Top 9 Expenses Living in a Van


top expenses living in a van

Written by Alli, scroll to bottom for video


We are going to share with you our average top expenses living in a van.

So if you want to live in a van or just learn how we reduce your expenses, read our top expenses in a van below!

Reducing our expenses was the single most important thing that we did to live this freedom based lifestyle.

1. Matt’s Student Loan Payment - $500

On average our number one expense is Matt’s student loan payment which is $500 per month. I know you’re thinking, “WHAT?!” we still have student loan debt and we’re out traveling? So let us explain. Matt was fortunate enough that his parents were able to help him pay for some of his education.  We still owe his mom about thirty thousand dollars. Thankfully, it's at 0% interest and we’re paying her $500 per month. There's really no rush to pay it back. Matt’s mom likes the 500 bucks in her checking account every month. We decided no hurry to pay that off, we would rather put that money to work either earning interest or paying off our mortgage.

2. Groceries - $400

Our second top expense is groceries. We spend on average about $400 a month, which we know is a lot. We try to eat really healthy, specifically we follow the keto diet when we're cooking at home. That is a lot of high-quality meat, high-quality organic vegetables, not a lot of refined carbohydrates. Our grocery bill is quite expensive but it is something that is really important to us to fuel our bodies and take care of ourselves.

While we were traveling in the van we did notice a small uptick and that was mainly because we couldn't buy anything in bulk. We had a really small fridge, a pretty small pantry, so we could only buy small packages of stuff. When you buy small portions of stuff, the same food just costs a little bit more. When you have to shop every couple days instead of being able to buy for a week or two, it adds to the expense.

3. Gas- $400

Our third expense on average is gas. We've been traveling around the country in our van and we've been covering a lot of distance. We spent on average around $400 a month, which is about five tanks of gas. That number will be trending down because we're playing to spend this winter in Colorado. We'll be much more stationary this winter and going out for weekend trips.

4. Clifford - $200

Our number four expense is our van Clifford. On average, we spend about $200 a month on maintenance items for him. He is a 2006 Mercedes Dodge Sprinter. This we'll be trending down as well because we are actually selling Clifford in the next few weeks.

5. Mobile Phones - $170

Our fifth expense on average was our mobile phones - $170. While we were traveling for the last six months, we were working from the road, so we bought a Verizon unlimited plan.

We would work from our phones off of the LTE wherever we were, which was convenient. This expense will be trending down, so I think as we're stationary we're gonna transition back to a cheaper plan. We’re either thinking Republic Wireless or Google FI. I think both of us could get by or around like $40 a month.

6. Restaurants - $150

Number six on average is restaurants. We try to limit our restaurant eating out to about one time per week, but sometimes, especially when we were traveling and visiting friends and family, we went out with them. We wanted to enjoy that time and not be so uptight and stressed about it. On average we spent about $150 a month on restaurants. That will likely be trending down this winter as well because we're not going to be traveling as much and we're going to be pretty stationary. It'll be easier to just cook at home and we won't be seeing as many friends and family.

7. Expense - $112

Number seven on average is car insurance. Right now we spend about 112 dollars a month to insure Clifford. We paid it all at once for the whole year. This will be trending down because right
now we have comprehensive coverage on Clifford since he's our home. We insured him fully in case anything happens we would get the full value of him back. This winter we will be getting one car which is a lot less expensive. We'll only have liability coverage so our insurance will only be 500 bucks a year, maybe even less.

8. Health insurance - $110

Our number 8 top expense is health insurance. We use Medi-share, which is a health sharing ministry. It is not actually health insurance but it is a health bill sharing community. We got the highest deductible plan so we pay out-of-pocket up to ten thousand dollars a year. Then after the bills go above ten thousand dollars then they go up for sharing within the community and other people help pay for those bills.

It was the best cheapest plan that we could do given that we worked until April of this year. We were pushed out of the marketplace plans that would be affordable. When we priced out the marketplace plans, it would’ve been seven to eight hundred a month on the marketplace.

9. Travel - $100

Our ninth expense was travel and that averaged out to about a hundred dollars a month. It really fluctuated a lot. When we went to Isle Royale we ended up spending $450 that month, but then for several months before that, we didn't spend any more than 30 bucks for a campsite.

This travel budget pays for occasional train tickets or subway passes to explore a city. It's hard to say whether this will go up or down. We have some trips planned for winter, usually we take one with Matt’s family around Christmas. We also want to go to Europe next year so I think travel will definitely be a larger component of our budget going forward. It's always hard to give an estimate for the monthly average because it just varies so much. Some months it's really high and other months it’s zero.

What do you think?

Leave us a comment below and let us know what your top expenses are and if you think we can reduce any of ours! We are always interested in optimizing our expenses even further we're kind of nerdy about that.

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The ultimate Sweet

Life Starter Pack

Everything you need in one PDF. 14 pages of our biggest lessons, mistakes, and tips on helping you reach the sweet life sooner. It even includes action steps so when you're done with the document, you'll know exactly what you need to do next. Goodbye confusion, hello clarity.

©2020 Owen Family Enterprises LLC. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy

What is FIRE? Financial Independence, Retire Early


What is FIRE_ Financial independence, retire early

Written by Alli, scroll to bottom for video

If you've seen November's Kiplinger issue you may recognize Clifford in there! We wanted to talk a little bit about the article and what FIRE means to us.

FIRE is financial independence, retire early!  If you're curious as to what that means, how to go about achieving financial independence, and how we achieved financial freedom at age 28, keep reading!

So, what is FIRE?

FIRE stands for financially independence, retire early, obviously. But let’s split it into two and talk first about what financial independence is and what it means to us.

Financial Independence

Financial independence means to us that you have enough money that you could support yourself without ever working or generating any more money for the rest of your life

Retire Early

Retire early means basically what it says-- that you retired before the stereotypical sixty-five. In order to retire early you must either be financially independent or have a plan to bring in some income while you are retired.

Early retirement is really redefining how people look at retirement. A lot of people think of retirement as hanging out on the couch, watching TV, playing some golf, or traveling. But when you retire so early with 40-50 years left of your life, you can't spend that just playing golf and sitting on the couch.

So what does FIRE mean to us?

About four years ago we discovered this FIRE movement and started saving a huge percentage of our income. We started at about 40%, then ended up ramping up to about 70% toward right before we quit. Initially, we were planning on working for ten years at that savings rate but we ended up leaving early.  

We quit after four years of working and we did that because we had the confidence in ourselves to make money while we were in retirement. We knew that we didn’t want to quit working completely at 32, so we thought we could just start those businesses now, start that fulfilling life now that brings us joy. We knew we could make up the extra money in the interim.

In the article they discussed the four flavors of fire, which we break down below!


Lean FIRE: They defined it as living on less than $40,000 a year.
If you guys have been reading our blog you know that we are doing a $40,000 a year challenge. So we thought that it was really funny that we fall right into that category.

Barista FIRE: This is where people are close to being financially independent but still need some part-time work or something to provide for their living expenses. I also almost put us in that category too. We left our jobs before hitting our FI number but we've picked up other activities. For instance, trying to start Primal Noms, which is going to bring an income and should get us to that point well before 65. We're working on projects that we'd love to do and would be working on if we had fully retired.

Full FIRE:  This is where you've fully funded your early retirement. Within the FIRE community, there's a rule of thumb, called the 4% rule.  Basically, if your annual expenses are 4 percent of your total net worth that you have in investments, you should be able to spend that amount for the rest of your life without ever running out of money.

Fat FIRE: People who are pursuing FIRE but planning to live on $100K per year or more in retirement. We know of a couple people that are doing this and they're either doctors or in the financial industry. They had really high paying jobs and were able to accumulate several million dollars in their net worth. With that 4% rule, this gives them a pretty solid annual income
in retirement.

Tenants of FIRE:


One of the main tenants of FIRE is frugality. So being frugal with how much you spend, obviously. If you're only spending $40,000 a year then you're not excessively spending on things. This kind of comes with a wave of an anti-consumerism movement, so we kind of look down on people who buy new cars and people who are constantly buying new things. We do this because we realize that we have this earth that's beautiful, but we only have a certain amount of precious resources. We basically want to optimize and enjoy our life to the maximum amount here. We don't believe that buying more things contributes to the greater good of Earth or contributes to our happiness.

It basically boils down to you having a choice. The choice to buy your freedom so you can do whatever you want with your time or you can buy things. The things can be a ball and chain that keep you in the job you don't like or in a location you don't like. By giving up some of those things, you purchase your freedom to be able to live an unconventional life doing what you want.


Another tenant of FIRE is investing. In the FIRE community, it is generally advised to invest in a total stock market index fund. It is recommended to keep it super simple by investing in the whole market. Basically, leave it in there for the long haul and don't touch it. There are other segments of people who are more involved in investing like doing real estate investing or trading but for most people, the best bet is to put it into index funds and in 10-15 maybe 20 years you can retire.

FIRE on a low income?

I want to touch briefly on being on a low income and trying to achieve financial freedom. So when you are on a low income it is really impossible to ramp up your savings rate. You are just trying to make ends meet and we totally understand that. This movement is not for everyone BUT for those who are on a low income and who are interested in achieving financial independence and retire early, you have to increase your income somehow.

Thankfully we live in the age of the internet and the age of acquiring skills super easily and super cheaply. It is easy to be able to leverage those skills for money using the gig economy or entrepreneurship. It’s easy to pick up a part-time job.

Being on a low-income and pursuing FIRE is imperative to work hard and not make excuses. So that being said, I know some people are in really crappy situations financially and they just can't seem to get their head above the water and I get that, but I also you have options too!

So, take a breath, think of your options, and go after one of them to raise your income! Whether that means getting a better higher-paying job, taking a side gig to earn some extra money, or signing up on the gig economy choose one go for it! Even bringing in an extra one hundred or two hundred bucks a month makes a huge difference in the long run.  

If you need a resource to help manage your money check out our 10 minute checklist linked below. That free checklist will give you the same framework that we use to really get on top of our finances and get to that 70% savings rate.  In 10 minutes a week you'll be on your way to financial freedom!

Also, make sure to click here to check us out in this month's (November 2018) Kiplinger magazine!

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The ultimate Sweet

Life Starter Pack

Everything you need in one PDF. 14 pages of our biggest lessons, mistakes, and tips on helping you reach the sweet life sooner. It even includes action steps so when you're done with the document, you'll know exactly what you need to do next. Goodbye confusion, hello clarity.

©2020 Owen Family Enterprises LLC. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy

Meet the Owens


Welcome Readers to Owen Your Future.

I'll get into a lot of depth on personal finance and other investing and money topics soon but I wanted to start off the blog with a first post that’s a little lighter…

I wanted to share with you all a brief story about our journey into frugality and early retirement.

First let's start at the beginning:

How We Met

While both mine and Allison's stories go further back, The "Owens" as you will come to know them got their start in 2015.

I met Allison through a coworker at my 9-5 (more like a 5-5). I had only been in Bakersfield for about a year and I hadn't made a lot of friends with the opposite sex (weird I know right, I'm just an introverted math nerd/engineer… what's not to love!?) Anyway, Jenny (coworker) had some friends that wanted to come to the company Christmas party, and I didn't have a date, so putting 1 and 1 together I got set up for the holiday party… with a girl named Belle…

Me and Allison at our Second Aera Holiday Party!
Me and Allison at our Second Aera Holiday Party!

Belle was Allison's best friend. They had interned together the prior year with Jenny at Allison's current company and they were all friends. We each got to take a date to the Christmas party and I took Belle and Jenny took Allison.

The night started off that everyone came over to my house prior to the party and introductions were made and we had a drink before heading off to the party to help lubricate some awkwardness inherent in blind dates. Luckily a few of my friends and their dates were there as well to help spread around the conversation. I chatted with Belle and tried to make some small talk while I quickly made my way through my first Blue Moon. Luckily Allison was there and she really pulled me into the conversation even though it wasn't about anything in particular "Where are you from" "How do you like your work" "What do you do"… all that good stuff that everyone knows all too well.

We snagged an Uber to the party and we all rode together. When it came time to sit at our table me and Allison had been deeply engrossed in a discussion about travel and we picked two chairs next to each other… I'm pretty sure the date swap was official at that point… So long Belle! (it was mutual, no feelings were hurt in this swapping of dates) We continued to hit it off all night and I left the next day for Christmas vacation with the Family.

We texted and Snapchatted for a couple weeks while we were both traveling and when I got back I made her mine immediately. I invited her out to sushi for our official first date. We were so excited to see each other we couldn't even wait until the scheduled date on Friday, We ended up cooking dinner in at Allison's place on Thursday night. We made it a date weekend. That would be the story of our relationship, Soon we were spending almost every day together, after work and on the weekends. I had one set of stuff at my own house and one at hers. I saw her roommates as much as I saw my own.

The Lightbulb Moment

Sometime around year 1 she either discovered Mr. Money Mustache or at least mentioned him to me for the first time. I  was hooked. I had been contemplating early retirement from the start of my career (age 23) and was looking at retiring around age 50 or so. I remember distinctly discussing it with my financial planner at the time, and the words he used to attempt to break the reality, "you'll need to be extremely lucky". (For an awesome interactive intro to early retirement check out Adam's post on Minafi)

Meanwhile here is MMM retired at 30?!?! And off a regular job, no trust fund, no inheritance, no Nigerian prince money…. What the heck was my "financial planner" doing that I couldn't do the same? I'm fairly confident that I read every post on his website in the first couple months and just drank from the proverbial fire hose. I decided to shift the goal… Screw 50! We bumped it up to 35, which lasted for probably 6 months and then got bumped up to 32… which got bumped up to 30…

I'm turning 28 in a few months and Allison just turned 27.

We kicked up the savings, cut the useless shit we used to spend all our money on ( it's an ongoing process to be honest). I started investing in real estate, fired that awful financial planner, and studied everything I could on investing and personal finance, business and everything else I could get my hands on. I felt like I had really found my calling and I beat myself up for a long time about why I hadn't found this information earlier! What had I been doing with my life!?

I probably never learned about it because I was your typical broke college student. Googling "early retirement" is the last thing on your mind when your bank account is measured in hundreds. So I can't really hold it against myself as I was doing what I knew to do at the time.

Where we Are Now

I'll post some of our financials and some of our bigger money saving, money investing, and money losing deals on this blog. We really got down to business at the beginning of 2016 so I have some good records from there on. What I was doing before that is less clear but I'll include whatever I can dig up. It's amazing the leaps and bounds we have made in just a couple years.

The first stage for us was cutting major expenses, We shacked up and cut our rent down, sold an expensive car, started cooking in and staying away from the bars, started travel hacking to save some cash without impacting our priorities too much.  And it made a big difference, It moved the needle on our savings rate and you could see it in the bank account.

At this point, ~6 months into our frugality, we quickly found that if we were going to retire in ~5-6 years after starting work we were going to need more. We couldn't just save our way there, we needed to increase our income. We launched down the path of finding ways to supplement our income. I started studying real estate investing and business, Alli launched an online business and I started this blog as well as a food product business. I'm sure longer posts will follow detailing our experiences there.

It's been quite the adventure so far and I look forward to sharing all of the ups and downs, challenges and victories, we have had with all of you!

Thanks so much for stopping by, If there is anything else you'd like to know about me and Alli let me know below in the comments!