July & August 2018 Costs of Being a Nomad

Ballena Blanca continues to patiently wait on the streets of Cabbagetown while we make money for the next adventure.

We have completed our 7th month of tracking every single one of our expenses. It can be quite a chore while we are here in Atlanta this summer house sitting and living it up in the big city, but I’ve always wondered where all the money goes so quickly and now through meticulous record keeping I never have to ponder this question again — although sometimes I’m a bit sorry I asked. Hopefully with this tracking we can find ways to be a little bit more frugal and perhaps by broadcasting these numbers to the world they can be helpful to anyone else considering a life on the fly, traveling across horizons unknown, wandering from port to port, following the whims of luck, accident, or maybe fate. In fact, I just had someone in the neighborhood who is considering trying van life tell me that they do find these posts interesting. So even if I am just writing this for me and her, here goes another.

July was a particularly spendy month. We still had Blue Wing, dropped a bit much on entertainment (it is hard to stay home in Atlanta especially with all our friends here), and we added a big, yet compact, addition to our traveling family.

August expenses were a bit more reasonable. We found some cheaper places to go for “date night,” lost the boat storage expense (sold her), but also started spending a lot more on the van for upgrades.

Total Money Spent

All expenses are in US dollars.

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

July: $2052.09
August: $1688.90

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

And here is another break down of and a little discussion of just some of these expenditures:

Van Living Expenses

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

July: $204.24
August: $690.89

Relaxing in the new swivel seat.

– Van Upgrades

July: $0
August: $478.98

Our biggest upgrade was for a swivel seat adapter for the passenger seat in August. We can now turn that seat around so it faces the interior of the van. This makes our living space so much bigger. We love it! Absolutely worth the cost.

We also had some smaller expenses adding shelves to hold kitchen necessities. I am very focused on making everything in the van more convenient and using space to the maximum.

One of my projects/van upgrades this summer has been to replace a wicker basket that was falling apart which we used to hold all of our cooking utensils, knives, and silverware. I decided to build shelves and find containers to hold each type of item. I looked a long time for containers for the silverware and had settled on some retro looking metallic drinking glasses when I had another idea. I got some empty parmesan cheese containers and covered them with decorative socks. I love the way they look, it’s certainly a frugal idea, and the silverware won’t go clang clang clang as we roll down the road.
And here is how I dealt with the cooking utensils and knives.

– Gas

July: $116.44
August: $120.10

Gas can be the bulk of our van living expenses when we are on the road, but this summer we are only traveling in very small circles around the 18 blocks Cabbagetown doing odd jobs and house sitting. We do burn a bit of gas with shopping and sometimes daily trips to Home Depot for painting and odd job supplies.

– Auto Insurance

July: $87.80
August: $91.81

– Van Utilities, Camping, Maintenance, Repairs, and Miscellaneous

July: $0
August: $0

We have been living in houses all summer – so no van utilities or camping costs. Since we haven’t been driving much we haven’t needed to do any maintenance, repairs, or miscellaneous.

Groceries and Booze

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

July: $394.43
August: $411.70

In general I’m please with these numbers. Just a note – Greg and I eat a vegetarian diet – not sure if meat eaters have more or less expenses – but it is likely they eat far far less kale than I do.

The Pinky Doodle Poodle show was a fun night out and well worth the cover charge to see them.


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

July: $575.47
August: $345.28

Atlanta can be expensive. We try to be frugal about some things like finding cheap concert tickets, but we paid full price for a pair of tickets show coming up in October. Date night has been a bit of a challenge since they closed our neighborhood pizza place, but I think we have finally found a few options that won’t break the bank. These numbers will get much better once we hit the road, but for now we are enjoying going out with friends and not worrying about the cost too much.

Greg bowls a spare. Bowling is a cheap fun night out!


Here is the breakdown of Health:

July: $6.41
August: $20.15

Just some medicine cabinet type stuff.


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.

July: $508.34
August: $217.43

We bought an inflatable kayak in July and I didn’t know which category to put it in – so I picked Personal Household Miscellaneous. Actually I kind of think of the kayak as a van upgrade (actually I think of everything as a van upgrade – the specific clothes we wear, a new purse or bag, a new cheese grater, anything that makes our lives in the van more convenient or more interesting). But if we ever sell the van, the kayak could go with us – perhaps I need a category for detachable van upgrades.

The other larger than usual expense in this category was for our mail service in Florida with St. Brendan’s Isle. This service allows us to have a real address where we can pick up our mail, have it scanned and emailed, or have it sent to us wherever we are. We keep $100 in an account with them and when it runs low they charge us another $100.

The new inflatible kayak. I did a lot of research online to figure out what infatable kayak I wanted. I finally settled on the Advanced Elements Convertible. Then I used Search Tempest and Facebook Marketplace to search for a used one. I got a few hits but didn’t get a chance to go look at one until this one came up. It had only been used a handful of times had all the bells and whistles – skirts for one or two person, wheels to tote it, an air pump, etc. And we were able to snatch it up for way less than half price.


July: $363.20
August: -$35.00

We sold Blue Wing which means the boat category is going away. In July we had our normal boat storage fee plus some expenses related to selling her. In August we got a small refund on our boat insurance.


July: $0
August: $38.45

We are getting geared up to drive to Mexico. The August travel expense is for the Guia Roji, Por Las Carreteras De México – a road atlas of Mexico!

*All pics are click to enlarge.

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


14 thoughts on “July & August 2018 Costs of Being a Nomad

  1. Hey Greg and Duwan,
    Good to see you both still living the dream. It is still inspiring. I am most impressed at the archive – 8 years – wow!
    Well, we are getting the hurricane and then the Upstate is going to get a bunch of rain. I have a few to-do’s today.
    Take care. God bless you guys. And I will eat more kale. 🙂
    Safe Travels,
    – Craig

    1. I think we have settled on Mouth of the South – you can get a pitcher of High Life for $8, the food is actually really good, it is clean, they have a full-service bar, and we can walk there. Runner-up is 97 Estoria – although a picture of beer is $6.50 there their charming patina has turned into grossness.

  2. Your grocery category is extremely low. Well done! And, isn’t it nice that the boat category is gone? But, I’m sure the van is going to eat some of that money up fast! There are always improvements to be made and things to be fixed. Now that we are on Vancouver Island and it has been raining VERY hard, we have discovered three leaks. 🙁

    One of the main features we wanted in our van was swivel seats. They are awesome, although we have yet to turn the driver’s seat around. We have a wide settee behind the driver’s seat, and a big table fits between, so we have plenty of space just turning the passenger’s seat around. I hope we can compare our vans in person one day!

    Will you just visit the mainland of Mexico or head to Baja as well?

    1. I’d love to compare vans some day. We should correspond and see if we might be crossing paths this winter. We are only going to mainland Mexico – no Baja.

      I think we do pretty good on groceries too – perhaps because we are in the land of Aldi (my fav discount grocery).

      I think we are going to love the swivel seat.

      So sorry about the leaks! You would think you’d be done with that without a boat. Leaks are a little boat/van crossover I could do without!

  3. I love the Parmesan containers covered in socks – what a clever idea! The swivel seat is awesome. Such a great and useful upgrade. Do you just slide the composing toilet over when you’ve got it swiveled around or have you relocated that?

    1. The composting toilet becomes an ottoman! I just need to find one more use for it now – although if you think about it, as a toilet it has two uses. I knew you’d like the parm containers and socks – it is so very frugal.

    1. I have no idea how people afford children money-wise, time-wise, or sanity-wise. Best not to look and keep the kids around.

    1. You know, surprisingly, there are lots of places to spend money in Slab City. Luckily we still make a little money so we don’t have to “live free” completely on the cheap all the time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.