Show Me the Money: Hard Numbers from a Year on the Road

Jim with Trucker Cap Leaving Eureka CAOne year ago this week, we drove away from Humboldt County in a daze. We couldn’t believe that we had really pulled our sabbatical off, and year on the road seemed like an eternity. Little did we know that it would fly by seemingly as quick as a two week vacation. We have so much to say about our epic journey. But for now, let’s start with the hard numbers.

Thanks to the meticulous Quickbooks expense tracking I’ve done over the last several years, and Carol White’s Live Your Road Trip Dream book budgeting templates, I was able to put together a budget that works for us. In short: we came in under budget, and the money we’ve saved will enable us to continue to live this lifestyle for at least the next year if we choose to.

If you’d like to see the technical details, a PDF with summarized numbers is here. But if spreadsheets make you snooze, then here’s a quick summary of my numbers for the year, and some ways we saved money:

Estimated: $9,172 / Actual: $7,011

When I created the budget at the end of 2006, I thought I was overestimating fuel costs at $3.75 a gallon. Who knew? Despite the oil industry ripoff, our fuel costs came in less than expected. I attribute this to less driving because of workamping. The scary thing is, I still need to jack up this coming year’s fuel budget by at least $2.55 a gallon. Imagine, $7.50 a gallon diesel.

Estimated: $8,120 / Actual: $6,632

You have to eat, only you don’t have to eat out as much. By cooking in about the same amount as we did when we had a stick home, we saved money. Only now Jim’s going to make me take him out to a fancy dinner to celebrate!

Hotels Estimated: $4,800 / Actual: $433
RV Parks Estimated: $8,770 / Actual: $4,641

The right RV is key when it comes to saving money on lodging. When you’re home is comfortable, staying at a hotel seems like more hassle than it’s worth. Packing for a vacation from your vacation is just too much work! As far as RV park accommodations, we saved money by boondocking as much as possible, staying in public parks and of course, workamping.

Estimated: $7,056 / Actual: $1,766
Don’t say it. Yes, this is kinda sad. We thought we would be doing a lot more visits to museums, concerts, etc. But we’ve managed to entertain ourselves with free low cost things, stuff that we’ve always wanted to pursue but never had the time for, like playing the guitar, hiking and sitting in hammocks, and writing our blogs!

I realize that the final numbers on the spreadsheet look high, but when you figure that two people lived on the amount shown on the bottom line, paid off all their debt, their vehicle and their home, I think it looks pretty darn low!

11 thoughts on “Show Me the Money: Hard Numbers from a Year on the Road”

  1. Ooooh, I don’t know about the East Coast for a while. Fuel costs, remember? I’m working on a budget based on $8.00 a gallon. We’ll see if that’s going to break the bank or not. Hope we get to go out there though, Jim has a niece in New York graduating from high school in June next year. And of course you’re on the route if we go!

  2. Congratulations guys! Good job. I’m still jealous! If you are going for another year, are you going to make another circuit? Will us East Coast family/friends get to see you again?? Remember how much you loved Vermont and New Hampshire! We’re pretty close! Just shut your eyes and drive fast! But don’t use your cell phone while driving! Thats a ticketable offense now.

  3. Congratulations on making the year mark! We will hit ours on the 6th of June. It is hard to believe that it was a year ago it all began. Time seemed to go so slowly while it is/was all happening. But when you look back, it flew by! You did very well on the budget and expenses! We’ll be figuring ours out also. I’m sure we spent more than you did but we have less life in which to do things. 🙂

  4. Hi Rene and Jim –

    Loved seeing your numbers. I’ll put a link to this article in my newsletter that I’m working on right now. If anyone wants to sign up for the newsletter – about once a month, sometimes less if we’re traveling, go here:

    The budget worksheet that Rene talks about is free with the purchase of the book, or $5.95 by itself.

    Hope we’ll get to actually meet you and Jim sometime this year as you travel around – maybe you’ll find that perfect piece of property in Oregon!


  5. How absolutely fascinating.
    I’m so happy for you guys…a fabulous trip AND under budget. Excellent!
    I (and I know others) have truly enjoyed following you on your journies. When you’re in-between vacations, like most of us are, what a great way to see the sights, through fellow travellors’ eyes and commentary. Jerry paints incredible pictures and takes great pictures too! Thank you for every step, every picture and every word of your journey! I vote for you all to KEEP ON MOVIN’!

  6. We decided to take road trip on the condition that we would do it without any debt. Our goal was to pay the rig off asap, but we had to wait until this April, tax month. When good ol Uncle Sam didn’t demand as much money as we thought, we were very fortunate and able to pay off our rig.

    With that savings, yeah, we can probably do this for another year. But nothing’s a given. We may find that perfect piece of property and buy it, which will change things. Right now though, we want to live this roaming lifestyle at least half the year for as long as possible. The seasonal work/travel thing is the best!

  7. So Shelter = RV and Vehicle = Truck and you paid them both off?

    If you back out those costs your annual expenses are low and I think you should stay on the road another year (assuming you stop by for a visit).

    How long you think you will stay on the road now?


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