Trailer Selection – Boondocking With Our New Generator

Last post I left everyone out in the open regarding what Karen and I have selected for what will become our new home.  I’m still working on the post regarding our fifth wheel selection. I’ll later attempt to bring together about four years of research which will explain our selection and perhaps give you something to think about during your own search.

Our trailer will be a Vanleigh Vilano 320GK fifth wheel. Here is a link to my 2016 blog post about it for those anxious to know more. The unit with options has changed over the years. I’ll highlight those later.

Vilano 320GK – Stock Photo

One of reason I delayed making this announcement was to get in touch personally with a few readers whom I’ve been corresponding with for a long time. Many have already bought their trailer. I wanted them to be the first to know. I’ve always tried to preface my research that it’s based off what is important to Karen and me. Other’s choices will be different. For those who have decided on their new fifth wheel or those still shopping, I hope my research has been usable and never misleading. We purposely waited years to make a final selection because each model year there are changes in what trailers are being built. The 35′ floor plan we selected, for example, came on the market last year and is now duplicated by four different companies. More on the trailer decision in next months blog posts.

Items we might use on the road which are influenced by technological changes for me are targets for delayed decision making. Perhaps even more than a new fifth wheel, which can often just be a revamping of an old floor plan, electronics change rapidly. Generators are in that group. There was no better time to buy a generator than before a trip to southern Missouri to spend time with my sister, boondocking in her wonderful new to her camper. I delayed the decision until it could wait no more.

Pull Start Generator

I’ll spare you the winded version of why I went with this generator.  The Champion pull start 3400 watt inverter generator is what I bought.

In short, I decided I did not want to take up any more room in the camper storage area than necessary, I did not want to spend $5500 on a self-contained unit that drains propane when in use, being able to operate a 15,000 BTU air conditioner was a necessity and I wanted the weight to be as light as possible. Of lessor concern for me was dual fuel (gas and propane), having to carry around a small gas can and having electric or remote start. I’ll add I was not particular fond of the idea that you could get two smaller units and hook them together for increased electrical capacity. That would mean taking care of two engines rather than one. It’s also an expensive option.

It’s worth noting some air conditioners, to include bedroom AC are 13,500 BTU. Ours will be 15,000 and the Champion 3100 Watt version of this generator may be borderline for running a larger AC.

It’s also worth noting if you decide on a remote start model it’s suggested you not start it with anything plugged into it. That’s in the Champion generator manual.  In other words, the remote start feature, where you can start it up to 80 feet away, will require you kill the main shut off in your camper before starting. Or not…

The dual fuel version may be more popular as well as having an electric start or remote start. I lifted all three models and the 3400 without the electric start is considerably lighter.  Other brands I considered were the Honda, Yamaha and Harbor Freight’s Predator.

The Honda 3000 inverter generator is a beast. A friend brought his over and I needed help lifting the 130 pounds. Another friend bought his Predator 3500 on sale as Harbor Freight frequently runs adds. The Predator is an economical choice.  I preferred the 3 year warranty that comes with the Champion.

We ran the Champion gas generator over-night to power a larger heater for three nights. I would not want to have to make the several trips that would have been required to re-fill a 20 pound propane bottle. Although had I purchased the dual fuel version there would have been the option to use gas.

I most liked the handle the 3400 Champion has. It’s like pulling around a cart. I could lift the 78 pounds in and out of the back seat of my car. Other models are heaver with their battery and push button start. It ran quiet and even comes with a 30 amp RV outlet.

Boondocking During Annual Festival

Mary has her trailer all decked out.

Karen still has a smile on her face after being able to decide between four trailers. She picked a version of the Vilano out four years ago and kept quite about what she wanted. Her happiness is priceless. I’m personally satisfied with the trailer which would not have made the final four had the new floor plan not recently come out.  I’ve read glowing reviews of Vanleigh’ s after-sales service. Most important!

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How We Meetup with Fulltimers

Karen and I met up with our friends (for the third time) Kay and Russ from the Destination Unknown blog a couple weeks ago as they were traveling through the area on the way to Colorado. I was sorry to hear about the catastrophic frame failure on their last travel trailer. It was very informative to talk about how they replaced that trailer – during a trip! Karen and I both would drop what we are doing to meet the couple from New Hampshire as we consider them good friends. I could write an entire post of what we have learned from them about the fulltime RV lifestyle. Maybe someday they can be our tour guide while we follow them to a wonderful winter spot in Mexico. They participate in the Harvest Host program and have picked a scenic winery for boondocking while near Kansas City.

Russ found out there is 110 power on that pole for their usage!

Wonderful landscape – and no lawn mowing required.

Price for this view – nearly nothing with Harvest Host membership

And today Karen and I are driving to Topeka Kansas, the half-way point to meetup with Bill from the bkamericanodyssey blog. Kelly had to make a trip out of town. See ya on the road Kelly! They came to the area while Bill installs yet another solar system as he works with RV Solar Solutions.  Kelly – I’d planned to talk to you about a number of more advanced topics, such as using the Amazon Affiliates program. Hit you up about that later.

Meetup with Bill in Topeka Kansas right after this blog was posted.

It’s worth repeating that a good way to reduce the chance of failure is through planning.  “Piss poor planning leads to piss poor performance” to quote my Command Sgt. Major father. Be Prepared is the motto for us Eagle Scouts. And to a large degree this blog is about the planning process for becoming fulltime RV travelers. This blog started just as a place to park my notes. It’s become the gateway to developing wonderful relationships, from planning a meeting, sending long emails back and forth and more.

This post can only cover half the story. The other side will have to come from you fulltimers or others that might post in the comments section. The half story includes views from myself who is parked at our sticks and bricks home.  I could not come up with a do’s and don’ts list for meeting fulltimers – perhaps someone else can do that in their own blog. Top 10 lists seem to be a popular format. So I’ll just write about what comes to mind as I think through the topic.  I have a special message at the end of this post as well.

How We Generally Discover RV Travelers 

First the best source I’ve had for meeting fulltimers, and part-timers for that matter, is reading blogs. I’ve even poached a couple to meet from the blog comment sections. And some have contacted me first.

A majority of the blogs I’ve subscribed to are from those in the class of 2014. That was the year I began planning for what is happening next year when we go fulltime – yay. That class of 2014 had just finished up planning and had moved onto the road. Following their blogs from the near start has obvious advantages. I also bookmark several in my internet browser to go back to and read. And not to be stalking anyone, I’m a free to be member at RVillage where I have 21 friends as of today. I’m fairly selective about friends links but am always on the lookout for readers of this blog to be-friend as we have commons interests and are often at the same point in our planning.  Really like the mapping feature where with one click I can see where our friends are parked anywhere in the country. You can search the membership area for Mark and Karen to find us at RVillage.  I’m not much of a Facebook user, having an account for various reasons. That might have to change – or not.

How Our Initial Contact Usually Occurs

Generally there is an email link within other’s blogs or at RVillage. Sometimes it only takes responding to a readers comment in another’s blog. I’ve considered it an advantage that we live in Kansas City which is part of the country fulltimers usually “fly-over” as their perspective might be there are better places to see when in Missouri such as Branson and St. Louis. Offering to be a tour guide while in town is a way of giving back for their time and frankly is enjoyable. Generally the second time we have contact I try and give them my phone number and email. That way they can select the best method that works for them to contact me. Email, texting and phone calls come at various intervals. The majority will send emails until they are in town and then switch off to text messaging. Don’t get in a panic if they don’t respond the same day. Remember, the lifestyle is often about slowing down and enjoying the journey. 

Firm Commitments Are Usually Not Part of the Plan at First

You have heard it before, plans are made in jello. Things change, emergencies come up, sometime we get sick and sometimes we just change our minds and want the day to ourselves. In no way would I want to cause someone to go out of their way because of a sense of obligation. We have changed or cancelled plans as late as the day of our visit. I’m totally okay with that. See ya next time is a phrase we all should use.

Where to Meet and What to See

Be prepared to make a drive if it’s needed. Today, we are meeting Bill at a half-way point to cut the drive down for both. Some ask for suggestions in selecting an RV park. I keep a list of the local spots that I’ve researched for not only their benefit but for ours during expected longer stays when we come home. Sometimes they even have a better idea that makes my list. Most prefer a certain type of atmosphere such as a State Park. If they ask for a recommendation they usually have a list from their own research. Knowing the area for shopping, closeness to attractions, traffic patterns and maybe even ease of getting in with a large trailer is advise I can help with.  I feel I should be the one to offer flexibility in meeting times, after all I’m not the one dragging my house to a new area.

I’ve learned that 95% of the time they have their own ideas as to what they might like to tour, or a restaurant they want to check out. If I’m asked for suggestions I usually point them towards special places they can only see here such as a national museum, a Kansas City BBQ joint, or a special historical location.  Leave it up to them to ask. I generally offer to be the tour guide if it’s a place both Karen and I want to see, otherwise I’ll decline spending the day with them. We especially like to meet-up at their RV for a tour and in those cases try and always bring food with us. Personally I also prefer to buy lunch if we decide on a restaurant. And to drive – in our family car – if we decide to check out a site together. I know it can be awkward when you first begin setting up the meeting. I truly mean it when I let them know we are flexible and will leave the decision up to them. Lastly, sometimes these plans begin months ahead as folks are making their way across the country. There is no need for constant contact along the way. They let us know if their plans change.

The Day of the Meeting

Most of this is common sense.  We have a meeting spot and time, usually coordinated through texting. I’m big on letting someone know if we are going to be late by 15 minutes or more. Generally we have already decided if we are meeting at their RV and leaving for lunch or a tour. Sometimes we just sit around talking about RV stuff and then decide to go somewhere. If we are meeting in public, such as a local farmers market, I describe what we are wearing or our car. Sometimes we just meet under a sign or in front of a building. Once the meeting is coming to an end, some will be staying another day or two and touring the local attractions. I personally never offer to tag along. Once our new friends even came out to the house later that evening. Really enjoyed the extra time and sharing a homecooked meal. And every now and then I’ll come up with a special stop along the way or coming back from a restaurant when we drive. A spot they may have not been looking for such as a wonderful city scape or extraordinary water fountain or little known historic spot. I’ll first ask if they have time to run by there and by now hope they feel comfortable to say no.

After the Meeting

Friends for life – or at least the best you can be until we see ya next time. And for sure really adds special meaning when you read their blog, or see a post on social media or their name comes up in another forum. And for sure, a good point of contact when you are researching a topic. After all, those fulltimer and part-timers really are as close to an expert that you can find. Thank you all for the times we have had so far. 

And now for a special announcement!

Actually it’s one of those check back later for the full story thing. Karen and I have finally selected a fifth wheel trailer. It’s may not be what many are expecting. Our plans are to buy it early this coming spring. Four units made it to the top of our list. My sister had a wonderful idea. Let Karen pick it from the four from the research. Karen and I have been in every one of our top four models and the specific floor plan twice. I purposely waited these nearly four years to narrow the list to a few trailers. Why? Because floor plans and companies constantly change. For us, we are trying to buy our third trailer first. It’s expensive to change your mind later and trade these suckers in. The depreciation hit in the first five years can be terrible unless you buy a new trailer at an awesome price or find a decent used one.

I’m not ready to announce the specific fifth wheel because I’m planning a decent blog post on the reasons for the selection. Thank you again to my sister for the great idea to propose the four trailers to Karen that made the top four list. They were so close in scoring I could live with all four. Karen took all of about 5 seconds to point to the one she wants. Now I wish she would pick the truck.  Hmm, just thought of that one.

See ya next time! Thanks for reading, commenting and the emails.

Mark from Missouri

Garage Sale Success

Well, we finished up our two day garage sale and deemed it a success. Both financially and just getting rid of stuff.  We had purchased a package with 1000 stickers that had prices stamped on them. I’d say based on the number of stickers remaining we sold off at least 400 items of various sizes. Thought I’d share a few observations about the sale.

We actually found it less of a challenge to decide what would go in the sale than we thought it would be. Especially on the emotional side of giving up stuff. That may have been made easier because it’s not our final sale and we have come to an agreement a 5×10 storage unit could later house, at least for a while, items we are not willing to part with or are not sure if we will need it on the road. Boy did I have a few questions to ask others about what we should keep for the road. Fortunately, an opportunity came up where I had to travel to Joplin Missouri for work. Our good friends and full time RV’ers Cheri and Dean were parked in their home town. Cheri writes the Travels with Bentley Blog. I took a detour on the way home to pay them a visit. Not just to ask questions but to see how they were doing. They kept a larger storage unit after selling their house. I ran a list of items past Dean, asking if we should keep them for the road. The couple are doing good and preparing for their trip north to see family and more.

I’ll just bullet point a few comments about the sale:

20180720_153416 (800x600)

  • We advertised on Craigslist, Facebook and the local paper. Taking into account the households within a 10 mile radius of us, I’m thinking the advertising could have reached up to 35,000 homes.  We are also fortunate to live on a corner lot with a major street so a well placed sign pointed folks to our home.  We had plenty of customers. Surprisingly this also turned out to be a great way to meet neighbors we had never spoken with in the past. We also received cards in the mail from local realtors asking to be interviewed or considered as an agent once we get ready to sell the house. One of our adds mentioned we would be selling the house next year.  That add also had an unanticipated effect at work! Several fellow employees apparently read the add and asked others what was up, was I leaving now. Not a big deal for me but something you might want to think about should you advertise for your own sale someday.

 

  • Items over $60 in price did not sell well. People were looking for deals. I’ll not go into the details of how to setup garage sale displays as I’m sure you can find that advice online. We moved all the leftover large items to one side of the garage and will post them individually on Craigslist.  That got me to wondering if it would have been a good idea to have posted them for sale on Craigslist or Facebook, individually, prior to the sale. Then just use the sale date to have people show up to buy. The lack of selling more expensive items has us worried how we should plan our final sale, when way more expensive or larger items are to be sold off. I’ll talk about that in a few moments.
  • A good way to look up what you might want to price something at is not to use a laptop for searching. Use you phone’s voice to text feature and just ask “eBay or Home Depo (fill in the blank)”. The Google search should pull up what others are selling the same item for and if they had any bids on the item. We priced most everything below the online price because we wanted to get rid of it.
  • We essentially have a three car garage with two overhead doors. We moved everything that was not for sale behind an area draped with tarps hanging from a soffit. We moved all our shelving from inside the house to the garage to setup displays. The shelving will be sold in the next sale. I sent a text to a neighbor to see if he had any tables we could use. He volunteered to get four 10′ tables from his church where only a small deposit was needed to insure the tables came back in good shape. Steve even hauled them to and from the church for us. Karen and I plan to take Steve and his wife to dinner as a way of saying thank you. He also has a power washer I can clean our concrete with – score!
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Cleaning Station

  • By far the most time consuming part was cleaning everything. We setup a washing station outside and a bucket with stool in the garage.  I used Windex and a rag for a few final touches. I also bought a can of black spray paint for a couple lawn mower attachments that had been in one of our two storage sheds.
  • We planned for the sale to begin at 8:00 am but opened the doors earlier. Friday was full of what I’d call professional garage sale shoppers. I asked a couple if our prices seemed reasonable based on their experience. The answer was yes and they were impressed how we organized everything.
  • Here’s a big reason the sale was so successful – we started Saturday morning by posting signs that everything was 50% off the labeled price. We had watched people looking over items on Friday that had not sold. We also wanted to give the people who were at work on Friday a chance at finding a few bargains. As expected, more than once I heard someone on Saturday say something similar to; “well I don’t need this but for the price I’d better buy it.”  After all, the goal was to get rid of stuff!
  • We decided not to make any donations to charities who resale goods – yet.
  • We pushed our shelving together and put a tarp over the leftovers for the next sale. There are a few other leftovers stored in boxes in our basement as well. Lot of totes were freed up to go in our future fifth wheel basement later!
  • A good trick to get ride of stuff that might not sell individually is to throw it in a box with other stuff. Charge a single price for the entire box.  Good thing we saved up a few boxes for that. During setup I had several boxes pre-marked for sorting. Those boxes were labeled HVAC and Plumbing,  Electrical, Nuts and Bolt, Electronics.  I made sure to have at least one good item in plain view in the box to encourage someone to buy the entire box just to get the good item.
  • Another special category worth mentioning is books.  We priced hard covers at $2 and soft covers at .50 cents regardless of actual value.  Karen loves her books and said they are hard to let go of. We arranged them by subject, sometimes stacked on the top shelf. We found people would buy most of the same group of books by subject. We have thought about donating some to local RV parks where we know they have books in their library for campers to enjoy or trade other books for.

A few final points:

I was worried we might sell something that was a gift from a family member. That stayed on my mind because I don’t want to be ungrateful. One suggestion I’d heard was if this is an issue then call the family member and let them know you enjoyed the gift but now our lifestyle had changed. Offer to give them the gift back or see if they would be offended if we sold it.  That might come up in our final sale.

I should not have put any money into fixing anything up. I should have just sold it as is. Specifically, I’m thinking adding new parts to an old BBQ grill would not have been required to sell it. People who know a good grill when they see it already are aware they can order the replacement parts and could have looked up the price for those parts. I made $10 on a great grill that would have sold for maybe $50 as is.

I want to thank my sister Donna, who lives hours away from us, for sending her friends to the sale via Facebook Messenger.  And Mary, thank you so much for the offer to help setup the sale. We had it under control or would for sure have needed the help. There is a chance we will take you up on the offer at our next sale.

And speaking of our next sale. A dilemma has developed. Do we host a larger “garage sale” or hire/hold an estate sale?  Knowing now that more expensive items do not sell, in our area at least, at a typical garage sale? Also knowing an estate sale requires more extensive and experienced setup? I’m worried if we hold another “garage sale” too much will be sold off and an estate sale business would not be interested in setting up an estate sale should we want to later hire them? And I’m worried if we held an estate sale we might have to allow people in our house after spending the winter fixing up the inside for the pending home sale?

One final step or idea that’s worth mentioning. Some time ago Karen moved her cooking utensils into lower kitchen drawers. As she used them she would move them to drawers above. After awhile, the utensils that still remained in the lower drawers became obvious ones to get rid of. Smart…..   Bet the process would work equally as well for clothes.

Downsizing – Garage Sale Preparation

Just finished up a couple 60 hours weeks at work. Karen has been busy working on garage sale preparation back at home. Thankfully I’ve got two vacation days planned for the end of this week. Just in time to finish the setup for our first large garage sale.

Perhaps the best advice I would give to anyone who is in the initial planning stages to move into an RV is to STOP BUYING STUFF NOW!  And the second advice I would give is hold a garage sale now, clean out some corners of the house. It will boost your morale and perhaps solidify the fact “this is really going to happen, we are really going to take the leap to a great journey.”  Karen and I are touching about everything we own, asking ourselves, do we need this in the next year? Do we think we might use it in an RV or give it away to a family member? Are we not sure and have to think about if we need/want it?  And is this something worth putting in a 5×10 storage unit we plan to rent?

Every Room is a Mess from Sorting

Sorry, not sure we can have any guests at the house for the next year. Most every room has a pile of stuff in it. We have been busy sorting and filling the trash receptacle each week. Thank goodness neither of us are particularly clean freaks. This would drive us crazy if that was the case. 

Sent a text to the neighbor to see if he had any tables we could use for the garage sale. His church loans them out for a small deposit. He even volunteered to take his trailer and pick the tables up with me.  Damn glad Steve moved in across the street.  Wonderful guy and hope to be able to return the favor. 

We cleared out some of the bookcases in the house and are moving those to the garage sale area to setup displays. I’ve been shopping around for camping tables we would want to take on the road. Buying at least one early so we can use that in the garage sale as well. Leaning towards a 5′ table that folds in the middle. Should be easy to store in the fifth wheel basement.

As for non-garage sale events there has been a little progress in planning. We are still trying to buy our truck by September. Darn, found the perfect one, used with 4,000 miles, about three hours from home. Just not ready to buy yet. So, I sent the owner an email and told him don’t worry if he does not sell it by September, I’d come over and give him an offer.  It’s a 2017 Ram Laramie Longhorn with a B&W hitch, nice bed cover, 3.73 gears, Aisin transmission and air bags. Well within our budget. Karen says to buy it now. I still have three goals to accomplish before the truck and I’m sticking to it.

Friends I’ve met online, some moving to an RV this year and others in 2019, have been communicating with us regularly. Thank you to all who are sending the emails and text message. Really learning a lot from you!

And finally; I sent in the paperwork for my first retirement check. This is from a corporate job I held years ago. First check should arrive in September:)  Also figured out technically I only have to be at work 71 days next year. Karen and I have not formally moved up the retirement date from November of 2019. However, we sure are looking at what month would be more practical which is not the first part of winter as planned. Maybe we will head north from Missouri, where the RV prices are better, as early as April of 2019 and see what happens if we find our new home on wheels.

I was looking at Craigslist to see how people were posting garage sale adds and found this one.  Funny stuff.

Budgeting Part Three- First Year Draft Expense Budget

Thanks for following along for this last of a three-part blog series regarding budgeting for our future in an RV. I began the series with a few background comments of importance. The second post was regarding our fifth wheel and dually one-ton truck capital budget which includes the vehicle purchases, taxes and basic furnishings. This final edition is our draft copy of what we expect to be our first-year travel expenses.  We plan to move around more the first year than subsequent years which, judging by following other blogs, seems to be the norm. The bottom line number is $48,156 which includes income taxes.

I have a second-year budget outlined in our financial plan but I’m not ready to post that yet.  If you read back far enough you will find a few relevant details. One final note before I share the numbers. Estimating healthcare costs is a highly debatable topic. I’ve tried to cover my research in prior posts. However, we all know when you are providing your own insurance (pre-Medicare) the availability and costs must be looked at on an annual basis. It was interesting to find the 2018 federal subsidized healthcare plans (Affordable Care Act) reduced the premiums for many compared to the prior year. We will see what happens in 2019. And I’ve given up on finding a plan that covers you outside of network. Although I’ve heard you can get nationwide coverage out of Florida.  Let me leave healthcare with that said. Go to the Wheelingit Blog for more of your own research. Last week I read an article regarding RV Health.com which is worth looking over at some point.

The numbers for our anticipated first-year expenses.

 Snap 2018-01-20 at 13.37.52

 

Explanations by line item

Taxes and Insurance – Non Medical

  • Includes Life Insurance at $126 a month.
    • To replace an income if one passes away
    • If I take a 50% survivor benefit on retirement accounts that would equal $101. But does not match my income or hers for non-retirement income. Hence, I’d rather secure the income with life insurance for 10 years and rely on retirement savings should one of us pass away after then.
  • RV – $87 based off another’s cost
  • Truck – $137 based off another’s cost
  • Roadside Assistance – $150 annually or $12.50 a month.
  • Maybe an extended warranty on truck and trailer – but would come out of initial RV/truck capital budget and not this expense budget.
  • Federal income tax on earned income only (no state because of domicile)
    • Have to keep combined income under $32,000 to avoid paying tax on at least a portion of social security.

Camping Fees

  • We may save additional because we will be workamping/volunteering at times for a spot but less in the first year. And we will most likely take advantage of weekly rates in great places during the season or monthly spots for winter at the least. We plan to keep overnight stops at the least price as possible and we are equipping our trailer for at least some boondocking.

Medical Expense

  • Medical using high deductible plan per Health Sherpa recommended plan is $312. Livingston TX zip is 77351. So far, this is our first selection for domicle.
  • Karen will have Medicare by August, I’m paying for my own and am basing this off the current Affordable Care Plans
  • Doctor/Dentist/Eye – Using Howards from RV Dreams at $75
  • Maybe a supplemental plan for hospitalization. I can get it at my current job and the price stays the same when we leave (about ½ off the open market price) at $64 a month. Or we may use this portion for telemed plan or local doctor who does not except insurance.
  • Prescription drugs are included in the Affordable Care plan but may change after she gets Medicare D.
  • Doctor’s visits are coming out of our Health Savings Account which I’ve been building up to include the extra $1,000 you can put in the year you turn age 55.

Fuel

  • Diesel (truck) – For now just using what I’m seeing in budgets with same travel style and using truck for daily driver. At $500 a month that’s maybe 21,600 miles a year.
  • Gas (generator) – guessing with moderate boondocking eight gallons a month

Travel/Parking

  • For tolls and such based off another’s budget.

Groceries

  • Using our current costs plus 10% because will be buying in unfamiliar stores and in markets that could cost more than here in Missouri.

Eating Out

  • Just using Howard’s budget at RV Dreams of $150

Entertainment

  • Just using an overall average from a few blogs I follow and your suggested plus another 15% because it year one.

Department Stores

  • We buy most clothing at thrift shops now.

RV/Truck Repair and Maintenance  

  • Will be less the first year. For now, just figure $30 for truck and $100 for RV

Utilities  

  • Electricity and Propane

Phone/Cable/Internet and TV

  • Current part-time job will pick up the cost of my phone and work data plan.
  • We enjoy television, so a portable satellite is in order. Figured our current plan at $50
  • Karen’s phone $60
  • Data Plan (excludes what work provides) $50 for 8 gigs

Miscellaneous

  • Memberships
    • Good Sam’s – $23
    • Escapees – $40
      • Because of mail service
    • Passport America – $37
  • Haircuts- Based on our current costs
  • Laundry – Averaged based on other’s budgets.

Big Ticket Items

  • I’m not including anything that it takes to get started in new trailer or equipping truck with is part of our startup capital cost to purchase the truck and trailer.
  • This could be a catch-all fund or just used to buy cool stuff we find others traveling with.

Mail Service

  • I’ll provide our own for personal mail. In addition, and not part of this budget, is a part-time employer will pay for business expense as necessary such as scanning, higher annual. $215 to get started or $18 month
  • Plus shipping which I’ll guess twice a month at $12

Extras  

  • Include storage unit $45. At this time we anticipate keeping a small storage unit for items we don’t want to depart with. Also to store property we are not sure if we will want to take on the road or not.
  • Gifts and all other $50

 

Final Thoughts

I suspect there will be changes to this draft budget with input from others.  I also included a little inflation as the budget is for the year beginning 2020. The healthcare portion is the scariest part of the budget and we have not yet decided on all our options. This budget exceeds our estimated annual income, so we are saving up for the difference.  Karen and I have agreed to maintain at least four months of expenses in our travel account. I’ve decided to keep most of our income sources private but am happy to discuss them offline.

I’ve definitely not liked this part of the planning process. We are good at not having to keep a budget while living in our sticks and bricks house. And we seem to be good at just living within our means.

Preparing for Mobile Office Work

Mobile, by definition, means the ability to move or be moved freely or easily. These are my long-term goals as I prepare to move a part time job from my home to our future in an RV.

Back in December of 2016 I posted an update on our financial planning. That month I’d brought up the idea a current employer wanted me to keep a part time office job.  Doing so would prevent having to draw from retirement funds while on the road. What a great opportunity and a good business deal that was good for both of us.  It did not take long for me to accept the offer. Since then I’ve become more confident keeping the job will work out. Especially after meeting others who are already working an office job from their RV and contacting others online regarding connectivity such as phone service. I really appreciate those of you who spent time answering emails or responding to comments on the topic. Thank you!

In January of 2014 I sold a small construction contracting business which employed five people. I sold it to the then superintendent who kept me on as it’s office manager. In short, the job requires about 10 hours of my time each week. I work from my home on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and again on Saturday mornings. The hours are flexible, but I always try and make myself available on the phone on those days for consistency.  Folks know they can get in touch with me during those days.

For the past several months I’ve kept a notebook at my desk and wrote down by category each major task I typically accomplish on the days I work. Usual office stuff such as payroll, customer invoicing, monthly/quarterly tax preparation and such.  Maybe not so typical is bidding floor plans from prints.  I came up with 20 titles for tasks I perform in my job where I needed to figure out how to get them done on the road.  Always keeping in mind, the greater goal is to make the move in a way which will cause the least inconvenience to my boss, customers, vendors and employees. I suppose success will be that few people will even know I’m sitting in sunny locations hundreds of miles away from them.

I’ve got the list sitting next to me as I write this. There are a few areas that have been more challenging to figure out and I would appreciate any advice you have to offer.

  • Mail service when a business is involved: Karen and I will establish a mail service in whatever state we decide to domicile within for personal use.  I’ve read everything I could find regarding how the Escapees RV Club mail service works for example. They are a little vague about business mail but state they provide the service. I’ll most likely end up calling each service for an explanation as to how they handle business mail. I’ve starting moving everything possible over to online service to avoid mail but there simply will be a need to receive some mail and for sure scanning services where they open the mail and scan it when requested.
  • Computer hardware for tiny homes: I’ve already decided a laptop and external monitor will be the way to go. When I’m out of range for WIFI or cellular service I’ll have the ability to drive down the road to connect. But what about printing?  Again, I’m doing what I can to go paperless. I mostly receive floor plans, maybe three to four a month, via PDF files. I may try and find a software to use in taking measurements but generally must print them off on an 11×17 printer.  Maybe half a dozen times a year, it’s better to have them printed in larger format by a service provider such as Office Depot. The boss says this one is easy. Tell the customer to send prints in a format I can use, or they will not get the best quotation (price estimate) possible. For lack of better ideas, I’m thinking to just go with the smallest laser printer possible and keep the 11×17 printer in a box for those times I need it.
  • Changing the business office address: Correspondences come to my home address now. The business address will change to the boss’s office once we leave in an RV. There will be times he has to forward items on to me. And there will be times I mail items to him to sign and expect him to forward it on in the mail, such as quarterly taxes. I’m thinking about training him on using a phone application to take photos to send to me and maybe getting with his wife, whom I’ve worked with in the past, regarding items he needs to sign and mail.

I’m hacking away at the list of converting the home office to a mobile office. It will help that we are planning to purchase the RV well in advance of going full time. That will give it a chance to test everything out from a local RV park or wherever. If anyone wants to have a longer discussion on the topic, just post in the comments section. I’d love to talk about it.  Here are a few more areas on my list to improve for a mobile office:

  • Signing up for mobile tax payments and filing forms. (In progress)
  • Customer invoicing. (Some already prefer emails)
  • Cutting down on business “junk mail”. (Faxing a form letter to take me off their list)
  • Cutting down on need to print stuff.
  • Working with accountant to submit end of year documents for taxes. (Will use their file server)
  • Researching affordable internet and cell service. And signal boosting.
  • A work area in the trailer.
  • Having all or most all vendors submit bills electronically.
  • Finish scanning old documents.

I suppose my office space can be the dining room table or sitting on the floor in the living room. But I’d rather figure something out that can be setup and torn down easily when not in use. Karen came up with a few interesting photos of mobile offices and I’ve been keeping a list of ideas I’ve heard about.

 

new flash  Vanleigh RV is introducing a new fifth wheel targeting the fulltime RVer. It’s called the Beacon. Click here for a brief video. I hope they do a better job with cargo capacity than the Vilano model has. I think they will because of 8,000-pound axles.

new flash Quick list comparing the 2016 Keystone Montana vs Grand Design Solitude differences per Camping World. I saw a similar list at the local 2017 RV show. This will give you an idea of what to look for that might not be easy to see.

It’s All About the Travel – Cost to Equip a Rig

It would seem to be common sense that one should know there are additional costs beyond just buying a trailer and truck as part of a new full time RV lifestyle. I had not actually written down a specific list of additional equipment costs until now. A long time ago I simply came up with a budget based on how much of our net worth we would be willing to spend on a rig, guessing we might use it for six years. That became the budget.

I had little to no real idea which trailer and truck we wanted and therefore what the true cost would be. Heck, I didn’t learn what the dealerships were referring to as a “price point” until well into my research. Of course, the “budget” should have quickly become more of a limiting and necessary factor as Karen and I began to tour trailers and learned what the anticipated discount off the listed price might be.

I should go ahead and apologize for the sarcasm that you are about to read. It has a point in that it demonstrates how I can become ridiculous in my quest to find a simple trailer and truck.  I’m also not intending to criticize anyone that has the means to purchase whatever rig they want. And hope I don’t loose any readers over this one as I depend upon your comments and suggestions. I am hoping this post helps others in a similar position come closer to selecting their own rig.


Luckily it did not take but a few hours at an RV show to know a big Newmar diesel pusher was not in our future. Internet searches taught me there were specific categories of fifth wheel trailers lumped together within any one manufacturers list of products. In our case this category was the luxury full profile trailers. Simply put, these are the ones that are nearly 13′ tall in the front. Examples being perhaps the Heartland series to include the Big Country, Bighorn and Landmark.  Or the Keystone Montana and Alpine. The choices for a new trailer are overwhelming. Especially if one throws in the idea used trailers from several higher price points might be within a budget. So I kept them on one large list within this blog site thinking I’d eventually know the pros and cons of each trailer.

For some sadistic reason, I also decided to learn about all the nice options one could add to a trailer, pushing the base model into a higher price point.  I had to go out and read a dozen blogs about what others had added to their campers, sometimes a short time after buying the trailer. Such as a MorRyde independent suspension, heavier axles, H rated tires, full body paint jobs and disc brakes. What to do? I guessed just check them all out and see how much the stuff, I mean excellent equipment, costs added at the time of initial purchase. And then dream as if the budget could be increased to a magical level. As if my pension and savings would grow to the necessary level by the time I retired six years early.  Hmm – that seems reasonable…. for about 10 minutes when you think about it.  At least that mindset took less time to flush out of the decision process compared to the “let’s spend more of our savings now on a depreciating asset and buy a shed to live in later.”

Then a voice came out of heaven (actually from a blog follower’s comment). That comment was “it’s all about the travel” and not the trailer. Thanks Ingrid! I have thought about that comment for many months and it truly helped. I should have included the concept from day one when the initial budget was created.  To me “it’s all about the travel” includes a long definition. Among which at the very least might be the trailer and truck get you from point A to point B so you can enjoy the scenery. Intuitively we all know a new car, boat and RV will someday loose its luster and become just another object to get rid of or replace. Just like the homes many of us are now downsizing and selling off.

All this being said, for us we still don’t want to take the fun out of travel by moving into a new home we will not enjoy. Or worst yet, perhaps be the deciding factor why we give up the lifestyle. I’ve owned a popup camper and there is no way that would work for us. Nor do I have any dreams of quickly mastering backing into a spot with a 45’ trailer towed by a Volvo semi truck after avoiding the trees, vehicles and other objects next to the campground roadway.

I was thinking it would someday be nice to go back to a few ideas mentioned in prior blog posts and let the reader know if the idea or plan worked once we had been on the road for a period of time. I think I can attempt that now even without having spent a day in our future fifth wheel. At least when it comes to developing a truck and trailer budget. And I might add I am taking to heart and very much appreciate all the great advice I’ve learned from experienced travelers . There are so many ways to travel in an RV and all methods offer great points of reference.

I think I did it right in September of 2014 when I dusted off the old financial plan for retirement and brought it up to date. Also later when I took an inventory of financial assets at the time and future in the case of investments. I’ve got a fairly good idea of what will be our net worth at the time of retirement. Karen and I have discussed ad nauseam what our expectations will be for purchasing a home once we come off the road and how much cash to hold back for that. It’s not fun for Karen but is amusing to me that some of the conversations include her telling me we already talked about that three times. Someday I’ll be able to tell her “don’t you remember we talked about that three times” should there be a flaw in the plan. I do like it when she suggests we may not need to worry about a new place to live beyond buying a new trailer to continue the journey. I however like plan B’s that allow us to change course 180 degrees if necessary.

I’ll get to the point now.  And that is I should have taken the time to come up with a close list of extra costs to equip a trailer and truck rather than just assuming it would fit in the budget. Because that would have helped narrow the selection of a rig even further. Admittedly, much of these costs would be learned perhaps after finding them on someone’s blog, an article or through my own study. Others appeared to have figured out the real costs rather quickly, having bought their rig in a matter of months.

I’ve been compiling lists on pages in this blog as I learned about equipment others are purchasing for their trucks and trailers over years of travel. I’ll never have those lists complete with every possible item to choose from. In about four hours I wrapped that research up using a large Camping World catalog. And had fun dreaming about all the cool junk, I mean important equipment, one might need that was not already on the list.  I then took 30 minutes to go to my States Department of Motor Vehicles website to get an idea on what the taxes and fees would be to register a new to us rig.

I don’t have this perfectly worked out and don’t intend to even attempt that. But I’m assuming we will spend 5.25% for State and local taxes on the truck and trailer purchase which could be in the neighborhood of $5,400.

For equipping the new truck and the trailer that could start out as low as maybe $2,517 to drive it off the lot and plug it into full hookups at a campsite. This includes a fancy fifth wheel hitch. But more likely we will want to spend about $6,367 on new equipment initially to include more costly items Karen and I have talked about, apparently during at least three individual conversations.

Yup, I did a spreadsheet with all those items listed using the catalog price, my notes or taking an educated guess.  If I’ve linked it correctly you can look at it here: Items to Purchase

I went a step further and ranked each item in order of priority based on what we might purchase at the start and at various increments.  In total that list came out to $25,308 if one was to add all the previous mentioned upgrades, solar, built-in surge protection, a truck bed cover and much less expensive items.  You can look at the list for ideas. I could see us spending up to $9,775 in the first year or two of ownership to equip the trailer and truck on top of the $5,400 to license it. That’s a $15,000 bite out of what we have decided to be our rig budget. That pushes several trailers out of our budget by price point.  To include many if bought used that I’d want to own.

I do want to make one very important point that I learned from those more experienced than myself.  For the most part, we will do our best not to purchase any of these non-essential items until we have lived in our trailer for a period of time. Yes, we did buy an inflatable boat and use it now. Karen has an Instant Pot and uses it now. I guess I must also admit we bought a $15 grill top and a new light on a camping trip. But I did pass on the 50% off Weber Q 1200 grill at Walmart.  Bet I’ll regret that one.

It has been fun researching and dreaming because I had the past three years to do it. Kind of my right now RV fix I suppose. But realistically, deep down it surely must become all about the travel rather than the junk we will someday want to sell off. Especially for most of us who are on a budget. And for those who are not on a budget, it might be safe to assume they already bought their rig and spent the $25,000 for extra stuff. And it’s all been parked in their driveway at home for at least the past six months. For me, I’ve been there, done that and have a motorcycle to sell to prove it.

Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you found this post amusing yet beneficial.

 


R.I.P Officer Gary Michael of the Clinton Missouri Police. Last call August 6, 2017.