Monday, August 29, 2016

Budget? What Budget?

What does it cost to roam around the US with an inconspicuous travel trailer for a year?   Gee, has it been 52 weeks?  Should we really stop?

You'll make your own choices of course, it could cost whatever you want it to.  For us, I think we were relatively low budget.  I'm sure some spend less, and I'll bet 95% of people spend more.

First you should start with the idea to try a boat, so that'll cost you.  But then most of the family may revolt following a couple of local Great Lakes sailing trips.  The boat is really great, the pictures we have are all cheery and peaceful, but, ...   the camera doesn't represent the thunderstorms, some motion sickness and constant fear of sinking that people without gills may have.

Later that fall, after Annie's offhand comment that something with wheels attached (not a boat on a trailer) could be tolerable, after a week or so with craigslist, we had The Transporter,  a 1999 Dutchmen travel trailer in the driveway, making the boat nervous.  We won't talk about the boat cost here, yet.  But costwise, a boat would have to be more, unless it's substantially miniaturized....
musical toys in the driveway, which will go first?
2800 Purchase price
265 camper mirrors for truck
383 reg, tax, title
115 propane tank
257 2 6v batteries
213 12 converter / charger
54 surge suppressor
25 misc
400 generator
75 500w inverter, switches
50 led lights
75 ubiquiti wifi
4712 total before summer trip

94 replace tire
395 tires, mounting
44 water accumulator
99 trailer 12v wiring breaker / junction
25 grounded cat5 wifi cable
50 100A 12v DC breaker
5419 total before leaving on year trip

65 propane tank
875 solar system
35 propane regulator
100 2000w inverter
6494 total camper cost

As we were firming up our decision to take off for a year, we took a 3 week trip, mostly to see if we could get along together.  (and keep everyone's arms and legs inside the vehicle while moving)   This also allowed us to see what we'd spend, roughly.  We drove a lot more than we'd prefer, but that's what happens with a relatively shorter trip and having a far off destination.  So fuel cost was more than we'd expect, actually half of the total cost (about $1800).  Groceries are next largest, and we probably would spend even more than this on a year trip, since we started out packed to the gills and used up some things by the end.
Based roughly on that trip, and what we might get away with for a whole year, we had a goal of $600 a week.  We were able to keep within that on average for the whole year, the average week was $537.  We had a couple high weeks in Florida (go see Harry Potter, and install solar panels), and a few low weeks (boondocking for free, or nowhere to buy groceries).

It's interesting to look at by category.  First let's talk about averages. 
About $75 a week on gas, because we generally took our time and didn't go too far each day.  Groceries were our largest cost, average $250 a week, similar or less than what we spend at home.   Camping averaged only $62 a week, that's equivalent cost to 2 typical state park nights.  This was possible since we spent many nights at free places (boondockers, public lands and at least 2 months total with family), and a lot of city or county parks.

Looking at the maximum amounts by category brings back some fun times.  Usually we didn't spend much on entertainment or eating out.  We did once have  a real nice dinner out with all of us, for our 50th day anniversary on the trip, near here.  Tolls we usually avoided, except a ticket for swerving off the highway to catch the library in Yuma, AZ.  Capital expenditure on the trip was primarily the solar panels installed over the holidays in Florida.  Groceries were sometimes more, especially when we stocked up on peanut butter at Trader Joe's.  There were a couple of weeks where we stayed mostly in state parks, which can get to $200 a week.

So that's it!  There's your budget, you are authorized to take off from work and bum around!  Go For it!

Fine print:  Many additional costs are not included.  We already had a good pickup truck, and already were paying for insurance, health care, etc.  Other than taking Annie's car off the road, and renting our house for the year, those costs were similar to before.  Opportunity cost of not working for a year is ignored, but at least that can't get taxed!  What a conundrum, how much to spend taking a year off work, we are very fortunate to have been able to do this.

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What do you think, where should we go next?