Compare full-time travel to owning real estate… with a spreadsheet!

First of all, a Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. I’m putting this online a little earlier than usual with a gift that may help you decide whether you can join the other full-timers of the world and enjoy life, instead of fighting the rat race every day. (I apologize if it gets to you late on your notification… I should have done this yesterday!)

But before you download the following link, let me say that there are more instructions for it farther down in this post, and also on the second sheet of it, which can be found at the bottom of the spreadsheet. If you don’t yet have OpenOffice(dotorg) on your computer, you should have. The suite includes text editing, drawing, slide presentation abilities, and much more. If you need it, just go to OpenOffice(dotorg) and download it for free. Or, if you have MS Office on your computer, it will also open with that. Save it to your computer, so you can open it whenever you want. Feel free to scan it for malware or viruses if you wish, but I have already done that at my end, too. Remember, if you need extra lines, use the top menu to “Insert” a row (it will always go in ABOVE the line the cursor is on). If you do anything you don’t like, just use “Edit/undo” from the menu. Click on the blue link to open the spreadsheet, and give it a few seconds to show. From there, you can save it your computer.

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I have always believed that if you have the mindset to do something, that anything else that is stopping you is the circumstances of every day life. If those can be adjusted to fit the mindset, then anything is possible.

One of the biggest obstacles to full timing is the financial circumstances. People worry too much about how they are going to make a living on the road… still thinking that they have to make all that they make while owning a house, and that simply isn’t true. Other times, they may already have a debt load, and have to get that paid down before they can leave their real estate behind (that’s us). And still others think that they absolutely MUST have a home base to return to, although the reasoning behind that usually gets back to mindset, and that can be changed if proper information is provided to them.

In our own situation, we always thought (in our own younger and less wise minds) that we would also have a home base. But after being in both the rental and “absentee ownership” roles over the years, we realized that there has NEVER been a time when managing property from a distance was EVER a good idea! No one is going to take care of your property like you would yourself, no matter what you do!

We owned vacation real estate 600 miles from our “normal” home for over ten years. We had a professional rental management company run it for us, but they never did any work themselves. Everything was contracted out, with very little oversight, and therefore it cost more for repairs than if we were there to do it ourselves. Then when we finally sold our home up north and moved south, we discovered that nearly everything that had been in the house to make it a “deluxe” rental was gone! Everything from small appliances to the silverware to the pictures on the wall had disappeared! And of course the contract with the rental company was worthless, because it only “talked a good story”, but in legal terms they weren’t responsible for any losses. They wouldn’t even go after renters that didn’t pay!

In another instance, we had moved from our park model in Mesa back to Arkansas, but didn’t close on the park model for two years. We had a sign taped to the inside of both the front and back doors with a toll free number on it, in case anyone was interested in buying it.

In late July one year, a microburst had come through and ripped all the skirting out from under it on one side, and scattered the panels all over the streets. A kindly neighbor picked up all the pieces and piled them under a rock on the back patio, but NO ONE, not even the park manager or maintenace crew would bother to call that toll free number to let us know what happened! If they had, we could have called the company that installed it and had it repaired! We didn’t get back there until November, to discover that the crawl space had been open for the last three months, with some of our stuff stored under there, and open for animals and other critters to get into! And this was in a rather “high class” park, not some dump! And ours was the most expensive and best built park model (and addition) in the entire park!

Our home in Mesa

Also, when we first moved to Mesa, we still had a house in Arkansas to maintain. The next-door neighbor was supposed to look after it for us, but he couldn’t even figure out how to work the switches on the motion detector lights (despite having the instructions taped to the switch plate), and so they either didn’t come on at all or stayed on all the time until the bulbs burned out. We hadn’t heard from him for quite a while, so one day I called him and asked him to go in and check the inside. He called back to say there was now a huge spot of mildew on the living room ceiling, nearly four feet wide and six feet long! So from 1800 miles away we had to deal with getting roofing quotes and “hope” the guy knew what he was doing. As soon as he was done, we had to make an emergency trip back to the house and I spent the better part of my “vacation” replacing a whole sheet of sheetrock in the ceiling and having to spray texture it again, while my wife cleaned all the walls and everything in the house that was within three feet of the floor with bleach, to kill the mildew that had spread! I was NOT a “happy camper”, and the mold literally made us both sick! And on the next trip back there, we discovered that someone had stolen two of our nice outdoor recliner chairs and the matching ottomans from the rear deck!

Then there’s another problem, and I don’t care how good you think your house is… mice and other rodents don’t care! I have seen even squirrels eat through walls and break into houses, and then get trapped there and die! How would you like to come home to a dead squirrel in your favorite easy chair? Don’t laugh, it happened to one of my clients, and also to a $200,000 home in the next city from us! In the latter story, the squirrel ate through a wall, and then chewed up all the window frames trying to get out! And then there’s insects of all kinds. All of these “critters” will tend to take over a place that appears to be uninhabited!

These kinds of things confirmed in my mind that I would never again try to travel for all or part of a year and own real estate or a “home base” anywhere again! When people won’t even do the right thing in a managed park setting, why would I think that I could expect anyone to look after a place that was on a public street? I WILL NOT go through that hassle and stress EVER again!

So we had a decision to make, now that we are “offically” retired. We thought we had to have a home base, and we have had many discussions about that issue for the last few years, despite first hand proof that it never works! The biggest obstacle was my wife’s piano, which was mentioned in the previous post, but we eventually figured out that taking it with us is completely do-able if the RV was big enough… like a 32-foot Class A (Damon Daybreak model 3272 is my first choice).

Still there were other issues, healthcare among them, and also that age-old issue of peer-pressure and status of being able to say we have a “real” home. We took care of the healthcare issue by going with Plan G of Medicare Supplements, so now we can get healthcare no matter where we are and never have to pay more than $140 out of pocket.

As far as the “status” of owning a home, that is WAY over-rated. When it boils down to reality, we couldn’t care less what other people think, because most of them are not RV’er’s and don’t have a clue what the lifestyle is about. So that only leaves the financial aspect, and that is why I created the spreadsheet, which I am now giving to you as a free download as an OpenOffice(dotorg) .ods file, so you can add your own figures to it.


The totals will automatically calculate for you as you enter new figures, both in income and expenses, so all you have to do is fill in the blanks with your own information. The cells highlighted in red are the totals that contain formulas! DO NOT TOUCH THOSE!

ACH payments are things that are automatically deducted from your bank account. Other things like credit cards and loans may not apply to you, so you can leave those blank. Annual bills are things that are paid once a year, rather than every month, but be sure to divide those by 12, as the spreadsheet is geared to MONTHLY rather than yearly figures and you don’t want to mix them up. At the bottom it will give you a total of your expenses as well as an amount over or under what your income is. THAT figure is the real revelation! That is where you will discover how much cheaper it will be to full-time and forget about real estate!

Download the spreadsheet here!

(You will also find instructions on Sheet 2 of the spreadsheet).

What it does…

By filling in your own budget numbers to this sheet you can do a comparison of five different parameters…

(1) Expenses at home now. What your present income and expenses are without doing anything differently. For those who don’t keep track of your expenses, this can be a revelation in itself. Maybe it will even explain why there’s always too much month left at the end of the money, and how to correct that. (:>)

(2) Both (persons) at home after traveling. For what your budget will look like if you should ever tire of traveling and want a home base again. By that time, your budget may have changed, so adjust it accordingly.

If you are single person, you can skip the first two columns and go directly to the third one.

(3) One survivor (who would likely be renting, although ownership also can be used). Keep in mind here, that drastic changes will occur. First of all, the survivior will be bumped up to the higher of the two Social Securities, whichever one that may be. Other expenses will go away or be lowered, but many others will remain the same, so you really need to think this through here.

As far as renting versus buying, I had an uncle who left a sizable estate (more than any other family member had) who NEVER owned the dwelling he was living in, so using real estate to build wealth is another fallacy that everyone believes, and which is not necessarily true! I know many homeowners who are in debt or barely breaking even, so real estate has done nothing for them. Like any other inventory or commodity, real estate only makes money if it is kept in a fluid state… constantly buying and selling, or producing product. If you sit on it, it’s not working for you… you’re working for it! But I’ll get into that on another post.

(4) Expenses on the road (with NO house) (i.e.,full-timing). This column and the next one are the ones that tell the real story. In this column is where you will eliminate all the expenses related to owning (or renting) a house or other real estate.

One particular item has been added here, and that is mail forwarding. It can vary, from nothing (if you have a relative doing it for you) to nearly $300 a year for full service from a professional company. We found a very good one for $189 a year, so that would be $15.75 a month, and for that, they will even help you set up residency in their state and go after your vehicle tags for you and mail them to you, wherever you are. They will even sort through your mail with you on the phone and even open things that are questionable and read them to you before deciding what to forward… and you can’t beat that kind of service!

(5) The last column is expenses of RV’ing while trying to maintain a house at the same time. The comparison between this column and the previous is what will really open your eyes to the truth.

Don’t throw money away!

The biggest money saver is going to be in using free and low cost places to camp. Many people have the mistaken idea that they can’t afford to have an RV because of the camping fees involved! RUBBISH! There are many people out there who have been traveling and camping for over three years who haven’t paid a dime in camping fees, and they have stayed in some of the most beautiful spots you can imagine! Only very foolish people who don’t bother to read and stay in the loop on such things would ever think about spending money on camping fees every night! Even if you have plenty of money and can afford it, there is no point wasting money when you don’t have to!

And you don’t have to buy expensive memberships in resorts (like we did) in order to do it. There are plenty of sites online devoted to listing free and low cost public camping sites. There are also discounts you can get when you do have to pay fees, some of them for up to 50% off the regular price, and that includes state and national parks (if you are over 62). Other clubs and organizations have discounts for people who are not yet “seniors”. For $20 a year you can join BoondockersWelcome(dotcom) (there’s a link on this site, thank you) where you can stay at a member’s private residence all over the country (nearly 800 at last count and growing daily). You don’t have to have a place of your own with which to reciprocate visits. Another site called HarvestHosts(dotcom) has farms and vinyards where you can stay for a night and enjoy farm fresh food and wines (no work involved).

But even if you decide to park somewhere for a longer term (weekly or monthly) most places give discounts for longer terms, so you can still save money.

Other benefits…

And the best part is having the fellowship of other like-minded people, who enjoy the same lifestyle as you do. No matter whether you prefer to stay out in the boonies by yourself in the peace and quiet, or to join other people in a more organized setting and enjoy the activities provided by nearly every park out there, you can find whatever fits your lifestyle and your mood at the time. And if the mood changes, you can be on your way to your next adventure in a matter of minutes.

In past posts we have covered everything from how memberships work, to how to make money while traveling. In the latter, we only scratched the surface, as there are many other sites and sources for much more information. You don’t have to be retired to enjoy the lifestyle, as there are plenty of places to work, or you can be self-employed.

The spreadsheet I have provided covers the comparison of full-timing as opposed to maintaining real estate while traveling. I’m sure most of you will see a huge difference, and it could be the “tipping point” to convince you to ditch the real estate and go enjoy life. For us, we discovered it is about 30% cheaper to full-time than to try to maintain real estate and travel. Let us know how your figures come out.

We also realize that some of you might have family estates that have been in the family for years, and you just can’t part with it. That’s OK. We realize the full-time lifestyle isn’t for everyone, no matter how the figures come out. But if done right, under the right circumstances, even real estate owners can afford to travel at least part time, if they do it wisely. And they have the advantage of being able to do it in smaller, more affordable RV’s!

Still, it is “food for thought” to download the spreadsheet and play around with it to do “what if” scenarios. If you are on the fence as to which way to go, this might help convince you.

And please do give us your feedback on how this worked for you, and if it proved useful. If we have forgotten anything in it, please let us know that, too, and we will be glad to update the file accordingly. If you have any questions, please ask. I’m here very day.

And by the way, if you need more training in spreadsheets (or any other computer skill, including the new Windows 8, or even iPads, just go to and click on the “Technical” icon. From there you can find whatever you want. If you don’t see it right away use the search box to locate it. I have been taking the online courses to learn Windows 8 prior to my next upgrade, as well as to learn how to run my new iPad.

OK, so what do you think? Would you like to see more of these kinds of things? I also have some for trip logs and other things useful to RV’ers that I will add as I have time. Do you have an idea for a spreadsheet I can design for you? Let me know.