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 sixth 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 have been boondocking (camping without hookups) since December 27 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 have moved the RV since we arrived is to drive it one mile round-trip to the nearby Chevron station to dump the tanks and refill the fresh water and propane tanks. We do that about every six days.
Another beautiful sunrise this morning at Pilot Knob LTVA
Staying in one location for the entire month helps keep our expenses low to help offset travel costs later this year when the weather starts to warm up further north. It’s been really nice being able to hunker down in the sunshine and low humidity while the rest of the country is shoveling snow and fighting floods.
Here are our expenses for February.
Camping fees + Electricity
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).
February: $63 – Still in the Pilot Knob BLM LTVA, so no actual expenditures, just the prorated cost of our annual passes.
Six month average: $199
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.
February: $48 – Dumped our tanks and filled up with fresh water every 6 days @ $12/visit at the nearby Chevron station.
Six month average: $22
Some next-level rock stacking along Sidewinder Road where I hike
Fuel for the RV
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.) 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.)
Six month average: $160
Fuel for the Truck
December: $221 (20.0 MPG)
January: $59 (17.7 MPG)
February: $113 (17.6 MPG)
Six month average: $141
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.
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.
Six month average: $32
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.
Six 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.
The pastry display at Cardena’s in El Centro
December: $253 (mostly while we were staying in Glendale, running errands all over the place.)
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.
Six month average: $215
These numbers include coffee and snacks that we buy when we’re really there just to use the wi-fi. 🙂
On Friday mornings you’ll find us at the Quechan Resort and Casino for the $5.95 breakfast buffet
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.
Six month average: $82
These numbers include things like toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, small household items for the kitchen, etc.
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.
February: $7 – Kitties are doing very well!
Six month average: $69
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.
Molly and Maggie spend a lot of time soaking up the sun and enjoying the breeze by the window
verizon cellphone / internet
December: $286 – Charge increased as we’re now on the higher data plan.
Six month average: $264
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.
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.
February: $45 – Had mail forwarded twice to get all the tax documentation. Also extended the scanning service for another three months at $10/month.
Six month average: $20
One month’s worth of mail, just in time for tax season
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.
February: $17 – One trip to the Yuma laundromat, three large loads.
Six 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.
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.
Six month average: $88
These numbers include our subscriptions to Netflix, Audible, and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited book plan, as well as entrance fees to places we visit.
Andy found himself behind bars at the Yuma Territorial Prison
February: $40 – Annual membership dues for Escapees (they handle our mail service and we get discounted rates in their parks).
Six month average: $25
Equipment for RV
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!!
February: $28 – Andy ordered a new high-tech caulking gun to take care of some maintenance on the rig.
Six month average: $486 (Includes over $2K in solar equipment purchased in November 2018.)
RV Maintenance & REpairs
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)
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.
Six month average: $113
truck maintenance & repairs
Six month average: $2
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 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.
Another fun lunch in Los Algodones
So those are our RV living expenses for the last three months:
December Total: $3,309
January Total: $1,677
February Total: $1,904
Six month average: $2,565
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 and February, 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. It was pretty cool for most of February, but this past week it has started to warm up significantly, with highs in the low 80’s. It is supposed to cool off a little bit in mid-March, but we’re thinking it’s time to start moving north. We have some items on order from Amazon that are due to arrive in the next week, but as soon as those come in, we’ll probably be pulling up stakes and be on the move again. Any time we decide to move, it will impact our expenses for fuel, so stay tuned to see what happens. Most likely our next destination will be the Imperial Dam BLM LTVA.
View of the reservoir from the Imperial Dam BLM LTVA
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.