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[Instagram] van life? 1-5K a month, unlimited rainy day fund (daddy’s wallet). Real van lifer? 400- 1kish per month. 500 -10k rainy day fund. – HighRandomthoughts1)

How much does it cost?

There are many answers to this question, and the only real answer is what it costs YOU to live a nomadic life.

The general pattern is you can do things a cheap way, an average way, or an expensive way depending on your lifestyle.

cheap average expensive
vehicle what you own what you buy what you finance
build minimal build DIY build factory build
food scratch cooking cooking with some eating out eating out
campsites boondocking public campgrounds private campgrounds
fuel staying put moving occasionally always on the go

Less than $1000/month

In this category you can find members of the Cheap RV Living forum, Social Security beneficiaries, disabled veterans, private pensioners, and minimalists. Boondocking or stealth camping is the norm. A campground with hookups is a rare indulgence. Often found in the company of a dog, sometimes found in loose groups of fellow boondockers.

The boondocking/snowbirding lifestyle can be about $500/mo for folks who are willing to:

  • pay off all their debt before heading out
  • camp only on free sites
  • for longer amounts of time2) instead of driving regularly
  • cook for oneself
  • bring beer instead of buying it at a bar
  • have cheap hobbies like reading or hiking instead of (for example) streaming premium services over expensive mobile data plans

$1000 to $2000/month

Modern working-age nomads usually get by in this range. They will sometimes boondock, sometimes park in Walmart lots, and sometimes stay in reasonable parks with hookups.

People who boondock in large Class A or fifth wheel RVs may fit in this category.

more than $2000/month

It is possible to spend way more than $2000/month but in general this category is inhabited by the comfortably retired. They can afford to drive expensive RVs and put down anchor in nice campgrounds (or even resorts!) with full hookups. Sometimes the less-eager partner needed to be bribed with luxury features.3)

Also in this section: Instragrammers and trustafarians4) who are able to pawn off expenses onto tax writeoffs, sponsorships, or family trusts.

federal income tax ramifications

[note: this is not tax advice, do your own research]

Living on small amounts of income may result in your owing no federal income tax “as long as your [earned] income is less than your standard deduction” ($12,200 in 2019, or $13,850. for those 65+).5) This is just over the $1000/mo mark described above.

Even if filing isn't required, it may be a good idea since it starts the IRS 3 year statute of limitations timer on audits.6)

State of domicile will affect whether or not you pay state income tax.

unearned income

V.A. disability payments are non-taxable (“not included in your gross income”).7)

Social Security payments

In most cases, if you only receive Social Security benefits then you would not have any [federally] taxable income and therefore would not need to file a tax return.8) States that do not tax SS income.

Having earned income in addition to SS income can result in paying taxes on some amount of SS.


Taxes must be paid on self-employment income over $400 total, even though clients don't have to issue the 1099-MISC until payments reach $600.9)

further reading

lifestyle/expenses.txt · Last modified: 2020/10/11 19:48 (external edit)