Last Update: 6/29/2016

How Much Does Living in a Van Cost?

Fuck it. You’re ready to live in a van down by the river. But how much does van life really cost? Here’s a breakdown of Vanholio’s real-life monthly budget as a full-time vandweller.

Bare-Bones Monthly Budget

My basic monthly expenses are $821 (Line Item 16). Yes, you read that right – about $800. That ain’t even that extreme. Lots of vandwellers run a van life on that kind of money, some for even less than $600 per month (see below).

2. Auto, Gas & Maintenance – I come up with this figure using AAA’s 2016 “Your Driving Costs” brochure. Vanholio has a minivan, so I used the large sedan numbers. My total yearly estimated cost is for 10,000 miles, divided back down to a monthly figure. ‘Course, this don’t figure eventual replacement cost of my rig.

3. Auto, Insurance – This is for full coverage under GEICO. Besides being older than 25 and having a good driving record, Vanholio set up his official residency in a cheap ZIP code. Why the fuck pay more? I live everywhere, so I can live anywhere, so far as The Man knows. Compare costs at “Average Car Insurance Rates by Neighborhood” on the website.

9. Groceries / Household
– This is a bit high but not crazy. First off, Vanholio is a big man. He also likes to eat out once in awhile, gets drinks and snacks at convenience stores, and indulges in a few luxuries. I could be more frugal, but fuck it. Also, this line item includes my OTC drugs, laundry soap, grooming items, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and dog food – basically all that shit I get at a grocery store. Don’t have any fucking idea what you spend on food? Start guesstimating using Official USDA Food Plans price data.

10. Internet / Phone
– $20 is pretty goddamn amazing, huh!? It’s actually a bit less, but I have a buffer for equipment replacement. I spend $11.20 per month for a Page Plus flip phone on the $12 plan, but I get a little discount for automatic payments. For internet, I got one of those flashed MiFis off Ebay that give you unlimited 3G Verizon wireless for $5 a month (Google ‘em!).

Best Money-Management!
12. Mail Service / Shipping – I’ve got Traveling Mailbox for mail, which scans in my mail for me to read online or forwards it, if I need the piece. I pay $20 per month for a premium address. I factored in another $10 for other shipping expenses that come up.

13. Medical, Out-of-Pocket – Vanholio is living under the minimum for expanded Medicar, $16, 394, so his medical insurance and deductibles are pretty cheap.

17. Federal Income Tax / FICA – It’s one thing to budget spending, but I also needed to figure out how much I need to earn before Uncle Sam gets his cut. Otherwise, I’d be short. It takes $899 in gross earnings to have $821 left in my check.’s tax estimator does all the crazy math. Play with it. My figures are based on no state or local income tax, income from a job vs. self-employment, and just one deduction (myself).

Advanced Monthly Budget

You need money for extras and emergencies. Plus, you need to save for the future. So this budget works all that in. And again, it figures what I need to earn gross before the taxman takes a cut.

17. Cushion, 20% – I added 20% to my basic monthly expenses for fun, replacing things, gifts, the unexpected, etc.

18. Savings, 30% – Looking around the ‘net, most personal finance experts recommend you save 30% of your income for “retirement.” Don’t know that I’ll retire as I’m halfway outta the game already, but I figure saving and investing at a decent rate is just smart. At the least, I gotta replace the rig someday and need cash saved up in case I’m unemployed, by choice or not. Plus, I figure I can eventually live off investments instead of work. And I won’t need to worry about what the fuck happens to Social Security!

Hey, Beer Vanholio! He works hard on this blog.

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Last Update: 6/22/2016

Don’t Let Dirty Laundry Stink Up the Van

Living in a van down by the river ain’t no damn reason to let your van smell like rot stink. Vanholio’s got a trick to hold that gym-bag odor to a minimum.

How to Store Dirty Laundry in Vans

Problem – Laundry Bags Waste Space, Smell

See, Vanholio’s got a tiny van. So as my laundry built, I had this huge bag of dirty clothes in my way. That was one problem. The other was it was stinkin’ up the place. Then I figured out how to kill two birds with one stone.

Solution – Waterproof Pillow Cases Do Double Duty

It’s so simple, I’m amazed some vandweller ain’t come up with it already. I done bought myself some waterproof, bug-proof, hypoallergenic pillowcases. The particular pillowcases are terry-cloth-like on the outside, water-tight, and close with a zip. No stank gets out.

Vanholio uses the clothes-filled sacks like pillows. They ain’t squishy, but they’re good to prop up my feet, put under a soft pillow, or lay by my side for extra insulation. Instead of being in the way, my dirty laundry’s multi-use – essential in vanlife.

When I do laundry every few weeks, I just wash the pillowcases with the rest. They hold up to hot water and the dryer.

Advice – Air Dry Dirties Before Stuffing

Before you sack up your smelly underwear and other clothes in the pillowcases, hang them up to air dry for a day or so. With less moisture, the clothes won’t get as nasty in the pillowcases.

Hey, Beer Vanholio! He works hard on this blog.

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Last Update: 6/19/2016

Top 5 US Convenience Stores

Man sidles up for refill at convenience store soda fountain
As an OTR vandweller, I visit a lot of convenience stores for gas, cheap eats, and shits. (Literally, shits. Hey, that’s #vanlife!) Here’s Vanholio’s Top 5 Countdown.

Vanholio's Top 5 US Convenience Stores

No. 5 – Circle K

Found in a huge chunk of the ol’ USA, Vanholio counts on Circle K for good gas prices and, most importantly, Polar Pop! See, he carries a huge 64 oz. insulated mug with him. At Circle K, he can refill that fatass for only $0.89, plus tax!

The chain’s hot dog offerings vary by region, but usually you can get a 2-fur-1 special for $2 or $2.50! With my huge drink, that’s lunch for $3 or a tad more. Deal!

No. 4 — Pilot

OTR vandwellers like myself practically live at Pilots rest stops nationwide, almost as much as OTR truckers.

Soda and coffee refills are cheap at $0.99, even for my 64 oz. big boy. Hot dogs and gas are cheap, too. Pilot hot delis have some of America’s best, deep-cheese pizza at 2 slices for $5, and the breakfast tacos ain’t half bad.

You can park overnight in the lot. They’ve got free WiFi. And if you’re desperate for a shower, they have ‘em for $12, towels and soap provided – a hefty fucking price, but when it’s been a few weeks …

BTW, Pilot also owns Flying J, which for some reason sucks balls.

No. 3 – Casey’s General Stores

Donuts, baked goods, coffee, hot dogs, fresh pizza, subs, wraps, soft serve, fountain drinks, coffee, milk, eggs – Casey’s General Stores have a huge variety, all fresh, all cheap. It’s an amazing Midwest / Plains States chain. Plus they’re usually clean.

No. 2 – Maverik

A western / Rocky Mountains chain, Maverik has everything Vanholio loves – cheap gas, cheap hot dogs, awesome breakfast tacos, cheap soda and coffee refills, clean bathrooms, frequent candy sales, and good donuts.

Maverik hot delis usually have all kinds of fresh, tasty, reasonably priced foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

And in Utah, the soda fountain is stocked with lots of non-caffeinated sodas, in case you’re already flying a little high.

No. 1 – Stripes

Vanholio is a Texas boy, and Texas-based Stripes has been his mainstay for years.

Their in-store hot deli, Laredo Taco Company, has better Tex-Mex than most so-called Mexican restaurants, and they’re dirt cheap. Lunch plates with an entree, rice, beans, and tortillas are usually $3.99. In early mornings, folks line up for the $0.99 breakfast tacos, all on fresh, homemade flour tortillas. I mean, you can see the little old Mexican ladies behind the counter rolling the dough out and grilling ‘em up!

In the grab-and-go section, you can get two corn dogs for $0.99. And they’re damned good corn dogs, too. Would love to know where they buy ‘em. Love their spicy sausage wraps, too.

Of course, gas, soda and coffee refills, and hot dogs are cheap too. Otherwise, Vanholio wouldn’t recommend.

Honorable Mentions

East Coast Sheetz has the best fresh food of any convenience store, but you pay for it. Prices aren’t outrageous, mind you, just more in line with fast food restaurants. They have the best coffee, too, and free WiFi.

All the convenenience stores Vanholio stopped at in southern Utah – chains and locals – were stocked with the most delicious, fresh cake donuts I’ve ever had in my life. I mean, they were so fucking amazing I’d get 3 or 4 and make a gut-stuffing meal of them, oink, oink! I think they came from local bakeries, but I didn’t catch the names.

Missed Any?

I ain’t been every fucking place while living in a van. If there’s a chain I shoulda given the shout-out to, let me know in the comments below.

Hey, Beer Vanholio! He works hard on this blog.

Also See...

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Last Update: 6/15/2016

Fuck Blog Ads, I Won’t Do ‘Em Anymore!

Street-side billboard reads, “The Joy of Not Being Sold Anything.”
Do you like ads on blogs and websites? Do you even click those fuckers? I don’t. That and some of the reasons below are why I took ‘em off

Look, I work fucking hard on this blog. Even at this early stage, I’ve put in hundreds of hours of work – uncompensated. I don’t mind for now; I love what I’m doing. But eventually I want to make some money. You know, get paid for my work. Cover what few bills I have living in a van down by the river.

Why Ads Are Dumb as Fuck

But ads ain’t the way I’m gonna do it, nope. They’re goddamned annoying. And they’re dumb business. Here’s “13 Reasons Why Blog Ads Are a Silly Monetization Strategy.” I agree with all those reasons. Plus advertisers are assholes. and Others Can Go to Hell

I tried affiliate ads with, for example, mostly recommending shit I’ve used. Not totally sleazy. But do I know those are the best products for vandwelling? No, I’m not Consumer-fucking-Reports! I’m not the high fucking prophet of vanlife! I tried some junk and it worked for me. Big fucking deal!

And I don’t give a rat’s ass whether you buy stuff from or not, buy other products somewhere else, or make your own shit.

Actually, I think it’s cooler if you make your own gear from trash. And there’s no money in that for me or the Corporatocracy at all. Good!

Let me expand on that. Vanholio advocates putting as little into the Corporatocracy as possible, whether through work, taxes, or consumption. I’d be committing high hypocritical irony to preach simplicity and take the pigs’ ad money the same time, like bullshitters Real Simple and TreeHugger do.

As if you can consume your way to a simpler, greener lifestyle … Just don’t buy shit!

Will Vanholio Ever Make Scratch?

So, yeah, I still swim in this festering swamp of Consumer Capitalism. I still need some cash.

But I won’t offer anything for sale until I have something I think is worth you buying. I’m speculating on maybe writing some books or something. Maybe I’ll just ask for patron donations and hope ya’ll’ll pay me direct for my efforts. I don’t know.

Until then, enjoy’s infotainment ad free. Subscribe for updates and insider vanlife info. And tell your friends to check this blog out. Peace! [Drops mic, Makes V, Exits … ]

Hey, Beer Vanholio! He works hard on this blog.

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Last Update: 6/10/2016

Yeah, I'll Piss on Your Damned Bonfire

Grunge dude is pissing on a campfire. Can't see his dick, though.
What the fuck is it with people and their huge fucking campfires? Forest fires blazing around us, and the bubbas are still stoking their own personal infernos!

Here I am, on a mountain just east of Prescott, Ariz. Hot, dry fucking weather. Brown, crispy grass. Wind blowing crazy. Lightning flashing on the ridge. A dozen wildfires burning across the state, including right across the valley.

And the inbred morons camped by me are building huge fucking bonfires and yucking it up. Burning pine, too – sparks popping everywhere. Fuckwits think they’re running a Rammstein concert.

You know what? The smoke stinks like the inside of a skunk’s ass. It’s getting everywhere: In my clothes, in my sheets, burning my eyes, making the dogs sneeze. Assholes.

I’m gonna wait till the hillbillies are asleep. Then I’m gonna piss on their bonfires and wave that fragrant yellow steam into their RVs. I hope it scorches out their fucking nose hairs.

Hey, Beer Vanholio! He works hard on this blog.

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#ClimateAction – Go #Green, Go #Vanlife

Colorful hippie vanagon drives with the sunset behind, all in green tone

Wanna reduce your footprint on this troubled blue-green planet? Take up #vanlife! You’ll use far fewer resources than the housebound. And it’s a hoot to boot!

6 Ways Vandwellers Use Fewer Resources

  1. Less Land – Well, duh! If you don’t have a house, that’s house, yard, and driveway left to field and forest. In 2010, the average lot size of new U.S. homes was 8900 sq. ft. (0.2 acres). If 1% of the 320 million U.S. population took up van life, that’d free up 64 million fucking acres – about the acreage of Wyoming!

  2. Less Junk – This should be fucking obvious: no house; no home furniture; no decorations; no shit shoved into closets, attics, garages, and sheds; less of everything you use. And everything you do own in the van is smaller or in smaller quantities. All that crap vandwellers don’t have would have taken cutting down forests, digging up mountains, and fuel and water to move and manufacture. 

  3. Less Food – The average American household wastes about 25% of the food it brings home, about $340-$570 worth per year, per person. With just a tiny fridge or cooler in the van (or neither), leftovers and scraps can’t pile up so easy and go bad. You end up buying and eating just what you need. Less wasted food means less fuel, land, water, and material wasted to grow, refine, package, and deliver that food.

  4. Less Water – The average housebound American uses 80-100 gallons of water per day in their homes. But with limited water storage in the van, you get stingy. Most vandwellers use about 2 gallons per day. That’s 1-2% of what the average American uses!

  5. Less Power – Vandwellers don’t get huge savings here, but every bit counts. In 2012, the average American spent about $3,052 per year on residential power and transportation combined. Most of that was for transportation, $2,302. Still, charging your fan, laptop, and cell phone, plus a little cooking fuel, is going to be far less than the $750 per year the average American housebounder spends on residential energy. Those dollars saved are also savings in fuel, material, and water used to produce and deliver the energy. 

  6. Less Carbon – Global Warming is all about that carbon, 'bout that carbon. Guess what? Every saved resource above reduces the vandweller’s carbon emissions – BIG TIME! Even water takes fossil fuel to pump, manufacture pipes and equipment, and build dams! Drive slower and reduce total miles to lower your carbon footprint even more. And consider buying a carbon offset, too.

Freedom from housebounder headaches not enough? Freedom of the open road, being a nomad not enough? Well, now you have a moral goddamn reason to move into a van down by the river. Van life – the greener choice.

Hey, Beer Vanholio! He works hard on this blog.

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Last Update: 6/08/2016

Don't Cook Ramen Noodles, Soak 'Em Cold!

Summer comes a broilin', and a poor vandweller asks himself: “Must I cook these instant ramens?” No, actually. Soak ‘em and make cool salads like these! (See more great ideas in my YouTube Ramen! playlist.)

Soak Your Noodles About an Hour

Turns out instant noodles, like your cheap-ass Maruchan and Nissin ramen packets, are already cooked. They’re dried by frying. You just need to hydrate them.

I just break mine up and soak ‘em in my Big Bubba Mug for about an hour, more or less. Mostly, I just set ‘em aside and come back awhile later.

They set up just fine, good texture. Of your cheap noodles, I think Maruchan has better mouthfeel than Nissin when just soaked. (BTW, I tried the same thing with regular pasta. Turns to mush).

Three Ramen Salads I Made

I’m not going to give you a bunch of recipes. I don’t do that shit. But here’s three ramen noodle salads I made, just for inspirationals.

Ramen With Vinaigrette Slaw and Chicken

This was my first evil experiment. I had confetti slaw on hand – that’s bagged slaw mix, made with broccoli stems, cabbage, carrots, etc., but sans dressing. And Walmart had canned chicken breast on sale. My rusty old brain wheels turned.

Soaked the noodles with the juice from the canned chicken and more water, plus canola oil, garlic salt, Tapatio hot sauce, and apple cider vinegar to make a vinaigrette. I don’t know exactly how much of anything – I winged it.

After the noodles were soft, I mixed them in two quart-size, Ziplock-type bags with chopped onion, the slaw veggies, and the canned chicken. Two delicious meals!

Ramen With Three Bean Salad

I soaked the ramen with the juice from a can of three bean salad, garlic salt, dried fried onions, and vegetarian bacon bits.

After the noodles got soft, I just mixed in the beans. Awesome! And you’ll notice it’s all from dry goods.

Ramen With Mayo and Egg

This was basically macaroni salad with added egg.

After hydrating the instant noodles for an hour or so in my Big Bubba Mug, I drained off the extra water. Then I added garlic salt, a generous amount of mayo, and two hard-boiled eggs that I’d baked in my RoadPro Stove.

I just kind of crumbled the eggs in there with my hands, then broke it up more with a fork. Then I mixed everything all around.

Good shit. Stuffed me like a Christmas goose!

What Ramen Salads Are in Your Brain?

Those are just three ideas I had and liked. You could do just about anything. What would you make? Comment below. And see more great ideas in my YouTube Ramen! playlist.

Cover of "All the Whores I Knowed Before" a book by Vanholio! For sale on Click through.

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Last Update: 6/04/2016

Are You Homeless if You Live in a Van?

Smiling man sits on cooler in front of van by the Alaska sea shore. Is he homeless or not? You can’t tell.

Per Uncle Sam, if you don’t live in a code-approved building, you’re "homeless." That shit ain't realistic for van life nomads. It’s about being broke and short on options. Here’s a tale of two vandwellers, Vanholio and Vanholio Sr., to show you why.

A Tale of Two Vandwellers

Vanholio Sr. (Pops) Was Homeless

Pops had problems. He could never hold down a job for one thing. I think he had major depression, along with some notions on life that didn’t help him none. Never could get a straight answer from family, and Pops died in my teens. Whatever his problems were, his life was a goddamn mess.

I remember a year or two that Pops lived in his old VW Bus. It was parked in the fenced lot behind his friend’s car repair shop. You know, where they keep the cars they’re gonna fix.

I’d visit him and stay in the old vanagon. Even in winter with four foot of snow. Even in sweltering, sticky summers.

He’d avoid driving the VW because he couldn’t afford gas and maintenance. Probably wasn’t insured, I bet. We’d walk or take public transport everywhere.

To get a shower, we’d walk to an old YMCA after dark, climb up the fire escape, and a buddy would let us in a window.

At the time, I didn’t think nothing of it. Didn’t realize Pops was homeless until I was an adult. He was out of money and short on options. He lived in a van as his best worst choice.

When Pops was almost dead, I asked him, “What do you dream about?” I guess I’d seen too many dumb movies and thought the dying had some spiritual wisdom. But what he said was, “All the shitty places I’ve lived.”

Vanholio Ain’t Nothing Like Homeless

Unlike Pops, I got options – shitloads of options. In America, that means cash. Hell, I’m better off than the average American, who can’t handle a $500 surprise bill!

Vanholio owns his comfy van outright and ain't got no debts. He’s got plenty of savings for a rainy day. He’s got an adequate income. He’s even got medical insurance!

Most important, thanks to cheap, effective antidepressants, therapy, and some good life lessons, Vanholio ain’t got Pops' problems. (Yes, I inherited the famil depression. Written the morbid poetry to prove it!)

Vanholio is living the good life: plenty of money, plenty of friends, a cheerful outlook, and decent health. Plus I wake up in beautiful places. Today that’s a Utah mountain forest!

I could live in gov’ment sanctioned bricks and sticks. But I don’t wanna. Vanholio has made the happy choice to live in a van, a choice uncoerced by shitty circumstances. And that’s why he ain’t homeless, whatever fucked up definition for “homeless” Uncle Sam uses.

A Better Understanding of 'Homeless'

Read a 2014 interview with Andrew Waits, photographer of “Boondock,” a collection of vehicle dweller photos. He looked at both those who didn’t embrace van life and those who did, those who consider themselves homeless and those who consider themselves lucky.

I observed that many times the deciding factor in whether an individual identifies as homeless has to do with whether or not that person has a safety net in place. This could mean money in the form of savings, a pension, health insurance, or disability. However, the impact is much greater when that safety net also includes family, friends, or a community of support.

So there you have it. In their own eyes, homeless people are those who can’t live in a place they consider safe and decent because they lack a safety net. A defining part of being “homeless” is being so broke and isolated that you’re short on good options for the necessities of life. Living in a van down by the river is almost despite the point.

Cover of "All the Whores I Knowed Before" a book by Vanholio! For sale on Click through.

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