What a fanastic month! I finally moved into the van and went exploring. I travelled throughout Ontario, from Windsor to Lake Superior Provincial Park checking out new places, spending quality time with friends and family, starting a new blog series covering the Ontario Cider Trail, working with one of my favourite tourism boards, and introducing my language students to all sorts of new places. I think I grinned for 31 straight days. It felt amazing to roll down the windows, blast music, and feel the freedom of the road. I also had a ton of fun introducing Betty White to friends and family, including my grandparents who are in their 90s.
What Currency Is Used in This Series?
All amounts are 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 you’ve been interested in learning about the nitty gritty details of vanlife. A second reason I’m sharing my vanlife expenses with all of you is because I love learning about personal finance and think it’s an important topic to discuss. 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 July 2022 breakdown.
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Fixed Vanlife Expenses July 2022
Phone & Data = $115.44*
Yikes again. While this is a normal bill for many people, I’ve always kept my fixed monthly expenses fairly low, including my phone bill. In fact, this is more than double what I used to pay. Let’s break down this cost, shall we?
For most of July I was on the road, in South Georgian Bay starting the Ontario Cider Trail, in St. Thomas, Ontario for a work assignment, and in the Soo and nearby provincial parks to enjoy those classic northern Ontario summer vibes. So far, July has been the best indication of how much data I may need while working on the road. I started the month with my original phone plan of $45 for 6GB and then increased it twice, once to 15GB and then a second time to 20GB. However, despite the changes, I still incurred $39 in data overage fees for a mere 292.79MB spillover. Ouch.
Storage Unit = $74.10
I have an apartment, which could house the seasonal and other 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.
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 July 2022
Let the record show that I was out and adventuring in the month of July! For most of the month, I was out and about, exploring Ontario for work and fun.
Gas = $840.80
July is the highest amount to date that I’ve paid for gas in the van, or ever in my life for that matter. The month began with returning from an overnight in the South Georgian Bay area and promptly driving down to Tillsonburg for a van tour filming and photoshoot with Jenna from Tomo Photography. From there I drove to Wheatley Provincial Park to camp with the fabulous Katie and Dan (In a Van). After a relaxing couple of days, I made my way to Windsor for an Ontario Cider Trail segment with Walkerville Brewery. Then it was back home for a week before a 5-day whirlwind tour of South Georgian Bay for an 8-stop Ontario Cider Trail mission! Next up was a super fun weekend gig with the tourism board in St. Thomas to explore the Whistlestop Trail. To round out the month, I headed to Sault Ste. Marie and Lake Superior Provincial Park to soak in those northern Ontario summer vibes.
Vehicle Maintenance & Repairs = $117.46
This month was easy peasey for maintenance, with only an oil change. Unfortunately, there was already one repair that needed to be done . The side running board had to be removed because it broke at the first vanlife meetup in June. Ironically, the snafu happened when a woman much shorter and smaller than me stepped on it. Luckily no one was hurt and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg to have it removed.
Van Items = -$258.95
July wasn’t too crazy for purchasing items for the van. I purchased some items from Walmart ($71.09) and Dollarama ($7.47), such as licence plate covers and front dash reflectors ($51.96) from Canadian Tire. There was also one return for a kettle ($39.47) mixed in there. I also sold the bug net which came with the van, helping to offset some of my larger upcoming costs.
Groceries = $147.59
Though I have a 2-burner stove in the van, I’ve removed the propane until I can install a smaller tank. This also means I’m adjusting my diet to eat mostly raw fruits and veggies, as well as seeds, nuts, and sandwich items. The plan is to have the stove system properly outfitted for the winter and then my eating habits will grow to include a wider variety of dishes.
Restaurants & Takeout = $227.37
Part of travel blogging, and travel in general for me anyhow, is eating local cuisine at different restaurants and cafés. If I could get paid to eat for a living, that may even be my dream job other than getting paid to learn a new language in a new country every 6 months, but I digress! With regards to travel and exploring places, trying the food is one of my favourite activities to indulge in. With regards to work, I can’t very well suggest a place to you, the reader, if I haven’t tried it myself. I’m actually surprised that this number isn’t higher. Not bad for nearly the first full month on the road though!
Laundry = N/A
Between having an abundance of clothing and family homes to do my laundry in, I didn’t use any laundromats this month.
Showers = N/A
I got lucky with this one! As I begin to navigate (a currently showerless) vanlife in Canada, I’ve been thinking a lot about the adventures that sparked this journey, specifically the time spent car camping in a Yaris in Iceland. Prior to that experience, I wasn’t keen on car camping, mostly because I wanted to be able to shower whenever I wanted. It turned out that the way to find showers when living on the Icelandic road was to search out their beautiful swimming facilities. And heck, if you’re going for a shower, you might as well enjoy the fantastic indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs, ice baths, and other community facilities.
In Canada, the options are a little different. If your rig doesn’t have a built-in shower when car- or van-camping in Canada, the choices range from using campgrounds and trucks stops, to gyms and community pools, to finding a fresh water lake or river along your route. There are also the opportunities to use friends’ and families’ homes. Oh, and I can’t leave out another common choice: the good ol’ sponge bath.
In July I was able to use a mixture of campgrounds, family and family friend’s facilities, and an AirBnB for work.
Camping / Accommodation = $28.26
Between all of the locations I visited in July, I was fortunate to only need to pay for overnight parking for 2 nights at Wheatley Provincial Park. Everywhere else I either had family, family friends, stealth options, or Walmart and Canadian Tire parking lots.
TOTAL MONTHLY VANLIFE EXPENSES = $1,751.15 CAD
The fixed monthly expenses for the van in July came to a total of $648.62. This is higher than it should be due to data surcharges. The variable monthly expenses came to $1,102.53, with several categories not having any costs at all. Overall, July was not an expensive month. If we’re to compare the average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Toronto at $2,233 and to consider how many new places I was able to visit and experience while having my home and mode of transportation with me, vanlife was much more affordable than apartment living in the big city.
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.
Stay tuned to all things vanlife and travel by subscribing to the (nearly) monthly newsletter and joining the adventure on Instagram. Have questions? Leave them in the comments below. Thanks for reading!