July 2020 Cost of Being a Nomad

Boondocking spot at St. Anthony Sand Dunes in Idaho.

So we had another big expense month. But it was supposed to be even bigger. Since I needed to get contact lenses before my current prescription ran out, I thought it might be a good time for Greg to get his eyes examined and get a prescription too. We decided to do this at a Lenscrafters in Billings, Montana. I ordered my lenses ahead of time so they would be ready by the time we got there. But then the day before Greg’s appointment we got a call from Lenscrafters to reschedule for later in the week. A customer had tested positive for COVID-19 and they were closing down the store for a few days. We rescheduled the appointment but then decided that perhaps having an eye exam during this pandemic wasn’t a good risk. When we went to pick up my lenses we canceled Greg’s eye exam.

So, thank you, COVID-19 for saving us $400.

Campsite at Warm Slough Campsite and boat access in Idaho.

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.
Free camping in the Custer Gallatin National Forest about 9 miles from the West Yellowstone National Park entrance.

And our total expenses for July were…


Here is the break down of categories…

Expenses July 2020
Gas $303.77
Insurance/Registration $98.04
Maintenance $0.00
Repairs $0.00
Van Total $401.81
Life in the Van
Upgrade/Repairs to Upfit $0.00
Utilities $12.63
Camping $132.17
Household $3.31
Laundry $11.50
Showers $0.00
Tolls/Parking $0.00
Van Life Total $159.61
Phone $78.33
Mail $0.00
Communication Total $78.33
Food $307.62
Booze $276.98
Cleaning/Paper Products $20.92
Medicine Cabinet $24.26
Consumables Total $629.78
Drinks/Eating Out $40.00
Museums/Attractions/Music $1.00
Entertainment Total $41.00
Eyes/Feet/Doctor $200.00
Dentist $0.00
Health Total $200.00
Clothes $26.21
Gifts/Charity $80.93
Gear $27.29
Personal Total $134.43
*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.

As you can see besides the Eyes/Feet/Doctor expense we also had a higher than usual camping expense in July. We converged with some sailing friends, Ellen and Scott, who are now traveling in an itty-bitty Scamp. While we were with them we splurged a little and did a little pay camping. The Gifts/Charity category went up a little too. Our grandson, Gabriel, was sent a few souvenirs from our travels and I had a birthday on July 23! I surprised everyone with chocolate and a belated birthday gift for Greg (his birthday was last month) of mixed nuts. On top of that, Greg bought me more chocolate, and Ellen and Scott gifted me even more. We were eating chocolate for a week.

Birthday presents!

Speaking of my birthday, I also got new boots that day too. If you remember that I just got new boots a couple of months ago, you are correct. One of the seams on those boots started ripping sometime in mid-June. They are guaranteed for a year. I knew it would be difficult to get them replaced since we are traveling but I also knew if they were ripping now that they wouldn’t even last a year. In the end, it took about 3 weeks to get the boots replaced, many emails to Danner’s customer service rep, postage for mailing the original boots, conversations with two post offices, a phone call to a UPS store, a pair of boots sent UPS when I asked that they be sent USPS which were recalled before they arrived, and finally, the easiest part of all – picking up the new boots at the post office in Yellowstone National Park. In the end, I had to get a different color because they no longer carried my size in the color I had before and I now have a $19 credit with Danner because this new color cost more than my original boots so the customer service rep discounted the new boots leaving me with the credit.

I love my new boots!
Can you see where the seam was ripping on my old boots?
Selfie in front of the post office in Yellowstone NP.

Ellen and Scott weren’t our only sailing friends we saw last month, we also visited our friend Sid who lives in Montana. We camped in his driveway for 5 nights, spending evenings catching up on his sailing tales and trials from being on a boat during the pandemic this past winter in the Bahamas. During the days Greg helped him with some work on the house he has been building the last couple of years.

Parking spot in front of Sid’s house.
Greg thought he had seen the last of his painting days when we left Cabbagetown this past fall. Those skills came in handy helping Sid finish up his deck.
Taking a break from working on the house.
We added Cabbagetown to Sid’s visitor’s pole.
Sid’s amazing dog, Mr. Bo Jangles (Bo).

A few stats you might be interested in

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

1 – nights at an Idaho Fish and Game boat access site
1 – nights boondocking on BLM land
6 – nights dispersed camping in a National Forest
5 – nights in a friend’s driveway
8 – nights in a free National Forest Campground
1 – night paid ($10) at a Brewery
1 – night at a free BLM campground
3 – nights paid ($92.17) at National Park Campground
3 – nights paid ($15) at National Forest Campground
1 – night in a Walmart parking lot
1 – night at a Montana Wildlife Management Area

Number of gallons of water bought/acquired for the van: 39

Number of miles driven: 2008 (this makes our July gas cost about 15¢ per mile)

Value we have gotten out of our $80 National Park pass since we bought it in May 2020 – $185.
Bryce Canyon NP $35
Craters of the Moon NM $20
Yellowstone NP $35
Little Bighorn Battlefield NM $25
Grand Teton NP $35
Yellowstone NP (again) $35

Number of states we have now visited in Ballena Blanca: 25! See the interactive map below to see which ones.

Campsite at General Custer Fishing Access Site.
Red Shale campground in the Custer Gallatin National Forest.
Making pizzas for our first dinner with our friends, Ellen and Scott.
Lots of pizza!
Greg keeps the bears away.
Camping at Ten Sleep Brewing in Wyoming, $5 per person.
Castle Gardens, a free BLM campground outside of Ten Sleep, WY.
Camping spot at Canyon Campground in Yellowstone National Park.
Boondocking spot on FR 3243 in the Custer Gallatin National Forest near the town of Gardiner close to the northern entrance of Yellowstone NP.
Camping spot at Eagle Creek Campground 3 miles from the northern entrance to Yellowstone NP. $7 per night or $10 per night to share a spot.

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 of our expenses this month? Have you ever had to return something under warranty? Did it go smoothly?

10 thoughts on “July 2020 Cost of Being a Nomad

    1. The postal service will scan the outside of your mail but what we do is use a mailbox service. They scan the outside, send us an email, and if we want we can either have them open the mail and scan the inside or just shred the mail. If it is something we really need we can have them forward the mail to us!

    1. It was amazing!! I think we might catch up soon. There is always pizza but that much chocolate is only for birthdays.

  1. I’m always impressed by yours and Liesbet’s expense reports. Sounds like you enjoyed a month of fun … anytime chocolate is involved, you’re speaking my language 😆

    1. The chocolate is quite fun. Glad we don’t eat that much chocolate all the time – I think I gained 5 pounds. I am always impressed by Liesbet’s expense report too! Maybe this month we will give Mark and Liesbet a run for the expenses but I doubt it.

      1. You’ll have to wait and see this weekend (hopefully), when I post our July report. 🙂 I actually have no idea how bad it will be. I haven’t asked Mark yet. I don’t think it will be a total of $1,600, but I do have one big expense now ($500), every month for four months…

  2. Hey there! All things considered, this is not too bad of a month, I think. The contact lenses and camping and gifts are the higher categories, it seems like. All for good reasons. And, your grocery and booze amount might be a bit higher than usual as well – this happens to us when hanging out with friends. A small cost to pay for more fun. And, that’s what you guys don’t lack: having fun and enjoyable activities and moments. Not something that is present here with us and that might be reflected in our expenses. Good thing is… less money spent on eating and drinking out (with friends)! 🙂

    Happy belated birthday! It looks like the chocolate was well-presented and present. It makes me happy to read that you all had a fantastic time together and that you got your boots replaced. What a hassle!! Luckily, you were in the US and not abroad. When we were on the boat, we had to not count on any refunds or exchanges each time we brought something back from the US.

    Enjoy August! I love how you’re keeping track of the value of your NP pass. We have used ours much less than normally and this might be the first year we won’t get the $80 back. No worries, as we hope to explore again soon and happily support the NP service, like you.

    1. We only had to send something back for repairs once when we were abroad (The Bahamas) it went really well. That, of course, is when we broke our Wirie.

      Another expense of hanging out with friends is the pounds I put on – all that chocolate! I guess it is lucky I was already losing weight so now I’m just back to my clothes fitting right and not falling off.

      We love getting a good value out of our park pass but even if we didn’t use it so much, like you, we like knowing we are supporting one of the best things that makes roaming around this country so amazing.

      Looking forward to when you, Mark, and Maya are back on the road!

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