December 2019 Cost of Being a Nomad

Night sky at White Oak Landing in Florida.

In November we blew our average monthly goal of spending only $1,500 per month due to our $3,797.96 worth of van repair expenses. So we thought what the heck, let’s just blow it out and spend like crazy the last month of December. Well we didn’t get too crazy but we did spend extra on things we don’t normally spend on.

We had been talking about getting binoculars for a while and after we took a National Park birding walk at Gulf Shores National Seashore we decided that we really needed them. We replaced our pillows which had become flat, our towels which didn’t have enough fluff anymore, and our throw rugs which had lost their rubber backing and were kind of tacky feeling to walk on. I bought more credits for my postcard app so we can continue sending original pictures postcards to Greg’s grandson and friends while we travel. I bought some leggings. And we spent a little extra on tours, attractions, eating out, and camping.

Also unusual in December was the 10 days sleeping outside of the van (indoors), house sitting, semi-house sitting and basically squatting when we visited my niece, Ariadne, in New Orleans. Three of those days were spent at Ariadne’s house while she stayed at her boyfriend’s place in town, 6 were spent at Will and Aubrey’s, friends of Aridane’s, house sitting their cat, bird, and two chickens. The odd day was spent at complete stranger’s house which was unoccupied. We ended up with a homeless day when Ariadne’s house sitter (prearranged long before we got there) moved in after Ariadne left for the holidays and before Will and Aubrey left for their trip. Ariadne found a friend who was also away for the holidays and we moved into her house for that one night. Conveniently all the houses were in the same neighborhood within a block from each other.

Wesley is always ready to play. My niece lives in an old shotgun apartment in the Treme neighborhood in New Orleans. Because there isn’t much room she usually stays at her boyfriend’s when we visit and we take care of feeding her cats in the morning and evening.

Ariadne’s cat Pierre is a bit shyer than Wesley and loves to tuck in under the blankets.

A few notes before we get to December’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 December were:

$1,718.07

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

Click to see a larger version of this spreadsheet.

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 December are:

$518.36

Here is a breakdown of some specific van expenses:

– Van Upgrades

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

$62.54

This was mostly for replacing the switch that we use to power our house batteries for the camper part of the van from our engine starting battery. We had been having trouble with the switch for some time. And after we moved the switch from the back of the van to a spot by the driver’s it started blowing fuses. When the last fuse actually melted we decided we needed a more robust solution. We left our forest campground and drove to West Marine in Tallahassee where we bought a big old marine switch. So odd to continue to buy things in marine stores, but we have no more blown fuses.

Here is our new battery switch below the driver’s seat. We have been in the shade a lot these last few months which means our solar panels can’t charge our house batteries so we have been relying on this switch to keep all our systems running.

– 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.

$13.64

This includes wood shavings for our composting toilet and 22 gallons of water.

Originally the house-sitting gig at Will and Aubrey’s was supposed to include a few dogs and some money. The dogs left the picture and so did the pay. We had already decided living in a house for a few days would give us time and space to work on a few van projects so we went ahead and did the gig anyway. We were promised that taking care of the remaining pets would take little effort. This ended up being true. The bird, Andromeda, had enough seed and water for the whole time they were gone. He had free reign of the house but mostly stuck close to his cage.

– Gas

$271.10

In December we traveled from the coast of the panhandle of Florida from Carrabelle to the middle of southern Louisianna. We did a bit of back in forth in Florida when we received a van recall notice and had to drive from the Apalachicola National Forest to Fort Walton Beach and back (an almost 300-mile round trip). We also did a bit of extra driving back and forth in New Orleans shopping.

Will and Aubrey’s cat Zooey was total dear. She went in and out at will. We only needed to keep her food and water bowls full. This planter was one of her favorite spots outside.

Unfortunately, Will and Aubrey’s chickens were past their egg-laying years so no free eggs. We let them out of the coop in the morning, threw some chicken feed out for them, and made sure they got back in the coop in the evening.

– Insurance

$101.08

– Camping

$70

This $70 was for three nights and two different National Park Campgrounds. A bit pricey (for us) but the camping came with showers and I just love being in National Parks. Plus campgrounds are great places to meet other travelers.

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

5 – nights camping in a National Forest
4 – nights Boondockers Welcome
2 – nights Florida Water District Campsite
2 – nights boondocking at a Walmart
3
– nights paid National Park Campground
2
– nights rest area
10
– nights sleeping inside in a house
3 – nights Louisianna WMA campground

Boondocker’s Welcome location in Freeport, FL. Boondockers Welcome is an online subscription service where people offering boondocking (free camping) locations at their home. We stayed here for two nights while we were getting our recall work done in Fort Walton Beach.

Boondocker’s Welcome sites are not always the most convenient. Often times there is a Walmart closer to where we want to be but who wants to stay in a Walmart when you can meet nice people who have an amazing view like this?

– Repairs, Maintenance, Misc.

$0!!!!!!!!

Groceries and Booze

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

Food: $270.97
Booze: $171.81

Our spot in the Econfina Creek Water Management Area at White Oak Landing. Free camping is available at many water district sites in Florida – you just need to make a reservation and get a permit first. We spent two nights here just relaxing.

A view of the lake at White Oak Landing.

Entertainment

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

Here is the total for everything in the Entertainment category:

$254.65

We ate and drank out a bit in New Orleans ($105.89) and we tried to treat my niece whenever we could. We also did an amazing plantation tour and saw a very fun holiday play in which my niece’s boyfriend, Ian, not only performed in but wrote as well.

We have been going to a lot of little free museums. The people who volunteer there are always very enthusiastic. I always end up putting a few bucks in the donation box.

National Park campsite at Davis Bayou. This campsite stays busy all winter long.

Personal/Household

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:

$477.72

This number includes our new binoculars ($131.03), postcard credits ($79.95), pillows, towels, and rugs ($130.96) as well as the usual phone bill ($77.84), two pairs of leggings ($13.02), paper towels, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies ($26.71), and many loads of laundry ($12.25).

Ballena Blanca parked in the Treme neighborhood in New Orleans. Our house-sitting gig at Will and Aubrey’s was on the right side of the street, the apartment we spent one night in was on the left side of the street. My niece lives one block over.

Travel

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.

$1.00

Toll bridge to Pensacola Beach/Fort Pickens.

Free camping at the Attakapas Wildlife Management Area in Louisianna. This is where we wrapped up the year. It was pretty quiet.

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?

2 thoughts on “December 2019 Cost of Being a Nomad

  1. For spoiling yourselves more than usual, the total amount (other than household) is not that bad. Even the $105 for “eating and drinking out a bit in New Orleans” is only the equivalent of a nice dinner out or treating another couple to dinner. We should spend money in campgrounds once in a while as well, but remain too frugal to do so. Of course, we have our own shower. 🙂

    I’m really looking forward to your yearly expense report for 2019. We went through ours yesterday. PI can tell you already that our van category is centrally higher than what you spent on repairs for Ballena Blanca in November. And our new category (“dog”) has been pretty crazy as well. I’ll post it online one of these days.

    • Duwan said:

      I think $105 is the least amount of money we’ve spent eating out in New Orleans. My niece was working a lot while we were there and most of our meals were inexpensive.

      Both of the National Parks we stayed at had Walmart options close by if you decide to head that way.

      And I’m looking forward to your year end post! I’m sure overall you will have spent less money than us even with the new doggy category and van expenses. We will see! I hope to get the blog caught up through the end of the year (about 4 more posts) before our expenses wrap up.

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