Is living in a van expensive?
Is it cheaper than living in a house?
How much do you spend on fuel?
Those are all questions that I get asked fairly often and to which (until now) I didn’t really have an answer.
Traveling in a van can be as expensive and as cheap as you want it to, it all depends on how many comforts are you willing to give up, how many miles you want to do and how organized you are.
Also, it will vary depending whether you are on a holiday and have limited amount of time, or whether you live in your van.
I consider myself a ”frugal slow traveler’‘: I don’t eat out and forage where I can, I always stealth camp, I rarely pay for water/toilets/showers and don’t drive that many miles.
That said, I was curious to find out exactly how much I spent on a monthly basis I decided to track EVERY SINGLE PENNY that came out from my pockets for a month.
So, are you curious to find out how much I spend? Keep reading to find the answer!
Although I don’t drive that much (20mn a day to me is enough) fuel is my n. 1 cost. Pam is not the most cost efficient van when it comes to fuel consumption and I do need to stop fairly often (too often if you ask me) to fill her up. The UK isn’t one of the cheapest places to get fuel but not one of the most expensive neither. Fuel cost can vary tremendously depending on the country you are visiting, something to keep in mind when planning a route!
In the month where I tracked my costs I think I drove around 1.200 miles and spent £187.
1 MONTH OF FUEL: £187
I love food. Like really really like it. Good meals are super important to me and it’s one thing where I don’t mind spending a little more. I do stop often to refill on fresh veggies as I do not have a fridge. Food cost will vary enormously on where you travel. For me I found the Highlands quite expensive. Here dairy and meat is far cheaper than a salad or some fresh apples which isn’t great for someone that mainly eats vegs!
In this month I spent £88.90 in food.
To me it feels a lot and I know that I could cut down on this massively should i travel in more southern countries and forage more of my greens.
1 MONTH OF FOOD: £88.90
As I mentioned, water is not something I spend my money on. I get most of my water from either public taps or from the wilderness. I use a small water filter or boil my water if I want to drink it. It’s easy enough for me not to pay for water as I don’t have big tanks to refill (I have 2 10l tanks under the sink and 1 25l tank on the passenger seat) and I understand it might be more challenging if you have a bigger van or a motorhome.
In this month I spent £3.50 on water.
1 MONTH OF WATER: £3.50
4. COFFEES AND BEER
Definitely my guilty pleasure. I like to go out for coffee or a beer at least once I week. love tasting local beers and this month I have definitely indulged on local Scottish stouts and lagers.
Also, going for a coffee comes useful if I need to do work on my computer use WI/FI and use their toilets.
In a month of touring the Highlands I spent £47.50.
1 MONTH OF COFFEES AND BEER: £47.50
Despite fuel being my n. 1 recurrent cost, the odd expenses can often add up quite a bit to my daily costs.
For me the odd expense could be anything from a refill of the Campingaz Gas cylinder, to buying Odie’s tick treatment, to splurging on a pair of hiking boots.
My miscellaneous expenses include Odie’s food, my phone plan and the DVLA road tax. I pay insurance at the beginning of the year so It’s not a monthly cost. If I paid that monthly it would be around £40 a month.
This particular month I did have quite a few of unplanned expenses and I did buy quite a few bits I could have done without (but that I’m so glad I bought). In total I spent £208.20
1 MONTH OF UNPLANNED EXPENSES £208.20
SOOOO THIS BRINGS US TOOOOO… (DRUM ROLL PLEASE)
£535,10 MONTHLY EXPENSE or £17.26 DAILY AVERAGE
In all honesty I was quite surprised by this result. In my head I thought I would be spending far more in fuel and far less in unplanned expenses. My daily budget is around £15 a day so this month I went a little over it.
I think this was a bit of a special month as I was traveling to remote areas where everything was more expensive.
I think tracking what you spend your money on is a really great way to see where you can make cuts and spend less, whether you live in a van or not. I am much more aware now of how many take aways coffees I drink and how important it is to stock on food so you don’t rely on expensive little village shops.
If you are nosy like me and want to see exactly what I spent my money on, you can see the spreadsheet here.
I think that If I really wanted to be super frugal I could cut this budget in two.
Should it maybe be my next experiment?
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18 thoughts on “How much do I SPEND In a month? Life in a Van”
Great article, thank you for taking time to track your spending! I was wondering, are Odies food and car insurance included in your miscellaneous? Greetings from a Swiss girl currently in Seoul, Aline
Hey Aline! Yes Odie’s food was included in the mix, car insurance is 450 a year and I pay it all in one go in february so I guess it would work out as 40 pound a month. Tax was also included in the mix section!
Hi, I wish I knew your name instead of Pam the van girl. I always look forwrd to your posts. Have you considered going to places like ASDA later in the afternoon especially on Sundays when you can pick up food/bread/rolls etc etc for as little as 10p? Waiting in anticipation of your next posting, regards Keith Turner xx
Hi Keith, my name is Marina. I guess this month was a bit special as I was in the Highlands. No Asda nearby only expensive village shops. I do love a good clearance section!
thanks for being so painstakingly precise 🙂 ! I should do a month like that with this kind of bookkeeping myself, even though not underway with my van presently 😉 . May I keep asking though? Shouldn’t you also be adding what you are paying for car insurance, car tax, health insurance, Odie’s food? I could see why you left out Odie’s food, since not everyone is travelling with a dog (although I ALWAYS would !), but the other things must be a factor, even if they might be payed monthly from your account somewhere and not from your immediate pocket?
Anyway, always great to read from you or see new videos. Keep enjoying, safe travels, best of health for you and Odie,
Hi Uta! So car tax and odie’s food was included in the mix but maybe I should have done a separate section for that. I pay the car insurance at the start of the year on a big lump as it’s cheaper that way. If I paid it monthly it would be about 40pound a month. As for health insurance I don’t have one, we do get basic health care anywhere in EU being an EU citizen but I might look into getting one just to be on the safe side!
Hi! Thanks for sharing this with us, it’s very interesting to see your monthly costs! I think you are being very frugal already, I spend 2x as much on food/groceries each month living in an apartment and I thought I was frugal!
I’m curious about things like cell phone bills and car insurance, are these included too?
Thanks for sharing your adventures with us! I love seeing your fun activities. 🙂
Hi there! I thought I had spent a lot in food that month!!! 🙂 Yes the phone bill and taxes are included in the mix, insurance isn’t cause I pay that at the start of the year. It would be around 40pound a month if I paid monthly. Thank you for reading!! 🙂
Thank you for this breakdown! I am yet to start my life in a van and keep trying to figure out a weekly budget and this helped a lot! Even though I’m in Aus and prices for things are different its still nice to see what others are budgeting 🙂
That‘s really interesting! I was surprised actually how little you spend on food. Reckon I’d spend much more… May I ask about your annual costs like insurance etc.? What would be their share if you broke them down to your monthly budget? I‘m asking because health insurance (if not paid by your employer), car insurance and car tax can get quite expensive in Germany…
Hi Maren! so I pay around 450 of car insurance a year which would be around 40 pound a month. I also pay i think 21pounds in car taxes which where included in the ”mix” category. Hope this helps!
Hi. Interesting blog post and great videos.
How do you connect to the internet? Free WiFi hotspots or mobile phone? Guessing it can get expensive if you upload video..
Hi Andy, I have a 30gb plan with Three, plenty for uploading videos!
Thanks for the detailed analysis of your expenses.
You spend in sum per month as much as I do on rent.^^
Hi Marina, fellow camper here,I really enjoy your video’s and admire your free spirit! You are very resourceful and as an ex soldier respect your survival skills and how much you enjoy yourself . I can’t figure out your accent though…if I was to guess I would say French. Not sure where you and Pam are just now but if you are still in Scotland I can recommend South Loch Earn….. it’s quiet, beautiful and wild camping is allowed. Good luck in the future…:-)
Hi John thank you for your tip I haven’t been that way yet! I was born in Italy but do have a french mum 🙂
I like that you shared your thoughts with us. I am living in my camper van and I like to read more thoughtful articles like this one. I have done a few things many times. but I try to copy more and do some extra as other done….. Thanks for the amazing and beautiful post….
Thank you for your videos. You are an inspiration to me. You bring great insight into thrifty living and ingenuity. I am from the United States and live in Florida in a small town called Santa Rosa Beach.