2020 Annual Budget

2020 was an unusual year.  Not only because of COVID but also because this was the first full year since 2015 that I had a corporate income.  Both of these factors impacted our spending, but overall I was somewhat surprised at how little the costs varied.  There were some big changes of course, but it wasn’t as stark a contrast as I thought it would be.  Before diving into 2020 in detail I wanted to show the comparison between the years. 

I think the most interesting fact is the averages.  When looking at trends, when we made more we spent more, and when we traveled more we spent more, but the averages take all that into account.  The six year view is not perfect, btw, as not all expenses are included in the main categories.   An example of an expense left off was when I paid for my daughter’s wedding for example, but the basic costs are all included.  In my opinion, that makes the $4,058 average monthly costs figure pretty accurate.  You can certainly use that figure as a base cost if you live frugally and do some volunteer/work kamping along the way.  If you would like to see detailed posts for previous years you can access that on our Budget page here

Below is a summary of this year, with some high level details.  As always we will be adjusting our budget going forward using past data. 


Campground Fees – This year we spent an all time high, $6,266 in campground fees.  This is actually pretty similar to what we spent the first year when we did minimal work-kamping.  It is definitely a concern though because we spent this in 6 months.

Groceries – This year we hit an all time high of $10,521 in groceries.  This was absolutely influenced by COVID as we stocked up on groceries several times when there were empty shelves.  We also paid what we had to for a variety of items we wouldn’t normally buy (ie: sanitizer, disinfecting wipes).

Gifts – This year there was a huge spike in this category, mainly because of my new grandson.  I expect another big year in 2021 because I am having another grandbaby.  Obviously this is completely discretionary (as you can see from prior years ). 

Healthcare – If you are seeing a difference between the 2020 totals here and in the year over year comparisons this is a big reason why.  Generally I do not include healthcare expenses in the basic categories because it varies so much from person to person.  I did include additional healthcare expenses in our budget this year though, because those costs have gone up for us as we have gotten older. 

Home Improvement – We have seen a stark uptick in the costs we spend on home improvement over the last two years.  Part of this was  voluntary improvements, but the other factor was things starting breaking at the 5 year mark and they keep breaking.  I will be interested to see if the bulk of the items have been taken care of at this point or the trend will continue. 

Tolls and Parking – This is another item that is absolutely an anomaly. Because there is very little of that in prior years this total of $1039 is also not included in the year over year comparison.

Truck Fuel – This figure was also absolutely impacted by COVID.  We did VERY little travel the first half of the year and it shows in the all time low spend of $3616.  

So that’s the main information.  I have included a more detailed view including Min, Max, and Averages for the year. 


For those of you who made it this far, I hope this was helpful.   Will be interesting to see what happens in 2021!



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We very much appreciate your support of our blog.

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
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July Budget (and Revenue)

Sorry it took me so long to get this budget post out, but there has been a lot going on.  Basically we made about $300 in July, which is a good thing since this month included the $600 for a plane ticket to see Kyrston and a crazy high grocery bill.  Total expenses were $4110 and total revenue was $4413.  For more details, see below.


Groceries We have access to a freezer with our jobs here at Timothy Lake and since it is a 1-1/2 hour drive one way to Costco, Lee made a stock up trip which ended up costing $500.  We also always spend more on groceries up here because they are more expensive in the Pacific Northwest.  That coupled with me trying to cook healthier and it’s one of the highest grocery bills we have had since going on the road.  On the plus side we have a freezer full of meat, so hopefully this will balance out a little bit over the next couple of months. 

Dining Out/Entertainment – On the plus side we were under in all three of these categories.  We are trying to eat more at home, mainly because when you drill into most restaurant food it really isn’t that good for you.  High salt content in particular is a real challenge when eating out and paying attention to the nutrition content is really taking the joy out of eating out for me. 

Health Insurance – As I mentioned in a previous post we are slowly working our way through the medical bills from Lee’s heart attack.  I have paid about $2K in medical bills so far which are NOT included in this budget because the money came from an HSA account we had when we went on the road. Lee paid one bill from our checking account which I did include in this month.  I know it’s a bit arbitrary that I included what I consider an out of pocket expense versus the HSA account, but that is how I have chosen to deal with it.  For those of you who are using this budget to decide whether or not to go on the road, I will say simply that the entire incident reiterates the need to have a savings account for these type of unforeseen expenses.  There is no way we could make enough work kamping to cover these medical bills along with our regular expenses.  The current state is $2K from the HSA account, $200 out-of-pocket, and tens of thousands currently in the appeals process with Blue Cross/Blue Shield.  I’ll keep you informed as it continues to sort itself out.

Clothing – Some good news…Lee has lost enough weight by eating healthy that he has gone down two pant sizes.  So it cost us more in better food and a chunk of money for him to buy all new jeans but he’ll live longer so it seems like a more than fair trade 🙂

Gifts – I bought several items for Kyrston and Oliver right before I left.  Almost all of the presents I bought came from the Amazon Associates program and the few remaining items I just splurged on in July.  I also took advantage of an unexpected opportunity to buy some wine for my dad at a deeply discounted price and for $65 I was able to send him $200 worth of West Coast wines.  Like I said, the opportunity kind of came out of nowhere and I took advantage of it to do something nice for my Dad who loves trying different wines. 

Home Equipment – We went over in this category by $278 this month.  Essentially that was $100 in new LED lights (we have been losing a light every couple of weeks for awhile which is frustrating) and the materials for Lee to build a platform in the truck. Back in April we saw that our friends Deb and Steve had built a platform for Hurley in the back of their truck.  This allowed them to put the dog cage in while traveling and have space underneath to store stuff.  We both liked the idea and when we arrived for our summer gig, Lee decided to tackle the project.  First he had to take out the big tool chest he has had in the back of the truck (which was a sacrifice) and then he had to build the platform.  It took him a couple of days but it turned out really great.  He’s working on a post about it that will come later.

Miscellaneous – The $600 for the plane ticket, which wasn’t really that bad considering I was going from one small airport to another.  It helped that I was able to book it a month in advance.  We discussed me going out right after the baby was born but that would have cost over $1,000 easily.  Ultimately we decided to wait until Jeremy went back to work for me to come out and I was able to book the flight as soon as they gave her the last date they would let her go before inducing labor.  It made me a little anxious, but it all worked out really well and saving the $400 was helpful. 

As usual if you take all the extras out, the budget is really doable.  Unfortunately as usual there are always extras.  I don’t know how those of you who are using this budget to help make your decision feel about that.   On the one hand I hope you aren’t letting all these extras discourage you, but I also hope you are being realistic about what your costs might be.  It’s a delicate balance for sure, and a process I can remember going through myself.  Without having recurring income, becoming full timers definitely involves a leap of faith. My advice is to take the leap but have a safety net of savings to help break the fall.


Supporting our Blog

We very much appreciate your support of our blog. You can help by doing any or all the following:

  • Make purchases via our Amazon website links.  There is no additional cost to you, and a portion of the proceeds help support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here.
  • Purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • Purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes.

May Budget 2018 with Money Tracking Explanation

We often get the question of how we track our money, and when David mentioned recently he was “drowning in receipts” (I can relate) (No she can’t. I can relate. – Lee)  I thought I would go ahead and combine the explanation of how we track our money with this month’s budget, so those of you who skip these budget posts, can skip this explanation first, before you skip the budget post. (You never know, though, there might be a pretty picture at the end of a budget post, and if you skip it, you’re only robbing yourself. – Lee) Let me start by saying it wasn’t easy initially.  In our former life, we were used to having enough money that we didn’t need to track every penny, and it was quite the mental transition to not only track everything, but also talk about it.  (I still tracked every penny back then, I just didn’t care what the data revealed. Well, I cared a little. I used to hassle the kids about how much it cost to leave lights on, to the point where I made a spreadsheet of how much an hour of anything electrically powered cost, and put post it notes all over everything. I was a super cool dad. Oh, and I also told them, a LOT, about how I didn’t want to heat the neighborhood while they opened the sliding door all the way to let out a dog that needed a 6 inch opening. Did they think we were MADE of money? Also, food waste makes me crazy. And turning up the heat so they could walk around the house in shorts and a t-shirt, with no shoes or socks in the winter. Sorry. I ranted a little bit there. Apparently I still have a little New England Fuel Oil Cost PTSD.  – Lee) I know from talking to our friends, we aren’t alone in this, and although people track to varying degrees, everyone it seems is tracking more than they did prior to becoming full-timers.

So how do we do it?  Well for me it starts with a spreadsheet, and I purchased the basic template from Howard at RV-Dreams before we even went on the road. Yes, I could have created my own, but I liked his format and I wanted to support him and his lifestyle, so I bought his way back in the summer of 2013, and never looked back.  I have been using it since the beginning, and am a big fan.  It’s relatively simple, all the formulas work, and it helps me stay organized.  We have changed descriptions on some of the categories over the years to ones that work a little better for us, but mostly we have used it as is.

As good as the spreadsheet is you have to get the information into it and that’s where we initially ran into a problem.  Initially we tried to keep all our receipts, but we kept losing them, or didn’t get them, and it just didn’t work.  This was making Lee crazy, and ultimately he decided to use a program called Quicken which he was familiar with because he used it at his former job.  Quicken does all kinds of amazing things, but I still preferred my spreadsheet, so what Lee does is download our transaction info from all of our accounts into Quicken and then categorizes each purchase so they match what we have in the spreadsheet.  He then runs me a weekly report, which I transcribe into the spreadsheet. (Sorry, I just need to take a moment. I’m  just laughing and laughing at her use of the word “weekly”. It’s June 7, and as soon as I proof read the first part of this post I’m going to load up Quicken and categorize all of May’s transactions because the last one I did was May 2nd. Then I’ll run the category reports so she can put them all into the spreadsheet. Weekly. That’s funny. – Lee)  

This is double the work, certainly, but what I like about this system is if he makes a categorization mistake I catch it when I move the numbers over. And the categories are important.  In order to control our spending we need to know where the money is going and to trust that information it needs to be input in properly at the beginning.  Even though this sounds like a ton of work, and initially it was a little challenging, at this point all of that happens very quickly (still giggling. – Lee) with both of us spending maybe an hour a month on budgets.  It actually ended up being way less time than rifling through a million receipts, and we never have to worry that what we enter into the spreadsheet doesn’t match what we have in the bank. (Do as we say, kids, not as we do. – Lee)

The only tricky part is cash, and we try to use that as little as possible.  Let me give you an example.  We know we will need cash for campground fees or a special event so we take $100 out of the bank.  In Quicken we can break that $100 down and categorize it, but since we tend to hold onto to the cash in our wallets, they don’t always get categorized in the same month we took the money out.  My solution to this has been to capture cash purchases in the spreadsheet as they happen, and to be honest occasionally one slips through the cracks.  (Back to laughing really hard again. Laughter is good for the soul, thanks, honey! – Lee) But since we prefer using cards (we want the AmEx points!!!) this generally isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things.  We had a similar issue with our Pilot/Flying J fuel card (transactions not showing up until the next month when we got the statement). so now Lee enters our Pilot gas purchases on the spreadsheet as they occur and when the bill comes in the next month I just ignore that charge because it’s already been input. Figuring out how to handle the fuel was a much bigger deal, because that can have a huge impact on our budget in any given month, but we seem to have a system that is working.

I am sure this all sounds pretty complicated, and initially it was.  It eventually it becomes second nature and what I like about it is we are both seeing all the transactions every single month.  It’s much easier to hold each other accountable when we both have a stake in “paying the bills” and even though there is some double work involved, this stops one of us from being oblivious to what is going on.  The only other thing I will mention here is that now we talk about a money a lot more than in our old life. Initially those conversations were very stressful, but now it’s rarely any different than talking about who is going to take out the trash.  That is a major improvement for us, and came from us “meeting in the middle” in money conversations.  I stopped worrying obsessively about every little dime and Lee stopped holding the information so closely and then giving me the bad news all at once.  This transition did NOT happen overnight.  It took a couple of years for us to reach this place, but I often think that if nothing else came our of our full timing adventure, the way our relationship handles money now is a huge benefit.

Hope this answers the question.  On to the month of May!! The good news is that despite not having full pay periods we were only $61 over budget this month.  One of the benefits of working so hard was we didn’t have a ton of time to spend any money.  We definitely had issues with the grocery budget again though, which seems to be a pattern for us when we land in a remote place.  We end up stocking up, as if we were going to be snowed in or something, and then spend the rest of the summer trying to figure a way to eat all of that food.  More details are listed below.


Groceries – Like I said in the summary, we spent way to much and went over by $363.14.  On the plus side we were under by $121 in eating out which helps offset some of those costs.  

Memberships – Both our Costco and our Amex memberships came due this month and since those are both providing us value we went ahead and paid them.  Currently we aren’t paying for Work Kamper or Escapees so for now we are still under in this category. 

Clothing – Lee broke down and requested a bunch of work shirts. He’s been wearing this same model since 2006. When he finds something he likes he sticks with it. Instead of the black he’s always worn, he a moss green which goes better with the type of work he is doing now.  Since having a tucked in, buttoned down, well fitting shirt matters to him I was all for it.  Plus, these shirts really last. The ones he’s replacing are over 10 years old, and they’re in perfectly good shape, but the black has faded quite a lot. (I absolutely love these shirts. I wore both the long and short sleeve versions for 10 years at work, and I’ve continued to wear them since we hit the road. You’ve seen me wear them. I wear them pretty much every day, and they’re nearly indestructible. What I really like about them is that the tails are extra long, and they have arm gussets, so they stay tucked in. And I’ve never had a button come off of one. They’re pretty reasonable considering how long they last. Check them out here. – Lee) 

Miscellaneous – I spent $56 on plants for my garden for the summer.  I really should put this in entertainment or maybe food 🙂

Overall it was a good month, and I was pleased to see we only spent $3071 since it was all pretty crazy, and things tend to get out of whack when we are working so hard. Now that things have settled down we will really need to stay on our costs, because part of the reason we took these jobs is to sock away some money for our next break in October/November. Although that is always a balancing act when we also want to do stuff.  A friend of mine said the other day that she is finally “living within her means”.  I don’t know if we are actually doing that, but we are always getting closer, which is good enough for me.

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.

March 2018 Budget (with Revenue)

This was a rough month, with $6,562.77 in expenses.  Keep in mind though that $1,909 of that was directly related to RV repair, and I can’t very well complain that things in the rig aren’t getting fixed and then also complain that it costs money to fix them.  It’s part of the deal.  The good news is we did earn $3,850 in March to offset those costs and in some categories, like groceries, we stocked up for the month of April as well.  Also the rally we attended was definitely a factor as we spent more in almost every category in order to attend.  That was totally worth it though, so to some extent it just is what it is.  Category details are listed below.


Campground Fees – We went over our monthly budget spending $376.96, but we have spent nothing in the last three months, so annualized that will work itself out. 

Groceries – We actually were doing fine on groceries until we did a $298 Costco run at the end of the month, but that was a stock up for Utah (and beyond)  since we weren’t sure what grocery availability would be. I also cooked quite a bit at the reunion rally and that always costs more, but it’s also a great opportunity for me to try out new recipes.

Alcohol –  Lee got a great deal in Nevada (buy one bottle get a second for a penny) on some alcohol and stocked up, so we now are carrying more bottles than I think we ever have.  What he bought will last him months, so that will annualize as well.

Dining Out – Really blew the budget on dining out, going $177 over budget.  We had our anniversary dinner at The Big Texan and ate a ton of convenience food as we traveled to the rally.  That’s mainly me, by the way, because I can’t seem to pass a truck stop without getting some kind of snack.  Silly really since I have stuff in the rig, but I always just grab something and that really adds up.

Entertainment – Lee and I spent $100 gambling in Pahrump,  which is something we never do, but had a good time. Most of that I lost, he came close to breaking even,.  We also bought a bunch of books for the summer since we were near so many Half Priced bookstores in Texas.  Except for the gambling, the rest was “stocking up” and since we spent next to nothing in this category while gate guarding I don’t feel that bad about it.

Truck Fuel – Truck fuel was brutal, with a monthly expense of $952.  As we traveled across New Mexico we were only getting 6.5mpg (hills and winds), and one long travel day in particular we spent $300 in fuel.  Craziness.  Again, we spent very little the first three months of the year, but it still bums me out, but we would have spent this either way getting to our summer job in Oregon, it just happened to come all at once in March.

Truck Maintenance – Along with lots of home repairs we also had a battery die, which cost $172.  That was my fault since I left the back door open on the truck after going to the grocery store, but the batteries were also four years old so I didn’t feel that bad about it.

Personal Care – We went over by $41 in this category because we both got haircuts and Lee bought two pairs of KIKAR LED Reading Glasses (Strength +2.0) with Case These are wonderful because they allow him to read in bed with just a tiny light and I highly recommend them as a marriage saver!

Postage – The bulk of this was Lee brought some videos with us from his parents house to work on and he shipped them all back once he finished them, which was a one time expense of around $75.

Home Equipment – Here’s the big expenditure for the month.  I’m not going to break all this down, but the biggies were $1,000 for the slide floor, $200 in labor and $100 in parts for the slide cables, $200 for new stairs, and $100 for the hoses for the washing machine and the tools (which cost $70 but will last forever).  What can I say, stuff breaks and it costs money to fix it 🙂

OK back to Zion, where we are spending even more money!  This is why we worked all those months to enjoy this though, and I am not going to make myself crazy about money this month either.  Hey, that’s progress!

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.

November 2016 Budget

November was a really good month from an expense perspective with only $3,216.43 in expenses.  It’s hard to spend money when you are working 10-12 hours a day.  It actually would have been one of our best months ever, $2875.63, if we did not have to double pay our health insurance.  We signed up for ACA for 2017 and had to pay the first month premium to get on the program.  Details for all other items are listed below.

November Budget

Campground Fees – We spent $105 traveling from Montana to Texas in the first few days of the month.

Groceries – We were under budget by $97. This was due to a concerted effort on our part to use what we already had in the pantry and the significantly lower cost of food in Texas.

Dining Out – We were over between the two categories by about $100. A chunk of this was our one big splurge meal at the Big Texan, but also we tend to spend more on food when we are traveling.  It has been tough not to completely blow this budget though.  As hard as we are working it is tempting to order pizza or get fast food and more of that may happen in December, but in November we did pretty well. 

Entertainment – This was almost exclusively books as there is a Half-Priced Bookstore two minutes from the warehouse where we went for training on two occasions. Books are definitely our weakness, and we adore the Half-Priced Bookstore chain, so it’s not surprising we went a little crazy.  At this point we are running out of room for more books and not reading them very fast since we are so busy, so this should be it in the book department for a while. (Challenge accepted. I always say, there’s ALWAYS room, and especially for books. – Lee)

Truck Fuel – This was great at $172 under budget.  The bulk of our spend was traveling to get here and we have used very little while here.  We get reimbursed for one tankfull at the end so we will get some of this back. 

Truck Registration – I showed this as being due in November, but it’s actually in December.

Home – The big purchase in this category was $50 in couplings and clamps so we could attach our sewer hose to the large portable tank they provided us for waste here. Not sure if we will ever use them again, but they were necessary.

So it was a good month from an expense stand point at least.  We will see if the trend continues.

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

October 2016 Budget

One of the best things about working 15 straight days is you don’t have much time to spend money.  Not surprisingly this was one of our best months ever with only $2881.88 in monthly expenses, saving $1191.87 off our monthly budget. It’s not hard to figure out why.  Minimal campground costs, low fuel costs and lack of entertainment costs helped to financially make this a great month for us. So if you are really struggling to stay on budget, work a ton of 12 hour days straight.  That should help 🙂



Campground Fees – Only two days as we traveled to our next work kamping job.

Groceries – I am really happy with this category, because despite the fact that we purchased lots of prepared foods and didn’t cook many meals, overall we were $38 under budget. As you know this category has been a major challenge for us, so maybe eating canned soup and deli chicken every day is the way to keep these costs in line!

Dining Out – Despite the $119 overage in this category I am really happy with it.  $73 was one big splurge meal at the end to celebrate finishing the harvest and the rest was pretty reasonable.  It was a HUGE temptation to not eat out constantly since we were so tired and working, and if we had eaten every day at the food truck at the yard this would have been much worse.  Considering the circumstances, I think we did great here.  Plus it was offset by Entertainment where we spent a whopping $2.28. (I am pretty sure that was an ITunes song.  I love the show The Voice and occasionally just have to download a song from there. 

Truck Fuel – Individual fill ups were somewhat expensive in Montana, but there were few of them as all we did was drive back and forth to work every day. $178.20 is really a job expense in my mind, although after talking to our tax accountant, I don’t believe we can claim it on our taxes.  The most conservative view is going back and forth to a job from where the RV is parked is not deductible.  Traveling within the job work hours would be (ie: if we had been sent to another location during our work day), but a simple back and forth is not. I am not a tax accountant though and you may take another approach, but personally we tend to be pretty conservative on how we file.  I only mention it because I had some confusion on this issue, but of course talk to your accountant about your unique situation. 

Clothing – We spent $90.62 on last minute clothing items for the harvest.  This could have been avoided if we would have known in advance what clothing was needed, but since it was almost all thrift store I don’t feel bad.  I may have also slipped in a few recipe books as well, which really should go into entertainment, but I’m not going to break that all out. 

Home Repair – We crushed this category, coming in $134 under budget because again who has time for home repair when you are working 12 hour days.  I will say we have developed quite a list of items that need to be addressed, but have decided to use our extended warranty and address these items in bulk once we are in New Braunfels. 

Overall, it was a great budget month, which is another plus for working the beet harvest. What’s interesting to me is we have demonstrated we can live on less than $3K a month, but seem unable to consistently achieve that result.  Why is that so important?  Well if we can comfortably live on less, we can work less.  We are not alone in this struggle, by the way.  Most people don’t just flip a switch and instantly become frugal.  It obviously can be done of course, we met numerous kids who make their beet harvest money last for several months, what is still to be determined is whether we are willing to consistently do it. 

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