One Van No Plan: Van Life On A Budget

It’s all about the money

One Van No Plan: Van Life On A Budget

So we’re merrily rolling along in somewhere called “Whaley Bridge” about a fortnight ago when BAM! The exhaust fell off. As you can imagine, that isn’t going to be free to fix. The RAC patrol worker was great and did a temporary fix. But it needs to be done permanently. And guess what, we have no idea how much it is going to cost! And guess what else, we’re not exactly rolling in it right now. I’m used to living on a fairly tight budget. I’m one of five children and my mum raised us on one wage. So budgeting is something I’m fairly familiar with. But budgeting in a van is a whole different ball game. Yes, you have fewer outgoings. But you also have fewer incomings unless you’re working full time. So I thought I’d make a budget in case anyone was in the same or similar situation to us.

I’ll start with a pretty big outgoing in the vanlife community. Petrol/Gas 

Always Look For The Best Price

There are apps like WhatGas and sites like that can help you compare prices wherever you are. But just remember not to drive too far for like a 1p saving. As long as you’re not using more than you’re saving it’s fine. 

Tyre Pressure

It’s a smoother, more fuel efficient ride when your tyres are at the correct pressure. Check them on a regular basis and you will save money on petrol/gas. Some petrol stations even offer free air for your tyres. Others make you pay about a £1 minimum. 

A Full Tank Vs A Half Full Tank?

This is a bit of a controversial issue. Some people swear that you should always have a relatively full tank. But others think that’s just adding extra weight. I’m definitely in the second category. We used to try to stay as full as possible. But (through no choice of our own) we’ve had to go down to half a tank. We’ve been filling up less than we used to. I mean, I’m not a scientist, but I assume it’s down to the weight. We’re in a diesel van so it’s fairly economical, but it’s old so we do have to be careful. You’ll need to experiment with what’s best for your van. 


Vanlifers know about weight limits. You get the lightest of everything. You’ve got hardly any clothes and even fewer shoes. And you don’t have anything unless you need it. But you’ll be surprised how quickly things can pile up. I recommend going through all your stuff once every three or so months. That way you can be sure you don’t have anything unnecessary. 


Tins are handy, they keep for ages and they fill you up. But they also weigh a lot. When it comes to non-perishables, you should aim for packets rather than cans. There isn’t the variety, but the weight is a lot lower. Obviously eat fresh as often as you can. But it’s not always practical or affordable to go shopping on a regular basis. 


If you’re going to an area, then explore it all at once. Don’t spend one day there and go off to a different place 250 miles away. You’ll save a lot of fuel by staying in one area and getting the most out of it. 

12v charging

Get yourself a power indicator if you’re running things from your 12v. The last thing you want is for the battery to go flat. But you really don’t want to be running the engine wasting fuel when you don’t have to. I used to run it the whole time I had my straighteners on. It was about 15 minutes in total. But once we got the power gauge. I realised it only needed to be on for about 5 minutes. It might not sound like much. But over the course of a week, that’s a saving of 70 minutes worth of fuel. 

You don’t have to make major changes. But small ones can make a huge difference to your petrol costs. 

budget travel
Claire Raymond
Claire Raymond
Read next: Camping > Hotels
Claire Raymond

I have been a writer for 14 years now, I'll figure it out one day.

See all posts by Claire Raymond