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Extreme Frugality: Living Out of Your Car

This article was written by in Frugality. 430 comments.


A few months ago, television watchers like myself were bombarded by commercials featuring a young man attempting to “live” out of his car for a few days. However, this guy has been doing it since July 2005. Andy Bussell lives out of his pickup truck, sleeping in the back. He wakes up, showers at the university gym, attends classes, then goes to work at the Apple Store. To keep himself from going insane, he is a yoga-practicing, guitar-playing rock climber. Always pushing him towards insanity are the voluntary living conditions:

What he misses most are a kitchen and a bathroom. To deal with the former, he buys food such as yogurt and fruit in small quantities; for as regards the latter, he takes advantage of public facilities. On occasion, he has resorted to employing an empty Gatorade bottle.

sleep-in-car.jpg

Andy decided to lean towards the simpler life when his credit card debt kept piling up. Now that he has been able to save some money, his debt is almost all paid off.

This adventure takes place in California; living in the Northeast, you would need to leave the heat on in order to survive in your car. The frequent gasoline fill-ups would negate any savings you’d manage to keep.

Read the hundreds of comments below for more interesting experiences had by those living out of their vehicles. If this describes you, please feel free to share your experiences below, as well.

Seattle Times

Updated September 8, 2011 and originally published February 27, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 430 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Gwen

I am so sorry if my comment offended anyone. I will re-read my post and make the necessary adjustmentts. I am semi=homeless myself and have learned a lot from each one of you about survival skills etc. I am expericing a major transisiton in my life and appreciate each one of you. peace and love

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avatar robert

I think people on here do not consider themselves homeless. I am giving up the apartment to live in my van full time. I consider it a step up. I can now go when I want and not be tied down to a certain town or city. This is true freedom.

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avatar Ansonetta

Hello All!

I’m 20 years old and I currently am taking out loans and dorming at college during the semesters, but in between them during the warmer months I’ve got no where to stay. I could stay at my friends houses a couple times out of the week I suppose, but I haven’t enough money for an apartment yet and I’m going to be living out of my car most likely. There’s really no other option, I can’t make enough money for an apartment and couldn’t maintain it for my next two years of school.. I’m hoping I can find some safe places to sleep- does anybody have any good ideas? Also, my car is a chevy lumina. I’ve slept in it plenty before, last summer, and I’ve never been bothered, but I’m afraid my set up makes it obvious that I’m in there. I cover my windows with cardboard (the inner sides facing me have art on them, I like it to feel like home) and I use one of my very large wrap dresses to hang from the ceiling and drape over the front two seats so no one could see in back, yet they could see through my front windshield and windows to see my fort. Any suggestions for safety and ideas for not getting caught?

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avatar JCasil

I would like to make a video and put it out on youtube. I have no good video equipment of my own, I would have to find some college students studying video or movies, interested in making an independent film project.

Laws and tolerations are extremely different from place to place. So the video would focus on practical things.

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avatar juju

I made some black shades for my car windows out of black foamboard. Use newspaper to make a stencil of the window and then cut the foambard just slightly larger than the window itself so it will hold itself in place by tension From the outside it just looks like limo tint.

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avatar juju

during the winter, this foamboard cover also acts like insulation since most the heat is lost through the glass.

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avatar serp77

when it comes to your windows you have a few choices, for the back ones you can get them tinted then just put a shade over the front window very much the same as what you do with the sun during the day. nothing wrong with that and who’s going to really notice. the 2nd option you might want to consider is painting the rear back door windows , from the out side it would look just like black tint then of course it would make the back follow suite just from looks.if you are taking out loans etc why not take out a little extra at least enough to cover the cost of a bigger vehicle. I know it might be a little more expensive but it would save on your sanity. As for places to stay I also found out that if you put a “security decal” on your vehicle people wont bother you as much. I always thought that when i see security stickers on any vehicle the 1st impression i get is stay away. If you go that route make sure it looks like every other security sticker out their to make it look official. Hope that helps.

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avatar juju

You cant paint the rear windows because then the driver may be subjected to tickets because it obstructs view while driving. I almost backed into a police officer trying to drive with the rear windows covered.

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avatar serp77

not the back window, i should have been more specific, in a sedan you can paint the back side windows where you can still see out the back window when you look in the rear view mirror , it would be no different than driving a full size van where it has no windows behind the drivers/passengers windows on the sides. and the full size vans do not have windows on the sides any where except for the back doors.

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avatar John

i found that church parking lots are the safest myself, some will chase you off but there are those that encourage it, i found one on the corner of dewey and madison, they’re also fantastic people when my alternator went out and just starting a job with no way to get there they ran out and donated an alternator, im usually there about 2 days out of the week now im comfortable there, the rest of the time i work a graveyard shift thats turning full time, so for right now during my job i found most parking lots are good, i get enough sleep and work. Another discovery i made as far as showering in most business buildings the bathrooms usually has showers, some has codes but i found a funny way to get around that; before i tell i need to let you know where something nice so they’ll think you work there that always work for me, anyway what i did to get the code i just went to one of the secretaries and asked what the code was, worked everytime so far

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avatar John

Also to add most police officers will likely look the other way but if they get complaints they are forced to tell you to move on, i have one that likes to park in the same parking lot to do his paperwork, ive talked to him a few times and is a great guy

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avatar John

I started living in my car in Oct of 2013 pretty much the same reason of bills; i do have a good job, I do miss the kitchen and the toilet facilities but im getting close to ending my bill problem but im begining to think that living in an apartment or someplace is just a huge luxury, im starting to enjoy living in my car and plan to upgrade with a camper van and live there permanently, ive grown accustom and comfortable in it now, my biggest problem is dating because a persons first thought when they hear i live in my car is that im homeless, and thats not the case.

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avatar gwen

Much to my dismay, I am contemplating another years lease. I really favor living out of my car. I recently sold my condo…came up short…have a good job but I am tired. I can collect pension etc. but I am sick of paying out all my money…like that…Thing is I KNOW I CAN DO IT BUT DO I HAVE THE NERVE…and the skills.

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avatar JCasil

Get that year’s lease.

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avatar robert

Don’t get the lease you will be tied down stuck. Go with the car freedom.

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avatar robert

Its not homeless. It is a choice to live a certain way. Get the camper van..

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avatar serp77

nothing wrong with living in your car and dating. as long as your car looks presentable right??? in your case I would start thinking about 1 of two things, get into actual camping to make letting her know easier or save up for a bigger vehicle such as a van or a full size suv. I can relate to what you are saying. I told my gf that since she doesnt live with me that i’ll be moving into our suv, its a 1997 ford expedition “eddie bauer” 4×4. its really nice comes fully loaded with leather interior with a 5.4L yes it’s a little more on fuel etc, but if you look around how many expedition’s you do see every day, its comnon as people walking down the street. The women are more understanding than you think. If anything when she see’s how you live she might just want to move in with you. look into a van or a full size suv. the reason I say expedition is when you fold the larger part of the back seat down it fits a single size mattress with ample room. it already comes with tinted out windows.If your working full time saving your money, then it wouldnt be that much more to invest in something a little more presentable. I thought thats what you guys are all saying, make it look presentable. I already told my mechanic that i need at least another 20K’s on my expedition for the simple fact that Its going to be my new home literally. so he told me not a problem, i’ll go over everything and make sure you will get at least 15-20ks before anything needs repair other than oil etc everyday. A little longbut maybe it’ll shed some insite to what your talking about. be safe

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