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Extreme Frugality: Living Out of Your Car

This article was written by in Frugality. 445 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 .

{ 445 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Clever Dude

I had SERIOUSLY considered doing this when I worked far from home during the week instead of renting the room I was in, but my wife had a fit when I suggested it. Of course, I would have had to buy a different vehicle to do so since I had a sedan.

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avatar Jason

Hats off to him–I don’t think I could do it.

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avatar Marshall Middle

I slept in my car one night, and it is NOT comfortable. I’d take a bed over a sleeping bag any day. You have to give this guy some respect because this is not an easy thing to do.

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avatar YeOleImposter @ DogberryPatch

If you put a mattress back there, I think it could be quite comfortable. It would be nice if there was a little more headroom.

Would need to be able to use my laptop. But I guess you can find free wifi somewhere!

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avatar scott

I slept on a tank four years, I think I could make it in the back of a truck with a camper shell no less.

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avatar Golbguru

I am being very cynical here, but deep down, I think it’s probably extreme publicity more than extreme frugality. Wouldn’t a sensible person find a better way to tackle his debt? or to be frugal.

Having said that, I admit that this kind of thing must have required extraordinary self-control over certain aspects….and I do appreciate that.

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avatar Rebecca Ryan

I can see your point the article does put him in the spotlight. I am presently doing the same thing and I wouldn’t tell a soul. I only have to make it about six months though. This guy is my idol! Just kidding seriously I typed in “living in my car” to make myseld feel better about the situation. And hey i guess I am not alone!

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avatar Peggy

I am in total agreement with the “disclaimer” in the last paragraph; this sort of stunt could only be successfully pulled off in a warmer climate where it doesn’t snow or go below freezing for months. I also think he’s getting a lot of help from friends/strangers and also taking advantage of student benefits (free gym access, access to campus cafeteria or cheap food) to pull this off.

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avatar Poorer Than You

So that’s the key to film school – live out of your car! But, um, how does he get his film equipment to sets? That’s what I always had to use my car for – there would have been no room for me to live in my car, with all the film equipment!

Also, this wouldn’t work for me at my Northeast film school – too cold! Of course, I’m not about to add “you can live out of your car!” to the list of “Southern California Film School Advantages.”

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avatar Acajudi

Many people add a trailer to their car to store things. Have you seen the little RV’s that can be folded up,yet once unfolded, has a bed, kitchen, etc. It is pulled behind a regular car. I think they call them mini RVs.

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avatar Dus10

He could probably afford to upgrade now. Maybe someone could sign him up for Pimp My Ride. They could hook him up with a stereo that has an LCD display and plays DVD and an XBox, and maybe a refrigerator and a nice swivel chair.

If he got this setup, he could probably go on like that for a few more years and have a huge nest-egg saved up.

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avatar Saving Advice

I lived on a boat docked in SF for awhile, but it was basically like a small apartment (although a lot cheaper…)

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avatar socal

I am currently living out of my car now. It’s not a truck; it’s a 2-door sports car, with almost everything I own in it. Luckily, I too, live in California, and sleep on the beach at night, when the cops don’t wake me up @ 1 am telling me to leave. When they do, i’m forced to sleep in it. I make it work. Hopefully i’ll get out of this rut by winter. Clifornia or not it gets **** cold out here!

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avatar Jerry

i feel ya, ive just recently had to resort to sleeping in my truck,luckily i have a camper. But hopefully i wont have to live this way too long… just have to wait till i ship out to basic training(air force) lucky me,from one to the next.

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avatar Jerry

oh ya and as for sleeping at the beach, i guess ill give that a try, not huntington, it cost 10 bucks to park, maybe newport or something, guy who sleeps at the beach what beach do you camp out at?

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avatar socal

I am in Malibu. I recently bought a tent to sleep in. Its so much better than laying my blankets out right on the sand, plus you get more privacy. Odd thing? I may want to continue living here like this. Its great. I ‘volunteer’ at a cat and dog rescue and they pay me every now and then when they can. I am told it does not get THAT cold here- just the water does. I love it out here. Who knew that the result of a complete nervous breakdown could turn out so good?

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avatar shady

I am thinking about living of my car. I didnt know you could sleep at the beach, your saying I could get a tent and sleep at Malibu beach every night? Where do you shower?

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avatar kate

I have seriously thought about this, just taking a road trip.Obiviously, i live in buffalo,Ny and doing this year round would be suiside.Only problem is i have a small 93 sunbird convertiable.not too much room in the first place.

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avatar austin

hey, if you still wanna road trip it iam heading out in a few wks to do the national park tour. ive got friends and family spread out and iam gonna make it happen. iam flying solo so a lil nervous but ive went coast to coast alone b4 anyways. hit me up if you wanna talk.

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avatar Dan

First off.. Cold climate is a no-no? I’ve spent months in remote cold climates living in a tent, no heater, just good gear.
I think one should get a gym membership if they were to do this, place to shower and get ready for work, plus you’d get really buff.
I think this is a great idea for people looking to make some changes in their debt quickly.

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avatar Homelessboy14

Hey I’ve been living out of my car off and on for the past year in northern Idaho. I can’t wait for spring to get here since this winter had some cold nights. We had about 2 weeks of “code red” storms. I thought I was going to die I was so cold, Still I am going to miss those nights once the extreme heat of summers on me. Right now, about 30-40 degrees is perfect weather for this homeless kid.

Honestly, showering has been my biggest problem during the past year. I’ve manage to take one every once in a while but I never thought about joining a Gym until reading about it on the net a couple days ago. And lucky me theres a 24hr Fitness right up the street from were I park.

I use Staples or Best Buy for Free Wifi. They block Myspace but I can still look things up. I own a little minivan and have been parking at Walmart in the same spot for a 2 months and have never gotten in trouble. There was even a finder bender right in front of my van once and a couple cops were walking around. I didn’t move, but I have sheets over my windows. Perhapes they just don’t care where I’m at or maybe they honestly didn’t notice me. Either way I’m getting pretty bold, I don’t even bother with my curtens some nights.

I think I’ve pretty much got living in my car down to an art, and I’ve finally got enough saved to get me an apartment, and I’m not sure I want to. I’ve had an apartment before, and its not that useful. If this Gym thing works out, I just might screw the idea of ever leaving my car and just keep improving it. I’ve been thinking of removing my Passanger seat and buying a few car batteries and a inverter. Let one run almost dead and then use my car to recharge it.

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avatar Bob Johnson

Homelessboy14,
Couples of tips and ideas:
The police knew what was up. You don’t appear to be a threat to anyone and unless a Walmart manager calls the police, they usually won’t waste the time.
For the summer days, see if that 24hr Fitness has a pool with lounge chairs nearby. I’d sleep there. If not, you may want to look into getting a generator and portable a/c unit. The generator can go up on the roof of your minivan and the a/c unit anywhere inside since most of these units cool up to 400 sf. A Yamaha EF1000iS generator weighs about 30 lbs and lasts on one gallon of fuel for 12 hours. From what I read it’s very quiet too. An Amcor ALTL12000E portable a/c unit will set you back around $500. You’d be looking at a total cost for both appliances with an extension cord of around $1,500 and whatever it costs for one gallon of fuel.
An inverter is good too. You can buy a jump starter for the dead car batteries. Hopefully you get enough time and power to operate a cooling unit. Make sure those six holes on the top of your car batteries are filled with water or they will dry out.
I hope your windows are tinted and get one of those sun visors to place across your entire front window.
I kind of have an edge of getting away with parking. I’m still living in my condo, but I have a PI license and can go up to a store manager and give him all my information. I’ll just tell him I’m looking for a stolen car. If he calls the police, all the police can do is run my license to prove I’m a PI. It’s illegal for the police to ask who a PI is investigating so they won’t go into detail. You may want to look into this idea and check your Division of licensing to get a PI license. Oh, and one last thing. You’re not homeless. Unless you sleep under a bridge or on a bench your vehicle is considered your home.

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avatar Brian

Great idea about becoming a Private Detective. However I just looked up the rules in Wisconsin where I live and you need to be employed by a Private Detective agency to apply. Could be different in other states…

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avatar Patricia

I hope you’re not a 14-year old boy. Your advice is great but it breaks my heart to think a 14-year old is living in a vehicle.

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avatar S

I’ve been living out of my car for 2 1/2 months..
It’s ok only for saving money..saved 2,000.00 Minimum ..soon, I can get a penthouse and live plush

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avatar Last

I lived in a Mitsubishi Eclipse for 6 months… saved up 20K. Had people try to break in to my car 3 times. Each time they ran off when they realized I was in the car. Still was a great way to save up cash. Two things for those who might try it. 1) you must keep a window cracked if the weather is even remotely warm or your windows will fog up and you could then get hastled. 2) NEVER decide to get a hotel room for the weekend. It seems like a good break, but will lead to more and more hotel stays. You might as well get an appartment. That’s what happened to me.

Also… I make 50k a year… this isn’t just a poor mans resource…

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avatar Bob Johnson

Last,
That’s true. I wish I made 50 grand. I bet I could plug away 200,000 in six years. Speaking of the clowns that tried breaking into your car, this may sound weird, but blow up dolls can protect your abandoned car at night. That little human-like shadow in the driver seat is all you need.

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avatar Itching to try!

I’ve been considering living in my car for a while now. I have a new Honda Fit and the back folds down into a nice space. I lost my job almost 4mos ago and I am having no luck finding a new one! I live in FL and the job market here is terrible. My cash is dwindling and paying over $900/mo on rent and utilities is really eating it up fast. With the warm weather here and all the places to park, gyms to join, and everything I’m not far off. It may be a necessity soon. A lot of troubled times coming this year and possibly next for many people. Good luck to you all!

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avatar Acajudi

I really love the hints that are on this site. The prices are going up so high, that many people will be living in their cars, and washing up in the store washrooms,or the YMCA. Renters are having a hard time, but there is not a bailout for us.

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avatar Nan of the Van

I found this website by accident and then thought of a solution for many having financial problems these days. When my husband and I retired we wanted to camp at leisure without a time line or reservations for 2 months out west to recapture our youth. I can no longer camp in a tent since I have back and knee problems and cannot get up and down easily. We had a van. We took out the back seats. I bought 12 flip top crates from Costco and fit them in the space. I bought no-see-um screening from Campmor (It’s very cheap). I cut the screening to cover the side doors and back door leaving enough for hems. I bought hundreds of round magnets at Rag Shop and sewed them into the hems about 3 inches apart. This was how I attached the screening to the van. We had an old 4 inch thick foam mattress I cut to cover the crates in which we kept everything including our photographic equipment. I made 2 sheets to fit the foam mattress. We used no suitcases. We brought 2 pillows each and 2 sleeping bags. I put up heavy cord between the garment hangers to hold the car rechargeable Coleman lantern I used at night for reading. My husband bought pvc pipe which he attached to the roof rack on evenings where rain was forecast. If we had rain we put it over the extended pipes to keep the rain from coming in the doorways. We slept comfortably in Yellowstone down to 19 degrees. We had a blast. We only spent extra money on campgrounds at half rate using the golden senior pass. I am sure these suggestions would help someone to survive a period of time to pay off debt and get a new start. We came home to our residence renewed with the thrill of how little our trip cost us. We will be doing it again soon and save money to go on more expensive journeys to other places in the world ala elder hostel.

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avatar Nan of the Van

Nan of the Van
I forgot to mention that we put a very lightweight tarp over the PVC pipe. It looked a little like Chitty Chitty Bank Bang but lots of people came over to talk with us about our rig. I have often wondered whether or not anyone else tried this since 2003 when we took this trip We also took 5 two or 3 week trips to the East Coast and Canada. When we passed through Canadian customs, the fellow asked my husband if he planned to do some plumbing on our visit. He answered no but said we used it as part of our camping shelter.

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avatar Acajudi

Have anyone thought of living with a senior citizen in exchange for helping her/him out? I feel so ashamed to see that money is the reason,that some are living in vans, when others have spare rooms. I think there is a website her, where you can get free lodging for a night or months for helping out. I own a van also, but i WOULD HAVE TOMOVE TO AWARM CLIMATE AND GET A GYM MEMBERSHIP TO KEEP CLEAN . My rent and heating alone is about $1,050 per month, and I still have AOL, phone, food, gas, netflix (entertainment), and charity. I do work 10months for the school system , and I get a pension check. I am doing great, but if I getsick,then my little savings will
have to supplemrnt my pension. The rich have no idea how we struggle, but some how we make it.
I thank God for what I have overcome these almost 66 years.

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avatar Nan of the Van

I have thought about seniors helping out seniors. At 66 one is still young compared to seniors who need help. A Foundation sponsored by a group of rich people would pair seniors who need a nice home with seniors who need help (usually after 80 or so – maybe even 90) This way old seniors could stay in their homes instead of moving to Assisted Living or Nursing Homes – Good Grief. The foundation would do the background check and a match-up survey. I have known college students who lived with seniors, but problems arose when the student wanted to stay out all night or go away for a weekend.

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avatar Moving West

How awesome are some of these comments and helpful suggestions. I am planning on moving to LA in October to (ironically) work for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Coalition. However, I still have monthly bills/debt. The coalition pay will not be enough to cover rent…ergo living out of my Ford escape for at least 6 months. I googled, “How to live out of your car” and this site came up. I love it. Thanks and I look forward to checking back in once the adventure begins. Scott

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avatar Moving West

I thoroughly enjoyed your post #19 HomelessBoy…I got a few good tips and a couple of laughs. Thanks

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avatar Moving West

Oh, yeah….how does one keep their cell phone charged while doing this?

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avatar MercPDX

I am about to go live in my car in an attempt to get out of debt. Both my phone and my internet are now wireless and mobile thanks to verizon. I plan to charge both my cell and my laptop by plugging them into the car via the cigarette lighter.
I also got a PO Box, and put all of my belongings in storage. The less you have in your car, the less chance there is of your stuff getting stolen.
I am going to try an last 6 months….well see.

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avatar Catherine Skrinak

I am a woman and was just laid off. I have a brand new SUV and a crummy studio apartment. The car payment wins out and I am getting rid of the rent so I will live in my car till I can save up enough money to feel comfortable. I have a dog so it will be a bit more difficult. I live in the north east so I will go to Texas in the winter where I used to live and the northeast in the spring and summer.

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avatar MercPDX

That is very similiar to the situation I am in. I got laid off because of the bad economy. I am recieving unemployment benefits but they are not enough to pay for both an apartment and a car – a car that I am still financing. I could not even consider giving up the car because that would have put a repo on my record and ruined my credit. A car will also help to make find a new job easier.
I have lasted one month now and doing okay. There is actually an element of adventure to it that I like. Also, not having a TV and a comfy couch means that I am now forced to get out into the world and be more active. I am healthier and have met new people. When I am bored I go to the park and play pickup basketball or go to the library. I would actually recommend this experience to others.

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avatar Catherinelady

Its wonderful that you make it work out fine. I will be in my SUV full time by the end of May.

On using a wireless laptop, I need suggestions on the best places outside my car to use one. I have a desktop right now and when I am fulltime living on the road it will be with a laptop. I am not prepared yet to get a dual battery for my SUV but would like to use it at starbucks, etc. Any suggestions would be welcome.

avatar MercPDX

Here is what i am doing. I got verizon wireless internet for my laptop and charge up at the coffeeshop. No problems.

avatar Bob Johnson

MercPDX ,
Yeah, I would assume it should only take about a month and you’ll escape the life of living pay check-to-pay check.
No more dishes, house cleaning, lawn to cut, neighbors to bitch at you and hurricanes to destroy the place. I live in a condo. My neighbors are criminals, deadbeats, stereo blasters, and winers. I’m stuck on a rock that will never change. I always here songs and stories about the ghettos. Hey man, just get in your car and drive away.

avatar Bob Johnson

Catherine Skrinak,
Good luck to you and your dog. It will work out. Try to land a job where you can work and have your dog tag along. There are portable a/c units for purchase that can keep your dog cool while you are at work, you’ll need a generator. Perhaps your job has a nice garage parking area and allow you access to an electrical outlet. If all else fails you can run the vehicle all day with the a/c cranked. Pull the driver seat up as far as you can and chain lock it to the steering wheel to prevent vehicle theft. Get dark tinted windows and an alarm. Don’t forget to walk your dog on breaks. There’s a lot of other ideas you can think of.

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avatar Abia The Cat

Steering wheels are too easy to cut. I use a length of very heavy log chain and padlock my clutch pedal with a heavy grade long shanked padlock to the steel frame of my seat. If the clutch is not pushed down, the truck won’t crank. With some automatics, if the brake pedal isn’t pushed all the way down, the car won’t crank either.

avatar rick

get a car charger for your cellphone or if you have a gym mebership plug it in at the gym while your working out.

soon i will be setting off on my own liveing in a car adventure. i live in wisconsin and my fiance is going to college in southern wisconsin so im following her down there i dont have a job currently but have a little money saved up for things ill really need i allready have a bunch of dry food (cereal is a life saver) i love the idea of getting a gym membership cuz i am a bigger guy and i could use a little excersise i hopefully wont be liveing out of my van (all seats are removed) for too long im guessing a month maybe two at the most but ill do it as long as i have too. so i thank you all for your great ideas and life lessons and respect every last one of you that have gone or is still going through this you are awsome peopls

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avatar New bum

I’m glad to know I’m not the only person considering this. Thanks for all the tips everybodY

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avatar questionsleep

This is awesome. This thread is recent, too. Makes me think we should make a car-living community, like an online forum =]

I lived in my car for 5 warm-nighted months, in 2007.
This year, 2008, it’ll probably be the same – I’ve been living in it since June, and October is when it starts to get really hard to stay warm. I’ve been working, and I too have trouble with keeping clean. I’m in Michigan, by the way. Already the nights are getting very cold.

It’s pretty rough since I don’t know anyone around here,
but the reason I’m doing it is to save money in order to be unemployed again for a while.
I’ll be moving back to where I know people, and hopefully I won’t have to pay to sleep the winter there and hopefully I can transfer my job.
My car is also terrible – it’s just difficult to start. I may get a new vehicle with my savings, hopefully a van – the most comfortable vehicle for carliving. Cars are so uncomfortable.

Hey! If you want to contact me, please do! I’m totally down with discussing car-living with you awesome folks.
nefarious_sanctum@yahoo.com
Make sure the subject line says something like “saw your car-living post”.

Love and peace, oh my car-living brothers and sisters!

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avatar EducatedHomeless

I’m bout to turn twenty and cant take living with my mother any more. I had one year away living on campuss at a university before i went broke and had to come back home and attend a Junior College. I want to get back to UNT but cant take another semester living at home. If my dad comes through and gives me his car, i plan too just hit the road. After my job at halloween superstore ends if i get this gig at hollywood video i hope to just leave. $40 a month or storage of my cloths and X for gas & however much the gym membership is & sleeping at wal-mart..its doesn’t matter its freedom…

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avatar b.

Thumbs up Andy!!!It’s Good to see other people doing this by choice. As an avid backpacker it is only a matter of time before one questions,why the hell am I paying this much for shelter when we require so much less than what everyone thinks we need!

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avatar Puck

Great thread! I’ve had lots of experience living out of my car. I say living out of because I didn’t always sleep in it. If the weather is good then I find a safe spot (I’ve had good luck so far) and then sleep next to the car. Sleeping in a car really sucks but recently I got a pickup truck with a shell. I built a small wooden platform that I can store gear underneath and sleep on top with plenty of room. It’s really cool in a geeky way. I’m also a big time backpacker so I have pretty good gear like a warm bag and a small stove. I’ll take sleeping outside any night but I like having a ‘backup’ plan in case the *hit hits the fan.

Some things I’ve found useful:

When I roll into town I get a good town map (often for free at the information center). It will tell you where lots of things are. It’s good to get your bearings.

Junior colleges make for good shower spots. It seems that big universities have a check in desk while smaller schools don’t bother with that. I look like I know what I’m doing, carry a small bag and then take long, glorious showers.

Sleeping in church lots during the week and school lots during weekends or summers are easy.

Keep clean and tidy. It would be depressing to sleep in your own filth. Having a clean car gives a legit appearance.

Hope this helps. Good luck and peace to all.

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avatar simplicity

Hi all! What great reading here! I do not currently live out of my vehicle, but I do travel a lot, mostly camping. Years ago I spent over a month travelling in a GMC Safari minivan. My friend made a loft. A full size mattress (no box spring) fits perfectly in the back. We had it just high enough off the floor to store clear, plastic storage containers underneath. I made curtains. I slept so well in that van, it was great. We made a lot of trips in that van. It was small enough to get off the beaten path, yet big enough I didn’t feel crowded. If you are roughing it single, a twin bed would give you so much more room. We made fitted screens to cover the side windows. Camping in the midwest and east, this is soooo necessary. Out west, it can get a little hot. Battery powered fans work well. Get a car charger for your rechargable batteries. They sell them at REI.
Many resorts, National Parks & Forests, State and County parks, hire folks to do general work. Some offer free camping or even dormitory style housing. Some resorts give free meals. There are many places to legally camp for free. The options are out there, even in the year 2008. You don’t have to stay put. Travel with the weather you like. Travel for months, stop for a month and work to save up more money to get out and travel again. Become a garbage picker or flea market hag. No one is forcing you to continue to live this debt ridden lifestyle. You are free!!! Life has no instruction booklet. You don’t need a house to put all that stuff in. You don’t need a fancy car to make you look happy. You don’t need a college degree to feel accomplished. Live life through experiences! Meet your fellow Americans. See the world around you. It (or you) may not be here tomorrow. Simplicity!

~*~Much love to you all~*~ Best wishes to those of you in hard times~*~Don’t give up hope~*~You are important~*~

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avatar Tahoe

What about an air mattress? I’ve been thinking about doing this to get rid of debt, as well. I’m a 17 year veteran of the mortgage business as a loan officer. However, with the crisis it’s been horrible. I just stopped paying my mortgage and credit cards out of survival. I don’t want to touch my retirement savings at the age of 50, so I’m not even thinking of that. I have a Jeep Grand Cherokee and figure an inflatable mattress would work. I also have a gym membership at a 24 hour club, which I would use to shower and keep fit. It’s nationwide too! I figure it may be a year before I actually have to do this because the banks are letting people stay in their homes longer than usual. I will try to sell my home, but who knows how that will go in this market. Anyways, love this site and all the great suggestions. Best wishis to all!

TR

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avatar yourmom:oP

There’s surprisingly a lot of comments…
I too live in southern california, work and am a student. I rent a master bedroom in the suburbs. I am considering living out of my honda crv because it has fold-down rear seats and tinted windows. I could save $550/per month, not to mention gas. But, I am a girl and I guess that could be particularly more risky as far as safety. I have mentioned to my older sister and she said “no way!” and my ex-boyfriend initially said no way, but after hearing me out, didnt really seem to have any other good arguments left. :oP

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avatar Bob Johnson

yourmom,
I’m planning on doing this too if you read some of my posts. I went a little crazy writing to a lot of folks. I live in South Florida and if I take on this task I’ll probably head to the Florida Keys. I like the keys and there are a lot of places to pull over onto the side and relax. Finding a job is hard though and may be a big reason for a short departure to a new location.
Getting back to you: Don’t listen to the “No Way” shouters, especially ex-boyfriends. Do you realize that you’ll be saving more than $6,000 per year. Probably put that down on a new car or house.

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avatar yourmom:oP

Amen Henry David Thoreau!

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avatar CaravanMan

I live in good ole’ COLD Connecticut. I have been working, but still technically am unemployed. My girlfriend has been doing more than her part to keep things together, but I haven’t been able make up for the debt I’ve created. We have to go our separate ways. Still together, just not living together, you know?

But anyway, I have a dodge caravan with removable seats. Im short so I got all leg room i need. My problem is going to be heating and storage for my clothes and tools. I was thinking about using my friends portable propane grill for heat. Those little cans are fairly cheap. I have a power inverter for all my electronics up to 75w. The gym membership seems like a fantastic idea for hygiene.

If I do all this to live out of my van, where would i be able to keep my tools? I have about $5000 dollars worth of carpentry tools that I need to make my money. I cannot sleep on My miter saw.

Any body have any ideas for me? Any suggestions will help greatly.

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avatar Catherinelady

Would there be room to put a rack on top of the car with a locked tool box? That might work. I am not sure how big the dodge caravan roof is but its an idea.

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avatar Jamie

I can’t wait to get my license, so I can live out of my car. Living out of a car seems so awesome and stress free. I live in a house now and can’t stand it. I’ve lived in many houses with different family members. I just cannot not seem to get along with any of them. Maybe its me, or maybe their all just crazy and irrational. You can’t put a price on freedom. LIving out of your car is absolute freedom. No one telling you what to do. No one to fight with. No mortgage, or bills. Nothing to tie you down. It’s a perfect idea for a financial conscious introverted individual who is opposed by commitments and likes to travel. I spend all my time at the gym and at starbucks, I might as well live out of my car. I wouldn’t be doing anything different except sleeping in a peaceful place under an oak tree. It’s paradise, I can’t wait!

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avatar Bob Johnson

Jamie,
Don’t forget the parks either. You can sleep on a hammock or anything you would do at the beach. What are you? About 18 now? I’m 38. Look at it this way, if you stick with this plan until you are my age you’ll be able to retire in a nice place. Never have to stay at the same-lame job with the nutty boss, maybe take a few months off per year and travel around the nation. Did you get your license? Try looking into getting a National Drivers License.

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avatar Tahoe

National? What’s that? Never heard of a national license for driving a car.

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avatar EducatedHomeless

Jamie, its funny how you make living out of your care seem so glorious. But, i hope your experience goes the way you want it to. But, dont forget your gonna have to pay for gas, and since u live in the car it will probley be your most expensive bill.
-P.S what kind of car do you have?

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avatar bcdale

awesome site.. i have been staying in my minivan all summer. i am planning on putting in the winter also. i spent a winter 17 years ago living outside in alberta canada.. yes, it really does get to -85degrees celsius with the windchill. some tips that i used to use. if possible. work and stay awake and alert at night. sleep in the day. its warmer and safer. that of course is if you don’t have the protection of a shelter(vehicle).. i am in calgary for the time being. tonite is a balmy -8 degrees celsius. i spend my evenings on the net. i also stream my tv programs with a site called ovguide. i can watch anything i like. its all free. starbucks allows you 2 hrs free per coffee card that you maintain a $5.00 balance on. but any staples or bestbuy will provide wifi. i keep warm with a propane heater only til i bed down. i won’t risk sleeping with it. i use an air matress on top of a couple of blankets. i then put a blanket or two on top of it. then i put a duvet on top of me. i put some clothes inside my bed to keep them warm for when i get up. but i sleep nude. i use my own breathe to keep it snug and warm. i do wear a toque on my head. i use a little propane burner to cook and i keep a cooler that i fill with snow to save on the cost of ice. i charge my cell and batteries for my lights while i am driving. although my lights are all LED for there battery saving qualities. my propane heater by coleman is awesome. it makes life in the van more homelike. just a note. keep clean and shaven. look after your teeth. wash daily any way possible. it makes it more like the life you are used to. don’t ever wear your shoes in the back where you are living and never get a chill. it will be almost impossible to get warmed up completely. remember why you are sleeping outdoors in your vehicle.. its a choice. not a cercumstance..have fun with it. but don’t tell anyone.. it will come around and bite you in the ass. keep hydrated even in the winter months. it will actually keep you warm..i always make a hot drink of cup-a-soup or hot chocolate just before i go to sleep. it warms me and the van.. life is good.. lol..any questions i can be contacted at dalecasselman@gmail.com…. i am not a bum. i just started my business this year. its called total exterior and i am making out like a bandit. the reason for the van experience. i was living in vancouver, bc. but i am working in calgary, ab. i will head back in another month.

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avatar Acajudi

I know people, who rent a storage space for their vans, boats and cars, and at night sleep in the storage area. They use the Vector portable lamp.
Msany eat at soup kitchens and volunteer there to get as much food as they want, and normally can shower at th shelter. I feel we need to have dormitories for people down on their luck. America can spend money on the world, yet cannot help her own, and that wil destroy us. America and Americans first!!!

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avatar Tahoe

I’m in Chicago. Nice to see you can actually do this in the winter. My problem is that I have a dog too.

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avatar CaliforniaGal

I llived in my car for 6 months last year. I have 3 paid for townhouses. I lived with my dog. He loves it.
I keep his own water cup in my armrest—you know—-One cup for me, one for him. He doesn’t drink my water and I don’t drink his. I put a survival blanket on the floor of the front of the car and he sleeps on it. On really cold nights I put down a second one for him and kind of curve it around him and put a blanket over that. He’s toasty. Sometimes at 3 am he needs to pee. Then I have to extricate myself from my own survival blanket, other blankets, and reclined car seat.

I take showers at the health club on Saturdays—they offer a free yoga class on Saturdays and I go to that and the shower and facilities are included. I get week passes to try new health clubs all the time.

I bought an HP Mini—charges on a car battery and holds for 9 hours. Never runs down my battery even if I leave it on for an hour. Hotspots are EVERYWHERE—McD’s, Forever 21, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and more. Certain places in town….I know them all.

My blow-dryer and hair-curler plug into the cig lighter and away we go.

I am self-employed and hate working and cant afford a “real” vacation. This year I am thinking of driving to Alaska in the summer sometime. Probably I will bring my tent—but maybe not.

Love car life. Eliminates heating and cooling bills, garbage bills, provides anonymity.

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avatar Jaime

I’ve been on the road since September, living mostly in the car, breaking out the tent at certain points and being lucky enough to stay with family in the hottest areas of our fair country. Traveling alone – which is kind of atypical of a chick. Stupid, crazy, and exciting, definitely.

WalMart parking lots have been a blessing; you wouldn’t believe all the folks living out of their cars in Albuquerque!

Also, if you’re a potential car-dweller, with a dream of heading west, you wouldn’t believe all the beach bums in Cali. Transients in VWs. Amazing. Though sleeping on the beach is probably not one of your safer ventures.

Winter’s a-coming, and I’m headed north… scary.

As for showers: River-bathing, wash-houses on public beaches, and shelling out the money to a State Park…but not all State Parks have bathroom amenities! Check before you pay; Joshua Trees’ got no showers, duh, mind your deserts people! Haven’t even broken out the solar shower, that was a wash. Not kosher for a WalMart parking lot. Good luck folk! Stay warm!

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avatar this

ive been living out of my car (4 door mitsibushi mirage) with all my clothes and personal items for about a month. i live in west texas and its pretty cold at night. i try to stay up all night at 24 hr spots and sleepp for a few hours in the warm morning. shit is not fun at all

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avatar Jeff C.

You should definately invest in a -30 degrees rated sleeping bag. It will keep you warm enough.

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avatar CaliforniaGal

Wow—I stayed in Austin last year and it got down to 19 F. Go to the camping store and get those $7
blue on one side and foil on the other survival blankets….I have 3. One for me and two for my dog as I put the one on the floor in the car and then I curve the other around him (see previous post!)

On top of the foil I have 2 quilts…..real cozy.

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avatar this

everyone wanting to trade spots with me (house for a car) lets do it. i turned 21 a couple weeks ago, great gift. im to embarassed to ask my family for money to pay off everything and move. trying to just gett a fast food job for at least one paycheck

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avatar Sonja

I live in my van and have a blog posted at http://www.faliaphotography.com .. I have been trying to provide lots of tips for anyone interested in living in their vehicle :)
Sonja

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avatar Anonymous

To all of you above who think that living in a car is probably just for publicity, not a sensible way to be frugal, and can’t be done in cold climates – you are completely wrong. Living in a vehicle can be a terrific experience, can definitely be done in cold climates (ask some full-timers in the yahoo groups!), and is a smart way to get ahead. Don’t think that you have to listen to society and the mainstream and live in a house, paying rent or a mortgage. Living in a vehicle is actually very sensible. And if you think it’s not, you are being very close minded.

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avatar Bob Johnson

Anonymous,
EXACTLY!!! I’m still living in my crappy condo in a bad area. It’s time to ditch. I love my car. I can blast my tunes, relax and go anywhere I want to go. I’m gonna’ go for it!

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avatar this

how the hell is living a car sensible??? maybe if you’re a bum. i will never live like this again once i get back on my feet

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avatar Jamie

Until you have money to pay cash for a house living out of a car is sensible. If you ask me paying on a mortgage is not sensible even if you can get a fix rate. If you don’t have the cash for it don’t make the mistake of getting a lender and paying interest, because your just going to get more and more in debt. So unless you want to be saying for 30 years I owe I owe it’s off to work I go I would recommend living out of your car until you have the cash for a house. I would rather live out of my car for 30 years debt free and pay cash for a house, then live out of a house and have to pay interest and be in debt. The money that you are paying interest on can be invested and multiplied instead of being thrown away. Living out of a vehicle is not only sensible, it is effective and efficient in getting ahead and making smart financial decisions.

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avatar Tahoe

Don’t forget that you will have to pay real estate taxes if you own a house. In some places it is not cheap.

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avatar Romana S

I’ve lived in my car and now a small converted bus for years. Back at the start of this year I started a small web site with the express idea of providing free useful and practical information for people living in cars or vans. Living in a van is so much easier than living in a car. You can live in a car though.

Recently, in response to a lot of emails I have recived, I wrote up a basic guide with tips, suggestions and advice for people living in their car. It is at http://www.carliving.info/101.htm. All the information there is compleatly free, there are no adds (I hate adds!) and there are plenty of links to other, more in depth pages on the site, also add free.

Another site that I think many people will find useful is run by a friend of mine from the Yahoo Vandwellers group. It is http://ParkFreeOvernight.com. It has a searchable database of places to live for free. Very useful for finding a no hassles place to park overnight.

It is also great to read that like myself, there are many people taking a concious descision to live in their cars or vans without beiing forced there by circumstances. It can be quite liberating being out on the road, travelling where you want, and taking your home with you for free. Life is a journey folks. Our anscestors were all nomads, so some of us have to continue the journey. :)

Stay safe folks.
Romana S.

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avatar Bob Johnson

Romana,
Great advice. Vans concern nosey folks though. They call the police with one thing on their mind and that’s crime. I was a PI and experienced this. The best place to park is to talk to a friend with a house. You’ll never be in his/her way by simply using the driveway.
What hasn’t been posted on this site yet is investment strategies. Everyone should deposit their money in a bank that pays a decent interest rate. Some credit unions pay monthly interest rates. Since this plan of living in a car will save 75 to 90 percent of the average income you will be saving a lot in time and receive interest on top of it. Never leave your money in the console. Cars catch on fire all the time or your vehicle can be broken into. Besides, even car people have bills too. Suppose you save up to $100,000 in five years. At 3% monthly interest you’ll never have to work again. Mutual Funds are okay as well. You can open one for around $2,500 and forget about it for ten years. IRAs and CDs too, which are things that most renters or house owners can’t do. For folks with children I’m sorry for. They need a house or apartment to suit their needs.
Unfortunately the Internet was introduced to the world in 1989 or I would have jumped on this idea after high school.

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avatar CLS

I’m so glad I came across this website. I have a new 2 door Ford Focus hatchback I’m still paying for. My life has turned around completely in the last year and I am in so much credit card debt and I don’t have a job. My unemployment benefits is not enough to rent a room, eat and pay my car. I need my car, I don’t want to lose it so I want to make sure I can afford the payments. I plan to lower my expenses to a minimum. I’m planning to shower and get ready for work at the gym and I’m going to rent out a storage unit for my clothes and other important things for $50.00. a month and I plan to get a P.O. Box for the “bills” to come in. I have a cell phone and I could always use a computer for free at the library. Thank goodness I live in Southern California so the weather will never get below freezing. I’m petite so sleeping in the back seat of my car is comfortable enough. The only thing I was a bit worried about is where to park with out being noticed. I read Walmart mentioned a couple of times in this website. The Walmart in my area is in a big shopping center with other stores surrounding it. I’m not sure if I could do that.

All I hear on the news is how companies are closing down and people are losing their jobs and homes right now so I guess this is going to become a growing trend soon in the States. I’m giving the building I live in my 30 days moving notice on January 1st, 2009 and I will be in my car beginning February 2009 until I get back on my feet again or maybe longer if it works out well. I don’t plan to tell anyone I know personally that I am doing this because I’m embarrassed but I know that I’m not going to let myself go. I will stay clean and fit thanks to my gym membership and everything will be okay.

Stay safe and good luck to all of you!

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avatar Bob Johnson

CLS, You’re doing all you can do. You don’t have to tell anyone what you are doing. I’d file bankruptcy and focus on paying for mostly your vehicle. A Ford Focus is great for living space. Place a sun visor across the front window and make sure the other windows are tinted. CA has nice weather to avoid running the engine to stay warm. Down here in Florida is just HEAT. I hope you got the job at the gym. Also try job service agencies. They can land you a desk job. Unemployment is not very much. As far as searching for a place to park at try the gym. Walmart is a hot spot for vehicle theft—-be careful. I saw on television that some Walmarts have spaces available for people living in their cars. It’s great for their business. Try a 24 hour grocery store. The parking lots are filled with silly folks who can’t even remember where they park and the employees are always out and about collecting shopping carts which is good for detouring crime. Another good place to park is a rest area. You’ll never be bothered there and a lot of these places have armed security. Hotels too. If you are ever asked by authorities to leave, no problem. Tell the police you work long shifts and want to get some sleep before hitting the road. Just search for a new parking area in a different city if all else fails. If you get a basic 9-5 job that pays just above minimum wage; in about two years from now you should have about $20,000 saved. Look at the bright side: You WON’T be living pay check to pay check. Good Luck!!!

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avatar creative living

Here are some good tips (sorry if they’ve already been mentioned!)

Get one or two extra car batteries (or backup power batteries like this one) and store them in a plastic bin somewhere in your car, wire them up to a solar panel and mount that on the truck/van roof (they sell these at most auto parts shops for less than $100 ie. this is a high voltage example, just google solar battery charger at google shopping, there are many options including dash mounted “battery maintainers”). Note, it does not always have to be completely sunny for these panels to work.

Next, plug an electric blanket (with a cigarette lighter or other adapter) into your one or two spare car batteries, this will keep you warm and not kill you with fumes or lack of oxygen. Here is a good one.

As many have already said, get a membership to a gym, potentially 24 hour fitness so you can visit and use the facilities whenever you want. Make friends there and stay healthy and active by visiting each morning.

Spend your spare time working or hanging out at the library, make friends, read books, use the free wifi.

Get a car alarm, keep your car clean by visiting the “do it yourself car wash” with the spray hose that takes quarters. Possibly keep a stun gun or pepper spray (or bear spray) in your car with you. Add one way mirror, mesh, or dark tint to the inside of your camper topper and park at Wal-Marts or campgrounds. Maybe offer to rent the driveway space at a friends house – don’t abuse the system! For those of you with truck toppers, try to enter into the bed area using the pass through window of the cab, that way you don’t draw unnecessary attention to what you’re doing. Park in well lit areas where other people may be present, if you can’t afford a real car alarm get the fake red LED flashing kit (this one is solar powered and shock sensitive) this one is a bit cheaper.

Here is an interesting article about “truck camping” and caving where people build shelves in the back of their pickups and then mount a pad or mattress above for sleeping:

Own a cell phone or track (pay by the minute) phone for safety, have a first aid kit and warm clothes available or a metallic survival blanket. Don’t ever gamble with your spare money, open a ROTH IRA and save what you can (ask about it at your bank or credit union). Put a fire alarm and carbon monoxide alarm in your car as well as a portable fire extinguisher (not sure renters insurance will cover you in car).

I’ll let you know more as my adventure unfolds. Good luck to all! Be caring towards others in these difficult times, be safe and healthy!

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avatar Bob Johnson

You’re on the right track Creative Living. I would suggest omitting the campers unless you are planning on living with others. Cars can go anywhere. I was a private investigator in Florida and could never come up with a way of keeping cool in my car. I had to keep the engine running which sparked attention to my presence. The car has just about all you need but facilities. The 24 hour gym membership is a great way to go. Be prepared for people walking by to report a vehicle with its engine running, lights on or a suspicious person in the parking lot. I’m sure you and everyone else will face these situations.

I forgot to mention that I’m a volunteer firefighter, but although my fire station has all the facilities I’m afraid I’ll be in the way. There are paramedics at my department who live there and make a very nice income.

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avatar eric

PREDATOR NATION: AVOID THE SILK TRAPS; LIVE IN YOUR CAR AND SAVE YOUR MONEY!

FACT # 1 = If 80% of your pay check is eaten up by bills like rent and utilities you are living in a silk trap!…

Your landlord and others are using you to enrich themselves…

As long as you continue to live in these “silk traps” – you will always be broke!

Don’t be a sucker live in your car and save that money!

fact # 2 = Get a cheap storage unit to store most of your stuff.

fact # 3 = Get a gym membership: to allow you to take showers.

Fact # 4 = Buy a cheap truck on craigslist or ebay.

Fact # 5 = Do not tell anyone that you live in your truck…especially women…they don’t get it.

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avatar Catherine Skrinak

Hey, this woman will be living out of her SUV soon and will be enjoying it.

:-)

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avatar ragtagmom

seriously now I think there are more women living in cars, vans and the like than you would think. And a lot of us are not so young. After all women represent the larger percentage of those living in poverty. I think we’re just better at looking like we’re not homeless. I’ve moved up in the world and now have a van but I’ve lived in a car before. Hostels, gyms and public pools are good for showers. I have a degree and have had professional jobs but I think it’s crazy to spend all of your life working for things. There really is a way of living well without a house.

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avatar Sonja

Dont tell anyone, “especially women?” “They don’t understand??” give me a break. I know several female vandwellers and tons of women that want to be. I live in a van and love it. I am a woman. I agreed with everything else you said, but that woman comment made me roll my eyes.

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avatar Romana S

Hey, is that Sonja from the Vandwellers list and Falia Photography? You tell him girl! Women can live in vans too? :)

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avatar Sonja

hey Romana! Yup it’s me, I’ve just gotta defend vandwelling for all of us women that do it! :)

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avatar eric

Okay Sonja, I stand corrected. Maybe my generalization was too broad but I made that statement after listening to the following incident on the radio:

A concerned female called the popular NPR radio show, CAR TALK: She said that she had just discovered that her college boyfriend sleeps in a van…she wanted to know…what was ‘wrong’ with him and whether she should tell her mother. When this young man told her that he sleeps in his van, he must have thought that she would keep it to her self, instead she got on the radio and told the whole world.

It is obvious that some people…MEN AND WOMEN don’t get it… it is a predatory system and the only way you can save any money is by swimming against the current….but these suckers would rather be forever broke…. they want to keep up appearances even though they don’t own and will never own the expensive houses and cars that they claim to ‘own’…they are trapped in a silk web of predatory leases, mortgages and rent payments.

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avatar CLS

I agree with Eric. But it’s not only women you have to worry about. It’s men too. People have an image of someone that doesn’t have a home as a dirty, tangled hair alcoholic drug addict panhandling in the street. I am far from that stereotype. I’m an attractive girl fit girl. I work out 6 days a week. I eat healthy, dress nice and have a new car. I am going to start living out of my car as of February 2009 so I can pay off the wealthy bankers that just got a bail out for my $30,000.00 debt plus all the extra finance charges and late fees that I have accumulated in one year for lack of payment. Times have changed and I am not making what I use to make so the only alternative I have is to live out of my car so that I can pay them off and be debt free.

I have decided that I’m not going to tell my boyfriend. He doesn’t have to know because he’s in jail right now fighting a case where he has been wrongfully accused of something. I feel guilty that I’m not going to tell him what I plan to do but I can’t do it. Specially after reading what Eric said about the radio caller.
People don’t react well when they hear you don’t have a home. He doesn’t need to worry about me and I’m also embarrassed to let him know that it has come to this. He has his own stress right now.

I’ve had 3 roommates in the past and I’ve been robbed all three times. There’s always problems and headaches that I rather spare myself. I rather sleep in my car and save the money.

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avatar Bob Johnson

I’m in the same boat and thinking about living out of my car too. I suggest YOU might want to get a 24-hour fitness membership and use their facilities. Plus, you can work out too to stay in shape. Good luck to you—-be safe!

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avatar Franklin Grimes

I lived in my truck for about five years in the 90′s. In Connecticut {where I’m from} I lived all summer until Christmas, then I went down to Texas. I had a pick-up truck. Before you buy your truck, make sure you can stretch out full-length in the back. I put up curtains out of burlap, secured the gate on the cap with a chain.I had a matress, at community centers you can take a shower for a couple of bucks, I worked as a temp and a day laborer.You can sleep in and around college campuses easy because they expect cars with out of state plates and they veiw sleeping in ones car as sophmoric youthful stunt and are tolerant. The key is do loiter after work at the park or where-ever until you want to go to bed, say around 9;30 PM, then you sail into your spot, park, and then get out and take a long moment to make sure no-one is watching, then zoom into the back, tie up the chain, and Presto, another rent free night. You can use a wide-mouth detergent bottle to urinate and I’ve discovered you can defecate into a double plastic shopping bags, you know, one inside the other, and then tie them off, enclose in another bag, repeat. This can be left in any trash-can. I saved alot of money though at the time I also had some behavioral problems and a signifigant drinking problem. All the same, it was a mobile way of life that suited me at the time. Look around the city, its build to be accessed in your vehicle, why not take it a step furthur and just live in the damn thing?

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avatar CLS

Why would anyone have to take a big dump in a bag when you working and you are a member of a 24 hour gym? The circumstances are not the same Franklin.
From what I read here, this site is for people that have decided to live in their car to save money not people that want to be drunk and high all day and do nothing with their life.

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avatar dee

notice he said five years in the 90s, wat year was this posting 2009? and he also said he had problems and worked through them then, so this is a supportive statement of wat everyone has been talking about.

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avatar MAT

When I was getting back on my feet after another back injury and had a little $10 an hour job in 2005, my living arrangements were sold. I couldn;t find an apartment that would take pets in the range I could afford. I have a fifteen year old mini poodle. For five months I would rotate sleeping in my car and checking in to a Motel 6 about four nights per week. Since my car was known to the personnel at the Motel 6, I just parked in adjacent spaces on car nights and nobody said boo about it, even the cops who patrolled the lot nightly.

Being a Volkswagen Cabriolet, it was very cramped for the dog and I to sleep with the place being packed with bags, clothes, pillows, ice chests and so forth. But I managed. The dog was more upset about it more than I was. He likes to go “home” and sleep.

Now, several years later I had a decent job and got a large sedan. But all of a sudden I’ve lost what was to be a good job with the economy and have re-applied for unemployment extension from a stint last year. I just will not be able to afford rent and my car payment, insurance, cell, etc. I moved into this studio apartment the beginning of the year and now I’m thinking about returning to the car option for a domicile for a while.

My stuff is in storage. The Grand Marquis is a lot roomier than a “rabbit”. Back to the Motel 6 for a few nights a week to give us both a good rest, iron some clothes, and feel “normal” for a night or two.

Wal-Marts lots are good if they allow it. I also parked in a Target lot some nights, out of the way and there were overnight stockers’ cars and nobody bothered me. I have two sets of those folding silver/black shades for he window and will need to get a couple more. They’re easier than a curtain rod and blackout cloths.

I’m also thinking about a tent and one of those blow-up mattresses to try camping which I love and miss anyway. We’ll see. I think this is going to be a growing trend as we see the economy worsen.

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avatar Acajudi

It is a shame to read how average people have to pay hgh rents for a small apartment. There is not any bailout for renters, and with people losing homes, the rental market is gourging people!!! They make you pay for water besides the rent. I am ready to write McCann and ask may I housekeep one of his homes.He has 7 or more, I am willing to housesit, since my rent takes most of my SS check!! I worked very hard all my life and I am not poor or rich, but with the rising prices, I may have to put everything in storage and volunteer to live at a homeless shelter. I have some savings, but I am using it to supplement my SS and a part-time job. The people shipping jobs overseas and bringing in foreign workes should lose all their money to Bernie Madeoff. He made off with the crooks money…lol One rich woman said she was down to living in one home…She had to sell three. Poor baby!!!!!

Hire Americans and bring our jobs back,or there will not be an American,and the parasites will return to their own country.WE CANNOT PROTECT THE WORLD.

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avatar anomaly arroyo

I live in my car i have a toyota paseo and frankly im loving it had only planned to do so for a few months and now its almost a year i pass out on the drivers seat take martial art and work full time of course using my brothers gym to 24hour fitness sure its doable with a little help. Defenetly mad maxing my car now because of it lol though my racer mentality keeps me to pack light have one luggage in the trunk but those really large flat ones that fold like a briefcase never been asked by police if i was living in car. As for what is vital is iphone and cigarette lighter to power small electronics but frankly i pack light keep busy and lounge at cemetary or friends house from time to time as time goes on one learns the tricks of the trade only have 2 locations i know i wont get rolled up on. My work and a small residential parking lot next to offices by friends hous. i feel like the road warrior……

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avatar Stuck in Iowa the black hole of the USA

I”m going to be living in my car soon the economy is dead and its cold cold cold here in Iowa I was homeless when I was a kid in Florida,but this is going to suck bad. I can handle it there are just NO jobs whatsoever here in the midwest not even McDonalds is hiring anyone. I should just move south again it was almost fun being homeless when I lived in Florida always something to do, but here its a shit hole why I’ve been here 11 years is beyond me all the factories are closing and everyone is getting laid off its madness…..

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avatar Acajudi

Move to a warm area, if living in your car. You could freeze to death. Live with a group, that helps the homeless, as an unpaid staff member.

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avatar Acajudi

You are not alone, but this is when van living people should rent a house,and live like the foreigners. They live 20 or more to a house, and they normally work 16 hours a day, so they sleep in shifts. They are not living in vans. It is safer when honest people can share living space all over America and the world. I hope I never have to do it, but my rent is getting to take more of my income. Dishonest people is why I do not have a room-mate, and my personality. At times I just want QUIET! I get that living with God..
We are never alone. Sometimes a storefront is cheaper than rent, and you could run a used bookstore, clothing, or whatever in the front, and live in the rear. Many newcomers to this country have done that, and doing it now.

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avatar dee

good luck on finding those honest people/ who will not steal from you

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avatar CLS

I recommend you get a good sleeping bag. I found a Mummy Slumberjack Sleeping bag that warms you up against 0 degrees cold. It really works. I only feel the cold when my nose peeks out.

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avatar positivebro

I am very happy that I came across this site. I am an attorney from Washington, DC and had recently lost my government job last September. I decided to relocate so I drove to Los Angeles, CA not knowing a soul out here. I have been living in my car for the past 3 weeks. At first I wasn’t sure where to go in Los Angeles, then I decided to go close to UCLA. I figure hanging around a university would probably be my best best. The only problem is that campus police ticket hard on that campus so I ended up parking a few blocks away from the campus at a local recreational park. I haven’t been bothered by police or parking enforcement which is a good thing. I have a BMW 525i so unfortunately it’s not as comfortable as an SUV or truck would be but I guess it works for now. I think probably the hardest part is just not knowing anybody in the area. It would defintely help. I do look forward to the time when I get back on my feet though. I defintely have a new outlook on homelessness.

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avatar ER

Hey PositiveBro, how’s it going in LA? I’m thinking about doing the same thing, just driving to LA and scraping by on odd jobs here and there. I’d be really interested to know how you’re doing.

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avatar Positivebro

Hello ER,
It has been very interesting since the last time I had posted on here. I have been here in Los Angeles for 3 months now, still living in my car. I had to move the car twice. I had to move the car from the recreational park that I use to park at because workers there caught on to what I was doing and decided to call the police. Believe me, it is not fun waking up to see a police officer with his gun pointed at you. After about nearly an hour dealing with them, they figured out that I was really a good guy trying to make it and told me it would be better to park in the parking lot at the VA hospital. I thought that was a good idea since I am an ex-marine. Well that lasted for a week until the federal police saw me and told me that I couldn’t sleep in my car on the lot and had to go. But, they did tell me of a very safe spot to park the car where it would not be bothered by LAPD or the Feds. It is near Brentwood, CA right outside the VA compound. Actually there are several other people living in their vehicles there as well. I actually got to meet a few of them and they are really cool people. I have been here ever since and do not have any trouble with police or parking enforcement. Also, there is a building right across the street where I can clean up and nobody even knows. I do still go to the UCLA campus to take showers, workout, or use their computers. Anyone can be a member at the gym on campus where it costs about $40 for the whole semester. I did get help from the state so that I could eat better. I was able to get the EBT card which has about $300 per month for food. Now, I will tell you, this really isn’t all that easy. You do, however, get use to it, but you just got to keep striving for better things. I am hoping that soon I will be able to get back into a house or apartment, however, I am very grateful that I have my car, because living on the street would probably be a bit too much for me.
Good Luck.

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avatar Marie

I am grateful to have found this site and have found most of the comments to be quite useful. I have been unable to find work for four months now and have been considering living out of my car to save any remaining money in the bank for just the bare necessities. I have a private mailbox already as I had moved out of my apartment to live with family. However, that situation isn’t working well because the quarters are just too close and we are taking that stress out on each other. Most of my stuff is stored with other family already and I only have the bare basics with me now.

What I did not see here were any comments on living out of a car when you have a pet. My cat is almost 11 years old and I would not want be willing to give her up as I can still feed her and take care of her basic needs. Does anyone have any hints for pet owners? And no, there is no family member that would be willing to take her. Thanks.

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avatar Shawn

Awesome awesome site. I was really surprised to find ALL the comments about this subject. It makes tons of sense to do this especially in the current economic situation. But regardless of the economy, it seems like people who live out of a vehicle are fairly happy with it and get along well. I suppose it offers a certain amount of freedom and probably a lot of satisfaction in knowing you aren’t tied down to a mortgage.

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avatar Eric

I have been living out of my Pontiac Grand Am for a few months now and I am actually enjoying the freedom, but i think my location may not be one of the best. I live in the town of Saluda, North Carolina, population 568. Almost everybody knows everybody else by reputation if not name. I’m 17 and got kicked out of my house because it was either me or my dad, and he owns the house. I am still attending school and have recently learned that i can actually attend college, an achievement i had already discarded as a possible future. while this is all fine and dandy, it doesn’t change the fact that i’m a homeless person. This town has alot of drop out kids and illegal aliens outside of the city limits, so job searches have been utterly fruitless, and i have found myself resorting to odd jobs for either money or things like food. there is a local library with internet access, however. The biggest problem I encounter is just finding a place to park at night. Staying in an open place for more than a night or two warrants suspicion as most people know who drives what. Then I had a revelation, and drove out to a nice little wilderness spot where I can enjoy every evening beneath the stars. This life is hard to accept at first, but when I started to get used to it, and thinking logically about my choices, even as a homeless person, I found that I did, in fact, enjoy this new life. I have complete freedom to do what I please. My car is a little uncomfortable, as it is tiny and i’m pushing six three, but i got used to it and it now embodies a sense of comfort that only home can. I’m still thinking about getting a van though, as i have accumulated alot of little things that add up and do not quite fit in there anymore. If i do get a van, a mattress will be one of my first missions. Right now i sleep with my down comforter and carhart jacket, and i don’t have any complaints. I would not reccomend this lifestyle to anybody that has joint or muscle problems. I feel like an old man every morning as i get out of my home and stretch out and hear all of my joints cracking. It may not be the easiest or healthiest lifestyle, but I love it, and may consider making this a permanent deal, even after I finish school.

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avatar Catherinelady

Living in South Carolina as you do, I was wondering on how you deal with the summer heat at night. I am also thinking of relocating back to Texas where I was very happy but I know it is miserable and hot in the summertime.

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avatar Laura

Food for thought. One thing I don’t understand though. Rent is expensive but some people here are talking about how they couldn’t pay their rent, and cell phone, etc. Doesn’t it make more sense to get rid of every unnecessary bill (cell phone, internet, etc) before giving up a home? When I was on a very low income I found a very small studio flat and simplified everything else in my life – didn’t have a TV (no TV bills), didn’t have the internet (you can use library computers for free), didn’t have a cell phone, but walked to my friend’s flats for entertainment. The one thing (I personally) think you need is running water, I can cope with no electricity but not no water!!!! You can eat very cheaply if you stick to very simple foods, have a fridge (if you keep the electricity) and make everything in bulk and store it. For some bills the expenses will be more in a car (such as food, and also needing a gym membership). I can understand avoiding houseshares. I was a lodger for 5 months and I would rather have stayed in my car, it was HORRIBLE. Having said that some houseshares do work. Either you have to find genuinely OK people or people who keep themselves to themselves. I just don’t like the thought of people having to live in their cars, having said that it’s better than a hostel and the problems that come with that. As for me, well, my life turned around when I managed to land a better paid job and then had some pay rises, it’s double what I used to be on. But funnily enough I don’t think I’m any happier. Different problems replaced the money problems I had before. Good luck to everyone.

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avatar MercPDX

Give up my internet and cell phone?? NNNNO WAY! Maybe if I lived in Alaska or something.
I also suppose it matters what type of car you have. When I was broke and living in an apartment with no amenities, I felt trapped in from the outside world. Living in my car has been liberating and going to the gym is making me healthier. Also, with my internet and cellphone, I can look for jobs!!

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avatar Acajudi

I have a 1994 GMC Ventura Convertible van. The bed is very comfortable, and the van is paid. I never will know what will happen with the economy, but if I must, I would live in my van. I would try to be a unpaid roommate to an elderly person also, and I would try to housesit,or pet sit.
So far things are going great, and I have cut back. I got rid of cable, but I do have AOL dialup, Netflix, and I use Peapod.com for groceries. I am a senior, and many my age have been attacked for our groceries and money. I do not want to hurt anyone protecting myself. I am very generous in gift giving, and I do save. I still work from 8-2:30 daily, and I have my summers and holidays free, since I did retire in 2001 from my main computer job. I help young people learn English now, and I love it.

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avatar Shaun

I live in Arizona and want to move to California. I want to save money by sleeping out of my van while in California until I find a job. My question is, how do I obtain a job if I don’t have a home address because most employers obviously want their prospective employees to fill out their home addresses in the application form. Also, can I get a job in CA with an AZ driver’s license? Because if I were to apply for a CA driver’s license, won’t they need a CA home address?

Thanks

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avatar MercPDX

Hey Shaun, if you dont know anybody in CA who can let you use their address, the best thing to do would be to contact a homeless persons service. They specialize with helping people with things like that. They would probably let you use the address of a homeless shelter. If you dont know where the shelters are just ask a cop. Good luck.

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avatar Julia

I’m planning on giving my boss a fake adress, and get my mail mailed to my P.O.Box, I don’t know if that’ll work for you.

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avatar Acajudi

I am so ashamed that roommates would steal from each other. No one would have to live in a car, van etc., if we would just stick together. Rents are too high, for the money we earn, so we must pick honest people, and share a room or a small apartment. Personally, I feel two is the max to share a studio and split everything 50/50. The more people involved, the worst. I am thinking of having a registry for people who want to share a room or a studio, and tell them to please have then checked out at the local police station. Never loan money to room-mates and always have an emergency fund of 6 months. Live frugally, until you get that emergency fund. Never share phones..Times are goingto get WORST folk, and we need honest people to pair off platonically and try to save some money.

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avatar Laura

I think if I had a camper van I would have been more likely to do it, I have a fiat seicento like this one http://www.rentcarseminara.com/immagini/automobili/fiat-seicento.jpg

which is tiny and the seats don’t go down.

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avatar Catherinelady

Laura, that is a cute car. I have a 2008 Suzuki Grand Vitara, its roomy but I have never slept in it. I will find out by Memorial Day when I am living in it then.

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avatar CLS

As for the laptop question. A lot of people use their personal laptop at the library.

And for the person that needed an address for her CA driver’s license, you could always get a UPS postal box. It cost a little bit more then a US Postal box but you get a physical address no a P.O. #.

I’m a woman, and so far I’m on my third month of sleeping in my car and it’s working out fine. You would never suspect that I sleep in my car. My hatchback is comfortable, every night I put down the seats, I layered the bottom with a thick comforter, I have pillows and black sheets so that it looks dark when people pass by. They don’t even notice I’m there.

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avatar Shaun

“And for the person that needed an address for her CA driver’s license, you could always get a UPS postal box. It cost a little bit more then a US Postal box but you get a physical address no a P.O. #.”

Thanks, I was thinking about opening a PO Box until you mentioned that UPS has a physical address, that will probably work best for me in my situation.

And also thanks to MercPDX, I sure the homeless shelter will provide me with some sort of service to help me find a job in CA.

Thank you both for your good advice and quick response

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avatar SubieHouse

I lost my job out in Denver about 4 months back then I spent the rest of my saving on a move to Idaho for another job. Which I was laid off from after 6 weeks so after two months without work I’m pretty much broke. I just sold/pawned/gave away most of my possessions and in 2 weeks I’ll be moving into my ’95 Subaru wagon and driving to Portland to look for work I’ve got heard that the shelters there offer free 24 hr showers and a place to send/receive mail. I’ll admit to being a little anxious about this decision because if my car gets impounded for vagrancy I’m on the street but I’m also somewhat excited as I’ll be living on my own terms with more flexibility than I’ve every really had. I don’t think I have a romanticized view on doing this I’m sure some days I’ll get damn sick of my car but think it’ll force me to be more active than I’ve been in the past. Anyway this is a great thread I’m glad to have found it lots of great pointers and I look forward (sort of) to joining my fellow vehicle dwellers in PDX

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avatar Catherinelady

Yes, I am in a similar situation. I was laid off twice. I live in the east and am leaving for a job out west which starts in June. I will be living in my car till I find someplace to live starting on Memorial DAy. My biggest fear is having my SUV impounded. Does anyone have any suggestions on what works to tell the police. I will have out of state plates so it may work if I say I have been traveling and am a bit tired from the journey. Any suggestions?

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avatar Jaime

Scared of impounded ‘homes’? Yes, that is a big deal. One tip is to go directly to the local police station and simply ask; do this before you’ve been living in your car too long, to avoid that whole “I’ll significantly reduce property values with my presence” look. On the road I met a fellow who would literally go town to town, seek out the police station and get a free night’s rest in an (unlocked) jail cell. Nice cot and nice company; although I’m not there yet.

If you know you’ll be in one state for a while, job searching or soul searching, try and get volunteer hours at the local State parks. The readily available jobs may not be so pleasant, but cleaning bathrooms is a good trade for a safe place to sleep and a shower in the morning. If you get much internet time, you can look at a town’s census information; pay attention to the number of teenagers or the ratio of old to young; the most gruesome state park jobs are left for teen summer jobs.

Also, if you’re going out west to find a job, let’s cross our fingers that it’s a good job, and get familiar with a place that doesn’t get too cold in the winter. Insulating an SUV is a pain-in-the-butt, and no matter what actions I took, I’d be frozen by morning.

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avatar underdogfl

Jails are NOT safe. I’m sorry to say. Sometimes it is the police officer you need to fear. Esp. if you are a female. I know several people who were raped by police officers. This is no joke.

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avatar MercPDX

Yes, just tell the police the truth. Thats what I did. You might be surprised how understanding and compassionate some of them are.

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avatar Acajudi

Try volunteering for a homeless shelter. If you are “staff”, you get the choice of food, clothing and beds. They are all over America. I heard Salvation Army is the best.

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avatar snowcat

I have been more fortunate than some on this board, but what a great board, huh?
We are all here for different reasons, but we are obviously alike enough to be here.
I live in Maine, have a home, a “regular” white-collar job, and a part-time weekend job at a fitness center. I’m lucky – both jobs have showers! I love living in my SUV. I call it “camping” to certain family and friends, and most don’t understand why I do it, but they seem to think I have “balls.”
Maybe it’s the gypsy in me.
For me, I guess it’s the freedom and adventure. The Romance of the Road. Knowing if/when I do lose my job and my house, it won’t devastate me…..I’ll just move on in the adventure I’ve already started.

Right now I “camp” about 3 nights a week, but I’m about to go off-grid full-time at home by living in my SUV, or my small egg-shaped camper……..and building a funky shelter/A-frame/shed/cabin in the backyard as well. Yeah, you’ll call me crazy, and I still have the mortgage and mostly empty house and all, but I guess I never got out of that “fort-building” mentality as a kid, where a sheet and a couple chairs went a long way.

As for car-living and such – I’ve used a curtain rod in my SUV for years….wedge it above the windows just behind the front seats, and hang a dark blanket over it…..instant cabin. I take a nap at lunch EVERY DAY, and once I climb in the back, I’m in my own world.
Obviously, living in Maine, heating is an issue, and I’ve spent many a night with long underwear and blankets. Knit cap is a MUST, of course – you all know that’s where most of your body heat escapes. Just got the propane camping heater……not sure if I can do a pre-heat in the SUV before I settle in for the night. I assume there is a level of toxicity in a closed cabin, right? But what about a 5-minute burst? Anyone have experience?
I also highly recommend a backup battery, trickle charger and an electric blanket. Recharge the battery as you drive, or work, or somewhere…….plenty of places to find an electrical outlet.

Laptop. Netflix. Red Box.
Keep your sanity. Enough said.

Need a free gym membership?
Volunteer at the Y. Ask them if they need volunteers to file paperwork or wipe off machines once a week. They will love you. Just be cool, get along with the regular employees, and don’t abuse the system (like sneaking in your friends)……….gym, showers, restrooms, new friends can be yours for a couple hours of your time.
You might not even mention that you want a free membership if they don’t mention it. Just help out and start popping in once in awhile on other nights – “Yeah, I’m doing the volunteer work on Thursdays….just want to grab a quick workout tonight.” Let people get accustomed to your presence and DON’T JERK THE SYSTEM and don’t stay for hours.
If they don’t need volunteers, a Y membership is about only about $50/month, and they offer FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE that could drive it down to under $20! Most YMCAs these days look just like any other gym…….not your grandfather’s YMCA.

Keep up the great posts – Car Dwellers are the rare modern-day adventurers, so embrace the adventure……..even if you didn’t ask for it.

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avatar Bob Johnson

Snowcat,
That’s some interesting stuff. I live in Florida and worked out of my car for up to 13 hours a day. Gets really hot in the car and running my car for all that time just to stay cool would be a lot of wear on my car. In your case, when it gets cold, how about running a hot hair dryer down your coat to warm up? I have a plug in socket that works fine for running fans. They are very simple to find and easily plug into your cigarette lighter.
I’ve worked out at the YMCA, but are they open 24 hours? Mine wasn’t. There are people in this website who work different shifts. The Y would work out for people working 3rd shift. 24 hour fitness has over 400 locations and would be great with an All-Club Membership for those searching for better jobs in different cities. According to sugarfit.com there are more than 1000 gyms nation wide who never close their doors because 5% of gym bound people, use the gyms between the hours of 8:30 pm and 5:30 am. So it looks like the fitness centers are the best suggestion and won’t be going anywhere for a long time. Plus they have lockers to store your belongings, but only for ONE day. Then you have to take your stuff out again. I would store like a laptop or anything electronic to keep it away from heat. Unfortunately these fitness centers don’t have free cable (meaning for your advantage to watch what you want), but that’s no problem. Ever watch PIMP MY RIDE? Direct TV now has a satellite option for your car or van.

Volunteering:

DON’T JERK THE SYSTEM is a great option. It’s best to keep a low profile. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a volunteer firefighter but I won’t stay at my fire station because some of the paramedics do. They have everything from free cable to phone access. Not to mention a fat pay check. They’ll catch on real quick to what I’m up to, because they are doing the same thing. The ones who have been doing this for twenty years at the station are ready to collect a pension and probably have over a million bucks saved.

Getting out of debt, escaping reality, beating the system or saving for a house this car deal is probably the best way to go. As long as you are not married with kids there’s probably nothing stopping you. I can see how living in you car can be considered semiretirement.

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avatar Bob Johnson

Living out of the car is best for teens who get kicked out of the house and no place to go. And singles of any age. I f..ked up back in 1996 when I received a $35,000 settlement. I had already saved $10,000 at the time for a total of $45,000. If I lived out of my car since then I would have saved 90% on my normal income which would generate a savings of more than $200,000 to this very day. But I was dumb and purchased a condo which today is in dire straights—-and I’m flat broke.

The economy has absolutely NO effect on single men and women living out of their cars. This is such a brilliant way of beating the system. I suggest getting a membership at a 24-hour gym which of course has ALL the facilities, a PO box, cell phone and you’ll be just fine.

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avatar Acajudi

God bless everyone on this site. Times are going to get even WORST, so try to help others, and then you help yourself.
Please do not leave animals in any car,van etc. Go to an animal shelter, and volunteer if you and the dog can sleep in your car. The dog can be in dog runs, whoile you are at work. Keep your word and do help.
The rich will neer know how we struggle to survive, not do they care. I watched the documentaries, SICKO, and Imelda. Talk about GREED! We know who have SOLD US OUT, but they will reap what they have sown.

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avatar Bob Johnson

Acajudi,
Wells Fargo won’t give me a loan to pay off the credit cards and a different lending company claims they can’t give me a loan until August because they have to wait six months after a home has been taken off the market. Sounds like a bunch of crap to me. I want to f..k these clowns back by filing bankruptcy and ditch my place.
Speaking of the rich; some are okay people. But there are rich people—-one I know inparticular who inherited money from Rolls Royce who does nothing but complain. He’s gay too, and always calls the guys down at my desk to come up to his penthouse to take care of noises and BS just to get them in his place. He made a pass at me a few times. People like this have no values in life. And from one trip to Aruba to the Virgin Islands and back to their cribbs, their only problems along the way may be a loud noise on the roof, a spot on the pillow, or coffee not hot enough.
As far as times getting worse. A little worse yes, as far as crime goes that’s up. The ARM loans destroyed our economy. When the real estate bubble exploded, the mortgage rates broke record highs. A lot of folks were paying a high mortgage on a house of less value. But the ones with the ARMs really got f..ked. They should have stuck with a fixed mortgage rate. Their loans jumped from some families paying $200 per month up to $1,500 per month. The only way for the folks with the ARMs to save their homes was to completely eliminate all other expenses and just focus on their mortgages. No more movies, restaurants, bowling, vacations, new cars, etc. All these economic activities on the side were put on hold. NOT GOOD! So the car dealerships, etc. had to lay employees off because no money was coming in.
The banks got their bail out, but the interest rates on these loans have still not dropped. GREED is the word here. Until the interest rates on the ARMs return to a low interest rate again and these homeowners can refinace, the economy will stay the way it is.
Doesn’t look good for a while. And gasoline has risen because the reserves are getting low. Gas prices were about $4 a gallon. Thankfully there were reserves filled to drop the prices down but that doesn’t last long. Can’t drill off shore because the EPA will stop that. If gas goes up to $4 per gallon in a time like this we’ll really be f..ked.
I want to know where Obama went? Nowadays he seems more interested in Gitmo and disarming weapons. He won the election to improve our economy.
It’s hotter than hell in South Florida now, but my car will make a great place to get away. I hope things improve.

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avatar Tahoe

Bob, I happen to be a mortgage professional of 17 years. I too, am feeling the pain as the mortgage business sucks right now. The ARMS you mention had to be sub-prime loans. Those had teaser rates with ridiculous margins that when adjusted were very high. Those loans are what caused this mess. Personally, I’ve always worked for prime lenders. Didn’t do sub. There are plenty of people that are actually loving their ARMS. Their rates have actually dropped because the index that the ARMS are tied to have come down with rates down in the financial markets. I could go on and on explaining, but I’d bore the hell out of you. Hope this makes sense.

BTW, I had to stop paying my mortgage and credit cards. I will probably end up filing bankruptcy and sell my home. I’ve witnessed people staying in there homes for up to 2 years w/o making a payment because the banks are giving people time to get back on track, if possible.

TR

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avatar dee

im with u on obama however this started with th US dropping the backing of gold and other precious metals for our currency and instead went to fiat paper money. look at when our debt started getting out of control and when we swapped to papper money the correlation is undeniable

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avatar MercPDX

Hey everyone, just want to give you a heads up. Last night I woke up to someone shining a flashlight in my car and it wasnt the police. As soon as I jumped up the would-be theif backed off. I called the police on my cell and they arrived one minute later. Dont know if they found him though.
Something similar happened last month. I was sleeping in the back of my stationwagon and had my bag up on the front passanger seat when a guy came up to the car and tried to open my door to get to the bag. luckily the doors were all locked. I grabbed my baseball bat and prepared to fight him off but he took off when he saw me. He looked damn scared too! haha
Our cars are a big invitation to these idiots because of all the belongings we have to leave in them. Try to hide as much as you can by putting a blanket over your stuff. and always take your valuables with you. Living in a car is an adventure, and no adventure is complete without an element of danger. Be careful out there!

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avatar Bob Johnson

115 MercPDX,
Try to park in a busy area. Avoid secluded locations. Shove as much things as you can in your trunk or get a storage bin. I googled around and found a storage bin 5×5 ft for $13.00 per month. Others at that size can cost a lot more. Try publicstorage.com
Sorry about those two wild encounters you had. That’s sad. My wife’s car was broken into a few months back. Her car radio was stolen. I posted before that I live in a condo and man, does it suck. At least in a car you can drive away. You won’t be stuck like me starring at the same old rotten neighbors and criminals. I live in a pretty slummy area.
Some suggestions of other places to sleep at night: Apartment parking lots, condo guest spots, hotel lots, 24 hour grocery parking lots, place of employment, 24 hour fitness locations, rest stops, restaurants (Dennys), Night Clubs and a new one—-nudist clubs. You can actually crash out inside nudist clubs. Memberships are not too pricey either. Take care! Write back about your status. Love to hear from you.

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avatar snowcat

I have found a nice “regular” spot – it’s a small business center (like three or four doctors/real estate/whatever) and they are next door to a hotel. I park at the rear of their lot, and am actually nose-to-nose with the cars in the hotel lot.
The business center is vacant in the evening, as most are, and why would they care if one of the hotel guests spilled over at the back of their lot….?
Being able to blur the lines of the two very different businesses, I suspect I will rarely, if ever, be hassled – each business thinking I must be connected to the other……….so maybe that’s another good tip: blur the lines.

Be safe everybody!

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avatar MercPDX

Well Bob, I dont have any nudist clubs around here to park next to. haha.
The problem with busy areas are the noise problems and people who might see you and hastle you. For instance, someone once called the cops on me for no other reason than I was loitering in my car. Maybe they thought I was a stalker. Also, now that the weather is getting warmer i have to put at least one of my windows down. My strategy is to park up against some bushes or a wall so that no one can see that I have a window down. In order to do this i usually have to find secluded locations.
Yes, I do have a storage room, but I still need some of my belongings with me, like my laptop computer etc. I am thinking about buying a car alarm but they are expensive, and you have to pay to get them installed too. For now, I have my trusty baseball bat and a cellphone. Hope that works….

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avatar Bob Johnson

MercPDX,
That’s the main reason I quit my Private Investigator job. I got so tired of people calling the cops on me all the time. I don’t get it. Why is someone parked on a swale or in a lot such a threat to them? Even when I called the police and gave them all the info on my car they would still come out on the caller’s request. I’m a volunteer fireman and can park at any of my city stations and use their facilities all I want to. 85% of the fire departments in the US are volunteer. Maybe you should try looking into that? Park at a police station. If they ask who you are tell them the truth. Also tell them you don’t have a house and feel safe parking here.
Another suggestion would be to sacrifice your shift to working nights. This would give you more freedom to park just about anywhere during the day to sleep. It’s 90% more difficult to try and find a place to park and sleep at dusk when only about 10% of the localities are open.
It’s not right for you to hide out behind bushes or in secluded locations. That’s too eerie for me.
If your in the south Florida area I’ll give you a bunch of locations to hang out at and at any time.
I don’t know…, if I can come up with any other ideas to help you out I’ll let you know. Keep in touch!

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avatar MercPDX

Thanks Bob but sleeping during the day would mean sleeping in the summer heat. As it is, I have to wait until the sun goes down before I even think about getting any shut eye. The parking up against bushes in a residential area so that I can role down some of the windows has been my best strategy so far. I highly recommend it. Just try to find some bushes in between houses so that no one thinks that you parking in front of their house!
With the windows down, I have to spray around the area with bug spray to keep the critters out. So far that is working.

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avatar Tahoe

I will most likely use my Thule roof case on my Jeep if I have to resort to this lifestyle.

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avatar Bob Johnson

For those who live in Florida I tried looking up the best way to stay cool without running the engine and burning up gas. I found a website that sells portable auto air conditioners. May be worth checking out. http://www.swampy.net/auto.html
I tried to come up with ideas like solar panels and custom made coolers, but I think this website might be the best step as of now.

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avatar CLS

Thank you Bob Johnson. I stay in Southern California so I’m going to check it out because I’m going to need it soon.

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avatar Hopeful

WOW!!! I just read each and every comment and at first I felt so alone at the thought of living in my car. But now I feel much more confident and I feel way more informed about what to do. All the stories on here help so much and give me a good idea of what I am getting myself into. At first I was terrified at the thought, but one tends to fear the unknown, but now that that I have some tips and stories about this I’m not as scared.

I planned on moving out of my ‘walk-in closet size’ studio at the end of August. I live in Southern Cali and I stayed with my brother in the past and he has absolutely no room for me then and have no room for me now. However he lives about 45 mins away from where I go to school and work. So my plans are to; 1) get a PO box 2) get a storage 3) get a gym membership/ or use the university’s facilities 4) and tint my windows. I want to avoid driving up and down the mountain 7 days a week for an hour there and back. I spend most of my day in my current town and driving 45 mins to and hour just to ‘possibly’ sleep in a bed and only get about four hours of sleep just isn’t what I want to do, and traffic drives me a little crazy! (well I haven’t met anyone who likes traffic ;p )

Also, instead of simply moving into a cheaper apartment, I want to live rent free for as long as I can and save as much as I can. I have also tried living with roommates and it definitely has its ups and downs.

I never thought of it as ‘beating the system’ but I’d say it definitely is. So I’ll be doing more research and making preparations and soon I too will join the car living community. I really like the idea of sleeping on the beach, but I would stay inside the car cause I’m female and I don’t want to be outside or in a tent alone at night. Well lit or not! Well thanks for the tips, and inspirational stories! I will definitely keep coming here for more first hand advice.

Stay safe everyone!

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avatar Bob Johnson

Hopeful,
A lot of Walmarts allow you to park in their lots to sleep. Try fire department parking lots too. Firefighters are laid back and if you tell them about your situation they will allow you to park there. They’ll become very used to your presence too. Working nights is the best because you can park almost anywhere during store hours, but the choice is yours.
Remember to keep your budget as tight as possible or living in your car will be close to what you’d pay renting an apartment. If you can’t save at least 80% of your paycheck it’s not worth it.
If you can save that much, you should be able to place a nice down payment on a house in about one year. Try also to deposit your savings in an account with at least 3% interest to speed things up.
I hope it all works out for you.

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avatar Acajudi

I was able to visit Singapore, and they offer dormitory living for the homeless. They ask that you help keep the place clean, and they give you a job working around the city. You get up, cleanup, and go to your job for that day. They give you a nice bag lunch, if your employee for the day does not feed you. There is not any panhandling in Singapore, for they take care of their own.

Singapore allows deductions from your income to purchase a home. There is insurance on your home, so if you are ill, the house payments would still be paid,and you can repay once you are back at work. Murderers and drug dealers are hung on Friday morning. They fine you for tossing trash on the streets, and you pay to get a permit to drive a car in the thousands. Your car cannot be junk, for they have an excellent public transportation system. They avoided 9-11-01 in their country by paying attention and not worrying about stains on a blue dress. They have excellent healthcare, and you do not go broke paying for medical services. I wish I could live there,but they have very STRICT immigration laws, that you better obey!

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avatar Acajudi

You cannot get 3% on savings. The online savings pay the most and that is 1.50% and falling. Many people are living in all the forclosed homes. I do not understand why lenders would rather homes to sit empty, then to work with the families.

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avatar john

Has anybody lived in his/her car in the washington d.c. area –

and if so do you know of the location of any good “spots” i.e. walmart-supercenters etc.

I am planning to go to DC in september but I am not familiar with the area, so any suggestions would be welcome.

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avatar positivebro

Hi John,
Actually I am from Washington, DC and relocated to Los Angeles last February. Washington DC is a little bit tough to sleep in your car, however, a spot where you may be safe is in South West near the waterfront. There is a street called Delaware Ave which would probably be your best bet. It intersects M St. SW, but got on the South side. However, make sure your car is fully registered because DC tickets very hard.

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avatar Acajudi

The William Penn House near the train station and The Capitol is owned by the Quakers. They are a very nice group that offers shared rooms for about 12 per night. They may let you sleep in their yard or on the street in front of the pace. It may cost more now, but they take people in, and help you.

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avatar john

thanks guys….I plan to go to DC soon but the problem is that all the walmarts are located outside the capital in MD or Virginia.

positivebro – I was planning to buy a car on craigslist and then park it at walmart so thanks for the tip – “make sure your car is fully registered because DC tickets very hard.”

Acajudi – whenever i am in DC I aways stay in a hostel which costs me about $25 per day so the news about the The William Penn House charging only $12 is very welcome.

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avatar Acajudi

May I add, check out http://www.ally.com It seems to give the best interest of all the banks and they have a no penalty CD that pays 1.888%. Most banks hate savers.

Answer to this post:

Romana,
Great advice. Vans concern nosey folks though. They call the police with one thing on their mind and that’s crime. I was a PI and experienced this. The best place to park is to talk to a friend with a house. You’ll never be in his/her way by simply using the driveway.
What hasn’t been posted on this site yet is investment strategies. Everyone should deposit their money in a bank that pays a decent interest rate. Some credit unions pay monthly interest rates. Since this plan of living in a car will save 75 to 90 percent of the average income you will be saving a lot in time and receive interest on top of it. Never leave your money in the console. Cars catch on fire all the time or your vehicle can be broken into. Besides, even car people have bills too. Suppose you save up to $100,000 in five years. At 3% monthly interest you’ll never have to work again. Mutual Funds are okay as well. You can open one for around $2,500 and forget about it for ten years. IRAs and CDs too, which are things that most renters or house owners can’t do. For folks with children I’m sorry for. They need a house or apartment to suit their needs.
Unfortunately the Internet was introduced to the world in 1989 or I would have jumped on this idea after high school.

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avatar dee

acajudi
as far as banks go i have been thouroughly screwed by every bank i have ever been involved in whether they would hold payments until they knew i would overdraft or they simply took out money for no reason they wont reimburse you there is no such thing as a bank error in your favor they only want to hold you to the rat race it sux but no banks are not the way for me. and im sure most on this site will agree

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avatar jeffmitchum

hi,im looking for some advice,im relocating to the los angeles area from ohio in oct.ill be driving out,will be sleeping in my car till i can try to get a job and a place to stay,just wondering about the best areas and safest areas to park at night to sleep,thanks

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avatar CLS

Hi jeffmitchum, I would call the Walmarts in the area you want to stay and ask if they allow overnight parking for RV’s. Some do, some don’t. If they do, they don’t mind if you park your car overnight either. I also recommend you try sleeping in your car before you make your move so you can know what you need to do to make it comfortable. I have a hatchback that I lower and a few foam mattresses to make it feel better.

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avatar Positivebro

Hello Jeffmitchum,
The Wal-Marts in LA will not be a good idea. There are not many Wal-Marts in LA and the ones that are here are not in safe areas. One is in Crensaw and the other is in Long Beach. There is no parking lot in Long Beach and the one in Crensaw is attached to a Mall, Baldwin Hills Mall. Go to Brentwood. You can park along the side of the VA compound on San Vincente Blvd and Bringham. That is the best place to sleep in your car.

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avatar ER

PositiveBro how are you managing in LA? Still using the VA or have you found a place yet? Any luck on jobs?

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avatar Positivebro

Hello ER,
I am still in my car next to the VA compound. It’s going on 7 months. The truth of the matter is that this isn’t for everyone. I do long for being back into some form of housing now. I respect all who can do this.

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avatar Acajudi

I was searching the net, and I found a place in California, that have tool-shed type housing to keep people from the underpass. I feel the little houses are better than a car, but a car is better than the doorway or sidewalk, under a cardboard box. I look at all the people who own many house, and I wonder why they do not own one, and rent, when they want to visit other areas. You cannot live but in one house at a time, and with people on the street, I rather get them in housing, even if it is the small doll house type. I still say that 1-2 people should be the Max for this type of housing, and foster home is better for children, until you can get straight. I do not like to see anyone on the street, or in cars, when they have children or animals.

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avatar dee

acajudi n it
not trying to rant but i grew up in foster care industry, and yes thats all that it is. it is an industry, there are good people it however most are in it for the money. all i have to do is let some kids sleep in the bunk and i get to make a living, cool lets get it done. i need that money. i have no kids, however being a ward of the state if was given the chance i would much rather have been with parents, learn from them, what their life was like, i know nothin about them, not even my nationality. foster care has done good things for people yet looking at statistics how many make it out of the “system”. not many

acajudi your posts have been helpful keep up the good work, just offering my two cents, once again sorry to post back to back comments on you. its already hard enough for us not trying to cause more trouble, just offering wat ive seen, and experienced. thanks again

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avatar Acajudi

Jeff:
Go online and search for Homeless in LA, and Homeless shelter or housing in LA. There is no such thing as a good area, dealing with the homeless. It is a dog eat dog world, like in politics and business.
Try volunteering for the local Salvation Army, in exchange for sleeping in your car. Use the Internet to contact businesses in LA.

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avatar Abby

I’ve recently just thought about this. I moved to California about a year a go. I moved in with my best friend and her boyfriend in his house. Let’s not say the best situation. A lot of fighting going on plus i pay tons of money to live in someone else’s house with rules. I live about 10 mins from Santa Monica and work there also. I work nights and sleep during the day. So, i really wouldn’t even have to sleep in my car. I guess i could just sleep on the beach. I wouldn’t reccomend sleeping on the beach at night( i beleive its illegal) but during the day I would be just like anyone else.

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avatar Acajudi

Abby:
I am sorry about your friend and her boyfriend. I worked nights and you really need a quiet place to sleep in the day. How about renting a storage space near your job, and sleep there in the day. Make it a place for your car and your stuff. Get there as soon as you get off from work, and you can sleep in your own bed, that you will have there. Rent a cheap membership to the Y, and you can clean up there, and you can eat at the soup kitchens. Save as much money as you can, and then get your own studio apartment, near your job. You are working night, so you will not have to be there at night. (storage place) Use your friend’s address, or any friend. The very best to you, and to all, who are trying to make it, while the rich stomp on us daily!
Ask not what you can DO for your country, but ask, WHAT your country can do TO YOU? Our country is doing us a job!!! I am strong, and will hang in here. I am glad I will be 67, and I am not a young person, trying to make it. It was so much easier in the 60′s.

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avatar dee

on the subject of the storage unit. 1st it is isllegal! when you sign your terms and conditions that is a point in which they will make sure you undrstand no living out of ur unit. the main reason for this is people dying due to heat exhaustion and then they are responsible. the cold u can always add clothes/ blankets to keep warm, but when its 90 degrees outside and 110 in your unit you can see why this is a big deal. always going to be safer and more comfortable sleeping at night in a homeless situation. less weather you have to worry about and its going to be less conspicuos if done right, remember most “normal” people go to bed at 10:30 so you can get away with more at night. most crimes happen at night because it is less noticeable and there arent as many people to deal with, kinda the same situation. we are doing something that is frowned upon yet not necessarily illegal, a grey area deffinately but not tottally homeless or illegal

also a thought for people thinking about moving to cali, esp. L A. i sold off everything i owned last summer to move out there and pursue my dream of living in cali and being an artist. have cooked for ten years in the restaraunt industry, painted commercialy and residentially for 5 years and been a wedding/ bar mitzfa/ private party dj for six years, had plenty of exp. just couldnt find a job, it is so oversaturated with homeless people ( i do not mean homeless in the since of wat we are talking about on this site, rather the crazies who talk to light poles and are seen ranting and raving on the side of the road) and such living off the state, i could not find a job. two weeks out i got pickpocketed and had to enroll in their residency return program so i could make it back home and resume my job to where i knew even if i was homeless i could have a good job and still enough time to take care of my personall BS. dont ever tell people about how “bad” off u are they willl never understand, just think that you are living less of a fullfilling life than they are.if we stick together and share our knowledge there is nothing we cant overcome peace be with you my fellow family.

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avatar Bob Johnson

I roasted my ass off over the weekend in 91 degree weather. I need to get a generator and A/C window unit. I know I’ll draw attention to myself, but why run the car for 8 hours while sleeping? Swamp coolers are a little too pricey to experiment with. I can get the generator and a/c unit for less than $400. Daily expense should be less than three dollars. I will just toss the unit and generator back in the trunk when I leave.
EXAMPLE:
This 8-hour generator goes for $299.00
w2www.duropower.com/images/upload/products/x/DP2000S.jpg
This A/C unit goes for $85.95
http://www.refurbdepot.com/HAIER_HWF05XC7.cfm

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avatar David Waters

I have all but mastered living out of my 2007 crew-cab Toyota Tacoma. (It is certainly not for everyone.) The greatest advice I could give to anyone is: GET A VAN. I bristle at trying to imagine car living from a sedan. My truck is good, but a van is in a class by itself, and the ultimate one-person road-living vehicle would have to be Dodge Sprinter van with diesel engine.

The trick to the whole thing is not to appear gypsy-like. You want to look as normal as you can.

The advantages of a truck or van are many, not the least of which is being able to pull into most any church parking lot and park right next to their church vehicles. Black out your windows, no one will mess with you.

As for bathing, a truck or van will allow you to carry a good tank of water, but even better is simply joining a local gym, where you can bathe any time you want.

The down side is that, if you are not careful, vehicle maintenance will eat up almost everything you would have spent on rent in any given month.

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avatar eric

COOKING IN YOUR CAR

I have been living in my car since, October 07, everything has been great but for the problem of cooking. I prefer to eat natural home cooked foods, but that can be tricky when you don’t have a place to cook.

I tried everything, cooking in my car, eating cheap chinese food, etc,…but i didn’t find a convenient way to cook until I rented a storage space. The management comes in at 9am, so I try to do most of my cooking before 9am. My storage is on the ground level and it costs $86 per month. Expensive yes but I figure it is cheaper than renting an apartment.

I drive a small car so cooking in my car is not convenient.

David Waters is right when he says that vans are the best accomodation when it comes to living in your car…”GET A VAN. I bristle at trying to imagine car living from a sedan. My truck is good, but a van is in a class by itself, and the ultimate one-person road-living vehicle would have to be Dodge Sprinter van with diesel engine.”

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avatar dee

GUYS just spent half an hour typing about storage units, unfortunately it all got deleted sorry i have some good info for the combination of the two things, storage unit, and car homelesness, whether we are homeless or not this is how are seen. let me just say that if u are paying for a storage unit then my suggestion would be to sleep in your vehicle there you are already paying rent. you have every right to be there, and alot of people run business’s out of them. keep your head up and never loose your sense of superiority, because we are better than the people stuck in the rat race, they just dont know it and we care to much wat they think about us

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avatar Acajudi

Eric:

Volunteer at the Salvation Army and you probably can cook what you want to eat, while helping them.
I have never lived in my car, but I would try volunteering, house-sitting, running errands to keep a room in someone’s home. I would save all I could to get a furnished studio, or an unfurnished one. The SalavationArmy will give you furniture, clothing etc. They are the best of all the Charities. They really care.

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avatar Acajudi

I would like to let you know how apartment owners are ripping off renters. I have always paid my rent, and that was it, unless I paid for electricity, heat and gas. Two years ago, my rental agency decided we have to pay for the water based on the # of residents in the apartment. This month I was told I have to pay garbage removal fee. I am on a fixed income, as everyone is today. I was told to add the extra charges to my rent payment, yet an out of state company bills me for water. I have been a condo owner and a home owner, but apartment rental works best for me. If they keep going up and adding more fees, then I will be living in my paid for van, and cleaning up at a health club. It seems no one cares about the real American people.

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avatar Bob Johnson

Acajudi,
I know. And renters make noise and cause trouble. I moved back in my condo due to the south Florida heat. But once I get my generator and A/C unit I’ll be on my way.
I saw a nice van the other day for $12,000 Brand new too. If I had a van I’d get the inside fixed up like a bedroom. A 12,000 BTU A/C unit, built in generator and satellite television.

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avatar Bob Johnson

The Salvation Army in Fort Lauderdale, FL has security and won’t let you park overnight unless maybe you ask the manager. I volunteer for a fire department, so it’s no problem for me to sleep or hang out. They are a bunch of great people and I’ll bet anything that they will let you use their parking lots wherever you are. Won’t hurt to ask. Firefighters are very laid back and always there to help. Trust me, I am one.

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