September is one of my favourite months of the year. It’s a time of excitement, reflection on the goings-on of warmer months, and a resetting for the cooler ones ahead. With that change of pace, I have also slowed down. In October I’ll be moving back into my apartment as I undertake van renovations in preparation for travels in the new year. Betty White also doesn’t have a heater, so the apartment is more enticing for the near future.
There are a mix of emotions as I prepare to re-inhabit the apartment, especially after loving being back on the road. I’m looking forward to a regular exercise routine. All of my movement habits flew out the window in the van since the shower wasn’t set up. Another perk will be catching up with friends and maybe even teaching in-person. On the other hand, I’m not thrilled about having to pay rent again. I can’t emphasize how freeing it’s been not to have that set cost each month and simultaneously having a place to live AND the opportunity to travel. It’s a privileged position to be in, and definitely not one I take for granted. However, it’s going to be a very different 3 months as I navigate taking that expense back on while also making some sizable purchases. On the list are several larger ticket items, such as a new laptop and items for the van including a fridge, water tank, toilet, solar panels, and maybe even a swivel seat and heater. The last two items are the least likely to be added, but then again I didn’t think I’d be fortunate enough to get my van this year either.
This past September I was fortunate enough to travel through 2 provinces (Ontario & Québec) with a very dear friend. While on the road we visited some of my family, met a bunch of cool people, and spoke French every chance we got! I also met friendly vanlifers, Basti & Svenja of Neuland Stories, who just shipped their home here from Germany, and finally crossed paths in person with Sim and Kartik of @TheBrownVanlife after chatting online for the past 2 years.
Not all was rosy and fabulous though. Two very unpleasant events occurred this month. The first was without a doubt the worst reception I’ve ever received from an AirBnb/accommodation host in over a decade of travel (more to come in another blog post), and the second was the filthy condition I found my apartment in after having a subletter. Live and learn?… Thank goodness for security deposits.
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 September 2022 breakdown.
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Fixed Vanlife Expenses September 2022
Phone & Data = $64.41
This amount should now be consistent, unless I decide to change my plan again in the new year.
Storage Unit = $74.10
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
This month I started paying insurance for only 1 vehicle. I’m bummed and a little concerned to not have my Civic for the next 3 months, but I also know that everything works out okay. It’s not too shabby having a lower bill either.
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 September 2022
Gas = $413.71
Even though I covered a lot of ground in September, gas costs weren’t as high because my friend and I split the cost for the 3-week trip. Another reason that this amount is drastically lower than August and July is that I’ve been pretty stationary since the middle of the month. It’s been great to slow down a bit, recalibrate, and reflect on all of the past few months’ adventures.
Vehicle Maintenance & Repairs = N/A
Van Items = $436.39
September was pretty lowkey for purchases, which I’m thankful for with the larger looming purchases. Before leaving on our 3-week trip, I purchased a small 1-lb butane can from Canadian Tire for the portable stove, which didn’t end up getting used ($5.46). At El Campo, the massive vanlife event in Québec, I didn’t have anything to keep the van level. Lucky for me, there were several vendors at the festival and one of them, Nomad Van, was selling lifts ($95). Technically you can use pieces of wood or other items that are strong enough, but I liked these Lego-like lifts and bought a set. Another necessary item that I finally purchased was a security system from Amazon ($312.60). There’s a mystery purchase ($22.58) from Canadian Tire that I can’t remember what it was. If I find the receipt, I’ll update this post. For the kitchen, I purchased a wooden dish brush replacement from Savon du Bois ($7.35). And last, the most fun and fanciful purchases were 2 tea bag plates from Zest Kitchen in Prince Edward County ($15.80). I can’t wait to serve friends and family tea (from my cute collapsible kettle) in the van!!!
Groceries = $242.74
This month has seen a mixture of preparing and eating food in the van and also at family’s. It’s been great to enjoy daily smoothies again since the van chest fridge doesn’t have a freezer. I’ve also been cooking simple things like couscous and eggs. Technically I could have cooked these in the van with the portable stove, but for some reason I can’t put my finger on, I haven’t done any stovetop cooking in the van yet.
Food on the Go = $359.70
Like August, September’s dining out expenses were a mix of work lunches, treating friends, “Road Trip Timbits”, and not being able to resist trying new restaurants wherever I go. A lot of delicious meals were enjoyed, like the Persian tacos from Tango Nuevo and a healthy breakfast from Pan Chancho Bakery in Kingston, or the surprising taco masterpiece at East & Main in Prince Edward County, or the absolute best sandwich I’ve ever consumed from Flossie’s in The County, or sharing my love of Bao Sandwich Bar with my Irish friend. What’s no bueno, however, is that this category’s total keeps creeping upwards. Luckily my travels are about to seriously slow down for the next 3 months and with that, so will my desire to dine out.
Laundry = N/A
Showers = N/A
Camping / Accommodation = $59.50*
Technically I paid for this in August, but it was for a September event so I’m including it now instead. I’ve also shown half of the total price ($119) because my friend and I split the total ticket cost. At the beginning of September I went to El Campo, which is a huge van festival for 2 nights and 3 days in Domaine du Radar, Québec. The cost included not only the ability to camp overnight, but a talk from Dom from Vanlife Sagas, a comedy night, a concert with fantastic live bands and a DJ, hot showers, water activities like stand-up paddleboarding, campfires, wifi in the visitor centre, vendor stands, and a whack ton of fun. Talk about outrageous value!
TOTAL MONTHLY VANLIFE EXPENSES = $2,066.42 CAD
The total cost of my fixed expenses in September was $554.38, which was $43.21 less than August with a changing phone bill once again. The total variable costs in September was $1,512.04, which was $206.39 less than August due to shared fuel expenses. In sum, the monthly vanlife expenses in September was $2,066.42 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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