Save $1000 a Month, Plus Infinite Benefits. The Secret? Travel Full-time

Save $1000 / month through travel. Caution: side effects may be seeing the world, more time with family and intense satisfaction.

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The world is not real.

Or rather, the way we see the world is fake in that so much of our lives revolve around what we’ve been told is “just the way it goes”.

Like television, we’ve had so many years and decades of mediocrity pummeled into our minds that we begin to think that Two and a Half Men is good. People rave about it. Awards are handed out.

It’s a bit ludicrous.

But there are secrets out there. They shouldn’t even be a secret, we’ve just all moved so far away that we don’t see it.

Take for example rent.

You can pay $1500 for a decent house that can fit a family of four or five. You live there, in one place, and spend oodles once a year on a vacation. Then you come home, pay that rent (and then some in utilities), and twenty years later might be doing the same thing. Meanwhile everyone has their space. Space to disappear into their video games and man caves and kitchens. You, as a family, live together but you’re separated as easily as a staircase can be climbed, a door can be closed.

Or you could “upgrade” to living in an RV. You pay some amount of cash for this home on the road, and set off on a journey. That initial cost is probably similar to what you’d spend on a downpayment on a house. That is, if you would have lived in a $500,000 house, you buy a $250,000 rig. If you’d have lived in a $150,000 house you buy a $35,000 RV. And yet others find their way into single digit thousands and work on them as we go.

These aren’t statistics, just observations.

That’s one type of these “secrets” I’m talking about. You trade up space in a fixed location box and some amount of small outdoor space for the entirety of a nation. Your back yard doesn’t need mowed, it needs explored. Little bits of your mind explode until you truly begin to see the world in a light I find to be almost infinitely brighter than shone before.

And then the real bomb drops. You being to realize you’re right.

You stay in an RV park, five feet away from your neighbor and surrounded by highway noise. You fork out $45 or so for the experience. Your monthly rent is now $1400 per month…utilities included, and you get to travel somewhere new quite often.

Then you move down the road of life to state parks. Now you walk out your little RV door and see nothing but trees and space, maybe a glint of your neighbor through it all, and certainly if they were to yell you’d hear it, but space is not only abundant, it’s beautiful. You’re now paying $20 per night. Rent has dropped to $600 / month. Utilities are still included (except for propane, we spend around $30 / month), though you won’t necessarily have a sewage connection, so you’ll need to drive over to the dump station every few days and let the pipes fly. Depending on your situation, this may happen two or five times a week. But it’s hundreds of dollars in savings in exchange for an hour or so worth of effort.

Then you keep on down that keepin’ on road and find the national parks with camping. There are no hookups. But damn it’s beautiful. And rent is closer to $15 a night. We’re talking under $500 a month.

Now though, you’ve got to conserve lights, fill your water tank manually, generally perform more maintenance to every day life. You’re a conservationist by necessity, yes, but what you’re saving the planet you’re also saving yourself in time traded for money.

You have more time with your kids. In nature. Surrounded by not only beauty, but freedom. The ability to choose where you’ll go, and even more so, your own fate.

You also save $1000 / month compared to the original living in a house situation. Plus all of that savings on utilities, which just get translated into you walking to a water spigot or spending a few bucks on gas or investing in solar. And did I mention the whole traveling part?

Even if you’d have spent only $900 or $600 per month on rent, just do the math. And feel free to factor in the benefits of the proximity to something gorgeous and/or fun to do every single day.

It can be difficult living this type of full-time traveling life, and the planning and mundane tasks are certainly a part of it all.

The rewards are innumerable though. Seeing your children’s first step, when they learn to ride a bike or you being the one who shows them how to read.

I just can’t imagine a different way of life I’d prefer, and so I prefer to not imagine and just live it instead.

Living Expenses Compared: RVs to Homeownership

The following comparison shows precisely what would be typical for me and my family, which includes mom, dad, three kids (two toddlers and a teenager), and grandma, a family of 6. Your results may vary. The “Home” table reflects averages for the entire US. We then compare it against our own costs, and those of average prices for new and used RVers, except where those costs wouldn’t change based on the rig you have. Links to sources inline.

Expense Home ($343,0001) Our Vintage Trailer ($8,0002) Average Used Motorhome ($35,0003) Average New Motorhome ($122,0004) RV Savings
Initial Cost $68,6005 $8000 (no financing) $35005 $24,4005 $44k – $60k
Monthly Payments* $1310 $450 $850+ $1380+ ~$760
Utilities $2407 $30 $210
Taxes $150 $0 $150
Insurance $508 $110 $859 $1359 RV ins. is ~$70 more
“Clubs” $300 HOA10 $11011 $190
TOTALS
Over 15 years
$437,600 $134,000 $197,000 $297,900

So you’re looking at around $1250 / month in savings, not to mention the $50,000 or so you’ll save on the initial purchase.

I have left out some expenses as they might be comparable regardless of your situation. Those expenses are gasoline, home owner’s associations vs. RV clubs, phone and internet costs. While you may think the average RVers spends more on gas / year, we don’t. There is no daily commute, and no one said you have to, or even realistically will, drive hundreds of miles every day. Here are our findings on that (and all things environmentally friendly about living in an RV).

What about interest though? At a 4% interest rate, the total cost of that $343,000 home would be over $471,000 over 30 years, before you factor in all of the other monthly bills!. It’s hard to compare these things exactly though, as a house can last for many generations, whereas most RVs will have a hard time lasting for an entire person’s lifetime (especially if you buy used when you’re still young). Airstreams and very well built Class As are the exception.

As for Home Owner’s Associations vs. RV Clubs, well each come with a fee…except the latter tends to save you money while HOAs just cost you.

On the other hand, if you really want nearly ubiquitous Internet access, mobile data plans tend to cost much more than broadband connections at home, so we’ll allow these two things to balance one another out.

Sources


1 The average cost of a new home in March 2015 was $343,300 according to Census.gov
2 Our 1976 Airstream cost us $7000
3 Based on a used RV price of $35,000, more info on RV depreciation here
4 Based on $122,000 average new RV cost
5 Based on 20% average downpayment on house, US News
6 10% and 20% average downpayments respectively, Woodall’s
7 2013 Housing Survey, Census.gov
8 From 2013 Housing Survey, via Money-zine.com
9 From real accounts on an RV forum
10 Investopedia
11 Based on annual Good Sam, Escapees and Passport America dues combined
* Monthly expenses for a house equates to mortgage. For RVs, it equates to $20 / night average camping fees.
* Includes an estimated $600 / month in camping fees + 15 year loan at ~5% for each of these RVs.