Author Topic: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!  (Read 16850 times)

drachma

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Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« on: February 21, 2015, 07:03:38 PM »
I currently rent at $475 a month all utilities included.

I am looking into van-dwelling for my next stint. But it's not that much cheaper. I stand to save maybe $300 a month IF I can reduce my driving by a factor of 2 - all of my current driving is recreational. I live within walking distance to the grocery store and my work.

The only reason I drive is literally to date people and pursue my one hobby of mountaineering - My city is extremely small, no colleges, not much tech industry/yuppies other than my employer, and no outdoor activities, so dating happens about 45mins away where actual people live and fun happens an hour north in the mountains. Cutting my gas mileage in half would mean having to cut my driving habits in half - not likely when I have already gotten rid of the day-to-day driving problem and will be adding having to re-park my van and drive to the gym each morning.

Insurance and registration on a "non-professional bus conversion" class B RV used as a primary residence, valued at $25000 is like $200/year. A win over a normal car, to my surprise!

Other fixed costs of van-dwelling that are covered by my current rent include:
1. PO box - $15/mo
2. Laundry - $20/mo
3. Propane usage - $40/mo (fridge/heat. likely an overestimate)
4. Mobile internet - $80/mo (cable included in my rent, but I need to VPN to work)
5. Gym membership - $20/mo (showers and actually i just do weights in my current basement)
6. increased vehicle maintenance budget - +$50/mo (when its your house, gotta fix it RIGHT and RIGHT NOW).
7. slightly decreased insurance, registration.

TOTAL = $225/mo of "rent"

So at max I stand to save 475 - 225 = $250/month IF my fuel costs stay the same. There's some security, peace-of-mind, and solitude benefits that come from it but nothing monetary.

I suppose I'm not off so far in the sticks so often that there isn't a library or coffee shop nearby with free wifi, but I dislike being without it, or trusting the coffee shop to have it set up and working right so I'm not late for that e-meeting. I'm gunning for a tim-ferriss inspired work-from-home negotiation and I feel I need to be a reliable worker-from-home if that's to come to fruition.

Start-up cost estimate for a SWANKY van conversion:

Cost of suitable used van: $2500-5000 (AWD 1-ton)
Cost of all-new RV conversion appliances: $4000
this includes: water heater, water pump, sink, shower, flushing toilet and potable/gray/black water storage, propane system, propane FRIDGE/freezer, stove top, oven, propane heater, proper equipment for use of all this stuff in the dead of a new england winter (sewage-tank defrosters, etc...), solar battery array, AC power inverter, all lights and wiring, all plumbing, all framing, insulation, flooring, dashcam, CO detector, and fire extinguisher.

probably don't need all that but being able to shit when I please is important to me. that important? time will tell.

this is the value of my current vehicle so I would break-even on the conversion and start saving $250/month immediately (assuming gas improvements), no ROI timeframe.
The upside of this is that I can basically build a cabin w/ generator for the same amount of money so that's good to know. I just don't want to settle in this area yet.

So, I wanted to write that all out in a non-spreadsheet form and bounce it off the internet to get some help with the less quantifiable aspects. To repeat, monetarily it only saves me a theoretical max of $250/month over my current situation but with added freedom and the ability to relocate with my house in a couple years. I need to fix the "drive an hour for a date" problem independently of this plan.

Argyle

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2015, 07:09:05 PM »
If you're looking to date people, not living in your van will be much more appealing. Most people would much rather date someone who doesn't have a car in preference to someone who lives in his van.  Consider the extra expense of living in an apartment a necessary expense for your social life.

Retire-Canada

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2015, 07:12:34 PM »
I currently rent at $475 a month all utilities included.

I am looking into van-dwelling for my next stint. But it's not that much cheaper. I stand to save maybe $300 a month IF I can reduce my driving by a factor of 2 - all of my current driving is recreational. I live within walking distance to the grocery store and my work.

If you current housing costs are $475/month all in than saving $300 would be 63%. With rent that low how much more can you really save given there are some new costs associated with van life?

-- Vik

AlexK

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2015, 07:20:27 PM »
You will save a lot on dating because there will be no more second dates. Seriously though your rent is so cheap is this really going to get you to your goals that much faster? This is assuming your goal isn't being a van dweller.

The mountain trips could be more fun with a camper van though.

drachma

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2015, 07:23:56 PM »
If you're looking to date people, not living in your van will be much more appealing. Most people would much rather date someone who doesn't have a car in preference to someone who lives in his van.  Consider the extra expense of living in an apartment a necessary expense for your social life.

I am currently dating someone who lives in their car. Yes they are a real, employed person making a decent living.

I know you are partially right, but my defense is that (a) I tend to only date like-minded people anyway, being a bit whimsical myself, (b) I probably wouldn't date someone for very long if they weren't into it, (c) it's not a big thing in my current social circles, (d) I do a pretty good job of "owning" stuff like this and I'm cocky enough to think I'm confident enough to pull it off, and (e) there's always HER place.


Quote from: AlexK
Seriously though your rent is so cheap is this really going to get you to your goals that much faster? This is assuming your goal isn't being a van dweller.
Yeah well to get rent this low I share with 3 college undergrads. which has its own dating pitfalls as a 27 employed professional, but the house is nice enough and well-kept and I've done fine. I like my own space but couldn't stomach the cost. I want to stop paying rent and have privacy but I don't want to buy property here yet as I plan to move cross country in a few years. It'd be swell to just drive my permanent residence over to Colorado. Tiny houses are "in" right now anyway.

and yes you have a point, it's not about the savings rate right now, its about keeping the expenses low throughout early-retirement so you reduce the principle amount needed to sustain you. I have plans of living maybe not in a VAN but in a similarly low cost, low-grid-usage domicile once I settle down in one location.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2015, 07:32:20 PM by drachma »

JetsettingWelfareMom

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2015, 08:40:59 PM »
Sounds like this is less about a van and more about moving in together with your SO in whatever way you see possible. Adding an SO to the mix changes things--dating costs should go way down, for one thing.
A van is a huge unknown--where are you living (like what state or country)? How cold does it get in the winter/warm in the summer? Living in a van is quite a different experience in New Hampshire versus California, for example, especially in February. There's also regulations to worry about--you might not be parked in an area that allows vans, in gentrified neighborhoods nosy old folks might complain, cops might show up and cite for violating obscure laws that you didn't even know existed. On the other hand you might drive somewhere for an awesome adventure with your sweetheart and history is made...
I'd start by saving money other ways--every night you spend cuddling instead of going to the bar, put it in a jar for the long term goals...which are what?

drachma

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2015, 09:22:05 PM »
Sounds like this is less about a van and more about moving in together with your SO in whatever way you see possible. Adding an SO to the mix changes things--dating costs should go way down, for one thing.
A van is a huge unknown--where are you living (like what state or country)? How cold does it get in the winter/warm in the summer? Living in a van is quite a different experience in New Hampshire versus California, for example, especially in February. There's also regulations to worry about--you might not be parked in an area that allows vans, in gentrified neighborhoods nosy old folks might complain, cops might show up and cite for violating obscure laws that you didn't even know existed. On the other hand you might drive somewhere for an awesome adventure with your sweetheart and history is made...
I'd start by saving money other ways--every night you spend cuddling instead of going to the bar, put it in a jar for the long term goals...which are what?

heh, it's more of a coincidence that I am dating this person right now. I am hesitant to call her an "SO" and don't plan on sharing the van. that was more an example that I associate with people who might not be horrified by homelessness. van living has been on my mind a long while and I am finally in a position to explore it more fully.

funny you mention that, actually yes I plan on living in new hampshire in February. I have already included the cost of equipment to defrost my sewage tanks in the RV conversion.

I'm out of money saving options other than modifying my lifestyle in ways I don't want. there's always minor things to improve but my budget is locked down and for the most part, all of my expenses are intentional, which is why I am now seeking extreme measures to reduce or eliminate the biggest 3 fixed expenses of Housing, Transportation, and Food.

this is about finding a lifestyle that is congruent with my goals, which are to FIRE by 35, and spend my spare time leading up to that point climbing mountains, when I can negotiate a work-from-home design contract and move to a mostly off-the-grid homestead in CO.

thanks for the response!

Ricky

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2015, 10:07:41 PM »
Shouldn't a "mostly single" 27 y/o professional be more motivated to further his career rather than save $250/mo? Not for me to decide but it doesn't sound worth it; sounds like saving $250/mo is more trouble than it's worth in this case. Isn't $250 paltry relative to your income?

For you this sounds like more of a lifestyle choice than necessity. If that's the case then any amount of money savings would be icing on your cake.

JetsettingWelfareMom

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2015, 10:26:16 PM »
Sounds like this is less about a van and more about moving in together with your SO in whatever way you see possible. Adding an SO to the mix changes things--dating costs should go way down, for one thing.
A van is a huge unknown--where are you living (like what state or country)? How cold does it get in the winter/warm in the summer? Living in a van is quite a different experience in New Hampshire versus California, for example, especially in February. There's also regulations to worry about--you might not be parked in an area that allows vans, in gentrified neighborhoods nosy old folks might complain, cops might show up and cite for violating obscure laws that you didn't even know existed. On the other hand you might drive somewhere for an awesome adventure with your sweetheart and history is made...
I'd start by saving money other ways--every night you spend cuddling instead of going to the bar, put it in a jar for the long term goals...which are what?

heh, it's more of a coincidence that I am dating this person right now. I am hesitant to call her an "SO" and don't plan on sharing the van. that was more an example that I associate with people who might not be horrified by homelessness. van living has been on my mind a long while and I am finally in a position to explore it more fully.

funny you mention that, actually yes I plan on living in new hampshire in February. I have already included the cost of equipment to defrost my sewage tanks in the RV conversion.

I'm out of money saving options other than modifying my lifestyle in ways I don't want. there's always minor things to improve but my budget is locked down and for the most part, all of my expenses are intentional, which is why I am now seeking extreme measures to reduce or eliminate the biggest 3 fixed expenses of Housing, Transportation, and Food.

this is about finding a lifestyle that is congruent with my goals, which are to FIRE by 35, and spend my spare time leading up to that point climbing mountains, when I can negotiate a work-from-home design contract and move to a mostly off-the-grid homestead in CO.

thanks for the response!

Love the goals! Hardcore in that cold weather I did an RV some years ago and folded on New England due to a cold front....went South to Florida instead after DC. Knew some RV folks in Venice, California--they got hassled by the police a lot, sadly. I went with the territory in those parts but never any major problems, thankfully...
You sound like you're aligning your goals with your passions and hell with the rest....good for you!Off grid and or out of the country is the new wave in some circles...done one (out of the country) and want to do the other...

Argyle

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2015, 10:29:37 PM »
$40 a month for propane heat in a New Hampshire winter like this winter sounds seriously low to me.

I myself think you're overestimating how much you'd save, and for the small amount of financial advantage van-dwelling would give you, you'd be better off looking out for a way to make a little bit more money.

drachma

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2015, 05:54:01 AM »
Shouldn't a "mostly single" 27 y/o professional be more motivated to further his career rather than save $250/mo? Not for me to decide but it doesn't sound worth it; sounds like saving $250/mo is more trouble than it's worth in this case. Isn't $250 paltry relative to your income?

I don't see why these two things are mutually exclusive.

Yes it is "paltry" but its one further optimization to one of the only fixed costs I have. I'm more or less solving my housing situation semi-permanently. Once I had the vanhouse I could easily sustain that living situation with a part-time mcdonalds job if I had to without changing my standard of living or even dropping my hobbies! Talk about security.

I suppose you are suggesting I work more overtime instead of spending that time converting a van in the hopes of climbing the career ladder?

Maybe I am checking out, but screw that. My career is more or less topped-out ladder-wise unless I want to go into middle management - which will not really allow for work-from-home in the future and comes with all kinds of unpredictable overtime commitment, and responsibility that I don't really care to spend my energy on. The idea is to be a good little engineer that has lots of technical expertise and remote project management experience and donate it to a company through a VPN while I do what's actually important to me at home.

caliq

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2015, 07:02:07 AM »
$40 a month for propane heat in a New Hampshire winter like this winter sounds seriously low to me.

+1

My horse trainer lived in an RV on the farm property and was spending more like $40 a week on propane in the Connecticut winter -- and that was an even milder winter than the one we're having right now. 

shadowmoss

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2015, 04:04:44 AM »
You might want to check in with Bob Wells, maybe email him or something.  After a divorce he didn't have money for child support, food, and a place to live. In Alaska.  So, he moved into a truck camper and found a live he loves.

http://www.cheaprvliving.com/

As an aside, I know I post a lot of links here for folks to check out.  I work in a computer NOC on weekend nights.  For 10 hours I sit at my computer and wait for trouble tickets (from servers, not people) to come in.  On quiet nights I have 7-8 hours to surf the internet.  I have worked this way for almost 10 years.  I have a lot of internet surfing on my widely varried interests behind me. 

LifestyleDeflation

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #13 on: February 23, 2015, 07:01:00 AM »
PO box can be eliminated if you have a friend in the area willing to receive your mail. My dad currently receives my non-time sensitive mail in California (I'm in Colorado) and friends here receive my occasional time sensitive mail.

Propane can be eliminated by a really warm sleeping bag (mine was only $40 because it's bulky- NOT a backpacking bag) and a hot water bottle in the bag on the coldest nights (where I live the temp regularly drops to -10f in January.

Mobile internet can be eliminated if you hang out near hotspots during the day, and ideally find a place to park at night within range of a hotspot. I have an arrangement with the owner of a pizza joint- I use his restaurant as my living room and park in his lot, and in exchange when he gets slammed I'll help out with a few pizza deliveries.

If you're into it, I'd definitely give it a shot- as long as you buy your equipment smart, you've got nothing to lose. You can always just rent a room again when you're ready.

KD

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2015, 07:19:36 AM »
You might want to check out...

http://www.andybaird.com/travels/

On costs, I think you can be as inventive and resourceful as you determine yourself to be.  Only YOU can decide if the propane is too high, the location needs to change or if you can up your own clothing coverage or exercise regimen to warm yourself, etc., etc., etc.  And at what price-point you are willing to try to rectify situations as you run across them.  IOW, Be a spendypants or a complainypants or a MMM frugal wizard. 

I think you have a dream and are in the place in life where you can afford to check it out.  I would do so.  Scratch the itch.  If it doesn't pan out the way you thought the Consumer Centric world will welcome you back with open arms.

Over the years having done quite a bit of travels in a truck camper I can tell you it has it's rewards.   It has it's limitations.  Carefully consider the type of terrain you want to cover in your treks, and buy the van accordingly.

Go for it and don't forget to write and tell us how it's going!!

lise

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #15 on: February 23, 2015, 09:32:23 AM »
1. I would date a guy that lived in a van.
2. I think you need to base your decision on what you want to do personally rather than if it's cheaper or not since you are finding the financials aren't what you expected.  Most people that live in RV's want to because of the freedom it affords in terms of being mobile with accommodation included.  If that is your goal, then do it. 

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2015, 03:31:03 PM »
Why do you have to use the van for all your driving?  Get a cheap motorcycle that gets good mileage.  You can park it behind the van in the same spot, and use that for getting around.  Not sure what kind of gear is involved in 'mountaineering' but you can fit a lot on a motorcycle if you have saddlebags on the sides and a good duffle on the back.  I've done camping trips by bike and carried everything needed including stove and fuel.

drachma

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #17 on: February 24, 2015, 06:34:26 AM »
Why do you have to use the van for all your driving?  Get a cheap motorcycle that gets good mileage.

That's a solution that occurred to me. I'd probably drive the van to the climbing on only long weekends to stay up there, and handle all my work-week driving by the bike. Its tough to estimate because the bike is additional start-up cost, registration, and insurance.

Gear is probably an 80lb pack unfortunately. Not impossible to bike around with esp. with saddle bags but it won't be a very big bike, would probably still carry 40lbs on the pack. Also have to consider that I'd be biking in snow storms and on dirt roads in 0 weather. I suppose I could carpool in the winter most of the time.

James

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #18 on: February 24, 2015, 07:02:55 AM »
Interesting numbers, thanks for sharing them. Mostly it shows how good of a deal you are currently getting, with all that your current living situation provides. From wifi to a spot for lifting weights, all those little things add up. It's good to look at options, even if it simply shows you have it pretty good where you are at.

I wouldn't live in a van to save money, but I would certainly live in a van for the experience. The educational experience, the self benefit of going through it, learning more about myself, what I like, what I don't like, and where I want to end up. I think it would be great to do for a while, just like traveling is great, owning property is great, lots of things are great learning experiences in life that help you know what direction to head. Just need to decide if that is the right call for you right now, but it sounds cool!

Best of luck, and let us know once you decide.

KD

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #19 on: February 24, 2015, 07:11:13 AM »
You may want a tricked out van that you build out yourself for the building experience. 

OR you can open the back of the van, throw in a sleeping bag and a milk crate to sit upon, water jug and a small propane heater & cooktop, crunchy granola, bag of nanner's and oranges, port-a-potty and go. 

Seems to me you can do a wide variety of things to make this as expensive or inexpensive as you want.  How many creature comforts do you NEED or WANT and are you willing to give up the dollars to do it? 

One consideration - since costs seem about equal in your mind right now is whether such cheap housing would be available to you if you try vandwelling and don't like it.  Can you get into similar cheap housing in the future?  Can the van revert to cargo?  Can you recoup your costs?  What will you save/gain in the meantime?

As James said...the experiences may be beyond measure at this point in your life and give you a more quantified lifetime direction.

Scandium

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #20 on: February 24, 2015, 07:23:43 AM »
If you're looking to date people, not living in your van will be much more appealing. Most people would much rather date someone who doesn't have a car in preference to someone who lives in his van.  Consider the extra expense of living in an apartment a necessary expense for your social life.

This guy disagree

AH013

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Re: Van-dwelling - not as low cost as I thought!
« Reply #21 on: February 24, 2015, 12:42:20 PM »
If you're looking to date people, not living in your van will be much more appealing. Most people would much rather date someone who doesn't have a car in preference to someone who lives in his van.  Consider the extra expense of living in an apartment a necessary expense for your social life.

This guy disagree


Haha.  Cody is the man!

And just make sure you don't park your van DOWN BY THE RIVER!