Van Life Costs – March

Heading into our van life adventure at the beginning of 2019, one thing that we were hyper-focused on was our van life costs. We had some money saved from working full time, and did not have a ton of money coming in each month. What did that mean? It meant that the more we spent, the shorter our adventure would be! So we HAD to minimize costs, because we wanted to adventure as long as possible! We are going to give you a 100% transparent view into our expenses we had in our third month on the road. Here we go!

In March, we spent a TON of time with family! The whole month in fact. We started the month in Minnesota staying with Zach’s parents, took a Wisconsin trip to see Julie’s parents, and capped off the Midwestern excursion with a wedding in Stillwater, MN in mid-March!

We had an absolute BLAST seeing so much family and friends for the first time since we started our adventure! After the wedding (and Julie passing her nursing boards YAY!!) we took off from Minnesota heading South!

We stopped in Oklahoma City, Dallas, and Waco on our way towards Houston. We had so much fun seeing our new nephew JP in February that we had to go back in March to see him again! We stayed in Houston with our Texas family until the end of March, exploring everything we could while we were there.

Photos from Month 3’s Adventure

Our budget for March was smaller than our January and February budgets because we were spending so much time with Family. We knew we would probably have higher entertainment expenses, but fewer gas and grocery trips, so those expenses would probably be lower. Here’s what we came up with for the budget:

February Budget

Auto Maintenance$100
Other / Entertainment$300

Now, let’s see how we did!


Budget: $300 || Actual: $147.93

Exxon (1 fill up)$28.37
Super America (1)$38.78
Cenex (1)$40.89
Holiday (1)$32.11
Other (1)$7.78

We did WAY better than expected on gas in March. That was mainly due to a few reasons:

  1. We traveled much less than we thought we would while in MN and WI
  2. We split gas by carpooling from MN back to Houston

On the trip from MN to Houston, we had the pleasure of riding with some of Zach’s family! It made the road trip SO fun, and also it helped because the gas cost for us was much much lower.


Photography Equipment


We absolutely LOVE photography, and sharing pictures! These are the cameras we use on all of our adventures. The drone and GoPro help us get cool new perspectives (underwater, in the air, wide angle) and the Rebel we use on a day-to-day basis for most of our shots!


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Our Gas Search Strategy

Once we were under 1/4 tank, Julie opens up Get Upside and Google Maps, and searches for gas places on our route in the next 50 miles. We’d find and stop at the cheapest one, whether it was 2 miles away or 48!

If you decide to download Get Upside, use code ‘2GZ28A’ for an extra $.15/gal cash back on your first gas purchase!


Budget: $100  ||  Actual: $116.20

Wal Mart (2 times)$109.51
Gas Station Coffee (3) $8.86

We were SO close on our grocery budget for March. Close enough that I’m going to give us the benefit of the doubt and say we basically hit our goal.

If only a few more things were on sale at the right time, we could have snuck in right under budget for March. Either way, se la vie, life goes on.

One of our Favorite Recipes


Budget: $0  ||  Actual: $0

Living in our van at Harvest Hosts, National
Forests, and Wal Mart parking lots

Just like February, we hit our budget DEAD ON for lodging… ZERO! Nada! Zip!

To be honest, finding lodging has become one of the most fun portions of our adventure! Also, to be honest, it has gotten MUCH easier the further West we’ve traveled.

Out West, there is MUCH more public property (National Forests, Bureau of Land Management, Wildlife Areas, etc) that offer opportunities for free camping! What’s more? The land is BETTER!

We have found b-e-a-utiful places to spend the night almost each and every night!

If you are interested in exploring Harvest Hosts, use this link for 15% off a membership:

Click this Image for 15% off your Harvest Hosts Membership!

Auto Maintenance

Budget: $100  ||  Actual: $94.69

One oil change and general tune-up$94.69

In March, Winnie continued to be an absolute CHAMPION on the road! Absolutely no issues to deal with except our regular oil change and tune up.

We try to stay ahead of schedule with these to keep Winnie in as tip top of shape as we can. So far our strategy seems to be working well! Knock on wood…

Other / Entertainment

Budget: $300  || Actual: $660.99

Drinking Out (7 times)$171.65
Eating Out (4)$60.31
Van Improvements$269.73
Subscriptions (Canva, Adobe, Spotify, Planet Fitness)$62.90
Cash Expenses$0

Once again we are over budget in our other/entertainment category! I guess you can say we cave in to peer pressure pretty easily.

Being back home with friends we found ourselves going out a lot more. How can you say no to a damn good time?? We have no idea!

Also while we were back in Minnesota, we made some van improvements. Our first two months on the road were a great test drive for what van-life would be like and we learned a ton!

For example, we learned having our kitchen pull out of the back was a huge pain, especially with our bikes on the back. Brushing your teeth/washing your face isn’t very fun using water bottles either.

Therefore, while we were home we rearranged some things in the van and put our kitchen with running water inside! We also added a deck to our roof, which has been by far our favorite improvement! We’ve loved reading, sunbathing, and star gazing on our roof all over the country.

Even though our van improvements took us over budget, they were totally worth it. Having running water in the van and a rooftop deck have been extreme life improvements for us!


Auto Maintenance$100$94.69
Other / Entertainment$300$660.99

So close, but yet so far. Again and again, it is the other/entertainment category that absolutely CRUSHES us month after month.

We REALLY need to improve our self-control, but we just have so much rootin’ tootin’ FUN when we see friends and family! So sue us. Actually please don’t, we don’t have a lot of money, so you won’t win a lot anyways…

Month 4 Budget

Auto Maintenance$100
Other / Entertainment$200

For April, we will be back on the road FULL TIME! That means our budget is back to what it was in February: $1000, broken down just as it is in the table above.

Will we hit it? Will April be the first time this year that we actually HIT our budget? You’ll have to check back to find out!

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If you want to hear more about our budget, here is our budget and spending from February and January!

Our Travel eBook!


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Do you know of a family in need who could use a trip?? Let us know!

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