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[US] I have a second chance at life. How do I succeed?

I recently became homeless due to several stupid mistakes I've made. I managed to get 30 days of housing at my local homeless shelter and I have a job. I make $1,800 a month after taxes, and have fantastic health and dental insurance that I don't need to pay for (long story).

After paying back a debt I owe to a fantastic friend, I'll have $1,300 saved in the upcoming month. What steps can I take to make sure I never reach this point again? Its been my dream to live a minimum frills life, think living in a van or such. I want the ultimate minimalist lifestyle, but without having to resort to living on the streets like my other homeless compatriots. If anyone out there has ever lived an alternative lifestyle successfully, I'd love to hear your thoughts. I am committed to living a harsh life as long as I can secure a financial safety net.

I have no dependents, debts (aside from my current debt with my friend), and my cost of living has been historically low. I don't want to rent an apartment again and I'm fine with the social repercussions of an alternative living style. I've been blessed with minimal responsibilities and want to make the most of it.

Sorry if I'm not making much sense.

tl;dr I want to live a minimal cost lifestyle on the road while maximizing my savings. I make $1,800 a month after taxes. What are some resources I could look at or things I can do to achieve that?

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level 1

I lived for 3 weeks in my car. Not because I wanted to, but because I had nowhere else to go. Got by on a sandwich a day. When I finally got a housing situation under my belt, a friend offered to buy me groceries and gas to get to a job interview. Cried that night.

Fast forward to a tick over 2 years. I now live very comfortably and am an important member of my company. I get to pursue my interests and I don't have to worry about becoming homeless again.

All that said, reading your story made me immensely proud of you. I wish you the best of luck on your journey to becoming a true nomad.

level 2

Congratulations on all your success, friend!

level 3

Thank you for the kind words!

level 1

Something to consider when living a nomadic lifestyle is personal hygiene.

I can't stress enough the importance of good hygiene in furthering your career, goals, love life, whatever.

level 2
Original Poster26 points · 8 months ago

Aside from using my local gym for my showers, brushing teeth, etc., is there anything that I might be forgetting about?

level 3

Yes: Make sure to wear deodorant everyday and keep your clothes (including jackets) clean. I've worked with a number of homeless and non-homeless individuals with poor hygiene who claim they shower everyday. If that's true, they're neglecting a lot of others things. Very hard to work with someone who smells (I'm the one providing the service, for reference; they're not coworkers).

level 3

Only partially related but don't neglect your healthcare.

level 3

There are excellent YouTube channels devoted to stealth urban van life.

level 3

Regularly doing laundry. If you shower regularly but don’t clean your clothes then you might as well have not showered.

level 1
27 points · 8 months ago

Have you checked out r/vandwellers ? They might be able to help a lot with your transition to an alternative lifestyle. No debt is a great start, but you'll have to build up the funds to afford a vehicle/maintenance/gas/food and whatever else supplies + an emergency fund for those unplanned expenses.

Good luck!

level 2
Original Poster13 points · 8 months ago

Ooooh, had no idea that subreddit existed. Thanks!

level 1
9 points · 8 months ago · edited 8 months ago

Is your dream consistent with your current reality? Don't allow a romantic vision to sabotage your standard of living.

Van to me makes sense if you're going to wander. If your new job means you have to stay in one area, how much sense does it really make? I assume you will need to spend some money to have a place to park it and sleep. It has to be insured. Then some additional money for a gym membership. Gas, maintenance, the van itself and properly outfitting it...

Depending where you live, sounds like you could afford an apartment. A cheap 400 sf studio apartment with a bathroom could be an enormous quality of life improvement over living in a van.

Just thoughts. I don't know if your job allows travel, the costs where you live, whether there are good public transportation options or if your work is bike-able etc. I applaud your minimalist lifestyle goals. Minimal could include a basic place to live.

level 2
Original Poster3 points · 8 months ago

After researching for a couple weeks on the topic of studio apartments, the cheapest I can find in my area is $700. That doesn't include utilities, trash, and internet. Realistically, it should come out to $850 or so a month to rent my own place. Then I'd still need transport to and from work. I think if I budget it right, the van and other expenses would pay for itself quite quickly.

level 3

Have you looked into getting a room in a house? That’s often way way cheaper than a studio apartment. Of course, you do have to deal with roommates that way.

level 4
Original Poster5 points · 8 months ago

I've thought about it, but the reality is I wouldn't be happy if I did that. Sure, I'd be saving money, but I've always been happier living alone. I feel constrained having to live with others. And hey, if van life doesn't work out for me, $700 a month honestly isn't too awful. Many people have made it work with shittier paychecks.

level 5

Fair enough, gotta pay attention to your mental health and happiness too!

level 1
14 points · 8 months ago · edited 8 months ago

Make a budget. Stick to that budget. Start saving as much money as possible so that you have options when obstacles get in your way. Having no debt is a great start.

Living an alternative lifestyle is possible with a comfy van and a relatively cheap membership at a 24-hr gym with showers. (Also a good opportunity to stay in shape since you’ll be stopping by the gym frequently to shower, etc.)

level 2
Original Poster10 points · 8 months ago

In anticipation, I got myself a gym membership at my local 24 hour gym. I couldn't live without a shower!

level 3

Make sure you use it for working out too ;)

level 1

I understand that you want to live a nomadic lifestyle, but speaking strictly from a long term perspective, I would urge you to consider renting a cheap no-frills apartment.

I was somewhat of a nomad at one point, but having a home base has a lot of advantages. A clean (relatively) place to take care of your morning ablutions is worth it, IMO.

That said, if you hell bent on living a nomadic lifestyle, there are plenty of videos on Youtube which will provide you a lot of information.

level 1

Make investments in yourself to start. In your spare time learn a marketable job skill like plumber or electrician so you can receive a better rate of pay. Once you have some extra income beyond what you need for basic food, clothing, shelter, buy assets like stocks and bonds that pay you for owning them. That is how you will increase your wealth and financial security. Stick with mutual funds from the Vanguard Group like Total Stock Market Index.

level 2
Original Poster7 points · 8 months ago

I'm actually going to a local college soon to learn machining to build and repair firearms. Should be done in about 1.5 years if all goes according to plan.

I'm going to research this whole mutual funds thing. I've heard those words tossed around before but I don't really know what they are.

level 3

Honestly, you don't need to worry about mutual funds yet. You have so little money that you don't need to be investing yet, you need to have cash available for day-day expenses.

Not trying to be rude, but prioritize your time on other things that are more timely.

level 3
  1. Get to where you are earning more than you spend. You seem on track - minimalist lifestyle and job.

  2. Accumulate an emergency CASH reserve (bank account, not investments) of 3-6 months living expenses

  3. If you have any debt, pay it off

  4. Start investing your savings

Don't jump to 4, work through things in this order.

level 3
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level 4
Original Poster1 point · 8 months ago

Got it boss. I'll work hard and get to a point in life where things like investments start to take on meaning.

level 3
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level 4
Original Poster1 point · 8 months ago · edited 8 months ago

Already said that I'm enrolled in a machining class at my local CC haha

level 5
1 point · 8 months ago

Which is why i said stop. Machining is not going to be a secure income, nor secure job prospect imo.

level 1

Go look up elementvanlife on youtube. He travels in a honda element, and on his q&a videos he usually discusses how much he spends per month on expenses

level 2
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level 3
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level 4
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level 1

They are really some interesting tiny homes on wheels fact they have a show about it . Sounds like that may be a start for you see if you like it .

level 1

If you are completely new to personal finance, you may want to look into Dave Ramsey’s baby steps. It’s a very good and easy to follow way to gain some financial independence for your self.

Good luck!!

level 1


I don’t have advice to share, but I just want to say I am very proud and happy for you for what you have accomplished!

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