What drives your decisions, particularly those around money? Yes, family and bills are relevant, but what do you dream about accomplishing with your money? Are you saving money for a specific trip or purchase? Are you focused on a particular money goal? What is your vision? If you could distill it into a word or phrase, what would it be? For me, my money decisions are guided by my vision of van life.
What is van life? When you google the pair of words, you’ll find van life is a lifestyle where people live either part-time or full-time in a van outfitted as a dwelling space with accommodations such as a bed, table, et cetera, for comfort. Van life is a popular choice for people who want a minimalist lifestyle with maximum experience and ideal for digital nomads, or people who can do their work from anywhere with a wi-fi connection and electricity. Although I live in a house with my family, the minimalist van lifestyle appeals to me.
How did my vision of van life come to be? When COVID happened and I migrated from working in an office to working from my home, my husband and I talked about how useful a van could be for taking road trips with our two children and exploring a variety of parks across the country. We dreamed about the possibilities together. Near the end of 2020, we bought a 2017 Ford Transit van. Right away, my husband worked on the interior: replaced the flooring, removed some seats, installed a Formica table, and installed a bed. Suddenly, the act of rolling up to a campground and having our living space all-set was a reality. We took weekend trips to campgrounds throughout the southeast and kept notes on what we learned about the various locations along the way. Though we are unable to experience van life full-time, part-time van life is a vision of mine. I frame my money decisions from the question: Does this purchase support van life? By asking myself that question, I have spent less money on things, reduced my possessions, and found new avenues for exploring and enjoying my life.
How have I reduced my possessions? Items that are no longer practical or useful to me in my house are listed for sale online. For example, I own antique glassware and furniture that I have either purchased or inherited over the years. Often, these pieces are not suitable for travel, so it makes sense to get rid of them. By selling items online, I provide other people with the opportunity to enjoy what I no longer find useful while increasing my savings to fund van life experiences with my family: it’s a win-win situation. What if the items don’t sell? After 30 days, I choose to either relist the item for sale or donate it.
How have I found new avenues for exploring and enjoying my life? I have discovered opportunities to enjoy my life with fewer material things and more experiences like visiting a variety of state and national parks across the country with my family, creating memories along the way.
These are only a few ways my vision of van life has informed my money decisions. However, my vision is a work in progress: there are still things to eliminate and things to replace. To be frank, sometimes I feel overwhelmed because I have not fully achieved my vision. Yet, I remind myself that my vision is a journey, and my experience is human. As I journey toward my vision of van life, I believe my overall mental, physical, and financial health continue to improve because I am living from my values of fewer things and more experiences. What is your vision? What guides your money decisions? How is your vision changing you?
Photo of Wendolyn and her dog enjoying van life.
Wendolyn Forbes is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ with Wealth Transition Finance, A Member of Advisory Services Network, LLC. Wendolyn is a fee-only financial planner and member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). For more information, please visit her website at www.wtf-asn.com.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and federally registered CFP® (with flame design) in the US, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.
This material is provided as a courtesy and for educational purposes only. Advisory Services Network, LLC does not provide tax advice. The tax information contained herein is general and is not exhaustive by nature. Federal and state laws are complex and constantly changing. Consult your own legal or tax professional for information concerning your individual situation.
Originally published in the July 26, 2023 issue of Rumble by Smoky Mountain News.