Author Topic: Could you live out of a car?  (Read 6499 times)

JLee

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5498
Could you live out of a car?
« on: January 11, 2015, 03:16:53 PM »
I don't mean that in a strict sense, but I was thinking about this the other day.

I work in the IT industry and am hoping to be doing contract work in the near future (2015 or 2016). When I do this, I will likely be moving around the country every three, six, 9-12/etc months as I move from place to place.  Even being into cars (I generally own a fast car and an offroad vehicle at any given time), I realized that I could probably fit everything I *really* cared about having in/behind my truck.  I can tow my MR2 on a small flatbed with the same SUV that's for offroad/expedition travel. Inside, I should be able to fit the things that I would really want to have: laptop, camera, clothing, some basic tools, etc.

First thought might be- so, I'll go work a 6 month contract with minimal stuff, because I'm going to go back to my house eventually. Where all my stuff is. But...if I don't need it for 6 months, do I really need it at all?  Some of it would be hard to part with, e.g. tools. I have acquired a LOT of tools over the years and they have saved me a LOT of money. So, if I were to keep my house and rent it (right now I have very good friends living here, and I hope they will stay long term), I could leave tools here and just use em whenever I land in Phoenix (catch up on / get ahead of maintenance). Other stuff...firearms, extra clothing, books, furniture, kitchen equipment, desktop computer, home theater, etc., is all not all "necessary", as much as it is nice to have people over for movies and whatnot.

Anyway. This makes me really think about massively downsizing when I start doing contracts - rent furnished studio apartments or rent rooms when I'm working somewhere, and when it comes time to move I could pack up and go in a matter of hours.  Has anyone else done something similar?  Any regrets?

Bolding stuff because a lot of people aren't catching it. :)
« Last Edit: January 15, 2015, 11:54:07 AM by JLee »

Earthling

  • Guest
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2015, 04:36:09 PM »
Can't you pass these costs on to your clients/customers? Or deduct them from your taxes?

Many hotels and related lodgings offer month-to-month rentals. The units have kitchenettes, so you could be frugal on food.

Bottom line: I view frugality as primarily applicable in one's private life. In the business world, aggressive frugality could be counter-productive and lead to a loss of business as your wise economic choices may be misunderstood by your customers/clients. As much as I appreciate frugality, I'd never hire a contractor for any purpose if I understood they were living in a tent, as I'd view that (unfairly, I know) as reflecting their inability to run a successful business.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2015, 04:38:03 PM by Earthling »

TerriM

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 507
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2015, 04:41:05 PM »
People live out of cars all the time.  What about trying a Winnebago?

I guess the question is whether you can get internet :)

Exflyboy

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6172
  • Age: 57
  • Location: Corvallis, Oregon
  • Expat Brit living in the New World..:)
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2015, 05:04:15 PM »
I'd do it.. in a heartbeat.

I tired to do this during my last which was 80 miles away from home.. The company had a multi storey carpark and there was a little community of overnighter's there.  I'm sure Security were not so dumb as to not realise this was going on.

In my case my Wife found out about my plans and kyboshed the idea immediately.. I was a bit bummed cus it was a bit of an adventure..:)

I think the biggest downside would be the weather.. i.e if its minus 20F or plus 110F outside, then the lack of insulation in most vehicles would make it very uncomfortable.

How discreet do you think you'll  need to be?.. Steamed up windows are a bit of a giveaway and parking in nice neighbourhoods will probably get you reported eventually, at least from what I have read on the subject.

JLee

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5498
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2015, 05:16:43 PM »
Thanks for the input! Please though, note the last paragraph-
Quote
rent furnished studio apartments or rent rooms when I'm working somewhere
I would definitely want a roof with climate control, running water, and a real bed. I was more thinking along the "fit everything I really care about in what I can drive in, so I can be near-infinitely portable." :)

Can't you pass these costs on to your clients/customers? Or deduct them from your taxes?

Many hotels and related lodgings offer month-to-month rentals. The units have kitchenettes, so you could be frugal on food.

Bottom line: I view frugality as primarily applicable in one's private life. In the business world, aggressive frugality could be counter-productive and lead to a loss of business as your wise economic choices may be misunderstood by your customers/clients. As much as I appreciate frugality, I'd never hire a contractor for any purpose if I understood they were living in a tent, as I'd view that (unfairly, I know) as reflecting their inability to run a successful business.

I am referring to W2 contract work (e.g. working for , not an independent contractor. Example: https://sentinel.igreentree.com/CSS_External/CSSPage_JobDetail.ASP?T=20150111181545&

Earthling

  • Guest
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2015, 06:17:45 PM »
Thanks for the input! Please though, note the last paragraph-
Quote
rent furnished studio apartments or rent rooms when I'm working somewhere
I would definitely want a roof with climate control, running water, and a real bed. I was more thinking along the "fit everything I really care about in what I can drive in, so I can be near-infinitely portable." :)

Can't you pass these costs on to your clients/customers? Or deduct them from your taxes?

Many hotels and related lodgings offer month-to-month rentals. The units have kitchenettes, so you could be frugal on food.

Bottom line: I view frugality as primarily applicable in one's private life. In the business world, aggressive frugality could be counter-productive and lead to a loss of business as your wise economic choices may be misunderstood by your customers/clients. As much as I appreciate frugality, I'd never hire a contractor for any purpose if I understood they were living in a tent, as I'd view that (unfairly, I know) as reflecting their inability to run a successful business.

I am referring to W2 contract work (e.g. working for , not an independent contractor. Example: https://sentinel.igreentree.com/CSS_External/CSSPage_JobDetail.ASP?T=20150111181545&

W2's are for employees, not contractors, so I'm confused by the phrase "W2 contract work" and repeated use of the term "contract." I understand you will be obtaining a series of short-term employments, although I don't understand the feasibility of that.

Your taxes may be complicated if you are moving from state to state on a relatively short-term basis. You might want to consider where you are resident permanently and the tax impacts (if any) of living in a different state for a period of time. It might make a difference if you live in State A for 180 or 181 days. States normally apply reciprocity rules, so the net economic effect may be a wash, but you still could have filing requirements in different states. Consult an accountant or tax lawyer.

JLee

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5498
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2015, 06:50:34 PM »
Thanks for the input! Please though, note the last paragraph-
Quote
rent furnished studio apartments or rent rooms when I'm working somewhere
I would definitely want a roof with climate control, running water, and a real bed. I was more thinking along the "fit everything I really care about in what I can drive in, so I can be near-infinitely portable." :)

Can't you pass these costs on to your clients/customers? Or deduct them from your taxes?

Many hotels and related lodgings offer month-to-month rentals. The units have kitchenettes, so you could be frugal on food.

Bottom line: I view frugality as primarily applicable in one's private life. In the business world, aggressive frugality could be counter-productive and lead to a loss of business as your wise economic choices may be misunderstood by your customers/clients. As much as I appreciate frugality, I'd never hire a contractor for any purpose if I understood they were living in a tent, as I'd view that (unfairly, I know) as reflecting their inability to run a successful business.

I am referring to W2 contract work (e.g. working for , not an independent contractor. Example: https://sentinel.igreentree.com/CSS_External/CSSPage_JobDetail.ASP?T=20150111181545&

W2's are for employees, not contractors, so I'm confused by the phrase "W2 contract work" and repeated use of the term "contract." I understand you will be obtaining a series of short-term employments, although I don't understand the feasibility of that.

Your taxes may be complicated if you are moving from state to state on a relatively short-term basis. You might want to consider where you are resident permanently and the tax impacts (if any) of living in a different state for a period of time. It might make a difference if you live in State A for 180 or 181 days. States normally apply reciprocity rules, so the net economic effect may be a wash, but you still could have filing requirements in different states. Consult an accountant or tax lawyer.

http://career-advice.monster.com/job-search/company-industry-research/it-contract-work-faq/article.aspx

Quote
What's the difference between being a contract employee and an independent consultant?

Contract employees are hired by consulting or staffing agencies and then placed in assignments at businesses that need help on projects. Independent consultants typically market their own services to businesses and bill them for those services. The term "consultant" is often used to refer to both situations. This article refers to contract employees.

Who pays me as a contractor?

The staffing agency. At the end of the year, you'll receive a W-2 from the agency. Independent consultants, on the other hand, get 1099s from their clients and must pay self-employment taxes and quarterly income taxes.

TerriM

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 507
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2015, 06:59:48 PM »
Thanks for the input! Please though, note the last paragraph-
Quote
rent furnished studio apartments or rent rooms when I'm working somewhere
I would definitely want a roof with climate control, running water, and a real bed. I was more thinking along the "fit everything I really care about in what I can drive in, so I can be near-infinitely portable." :)

Yeah.  I did see that, I just thought that you wouldn't have to unpack if you had the Winnebago :)

Sure, it's very doable if all of your life's possessions would fit.

JLee

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5498
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2015, 07:06:45 PM »
Thanks for the input! Please though, note the last paragraph-
Quote
rent furnished studio apartments or rent rooms when I'm working somewhere
I would definitely want a roof with climate control, running water, and a real bed. I was more thinking along the "fit everything I really care about in what I can drive in, so I can be near-infinitely portable." :)

Yeah.  I did see that, I just thought that you wouldn't have to unpack if you had the Winnebago :)

Sure, it's very doable if all of your life's possessions would fit.

Haha, fair enough. I actually did think about that before I moved to AZ - could've picked up a travel trailer and stayed in that. Campgrounds are ridiculously expensive, though. :(

Bob W

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2947
  • Age: 60
  • Location: Missouri
  • Live on minimum wage, earn on maximum
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2015, 07:09:12 PM »
Lots and lots of people do this.   Possessions are a burden, not a blessing, as you are discovering.  Go for it.

shadowmoss

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1024
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2015, 01:51:58 AM »
When I was working in Central America I kept my UPS mailbox in WA, which is a state the doesn't collect state income tax, and used it as my tax residence.  I put all my stuff in a storage unit.  When I came to Phoenix I got a room at an Extended Stay.  I got an apartment soon, and then bought an older mobile home in a 55+ park in Mesa.  The Extended Stay was actually the cheaper option.  It had a kitchen, desk and wifi included, along with morning coffee and on-site laundry room. 

My suggestion would be to go halves on your plan:  downsize a lot of your possessions.  Maybe keep tools and a few other things and put them into a storage unit.  Rent out your house, especially if you have friends already there paying rent.  Find extended stay hotels at the locations where you will be working.

Alternately, get a small rv/travel trailer, but convenient rv parks that are affordable may be an issue in some areas, and they aren't great in areas with extreme temperature swings (think Phoenix in summer..., or anywhere else in winter).

Edited to add:  Get a UPS mailbox for your mail.  They will send it on to you whever you end up.  You could use a service in, I think, South Dakota or even one out of Parump, NV, both state income tax free places.  RV'ers do this.  Pick a place that doesn't require yearly auto emissions tests to plate the vehicles (this puts Texas out of the loop).  As long as you don't spend more than 6-12 months in any one place you should be good.  Even if you keep your tax residence in AZ (I think you are?), get the UPS or similar mailbox.  Friendship only goes so far, and if they leave you don't what to have to change your address from afar...
« Last Edit: January 12, 2015, 01:55:45 AM by shadowmoss »

GordonCopestake

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 68
  • Age: 41
  • Location: UK
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2015, 02:11:30 AM »
Ask Jacob, it's clearly doable in an RV

JLee

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5498
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2015, 08:17:19 AM »
When I was working in Central America I kept my UPS mailbox in WA, which is a state the doesn't collect state income tax, and used it as my tax residence.  I put all my stuff in a storage unit.  When I came to Phoenix I got a room at an Extended Stay.  I got an apartment soon, and then bought an older mobile home in a 55+ park in Mesa.  The Extended Stay was actually the cheaper option.  It had a kitchen, desk and wifi included, along with morning coffee and on-site laundry room. 

My suggestion would be to go halves on your plan:  downsize a lot of your possessions.  Maybe keep tools and a few other things and put them into a storage unit.  Rent out your house, especially if you have friends already there paying rent.  Find extended stay hotels at the locations where you will be working.

Alternately, get a small rv/travel trailer, but convenient rv parks that are affordable may be an issue in some areas, and they aren't great in areas with extreme temperature swings (think Phoenix in summer..., or anywhere else in winter).

Edited to add:  Get a UPS mailbox for your mail.  They will send it on to you whever you end up.  You could use a service in, I think, South Dakota or even one out of Parump, NV, both state income tax free places.  RV'ers do this.  Pick a place that doesn't require yearly auto emissions tests to plate the vehicles (this puts Texas out of the loop).  As long as you don't spend more than 6-12 months in any one place you should be good.  Even if you keep your tax residence in AZ (I think you are?), get the UPS or similar mailbox.  Friendship only goes so far, and if they leave you don't what to have to change your address from afar...
I own a house in AZ - would it be easier for tax purposes to consider that my residence, or do you think I'd be better changing to a no-tax / no-emissions state and considering my house entirely as a rental property?

arebelspy

  • Administrator
  • Senior Mustachian
  • *****
  • Posts: 27774
  • Age: -999
  • Location: Traveling the World
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2015, 10:44:00 AM »
If I were single, I'd be living in a car right now.
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, and now travel the world full time with two kids.
If you want to know more about me, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

johnny847

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3196
    • My Blog
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2015, 10:53:40 AM »
I recall a thread from some forum about this (may have been MMM, I don't know). The problem this guy ran into was food. Without a refrigerator, he ended up eating a lot of fast food.

If you can figure out the food thing though, the guy seemed to have everything else figured out.

DoubleDown

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1989
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2015, 11:30:24 AM »
I recall a thread from some forum about this (may have been MMM, I don't know). The problem this guy ran into was food. Without a refrigerator, he ended up eating a lot of fast food.

If you can figure out the food thing though, the guy seemed to have everything else figured out.

Add showers/hygiene to the list. I've heard some people join a gym or the YMCA just for that purpose.

If I didn't have a family, I *could* live in a car if I had to. But I would not choose to. I think you hit a big diminishing returns problem compared to, say, renting an affordable studio or an extended-stay hotel.

Considering that in LCOL areas you could probably get a small space for about $500/month with kitchen and bathroom facilities, hot water, heat, comfortable sleeping space, security, the ability to entertain guests (esp. of the romantic variety), no social stigma and everything else, it's a no-brainer. Living out of a car or RV you have far more logistical hurdles that end up costing you, like the food problem mentioned above. I'll bet the savings living in a car end up being minimal, if anything at all, but you get all the downsides at the same time.

TerriM

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 507
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #16 on: January 15, 2015, 11:39:05 AM »
JLee was proposing storing stuff in a car and living in a hotel I thought.  So showers would be there, but asking for a hotel with kitchenette is certainly a good suggestion.

JLee

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5498
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #17 on: January 15, 2015, 11:55:35 AM »
JLee was proposing storing stuff in a car and living in a hotel I thought.  So showers would be there, but asking for a hotel with kitchenette is certainly a good suggestion.
Yeah, not necessarily living out of a hotel but being to the point where you could be easily portable. Rent a room or a furnished studio somewhere, and then whenever you wanted to move just pack up and go. No need for a moving truck, etc. I bolded some stuff in the original post to make that more evident.

yyc-phil

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1013
  • Location: Yellowknife NWT
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #18 on: January 15, 2015, 12:01:08 PM »
I could easily live full-time in a van or station wagon that had sufficient room to put a mattress on a raised platform to store essentials under, out of sight. My wife would not go for this though but she would probably be fine in a small RV several months at the time, as long as it has at minimum a wet washroom and mini-kitchen. It is actually our plan to travel like that part of the year in a couple of years.

johnny847

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3196
    • My Blog
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #19 on: January 15, 2015, 02:53:43 PM »
JLee was proposing storing stuff in a car and living in a hotel I thought.  So showers would be there, but asking for a hotel with kitchenette is certainly a good suggestion.
Yeah, not necessarily living out of a hotel but being to the point where you could be easily portable. Rent a room or a furnished studio somewhere, and then whenever you wanted to move just pack up and go. No need for a moving truck, etc. I bolded some stuff in the original post to make that more evident.
/face palm. I really should read more closely before replying to posts.

Jesus Christ

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 44
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Wilmington, NC
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #20 on: January 15, 2015, 07:56:53 PM »
For two years I lived out of my car during the weekdays for work, then went to my house 2.5hrs away for the weekends. The job was in the middle of no where so I never found roommate or studio apartments situations. One of the reasons why I never wanted to move there full time in the 1st place.

tips:
Sign up at the gym to gain access to the showers and get a chance to work out in order to kill time.
Don't tell anyone you are living out of your car.
Keep car clean and neat. Store stuff in trunk
pack two lunches. The extra one will be your dinner so you can use the company microwave
have fun and meet friends out of town. Maybe you might find love and sleep in their bed instead of the back seat.
watch youtube channels for more tips. A lot of people do this




shadowmoss

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1024
Re: Could you live out of a car?
« Reply #21 on: January 16, 2015, 01:08:49 AM »
I own a house in AZ - would it be easier for tax purposes to consider that my residence, or do you think I'd be better changing to a no-tax / no-emissions state and considering my house entirely as a rental property?

This is something you need to work out, just know there are options.  Mail becomes more important.  When I was in Honduras my Mom could send me things, and I had the UPS Box place send my mail to me.  There was no interruptions in my address, since I left WA to go down there.  All my legal/tax paperwork kept the same address, my banks and retirement accounts, etc. kept the same address, even as I moved around.  Once I settled here in Phoenix I got another UPS Box and only then changed my address with everyone.  I've changed residence 3 times, but my 'mailing address' has stayed the same.  Also, as a woman who lives alone, no one can get a map to my house from my mailing address.  That is one level of things.  You may have friends who would hold/forward your mail from your house now, but will they really stay there the entire time you are working away?  What if their plans change, who will keep up with your mail? 

As for tax purposes, I prefer to have my state of residence in a no state income tax state.  I own property and have a location based job here now, so I can't really justify having my tax residence any place but AZ.  If I was still moving around I would change it back to either WA or TN (where I lived prior to WA).  The emissions issue gets complicated if you need to have your vehicle inspected every year or two to get plates.  Otherwise, most states let you renew your plates via mail (see comments above about having a stable mailing address...).  Nevada works, buy you need to be outside of Las Vegas or Reno, which is why some RV'ers use a service out of Pahrump outside of the emissions requirements area.  The small town I lived near in TN didn't have emissions requirements, although Nashville does.

How much all of this matters is something only you can decide.  I had a house in TN that I was supporting while in WA, Honduras and for a year while here.  I ended up letting friends stay there for free just to have it occupied, then finally was able to sell it.  Being an absentee landlord did not work for me (tried with 2 different sets of tenents).  If you want to keep the house while moving around for work, talk to some folks that it worked for to see how they did it.  As for it being your tax residence, run the numbers/hassel factors to see what works for you.