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    Those who dream of living year-round in an RV might find it's easier than they'd imagined. Here's how to hit the road in a permanent home on wheels.


    Have you ever thought about chucking it all and taking to the road full time? My husband and I have, although we can't seriously consider it until my daughter is out of high school in a few years. But if you're free to roam, you could join some 1.3 million Americans who are full-time RV'ers.

    To find out what it takes to afford becoming a full-timer, I spoke with Kathy Huggins. She and her husband, John, have been "living the RV dream" for more than seven years and hosted a radio show by that name. (Podcasts are available here.) . I interviewed Kathy for my radio show, "Talk Credit Radio." Here are the Huggins' financial tips for a life on the road.

    Get organized 

    While you're traveling, you'll need to have someone receive and forward your mail to you. That could be a friend, relative or a mail service. The Huggins use a mail service located in South Dakota (more on that choice later) that forwards their mail twice a month.

    They also rely on online banking and bill pay. Their phone, credit card and satellite dish bills are all paid online. If there is a bill that can't be handled that way ("a hospital bill, for example," says Kathy), "I leave them a note that I only get my mail twice a month, that I may be late and please do not charge me (a late fee)," she explains. She's never had a problem, she adds.


    For banking, they use direct deposit and a debit card. To avoid ATM fees, they chose a bank that refunds ATM fees and often get cash back at the cash register when they make a purchase on their debit cards.

    Have a (flexible) budget

    Does living in an RV cost less, or more, than living in a traditional home? For the Hugginses, it's less. Kathy rattled off her monthly expenses: rig payment, phone bill and satellite television, for starters. Campsite fees can range from free to $60 to $70 per night, though she says they try to keep theirs at $20 per night.

    To keep your electric bill down, avoid staying in one place for months, because long-term campers usually have to pay for their own electricity.


    "Stay for less than a month, and they pay the electric bill," she says. Even when the Hugginses do pay for electricity, it's pretty inexpensive: about $40 per month, or $80 a month if it's cold and the electric heaters go on.

    "Remember, we're living in 400 square feet," she adds with a laugh.

    And while many campsites have free Wi-Fi available, the Hugginses spring for their own wireless Internet connection because they need Internet access for their website and blog.

    Cooking their own food and limiting meals in restaurants also saves them a bundle.

    As with any budget, there are always surprises. For the Hugginses, it's been rising gas prices, which went from $2.99 a gallon to almost $4 a gallon at the time we spoke. "That's been a big change in our lifestyle," Kathy says, "but we just spend more time in a campsite. We'll travel maybe 250 miles a day at the most, and we might stay (in one place) three or four weeks. We use our car, which we tow, to go see all the things that are around here."

    Save up for your rig, shop for the loan 

    I asked Kathy what it costs to buy an RV that would be comfortable to live in year-round. She says a used motor home will run "right around $100,000 if it's a diesel pusher and about $80,000 for a gas rig. And they're pretty comfortable." The other option is to buy a "fifth wheel" that is pulled by a truck. "You're talking about $40,000 to $60,000," she says, but "then you have to buy a truck to pull it, which can be up to $40,000 for the truck."


    Before hitting the road, the Hugginses sold their Florida home at the height of the market, which allowed them to get rid of all their debt and put a healthy down payment on their rig. Still, they took out a 20-year loan at 4.35% for the balance. That was a few years ago, though, and since then, full-time RV'ers have found it more difficult to get loans.

    "Try a credit union," suggests Kathy. Or buy your rig before you quit your job. "If you're going to be a part-timer, they don't seem to have a problem giving you a loan," she notes.

    Get a tax break 

    One of the advantages of living on the road is that you can call any state home.

    The Hugginses, like many other full-timers, chose South Dakota as their home base because of the tax benefits. There is no state income tax and, as Huggins points out, no property tax since they don't own a home. "South Dakota probably has half a million people that don't live there but are full-time RV'ers because of taxes," she says, laughing. Tax rates and other details are available in the book "Choosing Your RV Home Base."

    Bring in some bacon 

    You don't have to stop working when you start traveling. Many RV parks hire full-time RV'ers to handle reservations or park maintenance. When I interviewed her, Kathy was working as a reservationist while her husband was doing pool maintenance, which earned them a free site and an allowance of $100 a month toward their electric bill, plus enough spending money to cover their food budget.

    Around Yellowstone, she notes, you can work at a hotel and have a parking spot for your RV while employed there. "Even Alaska has jobs for you," she says. "You (can) guard the schools during the summer. Park your RV in the schoolyard with two or three other RV'ers, and you just keep an eye for the schoolyard, and that's it," she says. She recommends the website for employment opportunities.

    Entrepreneurial opportunities abound as well and are limited only by your imagination. A couple that Kathy suggested: Watch other full-timers' pets while they fly home for holidays or take day trips. Or make jewelry to sell.

    Don't wait too long 

    Do you have to be out of debt to take to the road? It helps, says Kathy. But even if you aren't, you may still want to find a way to make it happen.

    "I think almost anybody can do it," she says. "The cost can range from $200 a month to $12,000 a month, depending on what you want to do and how you want to spend your money. That's the best part about this -- it's your choice about . . . how big of a rig you actually buy, how much money you want to spend."

    The Hugginses' only regret? That they didn't do it earlier. '"When we first started doing this, we interviewed a lot of full-time RV'ers, and everyone said the same thing: 'I wish I'd done it 10 years sooner.'"

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    The lavish tour bus, previously used by former F1 World Champion Jenson Button and Jacques Villeneuve, has been transformed into luxury getaway motor home that costs from $12,000 per night. It claims to be the first million-dollar motor home to be and was built by U.S.-based company Newell. (Mercury Press/Caters)

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    Dear Savvy Senior,

    Can you write a column on RV travel for beginners? My husband and I will be retiring in a few years and have always thought it would be fun to spend some of our time traveling around the country in an RV. What can you tell us?

    Ready to Retire

    Dear Ready,

    The affordability, combined with the comfort, convenience and personal freedom it offers has made recreational vehicle (RV) travel immensely popular among retirees over the past decade.

    According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, there are approximately 35 million RV enthusiasts in the U.S., including a growing number of baby boomers. 

    Some of the reasons RVing has become so popular is because of the freedom and flexibility it offers to come and go as you please. If you like where you’re at, you can stay put. Or, if your feet get itchy you pack up and move on. 

    Another popular aspect among retirees is following the seasons. Snowbirds, for example, like to travel south for the winter, while southerners migrate north during the hot summer months. 

    RVing is also a very affordable way to go. Even considering ownership or rental costs, RV travel is cheaper than traveling by car, plane, or train -- especially when you factor in lodging and restaurant costs. 

    RV Options

    Most people, when they think of RVs, think of huge motorhomes, but RVs run the gamut from folding camping trailers and truck campers, to travel trailers and large motorized RVs. 

    Cost, too, will range from as little as $4,000 for pop-up campers all the way up to $1.5 million for luxurious motorhomes. To learn more about RV options, check out, a resource created by the RV travel industry that breaks down all the different types of RVs available today, along with various videos and other RV information.

    The best way to ease into RV travel and find out if you like it is to rent. Renting can also help you determine which type of RV best suits your needs. Rental costs will vary greatly depending on what you choose, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $30 up to $300 per day. To locate one of the 500 or so RV rental outlets around the country check your yellow pages under “Recreation Vehicle” or search The National RV Dealers Association website at 

    Camping Options 

    With around 14,600 public and privately owned RV parks or campgrounds across the country (see and, RVers can roam coast-to-coast with no shortage of places to stop, or options to choose from. 

    Most RV parks are open to all comers and rent spaces on a nightly or weekly basis, much like a motel or hotel, with rates typically ranging from $15 to $50 per night, however some in city and country parks may be $10 or even free.

    RV parks can also range from rustic facilities with limited or no utility hookups, as are more often found in state and national parks, to luxury resorts with amenities that rival fine hotels. 

    To research RV campgrounds, get a copy of the “Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory” for $10 at, or call 866-205-7451. This guide breaks down what each campsite offers, along with their policies and costs, and a rating system. Also see for dozens of books and DVDs about RVs and the RV lifestyle. 

    There are also a number of RV clubs you can join, like the Good Sam Club (, that provide member discounts on parks and campgrounds, travel guides, fuel and propane, roadside assistance, and more. Passport America ( is another popular club that gives 50 percent discounts on more than 1,800 campsites across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

    Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC “Today” show and author of The Savvy Senior. Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit

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    BPT) - Are your RV or auto insurance premiums too high? Maybe they are, but not for reasons you might think. Insurance companies aren't charging you higher premiums because you're in an over-50 age group. You may be paying too much because you haven't done anything to lower the cost of your premiums. Check out these money-saving tips - they could be right up your alley.


    • Comparison shop. You don't need to stay with the same insurance company forever. Prices vary from company to company. Just be sure you discuss the identical coverage with each company representative. Also, don't go by price alone. Consider the company's reputation, customer service and available discounts. Look online at customer reviews to get a better picture.
    • Combine policies with one carrier. You may save money if you insure all your vehicles on a single policy. Your premium may also go down if you have life or homeowners' insurance with that company, too.
    • Consider asking about higher deductibles. In some cases, if you increase your deductible, you could lower your premiums. Of course, that means you'll have to pay more money out-of-pocket if you're in an accident.
    • Take an AARP Driver Safety course. Available both online and in the classroom - in English and Spanish - this course teaches valuable defensive driving techniques and provides a refresher about the rules of the road. When you complete the course, you could qualify for a multi-year discount from your auto insurance company (check with your insurance agent for more details). Visit to find a course in your area.
    • Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive coverage. It may not make financial sense to pay premiums over many years to maintain collision and comprehensive coverage. If your car is worth less than 10 times the premium, purchasing the coverage may not be cost effective, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). But don't drop your liability coverage, which can help cover expenses for property or bodily damage you cause while driving your car.
    • Take advantage of low-mileage discounts. Some carriers offer discounts to drivers who put less than a predetermined number of miles on their vehicles each year. If you're only using your car to drive to your kids' houses, the grocery store, the mall and the gym, this could be a money-saving opportunity.
    • Ask about car-safety discounts. Some insurers give discounts for having certain safety devices in your car, such as air bags, automatic safety belts, anti-lock brakes, daytime running lights, or even an approved alarm system. In addition to lowering your premium, these features will help keep you safe on the road.
    • If you're in the market for a new car, consider purchasing a low-profile vehicle. It's more expensive to insure a vehicle that's expensive to repair, popular with thieves or known for not having a good safety record. To find out vehicles' risk levels, visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website.

    Everyone's trying to save money these days. By following these tips, you'll be in the driver's seat when it comes to auto insurance