- Chris and Lindsay Harvey wished to journey whereas dwelling debt-free, in order that they turned to van life.
- The Florida couple spent $20,000 shopping for and reworking an RV, turning it into a comfortable tiny dwelling on wheels.
- They are saying that a part of their debt-free way of life includes a strict $2,500 month-to-month finances, excluding gas.
After being foster mother and father to eight kids for 2 years, Chris and Lindsay Harvey had been searching for a change in way of life.
“By then, we had been just a few years into our marriage and on the fence about whether or not we wished to have youngsters of our personal,” Chris, 42, informed Insider.
Because the Florida couple began serious about their subsequent chapter, they realized that every one they wished to do was journey whereas dwelling debt-free.
Dwelling in a van on the open highway appeared like association.
As Lindsay has Crohn’s illness — which is a continual inflammatory bowel illness — getting on planes or going mountain climbing on multi-day journeys was tough, Chris mentioned.
“We wanted to have a toilet with us wherever we went, so we mentioned, ‘Why not give RV life a attempt?'” he added. “That method, we will go to superb, lovely locations and nonetheless have the ability to take our rest room with us all over the place we go.”
It was March 2018 when the couple bought all their gadgets and set off of their flatbed truck camper.
“We began touring in a truck camper and our preliminary plan was to drive from Florida to Alaska after which from Alaska to Argentina,” Chris mentioned.
However as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, the couple by no means made it any additional south than Baja, Mexico, he mentioned.
“We modified our plans and determined to purchase a much bigger motor dwelling, and we have simply been making loops across the US, and we go to Baja, Mexico, each winter,” Chris mentioned.
The couple ended up promoting their crimson camper to purchase a 1999 Class C RV in November 2020 for $12,000.
“I discovered it on-line — I would been looking for a bit bit,” Lindsay, 37, informed Insider. “It was a fairly whole lot as a result of it was proper earlier than RV costs actually shot up.”
In July 2020, the common retail worth of a Class C RV like theirs would have price $74,885, per knowledge from a 2021 J.D. Energy and Associates report. In July 2021, the common retail worth rose to $93,146.
The couple drove about two to a few hours from Georgia to choose up the car from the vendor, who was in Alabama.
The couple was visiting Lindsay’s sister in Atlanta on the time and drew a five-hour radius across the metropolis. “We mentioned we would drive 5 hours to search out what we might discover,” Chris mentioned.
Earlier than they purchased this Class C RV, they’d shortlisted just a few different motorhomes, however these flew off the market shortly.
“We picked out one or two different ones and we went and checked out them. By the point we slept on it and acquired again to the vendor, they had been already bought,” Chris mentioned.
In comparison with the truck camper, their RV is far bigger and has all of the facilities of a tiny dwelling.
“The crimson camper was speculated to be our rugged car to drive all the way in which all the way down to Argentina, so we weren’t serious about the way it regarded or felt,” Chris mentioned. “Whereas with the RV, we wished to have an residence on wheels.”
That is the primary cause why the 2 of them determined to intestine and rework the complete RV.
“We wished to have the ability to park it and keep for per week or two weeks or 5 months, wherever we had been. We wished it to really feel like dwelling,” Chris added.
Regardless of its age and the dated inside decor, the RV they purchased was in fairly good condition.
The RV had been saved in storage for seven years, Chris mentioned.
“We needed to do staple items, like new tires, brakes, and plumbing, however when it comes to all of the home equipment and all the pieces inside, it labored very well,” he added.
Lindsay mentioned that the couple wasn’t significantly involved about how issues regarded, as a result of they had been planning to redo the interiors anyway.
Pictures of the RV’s inside earlier than reworking present old style wood cupboards, dated wallpaper, and a classic floral sofa.
The kitchenette is positioned immediately reverse the doorway to the RV. The first dwelling space and the motive force’s seat are to the fitting of the doorway, whereas the bed room and the lavatory are to the left.
One of many options that drew them to the RV was the separate nook bathe and toilet, Lindsay mentioned.
“And that loo is large — I can lay on the ground and do pushups or sit-ups on it as a result of there was simply a lot room there,” Chris added. “I am six foot 4, so I can truly stand within the bathe and lather with out having to step out.”
The couple began reworking the RV in December 2020, engaged on and off on the mission till they accomplished it in July 2021.
The primary activity was to repaint the complete inside, which the couple managed to complete by Christmas 2020.
All the pieces else the couple labored at slowly for the subsequent few months, as a result of they acquired full-time jobs in an effort to afford the rework.
“Lindsay drove for Instacart, after which I labored in a restaurant,” Chris mentioned. “Debt-free was our objective, so we mentioned we’ll take so long as we want, so long as we’re not dipping into our financial savings or counting on credit score.”
Working full-time meant that they sometimes had simply two days per week to work on the camper, though they tried to squeeze out pockets of time every time potential.
“Generally, like if I labored a morning shift, we’d work on it within the evenings, or if I used to be on a night shift, we would attempt to work on it within the mornings,” Chris mentioned. “However we positively took our time as a result of we needed to study all the pieces as we went.”
By way of DIY, the couple managed to maintain their renovation prices underneath $8,000.
The couple labored on their RV on Chris’ mother and father’ driveway they usually accomplished the complete construct on their very own.
“The climate wasn’t too dangerous initially as a result of we began in winter. In Florida, it was average. It was solely when April and Might began to return round that it acquired actually scorching and it grew to become more durable to work through the day,” Chris mentioned.
However by then, they’d already accomplished a lot of the greater elements of the mission, Lindsay added: “We deliberate it that method.”
The couple constructed many options of the RV dwelling from scratch, together with the bathe, the composting rest room, and the sliding couch.
“Determining the bathe was a problem as a result of whereas we had seen different individuals do this design, nobody had a how-to,” Lindsay mentioned.
The couple additionally constructed their composting rest room from scratch, Chris mentioned: “We do not camp at campgrounds quite a bit. We camp off-grid, boondocking, so we did not wish to waste water flushing the bathroom or having water go into our tank earlier than we empty it.”
Constructing their sliding couch was additionally one thing that the couple postpone for some time.
“There have been just a few shifting elements — we wished it to slip out so we might put a full-size air mattress there if we had friends, and we additionally wished to have the ability to carry it up,” Chris mentioned.
The couple says they usually needed to redo issues as a result of there have been no good tutorials they may observe again then.
Within the case of the sliding couch, Chris discovered two tutorials that mixed the thought of what they had been attempting to construct.
“Neither one was good. Like I wanted to see how the hinges labored, so one video confirmed me how to try this in order that we might carry it, and the opposite video confirmed me the way to put slats in in order that we might pull it out,” Chris mentioned.
Most instances, he needed to depend on his instinct to determine how issues would match collectively and these tasks usually took some trial-and-error, he mentioned.
“That is why we determined to movie each minute of what we did to assist different individuals,” he added.
The 2 of them now have an internet site and a YouTube channel the place they documented their experiences reworking the RV.
One other nerve-racking second was attempting to chop a gap for his or her sink of their butcher block kitchen countertop.
“The butcher block countertop was one thing Lindsay had been speaking about for years, so we went to House Depot and we spent virtually $300 on this large slab that we needed to reduce up,” Chris mentioned.
The slab was about two inches thick, and the couple had to make use of quite a lot of blades and instruments to chop the outlet.
“Each reduce was nerve-racking as a result of if we screwed it up, we could not afford to go and purchase one other one,” he added.
Though the RV comes with a generator, the couple depends totally on their solar energy and battery set-up.
“Lindsay has an air fryer, we have an Immediate pot, we will use the blow dryer, heating pads,” Chris mentioned. “We are able to do virtually all the pieces.”
The RV can be hooked as much as energy sources at campgrounds, he added.
Additionally they get water wherever they’re capable of finding it — which incorporates campsites, water stations, and fuel stations. They preserve a 30-gallon water tank and a number of collapsible containers onboard that they replenish for his or her journeys.
“If we all know we’ll the desert for per week or so, we’ll fill these up, and we’ll have that further water with us,” Chris mentioned.
A part of their debt-free way of life includes having a strict month-to-month finances of $2,500 for his or her bills, excluding gas.
Insider considered an intensive budgeting sheet that the couple shared detailing their month-to-month bills for the previous months, stretching again to as early as October 2020.
When the couple first began RV life, they had been capable of preserve their month-to-month bills inside $2,000, Chris mentioned. However with rising prices, they’ve needed to enhance that quantity to $2,500.
“We bought a automotive that we now tow, so we’ve extra insurance coverage for that, and we have insured our pets. Our medical insurance went up as properly,” Chris mentioned. “However we capped it at $2,500 and we mentioned no extra. That is what we will stay on moderately, with out extra and with out depriving ourselves of easy joys and easy pleasures.”
Whereas the couple hopes that they’re going to have the ability to flip content material creation right into a full-time job, they know it isn’t as simple as individuals make it out to be on Instagram. For now, they’re working seasonal jobs in Custer State Park in South Dakota, he mentioned.
“We wished to indicate individuals what it is actually like. Not present that you would be able to stay on $2,000 after which not present all the main points, which is why we saved up with sharing our bills on-line,” Chris mentioned.
The years they spent on the highway supplied a good suggestion of how a lot they wanted to stay comfortably each month.
“Our mounted bills had been issues like insurance coverage, mobile phone service, and web. We stripped down all the pieces to get essentially the most fundamental plans obtainable,” Chris mentioned. “For instance, we’re on a household plan with my household for cell telephones, so we’ve an incredible deal on that.”
For different variable bills, the couple labored out that they wanted about $35 to $40 a day, which got here out to $1200 a month, he added.
The quantity that they spend on gas is calculated individually as a result of it is determined by how far they plan to journey, Chris mentioned. It is also affected by the gas effectivity of the completely different RV fashions.
“Some individuals will wish to journey and go someplace day-after-day,” he added. “Our RV solely will get seven miles per gallon, so we journey slower and we keep longer, so we’re not consuming as a lot gas.”
Chris has one tip for many who aspire to stay a debt-free, RV life: At all times over finances.
“So if I do know that the RV will get seven miles per gallon, I am going to finances us getting six. If GasBuddy tells me that the common worth in an space the place we’re touring is $3.50, I am going to finances $4,” Chris mentioned.
That has virtually all the time given the couple a buffer for emergencies, he mentioned.
“We have virtually all the time had leftover cash due to that over-budgeting precept,” he added.
Other than overbudgeting, it is also vital to set an affordable finances to start with.
“Any person who retires from the navy and has a paycheck coming in for retirement with full medical advantages, their scenario is gonna look completely different from a 27-year-old child who labored his first job for 5 years out of school and realized he wished a niche yr,” Chris mentioned.
“We do not deprive ourselves of enjoyable, however we additionally do not overindulge. I believe what’s vital is having a practical expectation of what life for you goes to price,” he added.