2015 Full-timer Cost of Living and Income Report


I summoned the willpower to secluded myself from the Xscapers festivities last week long enough to work out my 2015 cost of living and income numbers. Here they are, conveniently tacked on to the chart I’ve used for previous years for ease of comparison. As always, let me stress that these numbers will be different for everyone, but I hope they help you prospective full-timers in your own budgeting and planning.


Adjusted Gross Income

Living Costs

2011 (My last year living a stationary life, working as a Vet Tech and sharing a lower-end apartment with a roommate)

$27,732 (I worked an average of 40-45 hours a week, and had two weeks of paid vacation time)

$17,694 (not including the $6,984 spent on the truck purchase, taxes, registration, etc.)

2012 (I quit the vet tech job at the end of January and worked at Best Buy from Feb until Sept. I lived in the Casita starting April 28, and started traveling full-time on Sept. 17). I worked in CamperForce for the holidays)

$18,495 (I worked an average of 30 hours a week at Best Buy, 40-50 hours a week at Amazon, and had about 6 weeks of “vacation” time where I didn’t work and just traveled)

$18,838 (not including the $9,440 RV purchase, taxes, registration, etc. but including other RVing items like leveling blocks, the hitch, water pressure regulator, and a laptop)

2013 (First full year as a full-timer. Worked at Lowe’s from Feb-April. Badlands Natl Park from April-Oct. And Amazon from Oct-Dec.)

$16,070 (Had about 8 weeks of vacation time)

Estimated at $15,300, but I didn’t keep close track. I ended up earning a little more than I spent in 2013.

2014 (Second full year on the road. Volunteered in Florida Jan-Apr, worked at GA renaissance festival Apr-June, Zion Natl Park June-Oct, and Amazon Oct-Dec.)

$15,066 (Acting at the festival was only 2 days a week and less than $600 in earnings, so it’s almost like I had 6 months off this year.)

Estimated at just under $16,000, Spent more than I earned this year but fulfilled a longtime dream of performing at a renaissance festival.

2015 (Third full year on the road. Worked at Yellowstone Nat’l Park May-Sept, and Amazon Oct-Dec.)

$20,017 (Edited 3/22/16 with official number from IRS)

$15, 693 The biggest net gain I’ve had since hitting the road, and this with $4000 in RV and truck maintenance/repair costs.

2015 monthly cost of living average: $1,308

2015 monthly income average: $1,668

Most expensive month: December ($2,203 – $1,320 of that was repairs)

Least expensive month: February ($595 – The months I’m stationary for work/volunteering are always the cheapest)

Not surprisingly, December was my highest income month (thank you overtime, Amazon affiliate shoppers and PayPal donaters), and February was my lowest earning month.

All in all, I feel pretty happy with how this year went financially. To see my last post on this topic with more musings on the numbers from 2011 to 2014, click here.

* * *

For everyone coming over from last night’s Livestream broadcast on Solo RVing, welcome to IO and I’m glad you’re here! For more info about this blog you can visit the About & Contact page, and to see the most helpful content I’ve written about full-time RVing as a single pre-retirement person, visit the Useful Stuff page. I hope you enjoy your stay. Safe travels and happy trails!

For those of you who couldn’t attend, the edited video is now up on YouTube here.

Image courtesy of Pictures of Money

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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. Teri on June 1, 2016 at 1:59 am

    Hi, I’m thinking of working for the Yellowstone Association or Grand Canyon Association in 2017. What were your gross earnings from Yellowstone? Thanks.

    • Becky on June 1, 2016 at 11:33 am

      Don’t have the exact number handy right now Teri.

      I can tell you I made $9 an hour, and worked 30 hours a week for a span of 4 months and almost 3 weeks. So approximately $5,900.

  2. Pam on February 28, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Hi Becky, just came across your blog and am enjoying it~thank you! I especially like the detail and honesty. New to this contemplation of full time of RV life. Very interested to check out the solar addition info also 😉 Curious what you are doing with Amazon. I have other business’ that I would be doing from the road. Could you comment (or steer me towards the info) about doing an Independent Business from the road and other income suggestions you may have, aside from work-camping/acting/odd jobs?? Thank you So Much & Stay Safe!! I look forward to your response 🙂

  3. Becky on February 1, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    I did say right in that article Dave. 🙂 I chose retail because I had 5 years of experience at it (so I was more likely to get on the short list for interviews). I can’t say which job type would be better because I’ve only worked retail, it’s really a subjective thing.

    If money is most important to you, you’ll want to look at what pays the highest. If you’ve a commercial driver’s license then you could drive a tour bus and get the best of both worlds: good hourly wage plus tips. Otherwise cooks and people with a strong background in maintenance (or other positions that require schooling and/or specialized skills) make a better hourly wage. Servers make a really low hourly wage, but if you’re working at an upscale restaurant you’ll make enough in tips to beat the hourly employees handily. Again, this is all stuff I talked about in that article.

    Of course money isn’t everything. You’ll want to look at the hours, how much your RV site costs, which park(s) you’d prefer to work in, what amenities are available nearby, etc. It will take some research.

    Best of luck to you and your wife.

    • Dave on February 2, 2016 at 11:28 am

      Now I see how to go about it. We are just rookies. Thanks for your help!

      • Becky on February 2, 2016 at 1:02 pm

        You’re welcome.

    • Marilyn, Dania Beach, FL on February 29, 2016 at 4:38 am

      As the farmers used to tell me, “It’s the profit after costs which counts.”

      • Becky on February 29, 2016 at 7:01 pm


  4. Dave on January 30, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    Becky, I see you have worked in three different parks. How about telling us how you go about picking a job. Do you go for gift shops, or food service, or maintenance etc? Are some positions better than others? What is the thought process? You described the various Amazon positions and I would like to know what the best picks at the park vendors are. Thanks!

    • Becky on January 31, 2016 at 8:38 am

      Hello Dave. This is what that “Useful Stuff” page is for that I linked at the bottom of this article. If you go there the third section is all about money and earning a living on the road. The article you’re looking for is this one: https://interstellarorchard.com/2013/04/05/working-at-national-parks-for-rvers/

      • Dave on January 31, 2016 at 6:39 pm

        I guess I didn’t ask the right question. I was wondering what you actually did and why. Such as “I was a waitress because I I got minimum wage plus tips” or “I was a cashier because of my previous retail.” My wife and I are considering work at a national park and I was wondering what is an insiders perspective on which job to pick. Are some better than others?

  5. Amber on January 30, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing this information! I am trying to get my financial circumstances in a position where I can have more time off starting in 2017. Reading how other people do it helps keep me working toward the goal. 🙂
    Amber recently posted..Snow Day 2016!My Profile

    • Becky on January 30, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      You’re welcome Amber. More time for the things you really want to do is a good thing. 🙂

  6. Tina on January 30, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Hey Becky!

    Thanks a lot for sharing these details. You are the only younger solo person that breaks the details down like this. This gives me a good idea on what to budget for. So for the 2014 & 2015 you had about 6 months of vacation? That is just amazing, and what this life is about. Loved the live broadcast. Can’t wait to hear about the solar setup and boondocking.

    All the best to you in the New Year! 🙂


    • Becky on January 30, 2016 at 11:35 am

      Glad you found this helpful Tina, you’re welcome. I had 6 months of vacation in 2014, but spent more than I made so it wasn’t sustainable. In 2015 I had about 4 months. It’s important to note though that both of those years even when I didn’t have a seasonal job I was bringing some money in from my writing so I wasn’t completely bereft of income. Best of luck to you!

  7. Rochelle on January 30, 2016 at 10:14 am

    Thanks for sharing Becky. And thanks for covering the emotional side of solo travel on the video with Cherie and Chris. That’s exactly what I was interested in as I consider solo travel. rochelle

    • Becky on January 30, 2016 at 11:33 am

      You’re welcome Rochelle, thank you for watching/reading. I hope you decide to go traveling even it will be alone, it’s a very rewarding experience.

  8. Theresa on January 30, 2016 at 9:57 am

    I just wanted to say, great information thank you, I’m a new full-timer.

    • Becky on January 30, 2016 at 11:32 am

      You’re welcome Theresa! Working out the financial side of full-timing can be frustrating and stressful and I always share my numbers when I can to help make it a little easier for others.

  9. MB from VA on January 30, 2016 at 6:39 am

    Thank you for the information. Things like this are so important to know before I leave on my adventure. I follow three different “full-timer” blogs. Together they give me a good idea of what I’ll need on the road…..money and otherwise. I hope to be out there within the next year. Happy Travels! MB from VA

    • Becky on January 30, 2016 at 11:30 am

      You’re welcome MB! Less than a year until you hit the road, how exciting. I wish you the best and hope to hear about your adventures soon.

      • MB from VA on January 30, 2016 at 1:20 pm

        Thanks! I follow your blog and a couple of blogs by retired women….plus one other. I am between you and retired. 😉 I do have a computer job and have plans for my own blog….and a few other things. You are the only one working “outside the home”, which gives you a unique perspective that is very helpful. Have a good day. MB

        • Becky on February 1, 2016 at 12:58 pm

          You have a good day too MB.

  10. Scott Baldassari on January 30, 2016 at 5:29 am

    Hey Becky,
    You didn’t give us a link BACK to the stream (I assume there is a recording somewhere).

  11. Dawn from Camano Island on January 30, 2016 at 5:23 am

    Becky, your records are meticulous–well done! How do you do that–financial software, pen & paper? We definitely need to do this for a year or two now that we’re on a fixed income.

    Love your new banner photo! If you decide to do more boondocking , consider Gunsight Wash down here just south of Why, AZ. We are enjoying it here very much–lots of birds, vegetation & a super nice camp host. Ago, 10 miles north, is a very cool town.

    Did you get solar?

    • Becky on January 30, 2016 at 11:28 am

      No software Dawn, I keep track of it in a word processing document. Keeping track of income and expenses really helps me stay on track with my spending, I recommend it.

      Thanks! The new banner is from the Dome Rock area of Quartzsite. I’ll keep Why in mind, it’s actually not terribly far from where I am now…

      Yes. I wrote about that back in December. https://interstellarorchard.com/2015/12/04/new-toys/

  12. Sandy on January 30, 2016 at 4:06 am

    Forgot to mention that I hope you tell us more about your recent solar setup….or did I miss that somehow…..

  13. Sandy on January 30, 2016 at 4:05 am

    As always, I am grateful for your sharing. The Live Chat with Technomadia was great for content. The technical problems were frustrating for all. It was fun to see Chris growl at the camera at one point. So great to see my three favorite bloggers in one session! I hope you do some more.

    • Becky on January 30, 2016 at 11:22 am

      The edited version (with all of the glitches and stops taken out) is now up on YouTube Sandy. Thank you for watching and glad you enjoyed it.

  14. Ron in Tx on January 29, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    Just watched your interview and found it the most enjoyable one they have recorded.

    • Becky on January 30, 2016 at 11:19 am

      Glad you enjoyed it Ron, thanks for watching!

  15. Karen -SC on January 29, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    I saw you last night on the Technomadia broadcast. You did a great jjob of letting everyone know about Solo camping. I camp solo part time as I have family obligations. But I keep increasing the time I spend on the road.

    • Becky on January 30, 2016 at 11:18 am

      Thank you Karen, I’m glad you enjoyed the video! Being a solo traveler can be very rewarding as I’m sure you’ve discovered. Safe travels and happy trails.

  16. Alan Belisle on January 29, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Wow, you have done very well, maintaining a tight, frugal budget. We are spending about twice that, living on the road so far. Of course we are renting rooms along the way, not living in an RV. We are still newbys though, and hope to bring our costs down as we learn more. And we are too easily seduced by fine food and drink.
    Alan Belisle recently posted..Gautier, Mississippi 1/15 – 1/22My Profile

    • Becky on January 30, 2016 at 11:16 am

      Necessity is the mother of invention Alan. Work-camping jobs aren’t exactly high paying so my choices were: don’t go on the road, or go on the road and be frugal. I don’t regret my decision. 🙂

      In a way, it makes sense for your spending to be about twice mine if there are two of you. Well I guess room fees would be the same but you need twice as much food, both need insurance, etc. I improved at budgeting as I went so I imagine you will too, good luck and have fun!

  17. Marilyn, Dania Beach, FL on January 29, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Thanks for the informative post. You did quite well this year.

    I figured you had 4 months off and worked 8. That is a nice schedule with a work/vacation balance.

    • Becky on January 30, 2016 at 11:10 am

      Yes Marilyn. After the net loss last year I knew I’d have to work longer this year to make up the difference. The longer season at Yellowstone and more overtime at Amazon helped immensely. And I can hardly complain about having 4 months of “vacation” a year. 😉

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