Budget July 2018

It’s interesting that when we have a really good financial month it is almost always a month that we have very few experiences.  Despite the fact that we “live” in a gorgeous place and have all sorts of low-cost nature things we can do in the area, we have found that almost everything costs some money (gas, lunch, trinkets) and it turns out that the best way to save money is not do anything at all.  That shouldn’t be a huge surprise I suppose, since that is how it was in our old lives also, but I thought that surrounded by so much nature we would always find lots of cool things to do.  And in all fairness some people do.  They take their days off and hike or fish or kayak and explore, but all of that takes energy and one thing we have found is when you are working this hard, energy, for us at least,  is in short supply.  The good thing is we aren’t spending all the money we are making on fast food or Amazon purchases  and we were able to put $2500 back in our savings account, which was a much-needed event, but aside from the end of the month when our friends came to visit our lives were all about work and more work. So yes, it was a good month with only $2,151 in expenses, but not such a good month in the overall life category. You can see below for more details.

 

Groceries –  Well, we got our groceries expenses under control this month, but that’s mainly because we are eating lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  We did have some fantastic meals when Deb and Steve came to visit, and I have been trying to use what we have lying around, but the freezer is getting pretty bare and we definitely need to restock in August.

Dining Out – The fact that we aren’t huge fans of any of the restaurants in the area (Huckleberry Inn aside) certainly helps in this category.  Plus we paid for Lee’s birthday escape room and then Deb and Steve paid us back in a couple of meals out so we were actually closer to breaking even in this category.

Entertainment – We ended up spending $180 on the escape room because Lee wanted the room all to ourselves.  Since it was his 50th I was happy to spend the extra money, but definitely next time we will use Groupon on and if we can’t find enough friends will have to try the room with other people.  I’m just glad Lee enjoyed it so much, because he’s a tough guy to buy presents for.

Truck Fuel – We only gassed the truck up once the entire month, which was a good thing because gas prices are kind of high right now.  We have to take our company trucks down to Estacada to fuel them up and are able to combine a grocery store trip with that which helps save us a ton of money in gas. Next month we will be doing some exploring in Washington so these costs will go back towards normal levels.

Home – Thankfully no repairs this month and the extra items we bought, like the propane campfire, we used Amazon points.  We just let our points build throughout the year until something camping related comes along that we want and then we cash them in.  So thanks for your support in both buying the recipe book and through our Amazon link.  I really like the propane campfire and we both wonder why we were so resistant to having one before.  If we didn’t have the points we probably wouldn’t have gotten it, so thanks again! 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

January 2018 Budget (with Revenue)

The budget shows that we were $411 short this month, but we actually broke even.  One of our paychecks was short $450 due to a clerical error and that money will be coming in February. Still, it was a bit of a bummer that we spent so much, but since we discussed doing most of our annual home repairs in the next couple of months it shouldn’t be that surprising.  We also made a Costco run at the very beginning of the month and those are always pretty costly.    Also, we had a meeting to adjust the monthly budget amounts for each category based on the three prior year’s expenses.  As I go through each category in detail I will let you know any adjustments we made.

 

 

Campground Fees – We chose to stay in a campground with our friends for a couple of days between gates.  We could have stayed for free in the yard, but it was worth it to see everyone.  For this year we cut this budget item in half since we spent so little on campgrounds last year.  It’s still more than we usually spend, but I wanted to leave some extra in in case we get the opportunity to work less. 

Groceries –  We went over in groceries by $100,  mostly due to a $250 Costco run at the very beginning of the month.  We left the budget amount the same, despite the fact that we miss this mark more often than we make it.  I recombined the food and cleaning supplies etc back into one category since we did a pretty bad job of breaking that out month by month, and overall it just didn’t seem like there was enough in the second category to make it worth the trouble. 

Dining OutWe were $63 to the good, because all of our dining out food was fast food during travel or long work days.  I changed the label to convenience to make that category a little more clear and also upped the budget to $100 a month from $50.  After three years it’s clear that this category was just too low, and since we had savings in many other places I thought it was worth making this one more realistic.

Entertainment – We bought a few books and a couple Itunes purchases.  We were $71 to the good in this category. 

Cell/Internet – The bill was low this month because we finally got our credit for being charged for the cell phone I already paid for back in August.  I have adjusted the budget to reflect what the new bill should be going forward, and we are thrilled by the monthly savings of $128!!!  Thank you AT&T for your new unlimited plan. (For those keeping score, we used to pay $ 363 for two phones, a WiFi hotspot and an iPad with 80 GB of data, and we routinely went over that limit and paid $15 per extra GB. (!!!) Now we pay $ 128 for the same devices and unlimited data. For those who are curious, we have not seen any speed throttling or network management yet, and we are now consistently using over 600 GB a month, which might give you an idea of how happy we are with the new arrangement. – Lee)  

Truck Fuel – We broke even in this category which was quite a bit, mainly because we traveled from southeast of San Antonio to far west Texas and back again, and have driven back and forth to San Antonio from our current location a couple of times.  I upped the budget on this category to $425 which has been our average for the last couple of years, minus the trip to Alaska. 

Truck Maintenance – This category is a bit in flux.  We think we have enough maintenance visits remaining on our prepaid Ford plan to last the rest of the year, but that depends on how many miles we end up driving this year.  For the time being I will be putting in $50 a month. 

Health Insurance – This is another exciting category as our monthly amount (with subsidy) is only $110.  This is a monthly savings of $230 which is obviously significant. 

Cigarettes – We buy tobacco and tubes to cover a few months at a time, so the annual amount is really what matters.  We reduced the annual amount by $192 to reflect what we spent last year.  

Personal Care (Haircuts etc) – This month we went over by $19 because I splurged on a pedicure.  (You should see her toes! – Lee) I reduced this category by $25 a month to more accurately reflect what we have been spending.  Thank heavens for SuperCuts and Great Clips!

Shipping/Postage – We went over by $37 in this category because we had numerous deliveries, and the ones that came to the Kenedy each cost $5.  We are shipping things to the UPS store here and there is a $5 per item fee.  I also adjusted this category down $15 a month to more accurately reflect what we are spending. 

Gifts – I had this cool idea to start making gifts for people because I thought that might be cheaper.  Turns out the raw materials aren’t cheap, even though I found most of what I needed at Super Walmart.  Still I am having a lot of fun with it, so I’ll mentally use the underage in entertainment to balance this expense out a little.  Plus now that I know what I am doing I can keep an eye out for cheaper raw materials as we travel. 

Home Repair – Obviously we had a significant overage for the month in this category, spending $690 over budget.  $260 of that was the new toilet, and the rest was the raw materials for several repairs Lee has made.  As I have talked about in earlier blog posts, Lee is doing a year’s worth of maintenance while he has the opportunity, so we are still significantly under the $2400 annual budget amount.  And we did talk about these experiences as they occurred, so we knew this category would be steep this month. 

Overall, I would have liked to have spent less money, of course, but I understand where it all went.  Hopefully February will allow us to put some money away for April, since we aren’t planning on working that month at all. We also had an extra $1000 in “unexpected” revenue for some pay Lee was owed from a contract job he did last year, and selling one of our domain names that we weren’t using, which was a very nice surprise. (Out of the blue someone called and asked me if they could buy my RV repair domain, and since I’m not really using it I decided to let it go. I thought it might bring $100, but he offered $500, which even I knew was much better, and I’m not so good with the mathing. I thought about trying to get more, but he was a young guy, all excited about starting a new venture, and then I remembered that I despise greed, so I just let him have it for what he offered. I suppose I could have been a really great guy and countered with a lower number so he could have it for even less, but while I’m not greedy, I’m also not a moron. – Lee)

So from a cash flow perspective we are starting the year off just fine. 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

May 2017 Budget (with Revenue Numbers)

We did better than I thought this month with $3556 in expenses. We also received our first paychecks which brought in $1640 in revenue leaving a monthly deficit of $1917.   I was very happy to see though that our net cash flow YTD is $967.22.  This does not include the week in Vegas which we treated as a vacation and used savings to pay for. The numbers tell a pretty good story.  We are breaking even so far this year, but to stay on pace this summer we will need to sock away enough for the month of down time in October.  We also have scheduled a $3500 Mor-Ryde upgrade in October, but we are working Amazon in November and December to help recover some of those costs.  I’m pretty excited though because I would have bet money we would be in a negative cash flow position once we received our first pay checks.  The detail of the month is listed below.

 

Campground Fees – Just a little bit at the beginning of the month as we traveled here. We kept those costs lower by boondocking and using Passport America.

Groceries – We went over by about $20 overall in this category.  We always have a bit of a spike when we move to a new area as we learn the grocery stores, but some great advice and Winco really helped us out here.  Love, love that grocery store. You’ll also notice our alcohol bill is back to $0 now that we are no longer camping with friends.  Just saying 🙂

Dining Out – We went over by $55 which was pretty good considering the desire to try new restaurants in the area.  We held each other accountable in this category and avoided the urge to get fast food. This was definitely helped by the fact that the local grocery store has a fantastic 10-piece chicken meal for $6.99 and I got that twice to give myself something fast to eat on long work days.  Lee also took advantage of the freezer we have access to for stocking up on frozen meals, something we rarely have the freezer space for in our rig.

Internet – Hooray the new pricing kicked in and we are $216 under the previous budgeted amount.  I will change the budget next month going forward but wanted to show what a game changer that has been.  And for the record we are thrilled with our unlimited data plan with AT&T.  Unlike many of our friends on Verizon plans we have had minimal throttling and only occasionally during peak period run into network management issues.  Super happy about that and yes Lee super happy is the right term in this case.

Memberships – Lee slipped in a $195 annual fee for the American Express Gold Card.  I really wanted to talk about that this year because I really think AmEx blue is a better choice for us, but he really likes having a Gold Card. 

Truck Fuel – Part of our $39 was travel, part was long car rides when we first got here, but gas is very expensive here.  That being said he discovered a 50 cent per gallon variance in the diesel price on the main road in Estacada versus the gas station up the hill.  $2.34 versus $2.89 is nothing to sneeze at and reinforces the need to bargain shop even when you are in rural areas. 

Clothing – We went over in this category by $106 mainly because we bought raincoats for work (a necessity here) and Lee had to buy a new pair of hiking shoes from REI for $89 because the soles separated.  Those shoes were totally worth it though and I don’t mind spending the money on those ever.

Miscellaneous – We broke down and bought a mount for a motor for our Sea Eagle Kayak.  We were able to get a used one which helped with the cost and the motor itself was purchased in June. This was a big topic of discussion, but at the end of the day we like rivers much more than lakes and since we don’t have two vehicles (and our attempt to find companies to transport have not worked) we decided to go ahead and bite the bullet.  Hopefully this will lead to using the Sea Eagle more  in the future, especially since we are living next to this beautiful river, but if not we might end up selling what we have.  It takes up space we could always use, but we are finding we can only use it when we are with other friends.  Will let you know how that goes.

Good month and good year to date numbers.  The cost of living here is pretty reasonable all things considered and my list of summer activities are almost all nature related.  I may end up spending a ton of money on farmer’s markets though.  I stopped at my first one today and the local produce is amazing!!  I’ll blow my budget any day of the week on fresh fruits and vegetables though!


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

March Budget 2017

Another great budget month!  We made $3,468.74, and spent $2843.41, for a net of $625.33.  From a pure cash flow perspective we spent more because we prepaid three weeks of April campground fees, but we are tracking those in the month the stays occur, so they will show up in April. We also paid taxes, but since that amount was roughly the return we got last year and was set aside in a separate account that was a wash.  The details are listed below.  By the way, April 15th will be one year since we have supported ourselves exclusively through our various work kamping efforts, and I will be doing another post on how the 12 month period went.  I was going to include it here but I think it deserves it’s own  summary. 

 

Campground FeesJust a couple of nights when we left our oilfield gate. 

Food –  Almost exactly to budget.  The totals were a little higher than last month because we stocked up on meat and a few other items at Costco, but we were careful to stay within budget.  In the past we have gone over budget when stocking up in the hopes our bill the following month would be lower, but then it never is, so we aren’t doing that anymore.  We intentionally bought enough to get us through the month and will have another Costco run next month. (I would also like to point out that I have stopped buying Pepsi, and pie. There’s some serious savings there. – Lee) 

Alcohol Stocked up in anticipation of being with our friends.  We are almost always under in this category so not a big deal going over $8 one month. 

Dining OutWe were about $50 to the good overall.  I got lazy at the end and we grabbed fast food here and there, and then I bought some Church’s chicken for travel days. 

Entertainment – Lee bought a couple of computer games and I bought some music.  I usually only buy it when The Voice is on (big fan of that show). 

Truck Fuel – The bulk of the $258 was spent in the last couple of days of the month because we traveled from south Texas to the Phoenix area. The good news is our trips are much shorter in April, so we will see how we do on truck fuel through the end of the month. (Our distance from the gate to Lost Dutchman state park was 1000 miles in three days, but from Lost Dutchman to Las Vegas, which we’re essentially taking three weeks in April to do, is only 370 miles, so we might actually end up on budget or under for fuel in April. – Lee)

RV Insurance – They over charged us a couple months ago (it’s auto deducted) so they have been taking out less making that up. 

Cigarettes – We have been buying tobacco and tubes in bulk since the summer, so this is three months worth. 

Gifts – I spent $200 on the one-on-one session with my favorite author.  $100 of that my father gave me as a Christmas gift so I put the other $100 in the gift category.  I could have put it in entertainment, I guess, but it felt right going here.

Home Repair – We spent nothing in this category which is a huge deal. Last year we were routinely spending $200 or more per month in this category but Lee has really focused on this.  We were going to replace our Vornado fan, but couldn’t find one locally so decided to wait until we reached Phoenix and pick one up there. 

It was another good month from a budget perspective.  We will see what happens in April since we will be moving so much, staying in campgrounds, and hanging out with friends.

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer. 

February 2017 Budget with Revenue

We had one of our best months ever with costs of only $2380.44 and revenue of $3500, resulting in a net cash flow of $1119.56. For details on the individual categories please see below. 

budget-feb-2017

 

Campground Fees –  $0 because we are work kamping. 

Groceries – We spent a little more than last month, mainly because I was pushing to finish some recipes to get the recipe book completed. Still under budget month  spending $558 or $42 less than budget.  I did spend a little on alcohol this month but that was all types of wine for cooking. (Suuuuuure. – Lee)

Dining Out – We spent the bulk of this on our anniversary dinner, but then we did really well and didn’t eat out at fast food places (except I had Burger King once) which kept us under budget by $46.

Entertainment –  No days off and not much to do around here, so we only spent $65.63.  That was going to the movies and Lee bought a video game online. (After owning and playing Call of Duty since 2003 (!!!) for some reason when I sat down to play it once again in all the down time, it wouldn’t run at all. So I bought it again. I figured since I have enjoyed it for hundreds and hundreds 0f hours, they were entitled to another $19.99 – Lee)

Cell/Internet – We went over by 3 Gig or $45 extra in January, which we ended up paying in February.  We have now signed up on AT&T unlimited plan and our new bill should be substantially less, which we are VERY excited about.  Since this is one of our highest budget items, that reduction in spending is going to be significant.  

Memberships – We paid for another year of Work Kamper News , which we use all the time to find jobs and is a no-brainer for us.  We also renewed our Xscapers membership for one more year.   Aside from our one trip to the Rose Bowl, we haven’t gotten much benefit from this membership.  This year I am committed to really finding out if this has value for us.  I want to check out their Job Board and see what’s on there, because that could definitely be helpful. 

Truck Fuel –  We spent $125 which was well under budget.  We made the trip into San Antonio and then Lee made a few more trips to nearby towns and one other trip to San Antonio as well. 

Insurance – Our truck insurance went up $20 a month to $153. Since I really like Nationwide and they covered us with no issue when we had accidental fuel contamination I am really hesitant to leave them, but I hope these $20 a year changes are not going to be the norm.  We didn’t owe RV insurance this month because we paid last month when they had a billing error.  

Home Furnishings – I have nothing in the budget for this category since the changes Lee made to the desk are a business expense.  From a cash flow perspective the materials costs around $150.  I am not planning on skipping business items always (Work Kamper membership is one for example), but in this case I did decide to leave it out since it is directly related to Lee’s editing.  Like I said, I don’t do that often and when I do I will try and mention it. 

So it was another good month.  Lee was able to move $700 into our operating income savings account, which was really nice.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog. Thank you.   Search Amazon.com here

Second Year Budget Summary – 2016

I’m pretty excited about seeing where we finished up in Year Two, and I will be comparing each category to Year One as we go along along with some fancy charts and graphs. (Happy Birthday Bill!!)  One of the things we tried in Year 2 was to have more categories and this was with mixed results.  We did a pretty lousy job of delineating costs in some categories (groceries expendables versus consumables comes to mind) and in others it’s so subjective what category we place things in,  I am not sure it really provides any value.  Lee and I will be reviewing the categories right after this post is done and you will start seeing the changes in January.  Since we now have 24 data points, we will hopefully be more confident in adjustments to our budget numbers.  In some cases we pick a number and even if we go over consistently we stick with it to try to hold ourselves accountable, but in other categories it becomes clear over time that adjustments are called for.  Then there are the standard cost of living increases (such as higher insurance rates) and those we adjust as the rates increase. 

So how did we do? We were amazingly close in our Actuals versus Budget with a deficit of only $1076!!!  Some individual categories have large variances, but the totals worked out nicely.  We actually spent a little bit more this year than last year with $51,927 in expenses versus $49,410 last year, but before you get concerned about the fact that we spent more this year than last year, keep in mind Alaska.   That trip obviously had a pretty dramatic impact on this years numbers. (And obviously we spent way more than the $2500 difference between the two years while we were in AK, so that shows that this year’s “actual” numbers were really much better than last year. I credit me, naturally. – Lee)

Fair warning for those of you who find all the detail a little boring, you probably want to stop here.  I’ll been promising Lee a trend analysis once I got enough data points, so the rest of this post is going to go into some very specific detail.  That was harder than it sounds, mainly because we changed categories after last year so in order to complete a year over year comparison I had to do some consolidation.  Thus it’s not a perfect year over year comparison, but certainly close enough for our purposes.  I know Bill will enjoy it, but many people might find it a little boring.  No worries if you fall into that category, I promise it won’t hurt my feelings. (This one’s for you, Bill. – Lee)

For those still with me, let’s start with a picture of the detailed break down for this year.

2016-expenses

And a chart showing year over year comparison.  Again keep in mind it’s not perfect because I had to combine some categories.

yoy-expenses

Plus the Averages, Monthly Maximum and Monthly Minimum over the two year period, keeping in mind I had to combine some categories to try and make an apples to apples comparison.

max-min

 

Finally a pie graph with the 2015/2016  totals for larger expenditures. I didn’t include health insurance, because I had corporate insurance all of 2015 and part of 2016. (A pie chart! We’re such nerds! – Lee)

pie-chart
Still with me?  Alright let’s talk about each category in order of 2016 spend amount.

Groceries – We were over budget in 2015 and saw minimal improvement in 2016 despite increasing our focus.  We like food and I like cooking meals.  The only time we ever see a reduction in a month is when we eat out more than we should, which obviously is not a great way to get a budget category under control.  $8,250 in food costs is rough, but so far we are  unwilling to make the changes we would need to make to get these costs lower. At least we are consistent, lol. (And I think our waistlines clearly show a visual representation of our dedication to this. – Lee) Our two year average was $687  with a high of $1078 and a low of $367.  The extremes were caused by being in areas with high food costs (Alaska and Glacier were the worst) but even taking that into account on average we are almost $100 over budget per month. Obviously this is more than two people need to eat every month and where we struggle is that more than any other budget area when we cut back we feel “poor.” That’s a tough mental obstacle for us to overcome and the budget numbers show it. 

groceries-trend

Truck FuelNot surprisingly we went up in this category with $6250 in spend this year.   Considering we spent at least $1500 in gas  to get to Alaska and back, and more gas than usual while we were there, it wasn’t so bad.  I also didn’t have a company car, like I did in most of 2015, so we used the truck for all our traveling.  If you take those factors out of the equation we actually did better than last year, partly due to the extremely low fuel costs in 2016.  Our average was $456 which is only $50 over budget and I think we did great coming so close if you consider all the miles we traveled in the last two years.   

truck-fuel-trend

Cell/Internet/TV – We spent more than $5200 in this category so it deserves some explanation.  We took advantage of a double data deal back when we first started and we have 80 gig of data.  This data level might seem high, but it is for our internet use and our TV solution. Some of that money is tax deductible because we use it for our businesses, but it’s still a chunk of money.  We also have a separate Verizon phone (I used my company phone for most of 2015) with a tiny little data plan which we use when we don’t have ATT coverage.  Since we rarely go without ATT coverage I did look and see if adding a second line to ATT and ditching the Verizon coverage might help, but it doesn’t seem that much cheaper. We have had numerous discussions about going with a cheaper, less reliable option, but that’s a tough sell for us.  I continue to hold out hope that pressure from the Milennial generation ultimately results in reasonably priced data for mobile workers.  In the meantime we are sticking with the devil we know.  

RV Loan Payments – We knew when we chose to sell our house for less than it was worth we would have an RV payment adding up to $4847 a year. Two years later I still don’t regret that decision at all, since the housing situation in Keene is no different now than it was then.  They actually went through this year and lowered the housing values for tax purposes so if we had held out for perceived equity we might still be sitting there.  $404 a month (interest tax deductible) is a small price to pay. 

Health Insurance Our costs in 2016 ran roughly $4228 and that’s about what we think they will run in 2017. It’s an estimate though because we really don’t know what we will make this year.  Costs may come in higher or lower.  Despite the cost, this is not an area I am willing to experiment with at this time. Plus I am overdue for a mammogram, pap smear, and colonoscopy, so if I find a way to get those tests done in 2017 the annual cost will more than make up for that. The biggest challenge for us will be finding a place where we can get all that done. 

Home Improvement – Despite intense focus on this category we ended up almost the same at $3714.  Tracking these costs in more detail did help though, because we definitely spent more this year on necessary purchases than supplemental.  We had several unexpected repairs and those coupled with one time expenses to get setup for long-term boondocking in Quartzsite accounted for $2211 in spend.  Two years in I don’t see this category ever going down much (although Lee continues to be hopeful), we ended 2016 with a repair and started 2017 with another and we had some sort of repair almost every month in 2016.  At this point it seems to be a natural cost of the lifestyle.  Our monthly average is $311 which is close to $100 more than we want to spend a month.  As you can see from the $942 maximum though that one or two major repairs can really blow the yearly average, regardless of how well you do the other months.  

home-improvement-trend

Dining Out – I don’t know that dividing this into two categories ended up making that much of a difference.  We spent $281 more in 2016 than in 2015 for a total of $3251 and since our budget was only $1800 we went over by $1450. That’s just not OK and it’s definitely residual from our old life.  I love to eat in local places for the experience and Lee loves to eat well. (You don’t get a physique like mine from diet and exercise, baby. – Lee) That combination does not serve us well. If it was just Lee he probably wouldn’t go and if it was just me I could get by on water and an appetizer.  Honestly I don’t know how to solve the problem other than just stop going, but that makes me sad because part of exploring a new place is sampling the local restaurants. We do need to figure this one out though, because $1,500 is not an insignificant amount of money in this lifestyle.  Our average is $259 around $100 over budget (I am seeing a pattern here) and we stay pretty consistent here month over month with the occasional highs and lows.  In this case though the average absolutely reflects our normal monthly spend. 

dining-out-trend

Truck/RV Insurance and Registration – Combined these totaled $2769 and the truck insurance at least has been well worth it.  We got a windshield replaced and of course had a brand new truck engine in 2015.  We have never used our RV insurance, but at this point are not willing to give it up. It is essentially our homeowners insurance and covers our RV and the stuff in it.  Since almost all of our worldly possession are in this rig, that’s a big deal.  Also after having seen pictures of two rigs that burnt to the ground last year, this is not something we personally are willing to go without.

Campground Fees –  We only spent $2,633 this year which was a huge improvement from last year.  We have been under budget in this category for both years and it has been a huge budget saver.  Partly this is because of work kamping, but also it is because we invested in solar and a generator and can boondock.  We could do even better in this category, but we tend to choose expediency over cost when we are traveling. The most we ever spent was $778 and those high costs were all when we first started.  This is one area where we have seen a nice downward trend over time, which is encouraging. 

campgrounds-trend

Truck Maintenance – We got whacked in this category, despite having two excellent warranties, spending $1755 on new tires and an alignment.  Both of those purchases were absolutely necessary because of our Alaska trip, but it definitely wasn’t something either of us originally expected.  I had hoped this category would “normalize” in 2017, but as I was writing this post we took our truck in for it’s 60K maintenance and were told both front tires needed to be replaced. The quote for that along with the alignment is $555.  This category like RV maintenance appears to be the cost of doing living the RV lifestyle. This is another category where a few high ticket expenses can really impact your annual budget.

truck-maintenance-trend

Entertainment – We did great in this category spending $1,736 and ending up $64 under budget for the year and $289 less than 2015.  It’s particularly impressive because it not only includes outings but also music and book purchases.  We stayed on budget by focusing on Activities under $10 . We did splurge occasionally but generally every month we are under budget in this category.  That shows a real shift in focus versus our old lives and I wish we could emulate this trend in other categories.  This was probably our most consistent category with the two year average at $146 right below our monthly targets.  We had a couple of high months but those were offset by very low months and it worked out very well in the end. 

Clothing – We focused on this category and actually did pretty well in it considering we had to buy clothes for the beet harvest.  We spent $1305 for the year and this includes T-Shirts (which shows remarkable restraint for us) and normal replacement clothes.  We were within $100 of our budget which is something we can live with.  

Cigarettes – At $1260 for the year we were both under budget and under last years costs.  Lee has taken the state by state cost variation out of the equation by buying in bulk through the mail.  This was something that was not available in 2015, and really helped us keep those costs normal during our time in Alaska.  We actually took in enough tobacco to last for two months and then received the rest that we needed in the mail.  This was a major budget saver as tobacco (like everything else) was extremely expensive in Alaska.   And yes, obviously this is an optional cost, but as compared to the $6700 a year we were spending a year in our old lives this is a huge improvement.  

 Shipping/Postage/Mail Service – Despite intense focus this year we were actually a little over last years number at $815.  Most of this though can be attributed once again to Alaska.  We shipped some presents home, which are in the category and got whacked a couple of times with very high shipping fees to get our mail to us.  Lee continues to make this a priority though and if you take Alaska out of it, I definitely think we are seeing improvement.  

Memberships –  Spending over $700 a year in this category may seem steep, but we have the America the Beautiful Pass, Escapees Membership, Passport America, Costco, Work Kamper News,  and an American Express Gold Card.  We have done the cost analysis on all of them and they all saved us more money than they cost or provide sufficient value that we retain them. We continue to evaluate these every year though. The credit card in particular we have discussed changing, and could probably do better with multiple cards used based on what pays the most points, but we really like the company and their fraud protection.

Gifts – In more than any category we saw YOY improvement with only $669 in 2016 purchases versus $1066 in 2015.  Essentially I adjusted my gift giving to match our income. I really thought it would have been harder to make this adjustment emotionally, but it turned out it was pretty easy. Plus the fact that almost everyone I know makes more than me at this point really helped 🙂

Storage – We reduced our spend in this category to $540 this year by asking the kids to pay their share.  We both really want to go back and clean this storage area out, but New Hampshire is in the opposite direction where we want to be so this is easier said than done.  Also I think its worth mentioning that although I can’t remember much about what is in there, a few items do stick out and we want to hang onto those.  Lee’s parents offered storage space in their basement and we will definitely take them up on that for the remaining items. 

Personal Care – We also saw great YOY improvement in this category spending $448 which was $307 less than last year!  How did we do it?  We both extended the time between hair cuts (pretty easy when the closest hair cut place in Alaska was a couple hours away) and I eliminated most of my extra beauty expenditures.  I still had my eyebrows waxed a few times and I think 2 pedicures, but those events were few and far between.  It’s probably not surpising that I never care about that stuff when we are surrounded by nature.  I only start thinking about it when we are in an urban environment. 

Propane – We included propane costs in campground fees for most of 2015 but this year we separated it out and only spent $225.  The more you boondock the more you spend in propane, but you can also rack up propane costs if you don’t have an adequate electric heat source.  Lee spent some time putting in extra outlets so we can run three heat sources simultaneously (as long as we are on 50amp) so we never have to use our propane furnace unless we are boondocking.  (Technically if we are at a site that has 30 and 15 amp, which is pretty common, we can still run all three. Not much more, but it keeps us warm and snuggly. – Lee) This saves us quite a bit in propane costs and takes full advantage of any hookups we may have.

Alcohol – We didn’t separate this out last year so I have no idea how we compared but we only spent $181 which I think is very reasonable.  Our drinking patterns are odd, because we only drink when we are with other people that drink, but then we tend to buy lots of alcohol.  I do recommend tracking this category though if you are a frequent drinker.  Those costs can really add up.

Laundromat – We spent $164.25 at the laundrymat this year and most of that was while we were in Quartzsite.  We use our Splendide 2100 almost exclusively (with the occasional exception of sheets and blankets) except when we are boondocking.  The more boondocking, the higher the laundry costs.  Our camp host job in Alaska also had the extra benefit of a full washer and dryer which saved us any laundry fees throughout the summer. 

Wood – This was another category we lumped into campground costs in 2015 and this year we spent very little.  We had free wood while camp hosting in Susanville, the Redwoods, and Alaska and lived in “no fire” areas during the Beet Harvest and Christmas trees.  We were going to buy wood for Quartzsite in 2016, but are waiting until we are 100% sure that is where we will be.  We talked about propane campfires, but I just don’t care for them, so we will continue to buy wood whenever it makes sense.  Free wood is always a nice perk though, and we have taken advantage of it when we are given it. So we only spent $20 but we also filled up with wood at the end of 2015 and will buy wood again at the beginning of 2017.  We also intentionally ran out of wood early in 2016 because we knew we would have to cross the Canadian border and we couldn’t take it with us. So really half the year we were abnormally “wood free” in our truck.

 

If you have made it this far, and good for you by the way, you might think this is all pretty hopeless.  That’s how I felt when I looked at other people’s budgets before full timing, but let me tell you what the numbers don’t say.  First, there were lots of expenses in year one I just didn’t report on.  One time discretionary purchase and health insurance costs never made it to that first year, so even though it looks like we spent the same amount of money we really didn’t.  Year two is more representative of our true costs, although I still am not including our business expenses in this reporting.

Secondly, more than anytime in our lives we have choice.  We also have a much better understanding of exactly what we spend and why, and with the exception of repairs and the RV loan we have the ability to impact the costs.  We could in almost every other category reduce those costs.  We chose not to. And that’s a big deal because it means we can choose to do something different in 2017.  I am not saying we necessarily will, but we can and I rarely felt that was an option in my previous life.

At this point we have three choices to make this lifestyle sustainable for us.  We can spend less, work more, or get jobs that pay more.  Pretty simple, and we get to decide.  And every single person I know who is living this lifestyle is going through the same thing.  Even the people who on the surface are making plenty of money, are looking to the future and making those choices.  And that’s a good thing, an important thing.

It’s easy to look at the total dollar amount and dismiss the lifestyle as impossible.  I certainly was guilty of that early on in my research, but I am hoping that if you are a person who made it this far you are also a person who can see beyond the high level. And please keep in mind that despite the cost, we paid our bills. We didn’t dip into our savings and actually managed despite the Alaska trip to break even.  That is no small thing. Is the lifestyle sustainable for us? I still don’t know, but I firmly believe it could be.  We get to decide if it’s worth it to us.  Either way we still have our savings, we still have our contingency fund, and we even had 2016 tax money set aside.  That is no small thing considering all we managed to do in 2016 and a success story in my opinion.


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August 2016 Budget (with work kamper revenue)

The good news is despite overspending in several categories we were able to keep our total costs right on budget.  The bad news is for the fist time since being here we spent more than we made.  That’s not that surprising since we chose to take 4 extra days off work to spend some time with friends, but still a bit of a bummer.  We over spent by $600, which isn’t the end of the world, and if you look at June, July, and August in total we are still $580 to the good.  That’s not the total picture of course, we definitely won’t make enough wages to cover the expense of getting here and getting back, but we haven’t dug ourselves too big of a hole.  The details in the individual categories are listed below.

August Budget

Groceries In aggregate we we once again $191.28 over in this category. $75 of that was the crab legs, but the rest is just that stuff is more expensive here.  Despite having a freezer for meat we still spent this much on local IGA trips.  What can I say??  I’d love to say once we hit the lower 48 everything will be back to normal, but with our upcoming travel through Canada and then working long shifts at the Beet Harvest and Christmas Tree lot that is unlikely.  At least we ate well this summer. 

Dining Out – I knew pretty early on we were going to blow this category in August.  Part of it was the trips we took, and part was eating out more often.  We spent over $100 on the Mexican food truck down the road alone, four meals, knew when we were doing it the budget didn’t allow for it.  Partly it’s because the food is so darn good, but also the “eat out because we are making money and bored” stage kicked in.  We’ve been pretty good in the past of recognizing this feeling and holding each other accountable but this month we both said “screw it.”  That attitude is reflected in the money spent. 

Entertainment –  I am really happy with this category because the Glacier cruise cost $133 in and of itself and we really didn’t go over by much despite doing tons of stuff.  Sticking to nature related activities really keeps costs down and (in my opinion) generally provides for a better experience.  I don’t regret the glacier cruise, but I am not in a big hurry to do it again. 

Truck Fuel – Despite all the driving truck fuel was right on target.  Again this was due to not using the vehicle much during our five day work week and gassing up as much as possible near the big towns. 

Postage – This category is totally out of control.  Part of it is the gifts I sent my nieces and nephews, but mostly it’s due to what our mail service is charging us.  We are not sending mail express, we are only doing it when absolutely necessary (absentee ballots and trailer registration this month) and yet we are still paying through the nose.  The problem is it’s not like we could easily change our mail service at this point.  Since they are also our address a mail change would require going back to Florida and is not something that could be done lightly.  We don’t mind the monthly cost and we think their scanning service is reasonably priced but every mailing we get seems to cost $75.  Ridiculous.  

House Expenditures – For the first time in awhile we were over in this category and it was by $240.  A big chunk of this was the money Lee had to spend to build a new trailer power cord and $90 of it was to replace our electric blanket which finally died after valiantly preheating our bed for almost 8 years.  We tried to order the blanket online and use AMEX points to pay for it, but the shipping kept getting delayed and Lee finally had to cancel the order and buy it in person in Anchorage.  Why do we need the blanket before we leave?  Well our furnace is still broken and since we are planning on boon docking some on the way back to the US we can use it as a heat source with our solar.  

Still, despite all these overages we still ended close to budget, because we once again spent very little on campground fees.  I really can’t stress enough the benefits of minimal campground fees when work kamping or volunteering.  Our best months have been when we have that extra $600 (15% of our overall budget) to work with.  


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