Welcome to the Monthly Vanlife Expenses December 2023 edition – the first time ever that vanlife paid me back (no sponsorships were involved either). This month came out of nowhere! It’s funny, as I get older I have embraced and created more spontaneity in my life. Usually it goes the other way around, no? The original plan for December was to tackle the many end-of-year tasks on the To Do list, to stay close to home, and to dig into daily routines. None of that happened.
At the end of November I decided to go on a trip for the first weekend of December. I hopped over to Google Flights, clicked on the Explore tab (it’s a game changer if you’re not familiar with it), adjusted the price filter to $300, and waited for the destination reveal. There were a few Canadian cities, such as Edmonton, in the mix, but I had my eye on the international possibilities. Two came up: Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Vallarta in Mexico. Excellent! I hadn’t been to either country before. Mexico won the vote. Not only was I psyched to visit a new country, but with Spanish as the official language I could cross off 2 of 2023’s goals!
Since I was flying on Flair, I challenged myself to travel with only a small school-sized backpack. Luckily this wasn’t too difficult given the trip length and the temperature in Mexico. The total cost for 2.5 days abroad was less than $500 – cheaper than if I’d stayed in Canada! It was a fantastic weekend and a type of travel I’m eager to replicate in the future. There are already a few helpful reels on Instagram from the weekend and I’ll be writing a few blogs on Puerto Vallarta travel tips too. Stay tuned!
Only 4 days after getting home from Mexico I was back at Pearson airport on a plane to Europe. Some of you might recall that I went on another spontaneous trip this past fall to Ireland. I caught up with friends and had a few new experiences, including attending the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival – the largest of its kind in Europe. Shortly after I returned home from that trip I realized I hadn’t caught any gigs, which is one of my favourite things to do on the most musical island in the world. Seconds after thinking these silent thoughts, I kid you not, I opened up Instagram and a post from one of my favourite Irish artists popped up saying their December shows were almost sold out. Minutes later I had purchased $162 round-trip flights to Europe and tickets to the gig.
Two trips to Ireland were definitely not the plan for the year, but do you know what was? Visiting 4 new countries! Ever since living in Ireland over a decade ago, I have been wanting to visit Europe’s Christmas markets. Typically my European travels occur in the spring and fall. All of a sudden I was going to be a stone’s throw from the mainland in prime market time! Knowing I wanted to visit off-the-beaten path destinations, I created a list of lesser known markets, including Tallinn, Riga, Bucharest and Craiova, Prague, Budapest, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Gothenburg, and Gdansk and Krakow. Estonia’s capital city, Tallinn, rose to the top of the list. Psyched that I would be able to cross off a 3rd new country, I broke the news to all of you on Instagram, open for any of your travel tips. This is where the magic of social media comes in because a few people messaged to tell me that Helsinki, Finland (another market on my list and another country I hadn’t yet visited) was a short 2 hour ferry ride away. You better believe I added it to the itinerary!!!
Both Estonia and Finland were excellent winter destinations and I hope to return to them in warmer weather as well. I arrived home from Europe a few days before Christmas, so as you can surmise, there won’t be much for “monthly vanlife expenses” in December. With that being said, there was a super exciting van deposit that was made, so keep on reading!
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 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 November 2023 breakdown.
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Fixed Monthly Vanlife Expenses December 2023
Phone & Data = $92.29
My phone bill is $62.15 per month and now provides 90GB of data thanks to a holiday promotion! That’s a great little life hack if you’re ever wanting to increase the perks on your phone bill without increasing the price. The additional cost here is because I purchased data for my European SIM card.
Storage Unit = $95.55
I have half a mind to move the items I have in storage into my place. In fact, I’m contemplating it more and more for 2024, but I haven’t made up my mind yet.
Insurance = $78.45
Nice and simple. The insurance cost for the van is pretty affordable.
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 Monthly Vanlife Expenses December 2023
Gas = $125
I was barely home this month, as you’ve read, and so I only gassed up one time.
Vehicle Maintenance & Repairs = – $2,936.42 (YAHOO!!!)
This might be my favourite month ever for the vanlife monthly expenses blog posts. If you read October’s monthly expenses, I took quite a hit to the pocket. There was over $3,000 in work to rebuild the transmission. Luckily there was a silver lining! Because I love travel hacking and paying myself to travel, I maximized the opportunity of this otherwise crappy situation.
I’ve been travel hacking for over a decade. It is one of the reasons I’m able to afford to travel so affordably. If you’re not familiar with the exciting world of travel hacking, I created an online course to teach you all of the tips and tricks I personally use to explore the world for a fraction of the cost. It’s actually pretty easy to implement. Feel free to send me an email or check out this link to learn more or sign-up for the course.
Anyhow, back to this fabulous refund. If you read the November monthly vanlife expenses blog post, you’ll remember that after I paid for everything, I found out that the transmission repairs were fully covered under the extended warranty I bought with the van. Thankfully, the shop worked with me and put the claim through and within a few weeks I had a full refund. To recap, at no extra cost to me, I received a rebuilt transmission and a free round-trip flight all thanks to a few easy travel hacking practices. Merry Christmas to me!
Van Items = N/A
Groceries = N/A
Since I was travelling internationally nearly the whole month, I’m not going to include the amount I spent on groceries.
Food on the Go = N/A
With all of the international restaurants, it doesn’t make sense to write an amount here this month either.
Laundry = N/A
Showers = N/A
Camping / Accommodation = N/A
TOTAL MONTHLY VANLIFE EXPENSES = – $2,811.42 CAD
It is time for this series to come to an end. Sort-of. For 2024, monthly expenses reports will only be published when I am travelling in or working on the van. I hope you’ve enjoyed and found this series helpful over the last 2 years!
The total cost of my fixed vanlife expenses in December was $603.71, which was slightly more than November because I purchased data for my European SIM card. The total variable vanlife costs in December was – $2,811.42, which was far less than the previous month, or any other month since I’ve had the van. Kick. Ass! The total monthly vanlife expenses in December was – $2,207.71. How does this compare with what you spend in these categories over a month, whether you’re in a van or a traditional home or apartment? Let me know in the comments below!
If you’re curious to learn how much my converted Promaster was, check out the post I wrote on how much campervans cost in Canada. If you want to start reading the series from the very beginning, here is the very first blog in the series, the 2022 April Vanlife Expenses post.
Stay tuned to all things vanlife and travel by subscribing to the (nearly) monthly newsletter and joining the adventure on Instagram. Thanks for reading!