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How Do You Afford Van Life?

This post was updated on June 11th, 2021

If you’re not working a typical 9-5 job, you will likely get a LOT of questions on how exactly you make a living. There is a common expectation that everyone should be working a typical 9-5, 40-hour-a-week job in order to survive. But what if I told you that you didn’t NEED to work like that to afford living on the road?

In fact, van life is a far less expensive way of living, so you don’t have to work full time to afford all that there is to offer. While every vanlifer is different, many of us don’t work full time, and certainly don’t work 9-5. Many vanlifers have found work opportunities to fulfill their basic expenses while still having plenty of free time to enjoy life on the road.

With growing internet access and social media platforms, the opportunities for online remote work have increased significantly. COVID-19 and technological advances have both opened the door for people to work anywhere. This makes it significantly easier for vanlifers to afford their lifestyle. Remote jobs allow vanlifers to work from the comfort of their van anywhere they please, which means they can continue to travel and sign-on from any location. There is no office or home base to physically attend, everything can be done online!

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vanlifer working remotely on computer
Work from the comfort of your camper van. All photos by author (Jamie Leo)

How to make money while traveling

If a vanlifer is active on social media and has a popular or continuously growing account, they might get offers for content creating or product placement. Companies will often send vanlifers their products for them to in turn make an advertisement or video to post on their account, giving the company more exposure.

These companies will also provide them with a special discount code for the vanlifer to make some money off of any affiliate sales! By participating in these partnerships, vanlifers are typically paid a stipend to make content for these companies. This is a great way for vanlifers to earn a little extra cash, and could even be beneficial in the long run with their discount codes!

Another great way for vanlifers to bring in some long-term cash is affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is one of vanlife’s best friends. Many vanlifers have created their own personal websites, where they share personal blog posts that explain how they completed their van build. Since many tools and products are used for conversions, these products can come with an affiliate link that vanlifers can post inside their articles. This way, if somebody clicks through their link and buys the product, the vanlifer will make a small profit!

vanlifer working remotely in front of camera and ring light

Work camping

Rather than working remotely, some vanlifers work seasonally at particular locations, meaning they park their van somewhere and stay in the area for a few months at a time. They typically find work in RV parks, National Parks, or even locations like Amazon Warehouses.

Oftentimes, these seasonal jobs offer a free parking location for vanlifers to make home while they work, which potentially saves them money on campsites for that entire stretch of time! This can be a great way to make money on the road since you have a consistent income and a guaranteed place to sleep every night while still enjoying the lifestyle.

Van life expenses

The biggest expenses in vanlife include gas, groceries, and maintenance. Depending on how much you drive, monthly gas expenses can range from $200 to $1,000. The perk is that if you’re low on money, you can stay in one area for a stretch of time (i.e. BLM land allows up to 2 weeks of camping in the same area) so that you don’t have to spend more than you have on this expense. This is also a perk for those who choose to work seasonally and stay parked in the same spot for months!

Groceries are typically a few hundred dollars a month, but it’s also important to recognize how much you’re spending on restaurants and higher-end stores. I typically try to shop at cheaper grocery stores where I’m not paying more than $4 for any item, which saves a ton of money in the end!

Maintenance can be an entirely different story – it’s the one thing that you cannot change. Your van is your home, so it’s important to keep it well-maintained, meaning consistent oil changes and check-ups to make sure everything is safe. It’s not uncommon for you to go in for an oil change and come out with a few thousand dollars worth of repairs. However, these are typically a one-time expense and last a long way, so it’s ultimately VERY worth it in the end!

camper van at campsite
Van life

Figuring out expenses can be very stressful when you’re first diving into van life, but it’s easy to adapt to. You will quickly figure out your personal spending habits and find places where you can conserve your money more in the future.

No matter which way you decide to live this lifestyle, it’s important to recognize that you have a ton of options when it comes to financing. Monthly expenses are overall much cheaper than a typical lifestyle, but it’s still important to be aware of your spending habits and not dig yourself into a financial hole amidst the excitement of traveling!

Regardless, whether you decide to work remotely or work seasonally, I can assure you that you will still have a much more exciting time than working your typical 9-5 job – but that’s just me!

For more tips on affording van life, check out this video from Vanlife Sagas:

Continue reading: 5 Lessons We Learned From Our First Week On The Road
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