The cost of full-timing. Can you afford it?

January 5, 2009 by Tony Cornett · 20 Comments  
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From the desk of Firedude

The age old question comes up all the time in the forums and I get emails all the time asking “how much does it cost to full-time”? This question has so many variables it is hard to answer since we all have varying needs, desires and differing financial status. To come up with an answer that fits all is impossible.

Everyone has differing lifestyles. Some travel almost constantly, some take advantage of weekly and monthly rates staying in places longer reducing fuel costs while other work camp or volunteer camp host to defray costs. Some have anchor points like myself and come and go as desired. Many spend the majority of their time boondocking or dry camping as well to defray costs.

So many factors come into play. Do you need mobile internet, cell phones, and satellite TV? These are just a few basics. Are you going to protect yourself and assets by having full-time insurance (home owners insurance). What about health care which I addressed in an earlier blog?

There are many hidden variables as well such as breakdowns and repairs. Are you prepared financially? Do you have any special medical needs or concerns? Do you have vehicle/RV payments or kept a house with mortgage or property taxes? The list goes on and on.

Can you live cheaper than conventional living such as in a sticks and bricks home? My answer to that is yes, for me anyway. For me I have no mortgage, no property taxes and all my vehicles are paid for so right off the top there is a huge savings. Some say well you still pay RV park fees etc so how’s that different than a mortgage? Well in my case it’s a LOT cheaper. My first 6 years I was a volunteer camp host approximately 9 months of the year which resulted in no RV park fees or “rent” if you would. My current home base/anchor point cots me a whopping $350 per month plus electric and on the beach to boot! I don’t or haven’t seen mortgage payments like that since I was a child! Utilities are usually nil compared to conventional living in as far as electricity and gas, your basic utilities anyway. Yes you still have maintenance, but for me over the last 6 years it has proven to be negligible compared to that of a sticks and bricks home financial wise.

So many of us have such varying needs and desires so the equation can be very wide as far as costs. I have found that many things I do and see are free. I don’t have to spend a ton to enjoy myself. I don’t eat out a lot, but do indulge at times. I have been one while traveling to mix in the weekly and monthly rates when not hosting to help defray costs. Additionally by doing so I may travel less in a given time frame keeping the cost of fuel down for a given month or time period.

One should also set aside funds for emergencies and other incidentals. I found this an absolute when I encountered unexpected health problems and even though I have what would be considered great medical coverage I still had significant out of pocket expense so having some sort of nest egg is not only wise but prudent. This is also a huge variable depending on one’s financial status. Long ago I developed a budget worksheet in Excel. It lists the very basics and the worksheet can be tailored to fit your own needs in that it can be modified to suit your individual situation if you are familiar enough with Excel. You can add to or take away as you wish. I have this included in my book with my other checklists however for the purpose of this blog I’m tossing it out here for those interested. Like I said it’s the bottom line basics and you can take it from there. It also ads the figures for you as you go. You can download it here.

There is really NO definition of full-timing. Some are very ardent about this, but in reality it all boils down to what YOU consider full-timing and what YOUR expectations are, not those of others. If we all did it the same the world would be full of cyborgs (clones).

If you aren’t yet full-timing, research and planning are a MUST! There are many budget worksheets out there and I am just offering mine and like I said it is dynamic in that you can add to, take away and tailor it to your own needs. It can also be tailored easily for non full-timers who might be planning extended trips. Safe travels and happy RV’ing!


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20 Responses to “The cost of full-timing. Can you afford it?”

  1. The cost of full-timing. Can you afford it? | on January 5th, 2009 8:45 am

    [...] The cost of full-timing. Can you afford it? [...]

  2. Bill on January 5th, 2009 10:37 am

    hello, you mention an excel spreadsheet that you developed for a full-timing budget. Would I be able to get a copy of this spreadsheet.

    Thanks. Bill

  3. Tony Cornett on January 5th, 2009 10:54 am

    Bill, the download linj for the form is above in the article. Click on that link. be sure you don’t have any pop-up blockers on to prevent the download. incidentally it has been scanned and virus free. if you have problems go to my website listed below and use my contact link and I’ll be sure you get a copy.

    Here’s the link here as well….


  4. Nick Russell on January 5th, 2009 12:24 pm

    Everybody’s needs and lifestyle are different. We have met fulltimers who get by on just over $1,000 a month, and we met one couple who were gettng off the road, because with their retirement and rental property income of $5,000 a month, they just could not make it and were going back to work.

  5. warren on January 5th, 2009 3:08 pm

    Speaking realistically, the advantage to fulltime is simply that You have the total ability to coordinate Your need’s and expecrtaions with Your fiscal means. On the other hand it is not possible to do that when living ia traditional domestic environment, regardless of the class of neighborhood You live in.
    I am finding that Tony is very capable and has a wealth of knowledge in these experiences if You take the time to study the criteria that He throw’s out there, You will be amazed at the “control” you have over Your own destiny and fulfillment of Your life expectations.
    Plan & structure Your expenses. Set money aside for that uxexpected rainy day.
    Shop for bargains. Take care of all of Your equipment. Waste nothing. Take care of Yourself. Then enjoy all that is around Us to see and be a part of.
    You will be amazed how little You have to “spend” to be happy. And especially, how You have the option when and how much to spend.
    For someone to not be able to “make-it” on $5,000.00 @ month !!! That is such a shame for Them. They will never find happiness or peace. They think They will.
    And They will tell You They will. But listen closely to their words. $$$$$ will be falling all over the floor.

  6. David Dolezal on January 5th, 2009 5:59 pm

    What does “toad”stand for?

  7. Tony Cornett on January 5th, 2009 6:02 pm

    “Toad” stands for the vehicle towed behind a motor home.

  8. Alpenliter on January 5th, 2009 6:45 pm

    As we have watched our 401k erode away, it was tempting to put retirement off a few years to build our nest egg back up. But we have always managed to live on what we make, so if it is just our Social Security, so be it. I once asked Gaylord Maxwell for the best advice for fulltiming and he told me “Do it sooner than later”. We will adjust our travel and our stays and our workamping to fullfill our goal of fulltiming. Thanks for another great post Tony!

  9. Tony Cornett on January 5th, 2009 7:39 pm

    It always seems no matter what we do or where we live we seem to do it within our means. I saw my nest egg dwindle, but not due to the downturn in the economy, but due to some serious unforeseen health issues which I detail in my book and how we survived. Full-timing actually made it easier believe it or not. Now that the nest egg is gone I still live comfortably on my pension which includes health coverage and stay within my means and really feel it is easier in my current lifestyle. The age old question of can I afford it really boils down to to one of do you want to? Great comments above echo my feelings in that you can adjust to meet your needs etc just as you would in living in a conventional home.

    Workamping or hosting in my case really was a financial savior for that moment of time. I live month to month and still dealing with a few health issues, but would I change the ways I live? Nope, not on a bet. Why? I love it and some nay sayers might not agree, but I live so much cheaper and enjoy it to boot so I have won on both ends of the stick.

    The purpose of the post was awareness so those seeking the lifestyle would have some idea. Again it depends on each persons needs and the costs can vary widely, but it can be done if you plan, research and can stay within your means in the manner in which you divide to full-time. Gaylord was right too ya know.;-) I’m a simpleton I reckon and those material thing days are long gone for me. It doesn’t take a lot of money to make me happy. My happiness comes cheap. I’m currently living with an ocean view out my big bay window for $350 per month. You can’t rent an apartment for that. If i decide I want to travel this summer which I do, I have a great place to rerun to called “home” in my home.;-)

    On my website I wrote an article titled “Will you live your dream looking out the backyard window”? It kind of explains my personal take on things. Here’s the link…


  10. dennis on January 6th, 2009 5:41 am

    always enjoy reading your comments tony, where can I post my time with a first time ranger while hosting in idaho, we enjoyed the campers never had a bit of trouble but the ranger was the ranger from h… just a warning for new camp hosts

  11. The Boomer Chronicles » Blog Archive » Friday Links Variety Show on January 9th, 2009 7:36 am

    [...] How cheap is it to RV full time? [...]

  12. (Dick) Richard W. Houghton on February 26th, 2009 8:33 pm

    I’m a retired USAF enlisted, Have been full timing in Japan for over 10 Years’
    Love the freedom of going when & where I, Please.

    The Cost’s are very low, THERE ARE NO FULL HOOK-UP’S anywhere.

    The Free-Way’s are the “BEST in the WORLD ” . The ” FOOD is the Best’.

    The People are all friendly , The Yen -to-Dollar is a bite hard on the Pocket book.

    However the cost’s if you were to live in Hotel’s / or Motel’s would be Two-To-Three times the cost’s of full timing in an RV.

    And to the Japanese THEY are called Camping Car’s, Not-Motor-Homes.

    As I’m writing this short note on full timing in Japan, I’m sitting in my living room
    of my 1992 ‘Flair by Fleetwood class A Was 31.5 feet long , Now is 28′ feet long.

    Due to the extended ‘WHEEL-BASE of this unit the Overhang was too long to be
    legal in Japan. I’ in 1997 cut off the rear area of the Couch to be able to get it
    Plated. The Quean bed was turned side ways, all item’s moved /or removed.

    Would ” LOVE ” to have a NEW couch in Japan, However due to the Law’s MAX
    Width is 8′ Feet . All new couch’s are 8′6” Eight Feet 6 Inch’s wide.

    The Wheel Base is the ” MOST IMPORTANT ” Figure however as it controls the
    swing-out of the couch on turn’s.

    This 78” inch wheel base would wipe out the whole guard rail next to the couch
    as you pulled out after a stop next to the guard rail.

    In Traffic situation’s you could wipe out an entire lane of traffic if you turned suddenly while driving. This happened to me on the First day in Japan in a
    Parking lot. I had turned as I,normaly would when departing the parking space
    however the over hang of the couch side swiped my own car that was parked
    next to the Motor-Home. NOT CLOSE AT ALL. Normal Spacing.

    Then came the most Costly Item in the “HOMALAGATION ” Changing the
    Couch over to the “JAPANESE ” codes to be used in Japan.

    The Normal couch in America has one Entry Exit door on the right side of the
    couch. In Japan one must have an EXIT DOOR on the LEFT SIDE also.

    This extra DOOR COST over $ 5,000.00 Yes’ Five Thousand Dollars to install
    In Japanese Yen . They cut a Large hole in the wall of the bath room wall, one
    must step up over the toilet to be able to exit via this door. It’s only opened once
    every Two Years when they conduct the semi-annual Safety inspection of the

    I’ll STOP HERE and give further information on this BLOG as anyone may ask for more info on full timing in the Land of the Rising Sun, One Day ahead of You’.

  13. Joe Lent on February 26th, 2009 9:04 pm

    It’s definetly cheaper to live on the road than own a house. There are nice parks for $250 a month that include all utilities except propane and electricity. Or $75-100 a week including electricity. With some boondocking and my generator, I average $10 a day for rent and $200 a month for gas. No property taxes, no yard expenses, no winter clothes, no trash collection, and no big utility bills since I move with the weather. My total gross income is $1,000 a month before medical premiums and pills. I’ve been a fulltimer for 16 years, minus three while caring for an elderly parent. Love It!!

  14. Bette Wilkinson on February 27th, 2009 10:00 am

    This is our 3rd year of full timing and we love it.We joined 2 travel clubs before we retired and get to stay at no charge at their parks.Sometimes we have to pay $2.00 a day for 50 amp service.We can stay 2 to 3 weeks at a time.The yearly dues are cheap.We have done some workamping and enjoyed it.We live only on our Social Security and haven’t had any problems.We are so lucky to get to see the good ole USA.We have met so many people and have made many lifetime friends..We follow the weather and love having beautiful weather all year.We think this is the way to go .Whats nice is that you if you want to spend a month or two somewhere,a lot of parks are under $300.00 a month.We travel in a fifthwheel which is a lot cheaper than in a motorhome where most also have to tow an extra vehicle.That also makes your insurance a lot higher and repair costs too.

  15. TravelingOnTheOutskirts on March 1st, 2009 7:57 am

    About 6 months ago we started crunching the numbers to see if we could be full-timers. Our montly budget is about 1500$. We got a workamper job to pay for our lot and we’re planning on freelancing on the side to get some extra spending money for mini-trips around the area on the weekends.

    I think it’s completely possible to go full-time, you just have to let go of all the usual crap people think they “need”. We bought our trailer used so we wouldn’t have the monthly payment. We sold everything we owned to get the start-up money. I just wish we could get by with an electric vehicle rather than gas!

  16. A.&E.George on May 19th, 2009 8:32 am

    We are looking forward to RVing with a 5th wheel in about four years.Our basic income will be Social Security, which is why we are researching this suject.We enjoy reading about all the situations and comments , and are looking forward to much more. Thank you all for the many ideas and lifestyle options.

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  18. Christy @ Technosyncratic on June 4th, 2011 3:20 pm

    We’ve been living in an RV for the past year and have kept track of all our RV-related expenses. We thought others might find the information useful, so we published our personal costs of fulltime RVing (our monthly budgets & expenses) and money-saving tips in each category on our blog. Cheers!

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    Thank you for the post. I have been looking for this type of information. I came across your site while searching the internet and I will be sure to come back and visit your site now that I know you are here.

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