Cost of Vanlife
This post is part of our #vanlifequestions series on our Instagram. We were asked how much money did we save for #vanlife?
Vanlife is in no way an escape from the system, although it is a small step on the path of simple and sustainable living. Let’s be real here. We buy gas and food. We buy van parts and bike parts and wetsuits. And I am still swimming in student loan debt pea soup. Yes, we could go live on remote land and forage for food, but this not our current desire. Maybe one day. Vanlife for us is not about living as cheaply as possible. No. Vanlife is about transforming work, igniting our passion and connecting to nature and community. All of these things require money in this world. Money and the vanlife movement are inseparable.
To answer the question directly… Vanlife for me was a launch out of a traditional job and into experimental remote work on the road. A few months before our vanlife began in January 2013, I entered into a contract with a marketing agency in New Hampshire. I was hired for 15 hours/week doing freelance web work. This was a huge relief, as we had 10k in our savings after purchasing the van. We hit the road knowing we had consistent work for at least 6 months. You know, that snuggly blanket called perceived security.
The Real Cost of Vanlife
The truth is that there is no hard rule for how much vanlife costs. The savings needed to begin are personal and dependent on one thing only, your spending. And even for us, our spending has greatly varied, adjusting to the ebbs and flows of freelance work and seasonal work. Here are factors to consider when saving for the road:
- Length of time on the road. Do you plan on being on the road for a few months? A year? Indefinitely? Know you’re monthly projected expenses and income and generate the savings you need to feel comfortable to launch.
- Rate of travel. The faster you move and the more cities you visit, the more money you spend.
- Camping plan. Where will you sleep? Campgrounds can be great but certainly add up. Are you ready to sleep in more remote places? Will you be stealth city camping? Note that many cities have outlawed sleeping in vehicles.
- Van maintenance cost. One of the ongoing expenses for many of us on the road is van maintenance costs. Especially those of us with old vintage vehicles. Know the financial demands your van will require of you and plan for it. It helps to have a little safety stash of at least a few grand for emergency breakdowns. Also AAA has helped us multiple times and is well worth it. And, you may find a van that never breaks down!! Either way, it’s a journey.
- Personal expenses. We all have personal expenses. Ours include health insurance, car insurance, renter’s insurance, nourishing food, hobbies and those pesky student loans. Know your expenses. Consolidate, eliminate and automate payment before hitting the road. What are your true needs and how much do they cost? What does it feel like to flexibly spend? What type of willpower needs to be cultivated?
- Work. Many van dwellers save up enough money to hit the road without needing to work. This provides ample time and space to follow a passion, or learn a new skill that may later turn into work. With a bit (okay, mostly a lot) of perseverance, many van dwellers are turning their passions into paid work. And many of us work remotely from the road. We’ve met writers, photographers, website developers, health coaches, painters, videographers, farmers, odd-jobbers, and more. The key is to understand the role work will play in your vanlife, at the same time being open to its evolution. Here are some questions to ask yourself about work in your planning process:
- What is your work?
- What is your projected monthly income?
- How secure is your work? The more infrequent and uncertain the income, the more money you may want to have initially saved.
- What actions must be taken daily, weekly and monthly to keep up the income?
- Dive deeper! How does your work affect your happiness? Your prosperity? Your well-being?
- Work evolves as we evolve! It’s a beautiful thing!
So as you can see, there’s no definite answer here. Keep asking questions and discovering what is true to you. All things change so be open the the wild journey of life … in a van or not. We are here to chat if you’d like, we offer donation-based vanlife coaching. Peace and love!