The “Great Recession” may be in the rear-view mirror, but with the way Wall Street plays fast and loose with our money and the rest of the world dragging down our economy, you never know when we might feel the pinch again. Here are some of our thoughts on ways to pursue your full-timing dreams, even when money gets tight.
In 2008 when things went south, Sue and I were among the lucky ones. We had sold our house and started our full-timing lifestyle several years before. But it almost didn’t happen that way. If we had stuck with our original plan to hit the road in the fall of 2008, we may have been scared off because of the high gas prices and weak housing markets. But even in trying times, there is no reason you can’t live your dream of traveling full-time.
Even with the initial costs behind us, things did get tight at times. The winter of 2009 all the temp jobs we had gotten used to had dried up, and we had to scramble and dip into our savings to keep our heads above water. But like most people did, we cut expenses, found new sources of revenue and rode out the worst of it.
From our experience here are a few things we learned to keep in mind:
- Living within your means
- Initial Costs
- To work or Not to Work
Living within your means
Just like our sedentary friends and family, full-time. RVers have to live within our means. Make a budget, or at least a general financial guide, and live within it.
When we started we figured out that we could live comfortably on $25,000 per year. That included paying our remaining bills, food, campground fees, fuel, and entertainment.
Since we hit the road, we have always made more than this, but we see how we could comfortably make it on less. Some tips to trim the fat in your budget:
- Campgrounds usually have cheaper weekly and monthly rates, so pick a place you want to go and stay for a bit. There are also great state and county parks that are much less expensive than private campgrounds, but they often limit the time you can stay. And if you are set up for boondocking, you can stay out on BLM or National Forest land for free (some restrictions may apply).
- When you are looking for jobs, make sure a FHU site is included as part of your compensation, but make sure they don't inflate the value of the site and cut into your pay.
- Most campgrounds don’t charge you electric, and you pay for propane, so do as much with electricity as you can. This includes cooking as well as heat.
- Don’t eat out as much and cut down on going out for entertainment. Often times you will find the most entertainment in an area comes from your fellow campers and yourself.
- Where feasible, walk, bike or carpool with other campers.
- Most campgrounds have a book exchange and some even exchange DVDs.
- Netflix, Amazon and other streaming services are great ways to watch movies and TV on the road, as long as you have the bandwidth. Pick one that works best for you and avoid paying multiple subscription fees.
If you don't already own a RV the initial costs of starting this lifestyle can be steep. Your rig will be your most expensive outlay – between $30,000 and $500,000 depending on what type of rig you chose. See our article on Choosing your RV for more thoughts on this decision.
Along with the rig, you also have to outfit it for travel. The best way to do this is to use what you already have. I can’t tell you how many times we said, “If only we hadn’t sold that before we set off.” Don’t get rid of all your cookware because you think you should. But at the same time, you do have to limit the clutter because you will not have much space to store things. The key is to figure out what you own now that can serve double duties on the road. When we traveled we were able to do most of our cooking in a George Foreman Grill that had a griddle attachment, our serving bowls did double duty as mixing bowls, and a fork makes a great whisk or beater. This principal goes beyond the kitchen into every facet of your RV lifestyle.
Whatever hobbies you have or crafts you like to do, you will not stop doing them just because you hit the road. So don't get rid of all your supplies in the name of downsizing.
Besides these costs, there are several other expenses to figure in that very depending on your unique situation:
- costs of leaving your current dwelling
- storage unit if you are keeping lots of stuff from your old life
- making sure you are covered with adequate insurance
- medical care and prescriptions for you and any pets that are coming with you
- professional services like accountant and lawyer
- an emergency fund in case you have mechanical troubles with your rig, tow or toad vehicles
To Work or Not To Work
Many people wait until they are retired to hit the road. But during the recession there was no guarantee that you would have the funds at retirement that you planned on. And maybe that is a good thing.
Let’s face it; if you go from a 40+ hour career job to doing nothing, you are going to get bored out of your skull. You need to keep active to keep your mind and body active.
Working on the road is different than most careers people have. You get to pick and choose the jobs you want to take from a wide spectrum of work. You can do three or four different jobs each year. And you can limit the time you want to work.
If you have ridden the turbulent markets, and only need a little something extra to keep you going, you should also consider volunteer positions. Many of these offer a full hook up site in exchange for 20 or so hours per week. Many volunteer positions can be found in national, state or regional parks where you will get an insider’s perspective that most visitors never see.
Some other money making opportunities include:
- Selling crafts online or in local stores. In tourist areas, many stores like to be able to offer locally made items to offset all the junk from China.
- If you are handy, or have a unique skill-set, offer your services to others. I am a professional massage therapist, so whenever possible I'd find clients among other RVers and the local community.
- Most towns have a temp agency to find a part-time or full-time job. Just be ready to do lots of tests and paperwork to get started.
To find out more about working on the road, check out our Workamping section.