October came and went like fresh cookies out of the oven. It was a quiet month on the vanlife front, yet still saw some plane travel and shorter distance trips. There was also a rocky resettlement period into my apartment with the absolute mess the subletter left behind. Two life lessons were learned: don’t leave your unit furnished and definitely get a bigger security deposit in the future. Why am I back in my apartment? Well, the van doesn’t have a heater. I’ve car-camped in Iceland in fall before, however Canadian winter is not for the faint of heart. Second, and more immediate is that I am beginning renovations to prepare for January’s adventure. More on the renos in November’s expense report.
As I mentioned, even though I wasn’t in the van this month I still was fortunate to explore North America with 3 trips. I was in the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario) for an extended weekend and then visited Florida for a week for a first-time sibling trip. Oh yeah, and I paid only $75 for my round trip flights. One of the highlights was a hilarious air boat tour through the everglades. Our guide was fantastic and we lucked out seeing a few crocodiles, which was pretty wild. Other than that, I worked while the others golfed, and we hung out together in the evenings. I was really curious to see what Florida would be like, especially since we were close to where Hurricane Ian just unleashed its fury. The damage we witnessed looked like it was part of a movie set, but for the most part the area we stayed in remarkably was left unscathed. One of the more memorable parts of being in Florida was getting a kick out of the snowbirds and locals bundled up in winter jackets and long pants in the 16 degree weather.
October wrapped up with 4 days in one of my favourite cities, Toronto, for The Travel Summit where I presented on travelling with points for Canadian beginner travel hackers. There was so much to learn at the conference and even more wonderful people to meet. I walked away buzzing with all of the energy one absorbs from spending time with like-minded people! October’s cup was not only full, it was overflowing.
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 October 2022 breakdown.
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Fixed Vanlife Expenses October 2022
Phone & Data = $64.41
Right now I pay $55 + tax per month for 20GB of data. I’m toying with reducing my plan back down to $35 + tax per month until I head off in January. The plan offers only 3GB of data, however between the unlimited wifi at home and in various public spaces, it could easily work. Making the change will save around $75 over the next few months and balance out the extra storage cost hikes. Check back in November for the final decision.
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. Also, thank you but no thank you to inflation, which caused this monthly expense to jump a whopping $10.15 from $74.10 per month to the current price. Yeesh…
Insurance = $78.45
Vehicle insurance. You know the drill.
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 October 2022
Gas = $200.08
I gassed up my van once this month and split fuel for the trip to the Soo. Ironically, I used to spend around $200 per month on average in gas with my Civic and now this is a “cheap” monthly amount with the van.
Vehicle Maintenance & Repairs = N/A
Van Items = -$941.14
My wallet took a rest in October. The few purchase I made included batteries for the “bathroom” light ($14.99) and blackout curtains for the front of the van ($48.05). I also returned a dashboard phone mount for about $20 and finally sold the (never used) Laveo DryFlush van toilet!
Groceries = $229.37
If anyone has been to a Canadian grocery store lately, you know that food prices are BONKERS. The best way to illustrate this is to demonstrate what I paid for a container of cherry tomatoes recently. Last year a larger container cost $5.99. This past week they cost $9.00. It’s absolute freakin’ highway robbery and to boot, Canadian grocery chains are posting record profits these days. As you can see, I’ve increased the amount of grocery shopping and cooking I did in October compared to the summer. As many of you reading this can also attest to, $230 doesn’t fill your fridge and cupboards as much as it used to.
Food on the Go = $65.54
Most of the “food on the go” category this month came from little morsels of food here and there – Timbits on the run, a slice of pizza to tide me over, a pita when I was too tired to cook dinner. There are no fun restaurants to share this time around. It should also be noted that I didn’t include the cost of food for Florida in either of these categories since I lumped it into my “Trip” category (not shown in these reports). Most of those Florida food costs would have gone under “Groceries”.
Laundry = N/A
Showers = N/A
Camping / Accommodation = N/A
TOTAL MONTHLY VANLIFE EXPENSES = $118.38 CAD
The total cost of my fixed expenses in October was $564.53, which was $10.15 more than September due to the increased storage unit price. The total variable costs in October was an incredible -$446.15, which was $1,065.89 less than September. This was in large part thanks to the sale of the toilet, but also due to lower fuel, dining out, camping, and overall van item expenses. In sum, the monthly vanlife expenses in October was $118.38. Wowzas!!! How does this compare with what you spend in these categories over a month? 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.
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