Dirtbags With Furbags With

How To Afford Vanlife In 6 Steps

Vanlife at night

If you’re like me, you’ve probably dreamed of ditching the 9-5 grind and hitting the open road. Waking up to a new sunrise in a different place every day. Climbing mountains one day and surfing waves the next. Sharing a meal with your furry friend under a canopy of stars in national parks.

Welcome to van life!

But wait, isn’t vanlife just for those Instagram influencers with deep pockets? The ones who seem to have endless cash flow for their minimalist yet stylish van interiors and exotic travel destinations? Well, we’re here to bust that myth wide open! 

If you’ve been wondering how to afford vanlife, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide with tips and tricks to help you navigate your way to financial readiness for your vanlife adventure. We’ll go over how to afford van life without a job, how to pay for van life, and the cheapest way to live on the road.

This post includes affiliate links but rest assured that we only recommend items we would use ourselves. And if you choose to make a purchase, we receive a small commission. No sponsorships, just the truth about our favorite finds.

Step 1: Embrace Minimalism

Ever heard of minimalism? If you’re dreaming of living in a van full-time, it’s a term you’ll want to get comfy with. But don’t worry, we’re not talking about living in a stark, empty space with only a chair and a lamp.

What Is Minimalism?

Think of minimalism as your secret passport to a life of adventure. It’s not about having less stuff (although that’s part of it); it’s about having more of what truly fires up your soul. 

More time for those epic hikes, peaceful moments soaking in nature’s beauty, and unforgettable adventures with your furry friends. The only way to do that is to downsize, so embrace the minimalist lifestyle!

How Minimalism helps you afford vanlife

So, how does this magical minimalist lifestyle help you afford vanlife? Well, it’s all about downsizing and saving. Imagine squeezing your life into a camper van. Suddenly, all those things you own seem a bit excessive, right? And each unnecessary item sold or donated is another dollar towards your vanlife fund.

Here are some of the most common excessive items that can be donated or sold:

  • Old Magazines and Newspapers
  • Unused Exercise Equipment
  • Clothes That Don’t Fit
  • Outdated Electronics
  • Mismatched Tupperware
  • Souvenirs from Trips
  • Excess Bedding and Towels

Minimalism doesn’t have to be an extreme change overnight. Work little by little in your free time to eliminate excess items you don’t need.

Remember, it’s not about getting rid of everything but making space for what truly matters – experiences, adventures, and memories. And each unnecessary item gone is one step closer to living your vanlife dream!

Afford vanlife by moving into a van and simplifying your life.

How To Afford Vanlife With Minimalism

Here are some practical ways you can start embracing minimalism:

1. Sell Unused Items: You know that dusty old treadmill you swore you’d use daily? Or that fancy blender that’s been untouched since the day you bought it? Time to let them go. Sell ’em off and watch your savings grow!

2. Declutter Your Spaces: Closets, sheds, attics – they’re like black holes for stuff we don’t need. Set aside a weekend to roll up your sleeves and dig in. You’ll be amazed at what you find (and what you can live without).

3. Ditch Unnecessary Subscriptions: The University of Minnesota tells us that the average person spends about $58 monthly on streaming subscriptions. Say goodbye to those and hello to some serious monthly savings!

4. Say Farewell to Furniture: When living the vanlife, your home is on wheels, and the world is your backyard. That sectional sofa or king-sized bed won’t fit in your van. Sell them off and pad your adventure fund!

Remember, embracing minimalism isn’t about sacrifice but making room for bigger and better things. It’s about freeing yourself from stuff so you can fill your life with experiences.

If you’re not sure you’re ready for vanlife, check out our article on all you need to know about vanlife. This will take you through the good, the bad, and the ugly, so you can figure out if it’s the right lifestyle for you!

Step 2: Cut Down on Living Costs

Affording vanlife is about reducing your living expenses so you can fatten up that vanlife fund. If you want to embrace the full-time van adventure, you may have to make some sacrifices, but is it a huge sacrifice if it means you can live your dream life? 

When we dirtbags and furbags were trying to save money for vanlife, we had to make some significant changes to our lifestyle. We left the beautiful state of Colorado and moved back to Pennsylvania, where we moved in with my parents. Was it tough? Hell yea! Was it worth it? Hell yea! 

So, here are some tips on how to cut down on living costs so you can afford vanlife:

Downsize Your Digs

Think about it – do you really need all that extra space? Downsizing to a smaller apartment can save you a hefty chunk of change each month. Plus, it’s excellent practice for vanlife! You’ll have to reduce your stuff while packing, helping you embrace minimalism.

Cut Down on Utilities

Who needs cable when you’ve got epic sunset views on the horizon? And do you really need to crank up the AC when a cool breeze and a hammock will do? Look for ways to cut down on utilities – every little bit counts.

A few easy ways to cut down on utilities include:

  • Lighten up on Lighting: Become a master of the light switch. Leaving a room? Flip that switch off. And hey, why not enjoy some candlelit evenings? It’s all about setting that cozy adventurer’s ambiance.
  • Don’t Let the Water Run Wild: You wouldn’t let a mountain spring go to waste, would you? Treat your taps the same way. Turn off the water while brushing your teeth or soaping up those dishes. Small changes can lead to significant savings!
  • Cool it with the AC: Sure, staying frosty in the summer is nice, but what about embracing the seasons? Try turning the AC down a notch or two. Bonus: it’s excellent practice for those hot desert hikes or cool mountain mornings in your future vanlife.
  • Unplug and Unwind: Ever heard of phantom power? Your electronics suck up energy even when they’re not in use. So unplug, save power, and get out there in nature instead. Your wallet (and Mother Earth) will thank you!
  • Wash Wisely: Full loads and cold water are your new laundry best friends. Plus, air-drying your clothes gives them that fresh, outdoor scent. Who needs an artificial fresh linen smell when you’ve got the real deal?

Remember, every penny saved on utilities contributes to your vanlife adventure.

Become a House-Sitting Hero

This one’s a win-win. You get free accommodation while ensuring someone’s home is safe and sound. And hey, you might even get to take care of some adorable pets while you’re at it. This lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but it’s an option for those with a nomadic aptitude!

Move Back Home (Temporarily)

This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if your folks are cool with it, why not? It’s a short-term sacrifice for a long-term gain. Plus, mom’s homemade cookies are a pretty sweet bonus.

This is the route that we went. We had to move back in for longer than we originally planned (and probably longer than my parents wanted us there!). However, in the two and a half years we stayed there, we got completely out of debt, paid off our brand-new van, and paid for all the lumber and materials we used to build out our van. 

These aren’t forever changes. They’re temporary tweaks to help you reach your dream of vanlife faster. And once you’re out there, exploring new trails and waking up to a different stunning view every morning, you’ll know it was all worth it.

Step 3: Ditch the Brand Names

Shop Smart, Save Big

Generic brand foods and products are often just as good as their name-brand counterparts—but without the hefty price tag. An article from the Journal of Public Health Nutrition found that buying generic foods can accumulate a cost saving of 44% compared to purchasing name-brand foods!

Food isn’t the only thing with brand names out there. Your van insurance can be a giant money pit. Shop around, and feel free to go with a smaller insurance company, even if it’s not a big-name brand like Progressive or State Farm.

Discover Bargain Goldmines

Stores like Aldi are a haven for budget-conscious adventurers. You’ll find a wide selection of pantry staples, fresh produce, and even pet supplies—all at prices that will have your wallet singing your praises.

And let’s remember clothing. Goodwill and other thrift stores are treasure troves of gently used, adventure-ready gear. From hiking boots to rain jackets, you can score some serious deals. Plus, buying secondhand is a great way to reduce your environmental footprint. Win-win!

Lastly, check out ways to find discounts while doing your van build. Lowes, for example, offers military discounts. Local wholesale lumber yards may offer discounts on bulk orders. Every little bit saved is another dollar in your van adventure fund!

Coupon Clipping: Not Just for Grandma

Last but not least, let’s talk coupons. They might seem old school, but they’re a tried-and-true way to shave dollars off your shopping trips. Watch for deals in local newspapers, store flyers, and online. Every little bit helps when you’re saving up for your vanlife journey!

Van staying in a parking lot with a wonderful view.

Step 4: Meal Prepping and Eating In

Meal prepping is something that a lot of people want to try, but only some actually do. And I get it! It takes a lot of time, and then you’re locked in with a specific meal that week. It might be a pain, but it saves a lot of money and eliminates the ‘what are we having for dinner’ problem that so many face in the evening.

Most van lifers know the importance of budgeting for groceries. It’s one of the most essential van life monthly expenses to account for.

So, let’s get down to how to afford vanlife using meal prep and eating in.

The Triple Win of Meal Prepping

You’re not just whipping up some grub when you step into the kitchen and start prepping meals. You’re also cooking up some serious savings, nourishing your body, and buying more time for all those exhilarating hikes and climbs you love.

Here’s why meal prepping is a triple win:

1. It’s Budget-Friendly: By planning your meals and using ingredients efficiently, you can slash your grocery bill and avoid food waste. That’s more money for your vanlife fund!

2. It’s Healthy: When you control what goes into your meals, it’s easier to make nutritious choices. More energy for those epic adventures? Yes, please!

3. It Saves Time: Spend a few hours in the kitchen one day, and you’ll have ready-to-go meals for the rest of the week. That means more time to enjoy the great outdoors with your furry friend.

The Cost of Eating Out

Now, we all love a good restaurant meal or takeout treat now and then. But when saving for vanlife, those dining dollars can add up fast.

Eating out often means paying for convenience. And while there’s nothing wrong with indulging occasionally, making it a habit can burn a hole in your vanlife fund. So, why not channel your inner chef and create restaurant-worthy meals at home?

The Balanced Approach

But hey, we’re all about balance here. We’re not suggesting you cut out restaurant meals cold turkey. Life’s too short to miss your favorite sushi spot or that killer taco truck. The key is moderation.

Consider setting a monthly budget for eating out and stick to it. That way, you can still enjoy those special meals without derailing your savings plan.

Step 5: Start a High-Yield Savings Account

Opening a new account might seem daunting, but we’re here to help you with an easy guide to starting a high-yield savings account. You’d be surprised how much money gets left on the table when you don’t shop around for the proper savings account!

When you find the right one, you’ll earn high interest on your money, which builds your vanlife fund quicker and allows you to achieve your dreams faster.

High-Yield Savings Account: Your Money’s Best Friend

Imagine if your money could multiply while you’re out conquering peaks or navigating trails. Sounds like magic, right? Well, that’s pretty much what a high-yield savings account does. 

It’s a particular type of savings account that offers a significantly higher interest rate than your average account. In simpler terms, it’s like a supercharged piggy bank that helps your money grow faster!

Choosing the Best High-Yield Savings Account

Now, just like choosing the best climbing gear or pet-friendly camping spot, you’ll want to pick a high-yield savings account that suits your needs. 

Here are some things to consider:

1. Interest Rate: This is the biggie. The higher the rate, the quicker your money grows. So, keep an eye out for those high numbers!

2. Fees: Some banks charge monthly fees, withdrawal fees, or other hidden costs. Make sure you know what they are before you sign up.

3. Accessibility: Look for accounts that let you access your money quickly. After all, when it’s finally time to buy that dream van, you don’t want any roadblocks!

Your Highway to Vanlife

By now, you’re probably wondering how a high-yield savings account fits into your vanlife journey. Well, consider it your highway to affording that life on the road. Every dollar you save is like fuel in your tank, getting you closer to your destination. 

High-yield savings accounts also help avoid taking out a loan to afford your van. Nowadays, used vans cost nearly as much as brand-new ones. The interest you earn on a high-yield savings account can aid you in bringing down loan payments faster so you can start your adventure sooner.

And the more interest you earn, the further you can travel!

The Downside To High-Yield Savings Accounts

We’ve been discussing the benefits of a high-yield savings account, but nothing comes without a catch. 

Here are some things that you should be aware of before starting a high-yield savings account for your vanlife adventure:

  • Higher minimum balance: These financial tools often require a higher minimum balance to earn the promised interest rate. It’s like needing a certain fitness level before tackling that dream summit. This might feel like a steep initial climb if you’re just starting your savings journey.
  • Limited withdrawals: Secondly, some high-yield savings accounts limit the number of withdrawals you can make each month. Think of it as a leash on your money – there when you need it, but with restrictions. If you’re the spontaneous type, this might feel restrictive.

Like any good adventurer, it’s all about finding the right gear (or, in this case, the right account) that suits your journey. 

Step 6: Earn Extra Income

In this section, we’ll cover some side gigs that can help you earn extra income to afford vanlife. These jobs may take a few hours each day, but you won’t be stuck in the rat race of a 9-5. 

And hey, when your office is in the middle of a forest, there’s not too much to complain about to HR! So, let’s talk about saving money with side gigs and part-time jobs.

Side Gigs and Part-Time Adventures

First off, let’s talk about side gigs and part-time jobs. These are like little treasure chests, offering extra cash to boost your savings. The great thing about side gigs is that you can work when you want. Because no one wants to work full-time while traveling!

Some great options include:

  • Freelance writing
  • Pet sitting
  • Online tutoring
  • Selling handmade crafts
  • Working part-time on a farm during harvest season
  • Seasonal part-time jobs

The beauty of these jobs? Most of them are remote work gigs. That means you can earn money while lounging by the campfire or relaxing after a day of climbing. Consider your personal skills and what you can offer someone to solve their problems. It’s likely there’s a job for it!

Share Your Adventure – But Be Patient

Your vanlife adventure itself could become a source of income. By recording your journey, building a website, or starting a blog or YouTube channel, you can share your experiences, tips, and pet-friendly travel hacks with the world.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have made this even easier, as you can share your adventures and reach thousands daily. Who says social media is all bad!

Your adventure could start paying for itself through advertising revenue, sponsored content, affiliate linksor merchandise sales. But hold your horses (or your hounds). It’s important to remember that this route requires patience and dedication. It could take years before your adventure storytelling starts generating income.

However, don’t let that deter you. Consider it another part of your adventure, a long-term investment in your vanlife dream. And who knows, you might inspire others to embark on their journey towards vanlife.

A couple looking out a vehicle with a wonderful view!

Your Vanlife Dream is Just Around the Corner!

Well, there you have it – your roadmap on how to afford vanlife. We’ve explored the magic of high-yield savings accounts, talked about boosting your income with side gigs, and even discussed turning your vanlife journey into a source of revenue.

Vanlife isn’t just a dream for the distant future. No, it’s an attainable reality, waiting right over the horizon. With the proper planning and saving strategies, you’re already on the path to making it happen. And remember, time travel isn’t a thing yet, so embrace this lifestyle now while you have the chance!

And if you’re not sure where to start, we have an excellent 6-step guide on how to start a campervan conversion!

We would love to hear about your own experiences in saving for vanlife. After all, we’re all in this big adventure together! So, feel free to share your stories, tips, or doubts in the comments below.

As we part ways for now, keep this in mind: your adventure awaits, and every day brings you closer to the moment you’ll turn the key in your van and hit the open road. Here’s to you, us, and the countless adventures that await us. Happy saving and happy trails!

Looking for more information on how to live on the road? Check out our vanlife blog!


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Luna and Pawdrick relaxing at Goose Creek State Park after a hike

Vanlife Gear For Dogs: 7 Must-Have Essentials

Welcome to the ultimate guide, where adventure meets four-legged companionship! Whether scaling remote peaks, exploring meandering trails, or enjoying the freedom of the open road, ensuring your