September 2019 Budget and Revenue

Our September budget was rough for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost if we hadn’t been let go early from our summer job this would all have been a non issue, but the loss of $7500 in revenue certainly had a major impact.  Instead we only had income of $1,616 for a net loss of  $3,954.  A big chunk of that was the $1,070 to replace our rear truck tires, and of course our travel costs to get south ($1,154 in diesel fuel alone).  It could have been a real mess, but thankfully we had enough money to get us down to our friend’s place in Texas where we could stay while we waited to get a gate guarding slot. Essentially what being cut loose early cost us was our month off traveling and seeing our kids.  We were going to make our way across the country and see each of our three children and our parents, but instead went south and immediately started looking for a gate guarding job.  Ultimately, it all worked out as I was able to find a professional job in my field in time, and once again we squeaked by without taking anything out of our savings account.  It did completely wipe out our checking account though and if we didn’t have money coming in soon we would definitely need to hit our savings.  For more details please see below:

 

Campgrounds – Lee’s not a big fan of boondocking when we travel so I try to use Passport America as much as possible.  The options on this trip were somewhat limited so we ended up staying in several more expensive parks.

Groceries – I would have guessed this would have been lower because we have been trying to eat what we have, but I am also trying to include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and those add up.

Dining Out – We went over by $81 and that was mainly due to the heat as we were traveling.  We often stop and heat something up in the RV on travel days, but the rig was super hot so we ended up eating out almost every lunch we were on the road.

Entertainment – Really happy with this category.  We did tons of things when we traveled south, but most were free or near free.  $103 for all of that is a huge bargain in my mind.

Truck Fuel – We really only look at this number as an annual amount; anything else will make you crazy.  Practically though it can have a significant cash flow impact if you need to get from point A to Point B and your savings are low.  

Truck Maintenance – I suppose this could have waited but they were in really bad shape and we would have been rolling the dice. (We really should have replaced them back in the late winter/early spring but put it off. – Lee)  I am shocked by how much we have spent on tires over the last five years.  I really need to talk about that in the five year budget review.  The good news is Lee has them staggered so they don’t all hit at once (front truck x2, rear truck x4, and trailer x4).  The bad news is it feels like every time we turn around we need to buy new tires.

Clothing – I desperately needed some new work clothes, in particular because I have put on weight, but I didn’t want to go completely crazy.  I started by visiting several local thrift stores, and then whatever I couldn’t find there I bought on clearance.  I don’t think I paid full price for anything I bought, although I did splurge a bit in October and bought a few Brooks Brothers shirts.  Those aren’t cheap even on sale but I love the way they look and they last forever.

Shipping – Twice we needed to overnight our mail to ourselves.  Once to get the last of the medical bills and another time to get our final paycheck which were mailed to us.  We also had a couple other items shipped as well.  Since everything was so up in the air and we weren’t sure when we would get a gate we paid the extra so we would have everything in hand.

Pets – I had to go back and see what we did here since this amount seemed so high.  Turns out Lee splurged on a bunch of brain toys for Jack and the treats that go inside.  I also took him to the vet for his three year rabies shot and a check up.  He’s the picture of health and continues to bring real joy to our lives, although we probably need to set a real budget for this next year.

Gifts – We bought some stuff for Oliver, our grandchild.  That’s another area that I probably need to set a budget for next year.  I continue to mostly spend the money I make from this website, which is awesome, but when we were visiting places we used our money.  Lee bought him a cool book from one of the museums and I bought him several rubber duckies.  It’s all about balance for sure, but it’s hard not to go a little crazy because he is so darn cute.

Home –  We went over by $74 in this category in September (much more to come in October), which actually isn’t that bad.  Lee did a real cool RV Mod (details in next post) which gave us lots of additional storage under the bed. (This is also a category I feel like should be looked at annually, because there are lots of times when we spend nothing at all on the rig. – Lee) 

In addition to the costs listed above we finally figured out the medical bills for Lee’s heart attack so I wanted to give a final accounting.  Almost all of this came from our HSA account thankfully.

  • $14.93 to radiologist –  Not covered under insurance.  Paid with HSA.
  • $144.85 to pathologist – Not covered under insurance.  Paid with HSA.
  • $220.35 to ER physician – Not covered under insurance.  Paid with HSA.
  • $612.22 to Methodist Hospital –  Originally this was $6,622.16 that went towards our deductible.  Because it is a charitable organization and we made so little last year I applied for assistance and they forgave 90% of it and we only had to pay 10%.  That was amazing, and went a long way towards this whole things not being a financial disaster.  Paid with HSA.
  • $1325.78 to Cardiologists – The cardiologists were out of network but since we didn’t have a choice in the doctors I appealed with Blue Cross/Blue Shield.  They denied the appeal so we ultimately ended up paying it. Paid with HSA.
  • $7500 for helicopter ride.  – The insurance paid around $10K of this bill and I appealed with Blue Cross/Blue Shield.  They denied the claim which left a bill of approximately $47K.  When we called the evac company they offered two different plans.  One was $100 a month until $10K was paid.  The other was a one time cash amount of $7500.  Although we still feel that this amount is too high, it’s more in the ballpark so we have agreed to pay that amount.  It will be paid with a combination of HSA and savings.

The moral of this story from my perspective is to make sure you have some sort of insurance coverage.  Yes, high deductible plans are next to useless for average health care, BUT if something bad happens it can save you.  The costs all in were well over $250K.  I also highly recommend that if you are planning on going on the road max out your HSA account.  We started five years ago with 12K in HSA and after paying for dental and other minimal costs for the last four years and they bills above we still have $3K left to apply to the evac copter.  That means we only need to take $4K out of savings to cover the heart attack and in the grand scheme of things I can live with that.  As a reminder we started this journey five years ago with $40K in savings.  Our deal was once we hit $10K we would need to take a break and make some money. After paying all these bills we still have $13K in savings.  The HSA account is the only thing that made that possible so again I highly recommend it if you are in the planning stages.

All that being said I am very happy to have found a job in my field so we can rebuild our savings.  It would have been next to impossible working the types of jobs we have been doing and this is a much needed infusion of cash.  Going forward we will still report our costs but I will no longer be reporting our revenue.  Suffice it to say we will have enough to live comfortably and really put away some money quickly.


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  • 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.

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.


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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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September 2015 Budget

Spent $4338 this month, roughly $450 over budget.  This largely came from the home improvement area and grocery area but we have plans in place to address.   Still room for improvement in some categories but we definitely feel like we are headed in the right direction.

Budget September

Campground Fees –  Thanks to Lee for finding free or near-free places to stay on travel days, and our work kamping job, this category is the lowest it has ever been.  Lee has felt all along that once we got out west this category would be much lower and he was absolutely correct.

Groceries –  Wow this one got completely out of control.  By far the worst month we have had yet.  We went back and took a look, and again it was being with friends and being forced to shop at small grocery stores with no other options.  It wasn’t big bills, either, just numerous $80 trips.  The good news is we implemented our new grocery/meal plan and in the last two weeks of the month only spent $245.  If we continue to spend at that rate we will be under budget for October and maybe I will finally feel like we have a handle on this.  For September I am going with “it’s always darkest before the dawn.”

Dining Out/Entertainment – One was over and the other was under, so it was a wash. That’s always a win in this category.   And really good for us considering we were with friends and traveled, both of which in the past have caused us to blow the budget for these categories.

Fuel – Although we are over in both travel and local categories, we really look at this as an annual number and we are under by $1K for the year so far.  We traveled from Montana to California in September and have done a few long driving trips to Reno while here in Susanville. I’m not that concerned as we only have three months left in the year, and we aren’t looking at any really long trips, so the annual number should be good. Which frankly is  a miracle since this number more than any other was a big guess when we set the budget.

Home Improvement – Over by $300 dollars.  We bought the flagpole buddy to help with cellular strength (works pretty good), and we hit a large Camping World in Oregon and went a little crazy buying all those things we had needed for several months but weren’t near a Camping World, and Lee bought the supplies to add new power outlets in the rig so that we can hook our electric heaters up to the additional power outlets on pedestals, so we can bypass the inverter. He also bought the supplies to add a 12 volt outlet in the bedroom and we bought an Endless Breeze 12 volt fan so I can run a fan all night without worrying about draining the batteries when boondocking.  I will say that in order to prepare for less income coming in, we have decided to discuss all of these purchases proactively.  Talking at the end of a week or month is reactive and doesn’t really help.  Now we are having a meeting every Saturday morning where we will discuss in advance what we think we will be spending, especially  in the more troublesome categories.

Clothing – Lee bought a cool hat (you’ve seen it in the pictures) and I went a little T-Shirt crazy. I have this idea that eventually I will take all the T-Shirts from the places we have been and make a quilt from them.  Since they will serve three purposes (a shirt to wear, a memento from seeing something, and ultimately, a quilt) I don’t feel that guilty about spending the money.  If I plan on continuing this though I will definitely need to look at adjusting this category next year.

Propane – We went way over and this was mostly used in the first week of the month in Glacier.  Because it was cloudy and smoky, we had to use the generator to charge the batteries (which takes a ton of propane) and we also had to heat with propane, because we were not on full hookups.  Obviously this is not the most efficient way to heat your home, and you really should take propane costs into account when thinking about boondocking in cold weather.

So it was a solid month and I am excited about our new grocery plan and proactively talking about the budget weekly.  If neither you nor your partner is a spender by nature you may not need to go to these lengths, but since we were pretty much used to spending whatever we wanted whenever we wanted,it’s somewhat necessary.  Part of me wishes we would have done this immediately, but for us we needed to come to it organically, because we don’t want to spend less money.  We like spending what we want when we want, I mean really, who doesn’t?  But we also know that that is just not sustainable. Because of our natures we needed to ease our way into this.  And keep in mind we are not close to being where we want to be yet.  This is our “me working full time making tons of money” budget.  Next year’s budget will need to be leaner.  We will see how it goes, and all I can do is be as honest as possible through the process.

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