In the last few years, I've read stories of people forced to survive by using their cars (or vans) as sleeping quarters. The latest comes from a story published on Zero Hedge this morning, titled 'Gen-Zers give up on tiny homes as car living takes off' about a young man in the USA who lives in his 2009 Kia Rio and uploads videos of his adventures as he lives rent free while traveling the country. He uses a little portable stove to cook his food in parking lots and goes to a network of Planet Fitness gyms to exercise and shower. To earn extra cash, he does the odd side gigs such as with Door Dash and Instacart.
I read a similar story about 5 years ago or so about a young male college student who, while struggling to pay his way through college, decided it was much cheaper to buy an old van and convert it into living quarters and of course, use the local gym to exercise and shower. Instead of paying ridiculous dorm fees, he found himself enjoying his life again, spending more time outdoors and seeing the world.
The obvious reason young people are resorting to living in their vehicles is the high costs of rent and home ownership. When it comes to home ownership, it's not just the mortgage payments and property taxes that are a crusher but also the ever increasing costs of utilities such as electricity and gas. Home ownership mean you must buy a refrigerator and stove, washer and dryer, furnace and air conditioning. If anything breaks down unexpectedly, the cost is on you. Then, there's roof repairs and other costly upgrades. Should I also mention having to mow the lawn often or shoveling snow in winter?
When I was in my mid thirties in the early 2000s, I was struggling. The dot com bubble had burst and the economy went down the drain. I was laid off just as 9/11 happened. What little money I had, I bought an old trailer for $1,000 from my parents that was parked in a local, seasonal campground. I moved in as soon as the campground open on May 1 and paid for the entire season, May 1 to Mid-October, so about 5 and a half months. At the time, the total cost was less than $700 for the entire season. They provided full bathroom and shower facilities as well as a coin laundry room.
This arrangement saved my hide! I did this for the next few summers while I rented a room at my sister's house during the winter months. It was great while it lasted. The campground was soon sold to new owners who, year after year kept raising fees. By the time I left, seasonal fees had skyrocketed over $2,200. I'm sure it's close to $3,000 these days.
As for those resorting to living in their cars, I can certainly relate. Truth is, it's a viable option, especially if one lives in warmer climates. If the vehicle is paid for, the cost of rent is eliminated. A little stove using a gas canister is all one needs to cook a decent meal (See FireMaple below). As for keeping fruits and veggies fresh, do like the Japanese do. Go buy fresh on a daily basis.
The climate has changed since I was struggling in the early 2000s. National gym chains have sprung up everywhere. Buying a low, monthly membership allows one to literally travel the country for pennies on the dollar. Why rent a hotel room when you can just sleep in your vehicle and then go to the gym in the morning to exercise and shower and then move on to the next town you're in the mood to visit.
If anything, it encourages those who choose to live this way to stay fit and active by going to the gym every day. I don't think that's a bad thing. As for the fellow featured in the Zero Hedge article, he probably makes some extra cash from Youtube's Adsense program, hopefully enough to cover the gas needed to travel the country as he does.
(See Solar Camper Car's video on Youtube, 'Living in my car at N.Y.'s most dangerous city
Who needs a McMansion that'll just hold you down when you can get a car or van and just take off and live free? There are now too many examples of people who've slaved all their lives at some grungy 8 or more hours a day job, pay income tax and all sorts of insurance and ended up with nothing more than what they started with. It may seem as if people who live in cars are bums but in reality, they may be among the smartest.
The biggest overhead one can have is home ownership. With 10% down, one will pay double (or more) the original selling price because of crazy interest rates applied over the duration of your mortgage, a French word which quite literally translates to 'death bond' or 'death pledge'. Living in your car or van frees you of such bondage.
Of course, this isn't for everyone but if it ever gets down to the nitty gritty, don't hesitate to use your vehicle as a place to sleep soundly. A van would be better as it has more room. If you don't have a vehicle, consider moving into a campground that has low fees. You can even start by living in a tent as you work your way up to buying a camper. Some tents these days have multiple rooms which is perfect for a couple with kids. Most campgrounds have a swimming pool and playground for the kids and also provide electricity so if it were to get cold on an August evening, you could plug in an electric heater.
While campground fees have certainly gone up, they are still a much cheaper alternative than renting. Still, living in your car or van for a spell could save you a ton of money. Those that are seem to be happy with their arrangements. They have learned to fend for themselves, all while living a carefree lifestyle. Kudos to them.
Usually, with freedom comes happiness! So next weekend, let's meet up at Dave's car for one hell of a party!
Now I've got Gary Newman's 1979 hit 'Cars' playing over and over in my head....
Peace and love to everyone.
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