Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Looks Like It’s Time to Move Along…

So..it’s been a sh!tty few days here at the Funny Farm. So much so, I’m thinking there really isn’t much to hold me here in lovely uptown Phoenix, a city deliberately cloned on another city I’ve long detested, Los Angeles. This afternoon I started thinking — seriously — about unloading most of the junk and moving somewhere far, far away. Preferably in another time and in another galaxy.

Looks like it’s time to move along…

But where?

Locally, there’s Prescott, a nice little burg where the summers are cooler and the ambience is a little more small town. Payson: a little too embedded in forest-fire country for my taste. Tucson: another developer’s hell. Moving on… Patagonia, Sonoita: maybe. Probably chez pitz unless you have a fair amount of cash, though. New Mexico? Can’t afford Santa Fe and not impressed with other venues I’ve visited there. Idaho: too cold in the winter. Oregon, Washington: can’t afford it. California: can’t afford that, in spades, and don’t want to live in dread of forest fires, mudslides. and earthquakes.

{sigh} Thinking on the question while cruising the Internet, what should I come across this afternoon but a YouTube squib about some poor homeless woman who’s living (happily, to hear her tell it!) out of her car for $800 a month:

Eight hundred bucks a month? Unless she’s making a car payment on the clunk — or buying a lot of meds out of pocket — that seems a little high. Especially since, because she’s using an old milk bottle as her toilet, she seems not to be haunting campgrounds.

If your car is paid for, what do you have by way of costs?

  • Groceries and personal items — a couple hundred bucks a month, at most.
  • Gasoline — depends on how much you drive. In my vehicle, I’d expect a couple hundred miles on a $30 fill-up. Say you don’t drive every day (why would you, if you come to rest in a decent free or cheap spot?)…a hundred bucks would take you, maybe, 700 miles…that’s a lot of territory. A lot of free or nearly free state and federal parks. Hm. $122 + $100 = $222.
  • Occasional stop to revive, take a private shower, get a decent meal: YMCA costs $22.50 a month. Okay, we’re at $244.50.
  • Car insurance: My car insurance was $1400 this year; about $117 a month, bringing the tab to $361 a month.
  • Campgrounds: BLM, national forests, and national grasslands are free. Average cost for a night in an RV park is about $30, but in many you get a hot tub, showers, and a laundromat. So, if you camped on public lands say, 6 nights a week, and then visited a fancy resort (as it were) once a week, that would rack up another $120 a month: total: $481.
  • Car upkeep: depends on how handy you are and what kind of condition your clunk is in. Maybe on average ±$50 a month ?? If it averages out to $50 a month (in addition to gasoline), then we’re at around $531.

That leaves about $270 for clothing, sight-seeing, an occasional night in a motel…hmmmm…. From that, pay for a rented mailbox to give yourself a place to receive mail and provide a fake address for things like voting and registering the vehicle…not much. You’d still end up about $200 less than the purported $800.

This assumes you already own a full complement of camping gear. Of course, if you were gonna take off for the open road, you’d sell all your worldly goods, leaving more than enough money to buy everything you’d need to live on the road. This lady sleeps in her car. It being a small sedan, that sounds like an extraordinarily uncomfortable arrangement. My vehicle, on the other hand, being a crossover, has plenty of space in the back — fold down the back seats and there’s room for two adults to sleep uncomfortably or one to stretch out with her dogs. You’d probably want a tent and various other camping tools, though, since in dry conditions tenting is probably more comfortable than sleeping in the back of a vehicle.

Much of this stuff would be one-time buy:

Some of it would be pricey: a tent’s not cheap, for example. Neither, obviously, are a pistol or shotgun and ammo. Or a decent sleeping bag.

Things like toothpaste, laundry detergent, stuff for cooking (salt, pepper, cooking oil, etc.), paper towels, and the like would be covered in the “grocery and personal items” budget. Phone: throwaway thing with minutes. Very cheap.

I fail to see how this would cost you $800 a month, unless you were staying in campgrounds often. But you wouldn’t have to. There are a lot of places to throw down for free. Indeed, these YouTube videos look like they were made in a place up the road, westerly and northerly of lovely Phoenix, where groups of footloose people bivouac out on the desert. It may not be altogether legal, but no one seems to stop them.

Personally, I prefer to camp in solitude, preferably by a lake or river where one can bathe and get water to boil for cooking and drinking. Silence, after all, is golden.

SDXB and I traveled in this mode all over the backcountry of Alaska and Canada. In summer, it was a lot of fun, fairly easy, and amazingly cheap — we traveled for three months for under a thousand bucks. That included airline fare to and from the Northwest, and bus fare across the Canadian plains.

For awhile, we also had a lash-up very much like the one this lady is traveling in:

There are some serious drawbacks to the camper lifestyle, and it’s probably not something you’d want to take up as a permanent dwelling. Although we had a friend who did so, pretty much. Here are the issues.

  • A camper is expensive to buy and expensive to maintain (not to say a giant PITA to maintain).
  • The camper also limits the kinds of places you can go: it has to be set up on level ground (or leveled with those stanchions you see in the video), and it torques if you try to drive it across an arroyo or riverbed on a dirt road.
  • This means you find yourself spending a lot more nights in paying campgrounds than one would like.
  • It uses far more gasoline even than an SUV, to say nothing of a sedan or crossover vehicle. It uses more gas than an unadorned pickup, for that matter.
  • It’s hard to park it in a grocery store or motel parking lot.
  • It’s like pasting a sign on your back reading “Burgle me!”

But it has some major advantages. Videlicet:

  • Air conditioning!
  • Heating
  • A shower (not very usable, but there it is)
  • A toilet (which has to be emptied and cleaned out, if you like that kinda thing…)
  • Electrical hook-up that allows you to use and charge a computer and phone at a campground
  • A stove
  • A sink
  • Running water
  • A table with bench seats
  • A bed
  • Doors that lock

These are all excellent things. The trade-offs are higher costs and more things to break.

We never spent any lengthy periods in the RV, partly because of the hassle factor and partly because it quickly proved itself impractical for the kind of off-road camping we preferred. So I couldn’t really tell you what it would cost. But I’d guess $800 would be on the low end.

I dunno. Living on the road seems like an awful lot of work. Given that out in Sun City, taxes are a third and insurance is half of what I’m paying here it would surely make better sense to get over my aversion for the place (it’s a mausoleum!), sell my house, and just move out there. That would be the path of least resistance.

Though I’d have to find new homes for the dogs: you can’t let a dwarf sheepdog go out to pee in the yard with the coyotes running around out there. They’ll grab your dog and be off with it before you can say…jackrabbit. And no, you can’t have flowers or a vegetable garden, either, because the rabbits (whose ubiquitous presence calls in the coyotes) will level anything you plant in the ground, other than a palm tree or a grapefruit.

But…with no further reason to stay here (except the church…and there are lots of churches, no?), I guess I can start thinking seriously about moving away from the blightrail and into an area with lower crime rates, lower property taxes, and fewer bums.

So it goes…

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9 Comments

  1. I watched the video and the $800 a month is her SS income. I don’t think she spends it all every month. Sure hope not!
    As for her living sitch.. OH, HELL, NO! Seriously, I don’t think I could live out of a car, especially one that small. The older I get, the more claustrophobic I become. Also, I can’t imagine having a pet, even a small one, crammed up in there, too. *shudder* I know she sleeps in the tent whenever she can, but I also don’t like tents. I’m just not a camper.
    Every once in a while, I fantasize about living the RV life, especially after I retire. But I think you just talked me out of it. ;o)

    • RV-ing looks (deceptively) like fun. Neighbor across the street has a fifth-wheel — a VAST one, not just a living room on wheels but a whole freaking mansion on wheels. Fortunately, they don’t store it in the driveway, but occasionally he’ll bring it around to stock up when they’re about to take off. If it weren’t so much work, it would be very appealing. But the problem with those things (uhm…one of the many problems…) is that you HAVE to stay in a campground or RV park that will accommodate it. How, really, is that any better than staying in a motel? You’re still elbow-to-elbow, only you get the hassle of installing your “room” and keeping it clean yourself. Hardly seems worth it, to me.

      I didn’t mind the tent. But most of the time we camped in isolated places on soft enough ground (we did have to camp in a parking lot once, and THAT was not very comfortable!). But will say…the RV was a great deal more trouble than it was worth.

  2. Hmmm….I’ve watched several of these videos over the years. And like so many things in life…homelessness and happiness are “a state of mind”… This gal seems as happy as a clam….and good for her. As for me …No Bueno…My Dear Father lived in a “rugged/primitive” (cheap) campground at the shore for about 8 years in his old RV from April to November. Dear Mother had to threaten him with bodily harm to come back home. He was in his late 60’s and loved it. If you move perhaps a two apartment home….a bit of company…a bit of income…BUT you make the rules. Be careful….I know of several folks who “cashed out” moved away AND soon moved back. Missing friends…community and Grandkids. Looking to leave the State or Country? And camping on BLM isn’t what it’s cracked up to be….DD2 has first hand experience with this ….

    • A lot of BLM land here is lease land…in effect, it “belongs” to a rancher, even though you can’t ban the public from visiting. Our ranch was only about 60 deeded acres, but we had many hundreds of acres of lease land. And I can tellya…we would NOT have put up with a bunch of RVers setting up shop on the far side of our gate.

      But there are areas here where that’s happening. The nomad cluster I mentioned in the post just sets down wherever they feel like it. They make a mess. They dump their bathroom waste were it can soak into the groundwater, which may be seeping into your well. If you’re running cattle, they put themselves at risk (ever come nose-to-schnozz with an angry bull?) and put your cattle at risk by (you can lay money on this one!) leaving gates open. And they’re basically poaching space that you’re paying for.

  3. Sorry to hear things have been crappy–hope they improve.

    I once considered something like this, back in the sighted days. Of course, that was also in the brain tumor days, so my thinking on the subject and my determination that I could do it are, um…suspect.

    I also conceived a story character, a young woman in her 20s, traveling the US and living out of her car. In her case, I added the cost of a smartphone with an unlimited data plan, because I had her making her money online–writing, blogging, maybe even making small jewelry to sell on Etsy. She also met folks online and occasionally couch-surfed or at least grabbed a shower with them. Really liked the character and concept, but could never figure out where her story went so never wrote most of it down. Should revisit her, I guess.

    There used to be a blog by a woman who lost her home and was living with her four kids at a campground. IIRC, they moved up to an RV, then to a bigger RV, and eventually to a fixer-upper house on a relative’s home in another state.

    Also a blog by a college kid living in his van–while he went to med school, I think–but I didn’t follow that one.

    • Wasn’t there a woman blogger who at least temporarily was on the move, and then she got some dread disease — sounded like it must have been cancer — and dropped out of the blogosphere? This one didn’t have kids, though. I think she was the one who took on the job as a caretaker for someone’s gentleman farm while the owners went a-traveling… ???

      My son has some friends who live in what I would call a land yacht — it’s a bus/truck-like thing that’s been tricked out on the inside as a living/bedroom. They have two kids and travel North America, home-schooling them as they go. They also, however, do take advantage of friends by stopping and visiting for days at a time. But…they at least sleep in the vehicle, so you don’t have them underfoot 24/7.

      It’s an interesting lifestyle. This couple is very countercultural, and they seem to be comfortable with a challenging and unconventional arrangement. Personally, I would find it trying. But I tend to prioritize comfort over adventure. 😀

  4. Hmmm….Let’s call it “happenstance” or “coincidence”….BUT DW’s Church got to experience this “living the dream in an RV” up close nd personal…About a week ago or so an OLD RV pulls onto DW’s church parking lot off to the side by the woods and sets up camp. Didn’t ask permission or introduce themselves…Just sets up and begins housekeeping….A group of Trustees met with the “campers” to encourage them to move on. It was then disclosed they have had some “health issues” which has left them financially “challenged”. And basically ran out of funds for gas, propane, etc.. so moving on wasn’t really an option. The Trustees had a meeting and decided they would let them stay until Labor Day…I hope it works out…Don’t know if this would be the life for me…

    • Yeah…well… It seems unkind to say “heard the wind blow before.” You never know: sometimes people DO run into problems that force them into difficult circumstances. BUT…there are plenty of places to park your RV, many of them free. You don’t need to move in on someone’s private property. And even though a church is in the business of doing good works, its parking lot IS private property.

    • In fact, there are so many free parking places, there are whole websites devoted to the purpose: https://www.campendium.com/camping/free-camping/ There bare several more of these…