journey, Minimalish, rv living

The Surprise (And Non-Surprise) Expenses of RV Living

We have been RV living for 6 months (as of Feb 15, 2019). This post covers the upfront costs of getting started in an RV as well as all the things that have popped up since then. To sum it up: it feels like we haven’t stopped spending money since we started!

I didn’t realize shrinking our belongings and home would actually mean we’d need to re-build our whole lives. Our case may be a bit extreme because we moved across the country from our families and got rid of or left behind everything we couldn’t fit in the truck and RV (including my vehicle and the couches that came with the RV!). It’s been difficult without some of it and has taken longer than I expected for us to sort ourselves out.

This is a list of things we’ve needed to add to our lives in order to make RV living more realistic and/or comfortable (or even possible for the mandatory items, which are listed in bold). I’ll also list things we want/hope/plan to purchase in the future, as well as the general & recurring expenses involved in RV living (rent, utilities, etc. – which are not surprises, but are included for the reference of those wanting to get an idea of total expenses) toward the bottom.

The items are listed on a timeline of (approximately) when we felt we needed them and made the purchase, so you can know what to expect along your journey (or plan ahead for). This list is from memory, so it may not be exact and may be missing some things, but I’ll do my best! The prices may also not be exact. Of course, some of the items are specific things that work for our lifestyle and may not be things you need, but it should give you an idea of what type of things you may end up having to think about.

Immediately

For the RV:

water hoses & filters $14-$27
water pressure regulator $21
holding tank treatment $16
– breaks up the poo
power cord and 2 adaptors $47 + $57
surge protector $96
power strips with surge protection (qty. 2) $42.82
sewer & grey water drain hoses  $94-$132
drain hose supports (qty. 2) $48-$102
drain hose adaptors (qty. 2) $12
slideout jacks (qty. 3) $186.36
• wheel chocks: these (qty. 2) $6.14, these $64.97 & these $199.99
vent covers (qty. 2) $51.94
dual fuel generator $976.39

For the Truck:

• Firestone Ride Rite Spring System $282.25
– for better towability

For the Home:

Rubbermaid storage bins (qty. 5) $39.85
Quick Grip shelf liners (qty. 10) $63.90
– A good idea to protect the shelves in case you decide to sell/trade in your RV
Rigid tool boxes (qty. 5) $210.60
– organization and weatherproof storage are key!

Total: $1,933.61-$2,038.61
Total Mandatory: $183-$234

Within The First Three Months

For the RV:

adjustable water pressure regulator $34.95
– to replace the non-adjustable one purchased previously
100 lb propane tank $133.85
– backup for the smaller tanks that came with the RV (or just so we don’t have to refill as often)
Mopeka wireless propane tank reader $59.99
– lets you know when your propane is low!
heated water hose (mandatory in cold climates only) $95.24

For the Home:

• wire shelves (TjMaxx find) $12
– to make better use of cupboard space
• cutlery organizers (TjMaxx find) $12
runner rugs (qty. 2) $30
– to protect flooring and contain dirt & water tracked in on shoes
• assorted Command hooks $15
Swiffer Mop $11.97
Makita cordless hand & floor vacuum $169.99
• Samsung TV $200
– picture quality upgrade for video gaming

Total: $774.99
Total Mandatory: $130.19

From Three to Six Months

For the Home:

Oster toaster oven $52.99
– we left ours behind thinking we wouldnt need or have room for it, but we now know it’s a valuable asset!
• Lifetime 4 ft. folding tables (qty. 2) $107.96
– we got rid of our RV couches to make room for computer desks
• space heater $40
– helps reduce propane expense and keeps temperature more consistent to prevent condensation & mold
Instant Pot $89.99
– to reduce propane use/expense
Mr. Coffee coffee maker $39.99
– we left ours behind to save space (my husband uses a percolator and french press), but decided it was still a “necessity” to cut down on propane use from the percolator

For the Truck:

auxiliary transfer tank $849.99
– so we can adventure further without having to fill up!

Total: $1,180.92
Total Mandatory: $0

Planning for the Future

For the RV:

under sink inline water filter $179.40
different propane regulator $34.98
– ours freezes and doesn’t work when it gets too cold outside. Husband also doesn’t like the auto-changeover feature ours has

For the Home:

washing machine $829.99
portable dishwasher $262.99
– washing dishes consumes a lot of my time!
• smaller dining table $?
– we removed our table to open up the space for other things, but now we eat on the floor… lol
electric burner $16.43
– to reduce propane use/expense
convection microwave $584.10
– I have read that they cook much more evenly and faster than the propane ovens!

• A new RV – Haha, but actually not a joke. Do your best to figure out exactly what you want before you make a purchase! Tour all different sizes and styles and maybe even rent some for a weekend if you can! Don’t make anything off limits until you’ve given it all a fair chance…

UPDATE: At 8 months, we are now no longer looking to add a washing machine or dishwasher to our RV since we are planning to downsize, but we are still hoping our next RV will have a convection microwave (the propane oven is the pits!). Since using the Instant Pot, our propane use has reduced drastically, so an electric burner is also no longer necessary (I can sautee in the Instant Pot if I really want to, but still prefer my cast iron for most things).

Total: $1,907.89+
Total Mandatory: $0

General & Recurring Expenses

RV park space rent (unless boondocking) $200 – $2,000/mo. (usually closer to $600-$800)
Water $0
– this has been included in rent for us so far, but some places charge separately
Electricity $50-$100/mo.
Garbage & Sewer $0
– these have been included in rent for us so far, but some places charge separately
Coin laundry $30/mo. (if you don’t have machines in your RV)
– for a family of 2 adults and one toddler in cloth diapers
Propane $70/mo.
– this ranges greatly depending on how much you cook, whether the heat is running & whether or not your water & fridge are running on propane
Good Sam membership $2.41/mo.
– discounts for RV parks, outdoor retailers, propane, etc. Insurance, roadside assistance, etc.
Gas for travel
depends on how often and how far you travel! We have been stationary for 8 months, but it cost approx. $500 in fuel for our initial move from Michigan to Washington. This number is NOT included in the below total.
RV & Truck Repairs $1,000 avg./mo. (for us so far)
• Storage unit $70/mo.
• Internet/WiFi $70/mo.
Supplies for washing your RV (or paying someone to do it for you) $5-$166/mo.

Grand Totals

Recurring/Monthly Expenses Grand Total: $1,497.41-$3,508.41 Plus Gas For Travel
Mandatory Recurring/Monthly Expenses Grand Total: $1,350-$3,200 Plus Gas For Travel

One Time Expenses Grand Total: $5,797.41-$5,902.41
Mandatory One Time Expenses Grand Total: $313.19-$364.19

I’ll be honest – I was surprised how low the mandatory one time expenses came out to be. I suppose this post should serve as a guide so that you know exactly what essentials you need to buy and a reminder to be mindful of the things you may not really need before buying them. I find that the more I procrastinate on buying something I’m unsure about, the more I realize I really can continue to get by without it. That said, there will probably be a fair amount of things that are not truly, bare bones essentials that you will still want to have on hand or will find yourself “needing” anyway (wheel chocks, a generator, maybe some internet?). Good luck on your adventures!

Did this list surprise you? If you’re already an RV-er, do you have any expenses to add to the list? Let us know in the comments!

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