May & June 2018 Costs of Being a Nomad

Ballena Blanca frugally waits on the streets of Cabbagetown while we diligently refill the traveling kitty for more van adventures and try not to spend too much money while we do it.

May & June 2018.

This is our second post about tracking our expenses and our 5th month actually making a note of everything we spend. This exercise wasn’t so hard on the road since we spent money in fewer places and were usually in or near the van where my little tracking journal lives every time we had a little outflow of dinero. But now that we are back in Cabbagetown living in houses, moving around a lot, not always together, and have many more places to drop a dollar or two it is a little harder to keep track. Still, we have persevered and have managed to record just about every cent we spend and are now ready to share with you another post about the cost of being a nomad.

A note about a few of the expenses we have left off this particular spreadsheet (Yes! there are many other spreadsheets in our lives – don’t you love spreadsheets?) – we have not included working expenses. If you read our previous post about our May and June numbers you may remember that we are both hard at work making money to replenish the traveling kitty. We have a few expenses that go with making this money, but since these expenses come out of our income, I am not recording them here.

Total Money Spent

Here are our totals for everything we spent for the past two months:

May: $1804.81
June: $1529.47

And here is the break down of those totals in spreadsheet form:

And here is my little discussion of some of these expenditures:

Van Living Expenses

These are all expenses relating to the van itself and living and traveling in the van.

May: $495.55
June: $91.31

– Gas

May: $299.41
June: $81.44

Gas is the bulk of our van living expenses each month. This total was still a bit high in May as we traveled from Florida to North Carolina to Atlanta but settled down in June into a much nicer smaller number when we were both back in Cabbagetown fulltime. One of the great things about our summer house sitting and odd job existence is that it pretty much all happens in the 18 square blocks of Cabbagetown, so there is very little driving.

– Van Utilities

May: $4.50
June: $0

Just like house utilities that make a home sustainable and habitable, van utilities do the same for a van. Since our electric is all free from our solar panels, we only have 3 small utility expenses to worry about, water (for drinking and cleaning), gas (for cooking and heating), and pine bedding (which I consider a utility because we use it to maintain our composting toilet).

We only lived in the van for 8 days in May and June so our van utilities were negligible. Only $4.50 in May for 15 gallons of water.

– Camping

May: $0
June: $0

Our camping total for both months was $0. We came back from our van trip out west at the end of April and spent the first night of May in our friend’s, Brenda, driveway in Hobe Sound. That next day we left for Indiantown Marina where we spent the next week getting Blue Wing ready to go on the market. We spent that week sleeping in the van in the Indiantown Marina parking lot. Since then we have either been staying with friends or family or house sitting. It is likely we won’t do any more camping until September. Actually, the van is currently mostly uninhabitable – it has been transformed into Greg’s work van and is strewn with tools and paint trays.

– Maintenance, Repairs, Miscellaneous, Upgrades, and Insurance

May: $191.64
June: $9.87

We paid an auto insurance bill in May for $191.64 and spent $9.87 for a small van upgrade in June. Our expenses for upgrades should be shooting up in the coming months as I have lots of ideas about things that will improve the van, storage, and making our space work better.

Free booze! One of our house sitting home owners left us this bottle of wine. Coincidently the winemaker, Simone Scaletta, lived in a van for 8 years while he built his business.

Groceries and Booze

This is food and alcohol we buy a grocery or liquor store as opposed to in a restaurant.

– Food

May: $243.77
June: $285.63

– Booze*

May: $158.96
June: $124.28

Booze totals went down a bit from previous months. No worries, we are still swilling the beer – it’s just that often times our house sitting clients either leave us a case or beer or tell us we can drink anything in the house (sounds kind of like a foolish thing to tell us – but honestly we aren’t that bad).

* Some people don’t like to include their totals for alcoholic beverages in these types of blog posts because people can be judgy about it. But I figure most of your already know Greg, and he doesn’t care if you want to judge him. And besides, the booze total doesn’t exceed the food total, so we’re doing good, right?

Not everything in Atlanta costs a ton of money. One of my favorite weekends in Cabbagetown is when Forward Warrior comes and paints murals on the CSX wall running through the neighborhood.


This category is for eating and drinking out, live music, museums, and attractions. Here are the breakdowns:

May: $166.44
June: $336.91

So, you notice the jump in entertainment costs for June? Being back in Cabbagetown means Thursday night after-walk drinks at Milltown, Friday night date night, Saturday night friends night, and who knows any-day-of-the-week concerts, bowling, birthdays, etc. Nobody sits still in Cabbagetown. (In reality, we really do spend a lot of time just hanging around the house – it’s just expensive every time we do go out.)

Artists from all over Atlanta come and every year some of the murals stay, some go, and some get painted over by the same artist.
It is about a half mile stretch of wall so there are a lot of artists and a lot of different styles.
The street has a real party atmosphere.
Forward Warrior!


Here is the breakdown of Health:

May: $256.00
June: $5.43

May expenses were for my contacts and in June we bought some aspirin.


These are the same kind of household expenses that you might have even if you didn’t live in a van or on a boat. Like toilet paper, clothes, personal items, laundry, and phone/data plan.

May: $122.23
June: $85.51

The bulk of our May expenses was for our phone bill, $84.62. We also spent some money on a few miscellaneous items – a new swiss army knife, some reading glasses, and some clothes for Greg. Our phone bill dropped to $40.67 in June thanks to our pay per gig Google Fi plan*. The rest of June’s money was mostly spent on replacement cups for our Nutribullet. Can’t live without my slop (green smoothie) every morning!

* With Google Fi we pay a base fee of $20 for unlimited calls and text, then $10 for every gigabyte of data used. The plan caps the price for data at $60 for up to 15 gigs.


May: $288.41
June: $286.20

These numbers are for boat storage and one little repair we did to the boat when we were getting her ready to sell in May. Soon, very, very, soon these numbers and the boat category will be disappearing from the spreadsheet. We have an offer on the boat and are literally waiting to hear any minute that the money is in the bank!


May: $73.45
June: $314.20

Travel expenses in May were for my flight and train fare back to Indiantown where I stayed on my friend, Ellen’s, setee on her boat for 16 days while I went about selling items from the boat and got it listed with a broker. Junes expenses were for my travel back to Cabbagetown with Ellen and for expenses related to renewing Greg’s passport (can’t be a proper nomad without a passport).

Smudge. Really, who needs to leave the house at all when you are sitting pets this entertaining.

So, overall I am not happy with these numbers. I just read a blog post of house sitters whose monthly expenses came in under $800. Obviously, they are much more serious about being frugal and they don’t have any friends dragging them out and about for whatever occasion. Not that I blame my friends for our increased entertainment expenses – I love my friends here in Cabbagetown and I love going out – it is just so much easier to resist doing so when we are in the middle of nowhere and don’t know anyone. It’s sort of like, oh there is chocolate in the refrigerator – it must be eaten – opposed to no chocolate in the fridge, I have the amazing willpower to not get into the car and go out and buy any – that is, well, unless someone suggests that might be a fun thing to do. And alas – we are only here for a short time anyway and we are presently making more money than is going out.

And besides – July’s numbers are going to be much worse.

*All pics are click to enlarge.

So what do you think? How does this compare to your sticks and bricks expense? Do you track your expenses? Are our expenses less or more than you would have expected?

11 thoughts on “May & June 2018 Costs of Being a Nomad

  1. It would be soooo hard to control eating out / entertaining costs while in Atlanta. So much fun to be had! So many great places to eat at! So much pimento cheese to buy at Little’s! That’s one of the things I like about Indiantown – very few temptations. Of course, the flipside of that is that it’s not nearly as fun.

    1. I think you would be hard pressed to find a place to spend $45 on a meal for two in Indiantown. I so miss Taco Tuesday. It isn’t so much as having to eat at all the great Atlanta restaurants as much as just needing to get out of the house on a Friday night – and unfortunately, there aren’t any $1 tacos anywhere in Atlanta. Yum! Little’s pimento cheese!

  2. You’ll do just fine in MX. Probably a big expense will be tolls, if you take the Cuota roads instead of Libre.. However, they are a lot faster and a lot safer. It is wort it to us. Thanks for the post.

    1. We are so looking forward to Mexico and are enjoying your travels there. I’m a bit worried about tolls. We will probably do a combo of both Libre and Cuota.

  3. Greg, Duwan,

    While watching “A Walk in the Woods” movie last night (the book by Bill Bryson) I thought maybe you could edit your blogs and pictures and publish a book (or books, maybe one on the sailing part and one on the van part). It would bring in an extra income stream. You can self publish (look that up on Google) or you can make a list of publishing houses by visiting Barnes & Noble and perusing the Travel books section to get some names of publishers. Make up a one page pitch to each and see if any reply.

    And keep having fun!

    1. The idea of writing a book has been thrown around. We have so much trouble keeping this blog up to date – it might take forever. But who knows, maybe someday. Now I got to see if the library has a copy of “A Walk in the Woods.” Greg loves Bill Bryson.

    2. Thanks, John. I am a HUGE Bill Bryson fan. If you haven’t read his “Short History of Nearly Everything”, I think you would like it.

  4. Booze has a negative connotation. I prefer the term, “hootch”

    And I will try to save you some of my Havana Club sipping rum for when you come through to close on Blue Wing. Buenas suertas.

  5. June seemed like a pretty good month to me, especially since you are both working and more involved in the land life. I think we will have to change some of our category names, now that we are living in our van full-time.

    Thanks for the mention of our blog. You caught me at a good time in regards to our expenses. 🙂 If you check our expenses for July, you will find that they are much more in your ballpark, and for the same reasons! Going out and taking people out for dinner. Yep, time spent with friends and family… Soon, we are off to the middle of nowhere again and I hope our expenses (other than diesel) will reflect that. 🙂

    1. I was very impressed with your expenses from June!

      I am a constant saver – so I love being in the middle of nowhere because it is so darn beautiful and inspiring and because we don’t have to spend much money to do it. But here in the city, although there are many free things to do, there are so many inspiring and fun things that cost money that are hard to pass up. I have to remind myself it all balances out in the end.

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