Last Update: 12/27/2016

How to Make Money While Traveling in a Van – Part 3

Here’s a thought: If you “do it yourself,” you don’t need money to pay no one. Imagine that! The DIY value you create ain’t taxed neither. Plus it builds your confidence, pride, and joyfulness.

It’s so obvious and simple, it hardly seems worth mentioning in this 6-part series, “How to Make Money While Traveling in a Van.” But it is.

Used to be folks did a ton themselves, from hunting and gardening to rebuilding engines. Somehow we got away from that. There’s advantages to hiring out, but it costs us as people.

?? #Vanlife question? Contact Vanholio! direct !!

Why We Got Away From DIY

Since the old days, most of us became wage slaves. Economists will tell you it’s a good thing. The more people, companies, regions, even nations specialize and trade freely, the richer everyone becomes overall.

Yes, the economists are right that there’s efficiencies. If you make $20 an hour at your job, it’s efficient to pay a restaurant $8 for a lunch.

To DIY, that meal would’ve taken you $4 in materials and 2 hours to shop and make. That’s a net “opportunity cost” of $36. You’re better off earning at work and paying for lunch. Mathwise, at least. Even if the lunch ain’t quite to your taste.

The Cost of Overspecialization

There’s a human price to everyone specializing for the cash economy. First off, it ties you to makin’ money. Usually, that means a shitty job taking shit from some asshole.

Even under the best situation, you’re doing the same thing too much. Anything becomes old if you do it 40+ hours a week.

And you become bound to others doing for you. It’s real easy to lose confidence in your abilities.

Why just yesterday, a friend posted her thrill at learning to make cream gravy from scratch at near 50. All those years, she just assumed it was hard and bought package after expensive package of gravy mix. Ignorance marks you a sucker.

DIY = Thrifty Fun and Confidence

The more things you learn to fix and make yourself, the more other shit you can tackle. It’s a virtuous goddamn circle. More fun, too.

As you do more yourself, you don’t need to earn money. You get more variety in your day. That’s fun in and of itself.

You get extra cash value in that your efforts aren’t taxed. Pay some guy to change your oil, and the local and state government takes a cut in sales taxes. Then the feds take a cut of his profits and/or salary. Do it yourself, and Uncle Sam need not be the wiser. You’re saving 25% off the top.

Plus you aren’t paying income taxes you woulda paid on the cash earnings that would have paid the grease monkey. There’s another 15% and up.

Pick Your DIY Battles

Now, I hope your big goal in living the van life is to enjoy yourself. Our time is short.

Some jobs won’t be to your liking, even after you get good at them. Go ahead and hire them out.

Others, too, take too much special training or tools to make it worth your while. I mean, why buy $2,000 in tools you don’t even have room for and might only use once or twice.

But for all the stuff you don’t mind doing and you can do cheap, consider putting it on your list. Every penny saved is a penny you don’t need to kiss ass The Man’s for.

Many Hands Make Light Work

DIY don’t have to strictly be you yourself. If you got a big job or a job too intimidating to tackle alone, have a bee. That’s how our ancestors did it, from quilts to barn raising. That’s quality socializing.

Just last month, Jamie of Enigmatic Nomadics put together a “Van Build Party” in Lake Havasu, AZ. Vanners from all over and with mixed skills came together to help each other upgrade their vans. Hopefully they’ll repeat in 2017.

In Palo Alto, California, they do something similar with fixing electronics and appliances at the “Repair Cafe.”

Look around. Folks all over get together in bees, whatever they call them. Can’t find one? Organize it yourself. This country needs more folks doing for themselves, or doing for each other.

Read the 6-Part Series

Part 1: Overview — Part 2: Reduce Your Needs — Part 3: Do Things Yourself — Part 4: Sell Goods or Services — Part 5: Invest or Loan Capital — Part 6: Get Others to Support You

Also See ...

CheapGeek (YouTube Channel)
7 Top DIY Websites That Will Inspire Your Next Creation [LIST] (Goodnet)
65 Tips to Save Money Through Self-Reliance (Mother Earth News)


  1. Another good post man! Thanks for wut you you've been creating here. I enjoy your style and talk, sorta 'street smart' I guess. Came over from Boonie's after I saw your comment on his post 'A Single Man Finally Tastes Legitimacy'. Yeah, that resonated. Also saw you were interested in Propex heaters over at Vandogtravller. Glenn at To Simplify has one of those, pretty sweet. Gonna put one in a ProMaster build I'm doing for a friend right now. I like my Dickinson propane fireplace in my rig, but wished it had a thermostat. Anyway, sorry for going off the topic of the post, but just wanted to say hey. Keep on rollin! ( I'm over at Instagram if you wanna stop by.)👊🙏🚲

    1. I'm verklempt! :-)

    2. You're as bad as Boonie, I had to look that damn word up! That's high praise,(I think😏),if I can choke up a writer into silence, sheeet!

    3. I guess you never watched enough SNL back when Mike Meyers was on there.

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