A Year in our Motorhome – What did it Cost?

We are now one year into our motorhome life. On the 8th of May 2017 we moved out of our house in Exmouth, our tenants moved in and we started to travel in Bertie. Actually we remained static for a while as we sorted out a number of bits and bobs, but we had taken the plunge. Since then we have spent the majority of our time in Bertie, just a few nights in our new official home and a few nights in apartments when friends/family have visited. We have travelled in the UK (England, Wales and Scotland) France, Spain, Italy and Portugal. 

Lots of people ask how much it costs to travel in a motorhome, the answer – of course – is that everyone is different, has different priorities and objectives for their travelling and so everyone’s costs will be different. But that’s not going to stop me from sharing our costs; when we were planning our adventure I looked at as many blogs as I could and used their costs to help me make my budget, based on best fit with our expected style of travelling and our route. Because I found it useful I am sharing our costs, maybe someone else will benefit.  

We wanted to be in control of our spending, but we didn’t want to let it govern us. We aren’t intending to live full time in our motorhome, for us this is a finite adventure of a couple of years (who knows, things might change) so we want to be able to visit the places, experience the adventures and take the opportunities that travelling around Europe offered. Having said that, a lot of our enjoyment comes from things that are low cost; cycling, walking, kayaking don’t cost much once you have the kit. Skiing, on the other hand, is a very costly activity; one week of skiing had not been factored into our original budget and it showed. Next year we want to do five or six weeks so our budget will have to be revised accordingly. 

To maintain an understanding of our costs (which is not quite the same thing as controlling our spending) I continue to do what I did when we were living a ‘normal’ life. I maintain a spreadsheet of all income and outgoings. We mostly try to spend on our Nationwide credit card as it doesn’t charge a fee for use abroad and uses the market exchange rate. For cash we use the Caxton FX pre-loaded currency card. This allows us to load up with currency and withdraw it without any restrictions;  although the exchange rate is usually a couple of cents below the market rate it is better than most other options for unrestricted cash withdrawal.

All our budgeting and costs are recorded in GBP, our Nationwide statements always convert to GBP and for our cash spending I use the exchange rate I’ve most recently had from Caxton FX, it’s not precise but it’ll do.

So…onto the numbers.

Summary

Our total budget and actual spend is below, of course each of these categories hides a multitude of sins, but it’s clear to see that we have spent more on our Motorhome than expected….and this is mostly buying bits and bobs. It’s amazing how quickly it mounts up, a new mattress, mattress topper, additional locks for the doors etc. We’re pretty pleased with our totals to be honest, given that we haven’t tried too hard to pinch pennies. But if we wanted to cut costs there are plenty of places we could target!

This doesn’t include our income (or costs) from renting our house out, selling our car and the money we got back from various insurances and utilities. If you take our income into account we have only spent £10435.08. We wont have quite as much income next year though. 

Living Costs

This is obviously where most of our money goes. On the day-to-day cost of living; groceries, sites, gas and other essential costs that we would incur whether we were static or mobile. We overspent on our groceries A LOT. We have found it very difficult to change our middle class habits when it comes to food and drink. We enjoy buying regional specialities from shops that are probably more geared to tourists and Paul in particular likes a taste of home so will spend over the odds on British produce (mint sauce, Weetabix, golden syrup etc).   

On the plus side we have spent a lot less on campsite costs than we expected and, the very best thing, Paul has given up smoking, he has now been nicotine free for six months and that has hopefully saved us more than just money.

Overnight Costs

How did we save money on our overnight costs? Well we didn’t really have a good feel for how often we would spend in campsites vs aires/sostas. We hadn’t enough experience to know what our preferences would be. In the UK we needed to visit campsites for any form of motorhome services (some campsites will allow you to use their services for a small fee), and that’s where we have spent the most money. All of the other countries we have visited have much wider networks of free or low cost motorhome facilities. 

When it comes to choosing where to park we have tried not to be driven by cost, it’s all about Location, Location, Location. We want to be parked near the places we want to visit and the activities we want to enjoy. We have also decided we like a campsite when the weather turns warm so that we can spend more time sitting out doors in the evenings. In case you wondered, we haven’t counted the cost of renting apartments etc, where we haven’t spent the night in Bertie we have recorded the cost of parking – our ‘holidays’ are in our Leisure costs.

Travel Costs

Our Bertie has covered 12427.8 miles since we started counting in August, it’s a good thing that our fuel economy has been improving as we work Bertie’s engine, but we still only get an average of 24 MPG. 

Other travel costs include tolls – we have spent more than expected in Italy due to the poor road quality, sometimes you just need to get away from the potholes! – ferries, public transport and day time parking. 

Leisure Costs

Our Leisure costs cover all our expenditure that is not day to day living, the things we do to pass the time and enjoy ourselves. We have underspent a little here, mostly because we haven’t eaten out as much as expected. That just about made up for the costs of skiing.

 

I hope that  you’ve enjoyed a brief glimpse at our costs. Maybe it will help you with your budgeting, or maybe you’ll think that we’re spendthrifts who should keep a tighter control on our purse strings. We’re now looking at our budget for next year which will include several weeks skiing and a trip to Scandinavia – it could be a year of big spending! 

 

 

 

An Important Anniversary and Some Musings on Money

This morning Facebook reminded me that I received my formal notice of redundancy a year ago today.

Although I had known about my impending redundancy for some time (I was made redundant due to an office closure which is a fairly long winded process) the receipt of formal notice was the thing that made it all real. So I thought it was worth marking this important anniversary.

Of course, I’m very lucky to have received a generous redundancy payment that has provided a cushion and an incentive for our travelling. We are not the brave souls who sell everything and go on their adventures without a backwards glance. We are the conservative types who prefer to know that we have the backup of money in the bank and assets to fall back on. Part of me wishes I was the impulsive and risk taking type, but there is very little of that in my personality and I tend to use it all up on outdoor activities.

Even before my redundancy our desire for financial security had started to set the foundation for this type of adventure. All unknowing of what the future would hold we started to save and invest in order to pay off our biggest debt – the mortgage. After watching a TV programme – How to Pay Your Mortgage Off in Two Years – we decided that we would try a similar exercise through the simple steps of earning as much as possible and spending as little as possible. We started with a five year plan, but ended up paying our mortgage off in just under three years.

At this point you might be thinking what a couple of smug b**stards. It makes me feel apologetic and almost embarrassed to be in this situation. We know we are fortunate, but we also know that it would have been really easy to have fallen into a lifestyle that would have tied us to working until we were in our 60’s. Buying ever bigger houses, spending money on ‘stuff’, going on expensive holidays. And we will have to go back to work eventually. We aren’t quite at the stage where we can consider ourselves to be retired.

Not everyone will be able to do what we have done, but many people can make savings and every little saving makes a difference. One of my favourite resources for making savings on a day to day basis is http://moneysavingexpert.com, started by Martin Lewis who you have probably seen on ITV. We used the information on this fab site to cut our costs and there are some really inspiring stories of people who have turned their financial lives around. I’d recommend taking a look and seeing where you could save.   

Travelling in the UK – A Financial Summary

As we are now on the continent, we though it might be useful to summarise how we got on with travelling around the UK in our motorhome.

You can read our Scotland Summary and Wales Summary, but around our visits to these two countries we spent time in England, and our time in England was mostly of a different type than our travelling time with much more emphasis on friends and family.

Generally though we found travelling around the UK a lot easier than we had expected. We spent plenty of time in England on campsites because it made sense for the things we were doing, but when we wanted to travel and ‘wild-camp’ we didn’t find it particularly difficult. We also noticed that many communities are starting to get to grips with motorhoming as a leisure activity, and although there are plenty of moaning minnies out there we are sure that we will start to see a lot more motorhome friendly parking options with services like the one we found in Canterbury and the one being proposed in our home town of Exmouth.

We have spent 162 days motorhoming in the UK, around 44% of the year, so we thought it would be a good time to take stock financially. So how have we got on? I’m sure it will come as no surprise to the people that know me to find out that I have a spreadsheet where I record all of our spending and track it against our budget. 

Our budget for the year was a pretty generous £25,000, in total we have spent £11,484, which is 46% of our budget…BUT…we have had our major expenses (touch wood) of MOT, repairs and servicing, insurance etc during these months.

Here’s a breakdown of our overall spending.

Communication – getting online and phone bills

Gifts – presents for birthdays and special occasions

Motorhome – insurance, service and repairs and accessories

Travel Expenses – Fuel, tolls and ferries. Daytime parking.

Leisure – Eating out, drinking in bars, tourist attractions and activities

Other Bills – Travel Insurance, Storage costs and other bits that don’t fit anywhere else

Living Costs – Groceries, Gas, Campsites, motorhome services (ie waste disposal and water) and other general living costs. Here’s how the Living costs broke down in more detail

We have massively overspent on Bertie. not just the costs of MOT failure, but also a complete set of new tyres and fixes for various habitation faults i.e. the water pump and the gear mechanism for the roof. We have also been guilty – no, strike that, we don’t feel guilty at all – of picking up lots of bits and pieces to make our lives more safe and comfortable; additional locks, a new mattress etc.

We have also overspent on groceries – as we wander round the supermarkets we really believe that we are being frugal, but the reality is that we shop for what we want to eat, rather than shopping for what’s cheap and we don’t want to change.

And we have been very poor at controlling our internet usage. We found that many of our devices – particularly the apple ones – treat our MiFi device as if it’s a bottomless well of data. It looks to them just like any other WiFi that you have at home and so assumes that there are no limits. We had to do quite a lot of tweaking to change the settings to reduce data use and even then we are still finding our home habits of surfing whenever we feel like it difficult to break. As a result we have overspent on data top-ups. This will be even more important to control when we get into Europe where our data limits will be further restricted by providers; despite the removal of roaming charges many providers still have limits and restrictions when data is used in Europe.

Otherwise all of our other costs are slightly lower than expected, so we’re pretty happy. Many people say that motorhoming in the UK is far more expensive than in the rest of Europe, but with the current exchange rate I think that costs will be pretty similar across the southern European countries. We will be able to compare and contrast once we’ve done a bit more travelling.

On a final note, with our initial income from selling our car and various refunds on bills, plus our income from renting out our house and the general rise in investment value of our savings, our net worth in in purely numeric terms is slightly higher than when we left. I suspect we’re not quite beating inflation though and of course investment values can go down so we’ll have to see what the future brings.