The number one thing to do before living in an RV

Sitting fireside in Kentucky while visiting familyCourtney Kane/ Life with Beth and Court

Fireside while visiting family in KentuckyCourtney Kane/ Life with Beth and Court

When we first got the crazy idea to sell our stuff and hit the road, there was one thing we really needed to consider before living in an RV full time.

Review our current budget, and see how that could compare against the RV lifestyle budget. Creating a budget and having a plan of where your money is going to come from is the #1 place to start if you're considering full-time RV life.

This is going to look different for everybody. Some people will be retired already and receiving a pension; some people will put away savings so they can do this for a certain amount of time without having to work; some people will be working full time from the road.

Whatever your situation looks like, you just need to have it locked in.

Questions to consider before living in an RV full-time

Here are the financial components we considered before living in an RV full time:

  • Will one or both of us be working on the road? Full time? Part-time? Gig work?
  • Will we sell our home or rent it out?
  • Will we buy an RV outright or make payments?
  • Will we purchase or lease a tow vehicle (if using a trailer or fifth wheel)?
  • Will we sell or store our things?
  • Will we purchase memberships that help cut the cost of campsites? Which ones?
  • What do monthly costs look like? How do they differ from homeownership?

Your answers to the above questions will give you a pretty good road map of what your finances may look like on the road. Here’s what it looked like for us.

How it worked for us financially

Income on the road: My job could not be done remotely, so we used my wife's income as a baseline for what we could afford.

Sell or rent our home: Sell. We wanted to focus on learning how to do the RV life without the worry of managing renters.

Buy an RV or make payments: We started out thinking we would buy the trailer outright with proceeds from the house. Instead, we wanted to save that money for a potential down payment on a little fixer-upper cabin, or in case shit went sideways in our first year and we needed to use it.

Purchase or lease a tow vehicle: We weren’t sure we’d even like this lifestyle so rather than buy a truck, we decided to lease one. We have a family GMC discount (from Beth’s Papa) so it was actually cheaper for us to lease a new vehicle than buy a used one.

Sell or store: Sell! We actually used the cash we made from selling our stuff to finance the new stuff we had to buy for the RV lifestyle. It was quite freeing to get rid of all our stuff. Plus, it felt really good that we didn’t have to use any savings or credit to finance our new lifestyle. Zero-sum game, baby. This is a great way to go if you don’t have any monies saved up for the transition.

Camping Memberships: Yep! Because we were going to be living in an RV, it didn’t make sense to NOT get memberships that would make it cheaper for us. We initially thought we’d boondock half of each month. Ha! That did not happen. We haven’t boondocked once.

As for the memberships we invested in, we decided to use $7,200 of the proceeds from our house to buy a lifetime Thousand Trails Basic Upgraded Membership. This would allow us to stay within the Thousand Trails network with no nightly fees for 2-3 weeks at a time, depending on the campsite and availability. It also gave us access to an extended network of discounted properties and campsites. This membership alone was well worth the cost when living in an RV. Our winter stays in Florida in year 1 would’ve cost $4,200, minimally. And our membership is good for a lifetime! Now…there are plenty of catches with Thousand Trails, but that’s a post for a different time.

We also purchased The Dyrt, (affiliate links) Good Sam, Passport America, and Harvest Hosts. You don’t know which memberships will be helpful until you need them – so we recommend NOT buying them until you need them.

Passport America has definitely paid for itself already, as did Good Sam. And the tool we use to bring them all together and plan our trips is (affiliate link) RV Trip Wizard.

Monthly Costs: We took our current fixed expenses (lease payments, mortgage, utilities, cell phones, etc.), removed the expenses that would go away without our current home (mortgage, home insurance, water, electric, trash collection, etc.), then added in estimated monthly fixed costs for our new RV lifestyle (new truck payment, trailer payment, increased truck gas costs, campsites, propane, etc.).

We counted on our variable costs (groceries, toiletries, household supplies, etc.) largely staying the same with the addition of categories like firewood, laundry (coin-operated on the road), etc. for our new lifestyle. We could literally go on for 4 more blog posts about this topic – and by “we”, I mean Beth. If you want to use the budgeting software we use, check out (affiliate link) You Need a Budget.

Where did the rest of our money go?

We still have it!

As I mentioned, we had a plan to keep some of the proceeds from the house as a safety net for our first year because….um, we had no clue what we were doing. We just ended up having a heftier safety net than we imagined. We’ve brainstormed about how we may invest these dollars in the coming years, which is really exciting for us.

Now it’s your turn! Go grab your other, put your phones on Do Not Disturb, set a timer for 45 mins, and just start talking through some of these details. This lifestyle may be much more doable than you think.

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Full-time RV couple in our 30's teaching other couples how to sell everything they own and join the full-time RV lifestyle! You can expect RV beginner resources from us in blog form, as well as "edutainment" Youtube Vlogs capturing our journey!

Palm Springs, CA

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