Welcome to the Monthly Vanlife Expenses February edition! This month has been fairly uneventful, which I’m both grateful for and restless over, if that can simultaneously be true. Thankfully, Betty’s been dealing with the bipolar weather swings quite well since the serpentine belt disaster in December and January. I made the move to an independent business (instead of the dealership) for future servicing and repairs and, so far, am quite happy with that decision.
In the travel department, I made it out of Waterloo Region less than a handful of times. It might be safe to say I’m a bit of a workaholic; I feel the need to work all. the. time. It’s a bad habit I’ve been trying to kick for years. I spent the first 2 months of 2023 implementing systems for a more efficient workflow. It’s surprising how much time it takes to figure that part of a business out. I’m also juggling too many things at the same time which doesn’t help either. Anyhow, the beginning of 2023 has been nearly travel-free because I feel guilty for not being on my computer and I want to set up the rest of the year so I don’t constantly feel like I’m behind. Back to the travel recap… I visited Fergus twice, digging into historical records at the Wellington County Museum & Archives for a client project. I also spent one sunny afternoon in Arrowhead Provincial Park skating on the magical forest trail. Thankfully, my friends Maiku and Venus, cajoled me into off-screen time. The weather leading up to our excursion wasn’t stellar, a mixture of rain and unseasonably warm temperatures, and I thought we might have to cancel. Luckily, it was a perfect winter day, full of sun, free of wind, and with fresh snow dressing the trees and ground. It was the most fun I had all month! Maiku captured the day for his YouTube channel if you feel like taking a peek at the Arrowhead skating trail.
I also “travelled” to Spain at a Cambridge restaurant I’ve been meaning to try for forever: La Lola Catering. It’s owned by a Spanish-Canadian wife-and-husband duo and MAN do they know how to make sangria. (They pour generously too!) Their tapas are also unreal. I know because we ordered every single one on the menu. The vibe is excellent there, especially for those who experience the winter blues or who want to feel their somewhere else in the world while at home. Walking into La Lola you instantly feel energized with the pops of colour from the decor and aromas wafting over from the open kitchen. Prefer to eat outside? No problem! They have a patio in the summer and also hold flamenco nights with live musicians and dancers!
I did squeeze a few fun (work) nights in with some live music throughout February at various gigs around Waterloo Region. Prior to a secret concert hosted by GoodCo, I discovered the lid of a can on the floor of my van. “Ooooh shit”, I thought. Where there’s a lid and no can, there is most definitely a pile of liquid (ice?). I thought I had cleared all winter hazards out of my van. Evidently, this was not the case. Under the lid of the under-table storage, about 8 to 10 burst cans cheekily revealed themselves to me after some quick detective work. Luckily, that meant the explosive liquid was contained. Not so lucky, however, is that that particular area is made of wood and I have no idea how long the sugary liquid was spillin’ and chillin’. The kind souls at Counterpoint Brewing Co, the concert venue for the night, gave me paper towels and bags to clean up the mess. If anyone remembers my first camping weekend with the van in June, it appears I have a bit of a track record with spills in the van. No bueno! From here on out a necessary vanlife item on hand at all times is paper towels, extra towels, any kind of cloth to soak up my messes. I did have a good laugh though. Lesson learned – I must be more thorough in winterizing the van!
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 February 2023 breakdown.
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Fixed Vanlife Expenses February 2023
Phone & Data = $66.39
Well, I’m rockin’ and rollin’ with a lot more data than I need now (50 GB!), and even at a cheaper price than I was paying before. I made 2 calls to the US, hence the slight increase from the normal monthly phone amount.
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
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 Vanlife Expenses February 2023
Gas = $273.12
I did a little bit more driving this month, back and forth to Fergus a couple of times and over to Toronto where I met up with Venus and Maiku, hence the higher category spend in February.
Vehicle Maintenance & Repairs = $93.53
After the serpentine belt froze, I received the van back without any heat. This had never been an issue before and the dealership wasn’t sure what caused it. They also didn’t have time in the schedule to check it out for another 10 days. I booked the appointment and bundled up while driving around. Eventually the appointment arrived. The heat had intermittently worked between dealership visits, but I wasn’t convinced I could cancel the appointment. When I went in, we didn’t see eye to eye on who should cover the diagnostic costs. The service manager was calm and respectful, but I decided to leave without servicing. There had been a few other flags for me in the past, and this was enough to part ways. Luckily the heat was more or less working at this point…until a few weeks later when the cold air returned here and there.
I called a recommended independent auto shop and booked an appointment to change my rear lights and ask them about the heat fluctuations. At the appointment they changed the rear lights and, unbeknownst to me at the time, had a peek under the hood. I drove away with new lights and shortly after Betty was nice and toasty. I had a second appointment booked with them to tackle the heat, however I considered cancelling it because it everything was fine after the light fix. The kind receptionist convinced me it was a good idea to bring it in in case the cold air came back and it would be another few weeks before they could pencil me in. I’m glad I kept the meeting. The technician had a quick look and told me about his previous check for an air block in the line. He had released the lid (to what, I don’t remember), thinking that could be the issue and had a hunch that was why the heat worked since the first visit. He also took the time to give me a quick tutorial on the different bits and bobs under the hood since I mentioned wanting to learn more. They didn’t charge me anything for the second appointment and I’ve been toasty warm in Betty ever since.
Van Items = N/A
Two months in a row with no spending in a category. That’s a short-term win however, since there are a few big purchases (solar panels, bug screens, swivel seat, toilet, maybe even a drone!) coming down the pipeline in the next few months! Save now, spend later, yeah?
Groceries = $360.69
It’s been a month of making a conscious effort to cook and eat more at home. I made a couple of big soups and hearty dishes to last me a few days and even bought salmon, which I was pretty sure was going to give me food poisoning. Thankfully, it did not for 2 reasons: 1) I have never had food poisoning and did not want to join the club of unlucky souls who have and 2) it was $30 which is outrageous!
Food on the Go = $44.66
Really long work days continued throughout February and I resisted takeout until the middle of the month. (Yes, it was pizza.) The other small takeout items were while running to and from appointments, so nothing more than a Timmies here and a Harvey’s there and one veggie bowl while shopping with a friend. The meal at La Lola is not included in this category because it was a gift to someone.
Laundry = N/A
Showers = N/A
Camping / Accommodation = N/A
TOTAL MONTHLY VANLIFE EXPENSES = $1,338.51 CAD
The total cost of my fixed expenses in February was $566.51 which was $1.98 more than January due to a small increase in my phone bill for a long distance call. The total variable costs in February was $772 which was $430.33 less than January thanks to the absence of van breakdowns. In sum, the monthly vanlife expenses in February was $1,338.51. How does this compare with what you spend in these categories over a month? 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. If you want to start reading the series from the very beginning, here is the April Vanlife Expenses blog post.
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