Welcome to the Monthly Vanlife Expenses October 2023 edition! This month was by far the most expensive one yet in 2023. Just you wait until you find out how much I spent on Betty White! Yikes…
Most of October was spent at home, working on backend blogging items and administrative tasks. However, I did get out for a wee bit of fun. At the beginning of the month, Kitchener kicked off its 55th Oktoberfest celebrations. I attended the sunny opening ceremonies in Downtown Kitchener with a friend who had never been to Oktoberfest before.
The following weekend I bopped over to Toronto to spend time with friends and family. It was another gorgeous sunny few days, even warm enough for sitting on a patio!
The next week was full of social events, including my first Vansgiving with the beautiful crew below, a work date in Hamilton with a fellow blogger, and hangouts with old and new friends in St. Jacobs and Elora.
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 2023 breakdown.
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Fixed Monthly Vanlife Expenses October 2023
Phone & Data = $79.10
My phone bill is $62.15 per month and provides 50GB of data, however I went over this month.
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 October 2023
Gas = $364.54
It turns out that thus far in 2023, the average amount of money I spend on gas per month is $370. Other than 1 trip to Toronto and a few quick jaunts to Cambridge, St. Jacobs, and Elora, I didn’t travel in October.
Vehicle Maintenance & Repairs = $3,390
AYYYY!!! October was NOT nice on the pocket. In fact, it was downright brutal…however, this gigantic pothole ended up having a brilliant silver lining! Back in September, the van’s engine light came on. After some trouble shooting with fellow vanlifers and an infuriating visit to AAMCO where they tried to bamboozle me with an insulting $9,000 quote, I called the folks at Coast to Coast Transmissions for a diagnosis. The van needed to have the torque converter replaced and the transmission rebuilt.
The quote to do the work at Coast to Coast was roughly $3,000. Funnily enough, I was relieved to hear that number. When AAMCO quoted me nearly $10,000 for similar work, I genuinely thought that was the end of vanlife. There was no way I was going to cough up that much money, plus whatever had to be done still on the build. It didn’t make financial sense. Instead of bursting into tears, I automatically went into Options Mode. Sell the van? Buy a used car? Forget vanlife? Use public transportation? Have the van sit and figure things out? I systematically went through each one. After bringing the campervan to Coast to Coast, and having completed research on the repairs and what they typically cost, I decided to keep the van and get it repaired.
The silver lining in all of this was that I managed to get a free flight out of all of these expenses. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, I travel hack which means I use credit card points and miles to pay myself to travel. I don’t typically spend as much as I was in October, so it was an opportune time to sign up for a new credit card and earn a hefty sign-up bonus. The card I chose earned me enough points to fly anywhere in North America, and almost all the way to Europe. If you’re a renter or home owner, are planning a wedding, or have any expenses that are making travel feel out of reach, send me a message and let’s set up a travel coaching session so you can learn how to properly travel hack too!
Van Items = N/A
Groceries = $236.64
Not too much to report here!
Food on the Go = $75.43
For some odd reason, I had been craving a wrap from Swiss Chalet. You might not find this weird, however I used to work there and know what goes on behind the scenes. For this very reason, I have never craved anything from The Swiss. Maybe it was nostalgia? The garlic mayo is pretty tasty… I digress. After weeks of thinking about it, I caved and ordered one Rotisserie Chicken Club Wrap. It was awful. I think there was more wrap than any other ingredient and the garlic mayo barely registered. Did I mention it cost nearly $20? Let’s hope that craving never comes back again! Other than that, I had a decent fall-flavoured smoothie from Fiddleheads, a health food store in town, and a few pizza visits. There were no new spots to share with you this month.
Laundry = N/A
Showers = N/A
Camping / Accommodation = N/A
TOTAL MONTHLY VANLIFE EXPENSES = $4,657.13 CAD
The total cost of my fixed vanlife expenses in October was $590.52, which was slightly more than September ($573.57). The total variable vanlife costs in October was $4,066.61, which was thousands of dollars more than September thanks to a hefty repair bill for the torque converter and transmission rebuild. The total monthly vanlife expenses in October was $4,657.13. 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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