Long time no blog! I am using this time of quarantine as a way to get reacquainted with the wonderful habit of journaling and blogging with a first person voice, keeping you and me entertained in the process. You may feel like you have missed a few episodes, or rather a whole season! I will try to catch up as we go. In the meanwhile, stay safe and wash your hands 🙂
Today, I ordered a rack to attach to the back of the trailer, so we can install the cooling unit for a mini spit I bought a few months back and have been procrastinating on installing.
We tried the AC a few days ago as days are getting hotter (especially when the tin box of the RV toasts under the late afternoon sun and ruins my siesta). But it makes a lot of noise, and will for sure drag way too much electricity to operate with solar panel.
The basket shaped metal rack cost around $100, plus a mount to attach it to the RV and a cargo net to make sure everything stays together tightly, we’re in $150 total.
Because RV living is marginally cheaper than living in an apartment, we have been able to make small improvements here and there, and still stay under what an apartment costs in San Diego.
We live in San Diego. That’s life, and that can’t be changed because my husband still has 27 months to go on his military assignment.
He used to rent a $2,000 one-bed apartment, about 30 minutes from work. It was very nice, with a pool, a bicycle repair shop and even a “spa” to wash your dog, but as a Parisian I have never understood driving 30 minutes each way to go to work, and living in a sanitized neighborhood with malls and more shops had zero appeal.
RV living was tempting for both of us, so I crunched the numbers.
David paid $2,000 in rent. Add to that $100 for electric, water, gas and cable, and that’s when you don’t use AC most of the summer.
Another $150 easy in gas to go to work. And he had to furnish the place, but that damage was done.
Let’s assume a total of $2,250, even though his lease was up last February and would have increased a couple hundred bucks.
Bring in a smart and beautiful French wife, and life is so much better! Kidding. Sort of.
He bought a 32ft travel trailer and a 2003 Ford F150 truck to tow if for a $24,000 package deal. The payment on that is about $300 per month, he put $0 down.
There is $90 for insurance on both.
We cook with propane, and the RV came with 4 tanks, that cost around $18 to fill. When it’s just cooking, we last six weeks + on a tank. When we are off grid, we can heat water and the inside of the RV and a tank hardly lasts a week. Lesson learned, we sleep with extra layers haha.
We pay $900 on average to park the RV in San Diego military campgrounds. One is $600 and the other one $1,200 a month, we can’t stay at either for more than 30 days, that’s why we don’t hang at the cheap one full time 🙂
I’ll keep $900 as the average for the year, even though during quarantine, they only let us stay at the expensive one. Smart kids.
Moving the RV costs us a bit of gas, we do about 8 mpg, but have cut our gas bill in half since living so close to work. Say $60 per month.
Which brings us to a total of $1,368 per month to live in an RV on the beach in San Diego. Yes, that makes my frugal bones hurt too, and yes, you can live in a nice 2 bedroom in so many places around the country for less than that.
As a military family, we get $3,165 as a housing allowance every month. This is also tax free. If you spend it, cool, if you don’t, it stays on your bank account.
This amount is so high because of David’s rank, the fact that we are married, and mostly, the zip code of duty, which is crazy expensive San Diego.
So if I take our $3,165 allowance and substract the $1,368 we spend on RVing each month, I get $1,797 surplus. This is enough to cover all our other living expenses without touching David’s pay.
I hope he spends the rest of his career in California or other places that pay high housing allowances, such as Hawaii of Washington, D.C., because in our situation, it works to our advantage.
Some families decide not to get the allowance, and live on base housing instead. They receive a nice townhouse generally, but it technically costs them $3,000 to rent, and they might be able to find something cheaper on the private market.
Extra expenses living in an RV
We have made it a point, since we are saving so much money by living in an RV in San Diego, to make our stay as comfortable as possible.
We didn’t have to buy kitchen equipment, we brought everything from the apartment, but we bought some nice chairs to lounge outside ($80 for two), a new mattress (the RV was used so it was part hygiene part comfort, and $210), a $200 bicycle rack, spent $100 to put a vapor barrier under the mattress to avoid mold, now that $150 basket rack thing…
There are also lots of little things about maintenance we hadn’t thought about like caulk to make sure the roof stays dry or lubricant for the slide out to come in and out smoothly. We bought a bunch of tools, a $200 surge protector for our electric hookup, more efficient hoses for clean water and to wash the poopy pipes when we dump, etc.
The biggest investment was putting 760 watt of solar on the roof with 4 x 125 amp batteries, that allows up to camp anywhere while using our fridge and freezer. This is luxury, but if you consider we save $40/night when we boondock, it should pay for itself quickly.
It was around $2,700 for the whole setup, minus a $900 tax credit, so $1,800.
Registering the RV and truck in California was extorsion, around 10% of purchase price, so $2,400.
Total of initial RV Costs
In total, the RV setup with solar panels and all the gadgets was around $30,000. Out of pocket was $6,000 then $24,000 financed, and an ongoing $1,400 monthly cost for that loan and the RV park.
Is it a good move?
For quality of life, definitely. We can cycle to the base where David works, that has a free gym with Zumba and Yoga for me, a library, and I can bug m husband at work. We can walk to restaurants, Trader Joe’s… or the beach when we are at the other campground.
The dogs love it and I don’t have to worry about pet rent or pet deposit.
David’s costs were $2,250 in the apartment and now $1,400 in the RV, a saving of $850/month. In 7 months (June 2020), he will have recouped his initial solar and accessories investment). Plus we could sell the solar at any time, or sell the RV higher thanks to it.
Right now he is using the extra $ to invest in the market.
Living on the beach is priceless, we don’t even have to drive anywhere on the weekends so that saves money as well.
Since he has 27 months left at $850/month savings that’s $22,950, or basically a free RV we are getting. Without counting the resale price at the end of the period.
He wanted an RV anyway for retirement, so that’s a win win. We learn on this one, and may or may not keep it, but for now it has helped slash rent in San Diego and improve quality of life.