Welcome to edition 3 of this series: Monthly Vanlife Expenses June 2022…the one where we actually get on the road! What a dream June was. Four days after getting the keys to the van, I took Betty White to our first vanlife meetup. There, I met a ton of new people from all walks of life, travelling and living in their rigs. Two weeks later, a few new van friends met me at the Spirit Tree Cider Festival and I also spent my first night at a Harvest Host location. To round out the month’s adventures, I took my sister to Spy Distillery in the South Georgian Bay area for a 1-night celebration and our inaugural van adventure together. Other than these 3 events, the van was mostly used going back-and-forth to work for a 3-week gig.
What Currency Is Used in This Series?
All amounts will be 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 sometimes 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 shown an interest in learning about the nitty gritty details of vanlife. I love learning about personal finance and am generally a curious person, 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 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 details of Vanlife Expenses June 2022.
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Fixed Vanlife Expenses June 2022
Phone & Data = $65.54
Up until getting the van, I’ve always paid for minimal data and the smallest necessary phone plan. Generally, I’m using unlimited wifi at home or working on-site so I haven’t needed a large amount of data on my phone. The plan for now is to use libraries, coffee shops, and other wifi spots to mitigate data usage because the alternative in Canada is to spend $200 (+ tax) per month to get 100GB of data from Rogers, which I still don’t think will be enough. With teaching private language lessons online and using Instagram for the blog, I’ll need more data in the van when I can’t hop onto wifi. Oh wait, that is exactly what happened in June. I incurred $13 of data overage fees for a whopping 20.33MB extra of data. It appears I may be looking into increasing my data sooner than anticipated…
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.
Vehicle Insurance = $115.71
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. I 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 June 2022
Gas = $590.13
For perspective, circa 2019 my trusty Honda Civic cost about $40-$50 to fill up. Depending on how much I drove in a month, I’d spend around $200-$350 total. This was also when it was ridiculous to pay $1.30 at the pump. Oh, how I miss those days! During the pandemic I rarely drove and probably paid around $100, give or take, per month. And of course, these prices are prior to Russia wreaking havoc in Ukraine and subsequently with the world’s economy. And last, a Civic’s tank is about 50 litres, while the Promaster’s is around 80-90 litres.
I knew with the increase in vehicle size that I’d be paying more at the pump. However, thanks to the never-ending inflation hikes and the general shitshow of the world economy, filling up a tank has reached up to $160. Ouch! This is a really important spending category because of how it can tip the budget scales. Fuel is also one of the largest determiners on whether vanlife is more affordable than traditional homes. Luckily, unlike rent or mortgage payments, vanlifers can (to some extent) control this necessary living cost.
June was a month mixed with travel and stationary living. I drove from the northern shores of Lake Erie to South Georgian Bay, with a few fun spots inbetween as well.
Vehicle Maintenance & Repairs = N/A
Van Items = $1,165.49
The spending to furnish and outfit the van continued in June. Almost all of the items fell more to the “necessary” side, rather than the “wants” side. Who knew it could be so fun to buy such boring items?! I think I might be understanding the excitement with which friends have gushed over their new stoves and fridges. (I still prefer the mini van versions though!) This month’s purchases include: miscellaneous items at Canadian Tire ($308.46), a tankless water heater from a fellow vanlifer ($145), a travel bidet and portable 1-burner camp stove from Canadian Tire ($56.48), bear spray and stackable pots and pans from MEC ($203.29), an annual membership to Harvest Hosts ($110.54 Psst! If you click that link you get a discount off of your annual membership!), Sym-Tech warranty transfer ($75), a kickass fan and the collapsible kettle I’ve had my eye on forever from Amazon ($245.26), and the ultimate vanlifer purchase, magnetic hooks from Amazon ($21.46).
Groceries = $27.51
You may be asking, “How in the haystones is this amount so low?!”. I spent some time with my parents this month and also ate at a lot of restaurants and coffee shops.
Restaurants & Takeout = $187.29
Since I was on the road a fair bit, I ate out a lot as well. Overall, my food costs for June were just over $200 so that’s pretty decent.
Laundry = N/A
Showers = N/A
Camping / Accommodation = $44.61
There were only 2 nights that I needed to pay for accommodation in June. The first one was at the vanlife meetup at Rock Point Provincial Park ($9.61) and the second was at a HipCamp location ($35). Depending on how you look at things, it’s possible to include the $16.95 I spent on a Harvest Host’s maple syrup as well. Instead, I classified that as a gift, since I gave it to someone else.
TOTAL MONTHLY VANLIFE EXPENSES = $2,607.80 CAD
In June I spent $592.77 on fixed expenses and $2,015.03 on variable expenses, for a total of $2,607.80 on vanlife living for the month. These costs included a lot of free camping and a few paid camping spots, a lot of restaurant and takeout expenses, and 45% of my spending came from buying items for the van. I anticipate a similar trend will continue this year as I slowly renovate the van from a weekend adventure mobile to a full-time home. I’m curious to know if you’ve analyzed your costs in the first few months of moving into a new home, be it stationary or on wheels. If you’re up to it, 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.
Stay tuned to all things vanlife and travel by subscribing to the (nearly) monthly newsletter and joining the adventure on Instagram. Thanks for reading!
Hey Tara. I love that you shared your expenses for the month of June. Since moving to Sudbury I’ve been a bit of a geek and track my expenses every month. I even learned Excel to become more of a nerd. Reading your post made me think how well you budgeted. For comparison my Fixed expenses every month is just north of $2800. This includes mortgage, car payment (trucks are expensive), insurance, property tax just to name a few. My variable expenses include everything from gas ($400 per month for the year), groceries, takeout, pharmacy, birthday presents and vacation expenses just to name a few. My average monthly expenses were around $5600. I applaud you for doing so well. Retirement and buying a house and starting a new mortgage probably wasn’t the best plan but we live and learn. Anyway, I enjoy following your new foray into van life. Looks like you’re loving it. Take care. Jasper
“… and on principle I hate paying interest …” whether intentional or not I enjoyed the pun.
Most definitely an intentional pun! 😁