it’s a new season, but i’m calling it episode 29 so i don’t have to change the way i name my show notes URL.
welcome back. it’s the same ol’ bullshit, except in a van.
morning punks, future scumvanners of america.
welcome to season 2, episode 1 of hi how are you, a VAN LIFE podcast for the uninitiated, lazy and perpetually nomadic.
for those tuning in to the video component, you probably didn’t even realize there was a podcast, so if you find anything useful out of this and prefer an audio only format, make sure you tune in at hihowareyou.us/SUBSCRIBE for more self-help sprinkled with van stuff, mild wit, and the occasional relapse.
for those coming from my podcast link, don’t worry, you’re not missing out on anything yet. this is a new component i’ll be working on for select videos and releasing primarily through my instagram channel @tripvanstinkle
so if you’re not friends with me there, you’re welcome to hit me up.
this video we’re gonna discuss everyone’s most and least favorite topic – robert deniro. blueface, baby.
ben franklins, cash money records, we’re talking cold hard expenses and the COST of van dwelling full time.
now, i wanna preface by saying everyone’s financial situation is different. i’m giving you guys a very specific scenario of how much it costs realistically to van dwell.
some of you are ballin, shot callin, income is plentiful and budgets are laughable. you’re probably riding around in a converted sprinter with an air conditioner that runs off of solar.
some of you are barely making ends meet, working check to check, and living in your vehicle out of necessity. you’re sacrificing a stable, safe place to lay your head and leave your belongings in exchange for pocketing a little extra cash at the end of the day for essentials like food, clothes, a propane refill for that coleman stove you got.
i think i’m somewhere in the middle, i’m not quite desolate, i have some support and a decent full time job. i could actually probably afford an apartment, but trust me when i say my budget would be tighter than cardi b’s dress at a strip club performance.
i wouldn’t be happy knowing so much of my money was going toward something i cant own. we all do this, every single day. but it’s normalized because you have to LIVE somewhere.
and let’s be honest, generally speaking, people tend to look down at people who stay in their van, unless they’re able to glamorize it in a way that will get them instagram followers.
so to anyone who’s thinking of getting into van dwelling full time, rich in funds, and NOT so rich in funds, understand that your expenses may vary from your neighbor’s. you might all be doing the same thing, but your paths, your resources are very different.
so let’s talk about me for a second. the nitty gritty details. how much do i spend living in my van?
number one, let’s talk about the different types of expenses. we’ll call these initial costs, monthly costs, and other costs,
your initial cost will depend on what type of vehicle you decide to dwell in, and any associated costs for building it out to be livable full-time.
on a low end, you may already have a van to stay in, maybe it’s an old family camper, or maybe you get a good deal on an older vehicle but might have to do some repairs.
or maybe you decide to finance either an empty shell cargo van like i did or a fully converted rv like those with too much money.
either way, your initial cost will vary depending on you and your budget. if you go cheap and buy an older vehicle, be prepared to put in money for repairs or set emergency money aside just in case.
if you go high and decide to buy something you have to do very little work to, already built out, expect a premium for your laziness, expensive insurance, and probably more stuff than you need in the first place.
it’ll probably have a toilet you’ll never use, or an AC you can only run on a gas generator but this kind of stuff will drastically bump your price up.
i personally decided to finance a 2016 promaster, empty cargo. initial cost was my down payment, i think around $3k?
i also decided to only add things as i need them, like my bed, which i repurposed from my old full size mattress and frame, cutting them in half and giving me more of a prison cot to sleep in, but i was grateful for the space i had.
i got a cabinet for free from work, took that as a win and turned around and spent around $2000 between the solar system and the yeti generator i bought.
granted, i got it at a pretty discounted price, but i didn’t ever want to have to worry about electricity.
so before move in, i’d say my total initial cost was around 5k.
sure, my bank account was hurtin, but i figured if i didnt kill myself, i’d make some more major renovations 6 months from then.
monthly expenses upfront, once i tally everything, my monthly expenses related to van life equates to $1,170 a month.
this does not include things like credit cards and student loan (around $500), my phone (around $75) food, hulu, netflix, business expenses like hosting, recurring software subscriptions for my podcasts, websites, affiliate marketing blah blah blah.
this is strictly related to my van.
let me break it down. the biggest portion is $460 for my car note. i financed it, so this number is set in stone until i refinance.
tied for second place is my gas and pet rent budget.
the money i could save if my own gas could refill my tank, but instead i am putting around $200 into my tank every month, give or take.
my van is a beast with gas unless shes on the freeway; otherwise, she is a goddess. during the summer, i tend to waste more gas idling my car to cool down, but hopefully those days are behind me.
i put another $200 aside for pet rent, which is essentially money on reserve for people who watch my dog during the day.
my son can’t stay in the van while i work, especially while living in houston tx. he’d die, straight up.
so i have a small network of people who help me out from time to time, but one day the goal is to be able to work from inside my van, WITH my dawg.
fourth is my car insurance, around $140. i’m actually pretty okay with that, the coverage is good, deductible is nothing to sweat in case of emergency. and i would be paying for insurance ANYWAY because its the law.
next is my storage unit, which, as someone who’s pushing for a minimalist lifestyle, is a complete waste of fucking time, excuse my french montana.
$70 for a 10×20 foot unit, their smallest btw, paying to keep stuff that honestly isn’t even worth 70 bucks. goal is to get rid of that expense by the end of the year.
for emergencies, i put aside $50 a month MINIMUM just in case of emergency, some unexpected car trouble may come up and it could cost you a pretty penny. also cant neglect regular maintenance like oil changes and new tires. might as well start saving up for those days.
$40 a month is for tolls to get to and from work, or if you’re car dweller, you may want to consider parking fees if you’re going to try stealth camping overnight in a parking garage or lot.
for me personally, i spend no money on parking, but every once in a while i might splurge on a campsite.
finally, $10 a month for a gym membership, which equates to a place to get clean and if you’re feeling adventurous, get a workout in.
so all of that is $1,170. $1,170 bucks to be able to drive your house around. to me, i see it as the monthly costs of an apartment, paying for electricity, gas, water, rental insurance, and the most obvious devil in a dirty brick wall dress, rent.
to me, it’s worth the tradeoff.
other expenses i did have to upgrade my bedframe and mattress, which was 200 combined, as well as a new floor mat for another $200, but these were necessary to be happy in my environment.
the final, and probably most important expense is the mental cost. there are a lot of pros and cons to living in your car, van, rv. the griminess can get to you sometimes. the lack of normalcy, having to adjust minute parts of your life to satisfy your van life requirements.
sometimes it can be hard and sometimes it can be lonely. it can be uncomfortable, stressful, but just like with everything, you will adapt.
there’s a reason you’re living in your van. i’m personally trying to pay down my credit card, which is well over 5 figures. if i dump all the money i’m saving on rent into my debt, i can actually get my expenses down to a manageable amount. from there, i can pay off my van and continue to put money aside for a future where i don’t die in my mid 30s.
so just remember your reasons, and if they don’t align with your sanity, then it may be time to re-evaluate what we’re doing.
so once again, your mileage may vary.
your income may far exceed mine, it may be less than my own, maybe you’re traveling and don’t get the benefit of remaining stationary for too long. you may have different goals than i do.
but it’s all up to you and your resources. what kind of skills can offset some of that cost? can you do it for cheaper? or are you bustin down the walls and buying that fully converted 2018 roadtrek 190 you fell in love with? i feel ya. if i had the budget, so would i.
let me know in the comments below if you’re living in your car or van full time and how much it’s costing you on average. is it more or less than you expected?
let me know, and don’t forget to subscribe and rate wherever you are so you can stay up to date on any bullshit i might have going on.