Welcome to the Monthly Vanlife Expenses May 2023 edition! Betty White turned 1 year old on May 31st, which is the day I picked her up and brought her home in 2022. It feels like I’ve had the van for more than one year. Wild how time goes!
Since the beginning of 2023, the universe keeps pulling me to Guelph for work and fun. At the beginning of the month, I had an absolute blast working with Visit Guelph to tour the city by bike and explore many of the cycle-friendly businesses in town. One of my favourite stops in Guelph included the scrumptious Park Eatery, which I will definitely revisit to try their brunch menu. Another of my favourite stops was Fixed Gear Brewing, which might sound odd since I don’t like beer. However, this creative cyclist haven has 2 locations on one lot and both are really cool. The first is where they make the beer and have a fantastic outdoor patio area – complete with an Airstream! The second location at the front of the lot is in an historic building where they serve witty wood-fired pizzas. Yum! To top off the day, I even hopped on one a trending Instagram trend and tried my hand at the Wes Anderson film style. It was as much fun to film as it was to edit, and apparently the ‘gram loved it too!
Early in the month I tried to tackle the van plumbing system on my own after my friend Katie helped me lay out a plan for the system. My dad and brother hopped in with drills and a helping hand here and there too. As happens with projects, I ran into a few bumps and ended up dismantling the van more than building anything in May. The bench springs and lid came off to help facilitate moving the water tank in and out of the area. I also had to scrap all (silly) notions that the van build would be finished by the time I left for Puerto Rico thanks to the crazy weather in April and a whole host of other reasons. It felt as if the van build was reversing instead of moving forward and I had to remind myself that progress can look like one step backward and two steps forward.
The winter tires came off in May. The van also got an oil change and the brakes were cleaned up. While it was at the shop, I hopped over to Baden Coffee Company to eat lunch and work for the afternoon. I ran into an old colleague from university days there too, which is always wonderful!
Mid-month I returned to Guelph for more work, doing photography and videography coverage for an event. It was fantastic getting to meet female business owner Carlie Roberts. She started her business career as a blogger as well! If you’re ever in Guelph and looking for gorgeous plus-sized consignment clothing, check out Consign Your Curves. After the work day was done, you better believe I returned to Park Eatery for another of their outrageous Nutella oatmeal squares. Deeeelish!
The next afternoon, I headed to Toronto to spend the day with family before hopping on a plane early the following morning for my first international trip of 2023. For 2 weeks I soaked in the music, culture, and intense heat of Puerto Rico! There are blog posts in the works on what to see and do, about the conference I attended (WITS or Women in Travel Summit), as well as what it’s like to vanlife on the island, so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you have any questions about Puerto Rico, feel free to drop them in the comments below.
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 May 2023 breakdown.
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Fixed Monthly Vanlife Expenses May 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 May 2023
Gas = $163
I was in Canada for only 2 weeks in May, which accounts for the lower gas costs. While exploring Puerto Rico via vanlife, my friend and travel partner (and Passenger-Seat Princess as she dubbed herself) very kindly paid for our gas. Surprisingly, we only used about a tank and a half, which wasn’t that much considering we circumnavigated the island.
Vehicle Maintenance & Repairs = $350.59
This month I had the winter tires switched with the summers, an oil change, and the brakes cleaned. A little maintenance goes a long way! I must say, having a vehicle that doubles as a residence has really increased my motivation for upkeep and staying proactive. I’m also very happy that I’ve left the dealership and have put Betty White in the care of a local auto shop. They’ve been awesome.
Van Items = $3.96
I forget why, but I needed to buy an extra plug ($3.96 at Home Depot) for the plumbing system in the van.
Groceries = $189.16 (Puerto Rico = $72.72)
The grocery amount here is technically for just 2 weeks since I was away for half of the month. While in Puerto Rico we only bought groceries (mostly fresh juice, fruit, and veggies) once and spent the rest of the time enjoying the island’s many delicious restaurants, food trucks, and roadside stands. I’ve converted the USD amount into the brackets shown above.
Food on the Go = $36.77 (Puerto Rico = $713.41)
Similar to the Grocery category, the main amount represented here is for the 2 weeks I spent in Canada in May. In the brackets I’ve indicated the converted (USD to CAD) amount I spent on eating out, for both food and alcohol combined and includes tips. I’ll admit, I splurged, BIG time. I wanted to try as many local dishes as possible and succeeded in trying a lot of new foods. I also couldn’t go to Puerto Rico and not try their cocktails, which were all fantastic except for those at the conference resort hotel which were abysmal. Unfortunately, dining out in USD post-pandy as a Canadian is a punch in the gut to the wallet. YOLO? …The frugal side of me cringed at the final tally. Over 15 days, the average daily spend for eating out (food/drink/tips) in Puerto Rico was $47.56. What do you splurge on when you’re away?
Laundry = N/A
Showers = $13
This is the first time this year that there has been a Shower dollar amount since I haven’t been living in the van in 2023. Even though my friend and I had a shower in the Van del Sol campervan, I wanted a bit more luxury on my birthday and so we splurged on long hostel showers. The cost was USD $10 which is roughly $13 Canadian. Not too long after said shower, I started sweating again in the extreme Puerto Rican heat. It was still totally worth it though!
Camping / Accommodation = $37.60
In June I attended the year’s first vanlife meetup, however I paid for the single campground night when I called to book at the end of May. Check out the June Monthly Vanlife Expenses blog post to see more from that event!
TOTAL MONTHLY VANLIFE EXPENSES = $1,356.15 CAD *while in Canada
The total cost of my fixed vanlife expenses in May was $562.27, which was $9.32 less than April because my phone bill went back to normal. The total variable Canadian vanlife costs in May was $793.88, which was $50.55 more than the previous month. However, if we include the Puerto Rico costs, then the total variable vanlife costs in May equalled a whopping $1,580.01. In total, the (Canadian) monthly vanlife expenses in May 2023 was $1,356.15. I’ve hummed and hawed about whether to include the Puerto Rico amounts for the final total, seeing as I was living and travelling in a van for 6 of the 15 days on the island. What do you think? Would you include them for the final total?
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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