Sunday March 30th, 2014
We’re down to the wire. April 18th is my last of work and we vacate the apartment on the 19th at which time we’ll be full-time Airstreamers. We’ve done a lot of work over the past few months to get ready for this day. Cindy continues to pare down our stuff with multiple trips to Goodwill while I continue to add to our stuff with RV-specific acquisitions. When you live in a house or apartment and have a pretty decent job, a lot of things are taken for granted: internet service, cable TV, water, electricity, health insurance, phone service, mail delivery, etc. In a normal life, all of these things are easy to come by, but as a full-timer you have to figure out if and how you’re going to continue these services. RV Forums and especially blogs by other full-timers are great ways to find out how others provide the necessities of life. Here’s how we’re going to do it:
Like a lot of other RV’ers, we chose Millenicom for Internet access. For $160 start up and $90 per month with no added taxes, fees or contract, you get 20 GB per month. The $160 includes a $100 charge for a WIFI mobile hotspot device which is yours to keep. As of this writing, they’re shipping the Pantech MHS291LVW Jetpack that supports up to 10 wireless devices. While Millenicom doesn’t advertise it (I don’t think they’re allowed to), they are a reseller of Verizon’s 3G/4G wireless service. This is pretty obvious when you see the Verizon-labeled SIM card included with the Jetpack. We’re not sure how much Internet we’ll use on the road, but from what I read, 20GB should be plenty for heavy surfing and the occasional video (Note to self: cancel Netflix Streaming).
I wish I could say reading, travel and an appreciation for nature would fulfill our lives but we’re just not ready to give up our cable TV and DVR. We selected Dish’s Tailgater which is a satellite dish enclosed within a weather-resistance housing. We simply plug it into the coax port on the side of the Airstream, place it on the ground and it automatically finds the necessary satellites. We chose the Tailgater over a permanently installed roof-mounted dish for 2 reasons: 1) we want to reserve our roof space for solar panels which we plan to add next year before heading out West and 2) we don’t have to park the Airstream with a clear view to the sky to get a satellite signal. When camping in or around trees, we use an app called Dishpointer AR Pro. It uses the iPhone camera to display our surroundings overlaid with icons representing satellites. By walking around with the iPhone pointed at the sky, we can locate a spot to place the Tailgater where it won’t be obstructed by trees or other obstacles. For a $40 one-time charge, we also added a 1TB USB drive to our satellite receiver for DVR functionality. Even though we can’t live without cable TV, at least we’re not slaves to TV schedules and commercials.
Water seems to be the biggest challenge to boondocking which we plan to do a lot of once we’re out West. For this, we simply purchased six 5-gallon water jugs through Amazon. Now we don’t have to hitch up and move the Airstream every time we run low on water.
I could write a book on this topic. There are only 2 ways to get electrical power: 1) plug in at a campsite where electricity is available or 2) generate your own. Since we plan to boondock whenever possible, we’ll have to generate our own and to do so we’ll need either a generator or solar panels. Our Airstream came with a 600W full sine wave inverter which will safely provide 120 AC current to power our entertainment system, laptops, and other small appliances. Most RVs come with an inverter which converts your batteries’ 12 volt DC power to 120 volt AC power. Be forewarned that many RVs come with a modified sine wave inverter instead of a full sine wave inverter. Full sine wave inverters can cost 3 times as much as a modified sine wave inverter but modified sine wave inverters can damage sensitive electrical devices like laptops. Be sure you know what you have and research this topic further before deciding what you can safely power.
Since our first year will be spent on the East coast and we’ll parked under trees much of the time, we’ve decided to go with a Honda EU2000i gasoline-powered generator for now. It’s small, quiet and convenient. We’ll use it to recharge the batteries and we should get some idea of just how much battery power we’ll use on a daily basis which will come in handy in deciding how many solar panels (watts) we’ll need to meet our daily demand.
Even though we’ve planned and saved for an early retirement over the past 25 years, finding affordable health insurance before becoming Medicare-elligiable has always been the great unknown. I can honestly say that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) has enabled us to cut the golden handcuffs that kept us bound to corporate-sponsored health insurance. Through healthcare.gov, we were able to find a policy with Blue Cross Blue Shield which offers a large nationwide network with deductibles much lower than our employer-sponsored plan. And because the cost of living for full-time RVing is so low, our needed income makes us eligible for a sizable tax credit on our insurance premiums.
I lose my company-issued cellphone on the last day of work. Even though we’ll use Cindy’s iPhone through Verizon, there will be times when we’re separated or Verizon service is not available. Having a backup and cheap alternative is a must. We have an old iPhone 3 that was on an AT&T plan. We had the phone unlocked, purchased a new SIM card for $10 and signed up with H20 Wireless on a pay-as-you-go plan. H20 is a reseller of AT&T. The minimum is $10 every 90 days. There’s usage-based charges for voice, data, and texts but I doubt we’ll go beyond the ten bucks.
How we get mail is the most often asked question we get from family and friends when discussing our full-timing plans. There’s lots of options and since we already live in Florida we chose Good Sam which gives us a Florida street address which is required for car registration, health insurance, etc. We chose their 12 month basic plan which comes to $9/month. You have to pay postage and a small handling fee each time you want your mail forwarded. Typically it’s sent via USPS Priority Flat Rate envelope and costs around $7. About 25-30 pieces of mail can fit into the Priority envelope (junk mail is shredded). We sign up for electronic billing whenever possible to keep our mail volume to a minimum. I suspect we’ll have our mail forwarded about once every 3-4 weeks.by