Have you ever considered taking a long sabbatical to really explore what you want to be when you grow up? In May of 2007, Jim Nelson and Rene Agredano did just that after their beloved dog Jerry was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer (their three-legged love story is featured in the PBS documentary Nature, Why We Love Cats and Dogs). Although Jerry now travels with them in spirit, seven years later they are still full-time RVers roaming North America with their second.
As non-retired, location-independent nomadic entrepreneurs, Jim and Rene teach others how to support the full-time RVing lifestyle they love so much. They earn our income a number of different ways, from freelance writing and making jewelry for dog lovers, to graphic design services and WordPress Guru insight. Together they manage various websites and online stores, as well as finding great workamping jobs. Jim and Rene also teach others how to earn money from home in their e-book, Income, Anywhere!
LIVE WORK DREAM PART 2: CAREER, FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS AND PLANNING FOR FULL-TIME RVing
Go to Part 1 here > LIVE WORK DREAM PART 1: PREPARATION FOR MAINTAINING THE FULL-TIME RV LIFESTYLE WITH JIM NELSON AND RENE AGREDANO
How will one’s approach to finances influence the amount of money spent for the RV lifestyle? Can you give a range of how much it will cost to become a full-time RVer considering that people have different RVs, saving and spending habits?
The cost of full-time RVing is totally dependent on personal lifestyle choices; one RVer’s frugality is another’s extravagance. Generally speaking, full-timing is cheaper than owning a home but again, that depends on a person’s spending habits.
How important is tracking your spending, being on a strict budget, and adhering to that budget when full-time RVing?
If you don’t budget, you’re going to end up living beyond your means. It’s that simple. Smart financial decisions will benefit your life no matter how you live or how much money is in your bank account.
In How to Plan and Pay for Your Full-time RVing Lifestyle,you give this advice: “Start Tracking your living expenses before you drive your first mile, or you could be in for some expensive surprises that quickly put an end to your road trip dream.”
Explain how you deal with “unexpected surprises” regarding your finances and give your recommendations.
We do what Dave Ramsey teaches us, which is to always have an emergency fund of 3-6 months living expenses.
What software programs would you suggest people use to keep track of their expenses?
We use Quickbooks Pro because we are entrepreneurs too but it’s overkill for people who don’t have a business to track. Intuit’s basic financial software Quicken is excellent for anyone who wants to get serious about budgeting and a number of basic phone apps will do a great job helping to budget and organize one’s expenses. We don’t use them however since we use Quickbooks Pro for everything. Sure you can do it on paper but in the end that’s going to be a lot less help than having a software file that you can use for everything from budgeting to doing your taxes every year.
LIVING ON A FRUGAL BUDGET WHILE FULL-TIME RVing
What is your best advice for savings on RV Park and camping fees?
Learn how to love boondocking so you can camp on free and low-cost public lands, forests and campgrounds. Join Passport America so you can save fifty percent off RV parks in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Avoid paying full price; clubs like Passport make it easy to save money on standard overnight rates. Finally, remember to slow down and take it easy during the year. If you can commit to staying somewhere for a month you’ll enjoy far cheaper rates than overnight guests.
How has boondocking made a difference in your full-time RVing experience?
Boondocking has given us a real sense of self-reliance. When you realize that you can go to the middle of nowhere and still meet clients’ needs, it’s very empowering. It’s opened our eyes to the value of peace and quiet, and solitude. You don’t realize how crazy the world is until you go out to the sticks for a long time and then try to re-enter civilization. You feel like a martian until you become one of society again! Some of our favorite memories have happened while boondocking in remote places like Colorado and West Texas.
How did you save on fuel costs? What would be the difference between towables and motorhomes with respect to fuel costs?
We can’t address the motorhome versus towable question because we’ve only had a towable. How do we save on fuel costs? Staying put in one place for longer periods; when we workamp we don’t use fuel (last summer we went four months on one tank of diesel). When we stay in one place for a few weeks we shop local and online instead of making constant trips to town. We also save money by keeping our speed under 70 and carrying less water and waste during long-hauls. Finally, we use Gas Buddy to find the best fuel prices and always try fill up away from the Interstate.
What are your top 3 biggest saving tips for frugal and affordable full-time Rving?
Join RV campground discount clubs. Stop living like you’re on vacation (don’t go out to eat so often). Create a budget and stick to it!
You refer to Passport America as being one of the best options to save on campground fees. Is the membership monthly or annually? How much does it cost to become a member? What are some of the main benefits for members?
Passport charges a yearly $44 fee which is quickly made up the first time you spend two nights in any of their member parks. If you refer other people and they join, you get $10 off your yearly membership renewal fee. We will always be members because now we know that you don’t have to pay full price for RV parks. Sure, you might have to give something up, like being close to a big attraction or choosing an alternate park when the one you want has restrictions on club use, but overall our Passport experience has been excellent and always comes in handy when we need it most.
What are the economic benefits of joining the world’s largest RV membership-based support network group, the Escapees?
As the only group dedicated to assisting full-timers on so many levels, their support is critical for travelers like us. The support the club provides has spared Jim and I from tons of headaches associated with not having a sticks and bricks address. Each time we call Escapees headquarters about anything from how to handle a jury duty summons, voting or getting our mail forwarded, we can see our yearly dues in action. At just $60 a year for our dues, that’s pretty cheap peace of mind. In addition, because we became Texas residents, we save money on taxes and vehicle registration fees.
Are there any online sites that help you to make fuel cost estimates and if so, how have these resources assisted you on saving in fuel costs?
We like to use the KOA Fuel Cost Estimator. Recently we created a budget for our travels between California and central Texas, and the estimates we received were almost spot on to what we actually paid for fuel.
What is the difference or the advantage in the cost between diesel and gas when full-time traveling long distance in an RV?
We can’t compare, we’ve only had a diesel. Generally, diesels have better fuel mileage but again that depends on how someone drives, how much weight they’re carrying, what kind of rig they have, and more.
WORK FROM HOME OPPORTUNITIES
What are some “Work From Home” resources you have used in the past that have been successful?
One of the smartest things we have done with our home-based business was to start publishing information products. Pat Flynn’s “Smart, Passive Income” blog was a vital resource when launching our first e-books. Self-hosted WordPress.org is our preferred blogging platform with great learning tools like discussion forums that are a great way to ramp up our knowledge. When it comes to plug-ins for our website, and in particular e-commerce, WPMU Dev (www.wpmu.org) is indispensable.
The Small Business Development Centers of America, a program run by the Small Business Administration, has also been very helpful to us when launching our businesses. SBDC locations are around the country and they offer low cost and free business assistance for entrepreneurs of every level.
Are there any RV specific jobs that would help pay for the cost of full-time Rving?
Workamping is the first thing that comes to mind. You won’t get rich but most workaming jobs come with free rent. There are various companies offering jobs selling advertising for campgrounds, and there are courses available that can help you become a certified mobile RV technician, solar system installer and mobile detailing vendor.
How important is it to develop multiple revenue streams and is this what led to your updated ebook Income Anywhere!?
The concept behind having multiple revenue streams is what led to us publishing the e-book in the first place, because we discovered that the smartest way to support this lifestyle is to generate income from several sources.
The dangers of losing a majority of your income because of the loss of one client are just too great, relying on one or just a few clients can put your whole lifestyle at risk. We learned this during our previous life when we lost one client who accounted for a large portion of our income. When that client closed the door, we didn’t have the safety net of that industry to serve us. That’s when we realize we needed multiple revenue streams. You must nurture many clients and have many methods to generate income in this economy.
You share an important tip, “Work smarter, not harder!” Can you expand on this concept and how it could replenish bank accounts of full-time Rvers?
This simply means to use your time wisely and work more efficiently. Whatever it is that you do, you want to get the most amount of profit from the least amount of time and effort. Tim Ferris goes into detail about this in “The 4-Hour Workweek.” If someone can do something better than you, hire them to do it. Focus on what you do best, and outsource the rest. Streamline repetitive tasks and abide by good time management practices. This is just good business sense and will help you succeed at whatever you do and wherever you are.
LIVE. WORK. DREAM.
In your opinion, what is the draw to full-time RVing and why do you think that people often comment, “I should have done it sooner?”
The draw is going to be different for everybody. For Jim, it’s the sense of personal freedom that it provides. Anyone who says they wish they would have done it sooner clearly isn’t enjoying it to the fullest extent which they could have at a younger age. And why didn’t they do it when they were younger? They were afraid. There was nobody else doing it, the world thinks you’re stupid if you do it. These people were afraid to take chances.
At a younger age we are capable of enjoying certain things (like boondocking) at a higher level of discomfort than we probably will be at an older age (not being able to stand up in our small RV’s bedroom, for example).
But physical fitness is just the beginning; it’s all about your attitude. We’ve met “handicapped” RVers and we’ve met older RVers who carry oxygen. They didn’t let that stop them from full-timing, they just found workarounds to follow their dreams.
You offer this advice to anyone wanting to become full-time RVers: “Plan, Budget, Chart Your Course, to live the life you dream about.” How has full-time RVing fulfilled your dreams, changed your life, and what important values have you learned in the process?
Jim says he could die a happy man. I have a sense of fulfillment and personal freedom beyond any I imagined if I were still living “the default life.” It changed my life in such a way that I never would have believed such freedom and adventure could be had, except on a short-lived “vacation.”
Full-timing teaches you so many positive attributes like self-reliance, independence, patience and presence (living in the now). When every day tends to be a little different than the previous one, you learn how to be flexible and handle the curve balls life throws at you — all with a smile on your face. Full-timing teaches you how to make the most out of every day, no matter what life throws your way!