This family, who live in a van while travelling Australia, have shared how they live comfortably on a budget of £320 per week.
Women’s health dietitian Maddison Milton, 27, and her partner Kyle Markham, 29, a stay-at-home dad, decided to leave behind their Adelaide home in 2022, in favour of a more nomadic lifestyle.
Along with their infant son Reef, now three, the family opted to live in a van and traverse the country, and they’ve covered about 13,000 miles since getting on the road.
Kyle, Maddison, Reef and their dog have been living since November in a 2015 Mercedes Sprinter, which cost them £21,335 secondhand.
They originally bought the van in 2020, and spent two years and £21,000 transforming it into their dream home.
‘We really put all the extra touches in as we wanted it to feel as much like a home as possible,’ said Maddison.
The family have also managed to cut their expenses considerably with their way of life, estimating that they current spend around $500-$600 (£267.09-£320.42) per week.
When they were living in a house, these weekly outgoings were at least $350 (£184.22) higher, with utilities costing the pair an additional $50-$80 (£26.32-£42.11) per week.
‘Our biggest expenses are food and fuel. Our fuel expenses of course fluctuate and depend on whether we are travelling very far that week,’ said Maddison.
‘We tend to travel quite slowly so we can really experience each place.’
They then spend roughly $100 (£53.40) on phone bills, van insurance, subscriptions and other essential costs, keeping any extra for meals out, booking a caravan park or ‘a special event on the odd occasion.’
Maddison explained: ‘We are lucky enough to have an abundance of free camps in most areas that we visit.
‘We have managed to almost cut our living expenses in half by not having rent or utilities to pay. We don’t pay for electricity as we are completely solar powered.
‘Our internet is just with our phone bills as we upped our data plans before we left and water is available at lots of camp sites or RV fill up points.’
Through saving money, they couple are able to offer their son incredible experiences and make memories as a family.
‘The biggest reason we chose van life is due to the freedom it gives us,’ said Maddison.
‘Both my partner and myself have done a lot of travel and when we found out we were pregnant with our son, we wanted to find a way that our travel could continue.
‘We weren’t ready to settle down, buy a house and plant roots just yet. We are the kind of people that thrive on new challenges and being immersed in new places.
‘We love the feeling of arriving at a place, knowing nothing and finding our way. Most of all, we wanted to share these incredible experiences with our son.’
- $250 (£133.51) food
- $150 (£80.10) fuel
- $30 (£16.02) laundry
- $50-100 (£26.70-£53.40) phone bills, subscriptions, insurance etc
Total: $480-$580 (£255-£309)
Additionally, Kyle and Maddison wanted to spend as much time with their little boy as possible, saying: ‘These early years of our son’s life are the most precious to us. We want to be there, as present as we can be for all of those incredible milestones.’
By moving into the van, they reduced their expenses to the point where Kyle could quit his job while Maddison’s online business could keep them going during their travels.
Although they eventually plan to buy some land and build ‘a little off grid tiny home’, they love van life – including all its ups and downs – and want to encourage others to give it a go.
‘Our biggest challenge is that when something breaks or goes wrong, it is your home which can be tricky depending on the situation,’ said Maddison.
‘Thankfully for us we haven’t had anything major break or happen but we of course have insurance and roadside assist just in case.
‘Another challenge is how long everyday tasks can take in a van or small space. We have a “jobs day” once a week where we fill up water, do laundry at the laundromat and do our grocery shopping.’
Maddison says passers-by regularly comment on their ‘comfortable and spacious’ van at campsites, as well as asking questions about their home on wheels.
‘Everyone always wants to know how we do it with a child and our dog,’ she said.
‘They are often quite astounded and are always very intrigued. After we explain that it isn’t as hard as it might seem, they are generally really impressed with the amount of freedom this lifestyle gives us.’
If you are considering the van life, Maddison suggests research before investing.
She said: ‘I think the biggest piece of the puzzle is to start by choosing the right vehicle for you and your needs or travel preferences. Different types of vehicles have different pros and cons and allow you to travel in different ways.
‘For example, for some a 4WD might be better suited because they value being able to see more remote places. For others, they may prefer a caravan so they can leave it set up at camp and have the option of a FWD for day trips…
‘I’d say take a look at all of the options and feel into what makes the most sense for you and your situation, as you’re going to be spending a lot of time in it so you want to be comfortable.’
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