October Budget 2017

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that we spent a ton of money this month, $5,752, and since we only made $1704 in trailing wages, must of that money came out of our savings account.  This month’s budget also does NOT include the money we spent on the Mor-Ryde upgrade, since that came out of savings as well, so overall we are really needing that Amazon cash to hopefully get us close to break-even for the year. So let’s get into the specifics. (There was also income from working freelance in production for a few days, but that money won’t come in until November. – Lee)

Campground FeesWe tried to watch our costs as we crossed the country and were able to boondock a few days, but speed took precedence over cost and we stayed where it was most convenient.  We also spent several days in a campground near our daughter in Charleston and ALL the campgrounds down there are pricey.  The one we stayed at was $35 a night which was by far the cheapest. 

Groceries and Dining OutThese two categories were weird this month because of all the time we spent with family.  Although most of our meals were paid for by family and friends, we did pay our own way several times and I made a point of trying to pay my way when I was with my mom.  Plus, Lee took the trip to New Hampshire to clean out our storage unit and most of those meals are included.  (To be specific, lunch on the day of the drive there, dinner the second night, and lunch on the day of the drive back, everything else was a treat from a friend. – Lee) To offset some of that we didn’t spend much on groceries, but did have to restock perishables once we were in our camper again, because milk, produce, eggs etc had all gone bad.  All in we were $192 to the negative in all the categories combined, which isn’t too terrible considering. 

EntertainmentWe were $15 to the good in this category which was largely due to Lee’s parents paying for our entertainment in Columbus.  The money we did spend was while in Iowa with Deb and Steve and I was happy we kept this under budget despite a busy 5 weeks of travel. 

Truck Fuel – This one was a doozy, we were $1,396 over budget.  Part of that was $670 we spent at the end of last month as we traveled across the country.  Because we used the Pilot card there was a delay in the billing and we forgot to add it into last month’s numbers.  I am adding it here though to make sure it gets accounted for, and it also helps me show what it cost to cross the country.  In addition to traveling from Portland to Columbus, Lee made a side trip to New Hampshire.  Although he wasn’t pulling a trailer, he was driving the truck and that cost money as well.  The most important thing about this category is that it really shows how expensive it is to cross the country.  Campground fees aside, the gas can be a killer and is very difficult to absorb in our standard budget.

Home Maintenance and FurnishingsWe also went over in these categories by $437 for several reasons. We paid $130 in deductible and shop fees for our furnace and slide repair.  Lee bought the pieces parts to make us a wind break, which we have wanted for almost two years to protect the area we smoke in outside, and we bought new dining room chairs.  I often blog while sitting at the kitchen table, and Lee spends a few hours at that table each week making cigarettes, but the wood chairs we had were incredibly uncomfortable.  After much searching we were able to find extremely comfortable chairs at a discount dinette store in Columbus and at $99 each they were a steal. Best purchase I have made in a long time and my tush is very grateful. 

In conclusion, I knew it would be a $5,000 month and ultimately wasn’t surprised we hit $5,700.  I think Lee was surprised though, but since we talked about purchases every step of the way, it is what it is.  The trip to New Hampshire alone costs us over $400 including $263 in hotel expenses, and even though that wasn’t the best short-term financial choice it did give us closure.  Plus of course family and friend time was priceless, but now it’s time to get serious.  For the first time in three years we really need the work kamping money and are hoping there will be lots of overtime available to help replenish our funds.  To that end we have already signed up for voluntary overtime for Sunday and plan on working 50 if not 60 hour weeks as much as we can. At the end of the calendar year we will have a better idea how we stand overall, so stay tuned to see how it all turns out.


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 Instant Pot recipes, Travel Days recipes, and Pot Lucks recipes.    You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

September Budget 2016

I didn’t include revenue numbers this month because we haven’t actually gotten a paycheck yet from the beet harvest.  Once the beet harvest is complete I will do a final accounting of the money spent here and money made.  It was a rough month, one of the highest we have had with $5,313 spent.  Details are below and this is going to be short and to the point, because it’s 3am and I am very tired.

september-budget

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campground Fees – Under budget at $292 because part of the month was covered by Alaska Work Kamping and part was covered by Beet Harvest work kamping. 

Groceries – Over by $259.  Part Alaska, part Canada, part stocking up in advance of harvest, part we just buy to much food.  

Dining Out – Over a little bit but not bad.  Offset by spending $0 in entertainment this month. 

Memberships Spent $177 which was our $80 America the Beautiful pass for National Parks and my very first AARP membership.  America the Beautiful more than paid for itself last year and I bought the AARP because people talk about the discounts they get.  Plus why not…if you turn 50 …own it!!

Truck Fuel Over by $649.  Alaska, Alaska, Alaska.  I can’t stress enough, when you are thinking about how much it will cost factor in the going and returning. 

Truck Maintenance – Alignment repairs for $424 one of the few things not covered under our warranty and caused by Alaska roads.  Almost everyone I know who goes has some sort of related truck/RV expense so again factor that in. 

Clothing – The $199 was directly attributable to beet harvest clothing.  Boots for me and long johns for both of us.  Not everything will be found at thrift stores. I will factor that cost into that analysis when the revenue all comes in. 

Gift/Postage – We sent a large gift to my nephew and it ended up costing about $150 in postage and shipping materials all together. Ever start something thinking it wouldn’t cost that much then it ends up costing a bunch more than you though?  Well that’s what happened.  What can I say, it’s expensive shipping a large caribou skull. Who knew??

Home Maintenance – Went over by about $77.  Not sure why.  To tired to figure it out.

 


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 as they support our blog. Thank you.   Search Amazon.com here

July 2016 Budget (with Work Kamper Revenue)

I knew July was going to be a heavy expense month because we made a huge grocery run and spent the night in Denali.  I was VERY pleased to see, however, that despite those additional expenses we still covered our costs with work kamping revenue and even had a $277 surplus.  We made $4,734 in work kamper revenue this month (it was a five paycheck month) and spent $4,457.  Our budget for the month was $4,059 so we did go over budget by $398. I expected to cover the overage with a gift I received from my grandfather and a larger than expected tax return, but now that money can go directly into the general fund for a later date.  A detailed accounting of the overages is listed below.

July Expenses

Campground Fees – One of the biggest benefits of work kamping is free or reduced cost campground fees.  By working here we have been able to explore Alaska in our time off and still keep those costs low.  There are thousands of beautiful free boondocking spots up here, but your costs for dump stations, propane, fuel, and water go up accordingly.  We have a free site and free utilities (water/electric/propane) which is no small thing.  One down side though was in order to travel to Fairbanks, Denali, and Seward, because they were just far to do in one day, we did need a place to spend the night because Lee wasn’t willing to pack up the rig and drag it around.  Of the three, we only paid for Denali and the cost (which is in entertainment) was pretty steep at $231 for one night.  We also could have chosen to move the rig, in which case there would be extra fuel and campground costs as well, not to mention we wouldn’t have been able to take it on the Denali Highway, which was an amazing drive. But even if you factor in the occasional overnight trips, it is absolutely the most economical choice for visiting an area. (For Fairbanks we used accumulated hotel points, and for Seward we stayed with Bill and Kelly)

Groceries –  We went over $346.30 in this category because we made two big runs to Costco and Sam’s Club at the beginning of the month. After a few months with the membership, I am not feeling this club is really saving us money overall.  Yes, we save on items like meat, but we end up spending more on luxury items.  Plus, we are spending extra money on gas to get to the locations.  I really need to see what it is like down in the lower 48 before making a final decision, but unless we can show more discipline when we go there, it’s not worth it to me.  Lee on the other hand is very happy with the selection and the quality and that is no small thing.  We just need to keep working at it. 

Dining Out – We went over in both dining out categories by a total of $222.74  because of our overnight trips.  I packed lunches on the way to the locations, but then we picked up fast food on the way back.  We also really splurged on a $100 dinner while in Denali which was largely mediocre and we definitely would not have done that if we had our rig with us.

Entertainment – We went over by $308.21.  The bulk of this overage was the one hotel stay night, and we also saw a movie in Fairbanks, which was unplanned.  We did a ton of stuff over those days and most of it was free, which was really good. 

Truck Fuel – Despite the five week month and heavy traveling I was please to see we were only over  by $44.27.  This is mainly do to Lee being very careful about where we filled up.  There is as much as a 50 cent per gallon swing between the towns (Palmer, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Wasilla, etc) versus the more outlying areas.  By carefully planning where you fill up, and getting the absolute minimum amount of fuel when you can’t get the lowest price, you can travel and not break the bank. 

RV Registration – I had budgeted a couple hundred dollars for this in June and was very pleased that the cost was only $53.95.  The process was also extremely easy.  Lee went online, quickly renewed, and we received the tags right away.  This is a nice boost to the annual budget and so much cheaper than the annual registration would have been in New Hampshire, which is one of the reasons we decided to change home states. 

Postage –  We were significantly over on postage to the tune of $71.87. I don’t know if that is an Alaska effect or we are just being overcharged for our mail forwarding.  Lee has promised to really dig into this and get a handle on it, but I know part of the problem is that when we need something sent we generally need it sent quickly which always ups the price.

Gifts – We spent $170.58, but I actually put that in the positive column.  I decided to buy all the Christmas gifts for my nieces and nephews in Alaska and have had a blast finding Alaska made items.  Overall, even with postage, I am actually spending a little less than I normally spend and the kids are getting something super cool. 

Home Furnishings Optional – We went over in this category by $240, because I treated myself to the wooden bowl set.  I consider this a gift from my grandfather, but since I did choose to buy the present I have included it here.  Not only did we make enough wages to cover the purchase, but we also had a $97 offset by savings in the other home furnishing categories. 

So even though it was a high spend month I feel great because we  both did really cool stuff and covered our costs. That’s a good month!!   Next month we are taking 4 days off and going to Valdez with friends to celebrate my 50th birthday, and we will see if we can cover costs next month as well.


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 as they support our blog. Thank you.   Search Amazon.com here

May 2016 Budget

This month is a little complicated because there is a budget within the budget.  We knew the trip to Alaska would be costly.  We didn’t know exactly how costly, but I estimated roughly $1,000 in diesel to get here, and I was remarkably close, with the true diesel costs for the 4700 mile trip coming in around $1300.  We also knew we would need to stock up on food this month, but weren’t planning on having to go twice for big stock-ups in May, and those visits alone added up to around $800.  We went right before we hit the Canadian border and then again on May 31st because of the way our days off fell.  I won’t truly know how it all evens out until we can take a 5 month average for food costs in  September.  And we were not planning on having our shackle strap break and to need to upgrade our suspension which ran $747.  So, it was a rough month all around with our spend at an all time high of $5959.15.   However, if you take those three items out of the mix we actually had a very good month, spending around $3202.

The costs were so low because we worked at the RV-Dreams rally and our campsite and most of our food was covered for that week.  It is what it is, and this is why we signed up to work the Beet Harvest in October.  We knew we would need to cover our travel costs and it was unlikely we would make enough to both cover our monthly costs and recoup all the travel costs. I know I keep saying this, but in June we should start seeing what it will really look like going forward.  For more information on some categories please see below. (I don’t agree entirely, I think our expenses will be EXTREMELY low while we’re work kamping here in Alaska, and since we’ve both already been given raises retroactively to our first day, we’ll be earning 35% more than we had projected, and we won’t have campsite costs, which is like making another ~$750 per month. That should more than make up for the costs to get here and get back to the states. Unless we end up blowing a lot of money sightseeing and whatnot, I project that we will be able to put at least $1000 per month in bank while we’re here.)

May2016 Budget

 

Campground Fees – Once again, super happy with this category.  Despite staying in full hookup campgrounds (for the WiFi) as we traveled, we were way under budget in this category.  This will be close to zero for the next few months which is a major help with the budget.

Groceries – I did want to mention here that we looked into other alternatives such as Amazon Pantry  (which does not deliver to Alaska) and buying things online.  Some things we can get, but certain weird things like Dental Floss Tooth pickers we cannot.  Very odd.  Anyway, with Doritos at $7.49 a bag at the local IGA we really have to strategize on how we handle food.  The gas to get to Anchorage and back is $50 and the prices are still around 25% higher than in the US, even at Walmart.  I was really hoping I could use local fish and produce to help keep costs down, but it turns out neither one of us like Salmon and the veggies don’t come in until later in the summer.  Still, we will do the best we can with this one, because I didn’t think costs would be this much higher. (On the plus side, the campground owners have given us the use of a nice big chest freezer, just for us, so that should help a LOT. – Lee) 

Dining Out (Fuel) – With the hectic travel schedule we did eat out a little more than we should have and the trip to Anchorage at the end of the month also cost us money in food for two meals.  We need to think that through the next time we go and at least bring one meal with us.

Memberships – The $195 is our AMEX card membership which earns us points whenever we use it, and double points when we buy groceries and fuel.  Thus far the benefits have outweighed the costs, for example, when we use it in Canada, they do not charge a fee for the currency conversion, whereas Bank of America charged 3%, and the AmEx conversion rate is the best we found.

Entertainment – We were well under budget for a change in this category because with the fast pace we didn’t do much on the way here. I do give us some credit though because we could have bought our way through Canada and didn’t do that.

Storage – One last thing, we are now only paying $20 a month for this as the kids are splitting the cost with us three ways.  So that’s nice.

On a side note I wanted to mention we have earned $184.76 since January 1st  through the Amazon Affiliate program for this website and we are very thankful for everyone who has ordered something using our Search Amazon.com here link.  It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and once you reach the Amazon page you can log into your account and then order anything you would like.  We are using that money to help to mitigate the higher Alaska food costs, by ordering what we can through Amazon Prime.  I thought you might like to know how much we have earned through that program, and where it is going, and I wanted to say I really appreciate anyone who has made a purchase through this website!

Thanks so much,   Trace

January 2016 Budget

Well here we are at a new year.  You are going to see lots of new categories as after 2 hours (no exaggeration) of negotiation we determined what level of reporting we wanted to do.  Since we use this budgeting process to help control costs, you will see several high dollar categories broken down into discretionary and non-discretionary divisions.  Mainly this will help us focus on the discretionary spend this year, since before those costs were often lumped in with non-discretionary purchases. So this month we did worse than we wanted but better than I thought we would.  For more detail you can see below.

January 2016 Budget

Campground Fees – This year we adjusted our budget down to $600 a month from $750. In January we only spent $80 in Quartzsite.  This was somewhat offset by higher propane costs though as we filled our tanks three times.  Still, even if you look at those together, $140 for a month’s camping is pretty darn cheap.

Groceries – Groceries we have broken out into consumables (food, drinks, etc),  expendables (soap, toilet paper, etc), and alcohol.  We kept the overall budget at $600, just broke it into the three categories.  We were under by about $80 which is still disappointing because we stocked up in December.  Still we also spent $50 on alcohol which is pretty rare for us, but we knew we would be with friends and took advantage of California’s low wine prices.

Dining Out – this will be a major area of focus this year and we have broken the category into fuel versus experience.  I am fine with spending money on experience dining, but largely the dining for fuel category can be avoided by packing lunches.  This month we went over by $100 and this was mainly due to the necessity of eating locally at the Rose Bowl Parade (packing would not have worked well since the bus was so far away) and Lee needing to eat when he was driving back and forth to Phoenix for work.  Since we could have chosen to move the RV to Phoenix (next time we absolutely will), these costs could have been avoided.

Entertainment – We did great in this area ($66 under budget)  since there is a ton of free to near free stuff to do around Quartzsite.  The bulk of the money spent was $60 for all of the Cards Against Humanity Expansion packs, which was a great price for a truly awful game we like to play with our friends.

Memberships – We renewed our Escapees membership at $39.99 and finally renewed Passport America.  I’ve been waiting for a good deal and chose the $109 for three years with 7 months free.  Now we have it all the way until September 2019 and I know this will eventually pay for itself.

Fuel – We actually spent less in this category than we budgeted, but still overspent in our minds because Lee was traveling back and forth to Phoenix for several days.  All time low fuel prices and the fact the mileage is all tax deductible make the spend more palatable, but we would probably not put ourselves in that situation again.

Home Expenditures – The most talked about category in our two hour budget discussion was this category.  We ended up dividing the purchases into new items we need versus the ones that were optional, and repair, which is not optional.  The idea is to get a handle on the discretionary spend and truly see where we are at in this category.  From a budget standpoint I combined the budgets for repair and home improvement and added another $20 a month for supplies (Tiki torch fluid, fire starters, etc) which were going into the grocery budget previously.  So it was all divided out and ready to go and then we went to the Quartzsite RV show.  As much as you save in campground fees in Quartzsite, it is VERY easy to spend money at the show.  The good news is we spent $489 and $300 of that was for non-optional things. We bought a fresh water pump, fresh water tank, and multiple repair items for small issues Lee finally had time to fix.  The not so good news of course was the $180 discretionary we spent on top of that.  Some of the purchases I already regret, but the one I am the most happy about was a  stove grill top I bought for $25.  I have used this three times when the weather made grilling outside unpleasant and it is absolutely great. It’s the perfect size for meat and veggies for two people and there is no propane taste.  Also, the frozen chicken breasts or thighs that Walmart sells can be quickly cooked on the grill without even thawing them.  Huge fan of this appliance. As you can see from the link though I could have purchased this from amazon for $20.  As a matter of fact almost everything at the show was cheaper on Amazon and there was precious little in the cool new idea category.  So let the buyer beware on the show.

Miscellaneous –  This $47 was for medicine purchased in Mexico.  Since it was sort of a one shot deal, I don’t really have a category for it.

So we were $368 under budget but still higher than Lee was hoping for.  Let’s see what next month brings.

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October 2015 Budget

We finally lived a month really focusing on controlling all of our spending and, Wow!  We spent only  $2893.59 which is $1,000 less than the best month we have had to date.  We reduced spending in almost every category.  For details on how we did it please see below.

October Expenses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campground Fees – We are volunteer work kamping so no fees this month.  We have a beautiful site and there is minimal work that needs done in the off season so it has been more than a fair bargain.

Groceries – We have struggled in this category but this month we put a new plan in place.  (I would just like to point out that in the entire month, I didn’t buy a single pie. Clearly the overage is due to Tracy’s reckless purchasing of salad components. She’s the Ron Swanson of salad.-Lee)  We have regular meal plans and have eliminated waste down to the minimum.  Towards the end of the month we did struggle.  Meat continues to be a problem as we don’t have a large freezer and are somewhat at the mercy of that week’s prices.  What we are doing now is buying whatever meat is on sale and menu planning around it which takes some creativity on my part.  We also just ate whatever was in the cupboards the last couple of days to avoid making a store run until the first of the month.  I am in no way prepared to declare victory in this category, but it’s a huge step forward.

Dining Out – We went over because we celebrated my last day of work.  We could have skipped those meals but in my mind certain things deserve a celebration.

Entertainment – Very happy with this category because we managed to do several things this month, yet didn’t spend a lot on them.

Cell Phones /Internet – This category has a new baseline with the minimum Verizon phone plan we bought.  Since that will now be my work phone this may actually go up, but for now we are holding the line. This includes 80GB data (and we use every bit of it, every month), an AT&T phone, a Verizon phone with 1GB of data (mainly use the AT&T wireless), and an AT&T Ipad.

Home Improvement – Look at who is getting serious about the budget!!  Lee spent $25 and that was on a new outlet in the kitchen. Major improvement!! (I wouldn’t even have had to do that, but it’s getting pretty cold at night, routinely down to the low 30’s. We have a space heater in the bedroom that’s plugged directly into the power pedestal, so it doesn’t go through the inverter, which doesn’t have enough amp pass through to handle it. There’s also a built in electric fireplace in the living room, which also bypasses the inverter. So we had a toasty bedroom, a toasty living room, and a freezing kitchen, which is exacerbated by the constant opening and closing of the outside door. So, I put in a dedicated outlet that bypasses the inverter, and the cost was for the outlet box, a new outlet (I don’t like to reuse old outlets) and a special thin saw to cut through the very thin wall veneer.  I didn’t want to risk using something bigger and tearing the paneling. So now it’s toasty warm everywhere, and as long as we are on electric hookups, we won’t need to use our propane furnace. – Lee)

Cigarettes – We stocked up in Reno in anticipation of moving to the Redwoods and that is the cost of a 15 week supply of tobacco and tubes. For the year we have spent half of what we anticipated and that budget amount was $4300 less than we were spending while in a sticks and bricks.  As usual, I know smoking is bad, but if you are on a budget and want to smoke, rolling your own is absolutely the way to go. (I know not many people smoke anymore, but if you do, seriously consider doing this. Before we hit the road, we were spending $130 a week, $6700 a year on smoking, which is a truly ridiculous price to kill yourself slowly. The same amount of tobacco and the tubes to stuff it in is $25 per week, or $1300, and it takes about 90 minutes a week to roll two cartons. That’s over 80% savings.  And the machine is only $75. – Lee)

So there we are. In order to prove this is not an anomaly we need to see what happens over the next few months.  It does prove it can be done though, at least short term, which is very comforting.

(I am currently hard at work preparing a truly epic “I told you so” speech. – Lee)

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August Budget 2015

This was supposed to be the first month of truly reduced expenses.  Ah, the best laid plans.  I am trying hard to be philosophical about it, but it’s tough as every month it seems we have one large expenditure that blows the budget.  So we can look at this one of two ways.  Either these first year expenses are one time variances and will not be repeated in year 2, or there will always be something in the $500 range every month and the budget needs to be adjusted accordingly.  When it comes to the emotional aspects of this lifestyle I am very loose, but when it comes to money the practical side of my brain kicks in and it is all about the cold hard facts.  So I will keep reporting the data and you draw your own conclusions, as I will draw mine.

In August we spent $4700 which was $850 over our budget.  More than half of this overage was caused by an emergency purchase of a cell phone booster and associated costs.  We were in a campground with no cell service and due to work needed to solve that problem immediately.  The other major portion was RV Relocation Fuel which went $289 over our monthly budget.  The second number doesn’t bother me so much because we understood these costs would vary from month to month and the yearly number is way more important from a budget perspective.  Eight months into the year we have used roughly half of our relocation fuel (money used to travel from place to place rather than money used to travel locally once we get their), so I think we are in pretty good shape in this category overall.  You would hope that underages in other categories would smooth that out in the overall budget but sadly that was not the case.  For a detailed explanation by category, please see below.

August Budget

Campground Fees – Did as expected in this category.  Half of the month was free because it was covered as part of Lee’s working and the rest was spent on campgrounds in and near Glacier.  Since we stayed right in Glacier park for a week I think the cost was more than fair. And the state campgrounds were much less expensive than the local private parks.

Groceries – Honestly not sure what happened here other than most of the month was spent with people, which always costs a little more, and more importantly in areas where there was no Wal-Mart.  Shopping exclusively at small, local grocery stores does add up and although we had stocked up prior to heading to northern Minnesota, we still had to buy meat and fresh vegetables locally.  I really do miss a large freezer for situations like these, but although we have looked at some alternative there at this point it seems more trouble than it would be worth.  With just the two of us for the next few months these costs will hopefully realign, and we have made a commitment in September to eliminate as much food waste as possible.

Dining Out – I think we did really good in this category with an overage of $68 considering we were with people for two months.  That was largely attributed to one expensive fish dinner with Howard and Linda, which normally we wouldn’t do but I really wanted to try the local fish in Minnesota and there wasn’t really a cheaper alternative.

Entertainment – Again not so bad especially considering we were in Glacier for two weeks.  Steve and I spent a lot of time in gift shops, and although the T-Shirts cost me an overage of $50 in the clothing category overall not so bad for a once in a lifetime experience.

Cell Phone – Overage of $30 for August.  We will be seeing a $52 overage in this category every month until the end of the year when I adjust the budget, because for work I simply had to break down and get a Verizon phone.  We got the cheapest phone and the lowest plan available, but unfortunately cell/data has now jumped to over $400.  Since this is also our television solution, it’s not that far off from what most people are paying, but in August we looked at all our options and have decided to stick with this solution for now.  Mainly because we use a ton of data and we are grandfathered in on a double data plan with AT&T.  Going 100% to Verizon at this point would result in a significant loss of GB per month at roughly the same price.

Gifts – $80 overage in gifts again this month because I sent a friend some flowers for a surgery she was having. Honestly I just don’t know what to do about this category.  I feel like we either need to completely be hard-core and eliminate all but the basics or just own it and adjust the budget accordingly.  I will decide at the end of the year.

Propane – This was over by $54 because we were camping with no services in Glacier and it was cold.  Initially we tried to watch the propane usage, but I finally drew the line at having no power and being cold.  This did put us $53 over for the year and more costs will be coming in obviously, but at Lee’s work kamping job he gets a $100 a month propane “gift” which may actually allow us to stay on track in this category.  I guess it’s worth mentioning that no services does cost something even with solar and additional propane costs are part of that.  Because the campground fees in Glacier were $23 in addition to the higher propane use, it really wasn’t a good deal financially, but hey Glacier…what are you going to do?

Misc – This was travel cash.  We haven’t done a great job of capturing all the cash we have spent although we have worked hard to keep it at a minimum and I have certainly tried.  Mostly we need cash for farmer’s markets and firewood when we are stationary, which I have been pretty faithful about adding to the budget, but travel days do use cash, so I captured how much we took out this time and even though we didn’t spend it all in this month I am going to take the hit when we take it out of the ATM.

So that’s where we are. We have another set of travel days in September, but then three months without campground fees while we work kamp at two different locations in California (and hopefully no more one time expenses) so maybe finally we can hit a new low in the budget.  My overall feeling about the spending is simultaneously feeling I should give us a break in Year 1 and frustration because I wish we were doing better.  Can it be done better? Absolutely.  Can we do it better?  That is yet to be determined.  Since I am currently still working full-time, it really is a non-issue as I am making enough money to cover all these costs.  If/when that situation changes these numbers become much more serious.  We have tried to live as if we didn’t have the money coming in, but of course that’s tough because we have the safety net.  I mention this because it’s important to note that we are living within our means.  Our income right now is much higher than the average full-timer, so it’s not necessarily representative of the average experience, if there is such a thing.  In any event, we will see how it unfolds.  Stay tuned.

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July 2015 Budget

Oddly despite all the wedding crazy we had the best month we have ever had from budget perspective.  The way I handled this month was to remove all direct wedding expenses and last minute costs for the wedding itself, and leave in meals, clothing and travel costs because if you attended a wedding or family event you might have similar expenses.  Based on this criteria we only spent $3804 this month.    We only spent $191 this month on campground fees. To be clear, our actual cash flow was much less, but that money came out of contingency funds. The incidentals weren’t that bad.  We spent less than $750 in last minute incidentals which is a testament to the good job Kat did on planning the wedding. For more detail on each category please see below. This amount was updated in August when I discovered I left out our RV payment.  I apologize by the mistake which was caused by rushing to get the post out before a work trip.  

July Budget 2015

July Budget 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campground Fees – The first two weeks we “moochdocked” on the Miles family farm, which was wonderful. We could have stayed there the entire time, but wanted to be closer to the wedding venue during the week of the wedding. The last week of July our campground costs were covered as part of the compensation package for the video production Lee is doing for Howard.  Both moochdocking and work kamping are totally legitimate ways to keep costs down in this area and we are very excited to finally be able to save some money in this category. 

Groceries – We’re happy this category stayed under despite stocking up at a Walmart before going to northern Minnesota.  It will be interesting to see how we do in August with a stocked cupboard but more expensive local groceries.

Dining Out – We went over by $276.  The bulk of that was the Ecuadoran lunch we bought for all the kids which came in at $170. I left it in because sometimes you just want to pick up the check.  Bill and Kelly can relate! If you take that meal out and offset with the $127 we were under, in entertainment it wasn’t that bad of a story.  Plus, we ate quite a bit of fast food this month.  We were running all over the place and providing meals for the people that volunteered with the wedding setup.  Individually, small dollar amounts, but it does add up.

RV Relocation – For the first time in a while we went over in this category, but we are $2K under for the year.  It will be interesting to see how this is affected when we head out west next month. 

Cigarettes – We have been rolling our own cigarettes for one year now (using finely shredded pipe tobacco, an electric roller, and tubes you buy for around $3 a box) and our average monthly costs have gone down from $520 a month (two cartons a week ) to $125 a month.  This is a substantial savings and of course it would be nothing if we quit but since that’s not in the cards for us right this moment, saving all that money makes this possible.  As an alternative, our friends Jo and Craig have changed 100% to vapor which has the advantage of being better on the budget and a healthier alternative. Either way if you smoke and want to be a full-time RVer we definitely recommend you look into it.  There is way to much variation in cigarette prices from state to state and rolling our own allows us to pre-buy tobacco when it’s cheaper.

Clothing – Over by $242.  This was some of Lee’s suit, earrings for me to wear to the wedding, and an extra set of sunglasses when I misplaced mine.  Thankfully I found the originals. I love those glasses and bought them in an airport so could not necessarily find them again.  I left the bulk of this in because when you are going to a special event you might need a new shirt, shoes, or dress.  It happens. 

Personal Care – I was shocked we were under in this category.  Lee got a haircut and I had my eyebrows waxed and a trim but nothing else.  I did help pay for some pedicures for the girls prior to the wedding but left that in as a wedding expense because I wouldn’t have done it normally.  I do miss my pedicures quite a bit! At $32 a pop though I just can’t justify it.  I keep trying to talk Lee into giving it a try but he is not interested, plus the best part is the cool massage chair and hot towels and I don’t think he could duplicate that.

So, it was a really great month and since two weeks of August campground fees are also covered, we’re looking forward to seeing how next month goes.  We may actually be getting the hang of this.  Hope I didn’t jinx us !!

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June 2015 Budget

This was another tough month for us, but in this case we had some big life events that happened.  One was the wedding and I thought long and hard about whether to include those costs in the budget at all.  But after thinking about it, you will have weddings, graduations, funerals, etc, along the way and they will generate incidental costs.  So the way I have handled it is to remove the costs for the wedding itself (I had set aside a separate fund for those) but I have left in additional costs such as clothing, personal care, gifts, etc., because those may go along with any special event and there are some lessons learned there.    The second event was the flat tire, and more importantly, replacing two truck tires and an alignment.  The warranty reimbursement for the tire should come at a later date, but the two front tires and alignment were just bad luck (we think the alignment was off when it came from the factory as the wear on both front tires was equally bad).

I would like to take a moment here and talk about my feelings around the budget.  I am absolutely an ant.  What I mean by that is in the ant and the grasshopper fable I would absolutely be the ant who stores away extra for the long hard winter.  There’s nothing wrong with being an ant…there are a lot of us, and we are always solid and well prepared.  But to do this lifestyle (unless you were an ant your whole life and have plenty of money in the bank) you need to have some grasshopper in you.  No, it’s not responsible to fiddle all summer long and not put anything away, but you can’t make every moment of every day about storing away either.  So my responsible ant self is trying to channel her inner grasshopper and not worry so much.  It’s tough though when we have a couple of rough months in a row not to get all skittish.  I’m working on it and wanted to mention it because I know I am not the only ant out there.

Alright..well let’s get into it.  We spent $5300, roughly $1400 over our monthly budget.  The details of what happened in each category are below.

June Budget

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Campground fees – We were under in this category mainly because we stayed for 5 free days at DeDe and Denny’s in their house.  In order not to upset their neighbors, we parked the RV for two days in front of their house at the beginning of our Columbus visit and three days at the end.
  • Groceries – We did the best we ever have in this category.  Mainly because DeDe and Denny fed us quite a bit and we ate out a lot.
  • Dining Out – Speaking of which, $177 over in this category.  This included a Father’s Day dinner for my dad and a Father’s day dinner for Lee’s dad and Step dad and a couple of meals we paid for since we felt bad we were eating all of DeDe and Denny’s food.  So if you look at this category and groceries together, it’s a wash.
  • We did OK in fuel, although we spent more than we have in the past since we traveled quite a distance in the month, but still under budget, which was a good thing.  We will see how this plays out in future months as we start to travel out west over greater distances.
  • Home Improvement – Absolutely got killed in this category again.  I wish I could say it was one big purchase but it was a bit of this and a bit of that and it all adds up.  $241 over.
  • RV Truck Maintenance – So this was the major portion of our overage.  We had to replace the two front truck tires and get an alignment which was $555.  We believe the truck came from the factory misaligned since the wear on the tires was even, but safety comes first and we absolutely needed to get this fixed prior to traveling out West.  The remainder was largely the flat tire but we should be getting a refund for $155 from the Tire Insurance company in future months as we submitted a claim.
  • Gifts – I spent over $400 in this category and it was a perfect storm.  I am rarely with people when holidays occur so when I am I love to buy them a gift.  Mom and I went to Reflexology for Mother’s Day. I bought my niece Elise a birthday present, my nephew turned 1, and half of the wedding present I bought for Katy is in here.  The gift category to me is what the Home Improvement category is to Lee.  I am going to need to do some serious thinking and budgeting in this category for next year, but for this year it largely is what it is.
  • Clothing – So here is a major lesson learned. Lee left his suit in the storage unit because we thought if he needed it we could swing by and get it.  I am not sure why we thought that, it doesn’t even make any sense, but our daughter decided to get married, the suit is buried somewhere in storage and we looked and couldn’t find anything that would remotely work for him in consignment stores.  So this month we paid for shoes, shirt, and belt.  Next month you’ll see the suit itself and the alterations.  This was a $400 expense that could have largely been avoided if we could have planned ahead…so even though you’ll hate taking up the space, bring a suit and a nice dress or two.
  • Miscellaneous – The $40 in this category was for wood.  I will say we are using less wood than I originally thought I would.  I started cooking over campfires quite a bit but it’s a bit of a hassle and we tend to use the grill and oven more. Plus many campgrounds don’t have fire rings, or it’s too warm to want a fire.  We will see how this changes (if it does) when we get out west as well.

So there you have it the Good, Bad, and the Ugly.  I am really proud of how we did in some major categories though.  The trend there is comforting, and if you view the Tire maintenance and Wedding expenses as one time variances it’s not a horrible story.  Still after the wedding, we are both in agreement that we need to settle down and find out what this lifestyle will really cost, with just the two of us in the wide open spaces.  Can’t wait!!

Lessons Learned

  • Make sure you bring at least one outfit that is appropriate to wear to a wedding and a funeral (may require two outfits) as these are not so easy to replace inexpensively on the road.

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May 2015 Budget

I should start by saying that although the overall budget wasn’t a total disaster this month we did go over in several categories.  We had two weeks with friends in OBX, RV Driving School, and then excursions at the RV-Dreams Reunion Rally.  One positive thing though that has really stuck with me is when I talked to Bill Mills (a long time RVer) about the budget he said “Track the first year but don’t pay that much attention to it.  There are many one time expenses that first year and your costs will go down as you learn about the lifestyle.”  Those statements were completely credible to me, as Bill has been tracking his budget for many years, and I appreciated his saying it to me. Basically he was saying you don’t have to get it perfect right out of the gate and he was totally right about that.

So here’s our monthly accounting.  We were $686.04 over our budget.  Remember, it could have been way worse!

May 2015 Budget

May 2015 Budget

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campground Fees – I was pleased that despite three different campgrounds we were under budget in this category.  The monthly rate at OBX helped along with a slightly lower rate in Ebenezer and Tom Johnson and the “free” night we stayed at Cracker Barrel.

Groceries – OK, we blew this one.  It was predominately group meals and about $100 in alcohol (rum and mix for the Rally party and wine/beer for other nights).  It’s funny because we generally don’t drink that much but when you’re with a group you want cocktails and we needed to contribute to the party nights. I consider this an anomaly, but we are tracking liquor separately in a sub-category going forward to see where that is at.

Dining Out – Yeah this one we just flat out blew.  We did OK in April but the combination of being with folks and the night we stayed overnight at Cracker Barrel really did us in.  (We had dinner and breakfast at Cracker Barrel which ended up being close to $65 in total, so our “free” night was not so free.)  That being said, we were under by $45 in Entertainment so at least we didn’t go over in both categories.

Fuel – We did great in this category again since we were staying in the same general location and gas prices were extremely low in South Carolina.  We will be interested to see what happens in this category over the summer as fuel prices are creeping back up and we are moving longer distances.

Cell Phone- We went over $62 in cell phone because Lee’s phone died.  Luckily we had a warranty on it so he got a new phone for free but this was the shipping and deductible.  Could have been way worse!!

Electronics and Software – Finally added a budget amount to this category of $50 a month.  We keep spending in it so we might as well own it.  This covers our monthly subscription to Office products ($9.99 a month), music, hardware etc.  If you know my husband you understand why we simply have to have money in this category.  $50 may be too much, but I want to see what happens when things start to break.

Miscellaneous – We spent $445 on RV driving school.  This was a one-time expense and although it is unfortunate it didn’t result in a lowering of our insurance costs like our friends got (apparently if you are under 50 the discount won’t apply) it still was worth it.  I do wish I would have purchased the less expensive 1/2 day option however.

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