Well now that was a fantastic month! Each weekend in August I was on the road at van-related meetups, the Toronto Cider Festival, and working a gig as a second photographer for a wedding. Monday to Friday I was teaching, completing tourism and other client work, putting together the 3-week itinerary for my Irish friend’s visit, nerding out in an SEO mastermind group, editing photos and writing for Travel with TMc, and spending time with friends and family. I stayed at 2 Harvest Host locations, tried mead for the first time, and with the help of a crew, completed my first construction project on the van by installing a fan!
What Currency Is Used in This Series?
All amounts will be listed in CAD. I’m doing this for a few reasons: 1) I’m Canadian and that’s the currency I use to make purchases, 2) anytime I do research online, whether it’s been for the van, travel, or anything else, I always end up bummed out because everything is in USD and after converting the figures it’s downright depressing, and 3) the majority of you reading this are also Canadian, so it just makes sense! If you’re American, you’re welcome for the happy dance you’ll do when everything listed costs less than at first glance. It’s a win-win, folks!
Why Am I Sharing My Vanlife Expenses Online?
Over on Instagram there has been interest in learning about the nitty gritty details of vanlife. I love learning about personal finance and am generally a curious person, regardless of the subject. In addition, I really believe topics like health, money, sex, politics, and so on shouldn’t be taboo. How do we make that happen? By talking about them! More often than not, what we see online is filtered with rose-coloured glasses and romanticized to no end. I’m all for rainbows and butterflies to set our sights high and inspire dreams, but it’s the information and the details that allow us to make dreams a reality.
There’s a concept used in education called “backwards design” that teachers implement to craft units, lessons, and so on to reach academic goals. First, identify the goal, then figure out the steps required to get there, and last, put the plan into action. In life it’s not uncommon for our end goals to be a bit muddy, unknown, or misleading, rendering the steps to get there useless. On the other hand, concrete information can help to guide your decisions, bringing you one step closer to the finish line. My goal with these expense reports, inspired by others like Kara and Nate‘s that I’ve read online and found helpful, is to provide you some insight and information on your financial/travel/life journey. And for those that are just curious or a wee bit nosy? Enjoy!
How Much Does a Campervan Cost?
The short answer is “it depends”, which is just about the worst answer anyone can give (and truest more often than not). However, if you want the deep dive on this answer, check out the post I wrote on the cost of my Dodge Ram Promaster campervan.
What’s Included + Budget Tools
There are some monthly expenses that won’t be included, such as gifts, business expenses, investments and so on because they’re not relevant to the series. However, if you are interested in learning more about budgeting and personal finance, I’ve written a few blogs on why you should have a budget, how to create a budget, and the most common budgeting mistakes people make. I also put together a mini personal finance and budget guide on Instagram.
In these monthly expense reports, you’ll find a mix of fixed and variable expenses. In the fixed category you’ll find storage, insurance, the van payment, and my phone bill, which I try to keep consistent but sometimes has spillover data charges. In the variable category I’ll include gas, vehicle maintenance, items for the van (both fun and necessary), groceries, dining out, showers, laundry, and accommodation. I might include entertainment as well, but I haven’t decided yet. Is this something you’d be curious to see as well? Let me know in the comments at the end of this blog post.
Okay, without further ado, here are the Vanlife Expenses August 2022 breakdown.
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Fixed Vanlife Expenses August 2022
Phone & Data = $64.41
Okay, let’s hope this is the “new normal” in phone bill charges. Up until moving into the van, I’ve always paid for minimal data and the smallest necessary phone plan. Typically I’m at home or working in places with wifi, however now I’ll need more data for when wifi isn’t available. Because of this, I increased my plan from $45 (+ tax) and 6GB of data to $57 (+ tax) and 20GB of data. Unfortunately 20GB of data is nowhere what I need with my business, using social media and giving private online language lessons. The alternative (in Canada) is to spend $200 (+ tax) per month to get 100GB of data from Rogers, which I have a sneaking suspicion would still not be enough data. The plan for now is to use libraries, coffee shops, and other wifi spots to mitigate data usage.
Storage Unit = $74.10
I have an apartment, which could house the items in my storage unit, but then the apartment would feel like a storage unit. I’m not crazy about this expense, but it is what it is for now.
Insurance = $121.66*
Currently I’m paying insurance for 2 vehicles – Black Betty (2001 Honda Civic) and Betty White (le van). I’m writing this in September and the amount has since changed since my Civic is now gone. The original plan was to keep both vehicles. I loved my trusty Black Betty and planned to drive it during the winter if and when Betty White went into storage. However, if you’re along for the ride on Instagram, you may remember that on my return from Ireland I came back to a car without brakes. She had to be towed from Toronto to KW, an almost $400 expense that I avoided thanks to CAA. Originally the brakes were going to be repaired, but upon further inspection there was extensive rust damage. As you can imagine, the price to fix the car quickly increased. Unfortunately, I ended up selling the Civic to the scrapyard, which was a conflicting decision despite the price of repairs surpassing the value of the vehicle.
Van Payment = $337.42
This feels a bit like an experiment since I’ve been debt free for several years and never make purchases unless I have the cash to buy items outright. While I did have the money for the full price of the van, and on principle I hate paying interest, the math worked out to go this route this time. It’s been a mental adjustment for me to wrap my head around doing things this way, but what’s life without a little experimentation?
Variable Vanlife Expenses August 2022
Gas = $820.53
August was another wonderful month on the road. I went as far north and east as Bancroft and as far south as Lake Erie’s northern shores. It was also the start of a 3-week whirlwind lifetime adventure with a visiting Irish friend. For 2 of the destinations I was able to split the cost of gas with my co-pilots, which is reflected in the total amount above.
Vehicle Maintenance & Repairs = $63.22
It was time for some regular maintenance on the van this month. Before leaving on the 3-week trip, I brought Betty White in for a routine oil change.
Van Items = $131.31
In August I purchased a few smaller items for the van. I also returned some things and was able to sell the Laveo toilet refills to help offset costs. Some of the items I purchased include temporary curtains and a rod (which were all returned except for one curtain set) and a pegboard from Giant Tiger ($27.12), primer and paint from Sherwin-Williams ($83.14), however I returned the primer because a neighbour gave me a smaller can, a paint tray from Dollarama ($1.98), hinges and screws for the new lift-up storage under the table from Home Depot ($33.47), and fluid film from Princess Auto to help with the sticky doors ($11.29). I also returned the fire alarm/carbon monoxide detector I bought and in exchange picked up a dustbuster and a battery-powered fire alarm/carbon monoxide detector from Canadian Tire ($84.74). At Walmart I returned a broken dashboard phone mount, which was a whole saga, and paid the difference of $2.57 for a new one. Last, I needed the car ownership document from the Ministry of Transportation and had to buy a new one for $32.
Groceries = $231.14
I made it a point to buy groceries and make meals in the van instead of eating out this month.
Restaurants & Takeout = $397.23
Buuut I also can’t resist enjoying local cuisines wherever I go! There may or may not be quite a few “Road Trip Timbits” mixed into the total as well… Some of this final amount is from cafe work lunches and snacks. I usually buy more than a tea while working for several hours at mom and pop shops because I think it’s respectful (and they’re usually pretty tasty). At least 2 or 3 meals in the final amount are also times where I treated friends as thank yous, so the amount is higher than if it were just me. Other than those outliers, I tried an awesome pizza spot in Sudbury called Laughing Buddha, went for healthy (overpriced) takeout at Copperbranch, enjoyed an absolutely delicious lunch at Urban Herbivore in Kensington Market, gobbled up an outlandish poutine at the Toronto Cider Festival, and met up with friends for the first time since before the pandemic at Aviary in Toronto (who apparently make cider slushies, so you can bet I’ll return!).
Laundry = N/A
Showers = N/A
Camping / Accommodation = $75
Overall, August was full of free camping spots and staying at or in front of family and friends’ homes. The only time I paid to stay was at a 2-night vanlife meetup event at the Elliott Tree Farm. It just so happened to be what felt like the hottest weekend of the summer, and thankfully showers were included in the cost.
TOTAL MONTHLY VANLIFE EXPENSES = $2,316.02 CAD
The total cost of my fixed expenses in August was $597.59, which was $51.03 less than July thanks to a normal phone bill. The total variable costs in August was $1,718.43, which was $615.90 more than July due to higher food costs (both groceries and dining out). In sum, the monthly vanlife expenses in August was $2,316.02. How does this compare with what you spend in these categories over a month? Let me know in the comments below!
To get the tea on how much the converted Promaster that I bought cost, check out the post I wrote on how much campervans cost. If you want to start reading the series from the very beginning, here is the April Vanlife Expenses blog post.
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