Welcome to the Monthly Vanlife Expenses July 2023 edition! In between summer lessons for my private language students, getting the word out about the Pay Yourself to Travel course, van building, and time with family, I enjoyed a live music, spending time by water, and even got a wee bit of travel in around Ontario and Michigan.
The month kicked off with a country concert in Downtown Kitchener for Canada Day. Country music enjoyed outdoors on a sunny day or warm evening just about sums up a perfect summer moment, so I was thrilled to check it out. I caught 2 of the Canadian artists, Grammy-nominated Steven Lee Olsen, and CCMA Rising Star Winner, Robyn Ottolini. I was familiar with some of Steven Lee Olsen’s songs so that was enjoyable, though I’ve got to say, the whole posing and yelling scripted things for his Instagram (multiple times) was a real turn off. Robyn was so energetic, laidback, and you could tell she was having a fun time. I’d never heard her songs before but the set was pretty decent.
The following weekend I made a quick overnight visit back to Meanwhile Blueberry Farm to see the VanFam and finish the van’s plumbing hookup. Thank you Scott! From there I hopped into the van for a road trip to Ottawa and the surrounding regions of Wendover to photograph a wedding with Tomo Photography. Last summer we photographed a wedding together in Maynooth, Ontario and it was so much fun that we teamed up together for another! Originally, the plan was to stay in a super cute glamping Airbnb. However, as seems to be the case more and more with the platform these days, the vacation rental wasn’t quite as advertised. I won’t gripe too much about it here, but let’s just say we ended up sleeping in Betty White the whole time.
While in Wendover and Clarence, we stumbled upon a gorgeous YMCA, a very cute and delicious cafe named Café Joyeux, and a roadside zoo that had 2 bears! Jenna and I drove past the bears at night after the wedding and joked about letting the poor guys loose. It seemed so sad to have them stuck there. It was awesome being immersed in French-speaking communities again, including interacting with the groom’s family. One good thing about our Airbnb was that it was on the water and we had access to a paddleboat and dock. As you can see below, the sunset was unreal.
There was plenty to see and do in Waterloo Region all month, between trying new restaurants and attending a couple Good Company Production concerts at Project 220 outside Kitchener City Hall on Friday. I can’t say enough good things about the events and concerts that GoodCo and the Downtown Kitchener BIA have put on. They’ve infused the core with so much energy. They’re also accessible thanks to sponsorship from the downtown businesses and they introduce a wide range of Canadian artists to audiences that people (myself included) probably wouldn’t hear about otherwise. The surprise element is also fantastic. You never know who you’re going to hear at the Pop Up Concert series and it always turns out to be a treat. For example, on one of the evenings we were introduced to deep spoken word lyrics of Canadian Hip Hop artist Jon Corbin who was then followed up with the wild and uninhibited energy brought by Theo Vandenhoff and his band. The next night, Nutrients, a Toronto-based 90s-inspired sleepy pop band eased us into the weekend. The first 2 artists may not have been my first choice for the Spotify list and at the same time I thoroughly enjoyed the novelty of their live performances. My favourite band of the July gig’s was Guelph’s talented folky duo, Tragedy Ann. With creative vocal harmonies, an abundance of instruments, and lyrics that demonstrated their equally matched word-smithery, I became nostalgic for the days of CD album inserts. I bought a holographic disc after the show and it’s been on repeat ever since.
After all of the energy of the first half of the month, it was necessary to balance things out with a trip to Northern Ontario for family time and resetting in nature. At the end of 2022, I took a different approach when setting my goals for the coming year. Instead of being super specific (which is generally suggested), I wrote goals that were more open-ended. For example, one of them was to spend more time by water. Between swimming and kayaking in bioluminescent waters in Puerto Rico, surprising myself with a trip to the beach in Grand Bend, and a whole lot of time hiking near, swimming in, and boating on the water in Northern Ontario, that goal has been checked off and this soul’s cup is overflowing.
It’s the 2nd year of a new tradition to go on a mini road trip and find somewhere cool to hike with one of my uncles. We pack up the van with lunch and plenty of water and head out to the nearby provincial parks to explore. I love these trips! This year we tackled the Orphan Lake Trail hike, which was full of hills and gorgeous double lake views.
I’m fortunate that people close to me own camps (the Northern Ontario term for what Southern Ontario folk call a “cottage”) and boats and are generous about sharing them. While up north, I enjoyed campfires on the lake, an evening boat ride to St. Joe’s Island, and lots of swimming! It’s an understatement to say I felt recharged and content!
For as many times as I’ve been to Sault Ste. Marie, I’ve only ever passed through Soo Mich(igan) to cross the bridge back into Canada. Growing up, our parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins shared stories of fun nights out “Across”. It felt like a rite of passage I had to experience. To date, it’s never happened and the time has now passed to add my own stories to theirs. That being said, another common activity (save for the pandy years) of Northeners is to go Across for gas, groceries, and shopping. My credit card bill for the month confirms that I’ve joined the masses. The intent was to spend the day with cousins while they shopped, but when I saw USD $15 dresses I couldn’t resist! It was interesting to drive through the twin city on the other side of the river and glimpse into life Across.
Last, and most certainly not least, I got some van building done while up north! One of my cousin’s boyfriends is a millwright and carpenter and is interested in vanlife too. Luckily, he was game to help with some of the projects I had on the go. I can’t say how fantastic it was to learn from and work with an expert! While we didn’t finish everything we set out to do (my expectations/hopes were probably unrealistic), it was amazing to work on a few tasks like the shoe storage boxes in the picture below. It was also great to get to know him, a southern Ontario transplant, and spend more time with my cousin. Win-win!
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 July 2023 breakdown.
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Fixed Monthly Vanlife Expenses July 2023
Phone & Data = $62.15
In order to have 50GB of data, I increased my phone bill in 2022 from $40-ish dollars to $62.15 per month.
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
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 July 2023
Gas = $735.01
Yikes!!! July has now beat out June as the most expensive gas month in 2023. Between the trips from Kitchener-Waterloo to Ottawa, Newmarket, and Northern Ontario, you can see how I reached this ghastly tally. At the same time, that’s what the van is for and summer time is the best time to bop around.
Vehicle Maintenance & Repairs = N/A
This is what I like to see!
Van Items = $689.67
July was a productive month for the van build! With the help of some friends, I completed the plumbing and got started on demo’ing the “closet” storage area. The long awaited shoe storage boxes behind the driver and passenger seats also got built. I purchased one decorative item, a little rainbow plant pot, for $14 that I’ve been looking at since seeing one last year in Maynooth. Another random purchase “for the van” was a bucket hat for my brother from God’s Country Clothing ($47.46) to say thank you for lending me his tools all the time. The rest of the expenses here, including returns, were for plumbing items, wood, hardware, glue, and electrical receptacles ($628.21) from Home Depot.
Groceries = $183.25
The lower grocery amount here can probably be attributed to the time I spent with family.
Food on the Go = $13.74
This one surprised me, in a pleasant way. I stopped at Tim Hortons 3 times while on the road.
Laundry = N/A
Showers = N/A
Camping / Accommodation = N/A
TOTAL MONTHLY VANLIFE EXPENSES = $2,183.54 CAD
The total cost of my fixed vanlife expenses in July was $562.27, which was the same as June because that’s what it should be each month! The total variable vanlife costs in July was $1,621.27, which was $741.24 more than the previous month thanks to a lot of Ontario trips and some van building! The total monthly vanlife expenses in July was $2,183.54. 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.
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