How can we afford to be on vacation 5 months of the year?

We get asked a lot of questions about how we retired so early. We get even more questions about how we can afford to be on vacation 5 months of the year. Well…truthfully, we don’t see this as a 5-month vacation.  We’re just living life on the road. 

We feel 100% blessed that we get to live this life. Getting to retire early, simplify our lives, and hit the road is a dream come true.  Actually, it was never really our dream. It was just too ridiculous to even think we could do this.  But, the truth is we wish we would have traveled more like this when we were still working.  But, how do we do it on an early retiree budget???

We don’t get to do all of the touristy stuff we want to do. 

It’d be fun to rent a boat, take paddle board lessons, eat out every night, etc., but our budget won’t allow.  Not everyone will feel the way we do, but we’d rather be on a tighter travel budget and not have to work.  We save up our “fun” budget for stuff we really want to do and to socialize with friends and family we see along the way.

We choose between must haves and nice to haves.

  • Fancy hotels vs our RV. Our RV is paid for and quite comfortable, so we never even think about staying in a hotel. We’ve stayed with a few friends during our summer journey, but 99% of the time, we sleep in our apartment on wheels.
  • Paying for tours.  So far this summer we’ve paid ~$200 on tours.  When we visited Falling Water and Gettysburg we decided to pay for tours.  Thank goodness, after the tours, we agreed they were worth every penny. Pretty much everywhere else we’ve visited, we’ve done our own, self-guided tours.
  • Eating in vs eating out.  We eat in 80% of the time.  Friends who have never really spent time in an RV think our kitchen is too tiny to actually cook.  Well, we cook every day.  We make breakfast, lunch, and dinner in our RV.  And, no, we don’t cook over a campfire all that much.  We thought we would!  But, when you’re living in an RV vs camping for a week…you don’t get too excited about campfires.  It just means more dirty/stinky laundry.  😊
  • T-shirts vs bumper stickers.  It’s so tempting to want a t-shirt or hat from various places we visit.  Who wouldn’t want a hat from Acadia National Park or a t-shirt from Washington DC? Carter got a t-shirt to celebrate Mike Mussina getting inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame.  Other than that, we’ve only purchased bumper stickers for the back of our RV.  This saves $ and valuable space for sure!
  • Renting boats, kayaks, bikes, etc.  Carter started the summer out thinking he wanted to buy a small boat. Thank goodness we didn’t.  We’ve been happy renting kayaks our just staying on land with our bikes we haul with us.
  • Extra miles on the truck.  Since we only get 10 mpg we really have to think about whether a 50 mile drive to see something touristy is worth the extra gas money.  Sometimes we say no.  Sometimes we say yes. We haven’t driven across the country to just be cheap and sit in our RV. 😊 But, we need to be selective.
  • Fancy restaurant vs farmers market.  Anyone who knows Carter, knows he’s NOT a fancy restaurant kind of guy.  He much prefers a good burger or salisbury steak to lobster and filet mignon.  That makes it easy.  We go to local butcher shops, bakeries, and farmer’s markets to get the freshest ingredients. 

We’re still tracking and managing our budget.

Every couple days we sit down, categorize expenses, and track where we are for the month.  Somehow, we’ve managed to come in under budget for each month of travel.

Fuel is by far our biggest expense.  We’ve already driven more miles than we thought we would the entire summer.  Note to self for next summer: double the miles we THINK we’re going to drive.

Campgrounds are another big expense, but Thousand Trails has certainly helped keep costs down.  We estimate that by the end of the summer, nights spent at Thousand Trails campgrounds will have cost ~$10.  Other campgrounds have been $25-125 per night.  Yes, we paid $125 per night at Ocean City.  Ugh.

Otherwise, our expenses are pretty much the same as they would be in a sticks and bricks home.  We have maintenance costs, living expenses, and Carter’s never-ending shopping on Amazon.  Whoever decided to put in Amazon lockers is a genius and a devil all at the same time.

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