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Sensible Cash Podcast: Making Your Dream Existence

Welcome to NerdWallet’s Sensible Cash podcast, the place we typically resolution your real-world cash questions.

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On this week’s episode, we proceed our collection about monetary desires, with conversations with Nerds who’ve completed their monetary desires and interviews with outdoor visitors about what they wish to do with their cash in 2022.

Take a look at this episode on any of those platforms:

Our take

Residing in a van isn’t for everybody. However defining and forging your individual trail is one thing that anybody can pursue. To understand what you need out of existence, consider your values, the stories you need to have and the way you’ll carry them to existence. If you wish to see extra of the sector, for instance, glance into how you’ll decrease your housing prices to liberate extra money for shuttle. You might also wish to glance into shuttle bank cards that may provide you with issues for flights or resort remains.

In the event you’re operating remotely whilst touring the rustic — and even the world over — be proactive about managing your tax state of affairs. Relying on how lengthy you keep in a single state or some other, you could be at the hook for state source of revenue taxes. Consider hiring a tax skilled that can assist you type this out.

And notice that any main existence alternate you are making can be transient. In the event you soar into the virtual nomad existence and understand it isn’t reasonably what you concept it will be, you’ll most likely return to how issues had been earlier than.

Our guidelines

  1. Problem your self. Know what you need out of your existence after which wreck down the obstacles which are combating you from getting it.
  2. The stakes is also not up to you suppose. If you are making a drastic alternate and hate it, you continuously can return to the best way issues had been, and also you’ll have an enchanting enjoy.
  3. Let your concepts simmer. Be open to many chances when excited about how to succeed in your purpose.

Have a cash query? Textual content or name us at 901-730-6373. Or you’ll electronic mail us at To listen to earlier episodes, cross to the podcast homepage.

Episode transcript

Sean Pyles: Welcome to the NerdWallet Sensible Cash podcast, the place we typically resolution your own finance questions and permit you to really feel a bit of smarter about what you do along with your cash. I’m Sean Pyles.

Liz Weston: And I’m Liz Weston. To ship the Nerds your cash questions, name or textual content us at the Nerd hotline at 901-730-6373. That’s 901-730-NERD. Or electronic mail us at Hit that “subscribe” button to get new episodes delivered on your gadgets each Monday. And if you happen to like what you pay attention, please depart us a evaluate and inform a chum.

Sean: Over the following couple of weeks, Liz and I are freeing a different collection of episodes all about monetary desires. We’ll communicate with a couple of Nerds who completed their monetary desires, and we’ll even have on some outdoor visitors to speak with us about what they wish to do with their cash.

Liz: And because we’re NerdWallet, we’ll additionally speak about the stairs you’ll take to perform your individual monetary desires, no matter they’re.

Sean: This episode, we’re speaking with Sam Kemmis, a Nerd who made his dream existence via dwelling and figuring out of a van whilst touring the rustic. We’re going to speak with Sam about how he completed this and what it way to make the existence you need for your self.

Liz: Welcome again to the podcast, Sam.

Sam Kemmis: Thank you, Sean and Liz. I’m so satisfied to be right here to talk about my dream of being a lowlife who lives in his car. I must preface this via pronouncing that I’m no longer recently dwelling in my van. However I’m dwelling with my in-laws, which is my backup dream. Proper?

Sean: Neatly, you’re doing that for an excellent reason why, which we’ll get into in a while, I’m positive. However now I wish to get started on the very starting. How did this all get started for you, Sam? Do you know that you simply sought after to reside in a van, or what came about?

Sam: No, there wasn’t some second the place I used to be like, ‘That’s it, I’ve were given to promote all my stuff and hit the street,’ which I feel is how numerous other folks get into the van existence factor. But it surely was once roughly extra of a step by step strategy of removing for me. It began as a result of I had a role that allowed me to paintings remotely. And this was once in 2016, so operating remotely was once in fact outstanding at the moment. Now not numerous other folks had been doing that.

Sean: That is earlier than NerdWallet, proper?

Sam: Sure. Prior to I labored at NerdWallet. Yeah.

Sean: OK.

Sam: As a result of I may just paintings from anywhere, I began touring so much, most commonly world wide, but additionally so much at the West Coast. And what I spotted beautiful briefly was once that I used to be principally losing all this cash on an rental in LA that I used to be most effective occupying a part of the time.

So I figured that if I sought after to stay touring, I sought after to do away with my dear rental. And at the moment I additionally wanted to shop for a brand new automobile. And one day it roughly simply clicked that I used to be like, “Oh, I may just reside in my automobile, principally, if it was once a camper van.” After which after I wasn’t touring out of the country, I may just reside in it and I wouldn’t be paying hire. So I form of were given into the van existence factor, no longer as a result of I used to be large into vehicles, however on account of the monetary tradeoffs. It form of was once what made essentially the most sense, given what my targets had been.

Liz: I’ve noticed some in reality, in reality tricked-out vehicles, like quarter-of-a-million-dollars’ value of camper van. I’m assuming that’s no longer what you probably did.

Sam: No. And that’s what I briefly discovered when I began studying about it. If you are going to buy a brand-new sprinter van, like in reality high-end ones, the ones are like 100 thousand {dollars}.

Liz: Yeah.

Sam: In order that’s no longer in fact financially releasing, proper? And since I’m a cheapskate, I principally was once like, “OK, so how are you able to do that for the least amount of cash?” And I discovered those imported Jap vehicles referred to as Mitsubishi Delicas, the place the steerage wheel’s at the fallacious facet. And so they run on diesel they usually’re simply large bizarre. And since they’re so bizarre, there’s no longer as a lot of a marketplace for them. And so you’ll get them method inexpensive, like underneath $20,000.

Liz: Wow. OK. Did you set the steerage wheel at the proper facet, or did you permit it as is?

Sam: No, it remains there. It’s over there, which is prison. That’s the query everybody asks.

Liz: OK.

Sean: You discussed that this was once the appropriate are compatible in your targets. I wish to pay attention from you ways you made a decision and landed on what your targets had been.

Sam: The elemental targets had been, I sought after to shuttle so much. I sought after to peer friends and family who had been scattered around the nation, and I didn’t wish to spend some huge cash. I feel the ones had been the restrictions — or, I sought after to spend as little cash as imaginable.

Liz: While you had been excited about letting cross of your rental, had been you nervous about that? The concept that perhaps you couldn’t in finding an inexpensive position if you happen to got here again, or was once that no longer even a part of your decision-making?

Sam: Yeah, no. I imply, I used to be form of identical to, “There’s going to be an rental someplace if I would like it, and so if this entire factor simply blows up in my face, I’ll simply roughly return to the best way issues had been.”

Liz: That’s a bit of other from promoting a space in LA, as a result of each time you do, there’s at all times the chance you’ll by no means be capable to purchase once more. You realize, you get close out.

Sam: Oh yeah.

Liz: There may be that worry if you wish to purchase a space at some point. Did you ever really feel that drive, that one day it’s important to get genuine property, or is that no longer a part of your calculations?

Sam: Oh, God. I think like shall we do an entire separate podcast about that. You realize, for a very long time I’ve been like, “Oh, I’ll simply do that rent-and-live-frugally factor and I’ll avoid wasting cash. And , one day it’ll make sense for me to shop for a spot.” However that has coincided with the true property marketplace completely preserving tempo with my skill to be concerned with it. So yeah. I nonetheless have this type of like, “Oh, one in every of nowadays it’s going to make sense for me to shop for.” That’s roughly the wild west at this time.

Sean: I wish to pay attention concerning the daily lifetime of dwelling in a van as a result of yeah, you’re no longer paying hire on an rental, however I believe there can be some bills, particularly if you happen to’re striking diesel into the van. What was once that like, managing your funds on a daily foundation?

Sam: In the case of funds, there’s some tough portions. I might in fact say meals is without doubt one of the trickiest portions since you’re no longer in a position to prepare dinner. You realize, it was once an overly minimalist setup that I had. So I wasn’t in a position to prepare dinner in the similar method that I may just in an rental. So I finished up consuming out much more than I typically did or purchasing much more pre-made meals. So I used to be a bit of shocked how a lot meals performed into my finances.

And the opposite piece is solely how a lot you need to shuttle. Clearly, if you happen to’re riding 400 miles an afternoon in a large van or one thing, you’re going to spend a lot on gasoline or diesel that it’s no longer going to make it value it. How a lot do you need to shuttle as opposed to how a lot are you going from spot to identify and spending a very long time there? I discovered I loved spending extra time in a single position for longer sessions of time. In order that was once form of a very easy tradeoff for me.

Sean: So nationwide parks? What varieties of puts had been you staying at?

Sam: Yeah, it was once a combination. I imply now and again it will be nationwide parks or trailheads. I might do numerous that, simply spend the night time at a trailhead. So I may well be the primary at the path within the morning. However then because it went on, I in fact discovered myself spending much more time in towns or cities. I used to be operating and I most often discovered it more straightforward to paintings at espresso stores, or at co-working areas, or such things as that. And the opposite section is solely, you get a bit of bit lonely whilst you’re doing it on my own. And if you happen to’re out at a countrywide park for a month, you form of get started dropping contact with fact. And I’ll be truthful, the opposite piece — that is coming into the fewer glamorous portions of this — is I had to bathe. I don’t have a bath. So numerous it was once discovering puts to bathe. And the ones are typically in cities or towns at gyms or yoga studios, or anywhere I might cross.

Sean: I used to be going to invite about that as neatly. I watched numerous “Tiny Space Hunters” throughout the worst a part of the lockdown. And numerous other folks simply roughly hop round from position to position with their tiny homes. And they might point out that showering would continuously be a problem, such a lot of would get fitness center memberships. Is that one thing that you simply did too?

Sam: Yeah, I did. I had a club to a super-cheap chain of gyms that had been in every single place. So there was once a great opportunity that I may just cross to at least one.

Sean: OK.

Sam: At one level I used to be dwelling in Santa Cruz, and there was once no longer a type of. Residing in Santa Cruz, my van was once in Santa Cruz. And the one position on the town that I may just in finding that had respectable showers was once a sizzling yoga studio, they usually most effective taught 90-minute sizzling yoga categories, which if you happen to’ve by no means accomplished are large intense.

Sean: Proper.

Sam: So I in fact ended up getting in reality into yoga as it was once the one position I may just bathe.

Sean: That’s so humorous. I assume I didn’t consider how your way of life needs to be in reality malleable relying on the place you’re and what facilities aren’t there.

Sam: And naturally COVID. A part of why I’m no longer in it at this time is COVID completely messed that each one up. You aren’t going to visit a sizzling yoga studio or to Starbucks or no matter. So yeah. It in reality modified the dynamic.

Sean: And also you additionally had a child.

Liz: Yeah. Your courting standing modified. Are you able to speak about that?

Sam: Yeah. I imply, that was once an enchanting piece of this entire puzzle was once I purchased a van for me, after which my courting standing modified and added a spouse and a canine. After which sooner or later a toddler. Even the 2 people plus a canine was once method an excessive amount of for that van, despite the fact that. We did it for some time. It was once an enchanting problem without a rest room, and two other folks and a canine, and one twin-size mattress, principally.

Liz: This lady sounds spectacular. I’d like to satisfy her.

Sam: She is.

Sean: What an effective way to check your compatibility. Drawback-solving, looking for bogs, looking for puts to sleep, looking for Wi-Fi. And also you in reality needed to clear up numerous issues in combination, I guess.

Sam: Sure. That’s an overly constructive solution to put it. I love that. I love that perspective.

Sean: Yeah. Neatly, I imply, I nonetheless know {couples} that don’t wish to transfer in in combination till when they’re married. And I simply suppose that this is very dangerous since you don’t know if you happen to’re OK with the best way they load the dishwasher, and those are essential issues to determine earlier than you decide to any individual for your entire existence.

Liz: I had some buddies that in fact waited till neatly when they were given married to transport in in combination. They saved their separate condos for reasonably some time.

Sean: Attention-grabbing. Neatly, I assume it’s great to have your own area.

Sam: I roughly suppose everybody must simply reside in a van in combination proper off the bat after which you’ll simply determine your whole problems.

Sean: Neatly, I additionally wish to communicate a bit of bit about your paintings existence. You stated that you simply had been operating for an organization the place it is advisable be far flung, and in NerdWallet, it allowed you to try this as neatly. So how did you organize discovering Wi-Fi and finishing assignments whilst you had been probably at a countrywide park or someplace far flung?

Sam: That was once a in reality attention-grabbing piece of it. I finished up development my excited about the place I used to be going to be in accordance with the place I may just paintings. I had a just right hotspot with Wi-Fi the place I may just get just right web get entry to, and that wasn’t in reality an issue. And so for slightly in there I used to be freelancing. And so principally all I used to be doing was once sending in assignments, and it was once nice for that. However then I finished up shifting into a task the place I in reality had to be on calls, extra continuously Zoom calls. And for that I in reality wanted extra dependable web. And so I had to be extra at co-working areas. It really works in reality neatly if you happen to don’t wish to be on Zoom all day, however if you happen to do, then you were given to be beautiful ingenious about it.

Sean: Was once there any solution to arrange Wi-Fi at the van, like a large satellite tv for pc or the rest like that?

Sam: I had a mobile phone vary extender, which is what it seems like. And so I might use that with my hotspot, nevertheless it’s no longer in reality a magic bullet. It doesn’t make carrier seem the place there is not any carrier. It simply makes it a bit of bit higher. So you’ll’t be out in the midst of the Mojave Wasteland looking to be on Zoom or no matter.

Liz: Hello Sam, did you ever finish up gypsy tenting or being someplace you in reality shouldn’t, and having to dread that knock at the van door?

Sam: I might say I most commonly was once staying in puts the place I used to be nervous that I might get the knock at the door. Extremely, I by no means were given hassled. I learn an even quantity on Reddit — , there’s an entire group of people that reside like this — about only a few methods for warding off that. Don’t simply arrange camp in some group for a month and make a nuisance of your self. But it surely was once form of at the back of my thoughts so much. And I did spend numerous time looking for a great place to stick for the night time, nevertheless it didn’t look like I might get hassled. And it’s simply an enchanting paradigm shift in the way you consider your self. I don’t understand how to give an explanation for that, however to be roughly this borderline outlaw always. Yeah, it’s attention-grabbing.

Sean: I additionally marvel about different sides of managing your funds. You needed to have some roughly tax base, if you happen to had been a 1099 or W-2 worker. How did you consider that and get that taken care of out?

Sam: The quick resolution is, it’s large difficult. I in fact ended up discovering an accountant who makes a speciality of virtual nomads — so individuals who don’t have an everlasting cope with. And a part of this is simply for the reason that tax state of affairs is so difficult that it’s in reality onerous to determine by yourself. Clearly I’m no longer offering tax recommendation right here.

The lengthy and wanting it’s that each state has its personal regulations about when they’ll tax you, how you can rely as a resident. So I finished up preserving principally an ongoing abstract of what number of days I spent in each location. And I despatched that to my accountant on the finish of the 12 months, and he found out, “OK, so that you spent 14 days in Idaho. What are Idaho’s regulations about this? Do you wish to have to pay taxes there? Do you wish to have to then do a deferral for the taxes you possibly can’ve paid the place you had been domiciled?” — which is the legitimate identify for the place your own home is. So it will get difficult in a rush. And principally, yeah, I saved my mailing cope with in a single position, and that was once my homestead. However then I attempted to be on most sensible of paying taxes in all of the puts I had to.

Sean: Probably the most major unglamorous sides of dwelling in a van. I think like there’s this symbol of it on social media, the place you’re completely liberated. You’ll do no matter you need, anywhere you need. And it’s no longer reasonably the case, however I’m positive there have been some portions the place you had been pondering that is beautiful candy. So are you able to speak about a few of your very best moments whilst you had been dwelling within the van?

Sam: Indubitably at the ones occasions, parking at a trailhead, waking up, happening a hike at 6 within the morning, getting again, doing my paintings, cooking on campfire. It felt so cool to be out within the woods and getting my paintings accomplished, getting paid. It simply felt like a dream in the ones moments. After which, like I’ve alluded to, numerous it was once difficult. A large number of it was once like, “Oh, the place am I going to search out Wi-Fi? The place am I going to discover a bathe, blah, blah, blah?” And so within the second it continuously felt like, “Oh, that is so onerous.” But if I glance again at any given month of time within the van, I had such a lot of tales and stories and simply recollections from that month in comparison to a month in my rental in LA, which might simply cross via with out the rest in any respect taking place. Sure, it’s in reality difficult, however you simply get such a lot out of it.

Liz: And the way did you handle the loneliness? How did you in finding other folks? How did you meet your spouse?

Sam: So a part of what I sought after to do was once be capable to discuss with numerous buddies. So I’d just pressure and spend per week or two and discuss with my buddy and sofa surf. However then if I had to keep in my van, I may just do this too. I in fact discovered, in many ways it helped me hook up with numerous individuals who I hadn’t noticed in a very long time, higher than my standard existence. And yeah, my spouse, I had already met her earlier than. So we form of rekindled it whilst I used to be within the van.

Sean: Sam, I wish to return to what you had discussed a bit of bit previous concerning the onerous paintings and the nice payoff of looking to reside this existence and dwelling your dream existence. As a result of I feel that will get to the core of what’s so attention-grabbing about your individual person monetary dream, is that it’s no longer at all times going to be large rewarding. It may be, however you do have to place in a virtually equivalent quantity of labor. And that’s one in every of my major takeaways, listening to your tale.

Sam: Neatly, otherwise to place it’s if it was once simple, then everybody would do it, proper?

Liz: Oh yeah. Sure.

Sam: The onerous paintings of doing all of your taxes as a virtual nomad, that’s genuine onerous paintings. And the opposite a part of the onerous paintings is solely being keen to surrender one thing this is to your existence recently, proper?

Sean: Do you ever have a second of disaster pondering, “Oh no, what have I accomplished?”

Sam: Oh, for sure. I feel it was once most commonly moments of disaster. It was once for sure the a part of being an actual homeless particular person and knowing that I used to be indistinguishable from other people who had been dwelling of their automobiles in the street, and simply having those moments of, “I’m making this selection to do that.” And such a lot of individuals are pressured to do that. Why am I subjecting myself to this?

Liz: What’s subsequent for you? Are you going to be staying with the in-laws for some time? Or do you are expecting to renew touring full-time?

Sam: The newborn and COVID have scrambled this entire factor. And a part of my pondering was once simply, “I’ll stay up for that each one to calm down. I’ll work out how small children paintings and I’ll stay up for COVID to be over. After which I’ll work out my subsequent dream.” However that has taken a very long time to calm down. So I feel I’m going to transport into an actual rental subsequent, no longer with my in-laws. And simply get this child older after which work out what the following dream is. I imply, I’m simply that form of particular person. I used to be already having a look up how you can get started your individual fish farm vegetable lawn within the barren region, and sending my spouse like, “We were given to do that. Let’s transfer to Joshua Tree and get started a fish farm.” So I’m positive one thing will come alongside, however I don’t have the rest set in stone.

Sean: I’m positive we’ll drag you again to speak about it each time you’ve got your subsequent dream in thoughts.

Sam: Yeah, please. In your subsequent fish farm herb lawn podcast, I’ll be your visitor.

Sean: Superior. Neatly, thank you such a lot for speaking with us. And in one of those alternate of ways we usually do issues, Sam, will you give us your takeaway guidelines of dwelling your dream existence?

Sam: Yeah, satisfied to. No. 1, get started along with your purpose after which ruthlessly problem your assumptions about what’s going in the best way. So for me, it was once that the rental was once, in many ways, going in the best way of me dwelling the existence that I sought after.

No. 2, the stakes are more than likely so much not up to you suppose. If you are making a large drastic alternate and also you hate it, you’ll return to the best way issues had been. And within the period in-between, you’ll have had an enchanting enjoy.

And in the end, let your thought simmer for some time to let inspiration strike. You have to be open to many chances when excited about how to succeed in your purpose.

Liz: All proper, neatly, that’s all we now have for this episode. If you need your cash questions spoke back on a long term episode, flip to the Nerds and phone or textual content us your questions at 901-730-6373. That’s 901-730-NERD. You’ll additionally electronic mail us at Seek advice from for more info in this episode, and bear in mind to subscribe, fee and evaluate us anywhere you’re getting this podcast.

Sean: And this is our transient disclaimer, thoughtfully crafted via NerdWallet’s prison crew. Your questions are spoke back via a professional and gifted finance writers, however we aren’t monetary or funding advisors. This Nerdy information is equipped for basic instructional and leisure functions and would possibly not observe on your explicit instances.

Liz: And with that stated, till subsequent time, flip to the Nerds.

The thing Sensible Cash Podcast: Making Your Dream Existence at the beginning gave the impression on NerdWallet.


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