Figuring Your Annual Cost of Living

These are the details for our projected expenses for the coming year. Our experiences may help you come up with your estimated expenses:

Big Items: From time to time a full-timer must shell out for a big ticket item, like an upgrade to their rig or major improvement in their surroundings. These are not part of the day to day living expenses, but you better plan on them. In our case in the first year we had the following:

Entertainment: A primary reason for retirement is entertainment, but hopefully not the biggest expense. There are costs associated with going to various events or entry to National Parks and such. I put gambling (like lottery tickets) and cruise expenses (none planned at the moment) here.

Financial and Legal: We still have some of the expenses of just living in the USA. If we earn any money, there is probably going to be FICA and withholding tax taken out. I will still need help on tax preparation; later I will take on the whole responsibility when my life has simplified. We need to do some fine tuning on our wills. Some retirement accounts have annual fees. Our estimate for this year is

Food: Some people feel the most persistent thing on a full-timer's mind is food. We find we generally eat out once per week each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Estimated costs for groceries (in) and restaurants (out) are given as ($in/$out). We enjoy bulk wine and fine spirits.

Housing (no home base): We are mostly staying in campground membership systems, including Thousand Trails, Escapees, and Coast-to-Coast (including home park). Initial buy-in fees are part of the retirement start-up costs, not expenses. Propane and honey-wagon services are utilities. We consider the cost of insurance for the trailer and its contents to be part of housing.

Information: Even though we are on the road, we still live in the information age, and Alice and I are both active with computers and the Internet. Some of our expenses are higher than other people might experience, but they give you some idea of what it costs. We have just started with the 600 minute AT&T One-Rate plan; it seems to fit our needs best of the plans now available. We use Netcom as our Internet Service Provider and commonly pay some small amount for use of a phone in the campgrounds. We consider our subscription to DirecTV is essential to our gathering of information (weather, stock market, news, sports). Our mail service is with Escapees. Books, subscriptions, and enrollment in conferences and rallies are necessary sources of information.

Medical: We have COBRA insurance coverge through my former employer. It includes medical, prescriptions, dental and vision. We are not budgetting here for any major medical problems, but we expect out-of-pocket charges for deductible and copay. This should be adjusted to fit your situation.

Other: There will be other expenses that do not fit into a neat category. If you are doing a business on the road (such as craft sales), you should keep track of the expenses (We are not doing a business at the present time). Donations and gifts (don't forget Christmas and the grandkids) need to be accounted for. I have added another $500 to cover all those things I must have forgotten.

Personal: This is clothing and toiletries. We started retirement with full wardrobes, but in time we will need to replace items. So far we staying within the budgets; we just do not need expensive clothes on the road. Laundry is done in campground laundromats. We also purchase personal items and toiletries, all lumped into Sundries.

Pets: Our dog, Misty, is an essential part of our life, so we must make accomodations for her. Some pets become very expensive.

Travel: We pull a fifth wheel with a Dodge 2500 deisel truck. The plan is to drive 200 miles between camping spots and to spend one and a half weeks average in one spot. Additional touring will bring total yearly mileage to 15,000 miles. We are registered in Texas which affects our license and insurance costs.

The total comes to $33,600 per year or $2,800 per month.