Below you will find our 2018 Actual Expenses. We keep track of every single penny and they are all accounted for here. The reports below include both Actual & Budgeted numbers with differences.
This was our third "weird" year in a row.
In 2016, we had extra expenses helping relatives move and traveling back and forth across the country as we dealt with my ailing father's illness and passing.
In 2017, we had expenses related to settling my father's estate in Kentucky, and we had a catastrophic frame break on our fifth wheel in which we were out of our rig for a couple of months. We also purchased an investment property in Florida, and spent time getting it ready to rent.
In 2018, we suddenly decided to sell our fifth wheel and truck and buy a Class C motorhome. Along with that, we decided to change domiciles from Kentucky to Florida partly because our friend handling our mail in Kentucky was diagnosed with cancer and was moving. We had costs of flights to Kentucky and Florida to complete the transfer. Also, we parked our rig and made a trip to Iceland for a month.
I revised our original 2018 budget to take into account the sale of the truck and fifth wheel, the purchase of the motorhome, and other related items. We reduced some expenses, eliminated some expenses, and added some expenses ultimately increasing the original 2018 budget by $2,641.
However, I didn't budget enough to cover various costs of furnishing and modifying the new-to-us RV, the cost of a storage unit for stuff that wouldn't fit in the motorhome, and the costs of traveling to Florida to complete our domicile change.
So, we started the year with a budget of $43,594, and then revised it up to $46,235. And we spent $51,795 exceeding our revised budget by $5,560.
In the 2017 financial summary, I stated ".... this year, 2017, has probably been the least "normal" year we've been on the road. We would recommend throwing 2017 out if you are looking for guidance on a typical year of full-timing costs."
We'll 2018 is only slightly better with respect to being a "normal" year.
Except for a month-long trip to Iceland, it was supposed to be a somewhat normal year. And then we suddenly changed course when we decided to change RVs.
Bear with me through the thought process of that decision. We had been talking about how long we envisioned remaining on the road as full-time RVers. In 2018, we had been on the road 13 years, and while we once had an indefinite time frame, that changed when we purchased an investment property (house) in The Villages, Florida in 2017.
Whereas, we thought we would eventually end up parking our fifth wheel and living out our years in it (or in a park model in an RV park somewhere), that changed with the purchase of the house.
With it now being unlikely we would live out our years in our fifth wheel, we started discussing downsizing into a Class C motorhome. We would have been perfectly fine living a stationary life in the fifth wheel, but now that we had another option, the wheels started to turn. The initial discussions concluded that we might downsize in three to five years, and we would likely remain on the road a year or two after that.
Linda wanted to do two more big RV trips - Alaska and the Canadian Maritimes - but she didn't want to do those adventures in the 40-foot fifth wheel. We discussed buying a used Class C to go to Alaska in 2019, and then selling it upon our return.
Well, that would have resulted in withdrawing funds from our investment accounts to pay cash for the RV, and that would further result in some hefty capital gains taxes. And then, after selling the Class C, in a few years we would turn around and buy another one. So, we sat down and seriously considered moving up our time frame on downsizing.
We started looking at Class Cs at the RV shows where we were had speaking engagements in early 2018. Linda wanted a Class C over a short Class A because she would be doing most of the driving, and she felt more comfortable being closer to the road in the van-type cockpit.
Originally, we were looking at Class Cs of 26 feet or less but we couldn't find anything that had the exterior storage we would need as full-timers. We kept coming back to an Itasca Cambria we had seen at one of our Boondocking Rallies a few years back. It had a huge external "trunk" storage area.
Itasca is made by Winnebago, and the Winnebago-branded version of the Cambria is the Aspect. As it happens, friends Bob & Karen, brought their Aspect 27K to our Reunion Rally in March of 2018. We sat in it, toured it, and determined it had enough external storage space, and we felt we could live in it, especially if we removed the dinette and replaced it with theater seating/recliners as Bob & Karen had done.
Within the next two weeks, I posted our fifth wheel and truck for sale, and we found a 2015 Winnebago Aspect 27K in Tucson, Arizona.
On the same day we went to look at the motorhome, April 9, we verbally came to an agreement to sell the truck and fifth wheel in a package deal. We signed the documents on the Aspect on April 10.
That impulsive decision changed everything. We pulled $12,000 out of our savings to put a downpayment on the motorhome. We financed it, but would pay it off in a month when we finalized the deal on the truck and fifth wheel.
I changed the original budget to remove the Diesel expenses I had estimated for the rest of the year for the truck, and I added a category for gas for the motorhome - Fuel - Gas - Motorhome.
I also removed the budget for Truck Insurance which was due about the same time, and I replaced the fifth wheel insurance (also due about the same time) amount with the motorhome insurance amount in RV Insurance.
And I had to add a category for Extended Warranty - Motorhome, the most significant of the expenses resulting from the purchase of the motorhome in 2018.
Now, in the midst of all of this, we decided to change domiciles from Kentucky to Florida. Our friend that was handling our mail in Kentucky was diagnosed with cancer, and she and her husband were building a new house and moving. So, it was a good opportunity to change domiciles and addresses to Florida, and we could go ahead and register the motorhome in Florida.
We didn't realize all the costs we would incur in the process of getting everything done since we had to visit Florida to get our driver's licenses and we were out west at the time.
However, the good news was we were able to get a new health insurance plan with Florida Blue under the Affordable Care Act and we qualified for subsidies that allowed us to have zero premiums for the rest of the year. So, I was able to zero out our Health Insurance premiums for July through December.
Another consequence of buying the motorhome was the Jeep we had was two-wheel-drive and not towable. So, we had to replace the Jeep and outfit another vehicle with equipment to tow it. Plus we needed a tow bar for the motorhome.
I ended up adding two more categories to the budget - Registration Fees - Jeep and Registration Fees - Motorhome. There is no personal property tax on vehicles in Florida, so I didn't want to use the old Property Tax categories. But the first year registration fees for vehicles registered in Florida are significant.
I greatly underestimated all the expenses of travel back and forth to Florida and the expenses of re-organizing the smaller RV and re-stocking it. Plus, I didn't think about budgeting for the rental of a storage unit in Nevada for all the stuff from our fifth wheel and truck that wouldn't fit in the motorhome.
We were $5,560 over budget on our already high revised 2018 budget, having spent $51,795 on a budget of $46,235.
So, let's go through the categories of expenses, and see where we might find some elements of "normalcy" and where things went wrong or were simply unanticipated.
We've been budgeting $600 a month or about $20 per day for campground fees. In 2018, that was our budget for eight out of twelve months, and for those eight months we averaged right around $500/month. For August/September, we budgeted $300 each because we were going to be in Iceland for half of each month. In January through March - we only budgeted $250 total because we were parked with our rig boondocking for free or cheap while we were flying around the country speaking at seven RV shows.
So, in one of our more normal expense categories for 2018, we came in a little under budget for 2018.
For us, in normal travel mode, $600 a month is a good number as we mix free and cheap boondocking/dry camping/discounted camping with stays at state parks and other public campgrounds and stays at occasional higher-priced RV parks.
In this strange year, we ended up averaging $394 per month.
Though our cell phone costs are included as part of an overall cellular voice/data plan, we've been using the budget of $100 a month for the voice portion for quite some time.
The data portion is part of our annual business expenses which we don't double count as part of our daily living expenses. However, for what it's worth, we were paying about $200 a month for cellular data until we made a change in plans toward the end of the year reducing our costs down to around $130 per month for the data portion only.
In this category which tracks our personal cell phones, we were a little over budget due to my loss of a phone on a remote solo hike. I had to pay an early termination fee on that phone and acquire another one.
Clothing, Hair Care, Nails, & Mary Kay
For the last few years, since we started making more income, we significantly increased this budget as Linda has been getting her nails and hair done professionally, and she has been supporting her niece's Mary Kay business.
The budget is $150 month, and we were about $80 over for the year.
We budget $200 a month in Entertainment for books, games, movies, fishing licenses, crafts, golf, park entrance fees, etc.
We came in a little under that for 2018 averaging about $171 per month.
Food - Dining Out
We budget $150 a month for Dining Out, and we exceeded that by $516 for 2018, averaging about $193 per month.
Looking back, we had more meals out with friends all over the country than usual plus we had a couple of splurges on special occasions.
Food - Groceries
We budget $400 a month for Groceries which includes anything we might get at the grocery store like toiletries, paper plates, napkins, dish soap, laundry detergent, etc.
For 2018, we came in under budget by $873, averaging $327 per month. We often come in under budget on Groceries when we are over budget on Dining Out ... and vice versa.
Fuel - Diesel
With the sale of our diesel pick-up in April, we had no more diesel costs after that, so we revised the budget to eliminate any amounts the rest of the year.
We were a little bit over budget (less than one tank) in the first few months, but didn't move much and the budget was fairly low.
Fuel - Gas - Jeep
It's always hard to budget fuel for the Jeep because we never really know how much we're going to drive it in any one location.
It's not the most fuel efficient vehicle in the world getting about 20 mpg, but it serves its purposes well.
We were $181 over budget, which is attributable to the higher gas prices in Washington, Oregon, and California where we spent the summer and fall.
Fuel - Gas - Motorhome
After driving the Aspect a little bit, it appeared we were getting about 9 mpg towing the Jeep.
I budgeted $400 per month most months but $800 per month in May & June because we did an unplanned cross country trip from Nevada to Indiana and back to the west coast. We drove to Indiana to pick up and install custom-made theater seating to replace the dinette in the motorhome.
We ended up $400 over budget for the year which I will again attribute to higher gas prices on the west coast.
In a "normal" year, we would only drive 5,000 - 8,000 miles, but this year we drove 10,600 miles in only nine months (technically 8 months if you knock out the month we were in Iceland). Of course, a big portion of that, 4,000 miles, was due to our dash across the country to Indiana to pick up our new RV furniture and back to the west coast where we planned to spend the summer.
We hadn't planned to change domiciles in 2018, so I originally budgeted according to our in-force health insurance in Kentucky, a high deductible Blue Cross/Blue Shield grandfathered plan that didn't have to be Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant.
At the time of preparing the budget, our premium was $523/month with an expected increase on August 1.
But when we changed domicile to Florida, we got an ACA plan through Florida Blue (Blue Cross/Blue Shield) and were eligible for reduced premiums based on our lesser income in the prior year. As it turned out, our new premium was $0 for July through December.
I revised the budget to reflect this change, although I didn't think our new policy would be effective until August. Therefore, we were basically one month's premium under budget.
This is our one category where we always get it right. We each have a 30-year $250,000 level premium life insurance policy that we took out in 2005. The premium of $953 remains the same until 2035.
So even in funky years like 2018, we can't mess this one up.
Umbrella Liability Insurance
For years, we've had $1 million in coverage and paid $130 a year. But changing the policy to Florida increased the premium to $160 a year, so we were $30 over budget.
We had a 2005 Jeep Liberty, and I budgeted for insurance on that. Again, we had no idea we would be selling it and getting another one.
When we suddenly bought the motorhome, we couldn't tow the 2005 Jeep because it wasn't four-wheel-drive. So, we had to sell it and look for one that was towable.
We happened to find a 2003 Jeep Liberty that already had a Blue Ox towing baseplate and included a Roadmaster Invisibrake brake controller. But the value of the Jeep itself was much lower, and we didn't need as much insurance.
Therefore, with a lower cost policy and a refund on the pro-rated portion for the 2005 Jeep, we were well under budget.
With the sale of our truck about the same time our insurance was due on it, I revised the budget to remove the truck insurance. Ultimately, I paid the insurance, and then got most of the money back in a refund, so we were $93 over budget.
Our motorhome insurance was $1,337 for our 2015 Winnebago Aspect 27K. And like the truck, our fifth wheel insurance was paid and most of that was refunded back to us. So we were a little over budget in this category due to the small amount of fifth wheel insurance we paid.
We budget about $9 a week for laundry. We didn't have a washer/dryer in our fifth wheel, and there's certainly no room for one in our Class C.
Linda does laundry about once a week in laundromats or at RV parks, and it usually runs $6 to $12 depending on the local prices.
It's a high budget because it assumes we will pay for laundry every week of the year, which rarely happens. If we're traveling for RV shows or staying near friends and family, we often don't have to pay for laundry.
In 2018, we were $213 under budget.
Medical - Doctor, Dentists, Eye Care
I budgeted $70 a month in this category - $840. We self-insure for dental and eye care, so this covers annual teeth cleaning and exams.
It also covers blood testing I have to get every six weeks, and it covers any office visit co-pays not covered by our insurance. One wellness exam per year is included in our insurance.
In good years, $840 is more than enough and in bad health years, it's not enough. In 2018 we were about $120 under budget.
Medical - Prescriptions & Pharmacy
I budgeted $50 a month in this category - $600 for the year.
Linda takes one prescription medication and I have two, and we also use this category for over-the-counter medications or other health-related products we purchase.
Last year, we switched from Walmart pharmacy to Walgreens, and we find Walgreens far easier to deal with.
And now that we are with Florida Blue rather than Anthem BC/BS in Kentucky, our prescription costs are half what they used to be.
This budget was pretty accurate for the year as we came in $24 under.
I budgeted $30 a month for propane. I figured this was a little high, but our fifth wheel had a propane generator and our plan was to boondock quite a bit.
The motorhome has a gas generator, but we didn't really have a good idea of how much propane we would use, so I didn't adjust the budget.
We ended up averaging about $40 a month in the fifth wheel for the first quarter (cold temps and lots of boondocking), and $15 a month in the motorhome for the rest of the year.
We were $124 under budget.
Property Taxes - Jeep
We were about $200 over budget on Jeep property taxes.
This is a little convoluted, but here goes. Because we owned the 2005 Jeep on January 1, it was registered in Kentucky, and we were still Kentucky residents, we had to pay the full year of taxes on that vehicle. Though we sold it in May, there is no pro-ration or refund.
When we purchased the 2003 Jeep, we couldn't register it in Florida (which doesn't have Personal Property Taxes) until we had our motorhome registered as our residence there. Therefore, we had to register it in Kentucky and pay the personal property taxes there on that vehicle as well.
Property Taxes - RV & Truck
I budgeted $570 combined for these personal property taxes in Kentucky. Again, because we owned both and they were registered in Kentucky on January 1, we had to pay the full year on both.
I over-estimated these taxes, so we were about $100 under budget on those two categories.
Registration Fees - Jeep
I created this category for Florida, and it includes registration fees, title fees, first-time use tax, and license plate fees.
There was a one-time, first-time registration fee of $225, the annual registration fee, plus a one-time title fee, plus a one-time use tax, plus various first-time license plate fees. And we opted to get a specialty plate (Save the Manatees).
I estimated this to be about $500, and it was close at $457.
Going forward, it should be around $50 for the annual registration fee and $25 for the specialty license plate - much better than Kentucky.
Registration Fees - Motorhome
Like for the Jeep, I created this category for Florida. But for the 2018 budget, I included our Florida driver's license fees as well.
I budgeted $600 and got pretty close.
Again, we had the $225 initial registration fee. And we had the one-time title fee - $85.
The annual registration fee was $59, but because we registered in June and my birthday (the annual renewal date) is in July, we had to pay twice that amount. If we had waited until July, we would have only had to pay it once.
We also have specialty plates ($20 - Dolphins) on the motorhome, and also had to pay double for that.
Our driver's licenses were $54 each, but they are good for eight years.
So, going forward with the motorhome, we should just have the annual registration fee of around $60 and the specialty plate fee of $20 - again, much better than Kentucky.
I budgeted $129 to renew our Roadside Assistance on our fifth wheel with Coach-Net.
But when we bought the motorhome, there was an $80 motorhome upgrade/transfer fee, so we were $80 over budget.
For 2019, it will be $159.
I only budgeted $130 for RV clubs for 2018, but for both personal and business reasons we have more memberships than I anticipated. We were $76 over budget.
Here are our memberships:
Don't try to add these up to get to our $206 actual expenses, as we have various reductions in costs with member referral credits.
RV Extended Warranty
This was the biggest line item in our Revised 2018 Budget. We had an extended warranty on our fifth wheel that was paid up, and we hadn't planned on buying a motorhome, so I had a budget of $0 originally.
When we purchased the motorhome and I revised the budget, I added the Extended Warranty cost of $4,964. Since I knew the exact amount, we were right on the number.
We were paying about $160 a month for a solid DirecTV package including Distant Network Service (Major network channels on both coasts) and more.
Well, though I love the service, I had been threatening to cancel DirecTV due their ever-increasing prices and the hassle I had to go through every year to get a small discount.
So, when we bought the motorhome, and it had a Dish Network dome, the timing was right to go through with the cancellation.
I revised the budget to show $160 per month for January through April, and then $0 the rest of the year.
But we were still $20 over budget due to DirecTV's price increase in those first few months.
I sometimes miss it for sports, but I have enough data now to stream most of what I want.
I budgeted $30 a month here, and fortunately we came in at about half of that for just oil changes, washes, wiper blades, and a couple of minor repairs.
I budgeted $100 a month for RV maintenance, and most of that was to cover some roof sealing on the fifth wheel that we needed to do after last year's major repairs.
Unfortunately, the roof sealing was more expensive than I anticipated and we came in almost $560 over budget.
The good news is only about $230 of the $1,759 we spent in this category was for the motorhome.
I budgeted $100 a month in this category as well, and though we sold the truck and delivered it to the new owner in May, we still had almost $1,200 in expenses.
The truck had two fuel tanks and the fuel gauge went out on us. It was a very expensive fix, but it had to be done before the new owner picked it up.
The dreaded Miscellaneous category. As you can see from the final numbers, we ended up spending almost $10,500 here, almost $6,300 over our budget.
This is where I just didn't anticipate many of the costs of acquiring and outfitting the new-to-us RV and the costs of changing domicile from Kentucky to Florida while we were supposed to be out west all year.
Let's see, we had $1,500 that I attributed to the towing baseplate and Invisibrake supplemental braking system on the 2003 Jeep.
We had $545 for the purchase of a used Blue Ox tow bar and rock screen.
We spent about $2,100 on items for the motorhome including a 30-amp surge/voltage protection device, small storage bins and various organization aids, new linens, and a whole bunch of other stuff that just added up to a lot of money.
We paid $545 for one year of storage at a self-storage place in Pahrump, Nevada to house all the stuff we took out of the fifth wheel and truck that wouldn't fit in the motorhome.
And we had another $2,100 in flights, rental cars, hotels, etc. in traveling all over the country to take care of things necessary in the course of changing our domicile and to attend a couple of family functions.
Those few sub-categories total $6,790 and account for our big budget overage in this category and in total.
So, in a year where I expected some big budget items, I set an original budget of around $43,600, a pretty high budget for us in any normal year.
But we had no idea of the changes we would go through in April and May which bled over into a few other months.
With those changes, I made significant revisions to the budget or it would have made no sense at all. The revised budget went up to $46,200, but it still wasn't enough.
In the end, we spent almost $52,000 and put a major hurt in our cash flow and savings in a year where we had already committed to some extensive international travel.
Note:That $52,000 doesn't include $12,500 in costs of our Iceland trip and other large expenditures in Canada when we visited Vancouver Island and did a couple of pricey special tours.
Those expenses are offset against income earned through our new NatureTravelers.com website.