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 eighth 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 April we spent the first two weeks boondocking in the desert along Bloody Basin Road, just off I-17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff, Arizona. The next two weeks we treated ourselves to a little more “civilization” by staying at Hilltop Campground, a US Forest Service developed campground in the Prescott National Forest just outside Prescott, Arizona. There were no hookups there, but they did have a vault toilet as well as a dumpster for trash. The sites are normally $18/night, but with Andy’s senior pass, we paid half price. After reaching our 14-day limit there, we moved on to more free boondocking in the Coconino National Forest just outside of Flagstaff where we are currently located.
All set up at Camp Sunset, our new home on Bloody Basin Road.
We had one large RV-related expenditure this month–we bought a new mattress! We ordered a custom mattress from MattressInsider.com due to the irregular size and cut of the bed platform. The cost was $496, including shipping, and we are very happy with the mattress so far! On the other side of the ledger, we got an unexpected refund from the dentist in Yuma where we had our dental work done in March. Our insurance paid more than they expected, so they refunded us $428. Happy days!!
Here are our expenses for April:
Camping fees + Electricity
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 in Yarnell. This figure is just the prorated cost of our annual passes.
April: $168 – We boondocked for free on Bloody Basin Road (BLM land), as well as our current location in the National Forest. We paid $126 ($9/night for 14 nights) at Hilltop Campground, and the remainder is the prorated cost of our annual passes to New Mexico state parks and the BLM LTVAs (expired April 15).
Eight month average: $179
Our little solar farm at our campsite in Hilltop Campground
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.
April: $50 – Dumped once in Wickenburg ($10) on April 1 on our way to Bloody Basin Road, then twice while we were boondocked there. We had to dump at the local RV parks, which charged $20. While we were camped at Hilltop Campground, we dumped at Affinity RV Service in Prescott Valley where they offer free dumps and water.
Eight month average: $30
Fuel for the RV
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.
April: $141 – We moved three times, and filled up the rig each time we moved. We drove a total of 331 miles and used the generator a total of 20.7 hours. We bought 48 gallons of gas, and averaged approximately 8.5 MPG, net of generator use. Our average gas price in April was $2.94/gallon–it’s definitely going up.
Eight month average: $155
Fuel for the Truck
February: $113 (49 gal, 17.6 MPG)
March: $92 (36 gal, 18.9 MPG)
April: $130 (45 gal, 18.2 MPG)
Eight month average: $155
Sunset at our camp on Bloody Basin Road
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.
March: $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.
April: $43 (17.6 gallons) – Although our propane use was just slightly higher, our cost was lower due to buying it in Arizona instead of California. The highest we paid was $3.09, the lowest was $1.90.
Eight month average: $36
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.
April: $575 – In addition to our usual grocery shopping, we stocked up on some bulk goods at Sprouts and Sam’s Club.
Eight month average: $508
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!!
April: $201 – We drove up to Yarnell last week and met our friends John and Helen at Gilligan’s Pizza for lunch–so yummy! We also tried out a Thai restaurant in Prescott that was pretty good. We also visited Starbucks for a treat, and after our purchases on our loyalty cards, the balance on both our cards was below our threshold for automatic replenishment; so $50 of this month’s dining expenditure was just cash being reloaded on our Starbucks cards for future visits.
Eight month average: $217
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.
April: $546 – Includes $496 for new mattress, and $11 to dispose of old one.
The new mattress in place. Fits perfectly!
Eight month average: $154
These numbers include things like toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, small household items for the kitchen, etc.
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.
April: $70 – Stocked up on the newer dust-free litter as well as their treats.
Eight month average: $67
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
Eight month average: $267
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.
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.
April: $14 – Had mail forwarded to us twice, once in Prescott and once in Flagstaff.
Eight month average: $18
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.
April: $15 – Did laundry once in Prescott Valley.
Eight month average: $20
attractions / entertainment
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.
April: $51 – Just the monthly subscriptions listed below.
Eight month average: $85
These numbers include our subscriptions to Netflix, Audible, Spotify, and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited book plan, as well as entrance fees to places we visit.
Antique store and saloon in Crown King
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.
Eight month average: $36
Equipment for RV
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.
April: $7 – Blind spot mirrors, drain pan and funnel for generator oil change.
Eight month average: $370 (Includes over $2K in solar equipment purchased in November 2018.)
RV Maintenance & REpairs
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).
April: $63 – Bought PVC pipe to replace old dryer vent hose mounted under the rig to hold the “stinky slinky” (sewer drain hose), after the old dryer vent hose basically disintegrated. Also purchased air filters and oil to perform an oil change on the Onan generator.
Eight month average: $96
The generator gets an oil and air filter change
truck maintenance & repairs
March: $70 – Oil change, filters replaced, got the truck washed
Eight month average: $10
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:
February Total: $1,904
March Total: $2,257
April Total: $2,495
Eight month average: $2,518
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 early 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. In mid-March we started moving again, changing locations about every two weeks, so the fuel costs go up.
Now that springtime is here and the temperatures are finally starting to rise, we will continue to move as often as necessary to stay comfortable. Our goal is still to boondock on public lands, keeping our camping fees as low as possible. However, we still have about half a year left on our New Mexico annual pass, so we will most likely head in that direction where we can camp in the state parks with electricity for the air conditioner at $4/night. We’ll just follow the weather and go where we think there’s something beautiful and interesting to see outside our windows each day.
Enjoying the view just outside Crown King, AZ
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.