We still had our big check from the IRS in the bank as a cushion. It totaled around $7,000. I had to figure out how we could buy an RV, do any maintenance and remodeling, and live off the smallest amount of money possible. Being a numbers guy and a computer guy, I used spreadsheets to write out our bills and total them. During this time I realized campgrounds are expensive. I had heard about solar but did not know a lot or how much it would cost. I did know one thing, we needed it. We wanted to be able to boondock to save money and the cost of running our generator would be $32 dollars a day in gas.
For about 2 weeks all i did was research solar energy and how it works. I learned how to calculate the amount of solar needed as well as how to set up and install solar. This stage would cost us about $1600 dollars. That amount initially seemed like a lot but then I divided that by the cost per day running the GenSet. It was astounding. In just 50 days of boondocking solar would pay for it self. After figuring those numbers out, solar was a must. Of course we didn’t want to only boondock, we wanted to do campgrounds as well. Then came the camping membership research.
I will be the first to tell you, there are many camping memberships that are just not worth it. The Good Sams Club only gives you a 10% discount at participating locations. When you put that in numbers a $70 per night campground is still going to cost you $63. We would not be able to stay very long with those rates. Then there is the Passport America. This pass gives you a 50% discount at participating locations, and some are only for the first 2 nights. That same $70 stay is now $35 per night for the first 2 nights. While that is better, we still wouldn’t be able to stay long. Then came the Thousand Trails Membership. I didn’t want to buy it at first as they had a very small amount of campgrounds. At the time of my research it was only 90. Shortly after the research, however, they added the Trails collection. This added another 100+ campground locations.
After some more research on the Thousand Trails Membership I decided to buy it. We opted for the monthly financed plan and did the full nation camping pass with the trails collection. Our cost for camping is just over $80 a month. Now that same campground for $70 per night we are able to stay at for up to 14 days with no extra cost. A savings of $900, which our full cost annually is $980. That is the same amount it would cost us for only 14 days at the $70 per night campground.
Now it was time to factor in regular bills. We would no longer have an electric or water bill, but we would have a new gas and propane bill. Our rent was cut from $350 down to $80. We no longer had a house phone bill, don’t think there would be a long enough phone line to tow behind us. Our car insurance dropped from $107 a month for a standard 4 door car to $17 a month for the Winnebago. I budgeted $300 initially a month for food, but our kids our starting to eat more so we had to up it to $400. I figured in $200 for gas to drive, that gives us 800 miles a month we can drive. The propane bill only happens during the winter for heat and it is around $38 a month. Then our one mobile phone we have provides us with all the internet for work and play as unlimited talk and text for $98 a month. That is all of our main bills not including a few small ones under $10. So our bills would be $900 a month, $500 less than living stationary. It was time to get serious and start RV shopping.