Frugal Living

Keeping Tabs on Your Finances as a Van Lifer

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a digital nomad are clear — you get to travel and get paid while you’re doing it.

There are, however, some pitfalls. Living van life, it can be easy to assume vacation-mode and put those important long-term financial goals on the back burner. It’s important not to go down this route, even if you’re only away for a short period of time. 

It’s vital, and possible, to maintain savings accounts that satiate those long-term goals while allocating cash to financial safety nets in case of a present-day emergency.

Read on for some top tips on how to manage your money as a van lifer.

Create a Just-in-Case Fund

A just-in-case fund is highly recommended whatever your employment situation, nomad or not. Having a fund that’s exclusively for emergencies can alleviate the financial pressure from a potentially stressful situation. Allocate three to six months’ worth of predicted expenses to an account, just in case.

You should also research your options in the unfortunate instance you encounter an emergency when you’re travelling — like your van breaks down, and you haven’t had the chance to top up your ‘just-in-case’ reserve following another poorly timed crisis earlier in your trip.

If your credit card is at its limit, finding a virtual lender is one of the easier ways to apply for assistance. Not only is it quicker to search for lenders online, but it might be more accessible. 

Van lifers can find themselves in some pretty small towns in Canada, where there aren’t many physical locations that take applications.. You can even be in the middle of the Canadian wilderness. As long as you get Wi-Fi, you can find reputable and transparent lenders who offer online loans in Canada. Here, you know you can start the application process from a lay by, deep in the Canadian Rockies, on your phone or laptop, all while waiting for a tow truck to arrive.

Another tip before you depart on your trip: know your credit score. Your credit score will play a role should you need to apply for a personal loan. Knowing your score will help you to better understand your chances for a successful application and the costs that might come with it.

Recommended: A virtual service whereby a company will receive your mail and send it to you on the road

Have a Final Figure in Mind

In a post about financial success, it seems counterintuitive to tell you that one of the most sensible suggestions is to know your limit and when to call it a day.

If your savings are depleting quicker than freelance contracts are coming in, you don’t want to risk compromising your hard-earned cash or getting into multiple avenues of debt. Have a limit in mind, and know that it’s time to head home and regroup when you reach that mark.


Monitor Income and Expenses

Income will be relatively easy to establish if your day job hasn’t changed in any capacity. Breakdown your income into categories, much as you would if you were at home, such as food, luxuries, gas, and insurance — to name a few expenses. 

Being new to van life, it might be hard to calculate or gauge your outgoings — for example, you may be staying on different sites where nightly fees fluctuate. Make sure to log every expense and to revisit your income and expenses once a month. You’ll have a better idea on areas to cut back if you’re exceeding your limits, and you might be able to spot areas where money can be reallocated or deposited into an emergency fund.

Foster Daily Budgeting Habits

Have a second-tier budget for day-to-day expenses. While an allocation of finances is routinely recommended for big-picture costs, having a budget that you keep a close eye on for the small stuff can be equally as beneficial. To get started, you may want to allocate $5 each day for coffee or $10 per week for laundry, for example.

Keeping within the parameters of a daily budget will help keep you on track and in check when it comes to your larger, overall budgeting.

Guarantee You Will Receive Correspondence

Before you hit the road, make sure that you’ve set up your virtual banking so that you get e-statements, account updates and other monthly messages virtually, doing the same for any other insurance policies you might have.

For other correspondence pertinent to finance that requires a physical address, like taxes, use a family address or pay for a virtual service whereby a company will receive your mail and send it to you on the road.

Risking a missed message from the revenue agency letting you know that you owe back taxes from the year prior can end up costing you in the long haul if it’s not managed in good time. Of course, in some rare cases, you may even encounter legal action.

Continue Savings Contributions

One of the most important financial aspects that you need to keep in mind is to continue savings contributions. Losing the momentum and the familiarity of regular savings is a dangerous habit and not something you want to fall out of. 

Set Up Security on Your Devices

If you’re logging on to public-serving Wi-Fi on your travels, it’s vital to have appropriate security protection in place. You’re likely logging on to virtual banking and inputting your information to pay for things on the road with your credit card; and these are all playground pieces of information for unscrupulous cyber criminals.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) will protect your data from corruption. It encrypts your data as it comes and goes from your device and acts as a protective shield so your personal information and any messages from your laptop are not visible to others as they pass through a public network.

The Takeaway

Van life is a fantastic way to travel, explore and make the most of the freedom that a work-from-home or freelance life can offer. By setting up budgets, contributing to both savings and emergency funds and protecting your personal data from a costly breach, you’re well on your way to keeping tabs on your finances as a van lifer.

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