4
Van life is a good life, but it's not necessarily a cheap life.EXPAND
Van life is a good life, but it's not necessarily a cheap life.
Kayla Andersen

Van Life Is Cheaper Than Renting an Apartment, but It Ain't Cheap

When I tell someone that I live in my 1998 Chevrolet AstroVan, one of the first responses I usually get is, “Are you crazy???" followed by, “You must save so much money not paying rent!” Now that I have lived in the van for a month, I have been able to formulate a budget. And there are certain financial downsides to my new way of life.

The first big expense I’ve noticed is food. An apartment has certain luxuries, like a kitchen. In Van Life, and in my van in particular, I have no such amenities.

I currently budget $20 per day for food, coffee and the occasional cocktail. I can enjoy a meal with friends when the opportunity arises, and I am able to splurge on a healthy salad when my body craves one. While some days I don’t spend a dime, on others I spend more than my daily allotment.

Another expense that accompanies my particular situation is the $51 a month I pay for a ten-by-ten storage unit that houses all my possessions in a safe and secure place. And since I no longer have the luxury of a shower, I decided to join a $10-per-month gym. It's a spacious gym with a really nice locker room. When I need to shower, this is my go-to, and for ten dollars a month, you can’t beat it!

Now that Van Gogh (short for Dr. Suess Van Gogh Andersen) is my home, I have noticed that I usually have to fill up the gas tank twice a week on average instead of just once. (Finding those parking spots at the end of the night certainly burns through gas!) This adds about $160 per month.

Then there is maintenance. Dr. Suess Van Gogh Andersen currently has over 263,000 miles on it. You read that right! I am reminded of this every time I turn Van Gogh on. She is a rumbler, though a quiet one, and does have a rattle. But she's reliable and trustworthy.

I am aware that the van will not run forever. My goal is to get up to 300,000 miles and hopefully have it last through next summer. Financially, this means that I need to put aside “just-in-case” money for if and when the van decides to do anything crazy, like break down. I moved into the van with a solid $1,000 in a savings account solely for potential van needs, and hope to contribute to it each month.

All in all, my total expenses for Van Life are less than what I paid in rent alone at my last apartment, barely reaching $800 per month. These expenses are incredibly flexible, and my costs could easily be lowered if I did certain things like invest time in meal-prepping and make my own coffee every morning. On the flip side, they could also be much higher if I wasn’t mindful about spending money.

My budget suits my needs. It is exactly enough for me to be able to spend time out of the van if I need, eat what my body is craving, and to have emotional security knowing that I have enough money left over to consistently contribute to my savings account just in case Van Gogh decides to act a fool. I have my hygienic bases covered with the gym membership, and I have a central location for all of my possessions that is safe and secure. Most important, I have an incredible red van that I get to call my home.

What do I do with the extra money that I have now that I live in a van? Well, I am fortunate enough to have a job that doesn’t mind giving me a month off here and there, and in a few days I'm flying to India! It certainly gives me peace of mind knowing that I won’t have to pay rent during the month that I’ll be across the world. Cheers to Van Life!

What are you interested in knowing about van life? Let us know in a comment or at editorial@westword.com. Follow Kayla Andersen's Facebook page for updates on van life.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >