Aug & Sept 2019 Cost of Being a Nomad

Ballena Blanca hangs out in Cabbagetown patiently waiting for all the fun to begin.

As expected our expenses went up in August and September. We spent some money on the van, I had an eye doctor appointment and bought another year’s worth of contacts, we got a new phone, purchased some miscellaneous personal stuff, and paid for another two years of website hosting, as well as racking up our regular expenses of feeding and keeping ourselves entertained. Besides spending money, Greg painted a lot of houses and I worked on my summer projects – scanning old photographs and improving the van while neglecting to keep up the blog. The whole month of August and the first half of September were spent at one house-sitting gig (a very long time for us) and the second half of September at another. Atlanta was hot in August and September but all that is behind us now as we prepare to hit the road again!

A few notes before we get to August’s and September’s totals:

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

Total Money Spent

And our total expenses for the two months are:

August: $1,778.95
September: $1519.94

And here is the break down of everything in spreadsheet form:

And now, here is the part where I’m going to talk a little bit about any of these numbers that I think are interesting.

Van Living Expenses

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

The total of all Van Living Expenses are:

August: $365.58
September: $229.38

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.

August: $269.51
September: $32.16

We have made some improvements to the van that I have been wanting to do for a while. We added some new cabinet doors, bought new door screens to replace the ones that were falling apart, bought some netting material to create more storage over the seats and to hold everything in under the couch, bought a new container for the cover material we use in our composting toilet. Improvements are never-ending as we are constantly learning about what we need to live the #vanlife.

– Insurance

August: $96.07
September: $96.07

– Gas

August: $0
September: $101.15

I was thrilled to have a no gas month in August. Actually the tank was on empty on August 31 but I made Greg wait until the 1st to fill it up. One of the great things about living and working in Cabbagetown during the summer is not driving. Although we do drive for groceries, Friday night pizza, and multiple trips to Home Depot and Sherwin Williams each week for paint, most everything else we do is in Cabbagetown. All of Greg’s jobs this past summer except for one were in the neighborhood. There are often multiple things to do right in the neighborhood and when there is something going on outside Cabbagetown we usually carpool with friends.

We spent a little extra money on gas in September when we made a trip out of town to attend a good friend’s mother’s funeral.

– Everything Else (Utilities, Camping, Maintence, Repairs, Misc.)

August: $0
September: $0

Atlanta is the best at thinking of new ways to have fun. This summer was the second time we had attended a performance of the Candler Park Water Ballet Company.
To add to the fun. The Water Ballet includes three amazing friends and Cabbagetown women. Pictured here are Jeanne and Dian. Unfortunately, the third Cabbage Ballerina, Ro, was absent from this performance.
Jeanne and Dian show us what they can do with a pool noodle.
They got the moves!
A pile of neighbors came out to see the show including Cabbagehead Q with his dad Nick.
Noodle routine.

Groceries and Booze

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

August Food: $324.33
August Booze: $82.72

September Food: $281.77
September Booze: $93.60

We are still eating well and winding down in the evenings with a few beers.

Atlanta has an absolutely wonderful botanical garden. I never go, but some friends were in town and treated me (Greg had to work).
The botanical sculptures were amazing. So glad I took my friends up on the treat.
Phoenix. Atlanta claims this as its symbol, since the city rose from the ashes after General Sherman’s visit.
Mad Hatter.
Our friends Michelle and David at the Gardens.


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

Here are the totals for everything in the Entertainment category:

August: $285.83
September: $362.36

August’s number is all dining out. Mostly Friday night pizza but we also had a lazy cooking day, a few drinks out with friends, and a meet up with some sailing friends, Jules and Jeff, who have been touring Canada and the US this summer, making Atlanta their last stop before they jumped on a plane back to their floating home in Mexico.

September was mostly eating out too but we also saw some live music. Live music used to be on our agenda a lot more during our stays in Atlanta but this summer was especially hot and draining for Greg who spent most of it outside painting houses. By the time evening rolled around he wasn’t up for much besides winding down and catching something on Netflix.

One of the best things to happen in Cabbagetown every year is the Forward Warrior Mural Project. The northern edge of the Cabbagetown neighborhood is one long concrete wall. This wall used to be a destination for random graffiti which prompted a local vigilante to hide out in the trees at night in wait of would-be vandals – jumping out and accosting surprised taggers before they tried to leave their mark. The neighborhood didn’t think this was the best way to deal with the problem so they formed a committee to come up with a solution. This led to Forward Warrior stepping in and turning the wall into a mural space for Atlanta artists. For the most part, the taggers leave the art alone.
Murals have a life of about three years, but this year a row of scraggly bushes (originally planted as a solution to the tagging) were removed to reveal more wall and a large canvas to work with.
It was a nice overcast day – a little reprieve from the blistering Atlanta sun.
Rising Red Lotus has had this same spot for years and always paints something amazing.
Artist painting a future artist?
Mural in progress.
Mural finished.


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

August: $468.22
September: $10.33

Most of August’s big expense was for my contacts. A few years back I started waiting tables during the summer and being able to see became a big concern. I needed readers to see when I wrote tickets but they got in the way when I was trying to see to cross the dining room. I had this same problem when we were sailing switching between being able to see the chart plotter (which I needed readers for) and looking long distances across the water. A friend suggested I get monovision contacts which I did. I love them! They have become absolutely essential so every year I buy another 12 monthly lenses for each eye and about every two years (like this year) I get an eye exam.


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 everything in the Personal/Household category:

August: $252.27
September: $512.20

Besides the normal stuff that usually goes into this category like our phone bill, household stuff like toothpaste and paper towels, we also had lots of miscellaneous and personal stuff. We bought a much needed new phone. The battery no longer worked in our old phone and it could only be used by having it plugged into the wall or into a portable external battery. After researching and watching Youtubes about how complicated it was to replace the battery I decided I’d much rather spend the money and get a brand new phone. Love my new phone! We also bought a new external hard drive to store my millions of pictures and movies and series on and several miscellaneous things we needed like a new dry bag, cases for the new phone and harddrive. Our last unusal big expense was to renew the blog hosting for another two years ($191.76).

A little llama selfie on our way to the Lantern Parade.
Another favorite Atlanta event is The Lantern Parade. Hosted by the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons, the parade has been a tradition for 10 years now.
The march begins just outside of Cabbagetown (on the other side of our mural wall) where it procedes down the Atlanta beltline (a walking and biking trail that circles the city).
We love the big people!
People go all out with their lanterns – actual turning themselves into lanterns.
Owls. In addition to lanterns, there are marching bands – but they don’t photograph too well in the dark.
Atlanta’s own Puddles the Clown marches in the parade on his way to a gig.


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.

August: $0
September: $30

We now have a year’s membership to Boondockers Welcome. Finding boondocking (free camping) is pretty easy when we are out west but this fall I want to travel up the east coast a bit. Although I am prepared to pay for camping in the National Parks we want to visit, those costs add up and we need to balance them out with some free camping/spots to sleep. Boondockers Welcome connects people across the country/world who have space available in their driveways or on their land for travelers in self-contain vehicles to spend the night. We only need to use it once for the $30 membership fee to pay for itself and hopefully, we will meet some nice people along the way.

No Manches

This category is for unexpected or unexplained expenses.

August: $0
September: $0

Love those zeros!

To see all of our expense reports, click here.

If you are interested in reading other expense reports from people living on the road, check out these links:

Far Out Ride
Roaming About
Just Call Us Nomads

*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?

6 thoughts on “Aug & Sept 2019 Cost of Being a Nomad

  1. Thanks for the photo tour! I still like to think I live vicariously through your travels. I enjoyed seeing the pics of Michelle and David, too. I need to put the Botanical Gardens on my bucket list. Outstanding shots of the garden sculptures. Love to you and Greg.

    1. Thanks Denise! You should definitely go to the Botanical Gardens. I’m sure Natalie would love it!

      We will try to keep up doing fun stuff for you to live vicariously through.

      Love to you too.

  2. I love how you use photos in your expense report. Really breaks things up and makes it more fun than just a bunch of words and numbers. I may have to adopt this tactic. The water ballet looks like a hoot! I bet you guys will miss Cabbagetown next summer but I have no doubt many very cool adventures await in its stead.

    1. Although the expense report seems to be one of our more popular posts I think the pictures give it a bit more pizzazz.

      The water ballet was a hoot! Yes, we are going to miss Cabbagetown but we will probably be back for a visit.

      Here’s to more cool adventures!

  3. Hi Duwan,

    Reading these expense reports really offers a (more intimate?) view into your lives. If you ever think about splitting them up to create a monthly overview, that might be helpful as well, but I do realize it’s more work and commitment. 🙂

    Where do I start with my thoughts and reactions? First off, it truly sounds and looks like Greg had an extremely busy and exhausting summer. I’m sorry you couldn’t go out and listen to music more. But, it was for the greater good! Now, you are free!

    The Botanical Gardens look very special with those sculptures. I’m glad your friends treated you to a visit. I’m also in awe about the street art wall. Again… Cabbagetown looks like an amazing and special place!

    Your expenses weren’t too bad, considering all the extra costs for contacts, phone, and van expenses. Still, you didn’t spend too much on the van, especially with a month without fuel cost. We sometimes do this as well… wait a couple of days with a purchase, especially when the month has been high. Zesty is costing us an arm and a leg these days, as more items have to be maintained or replaced.

    Welcome back on the road. I’m curious to read about your east coast plans. Any chance you come all the way to Boston? It’s getting dreary… 🙁 And, you’ll have to keep us posted about the Boondockers Welcome experiences. We have friends who swear by it. We stayed at a couple that were mentioned in iOverlander.

    1. Ideally this would have been two posts and I would have done an overview separate from the expense report for every month we were in Cabbagetown but I just couldn’t keep up with the blog much at all this summer so I smooshed it all together.

      We have a few other big expenses this month but hopefully with everything being brand new maybe we won’t have these kind of expenses again for a while.

      We are very happy to be back on the road. We are doing the friends and family tour right now but soon we will be back living in the van full time. I’m looking forward to see how the Boondockers Welcome goes especially traveling up the east coast where there are far fewer free camping options.

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