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Back on the Coast

Back on the Coast

Friday, February 22, 2008

Money and Common Sense, Again

On Jan. 10th, I wrote an article which explained why I thought being a vandweller made economic sense to me. For myself, the simple act of exchanging the costs of apartment dwelling to vandwelling results in a huge net savings. But some people don't see it, so I'm going to break it down a little more clearly. Let's use a three year period to compare lifestyles.

Van expense vs. Apartment rent - This is the major factor involved. If you purchase a older van, for say $2,000; put another $1,500 in to renovate and fix it up; $750 a year for maintenance; $750 a year for insurance; $3,000 a year for fuel - that will represent a total cost of $17,000 for three years. But, if you already operate a vehicle, exchanging it for a van will represent some savings on this figure or you could buy an more expensive van. Likewise, if you drive frugally, you may save some more on fuel. But for sake of the comparison, let's say we are starting with no vehicle.

In my area, the average low end apartment rents $750/month; let's say you furnish it frugally for $1,500; utilities will run around $30/month and household insurance will be around the same @ $30/ month - that will represent a total cost of $30,660. Now some of you will say you could live in a cheaper place; sure, if you can find one. Show me. I have found in the last couple years, rental vacancy has gone way down; they aren't building rentals now, only condominiums. You might find a room in a house, but then you don't have any sense of autonomy; there is always people in your space.

This comparison results in a net savings of $13,660 over 3 years or $4,553 per year! Now, depending on if you have any huge repairs on the vehicle, or how you particularly spend money, can dramatically change these figures. But for myself, it's been two years in my van. I already owned it for recreation and sold my other car; I do a lot of my own maintenance and haven't had any major repairs because I bought a vehicle in excellent condition in the first place (very important). So my personal savings have been even greater.

All other costs are the same, more or less. Food, health insurance, telephone (cell), entertainment; they don't change. If you go on a trip, well, you would have incurred extra expenses which you would budgeted for regardless. As far as computers go, you exchange your desktop for a laptop, a land line feed for a wifi card, more or less the same.

So in the end, you will come out ahead by $4,500 a year or so, after tax dollars! I don't know anyone who makes around $25K per year, who wouldn't benefit from this considerable amount. It could mean the difference for those of you in the US, of having health insurance or not. It could mean a lot of things. Travel, less work needed to get by, education, and so on.

Obviously, only you can compare the expenses involved for yourself and your particular situation. It's important that you buy a van that is in very good shape; a vehicle in bad repair will be a money pit. Don't go there! If you exchange a previously owned vehicle for a van, your savings will be even greater; you are used to the expenses of operating a vehicle, so there is only an extra increment for fuel (maybe a $1,000/yr, depends). So take your time, find a good deal on a van. Do your own comparison of expense accounting, so you can see if it is worth it to you.

Above: Exciting new cities to explore, like Vancouver, BC

But there is one factor gained that is really important, where money doesn't count. Freedom. You can now go wherever you want, whenever you want. Don't like your town/city/state or province, change it. Don't like the local climate or landscape, change it. Don't like your career, social life, etc., change it. Want a different life, go there. Nothing is holding you back. No lease, no mortgage, no burdens. After a while, if you have debts, you can write them down to zero with the savings; again, more freedom.

Left: Wilderness sunset over mountain lake

It just depends on what you want. For many of us nomads, this life choice has been a road to personal fulfillment. It's up to you to make your own call. Happy trails to you!

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