How much does it cost to live off-grid

It's a question on the mind of many when it comes to making life changes, like having a baby or buy a home or say... dump all and go and living in a van. Here's the breakdown from who took the leap.
Victoria Esposito 8 min read
How much does it cost to live off-grid
Photo by NeONBRAND / Unsplash
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In our Monday column, we talk about the hard to come by cha-ching. You know those things that people use to buy food and stuff. Some questionable stuff too but that's another story. To my defense, I had a root canal and the drugs definitely played a part when I typed "jar" followed by going figure what else that led to actually make a purchase of that NOTHING!!

I blame the Crazy Russian Hacker that posts those videos of weird stuff he buys from Amazon!

It is Monday, the day of the week when on this blog, we talk about Finances and in relation to off-grid living.

How to save to achieve your goals, make money to keep your dreams alive, and how much it costs to do the things you would like to do.

The bLife Movement aims to be a portal of knowledge and bridge for whoever out there wants to take a different stab at life and go off-grid with a modern twist. Alone, with a partner, or with a group of friends or like-minded people.

There's an expectation that living off-grid is cheaper and in doing so you live almost like a San Francisco bum. The reality is often is in the middle and it has lots of nuances. Let's dig into the details of what it takes to be off-grid or less financially eaten by the system.

The System

There's a race across classes where those who already have accumulated good wealth keep piling up through investing, raises, or just having a greater accountant.

Unfortunately, this race goes in the opposite direction for some. No matter how many jobs you do, the reality is that the system, that is, public infrastructure and other expenses necessary to function because such a burden that you end up working like an old volks wagon. Lots of gas for going nowhere.

As an example, we have a property in WA and for months we didn't live there at all, and despite using less than $2 of water we ended up paying $200 of fees and other grid costs.


For many, off-grid life starts with a vehicle, for a few, it begins with a plot of land somewhere where it comes in plenty and for cheap. Today, we're going to look into Van-life.

I know that you know that word but I wanted to make clear that we were not talking about Van Halen or use the apple avatar...tsk tsk

Every budget or aspirational one sets the expectations and the possibility of what is feasible. For me for example pooping in the woods and saving on the toilet paper is a no-go from the start. Mostly because what if you pick the wrong leaf?!! I mean there are all sorts of issues with the whole pooping process!

you wouldn't guess the strategist places he has "tested"... #gross #brave #jealous


I will take a look at three scenarios following the path of three vloggers that have shared their story. We will be looking at the monk style, the average Joe, and the King of the king's lifestyle in the world of the van-life.

When you are on the road you focus on the essentials and that would be

  • Food
  • Gas
  • Services (e.g Internet)

Scenario One

it doesn't get cheaper than that!

Paradise on Pennies for example has purposefully set their own demands so low that can live on average as cheap as $400 per month. Has Heather mention in other of their videos on expenses, their lowest is $315 but sometimes they have maintenance costs for the van and under unexpected events, so I just averaged up for being safe on the reporting.

Heather has a playlist month to month for how much they spend to move around and keep their dream alive, however, in the vlog above she shares the essence of her expenses follows the this breakdown.

I know that $100 per month sounds unreasonable, but there are two caveats to consider:


How badly you want something to happen and if you want it really-really bad, it doesn't feel like a sacrifice at all, it is the reason for your drive. And in a van-life, there's a lot of drive... Those are one of those cases where if you have to explain the pun, you lost it? Where's my Google Map, darn it!

The other reason is how they manage to keep their budget so low on food is that they try to stay in the woods as much as they can so they can live off nature as much as feasible.

On that account, they have prioritized their dreams and the desire to explore and move around beyond anything else. You shouldn't look into the frugality approach but rather in their determination to pursue what makes them happier. It's not for all but for them is everything. KUDOS to you guys!!

Scenario Two

Eamon and Bec in 2017 converted a van into a home and start traveling the world. They are business owners of a tea business and a marketing company through their social networking.

By the account of how much they used to travel (thanks COVID!) and the type of sponsors they typically get support from. They represent the high end of van-life go-getters.

Bec cooks picture delicious food and by the account of Tim, a regular in their vlogs, along with other friends they host, the budget for food is definitely higher than the most. By Bec's comment "we are big eaters". In 2018 their average on groceries was $750 and they also eat out when the place calls for it.

That van is soooo sweet, let's see how much it cost!


In this video they share, somewhat confusingly, the details of how they run their own show and how much they spend to live in the way they want, comfortably, on the road. The links below jump straight to each expense type, they are Canadian therefore remember to mildly adjust the numbers, or not, it's the same thing  

► Ontario van insurance 3:26 ► Business insurance 3:54 ► Phone/Internet 4:31 ► Gym Membership 5:42 ► Cafes/Co Working Space 7:00►Groceries 8:26 ► Eating Out 9:07 ► Gas 9:23 ► Parking 9:59 ► Misc 10:38 ► Car Servicing 11:06

Compared to Paradise on Pennies their gig ranks as... let me see. Crunching numbers, running equations...

yep, that sums it up

They spend over 3 thousand dollars but they live with no restraints. We follow them regularly and we can attest that the van-life a just an add-on to their own lifestyle.

Scenario Three

You can go as wild as you wish on anything and we have seen some crazy interpretations of van-life in lux however in this next scenario, I want to bring to you a comparison in one.

Should I even tell you that scenario ranks as...?!

should I? Really?!

Van-life isn't for everyone and therefore when accounting for how much it would take, financially, to start a van-life you need to evaluate what level of trade-off you are capable of adapting to. It is just not a matter of giving up comfort but more about the redistribution of your own time. Packing and unpacking to manage a small space used for multiple purposes. Dumping gray water, hunting for spots to park when you don't find campsites, and many other anxiety-prone episodes.

Which brings me to how can you keep your cool and not lose your Sh**? Tomorrow's column will delve into tackling a few mental and emotional issues associated with van life. How do other's not become a tagline on the evening news? There are ways of coping that and will allow for the most enjoyable time while on the road.

Did Mario put the toilet seat down? Did he eat cheese? Ohmmmm


I know that I said just three scenarios but follow my logic:

If Steve Jobs went up to stage and said "one more thing" would you complain on hearing what he had to share? Even if it was just a new spin on fancy screenshots?

And what's next is more than just screenshots. It's KNOWLEDGE PEOPLE!

Ah. That's what I thought!

Traveling doesn't have to happen just on roads, as matter of fact, Niki and Jason take you on "van-life" on the water. Same restrictions of living in a confined space just a different pavimentation.

They have been on a nomad lifestyle for over 10 years and for the last five they have been on a boat although they started with a car life. Out of all the videos we reviewed on the costs and in particular for boats they are the MOST more accurate, detailed, and substantial on the expense breakdown. And funny enough they tried to be "light" on the subject!! Extra kudos to them for putting all that together.

I highly encourage you to watch this video below because it gives you a sense of the effort required to go off-grid in that context and also very detailed costs in facing that choice.  

Parking Meter Paid

So whether or not you are a noobie and want to put a van-life into drive and see if it is something you might want to try. Or if you are currently doing van life and want to compare your costs to what others are doing. You have a few reliable examples under your belt from the people in the know!  Either way, we would love to hear from you. Tell us your story.

You only live once! Vroom Vroom!

🌴 Have a bLife moment, I am doing it as we speak #truestory 🤙🏽

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