Nomad Life & Expenses July 2023

July 23rd was my birthday. I didn’t tell many people and planned nothing to celebrate it. But I found this taped to the mirror of the lake house we were staying in that morning. I turned 60.

In July we finally landed at our first house sit of the summer in Cabbagetown. After a month of driving and visiting friends and family in June and visiting more friends and family during the first week of July, we were glad to only have the company of, Cosmo, a very affectionate cat. We tried to hide for a few days before we let anyone know we were in the neighborhood. But as soon as we were spotted a party was planned. Cabbageheads don’t need much of an excuse for a party and our comings and goings are often enough.

Four amazing Cabbagetown women, Jeanne, Karen, Ro, and Karin.

At the end of our house-sit we packed up the van and headed to Greenville, SC to house-sit Buddy and Sofie. Unlike our Cabbagetown house sits which we mostly find through our friends or word of mouth, we found this house sit in Greenville through a subscription site called Trusted House Sitters (THS). We are trying to build up our references on THS this summer in case down the road we want to pursue house-sitting full or part-time abroad. Another reason to go to Greenville was that we are now residents of the city and had lined up a new doctor and needed checkups.

We have been residents of Florida for about 10 years but now since we no longer have a boat we don’t have an overwhelming reason to go there anymore – except to visit a few friends. In Greenville, we have lots of friends and family (Greg’s son, James, and daughter-in-law, Taylor). We will always return to Greenville. Our mail now goes to James and Taylor’s house. We have South Carolina driver’s licenses and even Ballena Blanca has official SC papers.

After a short stay with Buddy and Sofie, we packed up the van again and headed to Lake Keowee about an hour’s drive from Greenville. We arrived early for a family weekend with James and Taylor and Greg’s daughter, Jessica, son-in-law, Chris, and the grandson, Gabriel at Taylor’s family’s lake house. Greg and I spent one night alone in this lovely setting before everyone else started arriving over the next few days. There were lots of rides on the pontoon boat across the lake, food, presents (for the kids from our travels in Mexico), pool playing, swimming, beautiful sunsets, and good conversation.

Gabriel has his own style.

Coincidentally the day the lake house fun ended our friends Dan and Lisa had reserved a campsite about 40 minutes away from the lake. We spent 2 nights camping with them and our friends David and Michelle before heading to our next house sit in Greenville with the lovely Lily Mae and Smokey Blue.


Our stay with Lily Mae and Smokey Blue ended just as another house sit started back in Cabbagetown. So we packed up again and drove back to Atlanta to sit with Cosmo again and his dog sister, Lucy, who had to stay at home this time.

The Expenses

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 $110 plus tax for two people which gives us unlimited calling and text (in the US, Canada, & Mexico) and up to 50 gigs of high-speed internet per person. Our data plan works internationally at 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 tablet 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 posted online where we have the option for 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 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 July were…


Here is the breakdown of categories…

Expenses July 2023
Gas $241.91
Insurance/Registration $375.36
Maintenance $0.00
Repairs $74.50
Van Total $691.77
Life in the Van
Upgrade/Repairs to Upfit $0.00
Utilities $0.00
Camping $0.00
Household $0.00
Laundry $0.00
Showers/bathroom $0.00
Tolls/Parking $0.00
Van Life Total $0.00
Phone $123.47
Mail Service $0.00
Communication Total $123.47
Food $347.12
Booze $260.68
Cleaning/Paper Products $0.00
Medicine Cabinet $43.12
Consumables Total $650.92
Drinks/Eating Out $415.45
Museums/Attractions/Music $0.00
Entertainment Total $415.45
Eyes/Feet/Doctor $233.10
Dentist $0.00
Health Total $233.10
Clothes $0.00
Gifts/Charity $36.75
Gear $33.74
Personal Total $70.49
*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 and interesting, and 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.

Although not super low, our expenses are gradually returning to levels we can actually afford.

Only $14.75 of the Insurance/registration expense was for insurance. Due to moving to South Carolina, we got a better rate. Not that good but I guess we received some credit due to the change. The rest of the total, $360.61 was for our new driver’s licenses and van registration. Moving to South Carolina was strictly for convenience – it will most like be a more expensive state for us to have residency in.

The expense under repairs is for another part to repair our windshield wipers. While we were on the road leaving Mexico we discovered that the intermittent setting for the wipers no longer worked. The wipers only work on high and don’t automatically reseat themselves. You have to time turning the wipers off just right so they don’t stop in the middle of the windshield. In June we bought a new wiper motor and a new actuator. Neither item was a fix. So we took it to a Ford dealer. After 3 hours of trying to figure out the problem they finally told us that it was the wiper motor pigtail and would cost up to $700 for the repair. Wow! We told them we would continue to try to fix it ourselves. Fortunately, Ford didn’t charge us for the diagnosis. The pigtail cost $74.50. We haven’t attempted installing it yet but perhaps more driving in the rain will motivate us.

At $415.45 eating out was a bit over the top because it is so darned expensive to eat out in the United States. Also, we did a bit of treating with the kids.

Greg and I both purchased 6 month worth of contact lenses, $233.10.

We also did a bit of shopping for our upcoming trip to South America. We bought a backpack. I am keeping track of all these expenses in a separate report. The backpack (not the one shown below) cost $233.20.

Greg tries out a backpack at REI.

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 (less than $1000 a month) while still having a good time, check out the blog from our friends Mark, Liesbet, and Maya at Roaming About. They are currently traveling in Peru.

The Camping/Sleeping Report

Here are our camping/sleeping stats. All stays are free except where indicated.

6 – nights in friends’ houses
19 – nights house/pet sitting
4 – with family at a lake house
2 – nights camping with friends (friends paid and refuse any contribution)

Ballena Blanca hanging with the camping gang at Cassidy Bridge Campground.

Map and Miles

We drove 949 miles in June. Our cost for gas per mile was 30¢. Between July 1 and July 31, we burned about 57.1 gallons of fuel and drove a very disappointing 14.06 miles to the gallon.

The Plan

This month we will really be gearing up for our trip to South America. We bought one backpack and learned how to roll clothes.  We are making more lists of more things we need to buy. We have found a place to keep Ballena Blanca while we are gone.

Ecuador is having snap elections right now. In May the current president, Guillermo Lasso, dissolved the national assembly which brought forth the elections. Lasso is not vying for the position again but there are 8 different parties running candidates. One of those candidates was assassinated last week.

This is concerning. No place is entirely safe but political violence is worrisome. The first round of elections will take place in Ecuador on August 20. I hope that they go smoothly and democracy is the ultimate winner.

In the meantime, we are still sticking to our plan to go study Spanish somewhere for 6 months.

Our new backpack.

Right Now

We are back in Cabbagetown at another house sit with Kofi, Elliott, and Bo. We will be in Atlanta until at least September 3.

And BTW – since we’ve been back in the southeast we have run into many people who I had no idea had been keeping up with the blog. Thank you! I really enjoy knowing that you are all out there following along. Seriously, I appreciate all of you.

Duwan and Greg celebrating the end of July.

*Click pics to enlarge, read captions, and view in a slide show.

13 thoughts on “Nomad Life & Expenses July 2023

    1. Yes! It’s like a suitcase/backpack. It fits well and even has a baby backpack that attaches to the back. I’ll post pics of the whole thing soon. Or show you if we see you next month.

  1. Happy Birthday! Sounds like a whirlwind of fun times with old friends. I have been watching the stuff in Ecuador with interest since so many American expats have moved there over the past several years. I agree with you – political violence is concerning and definitely something that can change the entire tenor of a place quickly. Absolutely something to keep an eye on. Hopefully it all settles down soon.

    1. Thanks Laura! It has been a bit of a whirlwind. Things have slowed down now, thankfully.

      Yes, hopefully the Ecuadorians can have their election in peace. So go so far, it seems.

  2. So, how long did it take you to learn how to roll clothes? 🙂 Can’t wait to see the backpack in its entirety.

    Wow, you two have been socializing like crazy, but the house sits gave you some peace as well. It’s all about balance.

    Thanks for mentioning our expense reports again. I doubt we will be able to stay under $1,000 in Peru, especially this month, since we are and will be driving heaps. Maybe once we arrive in Cusco, we can slow down a bit! See you there?

    You turned sixty, Duwan? Really?? I had no idea. A very big and belated happy birthday to you!! We do have to celebrate that again once we see you.

    1. Rolling clothes isn’t hard. The key is to get them tight, so it just takes a little practice. The backpack doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles but we can get lots of stuff in it – which is the important part.

      Yes, 60! It sounds so old, doesn’t it? I hope we get to see you in Cusco at some point. But as you know everything is up in the air now.

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