Finally, I have our budget numbers for our first month out. But keep in mind, there’s no such thing as a “budget” when you’re on the road; it’s in reality, a “spending plan.” As the super frugal CFO of this family, these circumstances are difficult for me at times. Maybe this is why many people who want to do this kind of trip never do, because spending money while not working is terrifying.
When we decided to take the gamble and go on this trip, we put the following passage from the Sterling Hayden book Voyage: A Novel of 1896 in our bathroom medicine cabinet, for daily inspiration;
“To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest . . . ‘I’ve always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can’t afford it.’ What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of security. And in the worship of security, we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine. And before we know it, our lives are gone.
What does a man need, really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in — and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.
The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. Where then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?
The numbers are in for our first month out, and we aren’t bankrupt. Some spending areas came in high, some under budget. Based on my Budget Expense PDF on the Resources Section, you’ll see that our findings include:
- Storage Fees: We are paying $50 more per month than anticipated. The moving and storage company didn’t know what the total would be until our goods were weighed and in their warehouse. In retrospect, we should’ve sold more stuff at our big yard sale! I don’t even miss it.
- Food / Groceries: What we spend on normal groceries while on the road is almost identical to what we spent before this trip. Note how our Dining Out spending is lower that what I anticipated; this is because I’m a frugal tightwad and do my best to only allow us to eat out inexpensively once or twice a week. Jim hates that!
- Doctors/Dentists/Hospitals: No, I don’t have a budget for that. Our retainer-based doctor’s bill is paid for the year, and we don’t plan on seeing a dentist until we land somewhere. As far as hospitals go, how does anyone plan for catastrophe other than forking out insurance dues every month?
- Insurance: Our truck insurance went up $50 because we changed our physical address from a rural area to a city one (our wonderful sister-in-law is letting us use her address). Keep that in mind when you decide on an address while you’re away, since everyone must have some physical address on record for things like insurance.
- Shelter: Motels: I’m proud to say that we haven’t stayed in a motel once, so we saved $400! Again, this is because I’m cheap. But that doesn’t mean we won’t want to stay in one in wintertime when it’s freezing. We’ll really put our Four-Season Arctic Fox to the test then!
- Shelter: RV Parks: I’ve budgeted on the money. Here’s my formula for doing so: Figure we stay in Public Camp Grounds half of the time, averaging $20 nite, roughly 180 days year, for a total of $3600 a year. The other half of the time, we’ll stay at Private RV Parks, averaging $35 nite, $6475 total. This is $840 a month average, or $10,075 a year. As for free boondocking spots, I’ve learned that they’re few and far between, so I don’t count on them.
- Utilities / Phone: OUCH!!!!! I totally underestimated how many minutes we spend on our cell. From phoning campgrounds to see who has space, to blabbing with my family during peak hours, I was horrified to see my first real phone bill. I’ve upgraded my plan from $55 a month to $85, with free unlimited evening and weekend minutes, and I’m restraining from making only the most critical daytime calls during peak hours. August will reveal if this worked.
- Vehicle Expenses / Fuel: Unfortunately, what I thought was a conservative budget is right on the money. The formula I used was this: Our 35 gallon diesel tank gets on average, 13 mpg when towing. I estimated fuel at an average of $3.75 a gallon, while driving about 20k miles a year, for a cost of $9700 a year. Looks like we’ll be spending at least this much if not more.
So there it is, lessons learned and hopefully next month we’ll be just as fortunate to have saved some bucks here and there. It really is true what Carol White says; you can do a trip like this for about the same price as staying at home and working a regular job. With careful planning, of course.