Welcome to the Monthly Vanlife Expenses November 2023 edition! This month was a nice balance. The expenses weren’t too high and the ratio of work to socializing and fun was pretty decent. I also got fantastic news regarding the van…but you’ll have to keep reading to find out what that was!
To kick off November, I worked with Visit Guelph to cover the wonderful Guelph Film Festival. There’s something so special about the Royal City. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Guelph has the loveliest, most enthusiastic and engaged community. There’s an energy there that’s distinctly theirs and it’s absolutely lovely. After lunch at Mijiidaa Café + Bistro, I couldn’t resist popping into a new (for me) bookstore I’ve had on my list. The Bookshelf is in the heart of downtown. Not only do they sell books, board games, and puzzles, but they sell wine and are a cinema too! That’s a triple threat if I ever heard of one.
That same weekend I jetted off to Toronto for some family time before turning in the opposite direction for the Stratford Festival’s outstanding production of Rent. It was actually my second time seeing the show this year, and just in time too because I caught the last of its extended performances. That’s a musical that gets you right in the chest. The singing was top notch, especially Nestor Lozano Jr.’s portrayal of Angel and Lee Siegel as Tom Collins. Just wow.
After another trip to Stratford to see Spamalot and a quick pop over to Galt (Cambridge) to experience the Gaslight District’s Christmas setup, I capped off the month with a Toronto Travel Massive event. Traffic was horrendous and I arrived at the end of the night, however it was wonderful to connect with fellow travel enthusiasts and colleagues. There’s nothing like chatting with people who enjoy similar interests. It’s so energizing!
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 November 2023 breakdown.
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Fixed Monthly Vanlife Expenses November 2023
Phone & Data = $62.15
My phone bill is $62.15 per month and provides 50GB of data.
Storage Unit = $95.55
I have half a mind to move the items I have in storage into my place, but then my home would feel more like a storage unit.
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 November 2023
Gas = $295.01
With work in Guelph, visiting in Toronto, and enjoying a little culture in Stratford, my driving habits were fairly local in November.
Vehicle Maintenance & Repairs = N/A
Thaaaank goodness there’s nothing here, because October’s monthly expenses were a doozy. If you read the previous van expenses blog post, you already know that I had over $3,000 in work to rebuild the transmission. There was a silver lining, though! Because I love travel hacking and paying myself to travel, I maximized the opportunity of this otherwise crappy situation.
Ironically, I view large expenses like car repairs, though frustrating, stressful, and unenjoyable by most standards, as fantastic opportunities to earn free flights! Before you call me crazy, I’ve been practicing travel hacks like these for about a decade and they’re one of the reasons I’m able to afford to travel so often and so affordably. The same principle applies to those with home renovations, weddings, or skyhigh rent. If you’re not quite sure what I’m talking about with all of this travel hacking stuff, I created an online course to teach you all of the tips and tricks I personally use to explore the world for a fraction of the cost. It’s actually pretty easy to implement. You can also send me an email or check out this link to learn more or sign-up for the course.
The story gets better. In addition to earning a free flight, my father reminded me about the extended warranty I purchased with the van. I had forgotten about it and am so happy he suggested I see if the repairs were covered…because they were! That’s right, the repairs were eligible for a full refund. Not only was I getting a flight for free, I was getting a rebuilt transmission for free as well. YIPEEEEE!
I found out this information and submitted the paperwork in November, however the reason why you see “N/A” here is because the refund will arrive next month. Merry early Christmas to me! The photo below is partially for visual interest, but also because in November I had a sneaky small ceiling leak. I haven’t found the source, but I’m sure it will surface again at some point down the road…
Van Items = N/A
Groceries = $265.77
Lots of home cooking these days! Nothing to wild to report here.
Food on the Go = $60.58
There were a few super busy nights this month so I caved and went for takeout. One of them was at an Indian restaurant which, while spicy and delicious, was ultimately disappointing. I paid about $17 for a main dish that was smaller than my hand. Yeesh! Another spot I tried (for the first time) was The Poke Box in Waterloo near the universities. It was pretty tasty and the portion size was bang on. The last bit of takeout I bought was, you guessed it, pizza! What can I say? It hits all the food groups, is convenient, and tastes vundabah.
OH! The gnocchi dish you see below is from a restaurant in Guelph, Ontario called Miijidaa Café + Bistro. While covering the Guelph Film Festival for work, I was fortunate enough to visit this creative B Corp restaurant for the first time. It will definitely not be my last. I think that was the best gnocchi I’ve ever had, other than my mother and nonno’s. What a party for the tastebuds! If you’re in Guelph, go to Miijidaa. Savour every bite.
Laundry = N/A
Showers = N/A
Camping / Accommodation = N/A
TOTAL MONTHLY VANLIFE EXPENSES = $1,194.93 CAD
The total cost of my fixed vanlife expenses in November was $573.57, which was less than October thanks to a normal phone bill. The total variable vanlife costs in November was $621.36, which was substantially less than the previous month. Thaaank goodness! The total monthly vanlife expenses in November was $1,194.93. 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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