Do you keep track of your expenses and use a budget? Whether you’re preparing for an RV or already traveling down the road, a budget is a useful tool. It will help you decide whether RV travel is feasible, and it will also help you stick to your spending plan while traveling.
Can you afford a full-time RV or even a snowbird? Completing an RV budget, even if it’s not exact, will help you make realistic decisions. If you don’t already have an RV, you can get a rough fuel estimate using 6 miles per gallon for RVs; up to 10 for a diesel engine. The major insurance companies that offer full-time RV insurance will give you instant quotes or an up-to-date quote on their website to use as a ballpark figure. And you can use camp directories to get a rough idea of camp costs. It seems that the campgrounds charge an average of $ 25-30 per night, although you can certainly pay more. You can also use the discount and camping membership to lower your costs.
The address you choose will also affect your budget. Your address is your tax address. If you travel full time, you can choose one more home in your favor. Taxes, insurance, and vehicle registration can vary greatly from state to state, so this is an important decision.
On the road
RVers are fortunate to be able to adjust their budget much more easily than Stix ‘n Brix residents. Here are some examples:
- Housing or RV Park Costs: If you spend too much, you can stay in less expensive RV parks and stay on a water / electric site rather than one with full hookups. You can park overnight in a Wal-Mart parking lot where allowed. Boondocking (unconnected camping) on public land or rest areas, where permitted, may be free. Many RV parks offer discounts for extended stays. Stay for a week or a month in one place and not only will you get a discount, but you will also save on fuel costs.
- Propane: Adding a more efficient catalytic or ceramic heater to your RV and using it in place of the installed heater saves propane costs.
- Meal: Food costs can be controlled by eating out less often and making food choices.
- Other purchases: Purchases are usually smaller due to space considerations. Some RVers stop exchanging gifts with family members or cut back on what they spend. Unique items from your travels are great gifts that don’t have to cost a lot. However, the family may appreciate the postcards or frequent phone calls instead of the gifts. With a more casual lifestyle, jeans / shorts and t-shirts are suitable for most occasions.
Prepare for emergencies
Inevitably, there are repairs and other emergencies that cut a part of the budget. If possible, have an emergency fund or spend a little less than the allotted amount and set it aside.
A roadside assistance program comes with a monthly fee, but it more than pays for itself if you need to be towed or changed a tire when you’re away from civilization. Read the fine print to make sure it covers such eventualities.
Set aside money for platform replacement or when you can no longer travel.
Develop a method for tracking expenses. A spreadsheet on your computer is a good way to keep track and analyze your data. You can set up your spreadsheet by category and then sort to get the totals for each.
Tracking your expenses will give you some ideas. We don’t think in small quantities like stamps, laundry, and Starbucks. For example, when you see your cell phone and internet access totals each month, it may tell you whether or not you can cut that expense. Since spending is about options, you can see if your spending matches your values. Staying in touch, for example, may be high on your priority list, while eating out may be a low. You can make adjustments more easily when you know where the money is currently going.
One method that has worked for me to stay within the spending limits in each category is the envelope method. This tool is recommended by Dave Ramsey, creator of Financial Peace University (http://www.daveramsey.com/) The cash for each budget category goes in an envelope so you can visually see what is there. When that envelope is empty, you will have spent your allowance for that month
Knowing that you can easily adjust your expenses into various categories helps you stay within your budget.
Add to your income
If your expenses exceed your income, then it might be time to find ways to increase your income. Workamping (working on the road) or volunteering can make extra money or effectively give you more money by providing a free RV site. Some RVers work part of the year; others work until they accumulate a certain amount of money; and still others settle in an RV or mobile home park for a time and get “real jobs” outside of the park.
Working and volunteering gives you even more flexibility. You often get free “benefits” when you work, like free tickets to area attractions and discounts on laundry or propane. Since you don’t travel all the time, your fuel consumption also decreases. And having time to get to know an area and explore at your leisure adds depth to your travels.
Unless you’re staying at expensive RV resorts and eating at fancy restaurants, life on the road is generally much less expensive than staying in a house or apartment. It’s also much easier to adjust your spending to stretch your money. RVing is a life full of new experiences and adventures. Use a budget and tracking your expenses as tools to get the most out of your travels.