Lesson: Affording the Hiatus

Pretty much everyone’s first question for us has been – how are you affording this hiatus?

As promised, here are some insights into our budget after one month on the road!

Getting Started:

We wish we could say that there is a secret trick to being able to take off work for three years…but there just isn’t. In our case, there were a few factors that contributed to our financial freedom.

  1. We made some very fortunate investments in real estate in a hot East Nashville market that have provided us with a moderately substantial windfall.
  2. We are grandfathered into an old school teacher pension plan in Tennessee that allows us freedom to return to the classroom with full benefits. We will just have to work three more years past retirement age to get our years in. We consider this “borrowing from retirement.”
  3. We sold everything and have very little overhead. All five phases of our hiatus are designed to maximize the bang for our buck! Phases Two and Four (PCT and CDT thru-hiking) will be particularly low cost. Phases One  and Five are the most expensive.
  4. We really really really wanted to do it! We had the drive and motivation to make all the pieces come together. We consider this the essential ingredient!

Phase One Budget Goals:

Before we even committed to this plan, we set an initial anticipated budget for each phase and for each month on a Google Spreadsheet.

We also made a “Big Picture” budget to account for all assets and expected expenses. It was important to us that we only embark on this journey if we could afford to come back with enough money to resume our lives without living in penury!

We have definitely had to make adjustments to the budget for Phase One after the first month. Living in Nashville spoiled us on gas prices and we underestimated the cost by HALF! For example, we just paid $3.99/gal in the Bighorn National Forest!

We have also spent more on food than expected in our first month, but that’s mostly because we bought a bunch of freeze dried back up meals on Amazon before we left. I suspect we could really even reduce our current budget, but we really love to eat!

However, we spent less on RV living expenses than anticipated by boondocking/dry camping much more than staying in campgrounds (see note below). Also, our two 30# propane tanks have gone a lot further than expected. We still haven’t had to replenish our canisters!

Tips for Staying on Budget with RV Life:

  1. We record every single expense as we spend it on our Google Spreadsheet.
  2. We use Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Hosts as much as possible to save money on campgrounds and RV living expenses. We generally only stay in a campground every third or fourth night. When there are no Boondockers Welcome or Harvest Hosts nearby, we usually use Campendium to find “boondocking” sites. If we are planning to stay at a campground, we generally stay at a Passport America site where we get 50% off!
  3. Most of our activities are FREE (or nearly free). We spend most of our time outdoors using our own gear. However, state park fees do tend to add up over time. Traveling with a dog also helps keep us from overspending since it’s usually not possible to go to museums or events with him!
  4. Our biggest expense right now is GAS! It only helps a little, but we use Gasbuddy to try to find the cheapest gas stations on route in advance of needing gas.
  5. We are not currently working, but we know many people who full-time do have remote jobs or do work camping. These are also great options for bringing in a little extra cash for your budget. We do have a small passive income, which helps offset our budget as well.

We welcome any questions or comments! We know you are all curious and may be thinking about doing this too. We will answer any questions in the comments below or feel free to contact us directly. We look forward to hearing from you!


  1. Betty


    Exciting journey and thanks for sharing! Please consider writing a book about your journey.


    1. Melissa

      Thanks for following along, Betty! Will consider the book idea :). For now, just happy to have the readership on this blog.

  2. Julie

    I love that you guys are following your dreams and found ways to afford it. Where there is a will there is a way 😀
    Love you guys.

    1. Melissa

      Love you too! Thanks for the support. We’re having a great time and learning a lot!

  3. Kaevonda

    Is Chip’s food factored into your grocery budget?

    1. Melissa

      Yes! Though we bought a big ole 30 pound bag before we left and haven’t replenished it yet. We have to buy some this week though.

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