Answers About Full-timing

Somewhere in Nebraska, early spring 2013

Somewhere in Nebraska, early spring 2013

Happy Friday everyone! My first week of (more than) full-time hours is over and I’ve enjoyed a relaxing if rainy weekend puttering around the RV and not doing much of anything really, it’s been nice. Rainy weather kept me from getting out today like I’d hoped so there is no adventure to blog about, so let me share with you a Q & A I did this weekend with a full-timing hopeful. These were some good questions and I figured if one person asked them, there are probably others out there who’d like to know the answers too.

Q: How much do you spend on gas when you’re at a workamping job, or how many miles do you travel per month while working? How far have grocery stores been from the workamping jobs you’ve had?

A: It’s a huge range and not something I track closely. When I’m work-camping I’m usually living close to work and don’t spend any more than the average American on gas (I’d recommend keeping track of your mileage and gas costs now so you can get a base to make estimates off of). When I’m traveling between jobs and putting over 1,000 miles on that number can jump to $400 or more in a month. It really depends on the price of gas (pretty cheap right now).

The good news is this is one variable of full-timing that is very controllable. If you don’t have a lot of money, don’t do as much sightseeing. At national park jobs and Amazon, people in the same campground often carpool to work (I do here in Texas right now) to save on money. Grocery stores have been as close as 5 minutes away to as far as 45 minutes (Yellowstone), although at Yellowstone I could walk to the general store at Old Faithful which had a limited grocery selection. This is one of the things you’ll want to look at when choosing a work-camping job – more on that later.

Q: I’ve seen on a post you wrote ( that your monthly budget tends to average at $1,333 while workamping. How do you make that much money? It seems like it would be hard to make anything more than $1000/month after federal taxes, if you’re working for minimum wage. Also, do you think you could survive without Amazon CamperForce stints?

Also, on that same post, you mentioned you had a job at Lowe’s while you were living in Cas. How did you manage to get a “regular” job like that, and where did you stay while you had it? How could overnight costs be cheap enough to afford?

A: My first year on the road (fall 2012 to fall 2013) I lived exclusively on work-camping income. It is doable if you’re frugal but no, I personally would not have been able to manage it without CamperForce. It’s possible that a person could if they worked longer (I worked 9.5 months out of the year that time) or searched harder for other better-paying jobs, but Amazon paid about twice about what I needed to live on, so it allowed me to save up a couple thousand dollars above my living costs and save for leaner times.

That first year I had to work another job between Amazon and my summer gig because I didn’t have any other income to fill in the gap, hence Lowe’s. I wrote about how to find “normal” temp jobs here (the next two posts after that one were about Lowe’s too). Lowe’s was not a living wage for me because I had to pay full cost for my camping spot (even though monthly rates are cheaper than overnight rates), but some jobs through temp agencies would pay enough if you’ve the skills or experience.

You might be surprised to learn that at the Badlands that first summer, I was earning a living wage even though I was only making $7.25 an hour. I managed to save a couple hundred dollars just because my cost of living was so low for those months ($1,333 was just the average, some months it’s as low as $700). In my post about working in national parks I wrote extensively about how to choose a good work-camping job based not just on the pay, but on the perks and cost of living for the area. The Badlands job paid the least per hour but was the most lucrative of the three opportunities I had that year.

"Thumbs up" for a minimum wage job that was enough to live on, don't think there are many sticks n bricks dwellers who could manage that

“Thumbs up” for a minimum wage job that was enough to live on, don’t think there are many sticks n bricks dwellers who could manage that. Bonus: it was also pretty!

Q: Do you have other income besides that from your workamping jobs? If so, how much and how do you earn the extra money?

A: Starting in early 2014, yes. I bring in money through affiliate advertising (the Amazon link at the end of most of my posts as well as the sidebar) and more recently through my e-guide, Solo Full-time RVing on a Budget. I highly recommend looking into alternative income streams because it offers a lot more flexibility, both on the types of work-camping jobs a person can work and still afford to eat, and also how much time a person has to spend “working” in a year. This year my monthly income from online sources has varied from $200, to an all-time high of $1,100 in March when my e-guide launched. It’s not very reliable income, but every bit helps.

Q: Finally, what do you plan to do in the very very far away future when and if Cas or your car is worn out and you need to buy a new car/trailer/RV? And if you don’t think you’d continue the lifestyle for the rest of your life, what’s your escape plan?

A: I have an emergency fund that I’m slowly building up over time to eventually cover replacement of Bertha or Cas, but they’re both in great shape for their ages because I don’t shirk on maintenance costs on either of them. You’re right that my lifestyle rides (pun intended) on them so I take very good care of them. Right now my fund sits at $6,000 (Bertha cost $10,500, Cas was $9,000). I wrote about my retirement plans here and my hypothetical escape plan here.

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Enjoy! For those who are looking for more answers, the “Useful Links” tab at the top of IO lists a lot of the posts I referenced in this article as well as other blog posts useful to the prospective full-timer.

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Thank you for supporting IO and doing your usual Amazon shopping using my affiliate link.

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Jeff Agueda on November 7, 2015 at 10:00 am

    Thank you very much for all of your useful information and time invested. I hope all continues to roll along nicely for you.

    • Becky on November 9, 2015 at 6:14 pm

      You’re welcome Jeff, I’m glad you’ve found this helpful.

  2. Steve w. (sdw) on November 3, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Hey Becky

    You probably already know about this, but i’ll send it anyway.

    • Becky on November 4, 2015 at 6:55 pm

      Yeah Steve I knew about it, but it is pretty cool huh?

  3. Jodee Gravel on November 1, 2015 at 8:57 am

    Great questions – I’m sure you get similar ones all the time. Nice to have a little rain to enforce some rest after a busy week. You have plenty of weekends to get out and play where you are.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Wrapping Up Our Time in Lone Pine – Leaving the Sierras for NowMy Profile

    • Becky on November 2, 2015 at 7:55 pm

      There seems to be quite a bit to see around here Jodee, I’m anxious to get out and actually see some of it! But you’re right, there’s time.

  4. Reine in Plano on October 31, 2015 at 11:25 pm

    Good post. Learning how to live BENEATH your income opens up lots of possibilities for anyone. So does learning to ignore marketing and be content with less.

    • Becky on November 2, 2015 at 7:54 pm

      Both good points Reine.

  5. Terri on October 31, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Jim, that is amazingly impressive – I need to take some lessons from you on how to cut my day to day expenses that low!
    Terri recently posted..Updates: Amazon Affiliate Link, NaNoWriMo, Book Reviews and Changes to the Website, and THANK YOU!My Profile

    • Jim Schmechel on October 31, 2015 at 4:50 pm


      I really only spend money on food and gas. I buy high calorie / low cost foods, and pay vigorous attention to prices. Examples of foods I eat regularly are: bananas, cheese, tuna. I drive as little as possible, mostly moving for climate changes to stay warm.

      I will only pay for parking/sleeping in an emergency (maybe once or twice a year).

      I do not do activities that cost money. I don’t go to paid museums, attractions, etc. My entertainment budget is zero.

      I don’t buy internet or phone, I go to the library and use free wifi.

      I only buy essential clothes etc at thrift stores (except underwear! which I buy NEW).

      I tend to wear my clothes etc. until they actually disintegrate.

      Basically, I don’t spend money, period.

      Does that help? 🙂
      Jim Schmechel recently posted..1 Year NomadiversaryMy Profile

  6. Jim Schmechel on October 31, 2015 at 11:23 am

    I have a goal of living on $10 a day, but it is very hard to accomplish. Most days I end up spending about $15 I have never made it to my goal of $300 per month, but I have hit $450 per month multiple times. However, I am extremely frugal…..

    My vehicle expenses are very low, with my “house” getting 58 miles per gallon. My major expense each year is vehicle insurance, which is hundreds of dollars.

    This lifestyle can be done on a very low budget, assuming you are debt free, and always find places to live for free.
    Jim Schmechel recently posted..Ducks in a Row Family FarmMy Profile

    • Becky on October 31, 2015 at 6:52 pm

      That’s still really good Jim. I had one month this year at Yellowstone at $650, that’s about the best I’ve ever done but invariable my “travel” months are over $1,000. I only get 15-16 miles per gallon sooooo that adds up quick and I go out to eat once or twice a week too which is a lot pricier than cooking for yourself.

  7. Ernesto Quintero on October 31, 2015 at 10:34 am

    I <3 your honesty and bravery to speak what many have a hard time saying in public or even to family members. You're the reason I'm making huge change in the new year, thanks. 🙂 If you could've seen the reaction of my family members when I stated that I was selling my custom built home and was going to live in an RV! I had told everyone that I was going to live in a motorhome AFTER retirement. I'm doing it now instead of waiting another ten years, when I turn 65 and retire. Heck, I even shocked my self when it finally hit me that just about everything I own had to be sold because none of it could be used/fit in the future class c motorhome. I'm single, a dreamer and introvert with small dog and look forward to my much smaller home and the challenges it presents. The change will allow my to save way more money for retirement. Yes I should have started getting serious about it way, way earlier.

    My goal is to move into RV by midyear 2016 and be mortgage and yard work free! Maintaining a highly landscaped(gardening OCD) 1.4 acre lot in brutal Florida summer is no longer fun for me, even though I don't have any physical limitations. I dread the wasp, mosquito and fire ant bites I get while doing yard work, never mind the humidity, high temperatures and sun! I'm also highly aware of the new normal and my double nickel age reduced earnings potential. So my plan is to downsize all the way to diesel powered 25.6 foot Class C, then use my extra leisure time to travel on weekends and vacations. I not only like state and national parks but love walking in cities big and small exploring it's museums, restaurants and neighborhoods. I'll be buying a 7×12 cargo trailer to use as a workshop(tool OCD) and for extra storage space.

    PS: I know this comment will be public on your blog, I'm doing this to show another story about a move out of a sticks and brick lifestyle. English is not my native tongue so forgive me if my writing style is a little out of kilter.

    • Becky on October 31, 2015 at 6:49 pm

      Good for you Ernesto! Even if you could have started sooner, you’re starting a lot earlier than most folks so I think you’re ahead of the game. My parents weren’t thrilled with my decision to hit the road (although my two aunts think its a hoot) but eventually they came around.

      I lived in South Carolina along the coast near Georgia for three years before hitting the road so I know what you mean about humidity and bugs, I react bad to fire ant bites so those were the worst!

      25.6 feet sounds good to me for one person with a small dog, and having that extra room for your “workshop” will be nice. Best of luck to you! Oh, and your English reads just fine to me.

  8. Fireman Steve on October 31, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Happy Halloween Becky. Safe travels

    • Becky on October 31, 2015 at 6:39 pm

      Thanks Steve! There was a costume contest at work today, some people were really creative.

  9. Rena on October 31, 2015 at 8:07 am

    I am just starting to plan for full timing for retirement. I am anticipating about a $3500/mo income and want to look for National park work to supplement. One of my concerns is health insurance along the way and where to establish my residency for tax purposes. Any thoughts on either of these issues? How di you handle them? Thanks for the informative blog, I am enjoying learning so much in my prep for the future.

    • Becky on October 31, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      I cover taxes, health insurance, and state residency in articles listed under that “useful links” tab Rena. Best of luck to you!

  10. Terri on October 31, 2015 at 5:46 am

    If I ever end up leaving where I am now, I could definitely see myself being happy working in the national parks (with a smaller rig than what I have now, for sure) so I appreciate the link back to that post – I need to re read it again.

    Now that I have also figured out my budget and realize how tight it is, I just want to retiterate how smart you are for having gone on the road without debt. I’ve got the RV and car payment, both are small, but they do add to the stress, for sure. And I find inspiration from you in how well you manage your money, I definitely plan on being more like you, and as of now, when I think of spending money on something, I think of you, and think “What would Becky do in this situation?” (Except for when my pets get sick, for that, there is usually no rational response. They need the help or attention, they get it.) But I’m also working on adding to my emergency fund too.

    I have been thinking of adding an amazon affiliate link myself to my blog, as well as writing an ebook. I have a few ideas for topics.

    Great post as always, and thanks for the inspiration, yet again.
    Terri recently posted..My Financial Picture: Putting It All Out ThereMy Profile

    • Becky on October 31, 2015 at 6:37 pm

      You’re welcome Terri.

      Yes, not having debt made a big difference, but you’re living proof that a person can have debt and still get out and do what they love and I really respect your tenacity.

      Every little bit helps when it comes to money and the the affiliate link doesn’t take much time to set up, best of luck!

      • Terri on November 3, 2015 at 8:02 am

        Thank you very much for saying that, Becky, about my tenacity. Comments like that will keep me going on those days where I question, just WTH am I doing?? i can see myself eventually downsizing to a smaller rig and trying to do what you do. I love being in the national parks. Can’t imagine how awesome it is to wake up in one every day.
        Terri recently posted..Updates: Amazon Affiliate Link, NaNoWriMo, Book Reviews and Changes to the Website, and THANK YOU!My Profile

        • Becky on November 4, 2015 at 6:52 pm

          It is pretty awesome Terri. At least where you are now you’re withing a day’s drive from a lot of parks and other beautiful places. 🙂

  11. Jerry Minchey on October 30, 2015 at 10:17 pm


    This was a very good and interesting post. I love that you tell it like it is. Full-time RVing is not all fun and freedom (even though there is a lot of both).

    I think the key to happy RVing is to do what you have to do while you continue to get your alternative streams of income bringing in more money every month.

    • Becky on October 31, 2015 at 6:33 pm

      Well, working retail in national parks, especially at Yellowstone where it was only 30 hours a week, it hardly felt like work at all sometimes. All that time off to go hike and the majority of the customers who come in are in a good mood which makes it more fun. But yeah, I’m going to keep working on the online income thing. 😉

  12. RGupnorth on October 30, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    good Q & A – appears the Amazon job really helps out your year.

    • Becky on October 31, 2015 at 6:30 pm

      For volunteering/not working the first part of the next year, yeah definitely. With the online income I wouldn’t have to work Amazon, but I’d still need to work some other seasonal job during that time of year and wouldn’t have as much “vacation” time in a year.

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