I have been keeping track of earnings and expenses on a monthly basis for a few years now, as it really helps me to predict month to month how much leeway I’m going to have with my budget. It was especially important this past year with the major purchase of my RV and the radical shift in lifestyle. I’ve brought it up before, but I’ll say it again. If you’re planning to go full-timing, keep track of your money. Really. It’d suck to blow it all trying to get on the road and then have none left once you get there.
I decided to break the year down in thirds, because each third of the year marked a shift in earning and spending habits as I went from sticks and bricks dweller, to living stationary in the RV, to traveling in the RV.
January through April I was still living a traditional lifestyle in an apartment, but at the beginning of March I bought the RV. I was paying rent and utilities, and also for 6 weeks paying for a place to store Cas while I went through what I owned in the apartment and decided what needed to come with me, did the necessary minor repairs, and purchased some necessary items to make Cas livable. I had already purchased the truck and brake controller the year before, so those figures aren’t on this year’s totals. The first month I was working at the Old Job, the one that I hated but paid well. At the beginning of February I starting working at Best Buy, which didn’t pay as well but didn’t drain all the color from the world. I also included the tax refund money I got back from 2011 in my earnings.
Total costs: $8271.56 (which includes everything I bought for RVing, except the RV itself since that money had been set aside for years for just this purpose), total earnings $7405.7. In the same four months of 2011, my cost of living was $4123.07.
This stage of going full-timing is going to be the most expensive for any new RVer, because even besides the cost of the RV itself, you’re probably going to have to pay for necessities to make it liveable. In my case, this included water and sewer hoses, hitch, leveling blocks, storage containers, a ladder, caulking and riveting equipment (I had no tools before this point), a water filter, all the registration and insurance fees, etc. To keep things from getting out of hand, I only bought exactly what I needed as I needed it, and nothing more. No fancy RVing cookware, no smaller kitchen appliances that would travel easier, etc.
Last year, after the dust of getting moved into Cas settled, I wrote a post about the costs of moving from a stationary home to a mobile one and estimated that besides the truck and RV itself (a total of $15,797 after trading in my car) everything else I had needed to buy ended up costing me about $3,000 over the course of about seven months. The hitch alone was close to $800 of that. As a point of reference, when I moved from Wisconsin down to South Carolina in 2009 the cost of the Uhaul, fuel, one night stay in a motel, renter’s insurance, security deposit on the apartment, loss of income for the two weeks it took me to move, etc. totaled about $3,000. If you’re interested, that post may be found here, but now I’m not looking at specific costs to go RVing, but my living expenses as a whole.
On April 25th, I moved into Cas. I stayed at a campground maybe 20 minutes from where my apartment had been, and I continued working at Best Buy while getting settled in and figuring out how everything in the RV worked since I hadn’t camped a night in it before that date and didn’t want to spend the money for an actual RVing class. My half of the rent at Oldfield Mews apartments had been $417.50 a month, not including water (about $15 per person) and electricity (anywhere between $25 a person in the spring and fall to $60 a person in the heart of summer). My half of the rent at Stoney Crest campground (Julie and I lived together in the RV until the beginning of August when she got her own apartment) was $175 and included water and electric, in August I paid the full $350 myself. There were still some RV related purchases from May – August, but much less than the first four months of the year.
Total costs: $6173.08, total earnings $4772.24. In the same four months of 2011, my cost of living was $7225.24.
In September things changed again as I hit the road and spent almost three weeks traveling and sightseeing before settling down in Kansas to work at Amazon. Amazon’s WorkCamper program paid for the site I stayed in and all utilities but propane from the beginning of October until December 22nd, when I drove up to Wisconsin to spend Christmas with family and college friends for the first time in four years. My earnings might look surprisingly slim when you think that Amazon paid me $2.50 more an hour than Best Buy did and gave me more hours, but then you need to factor in that I only worked 3 of those 4 months.
Total costs: $4393.01, total earnings $4663.67 . In the same four months of 2011, my cost of living was $6345.87.
These four months make me the most excited about the possibilities of full-timing. For the first time that year I made more than I spent, and I did it only working 75% of the time, getting to take four glorious weeks off to be a real full-timer and adventuring around.
So for those keeping up with the math, in 2012, my total cost of living was $18,837.65, and my take home pay was $16,841.61 (when filing my taxes, total taxable income was $18,000 something). In 2011, my total cost of living was $17,694.18. The 2012 numbers don’t account for the cost of the RV and the 2011 numbers don’t account for the cost of the truck since those things came from a savings account built up for years and set aside for that purpose. When you account for inflation and the fact that costs rise every year, the cost of living for those two years are probably closer, although it’s hard to say for sure. It’ll be interesting to see, now that the initial expenses of getting the RV are out of the way, if this year will see a drop in cost of living.
Image courtesy of Tax Credits
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