Year Five Budget and Five Year Totals

Well, here we are at the five year mark, and I am pretty excited.  I love data and finally we have plenty of it, so it’s time to really look at what this lifestyle is costing us. But before we get into that let’s start with 2019 and see how the year went.

As you can see in 2019 we totally blew our budget.  This was largely intentional as we were making more money at the end of the year, but we also had some unforeseen costs.  The biggest negative variances were Dining Out, Truck Maintenance, Gifts, and Home Repairs.  Some of that was discretionary and some was not. I am not going to going to go through every category this year because I want to focus on the five year numbers.    If you would like to delve into the details please see each individual month’s report out for that information.    

Here are the Mins, Maxes, and Averages versus budget for 2019 only.  It is interesting that most of the categories on average were just a little bit over.  That does add up of course but the big variance is in Home repair, where we were over on average by almost $500 a month.  Some of that was discretionary and some was mandatory.  I will say that at the five year mark stuff starts to wear out or break.  Just like in a sticks and bricks home where all your appliances seem to break at the same time, we had several things that needed replaced or fixed this year. Since we have almost 50,000 miles on our RV and our truck hit 100,000 miles that makes sense I suppose.

OK, so let’s talk about the five year numbers. In order to give people a means of comparison I have removed all the items that I consider “one-offs”.  The reason I did this is everyone needs to eat, have fuel, etc, but not everyone pays for a Mor-Ryde system or their daughter’s wedding.  I also left out health insurance because this is extremely variable for people.  Essentially I am presenting five years worth of our BASE COSTS.  In no way should you assume these will be your only costs.  First of all, everyone is different.  Secondly, stuff happens.  No matter who you are or how you travel you will have extra costs come your way in a five year period.  That’s why a savings account is so important.  We started the lifestyle with $40K in savings and five years later have $17K left.  That $23K is what we spent above and beyond what we made on the road and our regular expenses.

Let’s jump in! Can you tell I am excited?  I’m such a nerd.


A couple of things really jumped out at me when I put this together.

  1. The annual totals were far less than I would have thought.  Prior to going on the road we were making around $160k a year in total and spending every penny of it.  I had serious doubts that we could ever lower our spending to a level we could support while working non-corporate jobs but it turned out we could.  The combination of having a free place to stay and spending less money while we were working had results.  The downside was we had to work way more than we originally thought to even make this much money, but it was possible.  The money we made did not cover any extras though, which is why our savings was slowly depleted.  In particular I was proud of 2017 where we really focused on cutting costs and 2016 where we managed to go to Alaska and still control our spending.
  2. The categories were largely consistent year to year. We both thought we would see a steady decrease as we learned how to live on less, but that didn’t really happen.  For us it was a bit like playing whack-a-mole.  We would make progress in one category and another category would pop up its head and increase.  We would focus on that and something else would happen. To be honest, the biggest downward trends were due to external forces (ie:  AT&T offered a less expensive cellular plan) rather than any big changes we made. The one area we saw a MAJOR trend upwards was home repair.  This was significant but it is not all due to things breaking.  Lots of those expenses were discretionary.

Let’s look at some trending graphs:

This went down as we learned to boondock and spent more time working at places that included sites. It will be going back up now that I am working a corporate job again and our campsite wont always be included in where Lee works.


This was pretty steady although it has spiked now that I am working again. We will see what happens here now that we are making more money.


The low point in 2017 is because we worked so much we didn’t have much time for entertainment. We also focused on things to do that were free or near free.


The spike in truck fuel was when we went to Alaska. In 2018 we intentionally did not go back east to see family, but most years we have crossed the country in miles. We like the west but family is back east so 2017 will probably be our norm.


2017 was the year of really watching costs and again groceries were at an all time low. Despite that our grocery bills have been pretty consistent and the other years are a better indicator of our costs. One thing I wanted to mention here is we like remote areas and groceries are more expensive. It’s one of the costs of being away from big cities.


As I talked about before our cell costs went down due to a change in the plans AT&T is offering. Also we have noticed in the last five years the networks are MUCH better nationwide. That’s been a nice bonus for us.


In 2018 and 2019 we spent quite a bit on home improvements that we had been putting off for several years.   There was something about getting close to the five year mark that made us both want to address long term issues. Not sure exactly why that was but both of us said enough already on multiple things.


My absolute favorite data view was the five year monthly averages.  Averages with minimal data can be dangerous, but we now had 60 data points which is plenty to finally say this is what living in an RV costs us.  Of course there are things we can do to lower individual costs, but we have largely shown at this point we have done what we were willing to do.  I was personally thrilled that the monthly BASE COSTS are only $3827.  Again that is without any large, one-off expenditures or health insurance, but it is way better than I ever thought it could be. I did leave in cigarettes because we have very little alcohol in our budget.  Substitute your vice of choice for this amount.  Overall,  I am really proud of how we have controlled our spending these last five years and we have proved to ourselves at least that this lifestyle is sustainable.  That’s a big deal for us!


If you made it this far good for you!  Please keep in mind your mileage will definitely vary.  I hope this five year look was helpful though.

Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on iTunes.


8 thoughts on “Year Five Budget and Five Year Totals

  1. Wow…this is a great overview! I would say we are still in the infancy stage when it comes to budgeting, but you have set an amazing example to follow!

  2. If I take our anticipated healthcare costs, taxes and saving out of our planned budget, my best “guess-timates” are pretty darn close to your overall numbers. Knowledge is power, thanks for the update.

  3. I have so enjoyed your blog as well as your budget reviews over time. This year, we too are like you and Ellen. 5th year out. Our gas expenses 2 times across country were pretty close to your. This year we sprang water leaks during the summer. The water pump went out and the toilet had a leak that ultimately lead to 2 leaking valves and a new toilet. So, for us, it has been the year of house repairs too.
    We made the decision to keep our coach for another 3 years at least. New sofa…discretionary. Thinking a fridge fire suppressant system is a smart idea now. Also thinking that at 31,000 miles it might be a good idea to plan on new tires for fall 2020. Lastly, we are in Quartzsite and looking at having our Roadmaster tow system checked out. We are hearing that at 5 years it is a good idea to replace. Humm.
    Our other expenses reflect yours as well. We do more boondocking when we are on the road than we used to. Still would like to do more…but solar would be our next expense and so far we cannot justify.
    So thanks for your review to have another opinion if we could do better. We always could do somewhat better…but we are doing better than when we started and feeling pretty good about that for now.
    Safe travels fellow road warriors. The passion is in the journey. To think that we too are Dreamers in spirit. Thinking of you and Lee as new Grandparents as well as fellow travelers. Enjoy.

  4. This was super helpful and interesting!!! I opened our budget and compared as you went along and for us only being on the road 2 years, we are comparable. I used your budget as one of the examples we gave the financial advisor and that turned out to be a really good choice. Thanks for all your straight talk! 🙂

  5. Thank you so much for this, exactly what I’ve been looking for. We will start our adventure this fall, semi full timing for 1 yr then going full time in 2021. You kept excel spreadsheets I’m assuming?

Leave a Reply to Lee and Tracy Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.