to show up at a state park without a reservation. We’re hoping to get a site with electricity when we get there, but if there’s not one available we will just dry-camp down by the lake. Either one is a great option!
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!