Let’s talk about our July full-time travel budget (June budget here). I have been dragging my feet to post this because I feel like we could be doing better with our budget. Please read the detailed summaries about each category for background on the totals.
As a reference, I had created a tentative budget back in May, of what I thought we might spend each month. I’m trying to get a few months of full-time living before modifying the budget.
Okay. . . now for July’s expenses. . . .
July 1 – 31, 2015 expenses
Camping/Resort fees – $1,117.87 (averaging $36/night)
Groceries – $915.59 (yowza!)
Gas – $673.26
Vehicle/Trailer Insurance – $100
Dining out – $423.01
Cell and internet – $270
RV maintenance/supplies – $18.63
Entertainment/Museums – $179 ($85 for annual membership for museum)
Toiletries – $0
Laundry – $42.50
Showers – $6.00
Propane – $0 – didn’t need to fill it up yet!
July costs TOTAL – $3,745.86
Here’s a bit more detail on June expenses:
Camping and resort fees were higher than I would have liked for July. We spent a week in an expensive location in order to be close to family in Coeur d’Alene – which I wouldn’t change for the world. We had initially planned to offset this higher cost with more boondocking in the second half of the month, but our fresh water tank broke mid-month forcing us to stay in private RV parks where we could had a direct water hook-up. Summer is the most expensive times in terms of RV park rates so we’re averaging closer to $40/night when I’d prefer $30.
Our fresh water tank wasn’t fixed until August 21 (yes, today!) here in Michigan – so we’ve had the first 20 days of August at RV parks, so we expect this number to be higher in August as well. Rates at many RV parks and state parks drop after labor day and we are looking forward to this!
Groceries – Honestly I have no idea how we spent so much on groceries this month (do you ever feel this way?). We do eat a lot of fresh produce, meats and local food (when possible), which does increase the costs. We eat nearly ZERO processed foods, so this budget reflects buying lots of fresh foods on the go. We did host dinner for family a couple nights and this DOES include TWO trips to Costco for foods that we’re still enjoying in August. I’ve been using my Target Cartwheel app whenever we’re near a Target with groceries and I’ve clipped a few coupons – but it’s so difficult to coupon shop on the road – especially when the store chains change weekly. I’m hoping this amount is less for August, but I can’t stress about it too much.
Dining out – I realized I don’t even have this in our tentative monthly budget – I’ll have to update that. Eating out for us is part of the fun of travel – trying new places and trying new (local) foods. On days when we are away from our trailer exploring we try to only eat one meal out, but even things like ice cream cones and snacks can add up along the way. This total includes a full day’s worth of eating at Silverwood Theme Park – which probably accounts for 25% of this total.
Diesel Gas – We drove about 2,950 miles in July (wowza!). We are using a free app called Fuelly to track our miles per gallon and we seem to be averaging about 13 miles per gallon (as low as 11.4 towing through hills and as good as 14.8 not towing). On average we’re paying $2.61/gallon for diesel fuel.
Entertainment – We purchased an $85 annual museum membership to the Museum of the Rockies, which is part of the Association of Science-Technology Centers program and gives us FREE admission to hundreds of museums and zoos nationwide. This membership has already paid for itself a few times since we got it!
Cell phone and internet – I think this will be a typical month for us in terms of wifi data usable. Since I need to work daily online (QueenBeeCoupons.com), I rely a lot on cellular data – it’s a necessity of working on the road!
Remember budgets are very personal things – every family will prioritize different things. Our main purpose for sharing our full-time budget is to HELP OTHERS determine if this type of lifestyle is feasible based on our realistic costs. It’s one of the areas we researched the most when planning to travel full-time and there is very little out there online sharing this type of info. Keep in mind – before hitting the road we saved ruthlessly so that we wouldn’t have to worry about money on the road – I would advise any family getting ready to travel full-time to have plenty of reserves AND a way to make income on the road, just to be safe!
I want to point out that this budget is for full-time TRAVEL. You can save a substantial amount of money if you stay in an RV park long-term . . .especially if you get weekly and or monthly rates (big savings here – paying as little as $350 – $400/month!). You can also save a lot by having a Thousand Trails membership – but this limits where you can stay and we wouldn’t likely take advantage of their best promotion of buy three (3) weeks, get one FREE. You can also save a lot by boondocking – which means camping in free spots without hook-ups. We hope to do boondock more once our water tank is fixed!
Health insurance – We have health insurance covered through Jeremy’s work until the end of September – so this is not an expense now, but will be down the road.
Bills we are NOT paying traveling full-time – We are no longer paying a mortgage/taxes ($1,500/month), garbage, water, electricity, cable, internet, alarm system, HOA dues, daycare/preschool, insurance on second car – and we are CONSUMING so much less because we don’t have the space to store clothing, toys, games, kitchen gadgets, etc. We are spending much less a month than when we lived in our house full-time.
We also do NOT have a trailer or truck payment – This was really important to us, so we purposely paid cash for the trailer and the tow vehicle. For families considering full-time travel, if you can avoid a monthly payment by saving up and paying cash I feel like it eliminates some of the pressure to earn on the road.
So there you have it, our July budget. There is certainly room for improvement – especially with lodging and groceries – we’ll work on that. But I can’t worry too much about it – we’re still living below our means (able to save every month) and we saved ruthlessly to live this year on the road. I don’t want to worry so much about being frugal that we miss out on opportunities or stress too much on the road. It’s a fine balance, you know?
Kevin Head says
Heather and Jeremy I think you food budget is fine. Eating local and fresh food tastes great and is healthy for your kids and you two. We regularly pay over $1100 a month eating only organic food for my wife and I.So 900 is great for a family of four traveling.
Hi Kevin! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree – I’d rather pay more and enjoy the food we eat than try and eat for as cheaply as possible and be miserable (and unhealthy). Hopefully we can cut the grocery budget in August and still eat well. 🙂 We shall see!
I appreciate you sharing your budget. It’s interesting to see the costs associated with this lifestyle. It’s something I want to do in 10-15 years (and maybe for smaller time periods before then). I look forward to seeing how your budget will change as your time on the road continues. Also, I’m enjoying reading about your adventures as a family.
Dana – Thank you for taking the time to comment. It should be interesting to see how our budget shifts as we get better at living this lifestyle. Good luck to you in your plans to do this down the road – I think if you can swing it, than you should – it’s such an amazing experience!
On some of your posts you have stated at the end you have received a discount or free admission (Silverwood) based on your honest opinion of the place. Are you including in the budget you show us the amount you would have paid if you did not get a discount or in for free?
Andrea – If we get a free night or free admission it is NOT included in the budget. Silverwood we got FREE admission but did not get FREE food – so I included the food costs in our budget. We get so little comped I feel like it’s not really making much of a difference). Hope this helps!
Debbie Troop says
Sounds like you are doing well with your budget. I found when we were traveling full-time, a quarterly budget worked better to get a true reading of expenditures. Don’t know if that would be good for you as you just plan one year on the road. You are smart to not stress a lot, especially as this is to be a fun family adventure. One of the things we enjoyed doing was trying local cuisines. Shrimp and grits, she-crab soups, conch fritters, crawfish, and my favorite – deep fried cheesecake. Travel and have fun while you are young. I am so jealous.
Debbie – Interesting idea to do a quarterly budget – it does seem like things can ebb and flow and change often – and an average monthly budget over a few months might be a better way to look at things! We’ll see how August shakes out. . . but I’m hoping September is where we start seeing savings – cheaper rates and our fresh water tank should be working! 🙂
I love all the updates! I am living vicariously through you as we have to many commitments in life right now, but I can dream! When you come to NH let me know and I’ll tell you about our favorite places!
I think your budget is great and to be honest, for a family of 4 not traveling full-time, we often have months when our grocery bill is about what you have for July. I agree with the quarterly budget as it ebbs and flows. I also agree with the addition to your budget for eating out locally. You have such a great opportunity to sample things that may become family favorites- like spiedies…you must check them out when you are in New York State. It can sometimes be difficult when you have spent so much time being frugal to let go a bit. I find your “go with it” attitude so refreshing. Even frugal folks can find a way to find what is important and just adjust their thinking to have a great time while being frugal where it counts.
I love reading about your travels. You are doing something I would love to be able to do someday 🙂
Andrea Hagman says
Heather… thanks for posting your budget.
Our food budget jumped for us when we went small as well. You just don’t have the freezer space that you used to have when buying in bulk. A fridge and freezer in an rv or trailer just doesn’t allow buying food the way we used to.
I was expecting your entertainment budget to be a bit higher, but it helps to get the comps!
I will be interested to see how your budget continues through the year. 🙂
Thanks for being so honest with your budget. That’s always the case, huh we think we think of everything but it’s so hard to do sometimes. We are thinking of taking our family out on the road soon and do this full time as well – so I’ll be studying your blog very carefully. Thanks for all the great info.
Did you sell the house you were living in before and the majority of your belongings? Do you and your family think this will be your new lifestyle or will you go back to a house someday?