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 15th 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.
This past month was an unusual one in terms of travel, and the expense report reflects that. Our usual travel style is to move to a spot, typically a free boondocking spot on BLM or National Forest land, and stay there for two weeks; or if we’re in New Mexico we utilize our annual pass to stay in a state park for two weeks at only $4/night for electricity. But this past month we left New Mexico and traveled across Texas and Arkansas to reach Tupelo, Mississippi so we could spend two weeks visiting my family for Thanksgiving. That had a big impact on things like fuel, camping costs, and dining out.
So let’s get started!
Camping fees + Electricity
November 2019: $409
Same month last year: $137
Average for last 12 months: $120/month
Our camping expenses were up significantly this month as we left New Mexico and traveled to Mississippi to visit family for Thanksgiving. While we were in New Mexico through November 10, our annual pass allowed us to get a site with electricity and water for $4/night at each of these parks. The monthly amount also includes the prorated amount for our annual pass ($225/13). But when we left New Mexico on November 11 for our travels, we stayed six nights in five paid campgrounds across Texas and Arkansas before arriving at Tombigbee State Park in Tupelo, Mississippi, where we stayed for two weeks. We used our Passport America discount (50%) to book the campsites in Texas and Arkansas, so our nightly costs for those sites ranged from $15 to $24 per night. Our two weeks at Tombigbee were an average of $17 per night.
Last year was much lower because we spent the entire month in New Mexico state parks, using our annual pass, paying just $4/night for electricity.
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.
November 2019: $0
Same month last year: $0
Average for last 12 months: $34/month
Since we stayed in state parks and RV parks that have dump stations or sewer hookups this month, we didn’t have to pay to dump our tanks. We really only have to pay dumping fees when we’re boondocking.
Last November we stayed the entire month at state parks in New Mexico, where there were free dump stations on site.
But 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, making our yearly average higher.
Fuel for the RV
November 2019: $399
Same month last year: $79
Average for last 12 months: $133/month
Big jump this month since we traveled from New Mexico to Mississippi. We drove a total of 1,297 miles for the month and bought 174 gallons of gas at an average of $2.29/gallon. Thankfully, gas prices got lower as we drove east. Our RV got an average of 8.4 MPG over the month.
Last November, since we only moved a couple of times, we drove only 172 miles and purchased a measly 26 gallons of gas, but the average price back then was $3.00 per gallon.
Of course we were way over our yearly average this month since we ordinarily don’t travel so much during a month.
Fuel for the Truck
November 2019: $253
Same month last year: $52
Average for last 12 months: $118/month
This month we drove the truck 2,295 miles, including the drive across Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi, and then numerous trips from our campsite out to my parents’ house, a distance of 40 miles each way. We bought 112 gallons of gas at an average price of $2.25/gal, and we got an average of 20.4 MPG.
Last November, we drove the truck 343 miles, primarily for making grocery runs and doing a little sight-seeing. We bought 19 gallons of gas at $2.65/gallon, and averaged 17.7 MPG.
Once again our expenses for the month were higher than the yearly average because of our Thanksgiving travels.
November 2019: $6
Same month last year: $31
Average for last 12 months: $39/month
This month we bought only 2.1 gallons of propane. Since we were hooked up to electricity the entire month, we just used our little electric heater most of the time instead of the furnace. And since we were traveling and hanging out with family more this month, we used less propane for cooking. The propane we bought this month was $2.99 a gallon, and there was no tax since we bought it in Texas.
Last November we bought 12 gallons of propane at $2.59/gallon.
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!
November 2019: $528
Same month last year: $479
Average for last 12 months: $495/month
Our grocery bill was a little higher this month with the Thanksgiving holiday. We stocked up on some bulk items from Sam’s Club and Sprouts, and we also picked up a couple bottles of one of our favorite wines which can be a little hard to find.
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.
November 2019: $409
Same month last year: $213
Average for past 12 months: $272/month
Yes, we ate out more than usual this month, in addition to treating some of our family members to dinner. The holidays are no time to skimp on good food and fellowship! But even when we were driving every day, we tried to eat most of our meals in the rig to keep our costs lower.
Last year we were in New Mexico state parks for the entire month of November, and besides the fact that there weren’t a lot of restaurants really close by, 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.
I’m tracking the 12-month rolling average, and I see that the numbers are creeping up each month:
- September – $245
- October – $256
- November – $272
This lets me know that we’re not being as careful as we were in the beginning with our spending on dining out, so we’ll try to rein that in a little bit (once we get past the stress and chaos of getting the new rig!).
NOTE: These numbers include coffee and snacks that we buy when we’re really there just to use the wi-fi. 🙂
household / furnishings
November 2019: $71
Same month last year: $87
Average for last 12 months: $122/month
In addition to the usual paper products and cleaning supplies, this month we spent $52 on some blackout panels and a curtain rod that we used to help insulate the rig during some really cold nights. We were able to block off the cold air seeping into the cab area as well as the entry door, making our heating system more effective.
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 a runner rug to help keep the rig floor warmer in the cold weather.
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.
November 2019: $167
Same month last year: $5
Average for last 12 months: $64/month
Expenses were up this month because we took the kitties in for their annual checkups and vaccinations, including rabies. The vet said they both appear to be doing well!
Last November we only had to get cat food during the month as we were already stocked up on litter.
The monthly average for the year is artificially high this month, just due to timing. They also had an exam in December of 2018, so the yearly average figure includes two annual exams.
verizon cellphone / internet
October 2019: $240
Same month last year: $254
Average for last 12 months: $275/month
Hooray! Our iPhones are finally paid off! 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. That’s why the yearly average is so much higher, because we upgraded our plan in December of last year.
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.
November 2019: $7
Same month last year: $37
Average for past 12 months: $27/month
This month we had mail forwarded to us once, in Tupelo. And since we knew we were going to parked at the Escapees headquarters park in Livingston in December, we did not renew the scanning service for the next few months since we can pick up our mail onsite while we’re there.
In November of last year, we had mail forwarded three times (one of which included once of Andy’s prescriptions, so it was critical). That month we also signed up for the scanning service for two months at $10/month.
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.
November 2019: $0
Same month last year: $37
Average for past 12 months: $19/month
Yes, we did our laundry this month. But my parents were nice enough to offer the use of their machines (thanks, Mom and Dad!), so we cooked dinner for them in exchange for the laundry facilities. 🙂
Last November we had to do laundry twice, including all the bedding, because one of our fur babies had a couple of accidents(?) on the bed.
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. (Looking at you, Molly Ann!)
attractions / entertainment
November 2019: $59
Same month last year: $57
Average for past 12 months: $81/month
This month’s spending included only the monthly subscriptions to Hulu, Spotify, Audible, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, etc., Most of our entertainment involves reading, hiking, geocaching–things that are low-cost or free.
And last November’s expenses were about the same.
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!)
November 2019: $45
Same month last year: $49
Average for the last 12 months: $32/month
This month we renewed our annual membership to Sam’s Club. There are some things that we buy exclusively at Sam’s, but I’m not sure that the cost of the yearly membership is being covered by what we may or may not be saving. But Andy likes having it, so we do.
Last November’s expense also included the Sam’s Club renewal.
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.
Equipment for RV
November 2019: $0
Same month last year: $2,215
Average for last 12 months: $185
Fortunately we didn’t need to purchase anything in the way of RV equipment this month.
But last November, we made a huge investment in solar equipment for our rig. We bought a kit that included three 100-watt solar panels along with an Inergy Kodiak solar generator and the associated cables and connectors. That investment enables us to spend a good part of the year camping off-grid free of charge on BLM and National Forest land, and is quickly paying for itself.
The yearly average is fairly high primarily due to that purchase, and then the subsequent addition of two 100-amp-hour Battle Born lithium batteries, a Morningstar solar charge controller, and all the cables and wiring to connect everything. As time goes on, that monthly cost would continue to fall.
As you know, we are in the process of purchasing a new (to us) 5th wheel. We do plan to take our solar equipment with us, but there may be other expenses related to getting the new rig equipped the way we want it. For instance, we will most likely have the solar panels permanently mounted on the roof, so there will be costs associated with that. We shall see!
RV Maintenance & REpairs
November 2019: $19
Same month last year: $22
Average for last 12 months: $150/month
This month we had to replace the screen door slider after I took a tumble out of the attic and banged my head on it. We were able to order a replacement part online and Andy got it installed.
Last November, we just replaced the water filter after it’s normal use cycle.
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.
truck maintenance & repairs
November 2019: $56
Same month last year: $0
Average for last 12 months: $12
This month, the Tacoma got an oil change at the Toyota dealership while we were in Tupelo.
SPOILER ALERT: Our trusty, faithful 2004 Toyota Tacoma is no longer with us. She was traded on December 3 for a 2018 Ford F-250 XLT Crew Cab 4WD long bed truck that will be our tow vehicle for the 5th wheel that we’re purchasing. We can only hope that the Ford will be anywhere near as dependable as that Tacoma was. If only Toyota made a truck capable of pulling a 12,000-pound fifth wheel… 😦
November 2019: $110
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.
With the trade-in of the Tacoma for the bigger, newer Ford, our vehicle insurance costs will increase significantly. We will be selling the Class C motorhome on consignment, so we’ll need to pay insurance on that vehicle until it sells, and we’ll also be adding the 5th wheel to our policy when the deal closes in December. Insurance is going to eat our lunch for a few months! 😦
VEhicle License and registration
November 2019: $31
In addition to the prorated tag expenses of $134 ($11/month) for the RV and $75 ($6/month) for the truck, this month we also had to have both vehicles inspected when we re-entered the Great State of Texas. Since we were out-of-state when the annual registration renewal came due in August, we were allowed to renew our tags online, but once we crossed the state line, we had three days to get the vehicles inspected, which we took care of when we stayed overnight in Van Horn. The inspections were $7 each.
So our RV living expenses for November 2019 & 2018 and the past 12 months were:
November 2019: $2,803
Same month last year: $3,852
Monthly average for the last 12 months: $2,318
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 overall our expenses were higher in November due to the travel back to Mississippi for Thanksgiving, but there was nothing unexpected that hit our wallets. It was totally worth it to get to spend time with our family during the holidays, and having a few weeks with full hook-ups was pretty sweet as well!
Now it’s December, and boy, can plans change quickly in the full-time RV life. This time last month we were planning to head immediately back to Yuma after the Thanksgiving holiday. But over the past month, we decided that since we were planning to upgrade our rig, it would make sense to do it while we were in the Texas area so that we could take care of getting it registered in Livingston/Polk County where we are domiciled. We did a lot of online “shopping” over the course of the month and located both a truck and a 5th wheel that we wanted to take a look at on our return trip.
Since arriving here in Livingston on December 2, we have already purchased the truck, and we’ve put a deposit on a 5th wheel (as I write this, the pre-purchase inspection that we ordered is taking place). We’re expecting to close on the 5th wheel early next week, but we’re renting it back to the seller until the 18th to give her time to get moved out, so it will be a few more days until we can actually start the process of moving ourselves.
All of this transition will have major implications for our finances for several months until things settle back down. But we had a certain amount budgeted for the rig upgrade and we have managed to stay within that budget, so we’re comfortable with the process thus far.
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!