Money, makes the van go round

Money, you may love it or hate it, but one thing we can all agree on is that you need it. Regardless of where or how you live your life. A big topic within the vanlife community is money, from how much people spend to live full time in their van, to how they earn or afford to live on the road. And we certainly find ourselves talking about money a lot in the van, from how to save money to when something is worth splurging on. So, we decided to dish the dirt on our living costs and how we afford to live on the road. Read on below...

What have we done with our money? 

Living and travelling in a van is no different to any other form of travel, albeit slightly cheaper. By that, we mean what you do and how you do it has a huge impact on the amount you spend and with living in a van it is all dependent on fuel. If you head to one location, like a surf beach, and move maybe 20km a day maximum looking for a good wave, you’ll spend next to nothing, whereas if you’re someone who travels around 2000km a month and you’re spending a lot of your time visiting tourist hotspots and cities, you’ll of course spend a lot more. So what have we done for our money? 

So far we’ve been travelling full time for 6 months, during this time we have driven around 7,000 miles (13,000 km), traversed 5 countries, (France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Italy). During that time we have had very expensive months (Our first) and very very cheap months (Portugal and Spain). Which has meant that we have had a variance of 500 euros for a month, to 1200 in a month over the course of the 6 months. Below, we detail how our costs breakdown and the basic outgoings that will be around the same every month.

To keep our costs low, we have kept primarily to the coastlines and avoided spending to much time in the towns and cities, instead focusing on lakes, mountains, rural coastlines and hiking areas. When we have visited big towns and cities along the way, we keep the excursions short and cheap, sticking to visiting the the free tourist spots where possible and only spending money on those things that have been absolutely must sees for us. 

As always, there are times when things don’t go to plan and you have unexpected outlays. For us, these have involved things like replacing laptop (1000 euros), replacing the front tyres (200 euros), a towing (200 euros), and Lloyd needing to head home for an exam (200 euros). We have also treated ourselves to a couple of expensive things, like a set of surfboards (400 euros) and a once in a lifetime trip to the Matterhorn (115 euros).

What has been our total spend in the last 6 months?

Estimated total spend 7,500€ 

Estimated total spend minus one off costs 6000€ 

Our monthly breakdown of ‘living’ costs

Our living costs include all the things we spend to stay on the road and exclude and one of purchases like replacing laptops or buying surfboards

Food - 200€ 

Fuel - 300€

Internet - 27€ 

Phone contract - 38€ 

Insurance for the van - 35€ 

Tourist ‘stuff’ - 100€ (includes any times we’ve eaten out) 

Campsites- 20€ (We split the cost of the 2 sites we’ve camped at over the 6 months we’ve been on the road) 

Maintenance of the van - 40€ (Cost of replacing two front tyres spread over the 6 months) 

Additions to the van interior - 20€ 

Kindle subscription - £7.90 (not cheap but worth it.)   

Total living costs - 800€ ish. 

These costs cover two people. 

How do we afford to live on the road?

A question so many people ask. Unfortunately we are not from family money, as nice as that would be, and before we decided to travel, we were very much committed to having careers to afford ourselves a nice life whilst at home, and so we could save money together until we knew what we wanted to do with it.

As such, we aren’t freelance/ nor did we have any plans to work towards a remote career, so we fund our travels with money that we saved whilst we were both employed full time. We started planning towards a year of travelling 2 years before we set off, therefore the money we saved during the first year, we used to buy and convert our van and the money we saved during the second/ our conversion year, to save towards a year of full time travel. 

Before we set off, between us, we had a total of £13,000 saved. We did have slightly more than this set aside, however there were some unforeseen costs associated with renting out our house back home. 

Do we earn money on the road? 

In the first three months, we didn’t consider earning money on the road, however once we began to realise how cheap it is to live and travel like this we picked up a little bit of marketing and web site design work on the road. Of course, we would love to earn enough money on the road to cover our costs, and that is what we are going to attempt to do over the next 6 months, however if we’re unable to, we already have plans to head back to the UK to start working towards our next goal of full time travel around the world. 

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