How Much Does It Really Cost Us? Living On a Skoolie Fulltime With A Family Of 6

Most days it doesn’t make sense. “I mean come on…” Most people’s questions circulate around. “How do you… travel full-time… visit friends and family you’d probably see once a decade… make time for adventures.. and the biggest one – make money/afford it?” The answer is simple, and we’ve all heard it over the years from countless mentors, elders, and inspirational people, “Make life what you want!” But, beyond the inspiring words of wisdom how do we truly make it happen?

To summarize in a few words, it takes budgeting, thriftiness, and willingness to accept new normalcies to living the life you want.

Food: We budget roughly a $1000/month ($800 ish for groceries and maybe $200 in  

$800 at the grocery stores and $200 on a few nights out at a decently priced restaurant. We emphasize healthy eating and teach kids how to prepare meals. This, and the fact that there are six of us makes our budget a bit higher in the food department than most. In terms of meal breakdown, see below.

Breakfast: Coffee, quick oats, cereals, eggs, pancakes (the kids make their own most times)

Snacks: Cliff bars (adults only), Ramen Noodles, lots of fruits, Nutri-Grain bars/snack bars and homemade snacks (the kids make muffins/pastries and Shiang-ling makes beef jerky)

Lunch: Sandwiches (meat and cheese, peanut butter and jelly), Left-overs (i.e. chicken becomes chicken sandwich with bbq, lettuce, cheese, etc…)

Dinner: Most efficient, cost-effective, and most importantly – “nutritious and delicious” (QueenB direct quote) to create a generally: meat, vegetables, and starch meal.

Housing: (Approx. $600/month)

As of now, we require shore power (or power from an outlet of some type) to have some normalcies. Run lights, charge devices, and have our fans blowing. Currently, we are parked in Northern Vermont at a friends house. We like to give back in sweat around the property (i.e. I’ve already mowed, burnt a stump down, and have been helping with cleaning up the foliage from downed trees for this year’s firewood over the winter months), knowledge of any ‘honey-to-do lists’ (i.e. I drove and watered 98 soft oaks in North Georgia utilizing a tractor) and tools we carry on the bus, and additionally, financial support to compensate for electrical/wash and dry clothes, and food (amount depends on the desires of our welcoming landowners); as we generally end up becoming tribal with the dinner plans and begin cooking together with them. So, the housing costs can vary depending on the living arrangements.

Entertainment: RedBox/Amazon Prime/Netflix/Hulu, ice cream/pizza nights (Approx. $50)

We like to watch a movie a week (on average) to have a relaxing night which is roughly $1.75/night (currently) with RedBox and/or Amazon Prime a movie for purchase (approx. $5.99) which is great because then we own it digitally! As for ice cream/pizza, that’s usually a super random, we’ve happened to see a ‘mom and pop’ joint in anyplace America, and decided we’re going to treat ourselves.

Adventures: Trips (Approx. $250)

  1. Agenda: These trips, like going to Mt Washington Auto Road, are planned, calculated into our finances and have dates associated with them on our shared calendar. We try to keep costs low by packing our own food and searching for deals when it comes to entrance fees. Generally, we attempt to ‘super-set’ these with other free events that might be occurring within a 50mi radius of the planned trip that day.
  2. No-agenda: On these randoms, we decide to take a drive to explore, and in the event, we run into a fair, a video game arcade, etc… we hit it with finances in mind paralleling our normally planned agenda trips. Our latest was a trip to Portsmouth, New Hampshire & Kittery, ME and we had an amazing time just getting in the vehicle and going!

Move to New ‘Base Camp’/Maintenance: (Approx. highly varied)

Our biggest fella in this topic area is FUEL. We have a diesel engine and with a loaded up Skoolie Conversion, last time I checked, is 6 Miles/Gallon (MPG). Needless to say, at this cost, this is one of our most intricately planned events in this full-time nomadic lifestyle and one that is planned out at least 45 days ahead of time if able. I.e. I have already calculated our next trip in October, which is from a northern border state to a southern border most state which will cost approx. $900.

As for maintenance, I have learned a few basic level maintenance techniques but have a reserve credit card on hand for such needs and, if necessary, for emergencies. To date, we have only had issues with low oil levels and an idler pulley when we initially purchased. Those ‘issues’ were very mild, financially minimal, and something we had already expected.

To be clear… this doesn’t cover cell phones, insurance for the vehicle, a quick pepsi from the gas station, and any of the other oddity life expenses that we expose ourselves to. In summary, this financial overview covers OUR lifestyle choices and demands. Everyone is different from what they’re willing to eat, trips they enjoy, and guilty pleasures they indulge in. That being said, don’t be afraid to shake things up and make some memories!