Categories
The News And Times – thenewsandtimes.com - Posts

How my partner and I live on $2,000 to $3,500 a month while living full-time in a van

The author Donna Paul smiling next to her white RAM vanThe backbone of this nomadic lifestyle lies in the art of budgeting.

Donna Paul

  • My fiancée and I live in a van full time while traveling around North America.
  • We pay for a housesitters’ membership and gym access to have places to sleep and shower.
  • Gas is expensive and it’s hard to find affordable, safe overnight parking.

While traveling North America in our camper van, my fiancée and I have learned that van life extends beyond Instagram-worthy moments.

This isn’t a vacation for us — it’s our full-time lifestyle, so being money-conscious is a must.

Our month-to-month bills vary, but our recurring monthly expenses reach up to $3,500 when consistently traveling in the van. They can drop to about $2,000 a month when we house-sit.

Here’s a glimpse into some of the ongoing things we need to consider while living this nomadic lifestyle on a budget, and what we do to cut costs.

Finding affordable, secure overnight parking is one of the most difficult parts of this life

white van parked in sand in the desert with sunrise behind itWe always need to find a place to park our van.

Donna Paul

Finding overnight parking spots can be a real challenge for budget-conscious travelers.

Paid campsites can vary from $25-a-night fees to rates over $150 per night at luxurious RV resorts. It’s possible to find free campsites, but they can book up in advance and aren’t always along our route.

Stealth camping (camping in urban areas for a brief period of time) or boondocking (camping on public land) is a cost-free alternative.

We frequently use these methods for overnight parking but it can be tiring and stressful to find safe, level spots that aren’t intrusive to locals.

Plus, stealth camping and boondocking aren’t legal everywhere, so we spend time researching the bylaws of the specific areas where we plan to stay the night.

To save some money and headaches, we pay an annual fee of under $100 for access to the site Boondockers Welcome, which helps us find safe places to park overnight.

Sometimes, we even have access to hosts that offer their driveways and amenities like water, electricity, and Wi-Fi.

Watching people’s houses and pets also helps us save money

During our travels, we exchange pet care for rent to manage our expenses and receive creature comforts of home while on the road.

To do this, we rely on our Trusted Housesitters membership. For an annual fee of less than $200 — comparable to the cost of a single night’s stay at an Airbnb — we take care of others’ homes and pets.

We’re also actively working to turn our pet-sitting skills into a business.

Managing fuel costs is essential for budget-conscious travel

Fuel is one of the most significant expenses of van life.

Gas prices are unpredictable and vary from city to city. The weight of a home on wheels, as well as the distance, elevation, and speed at which you travel, can make every mile an expensive venture.

Along our travels, we’ve paid anywhere from $100 up to $200 to fill our 24-gallon gas tank. Our most recent trip to the pump cost us $75 and that only took us from empty to half full.

To help with fuel costs, we plan our routes carefully and use apps like Gas Buddy to find cheap gas nearby.

House sitting has also been a great strategy for saving on fuel expenses, as we don’t drive often during those periods, and sometimes even have the use of the homeowners’ car.

Regular vehicle maintenance is also a large chunk of our budget

Side of woman's head as she looks back into van with kitchen counter and sofaOur home on wheels regularly needs maintinence.

Donna Paul

Most people’s vehicles regularly require maintenance and repairs, but the stakes are higher when you live in your ride.

Recently, we faced an unexpected expense with sudden brake repairs, setting us back $2,500.

If we’d needed more extensive repairs, we may have needed to stay in a hotel while our van was fixed.

Managing food costs helps us stay within our budget

Carrots, vegetables, and cutting boards on wooden counter inside a vanWe save money by preparing a lot of meals ourselves.

Donna Paul

Dining out can be pricey, so we’re mindful of what we spend on food.

We save money by cooking our own budget-friendly, plant-based meals in our van. This approach allows us to indulge in local businesses, like coffee shops, without exceeding our budget.

Hygiene on the road is important, but it comes with a cost

In van life, staying clean can impact your budget.

Although our camper van has a functional shower, using it depletes our water and power. To save on both, we sometimes shower at a local recreation center for $2 to $8 a person.

Some folks on the road buy gym memberships to help stay clean (and fit) while on the road.

Gyms like Planet Fitness have locations around the US and offer budget-friendly plans that start as low as $10 a month.

Factoring in additional expenses makes our budget more realistic

Woman and dog sitting on bed in front of open van doors looking out at treesWe have money set aside in case or pet has an emergency.

Donna Paul

Additional costs add up, so it’s important to plan for them.

We don’t have a washer and dryer, so we budget for laundry costs that vary based on our location and the amount of clothes we have.

As pet owners, we budget for vet visits, food, and supplies for our dog. Though we haven’t needed a PO Box yet, we might need to rent one for mail in the future since we don’t have a permanent address.

Setting finances aside, we value van life for the freedom it provides, the adventure it brings, and the lasting memories we create together.

We’re determined to stray our own way, embracing a life where the journey itself is the ultimate destination.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The post How my partner and I live on $2,000 to $3,500 a month while living full-time in a van first appeared on The News And Times.