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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Third Budget

So March was a pretty rough budget month.  We knew we would go over in some categories because of Kat’s visit, but we also got hit with some extra expenses because it was a long month.  In addition, we pre-booked some campgrounds into the August time frame and about $719 of the campground fees are actually paying for campgrounds in future months.  I thought about whether or not to go ahead and put those payments in the future months, but decided to leave them in the month the cash was actually expended.  This budget isn’t just about how much you spend but when you need the cash, so going forward the payments will always be reflected in the month they happen.

 

March 2015 Budget

So we spent $4,631 this month and went over budget by $794.  The overage was largely caused by $719 in advance campground fees and overage in groceries of $200.  Detail is below

  • Prepaid campground fees $719.  The month only actually cost us $563.60 in campground fees because we had prepaid at Rainbow Village and St. John’s was very inexpensive at $17 a night.  We also did receive a credit from the campground in Apopka which brought that week down to a more reasonable number.
  • Groceries were way high this month with an overage of $276.  The bulk of that was $131 at the Asian market and $70 for a very nice steak dinner for the kids one night, but yeah, this was not good.  We are going to start tracking food versus non food items separately to see if we can get a handle on this and Lee is going to rearrange our cabinets so we can meal plan around what we have instead of double buying because we don’t know we already have something.
  • Dining out; I am thrilled about that, we only went over by $90 because we ate out in numerous amusement parks throughout the week.
  • Feel the same about entertainment which was only over by $68 and the overage was mainly this really nice kite that Lee bought for OBX.
  • Part of our registration fees hit this month. $32 for registering domicile and $119 for drivers licenses both of which are one time costs.  In April we will get our license plates, which should give us an idea of that annual budget.
  • Tolls was $42.50 this month and that was all spent in the week around Orlando.  If you are planning on going to the parks, build that cost into your budget.
  • Clothing was over $188 because Lee bought several year’s worth of shirts, but we are ok on the annual budget of $600.
  • We were under in Fuel, Cigarettes, Haircuts, and laundry all of which helped put some money back in.

So it was not the best month we’ve had but it could have been way worse by far and we had a good budget discussion around some of the items we are still struggling with.  Plus it’s life right?…your kids come to visit, you spend more than you want on food in a month….these are things that happen whether you live in a RV or in a regular house.

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Second Budget

Well the second trip up north definitely did me in and I got laryngitis for the first time in my life.  For a couple of days last week I couldn’t speak above a whisper and I felt pretty much like crap until the following Tuesday.  I did manage to meet my daughter Kyrston and her boyfriend Jeremy for dinner one night.  They drove 1-1/2 hours and I drove an hour and we met in Vermont.  Thankfully the weather cooperated and we had a very nice time although I had to whisper my way through the dinner.  Jeremy was pretty sweet about it and it was wonderful seeing Kyrston since we hadn’t been together since we left in November. When I got home on Friday I was a wreck, so I slept most of Saturday and stayed in the camper on Sunday as well.  Dr. Jo came up to see us one last time before we leave Tampa and brought Peyton and Annubis with her.  It was sad because although I know I will see her down the road I don’t know when.  But it was so sweet that she drove the four hours round-trip to see us and hopefully we’ll see her and Ben sooner rather than later.   So nothing exciting this weekend at all to share in the picture department, but I do have February’s budget finished.

February Budget 2015

February Budget 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The good news is we did better than last month!!  Still over budget but only spent $3900 versus the $4100 for last month. The highlights are as follows:

  • Went over a bit in campground fees because electric here in Florida was much more than we expected ($88 for the month of January and we didn’t use AC once).  So if you are staying in Florida for an extended period of time, factor that into your budget,
  • Groceries under budget…hooray!!  Thank you Walmart Neighborhood market!
  • Dining out we went over by $82, but we knew that would happen this month and we did much better at communicating on this category so I still count this as a win.
  • Entertainment we were under by $106 which cancels out the overage in dining, but I would like to track those as separate categories and try to stay under in both.
  • We were under in truck fuel and used no relocation fuel which was great.  We will see what happens in this category when we start moving again next week.
  • RV and Truck Insurance was high because we switched to a full-timers plan and had to prepay on one and were paying in arrears in another.  One time blip.  We will be paying $160 rather than $90 going forward though, but totally worth it for the piece of mind by having the right kind of coverage for our lifestyle.  Next month I will adjust the budget on this once I get a clean monthly bill.
  • Ok… Home Improvement…went over by another $372.  Obviously we need to get this category under serious control.  It’s hard to complain though when Lee is doing such cool customization to the rig…but yes we have discussed it in detail.
  • Clothing we went over by $72 and that was all me and the new shoes I bought.  I’ll take the hit on that one.
  • Personal care went over by $72.  This is another category we will need to adjust because obviously $50 is not going to get it done for us, even going to Super Cuts.

So overall we did ok, especially for as much activity that we packed in with our friends.  In March my daughter Kat and her boyfriend are  coming to stay for a week, so that should be interesting, but they are chipping in on groceries which should help.

Couple of expenses not on the budget I did want to mention though;

I signed us up for the Escapees Rose Bowl Parade HOP.  It’s been a bucket list item of mine since I was a teenager and the all-inclusive week will cost us $1680.  The includes tickets to everything, transportation, campground for 7 days, and one meal a day.  So I took $840 out of savings as a deposit and consider that our “vacation” this year.

We also had to buy a portable water tank and a macerator pump since we are staying for a week at a campground with no full hookups.  This was on our original purchase list, but we didn’t buy it before we left.  Thankfully, we got an unexpected refund check on our house insurance for $500 which covered the costs. How awesome is that!!  My advice here is you will be tempted to wait and buy some bigger ticket items once you are out on the road.  In some cases that may make sense as you won’t have enough information about what to buy until you try out the lifestyle, but I absolutely recommend a separate savings account for those items so they don’t come out of your contingency funds.

I also wanted to pass along that Jim and Barb of Jim and Barb’s RV Adventure just hit their one year mark and shared their annual expenses here.  To prove the point that everyone’s budget and experiences are very different, they have traveled for a year with an average campground costs of $5 (they boon dock a lot).  They also spent $7,400 for the year in fuel because they traveled quite a bit last year.  I am so glad they shared the information so I could drive home the point that literally Your Mileage May Vary…. Plus they have a darn good blog :).   

So that was my week.  This week is all work, and getting ready to move on to Apopka. Then things start to really get interesting as we see how moving around and my working gel…plus first time with a kid staying with us.  Should be interesting and lead to some new firsts!!!

Lessons Learned

  • When preparing for full timing set aside the money for big infrastructure items (blue boy, solar, wifi booster etc) that you don’t want to purchase up front but know you will need down the road. This should not be part of your contingency fund
  • Adjust your initial budget as real spend data becomes available
  • Everyone’s budget truly is different based upon how they travel and what their personal requirements for living comfortably are

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First Full-Timing Budget

One of the first questions people have who are interested in the Full Timing lifestyle is: “Can I afford it?”. (Yes, you can, but nothing else. – Lee) Most people know they would love it, but whether they can make it work financially is a major roadblock.  What made me really believe this was possible was reading RV-Dreams and seeing Howard’s budgets, so I promised myself that if we were able able to do this I would carry his generosity forward as best as I could and post my own budget as well.  Last month I had every intention of posting it but it was such a disaster I gave myself a break and decided to start in January.  Between trailing costs from moving, Christmas gifts, and too many meals eaten out with family, we were pretty far off the rails.  (I ate nothing but Ramen Noodles and bought nothing. I have no idea what she spent all our money on. Probably hookers and blow. – Lee) So we hunkered down in January and for better or worse, I’ll show you how we did, below.  By the way, I am using a spreadsheet created by Howard from RV-Dreams that is pretty terrific.  I highly recommend it as a starting point for those of you who are interested in tracking your costs. (You’ll think you can just make your own, but you can’t. Just buy Howard’s. It’s worth every penny, and you’ve got enough to worry about without making spreadsheets. Trust me. – Lee)

So how did we start?  We looked at budgets online, talked to our friends who went on the road before us, and made some not-so-educated guesses.  Consequently, we knew that we would need to adjust the budget after some time passed when we had more data.  Some folks pick a dollar amount and then shoehorn their expenses into that amount, but I wasn’t comfortable with that approach.  (I prefer the “spend everything and assign blame to others later” philosophy. It has worked really well so far. I have, or used to have, lots of cool stuff. Then Tracy made me get rid of all of it and live in a little box with no high speed internet. This is awesome! – Lee) Instead we did a bottom up approach, looking at our costs for each particular item, seeing what the total was, and then adjusting down, as needed, to make it doable.  The big questions was: “Could we live with it?”.  This is also the fifth version of the budget we have done.  As we got more information things changed. (My original budget included new towels and socks every day, and free pie that magically fell from the sky. I got more information, and it changed. – Lee)

When you ask the questions on forums about how much it costs to live on the road people generally say “as much as you have”.  There is an element of truth in that but ultimately I feel it is a cop-out because few people are willing to live at a subsistence level even if they have the most beautiful view in the world.  Most people who decide to full-time have lived pretty comfortably for some time and are used to spending money, so a complete adjustment to never spending anything isn’t quite practical for most. I say all this to preface my budget.  (Isn’t the suspense killing you? You could just scroll down, but then you would miss everything I had to say. Perish the thought. – Lee) Could you live on less? Sure. Could we live on less? (Nope. Meeting adjourned. Let’s go get Chinese food! – Lee) Yes if we had to, and some day maybe we will.  Are there categories and expenses that you will spend far less on because you simply don’t care about them? Absolutely.  I will say that a human being can only deal with so much change at once and some of these items are in place to allow us time to get used to our new life.  It will change over time I am sure, but for right now this is where we are:

January Budget

January Budget

 

Let me review some of the bigger ticket items.

Campground Fees – $750 was based on what several other people we know used.  We definitely feel we can get this down over time as we do more boondocking and feel more comfortable with places other than private campgrounds, but for now with full hookups this is a realistic.

Groceries – This is what we were spending in our sticks and bricks.  We have tried to reduce this some by not stocking items but those savings have been offset by spending more on natural, fresh foods.  Again, over time I expect we will do better with this but for right now it’s not an area we are looking at too hard.  For us this is definitely an item we didn’t want to mess with too much with so much other change.  Plus we are eating out less so spending more in this category. (Also, pie ain’t cheap, baby. And two pies costs twice as much as one pie. Bam. Math. – Lee)

Dining Out / Entertainment – We have $350 dollars all told in these two categories and there was some intense discussion around this.  We thought we had padded the number and we would never spend this much and then completely blew both these budgets in December.  This month we did much better but we really had to work at it.  Part of the cool thing about traveling is there is so much to see.  Part of the difficulty is seeing things without spending tons of money.  We had to say “No, we won’t spend $72 on the Big Cat Rescue  (which was #1 on my things to do in Tampa list) and instead spend $8 on the Sunken Gardens.  ” Lee also came up with this great plan for looking at food as fuel versus an experience.  If it was just fuel we should pack a lunch (which we still are lousy at) or drive home to eat or get McDonald’s.  If it was an experience then we would eat lunches versus dinners and make sure we made the most of it.  (The most effective way to get the most out of eating out is to make the other person need to go the bathroom by making waterfall noises, and taking food off their plate while they’re gone. Also, stealing food from other patrons, but you have to be fast. People are all weird about that, but I say it’s all part of the experience. – Lee) Souvenirs are a hard trap to avoid as well.  Not having much space for things helps, plus I try to get magnets at places, which are relatively cheap. My big weakness is T-Shirts which can be super expensive but do serve two purposes (souvenir and clothing).  So sometimes I get a shirt but most of the time I don’t and I try to only get them when they are sale.

Truck Fuel – This was one of the hardest items to calculate.  We have $150 for running around wherever we are staying, and $250 if we are moving from place to place.  Have no idea if those numbers will hold up because I still have a company car and those costs are coming directly from my paycheck.  It’s awesome that gas prices are so low, but going places still costs gas even if they are free so I expect these expenses to go up as we leave the Tampa area and start traveling around some more. (I have argued that if we always camp near pie outlets, we can keep the fuel costs waaaay down. We’re still discussing it. – Lee) 

Cell Phones/TV/Internet – Originally we had cell phone, internet, and TV broken into multiple categories, but when we decided to get rid of dish and just stream television we upped our usage to 80GB a month and are paying $361.  I know this seems like a ridiculous amount of money, but I also know we use every bit of that 80GB in a month.  Will this change over time? I hope so as we get to more wide open spaces, but for right now this is where we are at. (You want to see her freak out? Tell her she can’t watch “Scandal” because we’ve used up all our internets. – Lee)

RV Loan Payment – We wanted to come on the road debt free, but at the end of the day we were not willing to delay another year to pay off the camper.  It was our choice to go on the road with this $400 payment and we felt and still feel it’s manageable. (My theory is that if we just keep moving, and Bank of America doesn’t read this blog, they’ll never find us. We’re still discussing it. – Lee)

So how did we do??  Well, certainly not as bad as last month, but not as good as I would have liked.

January Actual vs Budget

 

We had a budget of $3465 and we spent $4167 or roughly 20% over budget.  So where did it go?  Well, let’s talk about the red.   (See how reasonable she sounds? Then BAM. No pie. You have to watch her. She’s good at business. – Lee)  The biggest overage was Home Improvement.  We only have $50 in the budget (which is probably too low) and I bought a $200 grill and Lee spent the rest at the Tampa RV show and on various other miscellaneous house items.  (Every single one of them absolutely necessary and mission critical. – Lee) This is similar to having a new house…it’s hard not to buy stuff for it, but we definitely need to get this category under control.  (See? Everyone agrees. Meeting adjourned. – Lee) The next largest overage was cigarettes.  We used to spend $600 a month on cigarettes, but before we came on the road we started rolling our own which took the budget down to $200.  Yes, smoking is bad, and we would like to quit, but in the interim it’s a part of our budget. We were thrown a major curveball though, when we got to Florida and we couldn’t find cigarette tobacco anywhere.  Apparently they changed the taxes on cigarette tobacco, so everyone is smoking pipe tobacco which doesn’t roll well.  Long story short, after an exhaustive search, Lee found a place an hour away that sells it so he bought 7 pounds of tobacco.  This overage will even out during the next couple of months and if you’re not a smoker you won’t have to worry about this in your budget anyway, which is a good thing for multiple reasons.  Membership fees were high (joined Escapees and Passport America), laundry went over because our washing machine was broken, and personal care was high because we both got haircuts.  We may need to make that budget item higher. (I vote for no more haircuts. I want to look like Sean Cassidy. If Sean Cassidy was almost 50, and about 50 pounds over his ideal weight. If he was 7 feet tall.-Lee)

So what was the good news?  We were $4 under budget in dining out…hooray..and thanks Eileen and Gene for buying me dinner that one night! (So sorry about your budget, Eileen and Gene, but it’s dog eat dog out there. – Lee) Entertainment we were under by $104,   Fantastic!!  And since we didn’t relocate this month we got $250 back on fuel.  So there were some positives and I can definitely see that the things we focused on, we did well on.  Overall I don’t feel that horrible about it.  I think the big takeaway here is that you can set a budget in advance and then try to make that budget work, but until you get out there and live the life you really don’t know what it is going to cost.  After talking to Lee about the results, we are going to start meeting every week to see how we are doing.  (More meetings! Yay! – Lee) I don’t think he would have been willing to do that a month ago.  We are evolving, and in this as in all other aspects of this life we need to be flexible and patient with each other. (Qpwsoedfsglkjldfgjlgkjdg. Sorry, I can’t type, I’m laughing because she said I’m “evolving” and “patient”-Lee)

On another note (although a large medical expense would definitely impact the budget) I had promised I would provide some followup on my Aspen Dental experience and since I had my appointment this Friday I thought I would share it here.  I have been concerned about finding dental care on the road since the very beginning.  As I have mentioned before I have always taken good care of my teeth and absolutely believe that clean and healthy teeth are necessary to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle.  I thought there was no “Urgent Care” type company with a national network of dental offices and then my friend Cori mentioned Aspen Dental.   Although they are not everywhere, they are growing and I loved the idea of being able to have my records on file in their national network. The office I went to just opened on Thursday and was absolutely beautiful.  Every dental chair has a television attached to it (super nice feature) and everything was spotless.  I knew I would have to get a full set of x-rays (despite having pictures of the x-rays from my June), but  I was resigned to that since they stated they would not charge me if the insurance company didn’t pay for them.  They did the full set which took awhile and then I was put into an exam room.  Someone then came in and measured my gums and that’s when things got unpleasant.   She recommended a two step cleaning process with an irrigation.  I was taken aback since my teeth are in really good shape.  When I pushed back she got very defensive and brought in the dentist.  He proceeded to tell me that I had two potential cavities and a third cavity and they could take care of it the same day.   He tried to show me with the mirror but I saw nothing and then he pressed hard on the tooth but I felt nothing.   I may very well have the beginnings of a cavity, but at that point they had totally lost credibility with me so I stated I just wanted my cleaning.  Then it got really bad. I went with the office manager into a room where we could talk about treatment course.  This is standard procedure in this office and I was picturing my husband or someone else who always takes doctor recommendations being taken for a ride.  I said I just wanted a cleaning and eventually she typed it up and handed me a paper that had the cleaning and the irrigation which my out of pocket would be $64.  I have nothing against paying for a service I need but I was very clear.  At this point I was livid.  I told her I wanted only what my insurance would cover and nothing more and I was about two seconds away from asking to speak to their area manager.  She finally backed down and printed out the service I requested AFTER I signed a release form stating I understood what they recommended and was refusing it.

They did have an immediate opening so I took a deep breath and went back with the hygienist who seemed very nice.  We were about to start when the supervisor pulled her from the room and when she came back in her attitude was completely different.  As my teeth were cleaned I got a nice lecture on gum problems.  She then proceeded to use the pick to clean my teeth acting as if this was an unusual procedure.  She even said that she felt she had to do it because it was the right thing to do for the patient.  At this point I looked at her and said, “My hygienist always does this.  It’s part of the standard cleaning .”  She hemmed and hawed a bit and then changed the subject.  So my teeth are clean which is the important thing but it was a thoroughly unpleasant experience. Here’s the thing.  A medical person has implied authority by virtue of their training that makes it more likely you will say yes to whatever they recommend.  So I believe strongly that anyone in that position has a higher level of responsibility to provide the patient with their options.  Does this always happen?  Of course not, but when you’re in a sticks and bricks you hopefully have time to shop around and develop a level of trust and relationship with your provider.  Losing these established relationships with my doctor and dentist is a major downside to the nomad life and forces me into a position of being extra vigilant in any medical situation.   So will I go back?  I’m not sure what other choice I have.  It’s either fly back to New Hampshire twice a year for cleanings, find a new dentist every six months wherever we go, or use this chain and at least avoid the new patient experience.  They did say that they do x-rays every year (instead of the standard 2) so honestly I am not sure if it will be worth it.  I will give them one more shot in 6 months and see how much of a hassle that is. (After reading this, I have opted to stop going to the dentist. I have always hated it anyway. Plus, I want to look like Sean Cassidy, if he were almost 50, a little chunky, and toothless. – Lee) 

So that’s the week, budgets and dentists.  It wasn’t that bad…at least there was no snow and we had several absolutly beautiful days unlike our friends in the northern states.   Tomorrow we are going to vist our friends in Ft. Meyers and next week Cori and Greg get into town.  Really really looking forward to popping in at the boondocking rally and seeing everyone!

Lessons Learned 

  • Being a new patient at a dentist involves two visits and most will not do the cleaning the same day as the initial consultation
  • You have to be your own advocate when you do not have an established relationship with the medical provider.
  • You can set a budget in advance and then try to make that budget work, but until you get out there and live the life you really don’t know what it is going to cost

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