This story is part of CNBC Make It’s Millennial Silver series, which details how people around the world earn, spend and save their money.
For a long time, Amber and Jaylyn Bush frequently moved to where Jaylyn, a Marine, was stationed. But after about eight years, they were ready for a change.
“We didn’t know how long we would be living in basic housing and homes that would never be ours,” Amber, 30, told CNBC Make It. “I wanted to have something that belonged to us and that we could take with us wherever it was parked.”
Growing up in a military family, Amber was used to living a nomadic lifestyle. She viewed buying an RV as a way to own her home while having the freedom to easily relocate to whatever Marine base Jaylyn was assigned to.
“It was always a dream of his,” says Jaylyn, 28. “Living simpler and living a more minimal life and getting rid of things we didn’t really need.”
But initially, Jaylyn wasn’t convinced. The selling point: how much money they could save.
“Instead of investing $2,600 a month in a house we would never own, that $2,600 a month was going towards paying for a truck, paying for an RV, our RV site. because where we stayed, then the rest was used to save,” says Amber. .
They started saving and in November 2019 they bought their first RV for $26,000 with a $10,000 down payment.
Now the couple earn around $93,000 a year and travel the country in their RV with their one-year-old daughter, Journey, and dog, Louie. Jaylyn receives a pension after being medically discharged from the Marines, while Amber works remotely as a project analyst for a tech company.
Road to RV life
The couple met in high school when Amber’s family moved to Virginia. In 2012, after graduating — Amber in 2010 and Jaylyn in 2011 — they started dating, eventually getting married in 2013.
None of the Bushes decided to go to college, although Amber took a few classes from time to time. “My family almost told me that if I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, it was a waste of time,” she says.
Instead of going to college, Amber became a nanny for a military officer, while Jaylyn joined the Marines and served as a weapons instructor at Camp Pendleton in San Onofre, California. Joining the army wasn’t his original plan, but he says it was a way for him to take care of himself and Amber.
The couple initially struggled. They lived with family members for 10 months until they can afford their own apartment.
“We ate on the floor because we had no furniture,” Amber recalls. “We slept on a hot air mattress because we had no money to buy a mattress.”
When they moved into their first motorhome in November 2019, they faced a whole new set of challenges. “We had never even stayed in an RV before. We were terrified of even emptying the tank or holding the RV with the truck,” says Amber. “It was brand new territory for us.”
But they understood. In January 2021, the couple sold their first RV and upgraded to a larger one, which cost $58,000, including a $10,000 cash down payment using the proceeds from the sale.
One of the biggest benefits of living in a motorhome: the freedom to see the country without disturbing their daughter’s surroundings too much, say Amber and Jaylyn.
Plus, Amber says she was recently diagnosed with OCD, so living tiny gives her less room to worry about staying organized.
How they spend their money
Here’s how Amber and Jaylyn spent their money in June 2022.
- Discretionary: $3,460 for expenses including travel, sightseeing, clothing, hardware, and gym pass
- Food: $2,868 for groceries and restaurant meals
- Transportation: $1,766 to pay for their truck and gas
- RV sites and parking: $1,694
- Investments: $1,186 Donated to Shared Savings Account, Daughter Savings Account, IRA, and Crypto Investments
- RV loan payment: $678
- Insurance: $296 for auto, renters, home and phone insurance
- Utilities: $71 for Wi-Fi, heat, and propane
- Call: $95
- Subscriptions: $68 for chiropractor, cloud storage and website domain
The couple also say they have spent around $20,000 on repairs and maintenance since 2020.
“Five months of travel and we had a flat tire, we blew an axle,” says Amber. Recently they had to fix the air conditioning in the front of their RV after it was ripped off while trying to get under a low bridge.
Having insurance was key. Towing their RV after it broke down would have cost nearly $3,300, but with insurance, they only had to pay the $500 deductible.
Additionally, Amber and Jaylyn currently have approximately $4,200 in credit card debt, which they are struggling to pay off. Together they have a few credit cards, including an American Express Platinum card, whose annual fee is waived for military families.
As for savings, the couple has about $11,200 in a joint savings account and $4,000 in a savings account for Journey.
Projects for the future
In the future, Jaylyn plans to work on her photography. He initially chose it as a hobby, but now wants to go to school in order to sharpen his skills and become more competitive.
Amber says she has earned around $400 from her blog “Amber in Wanderland” and hopes to make it a bigger source of income in the future.
All in all, however, the couple aren’t planning on quitting RV life anytime soon.
“Five to 10 years from now, I see myself still traveling,” Amber says. “I’m so used to living a nomadic lifestyle from being raised in a military family that I really enjoy living on the road since I have my home with me.”