Friday, June 30, 2017

Costs of Full-timing in an RV–Our Six Year Analysis…


I started this blog before we started full-timing but on March 6th 2017 we finished our 6th year of full-timing on the Road of Retirement! Since I haven’t done a budget post about what it costs us to full-time in several years I thought it would be educational to share our 6th year expenses and reflect back upon our earlier expenses to compare how things have changed or remained the same.

I will start this blog by repeating my remarks after our first year of expenses while on the road.

“Back in the year 1999 when I first started planning to retire at the age of 55 my single biggest worry was whether or not we would have enough money to live out our retirement lives in comfort. How much money is enough to full-time seemed to be the overriding question that came up over and over again. As you can imagine there is no universal answer for this. It is much like asking – What is the true meaning of life?”

imageThe first thing anyone should do when considering a life changing event (such as full-timing) they should come up with a proposed budget. Above was our proposed budget and it still serves us well today. It has been tweaked a bit over the years and yours should as well especially after you learn about your real expenses.

Before discussing what we have learned about our own expenses since we started full-timing in 2011 I would like to talk about this years expenses. For starters our sixth year was our second most economical year on the road (last year was our lowest). Like last year much of the savings can be attributed to the price of both diesel and gas. Like last year another factor was that we stayed in places longer than average.


Our five largest expense categories in order are camp rent, medical, groceries, big ticket items and phone expenses. Since we started full-timing in 2011 both camp rent, medical and groceries have always been our three largest expenses so I would expect this would be true for many people who start out full-timing. The only way to impact these costs are to eat less or camp cheaper (we aren’t going to be able to lower medical expenses). Of course there are ways to do both but we do manage live within our means.

Expect your largest categories of expenses to be Camp Rent, Medical and Groceries!


As I mentioned earlier we did set up an initial budget for what we expected to spend on the road each and every year we planned to full time. A proposed budget is best used as a baseline to see how well you are doing. Our first year on the road we spent nearly 25% more than we had budgeted. From talking with many other “newbie” full-timers we now know this is pretty typical for most people who fulltime after their first year on the road mainly because of the many (and I mean many) unexpected, mostly one-time, startup costs.

“Expect to spend about 25% more your first year on the road than you will spend the years there after!”



So after six years on the road what have we learned? Being a numbers guy I created a spreadsheet which gave rise to our first year budget. A copy of this spreadsheet is free with the purchase of my Ebook - Budgeting for Full Time RV'ers. I have used this spreadsheet each year and have since compared all the annual expenses to see what trends are developing. As any spreadsheet it is a work in progress and has been tweaked over the years.


Below are some key points about our 6 year budget/expenses results that may be useful to others planning on full timing:

  • we are averaging $583 per month in camping fees. To put this in perspective we are only members of Passport America and boondock very rarely.
  • medical expenses take 13% of our annual budget on average of the last six years. We are lucky here in that I am covered by my previous employer.
  • for groceries we budgeted $380 per month and spent on average over 6 years $350 per month or about 12% of our budget. Alcohol purchased at stores is included here.
  • expenses I call big ticket items account for about 9.5% of our budget so if you are starting out as new full-timers I would suggest 10% to start with. These are items that are “one-offs” of unexpected one time expenses like a new camera, computer or the addition of solar panels.
  • taxes and insurance will take a bit more than 7.5% out of your budget.
  • we spent about 11% of our budget on average on diesel for our RV and gasoline for our Honda CRV.
  • our phone/internet uses 7% of our budget
  • we don’t eat out a lot but eating out and entertainment take about 8% of our annual budget
  • all other expense categories were less than 3% on average over six years.


Over the last 6 years we are averaging about 5.6% more per year than we initially projected in 2011. If you factor in inflation we are pretty much spending the same as what we planned to spend. As I mentioned before we were nearly 25% over budget the first year and the remaining years we have been over by 19% in year two, over by 11% in year three, over by 4.4% in year four, under by 16.7% in year five and under by 8.5% this year.

“The above percentages show an interesting trend. Notice that each year our expenses decreased.”

Only in 2016 did we spend more than the previous year however we were still under our proposed initial budget by 8.5% this year. Does this mean things have gotten cheaper? Maybe so with fuel but definitely not with everything else. So why is our expenses decreasing year over year? My best answer is – efficiency!

“Your annual expenses will most likely decrease over time as you become more efficient living life as a full timer.”

Yes we have also become more efficient at finding less expensive stays at campgrounds. We have learned how to navigate new cities and towns to find “happy hour” deals and ways to save money when we buy groceries. We have learned to adopt “free” activities to fill out time such as disc golf , hiking or biking instead of fee based activities. Over time I would expect that every newbie RV’er will over time become more efficient. I think we have now finally gotten to what it actually costs for us to RV fulltime efficiently.

This blog will not and does not answer the question – How much is enough money to fulltime in an RV? 


As I stated before there is no universal answer for this question. Simply put each of us spends money differently. My intent with this post is to help show a budgetary baseline and I would suggest that the percentages in the header photo and table above should be a good a baseline for newbie RV’ers starting their planning process. Our data showed us that we can apparently live very comfortably on about $100 per day. As you know everyone’s level of comfort may vary greatly and thus so will their average daily expense.

The best way to use this information is to figure out how much you plan to totally spend when full-timing. Take that number and multiply t by the percentages in the average column above for each category. That will give you an idea of how much it may cost you to full-time. Tweak it as appropriate to your lifestyle and spending habits and then hit the road. It is my hope that our experience helps some future full timers plan better and enjoy the lifestyle we enjoy on the Road of Retirement…

Monday, June 26, 2017

Weekend summer fun in North Carolina…


It has been raining off and on since we have been here in Moncure, NC but we did manage to get out for a little fun between showers. Our daughter Katie and her boyfriend Brooks came over one weekend and the first full day we ventured over to Raleigh for a trip to the Farmer’s Market.

Raleigh has a huge Farmer’s Market and what I liked the most about it was the fact that there were multiple buildings to wander through. Better yet each building was it’s own  unique venue. One building was filled with produce, one with meat and cheese along other food products. Another one was a place to eat and one seemed to be another place for produce not necessarily local. Let’s just say we helped stimulate the Raleigh NC local economy with our market bag full of multiple inexpensive produce purchases.


We also took a walk on the hike and bike trails of Centennial Park near the campus of North Carolina State University. Brooks went to NC State so he was our tour guide. The  trail was rather scenic as it meandered alongside a small lake and was heavily wooded. We only walked a couple of miles since it was pretty hot and the humidity was quite high as well.


We saw quite a few critters along the trail but the funniest was a crawfish in the middle of the paved trail that I didn’t notice at first. I nearly stepped on it but saw it at the last minute and jumped over it. When I did so it got its claws up ready to pick a fight. It was pretty funny as we all laughed about his battle ready demeanor despite his predicament. I did assist him off the trail  back near the water’s edge so he wouldn’t become somebodies lunch!


We also took Brooks and Katie over to a Apex NC to play yet another disc golf course ( there are plenty to choose from all around us). Brooks had only played once before but picked the game up pretty quickly as he played ultimate frisbee while in college.  The course was long with elevation changes through the woods so it doubled as in a decent hike for us. Because the courses here are very scenic and well laid out we tend to play a lot of disc golf when in this area.We were pleased that Brooks seemed to enjoy it as well.


Of course no day would be complete without us checking out some of the breweries in the area. We actually lucked out when we visited Carolina Brewery in Pittsboro NC as they were releasing a new beer the day we went. As a promotion they only charge $1.00 per pint when they release a new beer. How lucky we happened in on a new release date….what a deal, a nice craft beer for a buck!!!

NOTE: We are now in Moncure NC near Raleigh to visit our daughter for a month and will leave here on July 13th.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Visiting the Daughter in NC and Having Fun…


Our next stop from Hickory North Carolina will be a month long stay at a park near our daughter, Katie, in Moncure North Carolina. We will be staying at Dickens' RV Park a place we have stayed before. It is a park mostly inhabited by transient workers and very few folks like us.We stay there because it is close enough to our daughter in Raleigh that we can easily visit anytime we want plus it is also close to many of the other attractions we like to visit during our stay.

We pulled into the park around lunchtime and began getting settled in.Since we were in a site facing southwest we put up our ‘semi-permanent” 10x14 sun blocking screen. Man we love this product when we are staying for at least a month as it gives us both sun protection keeping the RV cooler and it also provides a bit of privacy when sitting outside.Seriously this product is the bomb…


The first weekend our daughter took off of work for a few days and stayed with us in the RV. It is always fun having her visit. She looks forward to eating breakfast tacos and other Texas styled home cooking with us.  Happily she also likes playing disc golf with us. Staying here in Moncure we have at least 6 or 7 very nice disc golf courses nearby. North Carolina has some of the most scenic and best laid out courses we have played.  It is a very popular sport in this area as we usually encounter other players who are friendly and helpful in directing us to hard to find tee boxes.


We played one of our favorite disc courses near Pittsboro NC called Rock Ridge. This course is very long and challenging so it also is a great way to get some good exercise. There is one downside to playing this park as it is heavily wooded with narrow “fairways” making it quite a challenge considering the length of the course including one hole which measures over 700 feet!!!

In Moncure we are also near many different breweries as well. During her visit, Katie took us to a couple of her favorite breweries in Raleigh  Both Bond Brewing and Raleigh Brewing were pretty good but the IPA’s were certainly not up to the west coast standard. The beer was cold and the atmosphere was upbeat at both places so we could certainly see why she picked them.


We will be in Moncure until July 13th so we will be staying in weather a bit warmer than we like. We still haven't firmed up our summer plans but hope to at least move further north after leaving here. Where to? We aren’t sure yet so everything is still on the table from Maine to Massachusetts to Michigan. We only know we will be staying east since we will be wintering in Florida this year.

NOTE: We are now in Moncure NC near Raleigh to visit our daughter for a month and will leave here on July 13th.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Baker’s Mountain Hike near Hickory North Carolina…


Our week was up in Blairsville Georgia and we were certainly glad we took the opportunity to visit the beautiful mountains of Northern Georgia. We will be back for sure but it was time to hit the road!  Our goal was to stop at a TA truck stop just outside of Asheville NC to scope out a few parks we found online. The first one we checked out was Wilson's RV Park but not only was it completely full there is virtually no way we could have made the turn into the park.

imageimageThe other park we wanted to check out was the Lake Powhatan State Rec Area. Despite its rave reviews the road into the park with its abundant low hanging branches also kept us from choosing this park. It might be a real nice park but having to spend hours buffing our tree limb scratches in our paint job didn’t appeal to us.


Frustrated, we drove back to the truck stop and decided to simply head further down the road. We love Asheville and hoped to revisit it but we decided it was not in the stars. Our next destination was a small park called Indian Springs RV Resort. The entrance road into this park was not good either but it wasn’t low lying branches this time, it was a very narrow pavement which became a rough dirt road the last little bit. Once in the park it turned out to be a beautiful little park of 25 sites in a lush green valley.


We set up camp and then went into Hickory to check out the town. We found it to be a neat little town worth exploring a bit more. The next day we decided instead of exploring town we should take advantage of our opportunity to take one last mountain hike for a while. We drove to Bakers Mountain Regional Park to hike to the top of Baker Mountain.


We did mostly the red loop trail but took a few legs off of it and it made the loop hike a bit over 3 miles. There were some steep climbs on this trail but it was mostly in great shape, and other than a bit of huffing and puffing, we were able to make our way to the top for a great view over the lower lying hills and valleys below.

After our great hike it was off to town to explore one of the area’s breweries called Olde Hickory Brewery. We visited their tap house and sampled a few of their craft beers. I thought their best one was the Black IPA which was very drinkable on a hot day after a long hike..

NOTE: We are now in Moncure NC near Raleigh to visit our daughter for the next month.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Some Things to Do Around Blairsville GA…


With rainy weather in the area we took only a few short excursions from our site in  Blairsville, Georgia. One afternoon we drove over to Meeks Park. This free park offers something for everyone. We chose to come to play some disc golf. We found the Meeks disc course to be very scenic and  it had some challenging wooded holes. It is an 18-hole disc golf course. with a mix of open and wooded holes with 2 tee boxes both short and long. This year we have noticed out of necessity that we have had improvement in our accuracy thus avoiding hitting as many trees as we had in the past  when playing on densely wooded courses.


Another afternoon once clear skies prevailed we headed south to Brasstown Bald, This is the highest mountain in Georgia with the summit sitting at 4,784 feet. On a clear day it is said that it is possible to see four different states. Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina can all be seen from the raised circular panoramic platform.


Once we arrived at the visitor’s center we we had the choice to hike or shuttle the 6/10 mile to the top. Of course we hiked but found the paved trail very steep. We chose a slow and steady pace to reach the top and boy oh boy were we huffing and puffing by the end. It was well worth it for the wonderful view we were treated to once we made it to the summit. Brasstown Bald sits in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest and offers really stunning panoramic views from its Observation Deck.


On our last full day in town we drove another loop that would take us into North Carolina to Murphy and then back to Georgia to check out the town of Blue Ridge. Our first stop in Murphy NC we discovered that the town was quaint and interesting. We walked around the town square and it became obvious that the town is making a concerted effort to enhance the beauty of the downtown area. There were lots of interesting shops along the colorful petunia infused background.


Further along our loop we drove into Blue Ridge Georgia which is more of a tourist town than we had expected. We walked around the shops but really didn’t see anything to entice us to walk in. The town was really, really crowded because that particular weekend it was hosting a wine and cheese festival. We left the touristy part by walking a block off the main drag finding a quieter part of town.


Realizing we were thirsty we decided to try one of the local breweries called Blue Ridge Brewery. We sampled a few of the beers but really didn’t care much for them but we did order other tasty craft beers from their guest taps.Since it was my birthday week I also spontaneously ordered a desert advertised on a menu that sounded too sumptious to pass up.  It was a bourbon pecan pie a la mode.  Wow!  What a delicious decadent road treat it was!


All in all it was a scenic drive and an enjoyable way to spend our last day. We now know for sure we want to return to this area to check out more of the hiking venues as it was simply too wet to get out and about as much as we hoped during our short weeklong stay. Just like the jazz song, I fondly have Georgia on my mind ...

NOTE: Next we went to Hickory NC for a few nights but now we are in Moncure NC near Raleigh to visit our daughter for the next month.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Blairsville Georgia loop drive to Anna Ruby Falls…


Blairsville is a great location for the lover of the outdoors. This mountainous area in the northern part of Georgia is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. The scenery is breathtaking and even in the mornings when the fog and low clouds are clinging to the mountains the views are unforgettable. In addition we experienced some amazing sunsets making us more than glad we stopped here!


One thing we wanted to do was to explore the area surrounding Crossing Creeks RV Resort to see for ourselves what all it had to offer. One way to do this was for us was to drive a good portion of the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway. Starting in Blairsville our loop would take us to Helen and then to the Anna Ruby Falls. From the falls we would return a different route to Hiawassee then back to Blairsville. This encompassed about 85 miles of driving and we knew this would give us a good feel for what was here.


Our first stop was a small pull out that was on the Appalachian Trail.Although we didn’t see any hikers this looked to us to be a great spot for a nice hike on a very famous trail. From there we drove to Dukes Creek Falls Trailhead. We read on the signage that the hike was only 1.1 miles to the falls so we parked and made the trek downhill to the falls knowing it would be all uphill returning.. The trail was in great shape and was very easy hiking. Several wooden boardwalk type walkways with stairs made it easier to traverse down (and up) without causing a great deal of erosion.


Dukes Creek Falls emerged as a very nice end point to the trail and we sat a good while to savor the views while listening to the sound of the roaring waters.. I noticed the vegetation was a bit different that the typical vegetation of the southeastern forests as more species of plants normally found in higher elevations were scattered about. It appeared it was still late spring here as the area was extraordinarily vibrant green!


We drove from there down to Helen, Georgia which is a Bavarian styled town reminding us a bit like Fredericksburg in Texas. Helen, however, is much more touristy and was rather crowded so we didn’t spend a lot of time there. We did, however, stop at the local bakery hoping to score some nice pumpernickel bread. They didn’t have any but we  purchased a nice large soft pretzel with spicy German mustard instead. Yum!


The last attraction we wanted to see this day was the Anna Ruby Falls located near Helen. I must say this was the highlight of the day. Anna Ruby Falls is at the meeting points of Curtis Creek and York Creek. These beautiful twin waterfalls were named Anna Ruby Falls after the daughter of the discover of them. They flow into Unicoi Lake in Unicoi State Park not far from the falls. . The short hike up the trail to see these incredible scenic falls really is a must do when in the area.


We then drove through the state park adjacent to the falls and checked out the beach area. We would have stayed longer but with time passing swiftly, we knew we needed to make our way back to Blairsville. What a great loop drive under our belts we felt there was no better way than to end it than a stop at Copeland's Burgers and Southern Eats for a frosty adult beverage and some of their unique smoky hot wings! Yum !


As I mentioned before, we are so happy we decided to make a stop in the Georgia mountains.  Our short visit left us thinking a return visit might definitely be in our future. We want to do some more hiking and exploring because  we cannot get enough of the lush green landscape and gorgeous panoramic mountain vistas...

NOTE: We are now in Hickory NC for a few days then we will move further east towards Raleigh NC.