A Revised Look At My Costs as a Full-timer

cost-of-full-time-rving1

The most recent version of this post may be found here, and includes all data through 2016.

Here you go prospective full-timers, a chart of my adjusted gross income and cost of living by year from 2011 to 2014. The income numbers were pulled from my tax documents, the living costs are something I keep track of myself. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a post on this subject, and now I have two full years of full-timing under my belt to report on.

Year

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 do not keep as close of track now. 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, there was over $1,000 of work that needed doing between the truck and RV this year.

Things that should be noted about this chart

  • My cost of living averaged out to around $1,333 a month last year, but individual months varied wildly. I’ve had $750 months, and over $2,000 months.

  • Likewise, my earnings are not consistent. My savings account looks really happy just after Amazon ends, but depletes rapidly when I’m volunteering.

What this information says

  • If you lived frugally before you hit the road, and continue to live frugally after, don’t expect your cost of living to change much (this is me). If you lived more grandly while stationary, and start living frugally after hitting the road: yes, your cost of living will go down. If you lived frugally before hitting the road, and then decide you need all of the latest RVing gadgets, to stay at the upscale RV resorts, and want to see every tourist destination while you travel, expect your cost of living to go up.

  • The year you start full-timing will likely be the most expensive year, because the initial investment in the RV and gear is significant.

  • Work-camping (and many other income sources too) are very unpredictable with feast and famine months. Much less predictable than working a regular job. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have an emergency fund for full-timing to cover the lean times – I broke into my emergency fund in 2014 to make my dream of performing at a renaissance festival a reality, it wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

  • Before I hit the road, I was saving up a lot of money. From 2012 to 2014 I merely held steady. While I haven’t been hindered by it yet, eventually I will be. Whatever your full-timing plans are, I’d recommend slowly growing your savings even if you have an emergency fund. With that money you can replace your aging rig, upgrade your rig if you decide you need something else, squirrel away funds for retirement, get a good start if you decide to switch lifestyles again… basically it gives you more flexibility.

  • I could be making more than I am and in the future will strive to. If I had worked a paying job instead of volunteering the first quarter of 2014, I would have come out ahead even though I made very little the 10 weeks the festival ran.

  • Speaking of 2014, isn’t it kind of amazing that I came in only $1,000 behind from the previous year when I worked something like three months less? That’s because while I had 6 months without a seasonal job, I was earning money online the whole year. You can definitely make a living as a full-time RVer working seasonal jobs exclusively, but if you can diversify to other income sources that’ll give you more freedom to travel.

My last post about this topic can be found here, a look into how much it cost me to get started full-timing broken down into the preparation phase, the purchasing phase, and the on the road phase.

Any comments or questions? Ask away.

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