Just wanted to share this Ted Talk with our readers. We’ve been living the life of Less is More < = > ever since we gave up our house in San Francisco in 1992. Happy to see that it is catching on.
With all the talk of budget in the air, due to the national deficit and tanking economy, we thought we’d share an unfiltered view of exactly how much it costs to tour full time and run a business during a typical month. In this case we are looking at July of 2011.
Time and time again we hear how people would like to tour fulltime. But they fear that since they haven’t won the lottery they can’t afford it, so they put that dream on a shelf. Well, guess what, neither have we (won the lottery that is) and yet we’ve managed to make it happen for 19 years now (16 of those years as a family of 3) and have learned a trick or two along the way for keeping costs down.
We run a non-profit theatre company. And it is imperative that we keep the expenses to a bare minimum in effort to bring the show to as many kids as possible.
So here is a look at our expenses. We divided them up in to three categories. RV, Living/Household, and Business. And we’ll offer an explanation of what it all means for those of you whose eyes start to glaze over when you are looking at a bunch of numbers.
RV Expenses $1,042.64
- gas $703.28
- tolls $18.80
- maintenance $5.64
- propane $59.98
- RV other $254.94
In July we took the show from St. Louis to the New Jersey shore, with stops in Virginia and Pennsylvania. We logged about 1,600 miles which is fairly typical for us. We paid an average of about $3.75 a gallon for gas. We are very cautious about where we drive and have a few rules that we strictly follow.
- Know where you are going before you start the engine. I use two GPS devices. My trusty but out dated Garmin and Sprint Navigator on my phone which likes to steer me wrong more often than not but is helpful for finding WiFi hot spots and other places on the fly. I also route out our itinerary on my computer with Microsoft Streets and Trips because I can store it locally. And I use Google Maps to get a satellite preview of where we are going. Which is especially helpful when driving an over-sized vehicle.
- The RV is only driven to the next pay check. All other stops must be along the way. If there is something we want to do that is not along our route we bike or use public transportation.
We try to avoid toll roads whenever possible. If time allows we’ll take the side roads. However, once we hit the east coast we had a tight schedule and had to take some toll roads last month. Not only do we drive an RV, we pull a trailer, which means we have 3 axles – the equivalent of a car and a half. However, the toll booth authorities see fit to charge us 4 times the rate of a standard car. They also don’t tell you how much the toll is until you are at the booth. Which always leaves us scrambling looking between the seat cushions for right amount. Yeah, don’t pull in behind us if you see us at the toll booth and you are in a hurry.
This was an unusual month for us in that we didn’t have atrocious maintenance expenses. Our brakes worked and our engine ran. We were thankful. The main expense we had in this category was ice for our toilet tank. Trying to get rid of that smell that intensifies when the summer heat is doing it’s thing. Speaking of summer heat, we just suffered through it. We were not able to get our AC fixed in May due to missing a shipment of parts.
This keeps our fridge going and our stove cooking. Filled the tank twice. During winter months we need more to run the heater, but we also turn the fridge off at night to save.
Our RV is paid for but showing its age so we are saving for a new one. So this category reflects the $200 we put aside, insurance which is about $35 a month and some miscellaneous supplies we got at Camping World.
Household Expenses $1,647.97
- food $580.66
- water $7.68
- laundry $38.00
- recreation $27.08
- health $959.36
- clothing $35.19
Food and Water
Not sure how our expenses in this category compare to others. All I can say is that we are vegetarian, love Trader Joes and try to shop at farmers markets and buy local as much as possible. We do our own cooking and only ate out once because it was a special occasion. Our friend Ellie drove miles to come spend the night with us and surprise Dennis.
While preparing this blog post I listened to Jillian Michael’s podcast in which she quotes a National Geographic article and talks about how much food Americans waste. I just shook my head in disbelief, because we honestly don’t waste as much as the average American, who throw out 22 lbs of the 77 lbs of fresh fruit and 39 lbs of the 131 lbs fresh vegetables they buy every year. We buy local and living in an RV forces us to buy in small quantities.
We do buy filtered water since we can never be sure of what is in our water supply. But we refill gallon jugs and never buy disposable bottles of water. We got lucky in New Jersey because we know of a place to get well water. But not so lucky in other places where it was difficult to find machines to refill our jugs and had to buy new ones. Sort of balances out in the long run.
We are at the mercy of whatever the laundromats want to charge us. This month it ranged from $5 to $18 for the same loads of dirty clothes.
For us this includes transportation to City Museum in St. Louis (a must see place). Dennis writes travel articles on the side and occasionally gets comp tickets to local attractions. We just had to pay for transportation on local transit. Harry Potter also came out this month so naturally we had to give JK Rowling some of our ka-ching. That and a Redbox movie ($1) = this month’s entertainment.
This month’s health expenses were off the chart. We don’t have insurance and Dennis needed a root canal so that came out of our pocket. We have a dental plan that runs us $11 a month. Two dentist visits and meds came to $861. Unusually high perhaps. But there is always some over-the-top expense that comes flying at us. Typically it comes in the form of a new transmission or broken laptop. This month it was a tooth.
We are YMCA members so we pay a monthly fee of $55. This allows us to visit most any Y as we travel where we can work out and take showers.
We splurged this month. Our typical cost in this area is $0.
Business Expenses $756.66
- mail $224.48
- phone $96.73
- marketing $266.00
- office $15.69
- props $37.31
- storage $67.00
- other $49.00
A little high this month. We sent in a $200 down payment to cover forwarding in the future. Other than that we mailed posters to our clients for public shows.
Our life line. We have the unlimited data plan with Sprint that runs a little over $83. We also have a pay-as-you go line for the times we may not be together. And we pay about $3 for our kall8 number that we use for voice-mail and incoming faxes.
We invested in trailer graphics this month which ran us $260. That and our monthly podcast ($6) was the extent of our marketing expenses this month. This category is typically less as most of our marketing comes by word of mouth.
Copies and pens. That’s it.
We run a theatre company. Most of our production expenses occur in May when we are focused on putting a new show together. These expenses were primarily for maintenance: glue, paint and stuff like that.
We have a storage unit in Reno, NV that we visit once a year. It costs us $67 to store our props and materials each month.
Other Business Expenses
We’re throwing our one night of camping in this category. We needed to get some costumes made and had to have electricity to run the sewing machine. That and bank fees make up this category.
The Bottom Line $3,447.27
We came in under $3,500 for the two of us (and our new tooth), running a business while traveling fulltime.
- RV $1,042.64
- household $1,647.97
- business $756.66
You might have noticed there are a couple of items missing from our expense report. Here’s why.
Internet.We frequent libraries, coffee shops and bookstores and take advantage of free WiFi to stay connected. Borders you will be missed!
Camping. We boondock most every night. And have camped a grand total of once this year.
What do you think?
Was the bottom line more or less than you expected? How does your monthly budget compare? Do you see any place we could cut costs? Do you have any questions or comments? We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.
As soon as we arrived in Hot Springs yesterday we made a bee-line to the water spouts at the visitor’s center. Where we filled our water jugs and soaked in the warm (okay HOT) water. Once we were refreshed we walked a couple of blocks to see our friends “The Itinerant Locals” do what they do best.
Phew! It’s hot. We’ve done several cross country trips in the summer, like every summer for the past 19 years. And most have been without benefit of an air-conditioner. This year is no different.
June 7th was a scorcher. So as we crossed into Arkansas found ourselves in Mammoth Springs and the cool 58° water was calling us.
So we stopped for a picnic lunch and poked our toes into the refreshing water.
While we were there a disturbing little incident happened though that gave us a reminder of how precious life is and how everything can change in a blink of an eye. A family with a little girl, about 3 or 4 years old, came to the bank to cool off. The 5 adults she was with were all very attentive. And yet as she stood on the edge of the bank it gave away and she fell in. It only took a second and she was in the water face down. Luckily, 3 of the adults reacted quickly and pulled her out. And we are relieved to report that she was fine.
Summer is here. We hope you will all stay cool and safe.
Revisiting our roots in the Bay Area, we’ve been performing for some of our old clients, including a couple of schools in San Jose; we did two performances for them yesterday and four today. It was a bad time for Dennis to get sick, which he does only once a decade or so, and this time he had a nasty and persistent cough. But with the help of some non-drowsy medication, we made it through the shows just fine. In addition to performing, we caught up with a number of old friends.
We also had a return engagement at several Sacramento libraries, and at one of them we were delighted to catch up with a veteran of our cast: Rigel Spencer, who performed with us back in 1990 when we were still based in San Francisco. She was a very capable pinch-hitter for Kimberly just before and just after the birth of our son, and we hadn’t seen her since then. What a kick to have her attend our show!
While in Sacramento, we finally were able to take our RV to a body shop to get the damage repaired from our Nashville mishap. This is the first time we’ve been in one place for a week, which is how long the process took. That meant not only having our vehicle but our home taken away from us for 7 whole days and nights. But the other driver’s insurance paid for our hotel room for the week, as well as the rental of a truck so we could get to a show we had scheduled during that time.
Finally, it’s all back to as good as new. Almost. It seems it’s hard to find a convex mirror of the type that we use, so it was replaced by a flat mirror. Not nearly as good, but it’ll have to do for now. We can’t stick around another week looking for what we need.