That’s really all that money is but yet it rules our lives like Evil King John from the 1200’s. We’ve been living a financially responsible life on the road for 3+ years and have met many kindred spirits along the way each striving for dreams in the unknown. It’s difficult to say but a lot of the people we meet are not financially stable and have downright awful saving (therefore spending) habits.
Whether you’re a full time vanlifer, casual weekender, destitute by choice, or working hard to fund the next few months of travel, these saving tips apply to everyone!
- START A BUDGET AND KEEP TO IT! This is our hands down most important piece of advice – It will take a few weeks to dial in but trust us. Begin by writing down every little purchase you make in a weekly planner. Keep track of your spending week by week and total up your money spent into categories. Our 3 categories that we spend in are gas, food, and other (automotive stuff, laundry, showers, etc). After a few weeks, go back and honestly evaluate where you can cut down your spending. Set a budget goal to keep your weekly spending in check while continuing to record all purchases. Everyones budget will be different but we get by on $500-$600/month for a family of 2 humans, 2 dogs and 1 van.
- COOK ALL YOUR OWN MEAL. We grocery shop 2x/week setting a budget of around $30 each time. Seek out grocery stores that specialize in low prices or discount markets that sell dry goods with damaged packaging. We then scour the sale racks, the day old bread, the *almost* expired meat and dairy items, etc. We cook with 90% organic ingredients and only eat grass fed meat and dairy products raised in a humane environment. In other words, we are very picky with our food standards but still manage to keep our budget because we don’t go to the first grocery store we see.
- PLAN YOUR JOURNEY WISELY. Get a map and know how to use it. Pinpoint your stops on the map to create the most economical way to go from point A to point BCD. It’s also helpful to plan things out in Google Maps where you can see the different route options. This is very important especially if you are traveling in areas with higher fuel prices. Look at mileage in the sense of how much it will cost in gas. For example, if you want to go to Point K that is 60 miles out of the way, that’s 120 miles round trip. 120 miles at averaging 20 miles/gallon with gas at $2.50/gallon will cost you $15 (120/20=6 gallons of gas. 6*$2.50=$15) Sometimes it’s worth is, sometimes it’s not. Plan accordingly. Driving hilter skilter and everywhere will cost you, just determine how much.
- EVALUATE YOUR BELONGINGS AND SELL WHAT YOU DON’T NEED. We’ve written about this point before and our opinion hasn’t changed over the years. If you’re living in a small space (van, camper, trailer, tent) you have limited space. Clean up your space and sell the excess either at a local consignment shop or craigslist. We are constantly putting gear and clothing that we no longer use up for sale at second hand gear shops. After an item sells, a check is mailed to our permanent address and that funds future travel.
- IF YOU’RE A CREDIT CARD SWIPER, SWITCH TO CASH. It’s been proven time and time again that using a cash only system will help you spend less. Credit cards have great incentives like building miles and cash back bonuses but that sometimes causes folks to justify their sometimes erratic spending habits. Getting in credit card debt is not worth any nominal reward the credit card companies entice you with. By using cash, only withdraw the amount to will be spending that week. Under no circumstances do you withdraw more money when you run out. Learn to live with your spending consequences and keep yourself under check. If you have extra at the end of the week, treat yourself or just apply it to next week’s budget!
- FIND FREE ENTERTAINMENT. We spend our days rock climbing and hiking 95% of the time. Both of these two incredible activities are free after the initial gear investment. If you like to go to concerts, enjoy a few drinks in the evening, go to the movies, or pay for other entertainment that is totally fine. Instead of going hog wild on everything and anything that sounds fun, limit yourself to one or two excursions/month and plan it into your budget.
A little self-control and self-sacrifice goes a long way! Live below your means financially and chances are you will find yourself in whatever paradise you’re dreaming of for much longer than expected!
Do you have any saving hacks? We’d love to hear about them in the comment section below!
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