Van Life | How to Pay Your Bills in the Beginning


One of the hardest parts of making the initial leap into living on the road full- time is figuring out how you’re going to make money doing it. Maybe you want to start a business of some kind while you travel but that takes time to build into a full- time income. So what can you do to pay your bills when you first? Well it honestly takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and thinking outside the traditional box. Not everyone is willing to do all of this and that’s totally okay. It can be uncomfortable at times to be uncertain but that’s honestly part of the risk sometimes! If you want it bad enough, you will do whatever it takes. Some of you may already have income on the road completely figured out and that’s awesome! But this is more for us, who want to hit the road while still trying to get that part sorted out.

These are some of the steps I took when I first hit the road to make sure I could pay my bills and put gas in the tank.

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Creating a budget for myself was a huge part of me knowing exactly how much I needed for the month to cover all my costs. I wrote down exactly how much I would allow myself to spend on food, gas, and then my fixed bills that wouldn’t change. You may not like having a strict budget with yourself but sometimes to be living the life you want, there has to be sacrifice somewhere.

This is essentially what it would like if I broke down my current monthly costs. 

Monthly Costs

$ 1,400
  • Van Insurance – $100
  • Gym/Spotify/Netflix – $30
  • Gas & Food – $500
  • Student Loan – $500
  • Van Payment – $270



The skill of being a good money saver is one that can be determining factor of making it and not making it. I have been saving towards various things for so many years now that I’ve really become totally accustomed to it. When I want something and I know finances are my biggest milestone, I will do whatever it takes to make it happen. This is what I did to save money for a down payment on the van and cover the entire build.

  • Take all your extra clothes to Plato’s Closet
  • Sell all your furniture because you’re not gonna need it anymore
  • Say goodbye to buying new clothes and Starbucks lattes for a good while
  • If you have time and are able to, get a second job. I worked 6-7 days a week before van life to pay for the build.
  • Remind yourself constantly that everything will be so incredibly worth it in the end.


Once you get on the road, there are still numerous ways to save money.

  • Don’t feel rushed. If you love a city, stay there for a couple weeks. This will save you tons of money on gas.
  • Don’t eat out often. Grocery shopping instead of eating out can make a big difference.
  • Download apps like Ibotta that save you money when you do grocery shop and goes straight to your bank account.
  • Find free activities in cities instead of paid tours and parks. There are always free things to do.
  • Get a National Parks Pass instead of paying at each one. It will save you down the line 100%.

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Okay, and finally the reason you most likely came to this! The other aspects are just as important so I had to be sure and cover all of it. BUT now, how are you going to actually make money on the road when you are just starting up your business and/or figuring things out? Some of these may not be your dream job (definitely won’t be your dream job) but they will provide you with enough money to get from point A to B and put food in the fridge. 

Dog Walking

There’s an app called Wag that you may have heard of but it’s honestly a great way to make spare cash on the road. You can update your location and it will show all walks available in our area. I did this when I first got on the road and would walk 3-4 dogs a day maybe 3 days a week. The walks are usually 30 minutes and you get paid about $12 per dog plus opportunity for a tip. This is an easy way to make $150 a week or so, set our own schedule, and walk even more if you want to make more money! There are also opportunities to stay over night to dog sit if the owner is going out of town.

The only downside with this is that it isn’t super busy in each city. But it’s definitely growing in popularity, and there are plenty of cities where it is pretty busy.

Tasks & Delivery

I would also check out the websites Taskrabbit and Handy for doing different tasks around the cities you are traveling. Taskrabbit is my favorite because they have an opportunity to do personal assistant work and I can make money doing small writing jobs or data entry right off my laptop in a coffee shop. They also have things like “standing in line” for someone or “food delivery”. There are tons of different tasks and they vary per city. You also get to make your own rates with this which is nice!

Postmates and Instacart is also possible because you do have a car! It’s even better if you want to do it in a big city and have a bike to ride around so you don’t spend on gas. You can easily do this just on the weekends or evenings to make money. You typically have to stay in one city for this so I recommend finding somewhere you love and exploring there for a couple months while making money!

Hosting or Teaching

I always recommend people to see all of the different ways people are earning on Airbnb Experience. When I was on the road with a partner, we hosted gourmet dinners in the van at the beach to couples looking for a cute date or interested in van life. There are people who teach yoga on the beach or teach rock climbing for an a couple hours. You can get a better idea if you look around the website but if you have any particular skill that you think others would be interested in, you can easily host an experience and make really good money doing it.

You have to apply for each city separately. But once you get approved, you can set the schedule for each city when you know you’ll be there. So it is still easy to travel and revisit the cities often that you know bring you good business and you love to be in!

Other Jobs

A couple other things worth looking into:

Babysitting on an app called Urbansitter where you can filter for “one time” and help parents on date nights or in last minute need of a sitter.

 Lastly, try your hand at Youtube or blogging. You can make a full- time income doing this. I never in a million years thought I could turn this blog into a full- time income but somehow it’s happened! This is the “Business of Blogging” course that I took that changed the game for me and taught me everything I needed to know about blogging. Youtube can also make great money with adsense so it’s definitely worth a try!

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