Friday, August 15, 2014

RV Life: The Costs

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Can you afford Full-time RV Life?

Copyright Janet Groene, all rights reserved

    The answer is probably YES, although some things about the budget may surprise you. 

    If someone asked  how much it costs to live in a Maine farmhouse or a condo in San
Francisco, you’re right that it’s a silly question. But, being a nice girl, you would smile patiently and reply, “Well, what kind of life are we talking about in that farmhouse or condo?”
    Do you buy only organic foods at a high-priced supermarket? Play the slots?  Have
weekly spa treatments or $100 haircuts? Buy season tickets for the opera?  There are no easy answers to the question of how much it costs to live in an RV. The rig itself is just part of the budget. The rest depends on personal habits, preferences, your management skills and luck.

There are hundreds of variables and unknowns, but let’s start with what you know now.
                   Expenses That Won’t Change
When you live in an RV you will probably spend the about the same as you do now for: 

♯ Banking, brokerage, other financial services
♯ Cell phone, ISP, domain
♯ Child support, eldercare or alimony, if any
♯ Debt service (credit cards, car/RV payment, student loans)
♯ Dues, church, charity
♯ Entertainment (movies, books, downloads, concert tickets)
♯ Food including restaurants
♯ Gifts
♯ Health needs such as dental and eye care, vitamins, birth control, memberships (gym,
associations, Weight Watchers)
♯ Insurances
♯ Non-food supermarket purchases ( greeting cards, magazines,)
♯ Personal care (toiletries, cosmetics, hair salon, bling)
♯ Pet care
♯ Retirement fund contributions
♯ Soft goods (wardrobe, shoes, household linens)
♯ Sports and hobbies (lift tickets, greens fees, court time)
♯ Subscriptions, publications   
♯ Other       
    Go through your records for the past year to get an idea of what you spend monthly,
weekly or annually. Be honest about where cash dribbles away on lattes or lottery tickets. No matter how good your intentions, it’s hard to break old habits. 
                Expenses That May Change or Stop
    Now that you know where your money goes, start a new list of expenses that will change or cease when you leave your present life. Later, this total will be subtracted from your bottom-line budget.   

♯ Bus fare, commuting, uniforms, other cost related to your present job
♯ Rent or mortgage, homeowner association fees
♯ Utilities, home maintenance, yard care
♯ Other   

Using the above figures as a starting point you can now look at known costs such as monthly RV payments, a budget for campgrounds, fuel depending on how many miles you plan to cover, insurances for the RV and so on.

Every journey begins with a single step. Knowing existing costs is one way to begin.

See Janet Groene’s camp and RV recipes at

Based on her 10 years as a full-timer, Janet Groene's book Living Aboard Your RV is now available in a 4th edition that includes information on how to make a living on the go and, if you have kids on board, how to connect with homeschooling.

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Rave Review:  A new book, 150 Best Breakfast Sandwich Maker Recipes is just right for the woman alone or a couple. Every recipe can be made in a compact electric sandwich maker. Dozens of combinations can be made with different breads, different fillings to fill your menus for breakfast, lunch, snacks and a light supper. Just stack ingredients in the cooker, close the lid to cook, then eat sandwiches at the table or on the go, no plates required.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Women and RV Travel, A Winning Combination

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No More "I Forgot" RV Insurance Claims

    Jim LaBelle of the International Insurance Group, Inc. ( knows RV insurance inside out. His “I Forgot” claims are insurance claims that start with “I forgot to unhook the power cord before I drove away” or “I forgot to lock the awning and it blew away when I got up to speed on the highway.” 

    To avoid forgetting important items, here’s an easy checklist to print out or upload to your smart phone. Pilots use a checklist for every start-up. Why not us too?
1.      Check all fluids and tire pressure on your tow vehicle.
2.      Check your battery charge.
3.      Check RV wheel lug nut torque and tire pressure.
4.      Check propane tanks and generator levels – fill if necessary.
5.      Fuel tow vehicle before hooking up.
6.      Items inside camper secured, counters cleared, and cabinets latched?
7.      TV Secure?
8.      Roof vents and windows closed?
9.      Air conditioning off?
10.     Awning stowed and secured?
11.     Slides checked for water and debris?
12.     Inside RV clear of items in slide path?
13.     Slides closed and locked?
14.     Refrigerator off or running on DC?
15.     Black and gray takes empty?
16.     Black and gray tank valves closed?
17.     Treatment chemicals and small amount of water added to black tank?
18.     Cable/phone, electricity, sewer hose, and water hose disconnected and stored?
19.     Water pump off?
20.     RV lights off?
21.     Propane tank valves closed?
22.     All trash removed?
23.     Stabilizer Jacks raised or removed?
24.     King pin lock removed if applicable?
25.     RV breakaway switch, umbilical cord, sway bars, and safety chains attached where
26.     Tongue or leveling jacks raised? Leveling blocks stored?
27.     Chocks removed and stored?
28.     All doors and panels on RV locked?
29.     RV and tow vehicle lights working?
30.     RV brakes checked?
31.     RV brakes checked?!?
32.     Walk around RV complete? No items left behind? Jacks up?

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Make the Most of Your RV Freezer

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post email

 Slide a camper on your truck and go camping in comfort. 

 Managing an RV  Freezer
    If your RV is like mine the freezer is never large enough. Let's make the most of what we have. 

       * Don’t waste space on scraps and wraps. Ask the meat manager to skin, bone and portion meats and wrap them in freezer wrap without plastic trays. She may even agree freeze your order before you pick it up.
    *  Pre-chill foods before freezing them. RV refrigerators, especially absorption types,
can’t recover as quickly as home freezers.
    * To freeze foods at home, pack them into boilable bags (roasting bags, Seal-a-Meal
bags) and use a soda straw to suck out as much air as possible. To serve the food  in camp thaw the bag, cut a slit to allow for expansion and drop it into boiling water until it’s heated through. No dishes to wash!
    * Use rice flour to thicken gravies and sauces for freezing.  It isn’t as likely to separate as gravies made with flour or cornstarch.
    * Allow expansion room when freezing soups and other liquids. If the container
is too full it can split or shatter. 
    * Marinate and season meats after thawing, not before freezing.
    * For safety’s sake, thaw foods in the refrigerator. Don’t thaw meats on the counter-top. Outer layers could spoil before the interior thaws. Baked goods should be thawed at room temperature in their original wrappings to prevent loss of moisture.
    * If you have a large family that is in and out of the RV freezer all day to get ice cubes for drinks, consider getting a small, separate ice chest that you replenish once or twice a day. Your RV fridge may not be able to keep up with frequent door openings on hot days.    

       Better still, get a portable icemaker to plug in at the campsite. Simply fill it with water, turn it on and have ice cubes anywhere.
    * Save room in the freezer by removing bulky boxes and packaging  before storing frozen foods. If added protection is needed, slip them into plastic bags. Freeze dough, not puffy bread. Pre-cook hamburger, sausage and bacon before freezing so excess grease can be discarded.  Buy boneless cuts,  not bony chicken or turkey.
    *  Read labels. Some frozen convenience foods just need heating but others need to be
cooked thoroughly.

Janet Groene’s weekly blog of galley-easy recipes for camping, RV travel and boating is available for your e-reader by subscription. Click here for a two-week free trial.
The healthiest snacks are those you make yourself. Save money, shave calories. See easy recipes at Create A Gorp.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Smart RV Women Refuse to be Victims

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 When replacing RV furniture, buy from manufacturers that specialize in right-size, highway-tested furniture designed for RV use.

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Don’t be a Crime RVictim

    Modern women know it’s no longer unusual, or even exceptionally risky,  to travel alone in an RV. Still, there are new and unique dangers out there. 

Personal Travel Plan: Before You Go

    * File a travel “flight plan”.  Privately let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, when you plan to arrive and how to contact you. Let them know when you arrive or if you deviate from the plan. This information should be private between you and a trusted homie, never shared on social media.
  * Have a big, bright,  distinctive number or symbol painted on the roof of your RV. If you call for help you can be spotted from the air.
     * Make your RV look lived-in no matter where you park. Close curtains so crooks don’t know if you’re inside or not. Lock all doors and windows. Run a light, TV or radio if you can do so without depleting the battery when you’re at the mall or on the hiking trail.  
     * Don’t give thieves a place to hide out.  In shopping centers park in well lighted areas away from  shrubs and other hiding places. Try to park among cars, not other tall vehicles that form dark canyons where crooks could lurk.   
     * Invest in  alarms. Keep them armed and powered. Even in a secure campground, don’t open the door to strangers. Speak through a window.

Driving: On the Road Again

    * Always lock all doors in the RV, tow car or dinghy including trunks and basement (except the propane compartment, which should not be locked.)  You may also want to add a locking gas cap to prevent fuel theft.  Keep valuables out of sight. It may take a few extra minutes to close cockpit curtains, but there are a lot of tempting goodies there for a smash-and-grab thief. 
    * Never pick up hitchhikers or stop for what appears to be a woman and baby in distress. Stay inside, leave the area and use your cell phone to call 911 on their behalf.
       * Park in well-lighted areas and close to the building or shop.
        * Unless you have no choice, don't stop alongside the road. If you are bumped from behind or if someone signals you to stop because there is something wrong with your vehicle, continue to a service station or a well-lighted, populated area.
    * Fill the fuel tank before dark. Lock all doors and close windows if you step away from the RV for any reason.

Travel Destination: Checking In

    * When checking into a campground, ask what security features are in place. You may need a code to get into the gate at night. Know where to find the campground host’s site and how to get help if you’re in a zone without cell phone reception.
   * Invest in a safe that can be bolted to the RV frame so it can’t be removed.
   * When away from the campground, be wary about telling strangers  your 'home address", i.e. the name of your campground and number of your campsite.

Personal Safety: On the Town

    *  Take only the cash you need in your purse or wallet. Bring only the necessary credit card(s) with you and carry money separately from credit cards. Women should keep purses closed and snuggled tightly against the body.
   * Know your route and stick to well-lighted, well-traveled streets. Select ATM machines in visible, well-lighted locations.

Friday, July 18, 2014

RV Travel: the Ultimate Freedom

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 photo courtesy Shasta

RV Furniture
    * Are your dinette cushions looking grotty? Know the exact measurements, then check
the outdoor furniture departments at stores and catalogs where end-of-summer sales at this time mean big savings. Many colors and patterns are available in high quality cushions that are  UV resistant, water shedding and durable. Look for tough construction in fabrics such as Sunbrella and Bella-Dura. I just found 40% off cushions for less money than having the old cushions re-covered.
    * Never again will I order slip covers from a catalog. The covers for our matching
chairs looked great in the picture and they fit like a glove too. Then we sat down and found when we stood up again that the slipcovers had, well, slipped. Now I’ll either have to throw them out or yank, stretch and tuck them back into place every time someone sits in them. I'm totally bummed. 
RV Tools 
    * What tools come in handy when you’re a solo woman in an RV? Here are some to

    * A hatchet and small saw for wood for the campfire (where allowed) and fire pliers for
handling hot logs or coals.
    * A folding shovel is a must for many chores such as digging your wheels out of sand or
snow, digging a gopher hole where allowed and snuffing a campfire by shoveling dirt over it. Trust me, you’ll someday be glad to have a shovel on board. 
    * A clothesline and spring clothespins. Even though many campgrounds prohibit outdoor
clotheslines, rope comes in handy for many things indoors and out. Clothes pins do pinching tasks such as closing the potato chip bag.  Get the old-fashioned wood ones. Plastics break and some fancy designs don’t hold tight in high winds.
    * A manual tire pump or small compressor for bicycle tires and other inflatable items such as an
air mattress or inflatable boat. 
    * A sturdy broom is handy for sweeping the cement pad that comes with most campsites. A short-handle broom made for RV life takes up less room yet is a serious cleaning tool.
    *  If you have room for a metal garden rake  (not a flimsy leaf rake)  , it’s a nice tool for raking out the fire pit and cleaning up the campsite .

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Rainy Day or Sunny, Camping and RV for All Days

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sponsoring a post, email

Look at the size of this Spree RV!

RV Fun and Games
copyright Janet Groene 

  Companionable good times are the very essence of camping life. As a solo woman RV-er you value your privacy but there may also be times when you want to invite neighbors over for conversation, cookies, coffee and cards or a board game. 

    Games and toys, like everything else in the RV life, should be compact to stow, durable
for tough wear and fun for all ages. In the travel life one can’t always find bridge partners or someone who plays chess at your level so it’s best to have at least some games that almost anyone knows how to play.  

    Whether you’re a private person who wants the occasional game or an outgoing woman
who organizes all the events at the campground clubhouse, here are some ideas that can work for you indoors or out. 

    * Playing cards have been around for centuries and almost everyone knows at least one
card game.  Serious card players have at least two decks on hand, and spares available for when a deck gets smudged or dog-eared. It’s fun to put your personal stamp on the game by having designer cards. I like these classy metallic silver playing cards and they also make impressive gifts for any age, any gender. 

    * Games that have stood the test of time include chess, dominoes, checkers, Scrabble and Monopoly. Save space with this all-in-one game in its own carry case. 
This bag toss game folds and slides into a storage compartment. Anyone can play including the elderly and handicapped.

    * Bocce (pronounced bah-che)  is an outdoor grame that has thousands of international fans and it doesn’t take up a lot of room to carry or to play. Petanque  (pay TAHNK) is another ball game known more to Europeans than to North Americans. Unlike croquet, both bocce and petanque are easy to set up and put away and they don't require a large space.

    When you’re looking for a useful gift for yourself or other RV-ers, give games a chance. 

See Janet Groene's camp and RV recipes here

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Cost of RV Life

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Run Away in an RV: The Costs

         Life was simpler when Great-Grandfather brought home his pay and Granny divided it into envelopes for the landlord, grocer, church and a dollar for the insurance collector. 
          Preparing a monthly budget is one of the toughest jobs for RV full-timers to face,
especially with food and fuel inflation eating deeper into our pockets each day. A couple who have a 28-foot gasoline motorhome live on $1,000 a month, at least for now. Another young couple, who travel in their RV and make a living with their videos and personal appearances, spent more than $10,000 in the first quarter of 2014 alone. 

    Here are ways to make  smart guesses.

    * Most expenses are monthly but others are seasonal (Christmas, seasonal campsite
rental) or annual (insurance,  dues, income tax).  Other costs, such as batteries, tires or engine repairs may occur years apart Add up known bills as close as you can,  then guess at others and divide by 12 to get an idea of what you have to lay aside each month. 
    * Income. Add up known income such as pay checks, pension, alimony, annuities, stock
dividends and year-end distributions from stocks or retirement plans. Then divide by 12. This gives you an idea of how much you can spend monthly and still have your head above water when big bills come due.
    Campsite costs can vary wildly over the year. What was your average last year? If your
habits don’t change, expect the same next year but allow 10% for inflation. If this is your first year, subtract 10% because next year you'll have a better idea of how to shave costs.
    Clothing, linens. What did you spend last year for new clothes, laundry, alterations and
dry cleaning? Here you may also want to list personal grooming outlays such as the hair salon. 
    Communications are personal. Depending on your own needs they can range from the rare long-distance phone call to a big monthly bill for satellite phone and Internet.
    Food costs include supermarkets, the liquor store, drive-through lattes,  produce from the farmer’s market,  fresh bread and milk from  high-priced campground store, restaurants and non-food supplies such as paper products and soap. Keep track, add it up and allow 10% for inflation.
    Fuel costs are easier if you figure them on a yearly basis, especially if you stay put for
long periods and then make long jumps in spring and fall. Don’t forget tolls and fuel for the tow car or boat, stove, furnace and  generator.
    Health costs are skyrocketing in every way from doctor visits to prescriptions. In addition to predictable bills such as everyday drugs, insurance, and regular treatments by the chiropractor or massage therapist, don’t forget irregular or annual visits (eye doctor, checkups),  hearing aid maintenance and new glasses.  In this column you might also list  gym membership or spa treatments. Put away something extra each month for unexpected ills.
    Hobbies, leisure. This category could cost  nothing (for walks at sunset) to many dollars
each month for concert seats or canvas and oil paints. Give yourself a budget for reading material, satellite TV and/or DVD rental, museum admissions, entertaining, and pets.
    Gifts are important to most women’s budgets.  Add up the annual need for birthdays and Christmas plus charity, church and add another 10% to 20% for unpredictable weddings, funeral flowers, graduations, etc.
    Insurances are usually billed once or twice yearly. Avoid surprises by breaking them
down by the month. Budget accordingly. If you have high deductibles, keep a reserve to cover them.
    Maintenance has many predictable costs such as oil changes every so-many miles and
radiator flushes every so-many months. It impossible to guess at other costs, so it’s wise to have a reserve fund. Know what your warranty covers and what co-pays and other costs will be yours. 

Wish your snacks were healthier? Make your own with recipes from