Vanlife on a budget: How to make it work financially

Vanlife on a budget: How to make it work financially

Vanlife on a budget

Vanlife has become a popular lifestyle choice in recent years, with many people ditching traditional living arrangements to hit the road in a van. Vanlife involves living in a van full-time, traveling from place to place, and embracing a minimalist lifestyle. It's a way to live more sustainably, enjoy the freedom of the open road, and reduce expenses. In this article, we will discuss how to make vanlife work financially on a budget.

The cost of vanlife

While vanlife is often touted as an affordable way of living, it's important to understand the costs involved. There are upfront costs, such as buying a van and converting it into a livable space, and ongoing costs, such as gas, insurance, and maintenance.

Upfront costs

The cost of a van can vary greatly depending on the age, make, and model. A new van can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but it's possible to find a used van for much less. Converting a van into a livable space can also be expensive, with the cost of materials and labor adding up quickly.

Ongoing costs

Once you have your van, there are ongoing expenses to consider. Gas can be a major expense, especially if you're traveling long distances. Insurance is another ongoing cost, and it's important to make sure you have the right coverage for your van and your lifestyle. Maintenance and repairs can also add up over time.


How to save money on vanlife

If you're on a budget, there are ways to make vanlife more affordable. Here are some tips:

Choosing the right van

When choosing a van, consider the age, make, and model, as well as the mileage and condition. A newer van might be more expensive upfront, but it could save you money in the long run if it requires less maintenance. Look for a van that gets good gas mileage and has a reliable engine.

DIY van conversion

DIY conversions

Converting a van yourself can save you a lot of money compared to hiring a professional. There are many resources available online to help you plan and execute your own conversion. You can also buy used materials or repurpose items you already have to save money.

Finding free campsites

One of the biggest expenses of vanlife is camping fees. However, there are many free campsites available if you know where to look. Websites like and can help you find free campsites in your area.

Cooking meals instead of eating out

Eating out can be expensive, especially if you're traveling to tourist destinations where prices are inflated. Cooking meals in your van can save you a lot of money over time. Invest in a portable stove and stock up on non-perishable food items to keep your costs low.

Making money on the road

If you're able to work remotely or freelance, vanlife can be a great way to save money on living expenses while exploring the world. Here are some options for making money on the road:

Remote work options

Many companies now offer remote work options, allowing you to work from anywhere with an internet connection. Look for remote job opportunities in your field, or consider starting your own business that can be managed from the road.

Making money on the road

Freelancing opportunities

If you have skills in writing, graphic design, web development, or other areas, freelancing can be a great way to make money while on the road. Websites like Upwork and Fiverr can connect you with clients looking for freelance talent.

Selling products or services online

If you're crafty or have a skill you can monetize, consider selling products or services online. Platforms like Etsy and Amazon Handmade can be great places to sell handmade goods, while services like coaching or consulting can be sold through your own website or social media.


Workamping is a popular way for vanlifers to earn money and stay in one location for an extended period of time. Workamping involves working at a campground or RV park in exchange for free or discounted camping fees. Workampers can take on a variety of roles, including campsite maintenance, office work, and activity coordination. Workamping provides vanlifers with a steady income, a place to park their van, and an opportunity to meet other RVers and travelers.

Pet Sitting and Dog Walking

Vanlifers who love animals can earn money by offering pet-sitting and dog walking services. Many pet owners prefer to have someone watch their pets in their home, which can be an ideal situation for vanlifers who need a place to park their van. Websites like Rover and allow pet sitters to create profiles and connect with pet owners in need of services. Vanlifers can also offer dog walking services in popular areas like beaches and parks, providing exercise for dogs and extra income for vanlifers.

Selling Handmade Items or Artwork

Vanlifers who are creative can earn money by selling handmade items or artwork. Popular items for vanlifers to make and sell include jewelry, clothing, and home decor. Many vanlifers sell their items on websites like Etsy or at local markets and festivals. Selling handmade items or artwork can provide vanlifers with a flexible income stream that allows them to work on their craft while exploring new locations.

Making money on the road requires creativity and flexibility, but it can be done. Vanlifers who are willing to explore new opportunities and try different methods can find a way to sustain their lifestyle while also earning an income. By combining different income streams and finding what works best for them, vanlifers can continue to live the vanlife dream.

Budgeting tips for vanlife

Even with cost-saving strategies in place, it's important to create and stick to a budget when living the vanlife. Here are some tips:

Creating a budget

Start by tracking your expenses for a month or two to get a sense of your spending habits. Then, create a budget that includes all your expected expenses, such as gas, food, camping fees, and any ongoing bills or subscriptions.

Sticking to the budget

It can be tempting to splurge on experiences or items while on the road, but sticking to your budget is crucial for making vanlife work financially. Be mindful of your spending and prioritize experiences and purchases that align with your values and goals.

Tracking expenses

Track your expenses regularly to make sure you're staying on budget. Use a spreadsheet or budgeting app to help you keep track of your spending, and adjust your budget as needed based on any unexpected expenses that arise.


Living on the road in a van can be an exciting and fulfilling way to experience the world. However, it's important to understand the costs involved and to have a plan for making vanlife work financially. By choosing the right van, DIY converting, finding free campsites, cooking meals, making money on the road, and budgeting carefully, you can live the vanlife on a budget.


Q: How much does it cost to convert a van?

A: The cost of converting a van can vary greatly depending on the materials used and whether you do the work yourself or hire a professional. On average, it can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000.

Q: Is vanlife safe?

A: Vanlife can be safe as long as you take proper precautions. Be sure to have the right insurance coverage, lock your van when you're away, and be aware of your surroundings.

Q: Can I work while living in a van?

A: Yes, there are many remote work and freelancing opportunities available that allow you to work from anywhere with an internet connection.

Q: What is the best van for vanlife?

A: The best van for vanlife depends on your individual needs and budget. Popular options include the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, and Dodge Promaster.

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