February 2021 Cost of Being a Nomad

Sunset over our free camping site at American Girl Mine in California.

February was about deciding what to do next. In January after all of our dentist visits were done. Our little Covid pod of friends broke up and everyone went their separate way. Our friends from Roaming About decided that they were too cold and headed south to Baja California Sur. They invited us to go with them but we weren’t sure about how we felt about leaving the country during the pandemic. We decided to wait. In the ensuing weeks every correspondence I had with Liesbet she gave us some little encouragement to join them.

While we were waiting and making up our minds we ran another traveling friend, Holly, who we met last Spring in the Prescot National Forest. Coincidentally unbeknown to either of us until I saw a post she made on Facebook, we were camped just down the road from each other. She moved over to our camping spot and I mentioned Mexico to her. She seemed game. And we thought “Why not?”. Holly couldn’t leave right away so we continued to travel around until she was ready. Meanwhile, our plans changed again.

We had been planning to head to the southeast this past fall to check on friends and family but with the coronavirus still being a threat, we decided it was a long way to go to only be able to visit with people in their front yards standing 6 feet away. But then Greg’s mom started having a few health issues. She is fine now but Greg wanted to check on both his parents in person. They have both had the vaccine so we felt we could now go stay with them without risking bringing the virus into their home.

So we canceled on Mexico and headed east. It took us four days to travel around 2300 miles from the Arizona/California border to North Carolina.

Greg plays guitar as the sun sets on the desert at American Girl Mine.

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 high-speed 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.
Boondocking on BLM land near the Valley of Names.

And our total expenses for February were…


Here is the breakdown of categories…

Expenses February 2020
Gas $457.52
Insurance/Registration $96.62
Maintenance $56.54
Repairs $0.00
Van Total $610.68
Life in the Van
Upgrade/Repairs to Upfit $39.83
Utilities $4.50
Camping $0.00
Household $0.00
Laundry $12.75
Showers $3.00
Tolls/Parking $0.00
Van Life Total $60.08
Phone $78.87
Mail Service $107.00
Communication Total $185.87
Food $303.02
Booze $151.12
Cleaning/Paper Products $6.19
Medicine Cabinet $7.36
Consumables Total $467.69
Drinks/Eating Out $37.10
Museums/Attractions/Music $0.00
Entertainment Total $37.10
Eyes/Feet/Doctor $0.00
Dentist $0.00
Health Total $0.00
Clothes $0.00
Gifts/Charity $125.00
Gear $37.59
Personal Total $162.59
*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.
Rare lunch treat out in Yuma, Arizona.
Our favorite free campsite at Mittry Lake near Yuma.

Considering we spent $457.52 on gas in February, we had a pretty good month. We only had a few out-of-the-ordinary expenses.

We commissioned a piece of custom jewelry, a belated 30th birthday present for my niece, from Dotsuwa Designs run by Greg’s daughter Jessica. Jessica creates beautiful beaded bracelets and earrings. Check out her work here.

We also bought a new composting toilet part. We will be rebuilding our old toilet this month while we are at Greg’s folk’s house. We will let you know how that goes once it’s done. We might make a video of it.

One of three different locations we camped at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.
Holly joins us at our campsite. She had a bundle of wood in her van just waiting to run into friends to share a campfire with.
Boondocking in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.
Our last free camping location at Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

A few stats you might be interested in

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

2 – nights at a State Wildlife Area
14 – nights on BLM land
3 – nights in a National Wildlife Refuge
2 – nights in Rest Areas
1 – night in a Walmart parking lot
6 – nights inside a house

Number of gallons of water bought/acquired for the van: 30.

Number of miles driven: 2887 (this makes our February gas cost about 16¢ per mile).

To see all of our expense reports, click here.

If you are interested in reading other expense reports from nomads who really know how to live cheaply while still having a good time, check out the blog from our friends Mark, Liesbet, and Maya at Roaming About.

*All pics are click to enlarge.

An overnight stop at Dome Rock.
Our campsite on BLM land outside of Cibola National Wildlife Refuge.
Greg’s parents, Perry and Dossie, and their new dog Penny. As you can see we worried for nothing – Dossie is doing fine.

8 thoughts on “February 2021 Cost of Being a Nomad

  1. Wonderful news Dossie is doing well. My mom just got her second shot last week and that is a big relief! You camped at some amazing places. I’m wondering where to go for March and thinking of maybe NM. Enjoy your time with family, big hug! :*

    1. So glad your mom is vaccinated and you have one less thing to worry about. Yes! Go to New Mexico. We haven’t spent nearly enough time there. Big hug back.

    1. So glad you’ve had the vaccine. I think it will be a while for us being a little lower down the list not knowing where we will be from one day to the next.

  2. Wow, that would have been a super cheap month if it wasn’t for all that fuel use crossing the country. We will be next in April! 2,700 miles from Tucson to Newburyport, MA. But first, we have to get back to Arizona, which is another two-day drive. It’s always something that requires extra money. If it isn’t the camper category, it’s the health category or gadget one.

    I still can’t believe you guys are back on the east coast now instead of with us on the beach. If it’s any consolation, it’s been much windier and colder here than any other year. To be honest, almost every day has been way too windy to spend time at the beach. If it wasn’t for the palapas creating a wind break, I don’t know what we would have done! And, we still wear long clothes in the evenings…

    1. Yes, I can’t believe we are on the east coast and not in Mexico. I comparing how long we have been here and how long we could have been in Mexico by now.

      I am sure that we are going to have more adventures together one day under warm sunny skies.

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