November 2019 Cost of Being a Nomad

Greg works on van repairs at our campsite at Florida River Island. His old paint clothes have, unfortunately, found a new purpose.


No, this isn’t the total expenses for the month of November. It is only the total of one usually empty column from the month’s spreadsheet – Van Repairs.

I’m sure this number is more than what many people have probably initially paid for their van. And a number that could put an end to the adventure for other people like us traveling small on a limited income. With other vehicles we have owned in the past this number would have meant a call to a local charity to have it towed away. In fact, we did have our last 4 vehicles towed away – including our last van which we, fortunately, were able to sell to the person who had it towed away.

But this van, Ballena Blanca, is our home. When we had our initial van troubles and need to replace our torque converter with a repair estimate of $3,500 we never questioned whether we would spend the money. Since then we have had even more troubles – one that left us disabled and which almost seemed dire. But fortunately our wandering coffers are still full of summer painting dollars and we’ve been able to pour money into our traveling home without hesitation.

I initially thought I might use this space to tell you the details about our van troubles but they multiplied during the month and now merit there own blog post. Look for it in a few weeks.

A few notes before we get to November’s total:

  • All expenses are in US dollars.
  • We drive a 2015 Ford Transit Cargo Van upfitted for living in.
  • We are vegetarians and we cook – eating little packed or prepared food.

Total Money Spent

Our total expenses for November were:


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

Let’s look at a few of those numbers in detail…

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 for November are:

$4,258. 24

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.


We are always thinking of ways to upgrade and improve the van.

One of our van projects this past month was to move our house battery (the batteries that supply all our power for our van living space) voltage display. Before it was located under the bed on our power inverter where we couldn’t see it when we were driving. We moved it to this location right behind the driver’s seat where we can see it from almost anywhere in the van. In addition, we also moved the switch we use to charge our house batteries from our van engine battery which was also located under the bed to a spot next to the driver’s seat making it much more convenient to use while driving. Unfortunately, that project turned out to be a bit of a fail. We got it fixed now, though, and will tell you all about that in our next expense report.

– Gas


In November we traveled from the coast of Maryland to lower central Pennsylvania, Charlotte, NC to Knoxville, south through Montgomery, AL to the Apalachicola National Forest in the Panhandle of Florida where we are now. Because we had so many van problems, though, we haven’t travel as much as we would have liked. The upside is that we didn’t spend as much on gas.

– Insurance


Van rendezvous at Walmart! While we were heading north to see my Aunt Eunice and her family in Pennsylvania our traveling friends Liesbet, Mark, and their dog Maya were traveling south. We converged at a Walmart in Hagerstown, MD.

– Camping


Right on the edge of the Apalachicola National Forest (where we have been exploring during the latter part of November), there is a small town call Sopchoppy which has a very nice city campground/park with full hookups (electric, water, and sewer) and hot showers for $20! So really you can see this as a camping expense or as 4 hot showers (one for each of us the day we arrived and the day we left) for $5 each.

Here are our camping/sleeping stats for November (all camping is free unless indicated):

3 – nights boondocking at a Walmart
– nights sleeping inside in a house
1 – nights sleeping in the van in someone’s driveway
1 – Boondockers Welcome (for more about Boondockers Welcome click here.)
6 – nights camping in a National Forest
4 – Florida Water District Campsite
1 – Paid City Campground

We had a big time catching up with our friends. Here we are hanging out with Mark in his van. Maya is curled up on the floor in between us.
Greg, Liesbet, Mark, and Maya in the Walmart parking lot.

– 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 includes 12 gallons of water, wood chips and bags for our composting toilet and propane for our stove.

– Repairs


This includes labor and parts for a new torque converter, $3222.45, a new EVAP purge canister, $35.19, parts and labor for parts and labor to replace a support bolt the driver’s side strut, $307.98, and a new tire, $232.34. Tires would normally go in the maintenance category but since this tire was nearly shredded due to the loss of the support bolt for the strut, we are putting it here.

Groceries and Booze

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

Food: $245.90
Booze: $229.35

I did a little stocking up on my favorite foods at Trader Joes since once we got down to the Panhandle of Florida we wouldn’t be seeing one again until we got to New Orleans. Our alcohol expense is up a little bit from last month but I bet yours would be to if you just spent $3,797.96 on van repairs.

My first cousins twice removed, Clair and Deke, at my cousin’s house in Pennsylvania. We had a lovely afternoon playing with kittens.
Me and Aunt Eunice. Doing good at 91.


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

Here is the total for everything in the Entertainment category:


$38 of this total was spent on museums. The rest was eating and drinking out. When we were at Greg’s parents we took Greg’s dad out for a birthday dinner. We also did a bit of eating out while visiting a friend in Knoxville.


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:


$77.84 for our phone bill/data plan. $21.36 for a new set of flannel sheets (it gets cold camping in the woods – even in Florida). And the rest for odds and ends.

Small town camping at a city park in Sopchoppy, Florida for $20.


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.

November: $5.00

Parking in Montgomery, Alabama while we visited the Legacy Museum.

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?

7 thoughts on “November 2019 Cost of Being a Nomad

  1. Ouch! That was my first reaction when I saw your monthly spend.

    The pictures of the adorable kittens helped me forget about your financial pain for a brief moment. Nice to see pics of Liesbet, Mark & Maya too. Love their daisy chair covers. Is that what they are – chair covers?

    1. Yes – they are seat covers. They are so good about keeping everything nice in their van.

      It’s so much money but it could have been worse (that’s what we keep telling ourselves).

      Whenever I post pictures of cats or kittens I always think of you – they are such a wonderful distraction!

  2. Hi guys!

    Yep. That was a bad month. I can’t say we ever spent over $3,000 a month since living in the camper van, but… when you add up all the van expenses for the year, I bet you we come up with a higher number than yours. So, we’d have to compare the yearly reports. Ours will be well over $6,000 just for the van, I’m sure.

    Hey, our alcohol expense went up hugely in November as well. I’ll post that report this weekend. Your fuel expense is very decent! Thanks to you guys, we are looking into staying at the National forest near Tallahassee as well in a few weeks. Did you go into town to check out the Capitol?

    It was so nice to catch up with you two (great shots, do you mind sending them to me?) and we can’t wait for a repeat. Don’t go too fast on your way west!

    And let’s hope the van troubles are over for the foreseeable future! I loved your quick write-up and how you compared it to previous cars you had and how this is your home. Everything is different when big expenses happen to your home. Not easy to just “abandon” it!! We have too much invested in it – physically, mentally, and financially!

    1. I think this is our biggest month ever since we started tracking our expenses.

      You may have lots of van expenses this year but you do so much better than we do in every other category! It will be interesting to compare our yearly reports!

      The van is still having problems so hopefully the repair bill won’t increase. I keep thinking about what we’ll do if any of these problems ever become “fatal.”

      I think we are going to have a house sitting gig in New Orleans over Christmas so we may not be too far west by the end of the year. Want to meet up in NoLa?

  3. Wow. Sorry to hear about your continuing van issues. I remember those days from when we kept having “mysterious” or unexplainable leaks in Zesty. Don’t think about “fatal” yet, though. I do know the feeling of despair and wanting to give up on the whole van, however… Does or can your insurance cover any of it?

    I assume NoLa is northern Louisiana? I’ll send you an email back soon. Yesterday was our only day off, so we ran errands and took Maya for a decent hike, chilled and ordered food out! 🙂

    1. NoLa stands for New Orleans, Louisiana. I use it because I am too lazy to type out New Orleans.

      Greg did some research at the library the other day and he thinks our newest problem isn’t a big deal and that he can solve it with a lock washer. I hope so!

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