Fourth Year Budget Summary – 2018

In year four we spent $6,433 more than we made.  The good news was our costs were relatively low at $45,921 for the year, but we only made $39,488 this year. Interestingly enough, the amount we made would have just covered our budget of $39,217 if we had stuck to our budget. Why did we earn so much less than previous years?  Essentially we lost $4500 in revenue when we were unable to find a gate in the month of November, and we didn’t work a higher paying job like Beet harvest or Amazon this year.  If we had worked in November we would have been close to breaking even like last year.   We were $3,500 over budget in RV repairs and upgrades and we overspent $1300 in groceries.  Oh and the $1400 we spent on Jack didn’t help either.

Side Note:  I did want to report that we made $213.71 this year in book royalties, which is deposited to a bank account as actual money, and $360.59 in the Amazon associates program, which is deposited to a gift card account and can only be used at Amazon. I don’t include that money in our budget because we use that to buy little extras throughout the year that we normally couldn’t afford.  Since those costs aren’t included I don’t include the revenue.  We would like to say thank you very much to everyone who clicked our link or purchase a book.  We really appreciate that little bit extra!

Since I go through each category every month in detail I am not going to do that here, but I have added an additional chart for the year that shows the Minimum monthly amount, Maximum monthly amount, and monthly average.  I have compared the monthly average to the budget and anything that’s close I’ve left in black, overages are in red and underages are in green.  This is the process I go through to set next years budget targets, and although we don’t always change them, we have made adjustments over the years.  The biggest areas of concern are mandatory home improvement and groceries.  I am particularly happy with the campground fees and gift catefories, as we have seen significant improvement in those areas.  We also did well in truck fuel, which was a direct result of our conscious decision to not travel back east this year.

Now that we have four full years of data, we definitely can see some trends developing.  You will notice that the categories listed below are a little different, and that is because the budget format has changed over the years.  I have grouped the various categories here in a way that makes the most sense and everything else is in miscellaneous.

Again, I’m not going to go through every category, but some things did jump out at me.

Groceries – Except for last year, the other three year totals are within $400 of each other more or less.  We have had a budget of $600 since we went on the road but I think $700 is much more realistic.  I know that seems like a lot.  It is a lot really for two people, but we eat well, and we are often in remote places where food is just more expensive.  Since this amount includes alcohol and we don’t drink much, I think it is inline with what many other people are spending.  Even if it isn’t, this doesn’t appear to be an area we are willing to compromise much so we should call it what it is.

Truck Fuel – Although as we mentioned we can control this somewhat by deciding how many times we are going to travel back and forth between the east and west, we are also not willing to make major decisions based on this category.  Put simply, if we can’t afford the fuel, we need to reevaluate how we are funding the lifestyle.  However, we don’t need to be reckless in this category and we do try to combine our trips and be as efficient as possible.

Cell/Internet – Not everything goes up every year and we caught a major break with our cell coverage because AT&T finally offered a more reasonably priced unlimited cell plan.   Internet is a major part of our life, and I don’t see that changing any time soon, but I will absolutely enjoy the more reasonable pricing.

Health Insurance – Our health insurance costs have gone steadily down after the last few years (Year 1 I still had my corporate job and didn’t include costs but it was about $360 a month).  We are on the Affordable Care Act and I am not sure why they reduced our costs so much for this year but we will see how it works out once tax time comes.  We continue to look for more affordable options and may change this year to something else, but for the last couple of years it has been OK.  We both had colonoscopies so definitely got our money’s worth. As of this writing our January premium was paid, and it went up $ 69.26, a 63% increase over last year.

Home Expenses– We did so well last year in this category and then wham we got hit with lots of repairs this year.  This is a tough one because to some extent it’s a fixed cost, but some of it is variable.  This is going to be a major topic of conversation for sure in our annual budget meeting.

Dining Out – This category has been super consistent (it spiked a bit the year we went to Alaska) despite our best efforts to keep it lower.  I’ll definitely take the heat for this one because I like to go out to eat, and feel it is part of the experience when we hit a new area.  Essentially we are spending $241 a month which is $40 above the $200 we budgeted.  This is another one we are going to talk about.

Campground Fees – This is one of my favorite categories because the costs have gone steadily down the last several years.  This is due to the fact that our campsites are included in our working and the fact that we can boondock in our our off time.  We were also lucky enough to stay 5 weeks for free with some friends which was wonderful. People told me campground fees would go down and they were right  This seems to be the case for most people we know.


Entertainment – We were doing a nice job of trending down in this category and then spiked back up this year.  Mainly that was the trip to Vegas where we spent a ton of money on entertainment and food.  I think its clear to both of us that trips like that are not in our future with our current revenue stream, so hopefully that was a one off and it will continue to trend down.

Gifts – The last category I wanted to talk about was gifts because I have made a concerted effort in this category and that has definitely trended down significantly.  It’s tough because I like to buy things for people, but it’s important to be realistic with what we can afford to do.

All of the above being said, we finally feel like we have a pretty decent handle on the budget.  If you are interested in our prior year writeups, please check out our budget page.  And course life changes things up a bit and next year is going to be different.  I’m going to talk about that more in my next post. 🙂

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