Year Two of Living in an RV: Expenses and Income Report
» » » » Year Two of Living in an RV: Expenses and Income Report

Year Two of Living in an RV: Expenses and Income Report

2015 has been our second year of living in an RV full-time.

Exploring the Red Woods in California in our RV.
Exploring the Red Woods in California
Repainting Franklin
Repainting Franklin
Interior of our remodeled class c motorhome
Interior of our remodeled class c motorhome

Last year it was Franklin. The beautiful, old, and remodeled RV that stole our hearts, made us fall in love with the RV lifestyle, and then randomly leaked and broke down on us while driving him across the country. That jerk… just kidding, we love you Franklin.

Why we bought a new RV

This year we upgraded to a 2016 Winnebago Brave. A retro throwback of the classic “eyebrow” Winnebago Brave that was popular in the 70’s. We’re so hipster like that (not really).

At this time last year, Alyssa and I calculated the costs for our first year of traveling and living in an RV. We published that in a post here and it’s been one of my most read blogs this year. After another year of living in an RV, I wanted to share the expenses and income report for our second year of living in an RV.

I know it’s awkward to talk about how much money a person makes, but it also can be inspiring and extremely helpful. The thing is, when you see how much money we make (not a lot), you can quit making excuses for why living in an RV and traveling full-time is too expensive or out of reach for you.

Some of my favorite finance bloggers like Michelle from MakingSenseofCents.com or Pat Flynn both share their monthly income reports. Reading their monthly income reports have not only inspired me to share mine, but have shown me how possible it is to earn an income from anywhere.

How Much We Spent in 2015 While Living in an RV

Total: $32,588.51 (average monthly spend: $2,715.71/month)

– Traveling to Hawaii and Alaska: $4,602:38 (1 week in Hawaii, 2 weeks in Alaska)

– Gas $1,957.23 (Includes driving from Texas to California & back, did less driving this year and more flying)

– Lodging $4,430.08 (average spend: $370/month)

– Groceries $3,544.78  (average: $295.40/month)

– Phone Bill $2,510.03 (Verizon with 2 phones, 15 gig plan and Jetpack for wireless internet)

– Eating Out $1,693.57 (average: $141.13/month)

– Insurance (RV+CAR) $3,387.81 (RV insurance is now $2k/year for the 2016 RV vs $1k/year for Franklin)

– Maintenance $900.14 (I honestly don’t even remember what broke, but something is always breaking)

– Shopping/Fun/Entertainment $1,507.22 (Christmas shopping, movies, dates, etc)

– HeathPadgett.com $907.25 (It costs to keep this blog alive!)

– Giving $657.70

– Spotify $129.72

How Much We Made in 2015 While Living in an RV

Total income in 2015: $52,780.88

– Online course building/filming + book launches for clients- $33,000

– Video work- $10,000

– Sponsorship- $5,000

– Speaking- $5,000

Student debt we paid off: $13,150 

Overview and Takeaways:

There are a few things not calculated into this mix, like the purchase of our new RV. We sold our former RV for $9,700 and used that money as a downpayment on our new RV. I shared more about how we were able to make that deal happen in this blog I wrote a couple weeks ago. We also did a LOT of flying this year across the country. However, all those flights were either travel-hacked (meaning we’ve racked up airline points using credit cards) or paid for by clients.

Our crazy, over-the-top goal in 2015 was to be able to pay off all of my $27,000 of student debt. We only made it halfway on that journey, but $13,000 paid off is nothing insignificant. But what I’m really happy about is the fact that we’ve been able to continue living and traveling full-time in our RV. In my eyes, being able to have that flexibility and do work that we’re enjoying has made all the difference.

In 2016 I’m planning on kicking out a podcast for RVers. I’ve already interviewed quite a few people on how they’ve made the transition into full-time traveling and living in an RV and plan for it to be a resource for people who are thinking about dipping their toe in as well. If you’d like to be on the show or know someone who would make a good guest, leave a comment below and let me know.

Also, if you have any questions about our travel costs or how we’ve went about making money on the road– leave a comment below as well. There is no dumb question…well, that’s not true. But ask anyway!

Follow Heath:

Husband to Alyssa. I love RVing, that's why I talk about it so much.

  • Loving the website updates! It’s so clean and easy to read. Worth the $907!

    • Thanks Janelle! Still have some kinks I’m working out, but overall I think it’s much more intuitive… so appreciate it very much! Also, the $907 mostly comes from my email service provider ConvertKit. 🙂 But yes, that’s worth it too.

  • Love this !!

    Love it !!

    Love !!

    -Derek

    • Haha thanks Derek! Miss you guys man… how are things going?

  • Karen Mason

    I have to ask how do you spend only $300 a month on food?

    • Hey Karen,

      Good question. First off… my wife doesn’t let me go to the grocery store alone. If she did, it would be a different story. Secondly, we buy the basics almost every time. Chicken, spaghetti, vegetables, fruit, orange juice, almond milk, tortillas (we’re from Texas), eggs, salsa and chips, and a few other things for meals. I honestly didn’t think $300 was that crazy low of a monthly amount? I guess it could seem that way. What do you spend on average per month on groceries?

  • Hey Philip!

    I remember you, how are you?! Y’alls site looks awesome! Also, Alyssa and I started doing some travel-hacking type stuff this year that we picked up from ChrisGuillebeau and it’s gotten us a ton of free flights + hotel rooms… it’s pretty awesome. The best part though has been companion status on Southwest, we use the mess out of that thing. 🙂

    So great to hear from you Philip and appreciate you reading the blog man.

    Heath

  • So excited for all the awesome you guys have created in your life! Congrats on that, and thanks for helping bring together and inspire new RVers. Sharing the costs of this lifestyle helps so many realize just how possible it is.

    We’d be up for an interview in your podcast, just let us know.

    • Chris and Cherie!

      Thank you guys so much. You carved the way and you’re awesome for taking time to read my blog. Would be honored to have you guys on the podcast. Will be scheduling some more interviews in the coming weeks and you guys are at the top of my list :).

      You’re awesome and thank you!

      Heath

  • Pingback: Full Time Rving Resources  & Tips - RoverPass()

  • Pingback: RVE 001: Welcome to The RV Entrepreneur Podcast! - Heath Padgett()

  • Pingback: The Cost of RVing Across America- Heath Padgett()

  • disgr4ce

    What does the “lodging” cost refer to?

    • It refers to campgrounds or RV parks

      • disgr4ce

        *Smacks forehead* duh. Of course. How frequently were you paying for lodging vs parking somewhere out of the way for free?

        • haha no worries! Hm, good question. Our goal was to try to stay 5 nights per month with friends and family when we were doing our Hourly America tour and towards the end of the tour it was almost half of our time was with friends/family/random people who reached out and the other half was at campgrounds that offered Passport America. Now that we’ve been doing this awhile… we don’t really have a set standard for how many nights we spend at friends’ places or in an RV park. We really just go with the flow.

  • Andi

    Hey! I’m so stoked to have found y’all. June ’17 is the date I’ve set for us but as a single mom with a special needs kiddo I’m terrified that I won’t be ready (realistically). I signed up for your class & am thankful you are offering so much practical advice. I’ve read tons but so much is from off-grid, solitary, survivalist nomads that I can’t really use much from them (I can only admire them!)…I’m a nurse and will be taking traveling nursing contracts so I won’t have to worry about that part but I’m doing this for the adventure AND to save for something important. So a strict budget is a must. Is the amount that you have listed for when you guys stayed 25 nights/month in campgrounds (for the year)? Or did you begin to stay for free a lot more often at the end and this is an average that reflects that? Rates varied so greatly when I researched that I’m worried about under-budgeting for this…sorry for the drawn out question!

    • longingfor

      I’m a single mom as well and planning to start out with our new adventure next July. I’m nervous, but I can’t wait! I’m a teacher and planning to work online. My biggest concern is stable WIFI. Since I have to have it to work, it’s vital and I have no idea how I’d get WIFI in the middle of a national park somewhere.

      • We use an unlimited Verizon plan. You can buy them on ebay or check out rvmobileinternet.com to learn more. The middle of national parks don’t get service by any providers, but you can get service basically everywhere else.

  • Pingback: 10 Business Ideas for Full-Time RVers - Heath Padgett()

  • Michael Z

    I am a disabled home dialysis patient, and I bout a used 34′ motor-home with plans to update it and live full time. I am working, but that might not always be the case. So far, I have managed to change out almost all of the lights to LED. The generator needs work, but my next task will be to check out the charging system, and see what needs upgraded. Im guessing at least a couple batteries. Eventually, I will add solar panels.Currently, I am working 6-7 days a week, so it is far few and between that I get to work on the old girl. I am up for suggestions and tips.

  • Julie Noonan

    My husband and I are in our 50’s and love Key West Florida. We’d talked about buying a place down there to retire in, but the cost is prohibitively expensive, I worry about Hurricanes and being elderly and not able to “start over” should something happen, and I also have two college-aged children who will (hopefully one day) give me grandchildren. I don’t want to be stuck that far away from family.
    SO, we’ve been discussing selling our farm and buying an RV for fulltime living. The deal is, though, I DON’T want to be driving all over the place all the time. I just want to purchase a full-time spot in FL and, when I get the urge to go somewhere or visit those much-anticipated, hopefully-one day grandchildren, or a Hurricane blows in, we can just move for a while.
    Two things scare me somewhat about this idea: 1) The cost of either purchasing or leasing a spot in an RV park that is nice, and 2) Making enough supplemental income to sustain us with just Social Security and a small pension check… Any thoughts?

    • I think you’re describing what a lot of people do down in Florida! There are so many RV parks in that area to choose from. It might be worth it to rent an RV for a week and hop around to a few different parks to pick out which one you like best!

      For supplemental income, there are so many options depending your skills. Have you checked out our RV Entrepreneur Podcast? We have almost 50 episodes of interviews with fulltime RVers who run remote businesses from their RVs. It’s a great place to look for ideas and advice for whatever business you might want to run from the road! 🙂

      heathandalyssa.com/rv-entrepreneur-podcast/

  • Bridgette

    Awesome stuff! We are looking at Jan-June 2019 somewhere in there. One full year. Giving ourselves a week per state (extras for states stay longer with loved ones) so your site is great for all sorts of tips.

    • That’s awesome!! Let us know if you ever have any road trip planning questions 🙂 We are old pros at this point!

      • Bridgette

        Thank you. I will for sure. We talked about this five years ago when thinking of my hubs retiring from USAF and how we see so many having to wait till much older and how we wanted to do as much as possible when younger. So the plan of traveling the US for a whole year at 38 was born. Sadly two and half years ago he became a disabled Vet and was medically retired at 15 years. So been a lot of stuff going on. Then a month ago I said ” You know what.. we CAN still travel for a year in 2019. Celebrate in a way still and not let everything be taken from us or out of our control.” So been planning it since and want to buy an older RV and fix it up six months before hand. Was it hard to learn how to fix up an old motorhome?

        • Good for y’all! It’s never too late to start doing what you want. It was kind of difficult, but we did this all on our own: http://heathandalyssa.com/class-c-motorhome-renovation/

          • Bridgette

            After I posted that comment I then went to the website you mentioned. So will break a nail or two but we will do it ourselves as well. It is why want a tad older one, so the hubs doesn’t balk at me wanting to change it. I mean… I cannot travel for 12 months staring at swirling patterns and that awful mix of tan and brown in the wood tones. haha.

          • TRUTH. It makes a huge difference and really transforms the rig into a home. We spent around $500 total for our whole project.

  • Ashley Lee

    Great story! Wish I had my RV when you traveled through Albuquerque, even though its not that bad, we would’ve let you stay with us. But now we have a 32′ Driftwood by Rockwood, & paid $6000 for it! We’re slowly getting it roadworthy. Hubby, our 2 well spoiled (well loved) Chihuahuas and I plan to go full time ASAP. We might even follow my 78 year old father across the country on his bicycle this year, from Santa Fe,NM to Savanna, GA. We need to find some income, start a gofundme page and start blogging about his trip. Hopefully we’ll see you on the road! Oh and hubby won’t let me do the whole Breaking Bad thing with the RV! I can’t even name it Mr. White, Walter or Blue Ice! 😉

    • Haha, that’s awesome! Welcome to the RV life 🙂 Sounds like y’all are bound for a great adventure!

  • Pingback: The Costs Of Fulltime RVing (Part II) – Specifics & Links – Wheeling It()

  • Robin MacDonald

    I can not believe this, I was just in the middle of reading your post and I was going through channels on my TV and you are on Going RVing. “what are the chances of that”? Good choice, by the way. My husband and myself are in our 60’s and retired. I have always said that I would like to sell the house and go RVing across America. I would love to be in the south in the winter and come up and see the grandkids in the summer. I do not understand blogging but will try and follow you so I can start my plan.

    • Hey Robin! Thanks! That’s so funny that happened at the same time! We definitely recommend the RVing lifestyle! We love it 🙂 And blogging while you travel is a great way to stay connected with family and friends while you’re not in town 🙂 I actually have a blog post covering step-by-step how to start a blog that might help you get started! You can read that here: http://heathandalyssa.com/how-to-start-travel-blog/

      See you down the road!
      -Heath

  • Kez

    My partner and I have done a lot of talking about traveling and seeing the world. A lot of talking and not a lot of doing. We proposed a plan to buy an RV and travel for a year come August 2017… based on some recent personal decisions, that future date may be as close as next month. I’m so excited, yet so terrified. Mostly, I’m worried about money and stability. Though I have never been rich, I never really knew what it was like to live paycheck-to-paycheck. And living in an RV not knowing where my next paycheck is coming from terrifies me… but I think that’s precisely why I need to do this. Why WE need to do this. I’m so happy that I found your blog because I feel like it’ll be a Bible to us. I’ve already started my own blog earlier in the year, travelingproud.com, and I’ve been looking into freelance writing. I also plan to pick up odd jobs everywhere we decide to stay for awhile. Do you have a Blog listing what jobs you were involved with on your first year? How Long was each hiring process? And was it difficult to get a job when they knew you were only staying for a short time?
    Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Hey Kez!

      So for our documentary all the jobs we found were volunteer based and we weren’t paid for any of them. So there wasn’t a hiring process. But a good option for y’all if you’re looking to stay in places and pick up odd jobs would be to find workamping gigs with RV parks or join something like Amazon’s Camper Force.

      Good luck as y’all are jumping into the life! It’s a ton of fun 🙂
      Alyssa

      • Kez

        Thank you very much! I will take a look at those options. I didn’t even know such options existed! I wish you luck on all of your future endeavors!

  • What generous souls you are sharing things that are considered personal but are helpful for others to know. Have you done any boondocking? What would a life style mixing travel, boondocking and city living (in an RV) look like? Appreciate your POV.

    • We boondock often, but never in cities as our rig is too big for that. Quite a few people in Class B’s or vans will stealth camp on the streets. We usually avoid cities as a general rule and opt to explore more nature.

  • Bill Widmer

    How do you guys keep such good track of your expenses? Is there an app that you use, or is it all manual?

    • I update ours manually every week. Since almost none of our expenses are predictable, I find that’s the best way for me to stay in touch with what we’re spending and how. I used to use Mint.com, but my account was hacked and refuse to use them anymore!

      • Bill Widmer

        Oh no! I use Mint. That’s scary. 🙁

        • Yeah I’m not a fan! But I know other people who have used it for years.

  • Melissa Ann Skidmore

    Hey Heath & Alyssa!
    My life partner Cody and I are in the process of purchasing our camper and live in it full time. I am a teacher and he is a Airplane Mechanic. We love the outdoors and photography and videography as well. We would like to take our hobbies and make a living off of it so we can travel the country in our home to be. Any suggestions for newbies? please email me at mskid001@gmail.com, I would love to talk to you guys! Safe travels!
    -Missy and Cody
    \

    • Biggest advice I can give is do it, don’t talk about it! (Or tell people you’re doing it to keep you accountable to do it!) We just kicked off our Youtube channel after talking about for years and we strongly regret waiting so long!

  • Ed

    You two appear to be having lots of fun in your full-time RV. Congratulations. My favorite image (visual and sense of smell) is the bacon frying. It’s great you share your experiences with the world. And thanks for the re-cap of your income and expenses.
    Just a bit of feedback.

    You mention in your “29 Reasons” for living in an RV is better than in a house, you mention you have no utility bills. But electricity used while hooked up at campgrounds, propane used, and grey/black water disposal are all utility costs.

    You earned $55,000, so assuming you couldn’t shield all that income with deductions, you may have paid federal and state income tax. I didn’t see that in your list of expenses.

    Interest on your student loan is an expense, but not listed in your expenses.

    It was good you paid so much of your student loan down. I did not see any savings (an IRA, brokerage account). That’s an opportunity cost, as you can miss gains on those investments, and a chance to shield some income from taxation. You will need money in retirement, and the earlier you save, the more you will have when you retire.

    A non-cash cost of your “home” is depreciation, as an RV will depreciate over time. On the flip side, a house generally appreciates, except after 2007, but at least now since 2009.

    Travelling to HI and AK was no doubt awesome, but cutting these trips out would really save you money.

    Just my thoughts, as a financial advisor in another life.

    • Hey Ed!

      Here’s my responses to your thoughts:

      So we don’t ever have to pay explicitly for utilities like electric, water, sewage, etc. But sure you could technically say it’s rolled into the lodging price, but we’ve paid less than $1,000 in lodging in the past nine months.

      For the year noted above, we didn’t pay any taxes since we were given a tax return for the previous year. We paid taxes on the above income the following year, obviously.

      Interest on student loans is rolled into the cost we put toward student loans, as you don’t pay those separately.

      We do have savings.

      Depreciation on the RV is definitely a huge consideration. We wouldn’t have bought new if we weren’t sponsored by Winnebago and if they hadn’t given us a killer deal on the price of the rig.

      And we traveled to Hawaii and Alaska as part of our documentary where Heath worked a different job in each state. Our travel costs for this were 100% covered by our sponsor, so none that was actually out of pocket.

  • Jo Franklin

    I was considering buying an RV and living in it full time. Rent where I live is outrageous, and it scares me to buy a home in an area I don’t plan on staying in long term.
    I saw your blog, and now I’m all in. Thank you for that. I found a great little motor home, for around $10k a 2002 with 108k miles…. but lending seems to be a problem. How did you finance an older motor home and how did you qualify being “full timers”

    • Hey Jo!

      Congrats! Excited for you! 🙂

      Here’s an article Heath wrote on lending: http://winnebagolife.com/2016/02/an-rv-financing-hack-that-worked-for-us A great place to start for a loan is credit unions, or ask your local dealer. They always know who is best for RV loans.

      Being a full-timer is different depending on who you ask. For insurance companies, I believe it means that you live AND travel in your RV for more than 6 months out of the year. In general, you’re a full-timer if you travel and live in your RV year-round.

  • Hilda Carrillo

    I’m 58 years old and recently divorced. I only have about 8 to 9 more years to work, then retire, but I will only have social security. Right now I rent an apartment. I told my son that when I retire, I would love to buy an RV, live in it and go to AZ during the winter months so I can be there for the grandkids, then come back to Texas. My son suggested that instead of paying for an apartment, that I should buy an RV, live in it at a park and maybe have it paid off by the time I retire. Any suggestions? Also, I know that I would need to work after retirement, and I’m hoping that by then I can find some jobs that I can do “work from home” type that I can take with me. Does anyone know of any jobs like this?

    • Hey Hilda! I would definitely say moving into an RV now would be a good financial decision. Especially if you went with a trailer or fifth wheel, since those can handle sitting for a while. With an RV payment + rent in an RV park, you’ll likely pay the same as you would for an apartment, but you’d be paying off your rig and then be even better set for retirement. As for jobs, check out our podcast where my husband interviews people who work full-time from their RV: heathandalyssa.com/rv-entrepreneur-podcast

      • Hilda Carrillo

        Thank you. I will listen. Please approve my friend request on Facebook.

  • Stephanie Aikin

    Wow you guys are awesome! I live in SoCal and I’m really thinking it might be a tough switch to live in an RV but I would like too.. if I bought an rV the cost would go away when the payment would go away. Looks like your cost monthly is really low… How in the world could I get my cost that low(separating the cost of the RV)??? I would LUV to hear from you! Also, I have this business lol its a store front so I can’t really go far… often I love your story! I look forward to hearing from you!
    Steph

    • Hey Steph! Thank you!!

      So as far as lodging costs go, the best way to offset them is to boondock, aka park in driveways or parking lots or other free areas. SoCal is probably the most difficult part of the country for this because county laws don’t really allow RV street parking or overnight parking. This is why vans are a lot more popular in this part of the country! We have parked on the streets overnight in Manhattan Beach a few times, but you have to move for street cleaning days which is annoying. You can find an RV park in the area though and the monthly rent you pay there will be significantly cheaper than apartment rent in the area (but definitely not as low as the expenses listed above). California is expensive!

  • Eric VanLeer Sr.

    Hey Heath, Im a 50 year old guy from South Jersey looking to sell the Farm and hit the road. I was hurt on he job a few years back working in the Revel Casino in Atlantic City. Im a Union Tile Finisher by trade but my injury keeps me from doing this any more and me and my wife are sick of the high price of living in Jersey. Reading your story really gave me hope and inspiration!!! I know it’s easier doing this as a young couple but your story really made me think about a lot of stuff, like being a couch potato and watching net flix all day!!! This is no way to enjoy life and even know my injury changed my life for the worst I dont have to live like a hermit either !!!! I just wanted to thank you and see if you had any ideas on making money while on the move ? I hope to hear from you soon…Peace, Love and granola …they are all natural.

    • Hey Eric! Glad that this post gave you a little inspiration 🙂 Definitely check out Heath’s podcast, where he interviews other full-time RVers on how they make money on the road: heathandalyssa.com/rv-entrepreneur-podcast

  • Steph Ruv

    What were you biggest concerns before RV life, and what are they now? Our process is quite detailed, we are early 40’s, kids are adults, have several pets, existing careers, etc… The comforts are concerning. We want to start with an older RV, which many RV sites require 10yr or younger of an RV. Did you run into any of these issues with Franklin, and how did you handle them?
    What have been your biggest changes among your relationship, and yourselves (that you care to share), and how hard was it to just say “f- it”? What has been the scariest part of RV living? and I could question on and on… but I’ll stop here. Thanks!