Vanlife Part Two: Budgeting and making it home
Updated: Jan 31
Welcome back to part two of my Vanlife series. In this section I will be covering how to budget on your journey, space saving and simple customisation's.
Money saving tricks
Where and when you can save some dolla
When you are on the road and on a budget, it is a lot easier than you think to live cheap. The most expensive thing you will be forking out for is fuel, especially when you are driving in Aus - everything is so far apart! Next of course is food which is fairly easy to keep affordable unless you are a devote vegan or want to cook fresh food every night. Try to budget yourself per day, we stick to around $60 between us and often we have days where we spend nothing at all, which evens out the more expensive days. Below I have listed what we spend our money on, and how we keep the costs low wherever we can.
Fuel: The biggest sink hole to all of our dosh, fuel! Unfortunately there aren't many ways to keep the costs down on this baby. Wind + hills + a heavy campervan = a hungry fuel monster. Saying this, fuel in Australia is a hell of a lot cheaper than the UK, so try and remember that when you're filling up. Lets make it plain and simple; you will spend a lot of money on fuel. If at all possible try and stick to fuel stations in popular areas. Once you get out into the sticks the prices will soar to an unholy amount. Try to avoid fannying about trying to find places, walk if you can and shorten your day to make your tank last longer.
Food: As I said above, unless you want to eat fresh every night a weekly shop IS cheap; James and I happily admit to eating lots of packaged food. On the road without a fridge means we can't keep meat and veg fresh for as long, it is far more cost effective for us to eat quick and easy meals. Stick to homebrand, it honestly tastes just as good as all your fancy pants bits and bobs. You can pick up a 5 pack of instant noodles in Woolworths for 99c, a loaf of bread for 85c and long-life milk for 90c - proof that you can keep it cheap! Every now and then we will buy some fresh food and cook up a large portion that will last us at least three days, Otherwise we stick to stir-fry rice, packets of pasta, tinned soup, noodles and other easy
meals. On average we spent around $40-$50 on a weekly shop which normally lasted longer than a week.
Campsites: Campsites are nice but not a necessity on your roadtrip. Try to limit your stays and you will save lots of dosh. Download the free app 'CamperMate' and all your camping prayers will be answered. Our roadtrip would have been far more difficult without this wee beauty. CamperMate shows you (almost) all of the free, cheap and luxury campsites throughout Australia with prices, reviews and contact details. Most of the free camps are rest areas, basic but fine for a night or two. (more on camping in Part 3)
Activities: It is possible to do the East Coast without skydiving and swimming with sharks. Our roadtrip has featured almost 99% free activties and we have still had a blast. Unless you are planning on going all out it is very easy to find things to do that will cost you very little or nothing at all. Limit yourself. Sacrifice a night in a fancy campsite for a tour around a local museum, or whatever interests you most. Do some research and make sure what you're paying for it worth the money.
Leisure: Although we try to keep things cheap, you've got to treat yourself and have some fun. Occasionally we will get a takeaway, or sit in somewhere nice for a coffee and cake. It is important to enoy yourself and not get carried away with the money saving antics. Take a break, have a look round some shops, maybe treat yourself to a little souvineer.
Customising your van
Making your van feel like home
This one depends on your budget, but it is possible to make little customisation without huge costs. Be careful on what you change, make sure it wouldn't decrease the value as such. Nobody likes a dodgy paint job! We haven't done much to our van, but the small things we have changed, even in placement has made it feel more homely. Give it a touch of YOU. James' mum gifted me a sarong for my birthday which we have put over our curtains to create a small but pretty 'wall hanging'. We have also collected stickers from our destinations which now decorate the underside of our folk out table. Buy some candles or some incense to make it nice and cosy and you're sorted.
How to save some valuable space
Again, this one is dependant on your situation. Our van was extremely spacious so space saving was easy peasy. We bought the van with three small plastic storage boxes which you can pick up from places like The Reject Shop for single figures. We used our boxes for packaged food and cleaning products which kept our space organised and tidy. The Reject Shop is the perfect place to pick up cheap space saving bits and bobs. We grabbed a plastic tray which we used for our chargers and things we used regularly. This way they were easily in reach but not messing up our space. We dedicated one drawer to clothes, a space for tools and our shelves for food, but similarly this could all be done with boxes. Juggle things around and see what works for you. If you are struggling consider a roof-rack or basket, readily available in most auto shops or Gumtree for something more affordable.
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