Living Tiny: The Longnecker’s 5th Wheel RV Adventure

Living Tiny: The Longnecker's 5th Wheel RV Adventure | And Then We Saved

At ATWS we’re interested in challenging the norm of debt and spending. That’s why once a month we feature people who have gone to (what some would say) extreme means with their living situations to get out of debt, save money and live a simpler life. Today we have a tour with the Longnecker family. The Longneckers are a family of six that recently sold their house to live a life of adventure in a 5th wheel trailer. Take it away, ya’ll!

Hi there! We are the Longneckers (aka BareNeckers). Jonathan (the Dad), Ashley (the Mom) and our four awesome kids! Adali (10), Jett (8), Jax (6) and Ada (4).

Jonathan runs his own web design shop, FortySeven Media, and I am able to homeschool/roadschool/unschool our kids. We blog often about our unconventional ideas and adventures as a family.

We sold our 2,700 sq. ft home six months ago and used the profit to buy our Ford F350 truck and Grand Design Reflection 5th wheel. It’s 300 sq. ft of paid for awesomeness that we have made into our own tiny home. We currently are on the east coast of the US and will be in the Florida Keys for the month of December, then we head out west for a couple of years.

Why did you decide to move into an RV?

We had talked about selling our home for a couple years in order to travel full-time but didn’t get serious until September of 2014. We set a goal to be out of our house and pay cash for a 5th wheel within one year which meant we had a lot get done in a relatively short amount of time. God opened doors for us and we sold our house in 12 days of being on the market (we figured we had six months before it would sell). We quickly bought our trailer and have been on the road since May 2015.

With Jonathan having his own Internet-based business it was a really easy decision for us to turn our lives upside down and go on a crazy adventure. We couldn’t pass up the idea of being totally debt-free and being able to go and do just about anything we wanted. We already homeschooled our kids, so there wouldn’t be much of a change there. The biggest hurdle we had is trying to figure out how to downsize our lives and travel often as a family of six.

We just started questioning why we were spending so much time/effort/money to maintain our huge house. Surely there was a better way. We think this is it for us.

Living Tiny: The Longnecker's 5th Wheel RV Adventure | And Then We Saved

Please describe the process of buying your home.

We were so close to buying a new Open Range fifth wheel but it was over 42 feet long and since we had zero experience hauling any type of trailer we figured we would try to get something smaller. The kids fell in love with the 37 foot Grand Design Reflection 323 BHS and Jonathan and I knew we could paint and put our own touches on it to make it look like something close to our style.

We would LOVE to travel in an Airstream because they are totally our style and the ease of no slides and simplifying our lives even more is appealing, but with four kids that are growing quickly, we figured we just shouldn’t have something that small in order for us to truly enjoy traveling as a family. They need their own space and we do as well.

How long have you been living in your RV?

We have been on the road for six months now and we are loving it. No signs of settling down anytime soon.

Living Tiny: The Longnecker's 5th Wheel RV Adventure | And Then We Saved

Please describe your home.

Our home ‘mostly’ is how we envisioned it. There are several things we would love to change but just are not worth the time right now. It was a new trailer when we bought it and looks fine but if we got to pick from the ground up, it would look a lot different.

Before we purchased it we had already agreed that I would paint the walls. I just can’t do the tan wall paper along with the brown carpet, dark cabinets. Just too much tan and brown! I painted it the same colors as our home. My original plan was to paint all the walls this really light gray color and the ceilings would be a light teal color. Jon was afraid that with the ceiling being teal it would affect his work. Now that he was seen the two parts of ceilings I have done, I think that will probably happen in the future.

We took out the massive sofa and replaced it with two chairs from IKEA and a matching ottoman (with storage). We added several pieces from IKEA that have helped simplify our lives greatly.

We just stopped in Tennessee, after 5 months on the road, so that we could drop more of our things off in storage that we never ended up using. We took way too much.

Living Tiny: The Longnecker's 5th Wheel RV Adventure | And Then We Saved

If you feel comfortable, we’d love to hear about the financial part of buying or building your home? What was your budget?

When we first sat down and talked about what we were looking to spend we had said we would save $20,000 for a decent F350 to haul the 5th wheel. We ended up finding an amazing truck on Craigslist for just $14,000 and we were able to pay cash for it in February.

When talking about our budget for our trailer, there were several aspects involved but we knew we didn’t want to go over $50,000.

We really had to think about what our house would sell for and how much profit we would get from the sell. I knew there were several things working in our favor.

  1. I had designed our house with selling in mind. We had no ‘personal’ items in our house. No family pictures on the wall. Only cool, unique art that I had made which really saved us lots of money. We had fresh painted walls, and I had added a few unique features that other houses in our neighborhood didn’t have.
  2. I was able to stage our house and get really great pictures to advertise our house. We knew we wanted to try to sell our house ourselves to really cut down on having to pay an agent. We wanted to pocket as much of the profit as we could and I had full confidence that we could do it ourselves.
  3. We had an amazing yard. We added this great tiered garden in the back of our lot that was otherwise unusable. We also had people coming out to fertilize our yard each month so the grass was one of the best on our street. My dad had just helped us put in a really nice stone wall in the front and I really feel that brought up our curb appeal to a new level.
  4. Our house was different. It was one of the biggest on our street but the inside had a totally different feel than the others that were on the market in our neighborhood.

I knew we would be able to sell it fast, just didn’t think it would sell in 12 days!

We went back and forth over buying new or used 5th wheel but ended up that we figured it would be worth it to buy new since we knew we would be buying cash AND we would have a good warranty on it. Since we knew we would have this for at least five years it was worth it for us to buy new.

Did it cost more than you anticipated to buy your home? 

We had budgeted for $50,000 but with an added warranty and sales tax, it ended being around $55,000 total. We had to purchase our trailer before our house had officially sold so we ‘financed’ it but with the sell of our house happening just two weeks later, we were able to pay the entire bill off before our first payment was even due! Such an amazing feeling to owe no one anything!

Living Tiny: The Longnecker's 5th Wheel RV Adventure | And Then We Saved

What has been the most surprising cost of living in a tiny house/Airstream?

Truck repairs! We knew there would be some since we had purchased a 2002 F350 but we didn’t plan on having such major repairs just a few months in. Within the first five months we had to totally replace the transmission, new brakes, wheel bearings, staring box, door latches/locks, ball joints and some other minor repairs. We have easy spent over $6,000 in truck repairs which brings me to something I always tell people when they ask about full-time travel…. ALWAYS HAVE A LARGE EMERGENCY FUND!!! ALWAYS!

Have you saved money since living in the RV?

Yes and no. The first six months are what we’d call a transition period. Yeah we sold a ton of stuff, but living full-time on the road does require other new things to be bought. Also, those truck repairs. Ouch! The months where we haven’t been buying what I like to call “initial travel expenses,” we’ve been able to save a lot. We knew our first year on the road we would be figuring out what we needed on the road. There are still a few things we would like to purchase in order to be able to boondock [camping without hookups] for long periods of time such as a generator and/or solar panels. But for the most part, we have been able to purchase the majority of our necessities in the first five months on the road. We look forward to saving even more next year as we plan on doing a lot more boondocking out west!

How do your costs compare to your life before the RV?

It depends on the spot. Some places are super cheap, and some would cost more than our mortgage if we stayed there all month. And early on, we definitely were living like we were on vacation. Now that we’re six months in, that is changing a lot. We’ve been systematically joining certain memberships like Harvest Hosts, Thousand Trails and Passport America to keep nightly costs down. And we’re accumulating gear that lets us stay at cheaper places that may not have sewer, water or electrical hookups.

Once we get through the transition of getting all the gear we need, I can definitely say we’ll be spending much, much less on the road if we’re smart about it.

Living Tiny: The Longnecker's 5th Wheel RV Adventure | And Then We Saved

Please describe your daily life. (How do you work, exercise, eat meals, etc.?)

This is the hard part for us. We had a good plan when we lived in our house. Jon had his own office with doors he could shut during work hours and I had somewhat of a schedule with the kids school work and activity time. We also had a workout routine that we would do with the kids in the evenings and I had plenty of time to prepare healthy meals and healthy grocery stores were easy to access.

We are still trying to figure out the best way to get exercise in. We do lots of hikes and bike rides with the kids but are not always in a place where we can do that every day. We are currently working on trying to figure that part out. The first six months on the road have been full of transition for us so we are just now feeling like we’re out of vacation mode and getting serious about figuring out our own personal fitness goals and what that looks like living in a tiny house.

Jon usually has set hours in the morning and is free to go explore with us in the afternoons and evenings. We tend to stay around the house in the mornings and get school work done and chores done around the house.

What is your favorite part of your home?

Humm, tough question. We love the fact that we can move anytime we want, obviously. I love that our living room greatly resembles our last house. I brought my favorite curtains that we had in our home and sewed them to fit the windows in our RV. The furniture isn’t RV furniture so it truly feels cozy and more like a home than when we first bought it.

What is the best part about living in your home? The worst part?

The best part is that we own it. We can do whatever we want to it. The worst part would have to be the small water heater. We have six gallons to shower six people with. Ha, military style showers are really not relaxing at all. I told Jon that it would be worth it to rent a hotel room once every six months or so just so that we can take really long showers and never run out of hot water. Ahh….

What advice do you have for other people who want to live a similar lifestyle?

ALWAYS HAVE A BIG EMERGENCY FUND! That’s our best advice.

You also have to have somewhat of a plan. If you don’t have a job that you can do on the road, chances are this is not for you. We hear a lot of people just taking off and not knowing where they will get the money to fund this lifestyle… that doesn’t seem like a great idea to me.

We do have a couple friends who do work camping which means that they are finding RV parks or resorts who they will work for in exchange for a full hookup site and pay. Those are great options if you don’t have an Internet-based job. We are actually considering finding a job like that for me to be able to do a few days a week just so that we can bump our our savings quicker. We will see how that goes!

Thanks Ashley and family! If you want to follow more of the Longnecker’s adventures, visit their blog or follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Periscope

Would you ever consider selling your home and hitting the road with the family in tow? Let’s chat in the comments!

P.S. Looking to declutter and minimize? CLICK HERE to learn about the Fearless Minimalist Guide


4 thoughts on “Living Tiny: The Longnecker’s 5th Wheel RV Adventure

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  1. Erin

    This is my dream!! So cool. I’ve been looking at travel trailers for a while and just haven’t made the leap. Being recently single, I’m beginning to think now is the perfect time. Thanks for the inspiration! :)

  2. Lauren Martin

    We did! Well, we downsized and bought a 32ft. Jayco and completely remodeled it (all documented on my blog!) It’s been over 4 months now and we couldn’t be happier! It’s just us and our two dogs.

    While we haven’t really ‘saved money’ yet like in the post, there are a lot of unforeseen costs to RV/trailer living, but they’re definitely no more than having to rent an apartment or home.

    I love the sense of freedom that comes with owning our own trailer and being able to move anywhere, anytime!
    Lauren Jade
    Lauren Jade Lately
    ‘Simplifying Life, Maximizing Happiness’

  3. Ken Hunter

    I think I’m missing something. Our family of 4 want to do this, but don’t understand how it works out when you have to pay as much as you do for some of these campgrounds that are as high or if not higher than our 1700$ mortgage. Do you Boondock as much as possible ? Please explain and thank you for your reply, love your plan.


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