A friend of ours just completed a five month adventure of living from their car in Newport News, VA. Don’t listen to the naysayers. It can be done, and it will save you a ton of money. She did this out of choice, also while bootstrapping her startup. Her monthly costs were a rough total of $339. $100 for a 24/7 co-working membership, $89 for auto insurance, $39 for a 24/7 gym membership, and $120 at the grocery store. Here’s how the logstics of it all worked…
Car: If you don’t have a car, get one. It is key to making this lifestyle work. You don’t need to worry about a homeless shelter, and you can store all your possessions in it (all she had was a duffle bag, her laptop, sleeping stuff, and food). It’s the one consistent place you can depend on. You’ll be able to buy a cheap one for less than a month’s rent in the Bay Area. She had a 2001 Honda Civic.
Sleeping: Sleeping is obviously super important if you expect to be in good mental standing everyday. She made it work by folding down the rear seats and laying a 3″ foam mattress pad from the truck to the rear of the interior. She is a little under 6 feet tall and could stretch out entirely while laying down. It’s not as comfortable as a bed, but surprisingly, it’s not as bad as you’d think. She slept fully through the nights.
Showering: She bought a 24 Hour Fitness membership to take care of her hygienic needs. Every morning, She’d wake up and drive to the gym to take a shower. Then, like every other normal person, she’d head off to work. She found that having 24/7 access was really nice in case she had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. She’dalways park within a few miles (and many times as close as the parking lot). If you’re looking for a less expensive option, there are some gyms that are as low as $15/mo.
Working and free time: she signed up for a Hacker Dojo co-working membership. This is primarily where she spent all her time. They provide fast internet, a microwave, coffee, water, couches, community, etc. For only $100/mo, it’s a no brainer. **Do not take advantage of their space. Don’t use it to sleep in or steal from. Just common sense.
Eating: She stored almost all her food in her car. The small amount of perishable food she did have, she used the Hacker Dojo refrigerators. These are communal, so I chose not to store much in them. However, I would use their microwave everyday to heat my meals. Mainly, just get stuff that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. However, it is definitely a challenge to eat healthy, as high sodium is going to be prevalent in nearly all canned foods. Just be cautious.
Parking: She was only slightly disturbed once when a police officer spotlighted her car. She sat up from her back seat, looked at him, and then he simply drove away.
When looking for locations to park, her focus was on being unnoticed. Anywhere with little foot traffic is best. There are countless other places that will work well. She found these by taking an afternoon to just randomly drive around.
Privacy: Tint your windows: If you want your privacy, tint your windows. This was one of the best decisions she made, as it really helped me to fly under the radar. I went with a 23% tint that cost about $130 professionally installed. It wasn’t pitch black, but it was dark enough where you couldn’t see in during the night, and made you and your possessions not obvious during the day. Sun shade: Get a $5 sun shade to put in the windshield while you sleep. Rear screen: Do the same with a mesh screen for the rear window.
She Admitted, it’s nicer to be living in an apartment, but if you’re in desperate need to cut costs, a car will be your best friend.
On a side note, there’s another fantastic benefit that comes from living like this – embracing a minimalistic perspective on life. It’s easy to lose sight of how privileged the majority of us are, but there are many, many people without these basic things, even the simple things in life could bring more happiness than a world of possessions.
You have to take the negativity with a grain of salt. You know your situation better than anyone, so just trust yourself.