Money is a major issue for all of us, especially in today’s very bad economy. Almost every week I get an email from a reader telling me they lost their job a while ago now they are being evicted. Among their other questions, they ask me if they can afford to be a vandweller. I write back and answer their other questions and then ask them, “How can you afford to not be a vandweller?” I am convinced that living in a car, van or RV is by far the cheapest possible way to live long-term. I have been preaching that in my various web-sites and forum for the last seven years and I think it is finally time I prove it.
At the end of the month, all too many of us are broke and wondering where all the money went. It seems like we make enough to live on, but we can’t, we are always broke. Don’t feel bad, most of us can relate. The key to fixing the problem is to keep track of your expenses so you know where the money is going. Once you know where it is going, you can make informed decisions on what you should be spending your money on
Or maybe you know where the money is going, but there just isn’t enough of it. The solution to that problem is keep a close track of your spending so that you don’t spend any more than you have, and that you only buy the essentials. So if it is the 24th of the month and the money is all gone, you can look back on your expense log and see where you wasted money. When you see you spent $30 on magazines and coffee at Starbucks early in the month, and now you are broke and can’t afford to eat, next month you will skip buying magazines and Starbucks Coffee. Going hungry is a great motivator!
So for you, my blog readers, I am finally going to set up a Budget to track my spending. As I told you in my last post, I will start on August 1, but now I need to set up how I will record the information. These are the categories I will use for my budget. Remember, these are what work for me, you can change it to fit your individual needs
We all have several fixed expenses we pay every month and never change. Rather than record them individually every month, I am just going to total them up and record them once. Here are my Fixed Expenses:
Verizon MIFI Data Plan…..$50
Telephone…..$10 (Friend and Family Plan)
Sirius Satellite Radio…..$14
Your van is no longer just transportation, it is your home! If it breaks down, you need to be able to get it fixed as fast as you can! So your top priority for your budget is to set aside money every month in an emergency fund for whatever may come up. I have a friend who calls it his Transmission Fund. Whatever you call it, put money into it every month, even if you have to go hungry to make it happen (but skip the magazines and Starbucks first)!
SPECIFIC SAVINGS FUND
We live in our vans to improve the quality of our lives, not to prove who can live on the least. If there is something you want, but can’t afford, you need to start saving for it. In the old days we would just put it on our credit card, but we aren’t going to live that way anymore. If you really want a solar power system that costs $500, and you don’t have that much money, start putting $50 a month in your Solar Power Fund, then in 10 months you can buy it.
This category is fairly obvious, except I am going to expand it to everything I buy at a grocery store. Tooth Paste, paper towels, and band-aids aren’t food, but since I buy them at the grocery store they are all going into this fund. The reason is that I am lazy and I need to make this as easy as possible. If you are more disciplined, you can break it down into several more categories.
While I can go long period of time without eating out, sometimes I can do it every week. It’s pretty helpful to see how much I eat out, so I am going to keep it as a separate category.
For most of us, this will be one of our biggest expenses, so we need to know how much it is per month. The simplest way to record it is to keep a notebook on the dash of the van and every time you go to the gas station record it. At the end of the month transfer it to your expense log.
This is everything I spend on my car, truck or van except gas and insurance. Mainly it is for preventative maintanence (like oil changes), tires and repairs. It could include body repairs as well.
This is going to be broad category of money that I spend for things I do for pleasure but they are non-essentials, like movies, magazines, museums, Renaissance Faires, and even classes.
This category is for clothes and shoes I buy and also for laundry and repair.
This is not for vehicle repairs (that goes in Auto Repairs) this is for upgrades to the “house” part of the vehicle. So if I buy a new Mr. Buddy Heater, TV, microwave or Reflectix, it goes here. I just ordered a new Solar Controller, it goes here.
This includes prescriptions, dental visits, Doctor’s visits and trips to the hospital along with any supplies you need to maintain your health. If you use vitamins and supplements, include them here.
I love my dog like he was a child, but he costs a lot per year, so if I want to know where my money goes, I need to keep track of spending on him. This includes dog food, supplies, and vet visits.
This is the catch-all category for things I’m not sure where else to put them.
Okay, so that is what I am starting out as categories. I would love to get your suggestions for methods to keep track of how to record the expenses and for categories I may have missed. Thanks, Bob