Saturday, December 11, 2010

FAQ on Full-time RVing: Question #1 How can you afford to do this?

Probably the question that I have been asked the most during the past 6.5 years I have been Full-time RVing is "How can you afford to do this?"   A lot of people planned and saved and/or receive retirement income in order to spend their golden years on the road.  I did not plan or save and being I haven't reached my golden years yet, I don't receive any retirement funds.   I sold my home and all my belongings before the housing market collapsed.  With the proceeds from the sale I bought my RV and spent my first two years traveling. Being that my 'plan', albeit conceived a couple of _days_ before I bought the RV (story here) and started full-timing, was to spend a year traveling and then go back to the real working world, I had to start rethinking things when one year stretched to two years.

Working on the Road
When I realized I might be doing this a bit longer & may need to work on balancing some income with the outflow, I tried my hand at Work Kamping, which a lot of full-timers do to help with expenses.  Most Work Kamp positions involve staying a season at a campground and working 15 - 20 hours a week.  Some work in the office, some park RV's, clean bathrooms or whatever needs to be done.   In return you get your campsite & usually your electric free.  No cash exchanges hands.  I spent a summer working in Yellowstone National Park which isn't a traditional Work Kamp job since I received a hourly wage and did have to pay for my site.  This has been my only 'Work Kamper' experience, it wasn't the best of stints for me because I had to work more hours than I wanted and I didn't have input as to the scheduling (I guess that kind of makes it a 'real' job :) ), although I  loved being in Yellowstone for 5 months.    I also did a short stint working in my field and now I still work in my field but as a part-time consultant.   I can set my own hours and work from where ever I am.  It means that I am limited to staying where I can get wifi but I am okay with that.   This summer I also picked up a flexible part-time job in a tourist town close to the RV park I wanted to spend the summer at.  There are lots of seasonal opportunities in tourist areas if you are not particular about what it is that you do.  One of the benefits I find by working, besides the income, is that it helps you to connect to the area better.  I learned a lot by connecting with the rangers and other workers in Yellowstone and did the same this summer.  So even though I had visited the same area in Colorado for many years, I learned all kinds of information that I didn't know just from talking with my employer and co-workers, who were locals.  So working can have benefits besides just putting gas in the tank.

RVing Wisely
In addition to working part time, I also try and watch my costs.  I rarely ever stay in an RV park for a night unless it is a park that accepts Passport America, Camp Club or has another discount program.   Daily RV rates are always the highest.  I figure if I am only gonna be there a night I can just as easily stay at Walmart, a Truck Stop, Rest Area or where ever.  I usually do a weekly or a monthly rental.  The per day rate is then a lot less.   It's nice not trying to cram every area highlight into a two days period.  If I think I want to be in an area for a bit and haven't stayed in an RV park there before, then I will pay for a night before paying for the month, just to be sure there are no trains, planes or other major noise makers that aren't readily apparent upon check in.   I avoid KOA's if at all possible because their rates run on the high side.  I lean to parks that offer Passport America or another discount program because their monthly rates are usually lower.  The highest rate I have paid for a month is $625.  I try and stick with parks that aren't more than $500 a month.  When I started you could find nice parks for $250 a month, times have changed.  I just can't seem to justify the $600 plus a month parks too much.  You could pay a house payment at that amount and I am bringing my own house with me.   You can also find vacation rentals in a lot of areas that are fully furnished for around $600 a month, so why pay much more than that to park your RV?  The more park prices increase the more that I lean too changing my set-up to boondock more.  Boondocking which is staying free on public lands or other places is another option that many people choose.  I like the conveniences of the electric, water and sewer and meeting people in parks.

I have found that by making good choices on where I stay, staying longer and working part-time I can cover my expenses and enjoy exploring whatever area I am in until I am ready for a new adventure in a new area.  Everybody does it differently, but if you don't have that nice pension payment or social security check coming in .. know there are still options if being a full-time road warrior is what you want to do.

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