I have memories of my father sitting at the kitchen table thumbing through a stack of papers. He wore a white wife-beater t-shirt and had a yellow number 2 pencil tucked behind his right ear. His fingers danced across the keys of an adding machine as the tape ran down to the floor. With his shoulders slumped forward, he rubbed his forehead and frequently ran his fingers through his disheveled hair. Oblivious to his surroundings; he was in deep thought. It was tax time and my brother and I knew not to disturb him.
I now empathize with my father’s situation. Tax preparation has alway been a daunting and stressful task, but I think it is easier now than it used to be. Gone are the days with stacks of papers. We keep our records electronically. Computers calculate complicated tax formulas in a matter of seconds. I can’t help but wonder what my father would think about today’s technology.
Regardless of technological advancement though, Grammi and I no longer prepare our own taxes; we leave that to the professionals. Even so, we are diligent to keep an accurate account of expenses to ensure the process goes smoothly. It was during our recent compiling of documents and expense records that lead me to this weeks blogpost. You’re probably thinking that this is a post about tax preparation. No…it’s not. I wouldn’t dare bore my readers with a subject I know little about. Instead I’ll bore you with something I can attest to…and that is what our living expenses were while traveling in our travel trailer?
I share our expenses because I think it is useful information for anyone thinking about taking an extended RV trip or maybe someone considering full-time RV living. But keep in mind, our RV living expenses are just that…they are our expenses based on our own style of travel and our own experiences. Your expenses will depended on how you travel.
I shared our 2019 expenses last year. I will include those numbers in this post as a comparison. If you would like to read the 2019 post, and I hope you do, you can do so by clicking on the following link. How Much Does It Cost To Travel In An RV? When reading our 2019 post you will see where I included the cost of our cell phone service. Though phone service is a necessary expense, I concluded we would have that expense regardless so I did not include it in our 2020 RV living expenses..
Our 2020 trip began March 1. We traveled for 229 days. We drove 17,644 miles through 20 states while camping at 48 different locations. Along with dozens of state and local parks, we visited 16 national parks. We aimed at being outdoors as much as possible and our activities included site seeing, hiking, picnicking and getting on the water which included a trip down the Colorado River, a sunset cruise on Lake Havasu, and a day boating on Lake Tahoe. We encountered some unusual circumstances because of the world-wide pandemic; despite all the closures and restrictions we still had an epic trip with incredible lasting memories.
Okay, so without rambling on any further…here are the numbers.
A brief explanation of the line items might be helpful in understanding the above spreadsheet.
Campground Fees – This is the total cost to park overnight at the 48 different campgrounds where we stayed. Our average cost was $13.42 per night. Something I should note here is due to the pandemic we were fortunate to hunker down at a Thousand Trails campground in Texas for seven weeks at no cost starting on March 23. Our expenses for all categories were low during that time.
Camper Upgrades and Maintenance – This category includes repairs and upgrades to our travel trailer. Examples here would be repair of a drawer that broke loose during towing, replacement of the trailer brake cable, and installation of the repeater for the TPMS ( tire pressure monitor system).
Miscellaneous Camping Cost – This is items such as bags of ice or firewood. It also includes the cost of wifi that some campgrounds charge to use their network.
Propane – This is the cost of propane for the camper.
Memberships/Subscriptions – This includes membership dues for Thousand Trails, Boondockers Welcome and park passes.
Truck DEF and Maintenance – This is the cost for maintaining our F250 Ford diesel truck. It included two services stops for oil and filter change, the cost of DEF, and four new tires purchased in September.
Diesel – The cost of fuel for the truck. This was the second biggest expense, coming in behind Food – Groceries. It averaged out to be just over .19 cent per mile.
Entertainment and Admission Fees – This includes things like boat rides, helicopter tours, park and museum entrance fees, etc. etc.
Food Groceries – This not only included food but also paper items, toiletries, and cleaning supplies that were purchased at the grocery store.
Food Dining Out – All restaurants including tip, fast food and bakeries.
One of the things I watch closely is our average cost per day. We try to keep that figure around $100/day because I know that amount will fit into our budget. The 2019 average cost per day was $83.69. Our 2020 average cost per day was $73.74. The lower cost is most certainly due to us being isolated during the pandemic. During the entire month of April we stayed hunkered down at the campground and only went out a couple of times for groceries. If I remove April from the equation then our daily average expenses would be $82.08 for 2020. That figure is more in line with 2019’s average.
I hope you find this information useful. At the very least it will give you a starting point for your own budget. I do think, however, RV living expenses will increase significantly in the future. We are already seeing increases in campground fees as demand has increased and I think it is a safe bet to assume fuel cost will increase as well. Grammi and I are taking all that into account as we prepare for our 2021 RV adventure.
So until next time…happy days and safe travels.