We get asked what it costs to fulltiming - easiest answer is it costs as much as you have! But there are a lot of variables and here are some of the things to consider when planning your full-time budget:
This will be one of the largest or smallest budget item depending upon your style of travel. We like to move every couple of weeks and go about 200 miles or less. So for a typical month, that is about 400 miles moving the motorhome which gets about 9 miles per gallon, or about 45 gallons of diesel fuel. We have found diesel fuel from a low of $2.15/gallon, January 2009, to over $6.00/gallon in Nova Scotia in August of 2008.
The other component of our fuel costs is our Subaru Forester that we use for daily trips sightseeing, geocaching, golf, etc. Generally less than 40 gallons a month - with around 1000 miles per month put on the “toad”.
This is another area that is affected by how often one travels. The longer one stays at a park the lower the effective daily rate will be. Daily rates can go as high as $100/night in some of the fancy RV parks - obviously ones we don’t stay in.
One of the best ways we have of keeping costs down for overnight stays is the use of Membership Campgrounds. Blue Mesa (Gunnison, Colorado) is our ‘homepark’ system and have Resorts of Distinction (ROD), Adventures Outdoor Resorts (AOR), and Coast-to-Coast (C2C) as our affiliated park systems. The costs range from $6/night in WHR parks, $0/night in ROD parks, to $10/night in AOR and C2C parks. A few years ago we added the Thousand Trails Zone Pass for the West Coast where we spend a great deal of time.
We use Escapee Parks whenever possible - one of the advantages of being an Escapee members with costs usually around $20/night.
Passport America offers 50% off on hundreds of campgrounds throughout the country and we often use them for overnight stops. Some may not be very fancy, but generally we are just looking for a place to stop and sleep and don’t expect anything fancy. We did find one PPA park that we stayed at for a week - $15/night and all the golf you wanted to play for $5/day! What a bargain!
Since we are over 62, we also have the Federal Senior Pass which entitles entries to national parks for free and are honored at a number of federal campgrounds for up to 50% off. We have found that Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds are very well done and often at a rate of less than $10/night using the Senior Pass.
Food costs may be higher than they were before you started fulltiming because you will be shopping in unfamiliar grocery stores, which means more time in the market, more looking at new and different types of foods - but this is one of the great pleasures of fulltiming. One of the things that we have found is getting a Customer Loyalty card when in a new area for more than a couple of days. Not only do you get the discounts that the store offers, but often these can be tied to 3-5 cents per gallon off when using the store’s gas pumps. On the West Coast we found Safeway to be a good card to have - and at times got up to 10¢ a gallon off on diesel fuel - and when you are pumping 50 gallons or more, this does count up! And the store you are shopping at might have a different name, but be in the same corporate holding company as one from home. For example, it is Kroger in one area, Frys in Arizona, Fred Myers and QFC in the Pacific Northwest, King Soopers in Coloardo. Safeway is Vons in Southern California and Tom Thumb in the Dallas area - - so take a look, you might be surprised. And the gas discounts are usually good corporation wide.
This is one area where you can go overboard in a hurry - - there are so many great restuarants out there and when in a new area you want to try to local cuisine. Having a late lunch is a great way to save some dollars - lunches are cheaper than dinners, smaller portions (which is good) of things that are offered in the evening, and usually the restuarant is relatively quiet so you can talk and don’t feel hurried. We then have a light sandwich later in the evening.
Insurance is one thing you can not go without. You’ll need to have good health insurance, fulltimers insurance on your rig (similar to homeowner’s insurance), regular car insurance on your ‘toad’ or tow vehicle, some life insurance, and for us, Long Term Care insurance.
Again, this is one area that you control. We love National Parks because we can use the Senior Pass for free entrance. We have visited some wonderful parks all across the country.
We love to play golf, but have found that local public parks are just fine for us - - we aren’t pros and don’t need to be paying $100/person/round in order to enjoy ourselves. Several state parks have golf courses with them and are usually a great bargain.
We do a lot of geocaching - a very good sport that works not only your body but also your mind! And, it is VERY inexpensive.
We also try and find local parks, museums, concerts to go to - often they are free or cost very little. And if you are near a university there will often be programs available that you can attend for a small or no fee.
Repairs and Maintenance
We set aside money EACH month to cover maintenance and repairs on both the motorhome and the car. Because the coach is so large, we use facilities (such as Cummins Coach Care network) that are designed to handle servicing the big diesel engines. At 6 gallons of oil for an oil change, this is not something that is easy to do yourself at a campground. Plus there are various filters, fluids, etc. that all need checking as well as numerous chassis points to be lubricated, so it is about 3 hours of work at a facility set up to handle big rigs. Generally figure $110/hr for labor at these facilities.
We also have the oil changed on the Subaru at oil change facilities across the country and major checks usually done at the Subaru dealer in Arizona during the winter.
By setting aside money each month, when we do have work done, we know that we have the funds to pay for it without dipping into savings. We do the same for any yearly expense - each month we set 1/12 of the cost aside, so when the expense occurs, we’ve already ‘paid’ for it! And if you go for several months without any repairs, then you have built up a nice cushion against sudden price elevation in fuel!