Unexpected expenses can be a blow to any traveler’s budget, especially when it’s in the thousands. In this episode, I pull back the curtain on my September spending, revealing a staggering $5,000 spent on maintenance and repairs for my Sprinter van. But it’s not all gloom – I also share crucial insights on budgeting for future unexpected expenses and how these experiences can be transformative for your financial planning.


  • Breaking Down the $5,000: An itemized insight into what comprised this hefty maintenance and repair bill.
  • Fueling Up: Diving into my diesel fuel expenses, I share a little-known hack that could save RVers a significant amount on fuel.
  • Future-Proofing Your Budget: Leveraging this month’s experiences to budget smartly and avoid being caught off-guard by unforeseen costs.
  • Cost-saving Tips and Tricks: As always, I offer my audience handy tips to keep their spending in check and make the most of their RVing adventures.

For all the RVers, potential RVers, and travelers, this episode offers not just a candid look into the costs of van life but also invaluable advice on managing and anticipating expenses

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[00:00:00] This podcast is for people who thrive on adventure, embrace an unconventional lifestyle, and seek life beyond the ordinary. We dive into stories, tactics, and inspiration that fuel the open road. RV Dreaming. Start here, go anywhere. Hey folks, how you doing? My name is Stuart from StuartDoingStuff on Instagram.

[00:00:18] I've been a full time nomad for three years now. I split my time between my 40 foot Super CRV and my Winnebago Era. 24 foot Mercedes Sprinter van. And I travel with my two cats, Camden and Izzy. Follow me on Instagram for stories and videos. That's Stuart doing stuff. And I'm really glad you're here today.

[00:00:37] You, might hear some rustling in the background as I'm recording, cause the cats are going crazy right now, running up and down. So forgive their, rather, I don't even know what the word is. Maybe, . Rambunctious behavior at the moment, but you know, just like everyone else in a van you kind of get that.

[00:00:55] Claustrophobia or you kind of get that a thing where you're just like I gotta get out and These cats have been going up and down because where i'm at right now There's birds everywhere. So they're chasing them from the side window to the anyways, I digress anyways today. We're gonna recap my crazy September spending, I mean, like crazy.

[00:01:12] We're going to go through what I did to save money. And I'm going to tell you. How I went way, way, way over budget and I'm going to break down the nearly 5, 000. That's right. 5, 000 in maintenance costs. I had this month with my Mercedes Sprinter and how you can plan for these kinds of repair maintenances and just plan for it as part of your budget.

[00:01:34] So we're going to go over those numbers and I'm also going to give you one big investment that might be worth making to avoid. All of those ridiculous California diesel prices, the secret I wish I had known, or I wish I had been prepared for, we're going to get into that, and no, I'm not talking about avoiding California altogether, although that is a very simple solution, but sometimes you just can't, I have a great investment idea, , that you can make in your rig or in your van, that I think would solve all these problems.

[00:02:03] Anyways, let's talk about my September, alright? So when we look over the,, the month, I, I traveled for a total of about 1, 300 miles. It was probably more than that, but it was roughly 1, 300 miles. I started out in Salt Lake City, where I was moochdocking. Then I went to Reno, Nevada. Down to Emigrant Gap, which is on the 80, if you're familiar.

[00:02:27] It's like going from Reno to Sacramento, right over by Truckee. I stayed there, and then, , went over to Sacramento, California, then worked my way down through the Highway 99 in Central California to the Yosemite area, and then from there, I moved my way down to the Las Vegas, Nevada area. which is where I'm at right now.

[00:02:46] So total of about 1300 miles from Salt Lake City to Reno, Sacramento to, , Yosemite and down to Las Vegas. Out of those 1300 miles and the month of September, I ended up doing eight nights of mooch docking. And if you're not familiar with mooch docking is, it's basically camping in someone's driveway, someone's front yard.

[00:03:09] backyard land, someone that you know that you're visiting. You're basically mooching off of them. So that's why we call it mooch docking eight nights, one whole week, one whole week of the entire month of September. I spent mooch docking absolutely free, which was absolutely wonderful. I spent fourteen days, two weeks, dry camping, dry camping, also known as boondocking is basically when you're staying not at an RV park when you're not mooch docking and you're not, you know, paying for a campsite or such.

[00:03:38] So two weeks, dry camping. I was in an RV park for three nights and that was at the Grand Sierra Resort. And if you haven't heard about my review of the Grand Sierra Resort RV park, you can go back and you can look at that as well. I did a total review on that and I did six nights at the thousand trails, campgorunds.

[00:03:56] And that was both in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the one at Emigrant Gap. So, , a total of 8 nights moochdocking, 14 days dry camping, 3 nights at an RV park, and 6 nights at Thousand Trails. And why is that important? Because when I'm going to break down the camping fees , If you notice that I spent three weeks, eight nights moochdocking and 14 weeks dry camping without any camping fees, no rent, no fees or whatever that had to go along with that.

[00:04:25] My RV parked three nights for the entire month, that was when I was in Reno, and Thousand Trails, I'm a member, so I pay a flat rate of my membership whether I use it or not. So we're going to break down those numbers. So let's dive into some of these deeper numbers of what I had going on in September. Um, my gas bill, like I was saying, it was primarily,, California high diesel prices.

[00:04:46] It was paying close to 7 a gallon when I was in California. I avoided as much as I could by filling up, making sure when I left Reno that I filled up as much as I can. And, before I went into Sacramento, I think I had to fill up several times throughout the day and then... Um, kind of going through. So, in, this, , scenario, I ended up spending 771 in the month of September for diesel.

[00:05:11] 771. If you remember when I did my podcast here, you can go back and listen to it, when I had my August numbers, I think I spent like 500. So that's,, almost 300 more in diesel, , this month than I did last month. RV parks, 159, and that was the three nights at the Grand Sierra Resort. Here we go, RV maintenance, 4, 753, and we're going to get into what those numbers mean in a little bit into this episode.

[00:05:40] Groceries, 195, food and drink, this is all my entertainment, anytime I went out and I ate out, anytime I grabbed a drink, anytime, you know, any of those kind of things. This was a big number too, and I'll also tell you why this was such a big number. 827. Dollars eight hundred and twenty seven dollars in food and drink this month in the month of September the next two internet 210 that's a fixed cost because I have a hundred and fifty dollars at Starlink, and then I have sixty dollars in my FMCA unlimited AT& T mobile broadband Thing my little hotspot and thousand trails like I said hundred and fifty six dollars every month whether I use it or not so let's Add up all those numbers, and drumroll please, the number was 7, 071 spent in the month of September.

[00:06:31] Now, Let's that's not every month. Okay, so let's let's look at this from a little more reasonable perspective. So let's back out the 4, 753 that Was part of the RV maintenance so if we back out that number that gives me a total spent for the month of September of just over 2, 300 And we're going to kind of base that number, , as a basis for moving forward here when we kind of dive into the analytics of this a little bit.

[00:07:01] So we're going to take this 4, 700 in maintenance fees and I'm going to break this down for you. Okay, because this is a big thing. This is not something that happens every month. This is not even something that sometimes happens every year. It just happened to all happen to me. All at once. So, we're gonna break down that 4, 700, number right now in the maintenance that I spent.

[00:07:19] First off, the tires on the van were brand new with the rig, okay? And they have 40, 000 miles on it. And, stock tires are, are not, are notorious for not lasting very long. So, it was time to get those replaced. I was hoping to wait, but it just turned out that my front two tires were, , It was time. It, it was, it was just time to be able to do it.

[00:07:44] So, six brand new tires, because I'm on the Dually, so I have four in the back and two in the front. , and that was, a cost of fifteen hundred bucks for six brand new tires. And, , the good thing is, they should be good for, you know, another two or three years. So, this was just one of those things that just happened that needed to be fixed.

[00:08:03] But let's, let's look at this and let's, because we're going to budget this out. So, let's say. It only lasts for another two years. Let's say it's only good for another 40, 000 miles if I keep putting on 20, 000 miles a month like I've been doing or 20, 000 miles a year like I've been doing. Let's say it only goes for another two years.

[00:08:18] If we're going to try and take that number, the 1, 500 I spent on tires, you break it down over 24 months, that is a total of 62. 50 per month that you should add to your budget just for tire maintenance and repairs. So just so that you know what's going on. So every month, just take 62 aside, put it into a savings account.

[00:08:35] Earmark market for tires, then you'll be fine when that expense comes around. What I also did is because I got six brand new tires, I needed a new alignment. So I was at the Mercedes Benz dealership. I said, yeah, let's go ahead and do it. That additional alignment was an addition or that alignment was an additional 1, 000.

[00:08:54] And I highly recommend it. It's a great investment in your tires, ride quality, balancing, everything else. , cause, , , it just makes everything worth it so much. So, I did an alignment, and that was an additional 1, 000. So,, you always want to do an alignment when you're getting brand new tires.

[00:09:09] It's just, it's a great investment on the tires. So, if I added that 1, 000 on top of the 1, 500 I spent, that's going to bring the total up to 2, 500. Take that 2, 500, divide it by 24 months, and now you're looking at 103 a month. So, set aside 100 a month or so, give or take. Set aside 100 every month for just...

[00:09:27] Tires, alignments, wheels, all that kind of stuff. Just your, that kind of general maintenance,, kind of thing. My Mercedes also needed Schedule B servicing with Mercedes Benz. It's required every 20, 000 miles and it rotates between Service A and Service B. Service A, I paid a 500 for at the Mercedes Benz of Anaheim.

[00:09:47] I was in Southern California when that went down and, and, uh, Service B here, I ended up paying 2, 400 for Service B. That was the. Big one. Now for the sake of simplicity, let's combine those. Let's take that 500 for service A, the 2, 400 for service B, call it 2, 900 a year, every 20, 000 miles or so. So if you're doing it every year.

[00:10:08] That's 242 a month that you're going to have to set aside for regular service. And again, that can be less if you drive less because it's based on miles. I'm assuming 20, 000 miles a year. That's a lot. You probably will do less. So you can probably stretch that out a little bit longer. Couple other things about this too.

[00:10:26] I think... And I'm not saying I know, I'm just saying I think, I may have been a little ripped off at the Mercedes dealership where I had my service done, but that's just another story for another time. Maybe you can chime in on that, but that's just my feeling of what happened after all this went down. So, you can save money by not driving this much.

[00:10:48] 20, 000 miles a year is a lot. You can save money by not driving. All of that. You can probably also save money by having this work done somewhere else other than a Mercedes Benz dealership. So that's just another way that you can,, do that. So if I were to set aside my maintenance and tire money Each month, it would take 103 for the tire and alignments, and another 242 for the regular maintenance.

[00:11:11] That's a total of 345 per month for regular maintenance, and that, that's a lot. So, but if you're trying to budget, you go, how much should I set aside for routine maintenance? How much should I set aside for all this stuff? That's how I got my number, 345 a month for regular maintenance. And that does not include emergency repairs, or parts, or replacements, or equipment.

[00:11:33] And, and, and beyond that... That money is just for the chassis, that's just for the engine and the tires and the structure of the van, that has nothing to do with like the RV parts, like if your microwave goes bust or you have to replace your hot water heater, that money, that 345 that you're setting aside, that's just for the vehicle part of your RV, if you don't, if you're in a towable or something, you obviously don't have that, but that's how much you would need to set aside How much I'm setting aside for,, RVs and maintenance and things like that.

[00:12:04] So that was a big chunk, but it was good to break down to just kind of see how all of this kind of flows in together. So what did I do to save money this month? Well, obviously we kind of touched on it already. We did a lot of dry camping over the half the month I spent on free BLM land and, uh, camping outside of forest service land and mooch docking eight nights of mooch docking with friends and family that takes care of 75 percent of my.

[00:12:27] total costs that was out there already, you know, as far as, cost. And then my thousand trails, as mentioned before, I was, I have a flat fee that I pay for thousand trails every single month, whether I use it or not, it's 156. This month, I used it six nights. So breaking that out equally, it equals out to about 26 a night of a thousand trails usage.

[00:12:49] Some months are higher, some months are lower. So that's, that's different. That's just kind of the way it is. , looking forward to October, I'm probably only going to spend 3 or 4 days at A Thousand Trails. But November, I think I'm going to be there for 28 days, almost the entire month. So, it all kind of balances out, when it's all said and done.

[00:13:07] I think A Thousand Trails is just, we've, we've, we've done episodes on it already. You win some, you lose some, but I think overall, for a full timer, it's a must have. Now, how did I spend more? This month and I'm not talking about RV maintenance. That was a killer that schedule B thing I saw that thing coming up and and the alignment and all that but you know, what are you gonna do?

[00:13:27] It has to be done. I spent a lot more in meals and entertainment and and I'll tell you why it's because September for me Was a vacation mode month now we talked about daily life Uh, we talk about life on the road, and we talk about, like, sometimes you have just daily life mode, and then sometimes you have vacation mode.

[00:13:47] So as you're traveling around, you know, and you're working from the road, you're not anywhere fantastic, you're not anywhere special. So you kind of watch your spending, you do more eating in, you kind of do... You know, more things that you would normally do if you lived in a home, but then other times you're out vacationing mode.

[00:14:02] If you're in Florida, if you're out, you know, at Disney world or you're somewhere that's a very high touristy spot, you kind of go into vacation mode. So you kind of tend to splurge it a little more. You eat out a little more, you do more activities, you know, when you're kind of in vacation mode in September, I did a lot of vacation mode time, and that was one of the reasons why I had such a, a larger.

[00:14:25] So the majority of time I spent in vacation mode was in Salt Lake City, was in Reno, and Yosemite. Now, one thing that was very interesting about it, when you look at Salt Lake City, where I had four nights of moochdocking, or five nights of moochdocking, and then I had 14 days of BLM camping at Yosemite, those were all free spots, but because I was in vacation mode, and I was out there with friends, I ended up spending more money.

[00:14:49] on meals and entertainment than I probably would have if I had been at a campsite alone or in work mode, you know, as opposed to vacation mode or party mode or whatever. So, even though I saved money on the campsite, I ended up spending more in this category. So, just kind of one of those things. When I look at my fuel costs, it's 700 in fuel.

[00:15:10] A couple of things contributed to that. Not only did the California high gas prices have a lot to do with that. I was also towing my trailer and my RZR. And when I'm towing in the van, it, I normally get anywhere around like 16 miles to gallon, 17 miles per gallon. Uh, when I'm just going down and I have optimal conditions, towing drops that down to about 11 or 12 miles per gallon.

[00:15:34] And so that's about a third. fuel economy, which also means potentially a third and increase in fuel spending. So that's another reason why I had such a, a larger,, expense this time in fuel. And that combined with the high California gas prices, you know, there you go. So when we started the show, I talked about.

[00:15:57] A purchase that could be good for an investment in the future and Mercedes offers it. I don't know if, I don't think that they offer it stock. I think it's an aftermarket thing. , but this, this thing that I was looking at is an extended range gas tank. So in the Sprinter, I only have a 24 gallon diesel tank and they offer a large one, almost double 47 gallons.

[00:16:21] Now upgrading to a larger tank could have allowed me to go from Reno where gas is a lot cheaper in Nevada most of the way to Las Vegas bypassing all those crazy California gas stations I stopped at. So if I did the math here and I had 47 gallons of fuel and I had 16 miles to the gallon that gives me a range of 752 miles that I could drive on that one tank.

[00:16:45] Let me do that math for you again here. If I had 47 gallons at a MPG of 16 miles to the gallon that gives me a range of 752 miles. And when I looked at my leg from Las Vegas to Sacramento and Yosemite , that Mileage was 775 miles, so in theory, I could have almost gone from Reno all the way through California back to Las Vegas on one tank of fuel, and I could have filled up in Nevada when it was cheap, and maybe when I left Yosemite or Bakersfield, I probably could have put in 10 gallons or so that would have been able to get me to Las Vegas and to where gas was cheaper so having a longer range gas tank allows you To be able to stock up so to speak on the cheaper fuel, and I wish I had had that Because not only when you're stopping for fuel.

[00:17:45] I don't know about you when you're stopping for fuel. You're losing time That's one big thing. So if you're trying to get from point A to point B in a hurry, that's a thing. But a fuel stop for me is never just a fuel stop, you know, you're going in, you're grabbing a soda, you're grabbing a bag of chips or something like that.

[00:17:58] So every time that you stop, in addition to filling up, you know, you're dropping another five bucks on snacks and sodas or coffee , you know, whatever that's out there. So, there's a trickle down effect when you don't have to stop so much for gas.

[00:18:13] This was helpful for you when just trying to figure out how much money does it really cost to live life on the road. And my examples can be completely different than your examples. So the thing is, just remember, set your budget, kind of have an idea, save money by traveling less, spend money by traveling more, and sometimes some of the greatest Parts is when you can really stop and settle down and explore local area and not have to worry about spending so much so quickly.

[00:18:41] So this was my story of one month of my life. I know that you guys are going to have a lot of your own and I'm really excited to meet you and see all that on the road, but that's going to do it for this episode of the RV Dreaming podcast. Enjoy your travels, make them safe, make them fun and make them memorable.

[00:18:58] Thanks for listening. We will see you in the next episode.