Do Full-Timers Spend More Than Home Owners?

home sweet home

they cut the grass and trim trees

Is life on the road more expensive than “staying put?” Our lives changed dramatically when we sold the house, quit the jobs, and moved into full-timing.  We did these all in pretty short order six years ago confident we could live within our means, far more inexpensively than in our big house.

We don’t know what our expenses not working full-time would have been had we not started traveling. Actually, had we not sold the house and moved into the trailer we would still need our incomes — we couldn’t have afforded our house, cars, clothes, the life we had when working.

no utilities, no rent, no cost

no utilities, no rent, no cost

We know we are spending less than when we maintained our 3,000 sf house in an historic neighborhood of Charlotte NC. We didn’t spend carelessly but housing and clothing were then far higher expenses for us than now. Food was less, medical care was less, and we otherwise were frugal.  Still we spent far more than now. Not having space inhibits us from adding stuff into our house. Something we can’t eat or put into a laptop, we can’t much afford to buy it anymore.

also known as THRIFT

also known as THE THRIFT

Our current budget for daily site rental ($20/night) includes electric, water, and sewer. Extra are telephone, XM radio, and heating gas (propane). We couldn’t match this low price for any decent apt or condo — but many could argue our present housing is below their definition of decent space, at least in quantity (188 SF gross interior).  We’re comfortable and our budget provides what we need.

Formerly we maintained a pickup truck and RV trailer, plus two or three cars. We didn’t drive so many miles, even between all three cars and the truck, but the taxes, tags, and insurance for the vehicles were fixed costs. Now we’re down to one truck and trailer, and no cars.

pay now or pay later

pay now or pay later

Debbie does our accounting and together we discuss and agree on budget and adjustments to spending. Debbie keeps a pretty good rein on our finances. We don’t want to go to jail, so let’s not spend what we don’t have.

Our clothing was much more expensive than now. We both worked corporate jobs, had nice collections of wool suits and work shoes. As well, we had clothing for bicycling, backpacking, visiting the beach and hanging out in cold weather too. Now? We have much simpler wardrobes designed around layers. A whole lot less clothing than when in a big house and working.

We wear clothes until they wear out, which likely happens more quickly than “stationary” folks who have larger collections. We are working from a smaller set of choices so we probably wear any given item more frequently in a given span of time. A lot less clothing, and less cost.

A surprising change from a large home to our rolling home is laundry. Have you thought about how convenient it is to wash three loads at once, then move them to two or three large dryers? We’ve been in and out of laundromats in as little as 90 minutes including all sorting, washing, drying, and folding.  We’re not paying capital, repair, or utility costs for washing or drying our clothes. Sometimes we pay as little as $1.25 to wash and $0.50 to dry, or $1.75 a load.  Works well, easily, and quickly too. Cheaper? If you figure it out, tell us.

Our primary health care costs are health care insurance, funding an HSA (which is more like a savings account than an expense), and medical evacuation/relocation insurance (SkyMed). We see our dentist 2X per year and we have annual or bi-annual medical physicals. We pay for most of the visits out-of-pocket (with pre-tax dollars from the HSA), except where health care insurance now picks up costs for preventive care.

We wasted little and thoughtfully considered purchases for goods and food. Our full-size kitchen with large pantry and fridge, six years ago, allowed us to buy wisely. Food costs could be lower for an organized homeowner who effectively economizes through bulk-buying and coupon discounts. Our current meager storage area and axle weight limits restrain us from enjoying much “buying ahead”. We pay more for the foods we buy than we would have when we had more kitchen.

Jim formerly bought tools, hardware, materials, coatings for projects definite and potential. When we sold the house he gave away tools and materials. We no longer have the space or need for so much stuff. His small current stock of project materials includes mostly smaller things like wire terminations, grounding strap, nuts and bolts, solder, shrink tubing, and micro switches. Neat and small, and he’s very likely to use these things on a regular basis.

and they accept cash

and they accept cash

Life in a stationary home need not cost more than our rolling style. And we’ve met full-timers who say they spend as little as half what we do. You choose how you want to live, where you want to be, what you want to do. You might have an inexpensive lifestyle with a low maintenance house and low taxes. We didn’t, so we considered our house too expensive to maintain and moved into this exciting lifestyle.

We’ve not provided a numbered and methodical accounting of costs, but we tried to answer some of the questions raised recently. Your comments are most welcome.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2013 Dreamstreamr

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14 responses to “Do Full-Timers Spend More Than Home Owners?

  1. Hey! I’m an NC girl! Read your blog and enjoyed the post. I’m preparing for a more mobile lifestyle too!

  2. Yup, there is no doubt in our mind that the mobile lifestyle is less expensive and most certainly less stressful. We now figure 18 months to fund the switch to truck and trailer, although we’re pursuing a fifth wheel vs the trailer. Can’t wait! We’re moving back to FL after spending a year “helping” my 91 year old dad in his four bedroom house that he refuses to leave, and realized that he doesn’t really “need” us here. He’s gonna do what he’s gonna do. So time to pack up, move to Orlando, get jobs, and sock the money away for the transition. Now or never. Meanwhile, before we leave, we get two weeks in Rocky Mountain NP as an artist in residence, last two weeks in July. Then back to Michigan, take a day to pack and load the truck, then on to Florida. Hope to see you on the road in 2015.

  3. strivingfortiny

    Great Blog you guys!!! :D <3
    I live tiny like you do! Yey! Though I am Stationary for the time being, dwelling in a small, studio apart. My means are LOOOOOOOWWWWWW……YEY! :D
    I prefer this over everything! I had houses!! I had all the pain/butt stuff!! I wrote a poem over on my blog on how my lifestyle came to be. It’s all true. This is my path :D
    Once in a while I do laundry out, but since it’s only me I use my Wonderwash!!! Complete Eco-ness and love:D
    The Wonderwash will be coming with me when I move into my future Class B Van.
    I also had fancy things; Lots of clothes, fun fashions, lavish furnishings, color! Style! Fun! Expense! Debt! No money! Wait..:(
    Living Tiny is strength for the soul. It’s also a huge challenge. But ya know…..once you get used to it, which doesn’t take long, you stop and think back, & I had that much crap?! I barely used any of it:D

  4. Richard Hunt

    Jim, thank you again for giving us hints of what life is like on the road, living full time in the 25′ Airstream trailer. There are less expensive ways to live, And, obviously, there are many ways of life that are much more expensive. For me, the bottom line is being happy in the lifestyle you choose. I admire you two for working out a life of adventure, fun, and fellowship without having to be exorbitantly wealthy. I appreciate your reflections, reports and analysis of living the life of DREAMSTREAMRS, chasing 75 degrees.

  5. we enjoy doing the “dream ” and have been for about 3 years. The only way to go back to sticks and bricks is if health requires us to.

  6. We’ve been full-time in our 25′ AS for one year now. The expense of living on the road is definitely less than what it used to be back in our stick and bricks home. I think it all comes down to how you choose to live this lifestyle. If you stay at high-end RV parks, eat out every night, and visit every expensive attraction you come across- well then you’ll be spending a lot of money. You’ll also be living like you’re on vacation, which is not our intent. Like you, our average per night camping cost is $20/night- way less then our mortgage was on our house. And even though we spend an average of $300/month on gas, that’s still less than when the two of us each commuted 40 miles per day to work and back. The best part is that even though we spend less, we have so much more. We have adventure, we have the ability to meet new people from all over, and we have freedom!

  7. After 30 years of home ownership we’ve found life on the road less expensive. Everyone’s situation varies but personally the ability to change residency (Minnesota taxes) to a more friendly state was a substantial savings. Of course far overshadowing the financial advantages are the wonderful new friend’s and beautiful country we enjoy along the way!

  8. We quit our jobs, sold our house, and gave away most of our worldly possessions 13 months ago and we would not go back. We have the 25′ Eddie Bauer AS and love it. We have been so many places we only dreamed of seeing while we worked. Our work days started at 4:30 a.m. and ended 18 hours later. We don’t do that anymore, and we are much happier living this lifestyle than running the rat race.

  9. We are in Tennessee, just east of Knoxville. We have a Trike and are enjoying riding these great roads. We’ll leave here on Tuesday and head back to Texas for a while, then its on to Arizona in the late fall.

    • We have enjoyed late fall and some winter in AZ for each of the past four years. The winters are so darned nice in Mesa we become tempted to forgo traveling as much.

      But we are diversifying again, planning for more travel and fewer extended stays. I’ll miss competitive tennis league in Mesa, and so many wonderful friends. Hopefully later years we can find them their again.

      Good luck on your travels, they sound great.

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