Our 2021 budget shows what this life can look like if you don’t care much about what things cost. For the first time we just lived our life and as long as we made enough to cover it ( and we did) we didn’t worry much about what things cost. As a result we blew several of our budget categories and as usual I will be giving details below. In later sections, I will also show you the seven year averages and dig into how things look in various categories for us in general. So for all you data junkies out there, grab a cup of coffee and settle in. This is a long one.
Right off the bat you will notice we spent a whopping $85K. This amount by the way doesn’t include extra money we gave our kids (around $6500 this year) or any of Lee’s business expenses. As always health insurance premiums are not included although this year I did include medical costs we paid in cash (rather than our HSA) in Miscellaneous. We also didn’t include the $1K deductible we had to pay for the accident we were in, mainly because we are hopeful that the other insurance company will reimburse us. As always, this budget shows our basics and if you are using these numbers to determine whether you could afford to fulltime you absolutely need to put in the context of your life. Our 7 year averages are a MUCH better measure of what this lifestyle costs than the last year and I will cover that at length in the last session. For those of you who are already living the life and just want to feel good about what you spent this is definitely the section for you 🙂 Ok on to the details.
I know its a bit of an eyechart, but I did the best I could with capturing it. These are the numbers for every month in 2021 with the minimum, maximum, average, and budget for each. Let’s delve into each one.
Campsite Fees – A great way to keep campground fees down is to work kamp or boondock, but since I was working my corporate job this year and COVID was still a concern we did neither. Instead we mostly stayed in campsites with full hookups and as many of you have noticed since demand has risen prices have also gone up. Our monthly average for the year was $1085 which was triple our seven year average of $388. This is definitely an area where your choices can impact your budget and you take into account how you are planning to travel when you think about these costs.
Groceries – Despite being on diets for most of the year we still managed to spend $9686, an average of $807 a month. Since our budget is $750 a month I feel pretty good about this category overall and I am thrilled that it went down $1K from last year. Many people wonder how we spend so much in this category so let me talk a little about that. Lee and I like fresh food and eat complete meals which adds up. This category also includes cleaning supplies and many other miscellaneous items that get picked up at Walmart. So it’s not strictly food. We also carry quite a bit of food with us. It’s a holdover from when we were young and broke, and a habit we can’t seem to break. Realistically we have enough food to last 3-4 weeks in the RV at anytime. Lastly this does include alcohol. We don’t drink much at all so that amount is minimal, but if you are a drinker and add food, household items, and alcohol all together your number might be close to ours. If its lower that’s awesome!
Home Repair – While I am making the corporate money, we decided to invest into some home improvement. Of the $12, 447 my estimate is only 25% of that was absolutely “must do”. Well, let me rephrase, it needed done but if our income was less we could have avoided some of it this year. Since we have the money and our RV is 8 years old it seemed like a good time to do some things. We include many things in this category by the way. Appliances, home decor, storage containers etc often get dumped into this category. The true repair amount was around $6K but remember that wasn’t all mandatory this year. Still, don’t think that just because you live in an RV you wont have home repairs. By my estimation they happen more frequently than in a sticks and bricks because you are moving your house and unlike house repairs you have a limited parts set and labor pool.
Clothing – We spent a ridiculous amount of money on clothing this year and our average was around $200 a month. We bought souvenir T Shirts wherever we went and I restocked a lot of my wardrobe. We came onto the road with a nice set of clothes, but you do tend to wear the same things over and over and eventually they wear out. It was time to stock up and the corporate money allowed us to do that so our totals were well over our 7 year average of $139 a month. Just so you know almost all of my clothes come from thrift stores, but Lee buys his new. We also wear those souvenir T Shirts we buy but you pay a premium for the logos that come with them.
Entertainment – I really need to raise the budget on this category next year because $100 a month is simply not enough. That being said the East is much more expensive than the west and we found ourselves doing more history tours than nature hikes. Those cost money and we went over our budget by 4X. Our seven year average is about $185 and I think a $200 a month budget is pretty reasonable. When we first started I was all about doing what was free or near free, but after 7 years I want to do what I want…within reason of course.
Dining Out – What can I say, this has been a struggle since day one, and as usual we blew the budget. Our monthly average of $700 was a bit ridiculous though and I would like to get it back down near the $362 seven year average. The big difference this year was we took a lot of people to dinner. When we were on a tighter budget it was always Dutch, but since I was making more money I wanted to share it. I would like to see what the number would be if it was just the two of us though, so maybe we can make that happen some months next year.
Travel Costs – This includes tolls, parking, rentals costs, and a flight to my Mom’s, and because we were in the D.C area (and the east in general) we paid for it. Another major difference between the east and the west where you hardly ever see toll roads and parking costs are minimal.
Truck Maintenance – This year was the first year without having a maintenance plan and it shows with costs of $4630. It was a variety of issues including tire replacement and since we use Ford dealers for service we paid for it. That being said our truck is crucial to our lifestyle and we don’t mess around with putting off repairs. It will be interesting to see what happens next year in this category to see if the trend continues.
Truck Fuel – I want to end this section on a positive note and say I am so proud of Lee for bringing in our fuel under budget despite rising fuel prices. He uses a combination of our TSD Logistics card, Pilot Card, BJ’s card, and Gas Buddy to get us the very best prices whenever he can. It takes constant planning and vigilance but it definitely paid off.
Ok so now that we have finished this year lets revisit the last few years. Keep in mind the categories are a little different because they are the original ones and I combine some of the newer categories to get the totals. The most exciting part of the chart below is the 7 year monthly averages. I think at this point they give a really great picture of what the lifestyle costs.
As you can see on average over the last seven years we have spent $4487 per month. I think that number is spot on and very realistic as long as you work kamp some months. Groceries has consistently been our largest monthly expense at $733 a month with home improvement at $536 a month coming in second. The least we have ever spent was $37, 568 in 2017 and the most was this year at $84,693. That is a huge variance and I can tell you there is also a significant difference in lifestyle.
When we work kamped all the time we spent much less, but we also didn’t have as much time to do things for fun. I also had less energy for it because the work we were doing was often very physical. Gifts, eating out, and entertainment were all areas where we cut our costs and since those are some of my favorite things it generally wasn’t as fun for me. Don’t get me wrong we saw some amazing things in those year, but the money pressure was near constant and at times it just felt like we were going from one job to another with no down time in between. Now with a steady stream of income we can relax a little more and do more stuff.
Every year is different though and as we head back west we will see how things go. Lee is work kamping this summer and I will still be working my job and we will see what that looks like. For those that made it this far…good for you. As long as you keep reading these posts I will keep posting my numbers.
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