Your Opinion on my Budget and Van Options?

I have a few different options I am considering. If you don’t mind helping me think this through, I’d love your feedback.

Here is my current monthly budget:

  • Rent: $450
  • Food: $250
  • Car: $360
  • Gas : $100
  • Auto ins: $80
  • Life ins: $30
  • Phone: $100
  • Medical: $105
  • Web sites: $40
  • Child care: $250

Total: est. $1,800


  • Camry: Just under $12K at 6%
  • *note: I am not including student loans because it is not a variable and because I am eligible for loan forgiveness if I continue to work in non-profits.


  • $17K (Will be used to pay for the rest of my tuition/books on April 1st ($12k) and subsidize my living expenses until I graduate.)

Current earnings:

  • Varies, but usually about $1,500 a month.


These are some of the options I am considering:

The Super Simple Option

living in a roadtrek 170Use my cash savings to pay for a 10-15 year old Roadtrek van; drop my rent ($450) and Camry payment ($360)

Save $810 a month

Apply for food stamps while I’m in school (18 more months)

Save $250 a month

Using the van as my daily driver would double or triple my fuel costs to $300 a month.

Add $200 month

Total savings: $860 mo

Monthly budget: $940 a month

Total debt: NONE!

Advantages of this plan:

  • Lowering my monthly expenses AND my overall debt provides level of simplicity that is extremely appealing.
  • A 10-15 year old Roadtrek would be pretty stealthy in most urban situations when I am traveling.


  • This van would likely attract unwanted looks in the very affluent areas where I live and work. (My brother has a maintenance company so he drives a cargo van. He is constantly getting stopped and searched.)
  • The lower mpg means I probably won’t be able to take many long trips. (The whole plan is to be able to move around, so this is a pretty big deal to me!)

The Veggie Oil Option

living in a sprinter vanUse $10K cash as a down payment for a used diesel at about $35k. Drop rent, but still have a van pymt

Save $450

Food stamps while I am in school

Save $250

Use cash for veggie oil conversion ($4k?)

Save $100-$300 monthly (more significant savings for travel, such as $800 in gas for summer trip to a family reunion)

Total savings: $800 mo

Monthly budget: $1,000 mo

Total debt: $25K for van note


  • Eco-friendly option has a huge appeal
  • FREE fuel! FREE travel for long trips! (I want to drive up the West coast; I think this savings would really add up over time.)
  • I am very familiar with the Sprinter chassis/engine


  • Taking on more debt feels like the wrong choice.
  • I think Sprinters are a bit less stealthy on the road


If I use my cash for my van, then I will pay-as-I-go with school due to my lower monthly expenses.

Please tell me what you think. I am starting to live out of my Camry! It isn’t easy, but I am learning. I will post an update on my set up soon.

Hope you are well!



p.s. I found a great blog by a younger solo woman RVer. She is debt free an posted a very detailed overview of her RV and living expenses yesterday here

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