February 2020 Cost of Being a Nomad

Blowing into the Southwest.

Last month I introduced a new expense report format and asked for feedback and actually got a few comments. A few people liked the new format, one person wanted more rants and another more goats. We will see what we can do…

In February we left Texas and headed straight for Arizona. We might have spent more time exploring the Lone Star state but someone lost a crown and had to get to his dentist in Los Algodones, Mexico. Since the dentist, we have done a few blog-worthy things but have spent most of our time boondocking on a vacant lot in Tucson owned by former Cabbagetown friends who moved to Arizona a couple of years ago. We have making almost daily trips to the library to work on blog posts, do research on our next adventure, and buy things on the internet.

Boondocking on BLM land at the Agua Fria National Monument in Arizona. (We are that tiny little white van in the lower middle of the picture)

Notes about us, some of our expenses, and our rig:

  • All expenses are in US dollars.
  • We drive a 2015 Ford Transit Cargo Van that we upfitted ourselves to live in. Currently, the van gets about 17 miles to the gallon.
  • Our van is registered in Florida as a standard cargo van. Our van insurance is through USAA.
  • We are vegetarians and we cook – eating little packed or prepared food.
  • We get our health insurance through the ACA exchange in Florida. Our insurance is very basic and is mostly good only in Florida where we are residents, but hardly ever visit. Our costs for health insurance are one of the few things we don’t include in this report.
  • Our phone plan is with Google Fi. We pay a monthly fee of $70 plus tax which gives us unlimited calling and text and up to 22 gigs of highspeed internet, after which it slows down. Our data plan works internationally with no extra cost. With Google Fi we can make phone calls over wifi from our phone, tablet, or computer. The plan provides an extra sim card for our table at no extra cost. At any time we can switch to a metered plan which costs $20 a month for phone and text and $10 for each gig of data we use.
  • We receive our mail through St. Brendan’s Isle in Green Cove Springs, Florida. We pay $11.99 per month for the basic service plus an extra $7.99 to have the envelopes scanned and small additional fees to have the envelopes opened and the contents scanned. There are additional charges if we want anything sent to us on the road. We keep $100 in an account with the service. When this runs low they charge us for another $100.
  • Our dentist is in Los Algodones, Mexico. If you would like to read more about our experience with our Mexican dentist, click here.

And our total expenses for February were…



And here is the break down of categories…

Expenses February 2020
Gas $337.07
Insurance/Registration $101.08
Maintenance $0.00
Repairs $5.94
Van Total $444.09
Life in the Van
Upgrade/Repairs to Upfit $17.61
Utilities $3.00
Camping $0.00
Household $103.74
Laundry $0.00
Showers $4.00
Tolls/Parking $6.00
Van Life Total $134.35
Phone $77.38
Mail $0.00
Communication Total $77.38
Food $217.94
Booze $139.09
Cleaning/Paper Products $13.38
Medicine Cabinet $5.21
Consumables Total $375.62
Drinks/Eating Out $128.97
Museums/Attractions/Music $116.00
Entertainment Total $244.97
Eyes/Feet/Doctor $0.00
Dentist $1,936.18
Health Total $1,936.18
Clothes $27.33
Gifts/Charity $0.00
Gear $28.61
Personal Total $55.94
*Utilities include our water, propane for the stove and heater, and items that are required to run our composting toilet.
*Gear is anything we think we need but probably don’t. These are the things that make our life more fun, interesting, keep us entertained and informed. Our NY Times subscription goes here. As well as expenses for hobbies, computer devices, books, kayaks, bikes, etc. These are the things that make us not quite minimalist.

And now as requested, here is the Rant..

As you can see from the table above most of our expenses for February are due to Greg’s dentist visit. If you subtract this expense from our total expenses you come out with a reasonable $1,332.35 total expenses for the month. But no…

Someone has bad teeth! Really bad teeth! While we were in Texas, Greg lost a crown along with a bit of tooth. Of course, he tried gluing it back on but it just would stay. At the dentist, he found out that another tooth also needed a crown and that the tooth with the lost crown needed to be extracted and have an implant put in its place. This means our dental expenses for the year are not over yet and that we will be returning to the dentist this fall to have the implant capped.

Rant over.

Our other not so usual expenses for February include a few household expenses for the van – a new can opener, one-use and into-the-laundry-basket smaller more compact washcloths, and replacement light bulbs. And of course, our entertainment expenses are up due to being in Tucson and socializing with friends.

Night in the California desert.
There were trains nearby but I love to hear the sound of the whistle blow.
There is a BLM campground adjacent to this VFW post. Super close to Yuma and although the place was packed we still found a good spot. There is a campground host but we got in too late to check-in and left first thing in the morning.

A few stats you might be interested in

Camping totals (all camping is free unless otherwise indicated):

1 – nights at a National Park Campground exchange with a friend
1 – nights in a Walmart parking lot
2 – nights at a Boondockers Welcome location (for more about Boondockers Welcome click here.)
1 – night at an Arizona rest area
8 – nights on BLM land
16 – nights on our own private Boondocking location in friends’ vacant lot in Tucson

Our view from our own private boondocking spot in Tucson Arizona – the vacant lot our friends own adjacent to their house.

Number of gallons of water acquired for the van: 20*

Number of miles driven: 2060 (this makes our February cost per mile 16¢)

Number of National Park sites visited since we bought our current park pass in April 2019: 18 (which brings our total savings total after subtracting the $80 fee for the pass to $120)**

*I know this is a terribly small number. While we have been in Tucson we have used very little water for bathing since we have had use of our friends’ shower. Greg is absolutely amazing at doing dishes with a tiny amount of water. There is water in beer (I looked it up, beer does hydrate you). We get water through eating fresh fruit and vegetables. But honestly, although Greg drinks plenty of water, I probably don’t and now that we are in the desert I will try not to dehydrate myself – I promise.

**Not all parks charge a fee.

We went to a concert and spent a fun night out with our friend Deanna.
We saw Igor and the Red Elvises. The last time we saw them we were stuck on our boat in Key West.

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

Ok – I can’t promise goat pictures every month but I will try my best to include a cute animal. Praire Dog at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

*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? Is there anything else you’d like to see included in our new format?

4 thoughts on “February 2020 Cost of Being a Nomad

    1. Every time I take a take a drink of water now, I think how proud you’d be.

      Sure, I think prairie dogs can probably be litter trained but all the burrowing might cause a bit of a problem in Scamper.

  1. When I saw your total, I thought “Eeek” as well. But then you mentioned Greg’s dentist visit and it all made sense. You know, each time you think you’re on track with expenses, something else will happen – to the van, the health situation, a change of plan (and extra diesel), or the dog. Wait a minute, you don’t have a dog. 🙂

    That being said, I know the dentist costs would have been way higher in the US. Does that number from Algodones include the screw for the implant? The implant itself will probably cost another grand in Mexico, I assume? It was $2,000 in Belgium for mine.

    Love the prairie dog photo. And your boondocking spot. And, so nice you have a great place to stay in Tucson, with showers!!

    1. Sometimes I don’t know if tracking the expenses is a good thing or bad – stuff is just going to happen and there is nothing we can do about it. But I like that I can break out the numbers and see that everything else is on track.

      I’d take a dog over bad teeth any day – but I guess it doesn’t work that way. Maya is so sweet, though. Next time we see you I will have to make her my cute animal of the month photo.

      Yes, the cost includes the screw. We will see how much more we have to spend in September!

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