Isn’t that very expensive? That question is perhaps the most frequently asked of us via social media. We have our own house, built a beautiful off-grid camper and travel a lot and sometimes for longer periods. People wonder how we do that financially. In this article we would like to tell you more about it.
But perhaps it is first interesting to tell you why we have not made the choice to live full-time in a camper. It’s not that we couldn’t do that, but it’s just never been our dream to leave everything behind at home and travel full time with our motorhome. For us, that ultimate freedom is in so much more than just travelling.
For example, we like that we have the freedom to choose between being at home and traveling. As location independent entrepreneurs we can travel and work where and when we want, but we can just as well choose to be home for a while. In a permanent place that really belongs to us, where there is more space and comfort and in a place that feels familiar and familiar. A real home. Our camper also feels like home, a real house on wheels, but in a different way than our home. You have to move a camper every time, you are busy with consumption because you have limited access to water and electricity and it is of course also much less spacious and comfortable. After a while coming home to a place where all this is not a problem is very nice.
And that is all apart from possible other issues that you encounter when you start traveling full-time in a motorhome. Consider, for example, arranging a postal address, the handing in 2% AOW pension for every year you are abroad and the consequences of deregistration from the municipality if you longer than 8 months per year in abroad. Moreover, we also see that full-time vanlife is sometimes much less free than people initially thought. We now know several stories of people who had to return home because, for example, they ran out of money. Not everyone then shares that on social media, but there are really more people than you think who go back to live with their parents once at home or who have to settle for a temporary chalet on a campsite because something else is not financially possible.
Incidentally, this is really not intended to put these people down as less. We also know enough people who consciously choose this or who see it as a fun challenge and deal with it in a very positive way. But we think it is good to share that there are people for whom that choice was not made or less of their own free will. You see that much less on social media, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. There are plenty of people who would like to have that arranged a bit better. Because they don’t like that uncertainty, don’t feel the need to travel all the time, don’t have parents to fall back on and/or because they also find that freedom enough in other things in life.
We love vanlife and travelling, but having our own place is also really nice to have. From the many messages we receive and through encounters along the way, it appears that there are quite a few people who would like this too, only that they don’t know how to do it financially. That’s why we like to share how we do it below 🙂
Buy a house and pay off your mortgage
Admittedly, buying a house in the current housing market if you cannot sell a house yourself is very difficult and sometimes almost impossible. Still, buying a home is perhaps the most interesting way to arrange things better for yourself financially. You can pay off a mortgage. By repaying you pay less and less housing costs and you have more money left over. In addition, you build up a piece of equity with every repayment. So you actually kill three birds with one stone (lower costs, more money left over and build up capital). We have slowly started repaying and due to the savings that have resulted in recent years, we can now repay € 1000 every month. This is separate from the repayment that is included in one of our mortgage components (annuity) and the sometimes one-off repayments we make if we have a financial windfall. Together we have now repaid € 75k on our mortgage (midway through 2022). In practice, this means that we now pay a few hundred euros less each month than when we had just bought our house.
€1000 is of course a lot of money every month, but we both work full time and this amount has increased as we have been able to pay more over the past few years. After all, each repayment leaves you with more money and by adding that amount to the next repayment you create a kind of snowball effect.
Reduce other fixed costs
We have also tried to reduce our other expenses as much as possible. For example, we use water, heat and energy sparingly at home and we look every year to see if we can switch to, among other things, a cheaper energy supplier, health insurance and internet and TV provider. We also check the content of, for example, insurance policies and subscriptions, so that we can adjust them to what we actually use. For example, we have slightly increased the deductible for one health insurance policy, we have taken out a joint mobile subscription with less data in the Netherlands because we hardly use it at home (because there is WiFi almost everywhere), we have switched from a regular TV subscription watch TV over the internet and we share subscriptions such as Netflix. This way we have already saved more than €500 per month!
We also do our shopping once a week with a list and we only buy stuff or clothing if we really need it or if it makes us very happy. This way of shopping prevents impulse buying, which is the problem for many people that causes them to spend too much money. We also have a rule that if something comes in, something has to come out. As soon as we buy something new, we therefore have to sell something again. We therefore regularly tidy up our house and put things on sites such as Marktplaats. This not only results in a tidy house, but of course also generates some money. Moreover, we do not use water, heat and energy at home when we are traveling (as a result of which we regularly receive money back at the end of the year and our advance for the coming year goes down again).
We use our Financial Independent Excel Sheet for a handy overview. Here we have calculations for our mortgage, investments, savings goals and also an overview of our income and expenses. This way we can easily see what our fixed costs are, what we pay for them and what the savings are if we can make them cheaper.
Example from the Financial Independent Excel Sheet
A good buffer and savings
Before we could pay for our trips from our monthly income, we – like so many people – just had to save for it. After all, when we just bought our house, we hadn’t paid off anything yet, so we still paid the maximum mortgage. This resulted in relatively high housing costs. As a result, we had much less money left over each month than we do now, so we had to make choices. We chose to divide that little money that remained each month into three jars: buffer, savings and mortgage. In that order too, because a buffer is the most important thing to have. Especially if, like us, you are an entrepreneur and therefore cannot fall back on something if, for example, you are out of work for a while. We divided the rest of the money that remained between our savings account and paying off our mortgage. A few years ago this was not a very high amount, but every little bit helps and an extra amount was also released to use as soon as the goal of the buffer was reached.
In our case, part-time vanlife with your own home was just as expensive, especially at the beginning, but once the buffer is in order, it becomes increasingly easier to save and pay off the mortgage. This is how we create more and more financial freedom for ourselves.
Location independent entrepreneur and earn more money
Traveling a lot becomes a lot easier if you can continue to earn money along the way. We can both carry out our work remotely and we also regularly have to go abroad for our work, so we combine traveling with work. We therefore see traveling with our camper more as a way of life and not as a holiday. For holidays we prefer to stay in a permanent place in a sunny destination 🙂
Earning more money also makes traveling easier. With more income you simply have more money left over. By continuing to learn (reading books, taking courses, etc.) and specializing, we were able to increase our hourly rate. We have also created revenue models that are scalable, such as our e-book bundle camper building and the online course financially fit & free These revenue models take a lot of time to make, but once they are set up, the products are no longer dependent on our time and availability. This allows us to sell them without a ceiling. Of course we have to remain active in marketing and regularly update the products, but it does not cost us more work and time to buy the products to 10 people than to sell it to 100 people. Moreover, we also earn some money if we don’t work for once (for example if we do go on vacation).
By continuing to work we also earn money while traveling and thanks to our scalable revenue models we can help more people and earn more money at the same time.
Off-grid camping is not that expensive
And last but not least: camping is not that expensive at all. The biggest expense is in the bus and converting it to a camper, but once you’ve had that, camping is really not that expensive and much cheaper than, for example, sleeping in a hotel. Especially if you have an off-grid camper that is equipped with a household battery and solar panels, vanlife is even quite cheap. For example, in the summer of 2021 we traveled through Sweden for a month and there we spent just over €1100 in a whole month. That amount includes groceries (which you would also have at home), fuel, tolls, an evening in the sauna, a visit to the Volvo museum, filling water and washing clothes a few times, two nights at a campsite and a SIM card of 150 GB to to work on the go.
As you can see, the biggest savings are in being able to camp off-grid, so we hardly spent any costs on a campsite. Taking into account the groceries we also have at home and the costs we save on water, electricity and heat at home, off-grid camping sometimes only costs us a few hundred euros extra per month. Depending on your situation, of course, this is quite doable. Especially if, like us, you earn that money back by paying off the mortgage, spending less on other fixed costs, continuing to work on the road and having the option to camp off-grid.
Are you an entrepreneur, love to travel and do you also want to work towards financial freedom? Then download for free the
e-book: ‘In 6 steps to financial freedom’ (in Dutch)