Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

How to avoid signing your life over to a mortgage
paranoidandroid
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Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by paranoidandroid »

To start off: I'm 24, in my first job ever. No student debt. Currently have about $25k in Vanguard index funds. Gross salary is $42k, no student loans, car paid for. Monthly expenses right now including rent are about $600 ($500 for rent, $100 for food, gas). I'm able to invest $2k per month. My goal is FI by age 30. I can reasonably see myself living comfortably on $9k/year or less in the "retirement phase" (though I plan to keep working part-time/volunteering, etc., so my actual withdrawal rate isn't set in stone).

Now the question: I could be investing $2.5k per month by living in my car. My possessions are such that this is possible. My company has showers on site and I have 24 hour access. They also have a break room fridge where we can put personal stuff + a microwave. Lots of people work late so everyone has their own silverware/etc. there and we can wash dishes in the break room sink. There's a huge parking garage there with no notable security (so could sleep there) and a nearby Wal-Mart (~6 miles) where I could sleep if need be and top up groceries.

Obviously this is not the best for my social life, but as an INTJ and kind of an introvert (philosophy graduate... heh) I'm perfectly happy hanging out at the library every night, reading books, or just going to a park. I have plenty of room in the backseat for my belongings. I also got a mini propane stove for warm meals.

I think I could do this. But I didn't know if you guys had thoughts about the opportunity cost for a cheap apartment. My sublet is up on the 31st of the month and I'll have to find a new place. The cheapest efficiency I can find is going to run me probably $650 when all is said and done (utilities, electric, heat), not to mention a 12-month lease...with my work not set in stone, I see this as an additional risk. It might not seem like a lot, but when I think about my goals, it certainly is a drain to have that money unrecoverable.

Any thoughts on this? Try it out for a few months and see? What say you, ERE?

P.S. I've been a long-time lurker, but this is my first post. I discovered the blog in my senior year of college and was incredibly excited about the prospects of retiring early-on, and then incredibly depressed for three months this summer when I realized that you have to get a job first. Now I'm a bit settled-in and this is looking like more of a reality for me. Thanks for all the inspiration and tips!
Last edited by paranoidandroid on Thu Jan 02, 2014 5:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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jennypenny
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by jennypenny »

Zarathustra does this. Have you read her journal?

paranoidandroid
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by paranoidandroid »

jennypenny wrote:Zarathustra does this. Have you read her journal?
Whoa...no, I didn't. And another philosopher as well, what do you know! Thanks for the excellent resource.

Okay, so it's possible. I'm doing it (at least for a month). Maybe I should start a journal of my own when the 31st rolls around.

paranoidandroid
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by paranoidandroid »

Toska wrote:Two things.
1. Can you sleep stretched out in the back? Sleeping reclined never worked for me.

2. Climate? It would be a bother to wake up every other hour starting the vehicle. Propane heat is high moisture so it wouldnt work.

The answer is go for it until the job is more secure then reevaluate.
Toska — I can, fortunately. I have just about 5.5 feet to stretch out in with the seats folded properly and if I sleep with my knees curled up a tiny bit (as I do in a bed), it's perfect. I've done one-night camps at rest stops before while traveling no problem.

Climate is the main concern. I have a good -20 down sleeping bag. I do live in a colder area (about 100 miles north of Chicago in WI). Parking in the garage will probably be 10 degrees warmer than ambient, though if I have to park outside at a store or on the street, it'll be a bit colder. On the other hand, snow on the windshield is probably great for stealth. :mrgreen:
Last edited by paranoidandroid on Thu Jan 02, 2014 5:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

Laura Ingalls
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by Laura Ingalls »

April through October a grand idea. I'd stay in the state parks/forest on the weekends.

In Feb I would consider it crazy stupid or at least crazy massively unpleasant.

1taskaday
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by 1taskaday »

www.kenilgunas.com has a great website called Pipe dreams. He went through college living in his van.Think he wrote a book on it. ( Found it through Lacking Ambition website).


Fascinating lifestyle will follow this thread with great interest.

paranoidandroid
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by paranoidandroid »

cimorene12 wrote:It sounds a bit like you might work at my company. I work at a software company that's in Verona, WI.

If you were to live in your car, I'd recommend getting in at the lowest ground level, G4.

If you do work at my company (which I consider highly possible, given your posts), then you should just sleep in your office. The head of my app (the product lead) has a futon in her office. My current officemate used to sleep under her desk in her former office in Ganymede around deadlines. She lives 2 miles away from campus.

I was having lunch with my app's UI designer and one of the developers, and we talked about this, actually. The first issue was with doing laundry, though of course you can drive to a laundromat. The second was getting "caught." I don't know if you can/would get caught or punished for living at work. They might see it as dedication - at least that's how it's interpreted for the head of my app. People on my team have zero problems wearing slippers and PJs at work (said head of app often wears pink bunny PJ pants - and she's a pretty big deal at the company), so I can't imagine that it would be horrible.

I will say that on the occasions that I've been at work late, I get disconcerted by the cleaning staff. It's an uncomfortable moment when you're in the hallway that they are trying to clean - or at least that's how I feel. The first time I went to Cass for food around 8 PM, I startled and hightailed it out of there. You probably are of stronger constitution than I am and would be less prone to behaving like a deer. I suppose you could drive to the Verona library and hang out there until 9, and then you could come back to campus.
:o We totally work at the same place. The only issue with inhabiting my office is that I'm relatively new and currently share an office with somebody else. While he's pretty cool about stuff, I'm pretty sure that actually living in his office would cross some sort of line. I get the sense that I could be stealth enough about where I keep my stuff and the times that I come in to work that it wouldn't be a huge issue...even if somebody found out I could always just (pretty much honestly) tell them I'm in between apartments and waiting for a new lease at a place I really like to be available.

For some reason, the prospect of actually sleeping in the garage at work makes me anxious, though (as you know) b/c of travel there are always tons of unattended cars in there, which makes for better cover. My main issue with getting caught and being so new is that I don't want this to be interpreted as what somebody might first think: this person is a druggie or has no money management skills and spends every last drop of each paycheck. On the other hand, just being at work late (or even being seen sleeping at work) isn't necessarily indicative of not having a permanent dwelling.

I'm pretty satisfied with the work, so if it got to the point where I was pulling 60 or 70 hour weeks, it wouldn't take much of a toll. As it is, I feel like I'm on a pretty slow team...I'm hoping it will either ramp up or that I can transition to something better in the next couple months.

It's cool there's somebody from the company into ERE. I'd say hey, let's start a Motley Crew but I don't know how the company would feel about folks who want to retire ASAP (or, heaven forbid, who allude to the company in a public forum :shock:).

ashe
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by ashe »

It can't be that comfortable but it can't be all that bad. Why not give it a shot for a month and see how you feel? Could make material for a hilarious story. 'so one time I got into this cult called ERE ... they wanted me to save all my money ...'

Laura Ingalls
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by Laura Ingalls »

Practice tonight.

Its only going to be -13 :shock: .

See if your bag is as warm as it is rated.

GandK
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by GandK »

Laura Ingalls wrote:Practice tonight.

Its only going to be -13 :shock: .

See if your bag is as warm as it is rated.
:lol:

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Ego
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by Ego »

Condensation on the inside of the windows will give you away. A forced air propex style heater will eliminate the condensation but it uses quite a bit of propane and battery power, and the fan makes a little noise. You could also use a catalytic heater but you have to crack the windows to allow fresh air in.... or you will asphyxiate yourself.

FWIW, I think it sounds like one of those stories your grandkids will tell about you.... He slept in his car in the parking lot at work to save money. Hah! Do it!

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jennypenny
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by jennypenny »

Ego wrote:Condensation on the inside of the windows will give you away.
Would desiccant help with that?


If you're parking in a garage, it won't get much below freezing, will it?

Laura Ingalls
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by Laura Ingalls »

I think the OP was going to park in a parking structure at his/her work.

The OP's assertion that it will be 10 degrees warmer sounds about right to me.

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Ego
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by Ego »

jennypenny wrote:
Ego wrote:Condensation on the inside of the windows will give you away.
Would desiccant help with that?


If you're parking in a garage, it won't get much below freezing, will it?
I've never used desiccant before. Interesting idea. It is surprising how much humidity a human being generates. If we kept everything closed up in freezing temps the inside of the van would be covered in a thin layer of frost.

If you were to get permission to sleep in the parking lot you could convert your Element to a camper. These are done by a guy down here by the border :) The open pop-top eliminates some of the condensation.

Image

stand@desk
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by stand@desk »

Is it possible to rent month to month a very small apartment or room? Maybe something around $400? Otherwise I think living in a van is very doable, a car has less interior space, I'd find it more challenging. Or just ditch the car and move very close to work and walk?

Good Luck!

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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by jacob »

I presume you're already familiar with cheaprvliving.com. There is/was also a yahoo group called citycamping which focus[ed] on car living.

Ken Ilgunas's book is called Walden on Wheels. (If you had gone to the Luisville meetup you could have had it for free ;) ) It's mostly an autobiography and less of a how to.

dot_com_vet
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by dot_com_vet »

I had a coworker do this. They had an RV, worked odd shifts, and it wasn't a secret. I'm pretty sure they spent days off at campgrounds and friend's places with the RV, so they moved around a bit. Some weekends might be in the parking lot at work, but not all the time.

I don't believe anyone cared. It might be worth getting a cheap, highly depreciated RV, instead of sneaking around. I think sleeping IN the office could be career limiting. If you have a stack ranking, coworkers will use violating policy against you.

paranoidandroid
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by paranoidandroid »

cimorene12 wrote:I'm PMing you company-specific information, so as not to let this go off track. My tl;dr would be to just sleep in your office. The high on Monday is going to be -11 F, which to me shows that winter is a bad time to sleep in your car.
cimorene — thank you very much for the PM. ERE won't let me reply to your PM (says I'm too new here...) but that is some seriously invaluable info. I've already finished my 6 month reqs in about 3 months in and am angling for new certs (encountering a bit of resistance at the moment, but I will persevere). I tend to find the classes/exams/projects very easy to do well on, so it's cool that the scores get factored in to compensation somehow.

I too was aware of the consulting possibilities when I signed on (as well as the work environment) so that's always been my endgame, though I want to try to stick around for at least 2 to 3 years to get the lay of the land and have substantial experience. Plus, right now, I'm with pretty cool people, and it's still fun to go to work every day.

I noticed the investing motley crew as well. Might check it out in a bit. RIght now I'm still trying to figure out how much time I have for work commitments before I get too heavily involved in outside activities but if I go I'll shoot you a PM for sure. Again, thanks for reaching out, and good luck with your own ERE ventures!

everyone else — thank you for all of your input and resources on this. I'm still not 100% sure what I'm going to do at the end of the month. I'll probably spend a week or two reading through and considering things. And maybe even try a trial run or two just to see if that sleeping bag can really handle -10. Second-best option is find a lease with a minimal cancellation penalty if I have to pull out early and just grin and bear it, or get a 2 bedroom and rent out a room so my roommate and I both win. We shall see.

riparian
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by riparian »

I lived in a van for a winter in Alaska and regularly sleep in the back of my truck down to -30 when I'm traveling.

It's worth investing about $150 in a really good sleeping bag. Mine is down alternative. It's the kind you can stretch out in or unzip and use as a comforter or smoosh two people into in an emergency. The outside she'll is made of a tough water resistant non rippable material.

At ten or so below, the problem is the time it takes for your body heat to warm up the sleeping bag. After that (maybe an hour at ten below but several hours at forty below) you will be toasty. My solution is to go by a gas station and fill a couple aluminum bottles with hot water (I use my own tea, it's free, but you could get coffee), and put them in the sleeping bag. Half an hour or so later it'll be toasty. Get auto start so you can be warm before you come out and a cheap gym membership to shower/change before work and your golden.

Natha
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Re: Living in a car — crazy stupid or crazy good idea?

Post by Natha »

I think the idea to live in your car is awesome, so don't want to discourage that. But I wanted to comment on the relative cost of an apartment.
I think I could do this. But I didn't know if you guys had thoughts about the opportunity cost for a cheap apartment. My sublet is up on the 31st of the month and I'll have to find a new place. The cheapest efficiency I can find is going to run me probably $650 when all is said and done (utilities, electric, heat), not to mention a 12-month lease...with my work not set in stone, I see this as an additional risk. It might not seem like a lot, but when I think about my goals, it certainly is a drain to have that money unrecoverable.
Maybe prices in Verona are a bit higher than in Madison, but at least in Madison you can do a lot better than $650/month, if you are willing to share an apartment. Finding roommates can be a pain, but since you are already thinking about spending most of your time at work or the library or the park, the risk is in some sense not that high anyway. (And, personally, I've always had neutral to very positive roommate experiences by being selective about the chemistry.)

I share a 3br apartment in Madison with two other people for $375/person/month total cost, including all utilities, and I paid a similar price at a different 3br apartment several years ago. Both apartments have been fairly nice - especially the current one is quite nice, and in a nice neighborhood.

Although I wouldn't want to do this, you could even share a bedroom in such an apartment with someone else, which could bring the cost down to maybe $200/month, depending on how the value of the bedroom vs common area is weighted in negotiations with the other roommates.

Anyway, just something to think about.

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