The last month of the year has come to a close and so has the first 8 months of acquiring my very own tiny home on wheels! It has been an absolute blast so far and I’m really looking forward to the adventures in 2023. I hope you’ve found this expense report series helpful and that you’ll find value in the Monthly Vanlife Expenses December 2022 edition. Feel free to share it with friends and family who might find value in it (or just satisfy their curiosity!) as well.
What Currency Is Used in This Series?
All dollar amounts will be listed in CAD. I’m doing this for a few reasons: 1) I’m Canadian and that’s the currency I spend my money in, 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 sometimes downright depressing, and 3) the majority of you reading this are also Canadians so it just makes sense! If you’re American and reading this, you’re welcome for the happy dance you’ll do when everything will turn out to be less money than you originally read. It’s a win-win, folks!
Why Am I Sharing My Vanlife Expenses Online?
As I mentioned above, some of you have been showing interest in learning about the nitty gritty details of vanlife. As someone who’s interested in personal finance (you’ll see finance books sprinkled through my annual goals posts), I’m also a curious person who wants to know more, regardless of the subject. In addition to the curiosity, 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 them happen.
There’s a concept used in education called “backwards design” to reach goals. First, identify the goal, then figure out the steps required to get there, and last, put the plan into action. A common problem that can occur is that the end goal is muddy, unknown, or misleading, thus the steps to get there won’t be of any use. On the other hand, if you have concrete information to help guide your decisions, you’ll be 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.
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 December 2022 breakdown.
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Fixed Vanlife Expenses December 2022
Phone & Data = $64.41
Thanks to this post I’ve upgraded (just now, as I’m writing this) from 20GB of storage for $57 + tax to 50GB of storage for $55 + tax for next month’s bill. I was actually planning on downgrading to less data and a cheaper bill, but for $2 less and 30GB more…I couldn’t resist. Hopefully this will pay off in the long run since currently I’m working from home or coffee shops that have wifi.
Storage Unit = $84.25
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 = $78.45
My insurance for the van is pretty affordable. No complaints here.
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 December 2022
Gas = $219.52
Alrighty-rooney, time to dive into the less predictable vanlife costs (even though I’m currently living in my apartment this winter). I made one trip to see university friends Hamilton this month, and other than that I haven’t been driving too much. I have, however, been cognizant of keeping the tank above half with the winter weather.
Vehicle Maintenance & Repairs = $141.25
Oooooh the “fun” I had with this one, and what a tease too. This cost didn’t come until the third last day of the month. I had already written “N/A” for the category spend and totally jinxed myself. If you live in Ontario, heck if you live in North America, you heard of or experienced firsthand the once-in-a-lifetime snowmaggedon event that swept the continent at Christmas. As if covid wreaking havoc over the last 2 holiday seasons wasn’t enough, Mother Nature came cackling through to stir up trouble this year.
Bags packed and ready to hibernate at my parents’ over the holidays, I loaded up the van, turned the ignition, and…womp womp. Betty had been running perfectly well up to this time. However, on December 23rd with the wind whipping snow at 80km/hr, Betty decided to throw a fit and protest. To be fair, I’m disappointed that we’re no longer heading to California, Mexico, and Central America this winter too (Surprise! This is not exactly the way I thought I’d be breaking our plans to you.). After several stilted tries, I gave up, hopped in an overpriced Uber to my parents’, and left the van tantrum to (hopefully) chill out.
Fast forward to December 26th and I was back in the driver’s seat, coaxing the van to turn on. At first, success! I even posted my elation online, albeit prematurely it seems. I’ll let you read the following story update below for what happened next.
Realizing it wasn’t going to be an easy fix and a tow was necessary, I called CAA to upgrade my membership to the RV level on the advice of a previous CAA call. The catch with changing your membership, however, is that it takes 24 hours to kick in. A day later, I called CAA only to have the tow truck driver show up and insist to see inside my van in order to put it on the flatbed. I refused, being alone, a female, and never having had a tow driver ask to see inside my vehicle. He also told me he couldn’t tow the vehicle because it was too big, which of course then set off my frustration to another level. Why send a tow truck if you aren’t going to tow it?! If I had been on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, then what? Would they have just left me like he did? What was I paying extra for if the service wasn’t going to be rendered? If I was a man would this situation have been handled differently?
On the 29th, I called a private tow, which was a whole other debacle. When I asked for a flat bed tow, I was told it wasn’t available due to damage from the snow storm. Fair enough. But when my father, who heard the response because I was on speaker, said we needed a tow, the man immediately said no problem and one would be over soon. Putting it mildly, I wasn’t a happy camper. The driver came, hooked up the van with a wheel lift and took it away in about 15 minutes. Poof, no problem. What an unnecessary and aggravating saga. CAA has since refunded the RV membership and I’ve submitted a reimbursement claim for the tow.
Van Items = $817.31
The December van item expenses chilled out a bit this month. The biggest purchase I made was an Acuva- ArrowMax 1.2 UV-LED Water Purifier and Under Sink Water Filter System with Smart Faucet from Amazon ($531.09). I saved about 10% on the full price of the filter, which was great.
The next highest expense was for lumber for the (previous bathroom’s) walls, fridge frame, and bench from Canadian Tire ($208.98). I also bought a small can each of primer and white paint for the walls from Sherwin-Williams ($62.86). And last, I accidentally wrecked the first set of paint rollers, so I got a few of those and 2 new trays from Dollarama ($37.48). There may have been some Lindt chocolate purchases thrown into the paint supplies for employee fuel… A working woman needs energy on the job site! There was one return in December for $23.10. Luckily, I saved over $1,000 (yippeeee!) by renting power tools and other equipment from the amazing KW Library of Things.
Groceries = $382.83
I toyed with the idea of not including either of the food categories this month since I’m not currently living in the van. They were ultimately left in because I’m lazy and don’t want to change the October and November posts. As everyone around the world is aware, food costs are still outrageous. That being said, I love me a warm bowl of oatmeal and frozen blueberries to begin the day and it’s easy to make dishes that last a bit longer as leftovers.
Food on the Go = $48.12
For some reason I had a feeling that this number was going to be at least double in December, but apparently not! I’m definitely not upset about it either. I tried a new fast food place that sells vegan food called Odd Burger. The jackfruit burger was great, but the mac n’ cheese was underwhelming. You just can’t beat real cheese, it seems. I also enjoyed a hearty meal from the Laepple Organic Farm stand at Kitchener’s ChristKindl market and a cheeky Harvey’s cheeseburger.
Laundry = N/A
Showers = N/A
Camping / Accommodation = N/A
TOTAL MONTHLY VANLIFE EXPENSES = $2,173.56 CAD
The total cost of my fixed expenses in December was $564.53, which is the same (finally!) as last month. The total variable costs in December was $1,609.03 which was $2,060.80 less than November, thanks to lower spending in the “Vanlife Items” category and despite spending more in the food categories. Overall, the total monthly vanlife expenses in December was $2,173.56. 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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