General Expenses Overview
Your expenses are very important and depend on your budget as to how comfortable your experience will be. It would be impossible to nail down the exact numbers/costs of all regions/companies, so I’m just going to list a general expenses overview and an example of what we pay sometimes with our set-up.
General Expenses Overview (Infographic)
Personal Expenses (Example)
We own our motorhome, car, and dolly outright (Titles in hand), so we don’t have any monthly loan/financing payments. We also don’t have a mortgage or traditional rent payment. This allows us to save more money each month and have emergency savings.
Note: Living below your means is the best way to stretch your finances and retain a consistent level of comfort. The nomadic lifestyle is different for everyone and comfort levels will vary.
Example of monthly expenses we’ve had are:
- Fuel – This varies. Sometimes we’ll stay in one spot for a month and won’t have any fuel expense. Other times we will only stay one or 2 weeks and it leads to a $100 to $150 fuel expense between stops that month.
- Food & Beverage – We have a full kitchen, but don’t like moisture buildup in the rig, so we alternate between electric, propane, coal, and wood for cooking. On average, we spend about $75 per week on food from the grocery store ($300 per month).
- Eating out – We do splurge occasionally and eat out once or twice a week. We have a $50 per week budget on spoiling ourselves eating out ($200 per month).
- Phone/Data service – We pay $120 per month for an AT&T family plan (2 phones) with unlimited talk/text and only 3gb of data for emergency backup wifi/tethering work. We could probably use a bigger data plan but chose to save the money since we have been pretty lucky so far with finding free wifi everywhere. (This may change soon) – Be sure to research a data plan that works best for you.
- Auto Insurance – We pay $96 per month for AAA coverage on our car & motorhome (Combined policy). Not all regions/states have the same rates, so be sure that the insurance policy you get works best for your needs.
- RV Park/Resort rent – This varies greatly. We’ve boondocked for free and also stayed at RV parks as low as $125 per month and as high as $675 per month. The bonus to RV parks/resorts are the amenities. Included in that flat rate is free wifi, cable, water, sewage, and sometimes electric. On average, we spend $375 per month total on rent since we normally find the $315 spots and avoid the higher costs.
- Electric – On average, when we are at a park that charges electric in addition to rent, we pay .12 to .15 cents per kilowatt and average $65 per month for electric (Running things like the A/C. TVs, space Heaters, fridge, charging laptops, phones, etc.). Eventually, we’ll install solar panels to generate our own electricity to eliminate this bill and boondock more. We also have a generator and propane for emergency backup power.
- Hosting/Renewals – Website hosting and domain renewals average about $25 per month.
- Propane – We actually don’t use much and prefer electric space heaters or electric blankets in the winter instead of the propane furnace that drinks propane fast. On average we have to refill our 40-pound propane tank once every 2 or 3 months. Refilling can cost anywhere from $25 to $45 depending on the area/costs. That would break down to about $8 to $12 in propane usage per month.
- Misc. Spending – This covers our outings, which we mainly look for the free things to do everywhere (E.g. beach, parks, free museum hours, monuments, hiking, metal detecting, etc.). Occasionally, we’ll pay a fee for admittance or parking, which averages about $25 per month.
- Water/WiFi/Cable – FREE! – Water is free at RV parks/Resorts and we have a 74-gallon freshwater tank we can fill with water from a free source. WiFi is free everywhere. We have 2 digital antennas that allow us to pick up anywhere from 10 to 200 free cable channels depending where we are. We can also access free movies/tv shows from official websites that allow some of their video archives to be streamed without a subscription over WiFi (E.g. HBO, Showtime, Fox, ABC, AMC, etc.)
- Emergency’s – It’s always a good idea to have plenty of emergency savings set aside you don’t touch. If you dip into it, be sure to put money back, maybe set aside a little each month until you hit your comfort number. For us, we like to make our comfort number 3 to 5 months of our average monthly expenses. This is generally enough for a major repair or transition between revenue streams in an unforeseen situation. If you are retired and living off your nest egg, budget it tight. We can’t predict the future, so make sure you have a nomadic income plan and emergency plan in place.
- Yes, nomads still have to pay/file taxes every year.
With the above averages in mind, we were looking at a whopping $1,328.00 per month on the high end and $887 per month on the low end. However, you can reduce that monthly expense drastically when you start boondocking more and eliminate RV park/Resort rent, which is the biggest expense of them all. Note: Most boondocking spots are limited stay (1 to 14 days), but not all.
IMPORTANT: The above monthly expenses does not calculate some of the other expenses (Membership fee’s – e.g. AARP, routine vehicle maintenance, repair costs, reoccurring registration/inspection costs, medical insurance, physical mail box, etc.) that may be incurred based on your budget and lifestyle. Be sure that you keep some of your savings set aside to compensate for yearly/reoccurring costs.
The more creature comforts you require, the more your monthly expenses will be.
The unexpected always happens when you least expect it. No matter how good you maintain your set up, something is going to break, fail, or short circuit, eventually. The more you drive it, pull it, push it, or use it, the more wear and tear will happen, increasing the likelihood of maintenance or repair being needed.
WARNING: If you can’t afford repair costs just starting out, you may want to take a step back and reassess your situation to be sure a nomadic lifestyle is right for you. The last thing you want to do is get stranded somewhere you don’t want to be because your rig broke down and you can’t afford to fix it.
If the above is true, a safer option for you might be to look into long term RV parks with full hookups and amenities that are more cost effective than what you pay in rent/utilities now. You can even find RV parks around the country for $100 to $350 per month including amenities. This will allow you to live below your means with some of the same creature comforts and allow you to start putting more money into your savings/retirement fund or to reinvest into bettering your lifestyle (When done right).
Once you get your finances back in order and get the hang of your rig/set-up (Inside and out), then start venturing around the country like a nomad.
This lifestyle is not for everyone. If you can, do a test run for a few weeks/months to make sure you can adapt to a smaller space, long term. You don’t want to be miserable out here, you want to be happy, healthy, and adventurous.
Check out our lists of RV parks and boondocks to assist in finding your next camping or overnight parking spot.
Be sure to also review all our resources. Don’t skip anything we outlined there. We know it’s a lot of reading, but you’ll be thankful you read it all later.