Van Life Finances

Upstate NY is thrashing me. It snowed all day yesterday, and last night it froze again. I just cannot trust the weather man anymore. Where is the 60 degrees and sunny we were promised? To be honest, I don’t really mind the weather for myself as much as I would like some sun for my van. It’s a lot easier to get power from my solar panels if we actually have sun. I’m down to 10.1 on the power scale and under 10 is getting close to running out my battery.

I have been driving it a lot more and letting the engine run to power my internal battery…but seriously sun. Seriously. Where are you?

My glasses came in from the optometrist and all I have to do it pick them up. I might do that when I get done here at the gym. I have to work at 11 so I should have enough time. Bonus I can charge my van batteries as well. Not having to drive is a blessing and a curse, only a curse when it’s cloudy…or I wake up on days like today and there’s an ice sheet over the panels. Excellent.

I have gotten some questions about how much money I am saving as a result from living in my van. The answer to that is complicated. I have paid off one of my three loans. I would like to pay them all off by the end of the year.

That said, I did not move into my van because I am poor. I am privileged to have chosen to live in my situation. I must make that clear. Therefore, I am saving as much as I can, but I am also using some of my money in other ways. Ways I planned when I made the transition to vanlife. I have seen four different doctors since the beginning of the year and had medical bills. I have dental and health insurance now which takes money from my paycheck. I have a payment for my van, my car insurance, my cell phone, my student loan and when I travel, gas bills.

My last two loans are the one I took out to buy my van and my student loan. I plan to pay those off this year. However, this month I have made payments to the dentist, doctor, gynecologist, optometrist, my last payment to Rod, who I got the van from (he let me pay $5000 upfront and the last $500 six months later, bless him), my payment for our AirBnB in Texas, and I needed new running shoes and a watch. Of course I could have saved more, but these things are what I wanted to use some of my saved money for.

I am going to Texas in May, I do not plan to spend extravagantly, but I also plan to enjoy the road trip and vacation. I have never done this before, so I am not worrying about money. It’s my sister’s first marathon, we’re going to have fun.

A brief lowdown of my bills each month:

$200 car/van insurance

$150 cell phone bill (I have unlimited)

$150 van loan repayment

$150 health insurance

$64 dental insurance

$67 student loan

$50 Best Buy credit card bill (for my laptop I bought a while ago, no interest so I’ll pay it off eventually)

I am probably forgetting something. But this is the basic of what I pay. I am seeing if I can get to a lower cell plan, because I might not need unlimited. But right now I am focusing on other areas of my life. I am frugal, but I feel lucky that I don’t consciously mind every penny. I used to do that (obsessive compulsive behavior really) and it took the fun out of most things. Going out to eat, getting new running shoes, it was like a stab in the gut. Self-imposed actually, and it was silly. I’m doing my best, I’m enjoying my life. Right now, that’s good enough for me.

Any questions?

It’s only an hour of your life

This morning I had a tough workout. 8×1 Mile repeats at 6:15 pace with half mile rest in between. For my current state of fitness, I knew this would be a challenge. I committed myself to “just do one” and then “just finish this one”. It worked for 6 of the reps, and then my last two were slower at the same effort. Actually I think the effort on the last two was higher, and I also cried a bit when I knew I was slower.

After watching all the marathon things unfold yesterday (on social media later that day because your girl had to work) I felt like I should have been able to do them all. Like there was some untapped resource inside and I can do anything. This workout was not the Boston marathon, and although I do have a lot of motivation, over reaching myself in a workout now would most likely resulted in burnout or injury, which I will not risk. I’d rather be able to run at all in Texas than do anything crazy. A race is worth more than a workout.

Yesterday was a full day. I worked until 2 and then had an eye exam. I was a bit early for that, so I attempted once again to return my Mr. Buddy heater to Walmart. My parents had saved the box for some reason, so I brought it back and tried again. They took it! I was thrilled because as I bonus, I definitely only payed $40 for it…but it now retails for $60…so I now have a $64 Walmart giftcard. Better than nothing right?

(My new toaster hahaha)

I had my eye exam and spent way too long looking at frames. I only need them for reading, computer work and night driving, so I felt I could get whatever since I’d be alone when I’ll use them. I let my inner nerd flag fly and got librarian glasses…but not the “sexy librarian” ones that are so popular. Nope I got old lady librarian glasses. Wire frame, circular. The whole shebang. My sister could not believe I would get them. I FaceTimed with my mom when trying them on, and I got the ones my inner heart desired. Ohhh I cannot wait to wear them when I read!

My friend is running a 5k in two weeks…her first one…and she figures she should at least try to run. So she asked me to help her. So tomorrow we are going running, or jogging or walking whatever she wants to do. This morning she told me she was considering backing out because it seems like a lot more than she can do. Well duh it is but to be honest, she will get through it. I told her “it’s an hour of your life. You will get it done and feel proud in two weeks when you can look back and say you did it.”

I tried to think about that this morning during my run when it was really hard. I ended up running a half marathon this morning. 90 minutes if you include warm up and cool down. If I want to get philosophical, that’s a tiny fraction of the day, of my week and of my life. I can try hard for 90 minutes.

Breakfast: oatmeal with blueberries, strawberries, sugar and sunflower butter, apple and coffee

Running: 93 minutes

Strength work and visiting the parents

My Sunday began with 11 miles fromTurkey Hill to Forest Home. It was an ok run. My hip flexor started acting wonky towards the end of my runs this past week. I decided to work on this now before it becomes an issue. I spoke with a fellow trail runner and friend Danielle who lifts quite a lot (it’s a hobby, she’s a power lifter) and she gave me an idea of what I can do.

So yesterday morning I went to the gym and spent an hour lifting weights. It was actually kind of traditional and challenging. I am sore today, but it’s a good sore. My goal is injury prevention, not really strength. I feel like strengthening my lower limbs in this way will help.

After that I got lunch at Greenstar, dessert at Wegmans and went to hang with my parents for a few hours. My dad showed me the plot of land he envisions for my future. It’s quaint and adorable of course. I’ll keep that idea on the back burner. I could always live out of my van there for a week or so. A vacation. Lake view through the trees and my own well! My dad should have been a real estate agent.

I also worked a bit with and talked with my mom. She’s getting spring clothes out on the floor and putting winter things away. What I like most is talking with her, even if it gets painful or not happy. She shared some unfortunate news with me, so I’ll keep that in my prayers this week.

I also picked up my mail and I have a clean bill of health at the Gyno and my Empire Pass for all the state parks came in! I can now go to all of them for free!

I ended the night taking pictures at Agava and eating dinner. A great Sunday.

Breakfast: chocolate peanut butter and banana overnight oats with cashews and pumpkin seeds

Running: REST, I did Trail Runner Body instead

It’s not about achieving anything, it’s about exploration

When I read about vanlife, I thought I would feel this huge sense of accomplishment when I finally moved in. Now, I do feel good when everything works and I get on with my day with few mishaps. However, I think my reasons for living in a van has changed since I started.

I moved in to prove I could. I remain here because I enjoy it. I remain in a van because it taught me how to take care of myself at a basic level. I remain in a van because each time I wake up or try something new, I learn more. I experience more. It’s not about winning at vanlife (although I do love when I have a #vanlife win) it’s about exploring myself. It’s figuring things out, it’s creating new habits, it’s getting out of the cushy life I had forever.

I was offered an apartment essentially for free. I could live with my parents if I want. Not saying I won’t ever have to use those things (my van breaks, I break my leg, something out of my control happens) but I really don’t want to. I don’t think I’m better for doing it this way. In fact, I am technically homeless, I do not thing people should live that way if they don’t have to.

It is my privilege to choose this life. So I do choose it. Like I choose many things. Until it ceases to work for me, I choose this.

Yesterday was a busy day! It was very fun and satisfying, but by the time I got back to my van after work at 7:15PM, I couldn’t think so my dinner was sunflower butter and bananas. Just container to my mouth. Simple, no cooking, mindless.

Lunch was amazing. I love Ithaca Hummus so much and the roasted red pepper speaks to my soul 🙂

It’s a sign that warmer weather is coming and CTB will get busy. I think the slow of winter allows me to ramp up training easier because work isn’t as hard. I will need to prioritize recovery more than usual and consider CTB my second workout of the day. Also, DRINK more. I struggle so much with hydration. BAH! Then when I do drink, I pee about 4 times a night. Like last night. Good thing it was warm enough and I didn’t just hold it in because my cocoon was too nice to get out of.

Small blessings.

This morning was my first workout back since the race. I felt good and recovered, but the 6 tempo miles at my marathon pace (or my old marathon pace lol) were extremely humbling. Extremely. I hope I can get in a few good workouts between now and the marathon in Texas and then use the few days of driving as perfect recovery.

I got a new pair of Escalantes and a Kinvara last week from the running store and I already appreciate the feel. Now I have graduated my old Altras to my work shoes. My coworkers are impressed with their glow.

Tomorrow I’d like to get onto trails but it’s calling for freezing rain…so it might be more a hike and hope I survive…

Breakfast: sunflower butter and plum jam on sourdough and an apple

Running: 70 minutes

An offer from Papa Bear

Last night I got the most interesting call from my father. Actually I expected this, but wasn’t sure when he’d jump in with this idea. Ever since I told my mom I wasn’t parking in a spot with a hook up, I’d been waiting to see if he’d call and tell me how he was worried and try to talk me out of vanlife. That’s just how my dad is and I don’t find it annoying anymore, I listen to what he has to say and make my own decision.

Anyway, last night the call came. My dad asked about how I was doing and I told him things were good now that my heater was fixed and I have been self-sufficient for a few weeks now. Then came the offer and his grand plan. He has this idea that I should get a parcel of land (a mile away from them no doubt) and park my van there because it’s safer and better than living on the street. Or, I could stay with them this summer and commute to work. This was his grand plan.

Of course, it comes from love and he’s worried about big, bad Ithaca and the possibility that something could happen. I get it and so I’m going to do my diligence and think about it. Of course I don’t have any plan to change my situation, unless the unthinkable happens.

I really like vanlife. I chose this path because I wanted it, not because I was forced into it. I like solving problems, figuring things out and the feeling that I can live anywhere and move at any time. As soon as I pay off my last two loans, I’ll be scot free to do whatever I want. I enjoy the problem solving, the struggle and the sense of accomplishment when things go correctly. I like sleeping in my own bed before races or big events. I like the way I’ve changed.

There is also the fact that commuting would be another hour of my day, more gas mileage and that not only do I work for CTB but I also work for the gym and Agava, both of whom are here in Ithaca. It’s a lot of wasted time spent driving. Running takes at least 2 hours of the day with the drills and mobility work I do for it. Parking here is free where I do it but that’s because I have time to walk a bit to get where I need to go.

His offer is very kind. But I don’t see how it would work, and I also don’t really want to live in Interlaken nor do I want to drive to work. I like living a walking distance away. I like living small and not spending time taking care of stuff I don’t use. I chose this life to live simply, but also to get a sense of what it means to take care of myself. No landlord, learn how to get heat, use fire and gas without help, just become a more useful person. I get a huge sense of fulfillment doing it.

So for now, I will think about what he offered, and maybe throw him a bone and do it for a week as a vacation sometime this summer, but I don’t see myself doing it very long. Honestly, I would only be doing it for his peace of mind. Is that worth it? Does he deserve that? Maybe he does, so that’s why I’ll consider it. Because it would make my dad happy and I can do that.

Breakfast: sunflower butter and plum jelly on sourdough and an apple

Running: REST