What is an RV'ing lifestyle likely to cost?
A discussion of what an RV'ing lifestyle is likely to cost:
Virtually everyone contemplating retirement and taking up the RV'ing lifestyle wants to know what this new lifestyle is going to cost. When it comes to this time in life individuals began to search for that type of information. They want to see what expenses others before them have incurred. Some are advanced to the point that they want help creating a spreadsheet about RV lifestyle costs. That is where this discussion is headed.
The overall goal is to create a budgeting/estimating tool for someone to PLAN conversion to the full time RV lifestyle. Several individuals have kept excellent records and provide these records on their web sites so the first thing I would do is visit those web sites:
Mark Nemouth's web site provides some excellent full timing cost data: http://www.ccis.com/home/mnemeth/
Dave Damouth's site also contains some excellent full timing cost data: http://home.comcast.net/~damouth/
Rich & Diane Emond's site contains some excellent full timing cost data: http://www.roamingamerica.com/expenses/expenses.html
My advice and comments follow:
Take my advice and opinion for what it is worth. I am 67-years old, retired at 55, and spent my working days budgeting and planning plus I have an accounting degree. In order for ANYONE to plan for future expenses they have to know what it is costing them to live NOW. This is a plain and simple fact.
It is futile to plan for retirement if you do not know how much it is costing to live pre- retirement. I suggest anyone planning to gravitate to the RV-lifestyle needs to start keeping detailed records of 100% of expenses over the course of several years. You will be amazed at how many ANNUAL expenses you have......
You will also be astonished at where you spend money.........especially if you have never kept records.
Also keep in mind that EVERYONE is different......drastically different. None of us spend money the same way. The best you can hope for is to get an idea of what expenses you have now then try to predict how those expenses are going to change after retirement. One thing I can tell you from experience. Once you know how much money you spend on food I will bet that you will be spending a similar amount after retirement and when you get on the road. One thing you can do is anticipate some expenses that are unique to living the RV-Lifestyle like you anticipate living it.
One area where RV'ers differ greatly is their campground expenditures. Some make a habit of boondocking nearly 100% of the time thus have little campground expense. Others wouldn't think of staying in any place that does not have full hookups with 50-amps and a swimming pool. Most RV'ers fit somewhere in between those two extremes. Campground expense can be a MAJOR expense of the RV'ing lifestyle. If you are prone to gravitate toward "full-hookup, full amenity, resort type RV-Parks" you can expect to pay upwards of $30 per-day. That can be a MAJOR expense.
Prior to retirement I started keeping records of our expenses.....detailed records. With these records Joyce and I were able to discuss our expenditures. We were able to make some changes in our spending habits. I still keep these records and we still review them from time to time just looking at trends and where our income is going. Trust me we do not spend hours and hours going over our expenses. We really do not. Throughout our married life Joyce has known EVERYTHING about our finances. We openly discuss income and expenses. We do NOT have a budget and never have.
If you get serious about keeping detailed records you will need to set up a spread sheet with various expenses across the top with 365 days down the side. Your categories are going to be different but these are the categories I use---and why-----your categories will vary.
$ Diesel cost motorhome
$ Gasoline cost Saturn
Motorhome expenses (non gasoline)
Saturn expenses (non- gasoline)
Postage, photo expenses, church & laundry
WalMart, K-Mart, Sam's, Target, Costco, Dollar Store etc.,
Books, CD's, Postcards & Laptop (computer costs)
Clothes & jewelry for us
Medical expenses (insurance, co-pay, medicine etc.,) including medicines & pharmacy items.
Hair Cuts & Beauty Shop
Expenses for our stick & brick home (maintenance, natural gas, electricity, water, sewage, property tax, insurance, garbage collection, lawn maintenance etc.,)
Breakfast, lunch, snacks etc., (when eaten out....includes drinks and things)
Groceries (includes everything we purchase at a grocery store including toilet paper, paper plates, toothpaste etc.,)
Then I dedicate 3 columns to "Eating out" those three columns are:
Name of the restaurant------------- self explanatory
Town------------- so we will know where it was
Cost--------------Cost including tip.
A note is in order here: To get our TOTAL food cost I add three columns (the one for "Breakfast, lunch & snacks" "Groceries" and "Restaurant Cost". I decided on this arrangement because we have tried to reduce the money we spend on food by eliminating or reducing our "Restaurant Cost". No matter what changes we made we ended up spending roughly the same. More on that later.
The next category Entertainment Expense has three columns dedicated to it also:
Attraction---------------(museum name, entrance fees, cover charges and things like that)
Town location----------------Topeka, KS
Total Cost--------this cost includes entrance fees and generally any other cost like drinks and incidentals.
The next category Campground Expenses has three columns dedicated also:
Campground Location (city/state)
Campground cost (per-day)
And finally, the last category with two columns dedicated is Miscellaneous Expenses:
Miscellaneous Expense------this is a column to explain what the expense is
Miscellaneous -----dollar amount.
That is it. Now for some explanations, not necessarily in order.
1. Food is a BIG expense for everyone. Prior to retirement we read and researched and compared ourselves to others. We were reading where couples (who were keeping detailed records) were out in their RV for several months and averaged spending $7 to $9 per-day for food. Joyce and I read this over and over. WOW! That would sure be a savings for us if we could get our FOOD expense down to something in that range. At the time we did not know what we were spending on FOOD. As I started keeping records it became apparent that for us we spent FOOD dollars in a variety of ways---and for us it boiled down to three categories: Eating a main meal out like at a formal restaurant.... Then there was stopping for a hot dog or hamburger or taco etc., and finally Groceries. Over the past 7-years we have watched our spending habits for FOOD and learned a LOT about ourselves. One thing we know for sure is that there is NO WAY the two of us can spend just $7 to $9 per-day on food. For us the cost of food is more like $20 to $27 per-day for the two of us. It doesn't matter if we are on the road or at home. It is sad to say that when we are "eating less & losing weight," we eat at home more and the cost is around $20 a day. When we are "gaining weight & eating out more," our cost goes up. Another thing that affects the cost of food is where we are located. We spent one summer in California, that was the year our food expense topped out at around $27 per-day. We know that we can eat out one meal per-day (generally lunch) and spend no more than buying groceries and cooking at home provided we eat in an economical place. One thing that may set us aside from the individuals reporting only spending $7 to $9 per-day is that we include EVERYTHING we purchase at the grocery store as food, we also keep track of all the soft drinks and snacks we eat when out for the day. The people reporting $7 to $9 per-day may only be counting food items purchased at the grocery store. Who knows, certainly not us. We can't do it. But we do know how much it costs us to eat!
2. I have a category to track the fuel cost of both the motorhome and automobile. By including the mileage at each fill up and the gallons purchased I am able to keep track of the miles-per-gallon of each vehicle. This isn't necessary information, I just like to know.
3. I also keep track of expenses for both the motorhome and automobile. These expenses include insurance, maintenance, tag & registration. It is amazing the dollars that dribble into our vehicles. The best way to understand exactly what our vehicles are costing is to keep track of the expenses in a spreadsheet. There really isn't much any of us can do to control these expenses .sans eliminating a vehicle. Eliminating a vehicle is exactly what we did after I retired. When we headed out on that first trip we left behind a 2nd automobile. When we returned home 7-months later we knew we could eliminate that expense. And yes it was an expense just sitting in the garage for 7-months.
4. I decided to make a category for department stores like WalMart, K-Mart, Sears, Target and other places of that ilk. What we purchase in those stores didn't so much concern me as collecting data on were the money was being spent. We all know what we purchase in stores like that ----- stuff/things. One caveat, if we purchase FOOD/Groceries in a WalMart Super Store I will put the FOOD cost under the grocery column. This helps me keep the FOOD cost more accurate.
5. I have three columns dealing with Campground expenses. You may find that just one is adequate. For my purposes (remember I write travelogues) I want to be able to identify costs to a particular campground. Also remember that on my web page I provide a spreadsheet of campground costs so that individuals planning for future excursions can get a general idea of what their campground expenditures might be. Now that explains why I do what I do. You may decide that the dollar amount is sufficient.
6. Another category that I gather additional information is the one for Entertainment. This is where I capture Cover Charges, Entry Fees and things like that. In this category I have dedicated a column to identify what the expense was for and another to identify the location. To date this information has not been published. Joyce and I look back on it from time to time. But the important thing is the bottom line. How much of our annual income do we spend on ENTERTAINMENT.
7. We wanted to know how much maintaining a stick & brick house was costing. SICKENING, that is what that amounts to. Insurance, garbage, sewage, water bills, lawn maintenance, taxes, repairs, the list goes on and on. Our stick & brick homes are major items of expense, like an automobile, that continue on whether we are using them or not.
Now it is time for you to design your own spreadsheet. Remember to
put the types of expenses across the top in the columns and the days
of the year down the side. Good luck and if you have questions feel
free to e-mail me.
We would love to hear from you......just put "info" in the place of "FAKE" in this address: FAKE@travellogs.us