March & April 2019 Cost of Being a Nomad

We spent a night of free camping at Wilson Canyon Rest area. This is probably one of the prettiest rest areas we have ever visited.

It’s time to add up our expenses again and see how much being a nomad actually costs. In March we left Mexico behind and crossed the border back into the United States. Since our return what we’ve spent money on has changed, less on gas, less on camping, but a little more on groceries and way more per meal on eating out. So we drive more, don’t worry about where we camp, watch our grocery dollar and eat out far less than we did in Mexico. Let’s look at how we did.

Total Money Spent

All expenses are in US dollars.

Here are our totals for everything we spent for March and April:

March: $1674.83
April: $1443.37

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

Ok – time to look at the numbers that I think need more elaboration. BTW – We already talked about some of these march numbers in my wrap up of The Cost of Being a Nomad in Mexico post last month so, for the most part, we won’t talk about those totals again.

Van Living Expenses

These are all expenses relating to the van itself, living in the van, and traveling in the van. The totals for the two months are:

March: $846.80
April: $576.67

– Van Utilities

Here we include expenses for things like water, propane for our stove and heater, and expenses for maintaining and using our composting toilet.

March: $6.47
April: $15.80

Van utilities are such a small expense. We are paying more for water now that we are back in the states, but we really use such little water it doesn’t make a big difference in our overall expenses. There are actually many places to get free water like at National Parks and such, but we have had problems with the quality of free water in the past and since it doesn’t impact our expenses so much we just buy it from bulk dispensing machines.

One thing that we have added to utilities that we have never paid for before is showers. One of my goals this past season of traveling was to have a real shower at least once a week. This was super easy in Mexico since we were staying at so many RV parks. And it has been a great perk of visiting friends who live in houses while we are on the road as we did in California. But in between the friends, we have the choices of either staying in campgrounds with hot showers or paying for them. Now, I’m not going to pay a lot for showers, but when we were at Glen Canyon we found cheap showers, $2 for 15 minutes. Ahhh…15 minutes is a long time, what a treat!

Another free rest area campsite. This one was just a big empty lot – not nearly as pretty as Wilson Canyon – but the sunset is pretty much spectacular where ever you are out west.

– Gas

March: $617.73
April: $454.24

Gas, of course, is always our biggest expense. In March we traveled from Xilitla, San Luis Potosi in Mexico to Clear Lake Oaks, California. And then in April from California to Santa Fe, New Mexico. That’s a lot of miles.

– Camping

March: $55.32
April: $10

It is so nice to be back in the US where there is tons of free camping! We have paid for camping once since we have been back at Valley of Fire State Park. Besides being in a great state park, this camping came with hot showers!

– Maintenance

March: $70.65
April: $0

About twice a year we take the van into a Ford dealership to have the oil changed and the tires rotated ($62.90). Periodically we also take her to a car wash ($7.75) – there is a lot of Ballena Blanca to wash.

Groceries and Booze

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

– Food and Booze

March: $447.34
April: $405.04

Not much to say about this category except that although we may be spending a bit more on groceries in the US, I am glad to be able to shop at all my favorite grocery stores again!

Driving through the Navajo Nation. Often times there is lots of nothing in between destinations.


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

March: $171.41
April: $326.05

We have done a lot of visiting with friends since we have been back in the US – this always means there will be some eating out. But I love my friends and it is totally worth it.

April’s number also includes the cost of our National Park pass, $80 for a year of free entry to all National Parks as well as discounts and waived entry fees at some other Federally managed parks, national monuments, campsites, preserves, wildlife areas, etc. So totally worth it!


This category is for anything related to our health, dental work, medical issues, and just maintenance/medicine cabinet stuff. Here are the totals:

March: $6.50
April: $2.79

Luckily we are basically healthy! No big expenses here!


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.

Here are the totals for the two months:

March: $185.73
April: $131.82

Really not much new here in these categories from previous months. Most of the expenses in this category go to our phone plan and our mail service.

But sometimes the drive is as pretty as the destination.


This category if for expenses outside of usual van travel expenses like the extra costs of traveling to another country, plane tickets, tolls, public transportation expenses, and parking:

March: $5.36
April: $1

March’s total was for tolls in Mexico. And April’s were for 2 hours of parking at the library in Santa Fe.

No Manches

This category is for unexpected or unexplained expenses:

March: $11.69
April: $0

After adding up all the money we exchanged and spent in Mexico I had about 225 pesos ($11.69 US) that I didn’t know what happened to. We are hoping to keep this category all zeros from here on out.

*All pics are click to enlarge.

Another one of those amazing western sunsets. Priceless!

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?

6 thoughts on “March & April 2019 Cost of Being a Nomad

  1. No manches in April, yay! You guys spend so little on groceries! Our bill is always around $300+ a month. Our van maintenance and fuel costs will trump yours this month.. 🙁 Well done in April! Keep it up. 🙂

    1. Not sure why our food bill is so low. Perhaps because we are vegetarians? I am actually kind of a food hoarder – always buying too much because I’m afraid of getting out in the middle of nowhere and not being able to find a grocery store.

      I can’t ever imagine your fuel costs topping ours – we will see! We will be traveling all the way to Charleston, SC this month – it’s gonna be a whole lot of gas!

      1. And we will be doing the same to Boston, MA, with a giant detour. 🙂 Not that I want to compete to see who spends most on fuel…

    1. So very sadly we’ve only found Aldis in certain parts of California. Can’t wait to get back in Aldi land! We mostly shop Trader Joes while we are traveling in the SW. I have a star on my Google Maps for every TJ in every major city out here.

      Showers are so nice – we have had so many of them this winter I feel a bit spoiled.

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.