May 2019 Cost of Being a Nomad

Our Camping spot at Cochiti Lake in New Mexico was supposed to cost $12 but there was no ranger on duty when we arrived or when we left in the morning and we couldn’t find a self-registration box. Bonus – this campsite came with hot showers!

At the end of May, we made our yearly migration back East. This very blog topic (The Cost of Being a Nomad) is one of the reasons we do this every Spring – we need more money. For eight years now we have been returning each summer to the small neighborhood in Atlanta, Cabbagetown, where we used to own a home. We house sit for all of our adventurous pet loving friends and Greg resumes the painting business he started with his partner Paul a few years back. By the end of September, we hope to have our traveling kitty restored and head out and do it again. Until then – let’s see where all this hard earned money goes…

Total Money Spent

A few notes:

  • All expenses are in US dollars.
  • We drive a 2015 Ford Transit Cargo Van upfitted for living in. It gets anywhere from 17 to 19 miles to the gallon.
  • We are vegetarians and we cook – eating little pre-prepared food.

Here is our total for everything we spent in May:


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

This certainly isn’t our best month for expenses, let’s find out why…

Van Living Expenses

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

The total for all Van Living Expenses in May is: $745.64

Here is a breakdown of some specific van expenses:

– Van Upgrades

These expenses are for things that improve the van. I am constantly thinking of ways to make the van more comfortable and more efficient.


In anticipation of returning to Cabbagetown and having Ballena Blanca morph from an adventure and living abode to a traveling box of tools, paint, ladders, and lumber we bought seat covers. Hopefully, this will mean we will not be scrubbing paint stains off either seat in the fall.

– 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.


This total is for 22 gallons of water. Before we first started out adventuring in the van we would always take note of water sources when we traveled anywhere. We noticed rest stops, libraries, cemeteries – anywhere that had an accessible water spigot. Then we hit the road and found out that it was fairly easy to find water and that we wouldn’t have to sneak into cemeteries in the dead of night to borrow water from the departed. We mostly get our water from Glacier water machines at groceries stores or from free-standing Watermill kiosks. The cost is anywhere from 15 to 40 cents per gallon.

We have also found that we just don’t use that much water in the van, averaging only 25 to 30 gallons a month.

– Gas


May is always a high gas month for us due to the trek back east. The month started at Bandelier National Park in New Mexico, took through New Mexico to Roswell, across Texas to Austin, eastward on to New Orleans, Greenville, SC, hitting the coast at Charleston, back to Greenville, then up to Charlotte, NC, and finally Atlanta. Fortunately, gas prices got lower the farther east we went.

Rob Jagger campsite in the Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area in New Mexico costs $5 if you needed electricity and another $5 if you needed water. Since our solar panels provide all of our electricity needs and we had a full tank of water there was no cost for us to camp.

– Camping


I hate to pay for camping but we had a special occasion in May – My and Greg’s tenth wedding anniversary. Because he doesn’t really know where we are going until I tell him, I planned a few surprise-stops for our trip back east. Paying for camping made these stops convenient and allowed us to spend a few nights out on the town with no worries about driving at the end of the evening.

– Van Maintenance

These expenses are for regular and periodic maintenance of the van.


A little upholstery cleaner and a little paint to touch up the many small dings Ballena Blanca acquires on the road.

Groceries and Booze

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

– Food and Booze


We are back in the land of discounted groceries at Aldi! So happy! I’m planning on having a super low grocery expense this coming month.

We had a wonderful and fairly inexpensive anniversary dinner at Arlo’s, a vegan taco truck, in downtown Austin. And, of course, we drank plenty of Texan beer.


This category is for eating and drinking out, live music, museums, and attractions.

Here is the total for everything in the Entertainment category:


Along with gas, this is the category that really kills us in May. Along our route back east we had many friends and family to visit. And visiting friends and family more often than not means going out to eat and drink. It is, of course, great to visit and we often like to treat – especially when we are the senior adults at the table.

Entertainment in May also included our two nights out for our wedding anniversary. Drinks, dinner, and a concert.

On our trip back east we dropped in on some old friends of Greg’s in Columbia, SC. They have two adorable kittens – always free entertainment!


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


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 is the total for everything in the Personal/Household category:


This number includes some paper towels, $2.13, our phone plan, $84.70, new clothes and shoes, $75.22, and a couple of books, $2.38.

I have finally decided that I am not going to lose that extra 15 or 20 pounds and that most of my clothes don’t fit me anymore or are at the least unflattering. So we made several treks to various thrift stores when we were staying with Greg’s folk outside of Charlotte for a few days. Greg needed new clothes too once he demoted his old stained and fraying clothes from the winter to painting clothes. I got a new pair of walking shoes to facilitate that exercise I need to do to lose that extra weight. Hopefully, we will have another shopping trip in the fall for smaller clothes!


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.


No special travel expenses in May.

The cost of our kayak is down to about $80 per use – but kayaking down an urban bayou in New Orleans with my niece and her boyfriend was absolutely priceless.

No Manches

This category is for unexpected or unexplained expenses.


And no surprises!

* All pics are click to enlarge.

* If you are interested and reading any of our previous Costs of Being a Nomad posts, click here!

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?

5 thoughts on “May 2019 Cost of Being a Nomad

  1. Not a bad month considering all your fuel costs on the way east. I have a feeling we will surpass your amount, by the time we reach Massachusetts. We’re only in Colorado now, but will head east, to Chicago tomorrow. Then, the fueling begins in earnest. 🙂 And, the eating out costs, for the same reason as yours was so high in May.

    Low grocery and booze expenses again, especially since it includes alcohol! Yay for being in Aldi land again. I wonder whether there are any in MA. I’ll have to check. House sitting will keep most bills down this summer!

    1. Yes, house sitting will definately keep the bills down over the next four months – that is until I start working on van projects. June is shaping up to be our lowest expense month we’ve had since I started tracking. We will see if it continues tgat way for the last half of the month.

      Are you doing something fun in Chicago or just passing through? It is such a big city – I don’t envy you driving Zesty into it. Safe travels!

      1. Just visiting friends on the outskirts for the weekend or so. Definitely not taking Zesty into the city if we can avoid it!

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