(And no, we don't get paid to travel.)
There’s no denying that six months of living on the road can make quite the dent in your bank account, but is it really as unattainable as you think? For those of you that believe you’re required to save thousands upon thousands before even thinking to plan your escape from the hustle and bustle of city living - you are quite mistaken!
Before setting off on your road trip adventure its a good idea to have a sufficient amount of money in your bank account, as you most likely will not have a steady income until you return home. (Unless you plan to work whilst travelling then this probably isn't a priority.)
How much money exactly will determine entirely on how long you plan on staying on the road! We try to save $1,000 AUD per month (each), but usually get away with spending about $600 each per month. Now this will differ from person to person, car to car and country to country but you should always try and save more than you think you will spend just so you can travel comfortably! Theres nothing worse than being stranded thousands of kilometres away from home with a depleting bank account and lack of phone reception.
Now this cost covers everything from food, accomodation, fuel, alcohol (this is a big one) our monthly phone bill (Telstra ain’t cheap, but at least we still get reception), gym memberships, and also those special and rare novelties whilst travelling - like a nice dinner out or a surreal scenic flight!
The greatest expense for us would be fuel which significantly boosts up our monthly total. Travelling up to 5,000km a month (roughly 3,106 Miles) means regular fuel top ups, but luckily for us the van is diesel which is far more efficient and more available in remote areas.
If your motives and plans whilst living on the road are less exploration and more for practical purposes than your costs would decrease substantially. We spend a lot more because we are constantly moving from place to place to experience as much of our country as possible.
We save our money when we are between larger trips and living in our hometown. Working part time/casually allows for us to have a steady income from working 3-4 days a week whilst travelling locally the remainder of those days. During this time our only real expenses are food. Parking at local beaches and living on the coast free camping can be as affordable as $150-$250 a month including phone bills and all other expenses. Camping locally means your fuel is few and far and your expenses are incredibly less!
Whilst on the road it is easy to walk down the aisles at Coles/Woolworths Supermarket stores and get tempted by specials or just get carried away in general. There are few things harder than walking past the confectionary aisle with the Lindt chocolate bars staring you in the face.
Prioritising expenses, especially food choices, can save you a lot of money each week. Cheap meals don’t have to mean that they are tasteless or unenjoyable (we intend to share some killer delicious and damn affordable recipes with you guys), but they definitely bring down your average monthly costs.
Finding affordable ingredients to make cheaper meals has definitely been a learning curve for us. Previously our breakfast consisted of a bowl of granola with yoghurt, delicious but expensive (I think we calculated that we were spending about $2 each per breakfast -so about $14 a week.) Our morning ritual is now spent eating a large bowl of porridge with banana and brown sugar, sometimes mixing it up by adding some coconut, apple or chocolate! This delicious brekkie only costs us $0.40 each every day or $2.8 a week - thats more like it! Our choice of milk also saves us money as we buy full cream and water it down. (Its exactly the same as drinking lite or skim milk) Having half milk and half water not only tastes the same as equally priced lite milk, it saves us spending double the cost.
Lunch choices changed from sandwiches with ham and cheese where half the loaf of bread would go to waste going mouldy or stale, to HomeBrand two minute noodles, eggs or baked beans on corn crisps which are all options that preserve and are much more affordable
One big financial lesson we learnt was alcohol. Like most we enjoy a couple of beverages in the afternoon but the choices on what you drink could either make or break the bank whilst travelling.
If you don’t have a particularly required taste when it comes to what you drink and feel you are spending a bit too much on that beer or moscato then there is a bit of mathematics you might like to try!
A standard case of beer will probably cost you around $45 with an average of 28.8 standards.$45/28.8 standards = $1.50 for each drink. Sticking to cheaper beers found at Dan Murphys or Aldi for $30 a case also having 28.8 standards will only cost you $1.
Recently we rediscovered port, and for around $9 this fortified wine gets you 28 delicious drinks, only costing us $0.30 every drink. Also being Australian means we do enjoy our goon which is the definition of affordable drinking. There’s nothing like a glass of red with dinner thats only costs you $0.25 per standard! Definitely more in our budget.
Being self sufficient whilst on the road is the main reason we are able to travel affordably for such a long period of time - becoming self sufficient however, can be a long and hard process.
Having a wide range of knowledge when it comes to the mechanics, electronics and wiring of your car will certainly help, if not a lot of research and plenty of youtube videos should do the trick!
Thankfully Mitch already had a pretty good idea about these aspects but was able to understand them with greater detail after watching countless videos and reading many articles on the internet - which has also been a great benefit when something is not quite right with the battery, wiring, solar, fridge etc. Its better to be able to get yourself our of strife then pay for someone else’s opinion!
The most important way we are able to stay off the grid is with our solar panel. Having constant access to energy allows us to travel around stress free whilst on the road. Our adventures and choice for camp spots are unlimited as we aren't dependent on locating somewhere to plug in for power or pick a spot where generators are allowed.
On days where we are driving for a longer period our alternator will charge both our primary and second battery (Its safe to say my understanding of the electronics is very limited but Mitch will later cover how everything works and is setup!) which allows us to charge up our phones, laptop, cameras, fridge, speakers etc.
For those hidden gem camping spots you find yourself never wanting to leave, our solar does all the work! Provided its sunny or at least not too cloudy we are able to stay in the one spot using the same amount of energy.
How does this save us money? Solar makes free camping a guarantee. There’s nothing more obvious than a caravan running a generator under a no camping sign at night - attracting a lot of attention and annoying the locals. Noise free and lightweight we can also store our power source on the roof allowing our one bedroom home to have plenty more space!
Free camping is not as stressful or difficult as you may think, when you're camping in a popular town/city the key is just to not be loud, annoying and clean up after yourself - having curtains to hide the fact you're sleeping inside also helps. We have avoided fines and talks from authorities after camping in some pretty touristy locations - Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays, Bondi in Sydney, Cairns Esplanade, next to caravan parks and all up the East Coast of Australia.
Remaining stealth whilst free camping also prevents us spending $15-$30 a night to stay in a caravan park for power (although we do have the ability to plug in but have not needed it once since its installation.) Whilst caravan parks may be suitable for some it is just not in our price range as it would increase our monthly expenses by at least $360 - one reason we have never stayed in one.
As well as power you may also be spending $30 a night for a refreshing or warm shower. To help us stay clean we use our own rooftop solar shower to wash ourselves or just as easily we go for regular swims in freshwater swimming holes or saltwater beaches when they are available!
So far during the 2 months we have been travelling we have spent $0 on accomodation.
Thanks to our freely available energy we are able to consistently run our fridge. This allows us to stock up on perishables and saves us from having to shop at small and often more expensive shops in smaller towns. Having the fridge also stops us spending $15 a week on ice for an esky and it also keeps our drinks icy cold.
Every cent and every dollar counts whilst being on the road. Saving, prioritising expenses, research and some simple additions to our home has saved us so much money and are the reasons we can travel freely without a set itinerary or time limit.