Saturday, February 16

Stealth Living

You Can't See MeI hope this will be the last in a series of posts dealing with how to get by during tough times. You see, while I have been searching for a decent job lately, I believe I've finally found one.

Anyway, while I've been away from home looking for work, I've had to live very cheaply indeed. See my previous post about "alert status red" for more information. Once again, I'm happy to give you tried and true strategies for getting by on less -- or stealth living in a 24h society.

I know it's been done before, but the stealth issue is that I've been living out of my car. If you are forced to this level of living for a short period of time here are some ideas for you:

  • Buy old fashioned (large flake) rolled oats. If you are lucky they will come in a large plastic bag that is resealable. This is your cheap, convenient and healthy food.
  • Buy powdered milk because it won't go bad whether it is hot or cold.
  • Buy bottled water. It's okay if it freezes, as you can melt it and use it at a later time.
  • Buy plastic cups, perhaps the cheap pack of 50 beer cups, but not the styrofoam ones.
  • With these items, and perhaps some chocolate powder, preferably chocolate protein powder, you have an instant snack anytime you are hungry.
This will be your staple food, but you can supplement it with other things if money permits. I'd suggest putting the food between the back of your seat and the rear seats. When parked you can reach back, work with the ingredients, make yourself a meal, and eat it. It's also handy to use a plastic grocery bag, attached in some way for easy use, to put your garbage in as you open and unwrap things.

Clothing is another issue. So are showers. Use the trunk of your vehicle like a closet or dresser. Have a gym bag that you will load with clothes you will change into and then simply go to a nearby 24h gym. It helps if you have a membership, but many will offer a trial membership. You can go early in the morning and then change for the day after your workout and subsequent shower. Be sure to get your change of clothes ready whenever weather permits -- as it could rain anytime and interfere with your ability to pick out a critical change of clothes for an upcoming interview.

With showers covered, and clean clothes to change into, you now need to have access to facilities. This is easy during the day if you have pocket change. You can walk into a donut shop or a McDonald's, use the facilities, and then buy some minor item on your way back out. However, you will have to find 24h services so that you are never left without the ability to use them whenever you might need to. Of course the gym will work as well, but you'll generally want to limit your visits there as you may end up working out every day in order to shower and change anyway.

Now, sleeping in the car does suck, but if you have to do it, you have to do it. You obviously must find a safe place that you won't freeze. One good place is at a gas station used by a large number of truckers. They are generally busy 24 hours a day with trucks coming and going. You can find a parking spot, curl up, sleep as best you can, and then head out to the gym the next morning to wake up and get changed. Just make sure you don't freeze to death.

If you need Internet access in order to stay connected during your travels, you have several options. Usually you can book some time at a public library. However, if you do have a laptop, you can find places that are frequented by students and see if those businesses maintain a public access network. For example, while doing laundry on the road recently I was able to connect my laptop and get online thanks to the local pizza place.

Living like this is not fun, it's not comfortable, but it is cheap. Just be careful while you are out there...

Frugal Guy said...
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Anonymous said...

oops, guess you dont preview the comments before they publish

Frugal Guy said...

Heh, nope, I let them straight through... but I'm often pretty quick to see them.

I've removed the comment since nobody wants their email online... :)

Thanks for the note. Anyway, the search worked, I finally do have a good job. This post is probably my last hurrah with respect to forced frugality.

I'll probably transition to blogging more about personal finance in the future.

Rhonda said...

Congrats on the job.

Claire said...

fantastic post--
in earlier years we "car-camped" a few times when money got down so far that we had to choose between motel and food.
Hope your new job is everything you want and that you keep blogging

Frugal Guy said...

Rhonda, Claire, thanks for leaving a note.

I know a lot of people have "car camped", but it seems to be one of those things not many people want to admit... ;)

Lulugal11 said...

You can also get internet from McDonald's. Just take your laptop, buy a drink and email away.

Amiyrah said...

wow....great post! Very glad that you're back and have found a new job. Can't wait to see your posts about personal finance.

Anonymous said...

Great ideas!! I have had it worse than that. You would not believe how I had to live. Have a great week. Congratulations

Leanne said...

there are a lot more people living in their cars than people know about or want to admit. Look up "van dwellers" or van dwelling and you can find people, even homeless, living on limited resources.

Good luck to you, I hope the job is wonderful!

Frugal Guy said...

Lulu, Amiyra, Anon, Leanne,

I know there are all kinds of people out there having to deal with this or more serious issues.

Thanks for your comments and thanks for wishing me the best with respect to the new job!

Dee said...

Congrats on your new job! I wish you all the best. Please do keep posting on personal finance as we are in financial difficulties and need to overcome. Thanks! I will keep praying and thinking about you.

Anonymous said...

There is a guy that has a website about car living. I think you will enjoy it.

Vanessa Alexander said...

What a great site. It brought back memories. I've lived in a van and been homeless. Once you get on your feet you find you have to move on. But you never forget.

It makes you thankful for the little things and frugal naturally. Its true most people are one crisis or one pay check from the very same situation. God bless you in your new job I know the feeling-- personally.

Frugal Guy said...

Dee, Anon, Vanessa,

Thanks for the great comments. Your feedback is appreciated and is one of the things that keeps me blogging.

I've been pretty busy just lately with the new job and all, but I hope to start blogging regularly again soon.

Fred said...

Great stuff!!!
I'm about to embark on that journey and, after combing through everything I could my hands on, I have a couple of questions.

You get all kinds of advice on how to cover your windows (I'll be using a car, not a van), all of which it seems could attract "official" curiosity. Is there an easily removable paint, spray or brush, that would simulate tinting? That would be a lot cheaper.

Without refrigeration you have to rely on foods that keep, or eat it right away. So I'm interested in reading up on what can be eaten raw, including fish, meats, etc. Is there a website that addresses eating raw foods?

Thank you for any help you, or anyone can offer.


Frugal Guy said...

Hi Fred,

I'm not sure about the window covering concept as it wasn't something that I needed.

However, if you can find some tinted plastic you might find that it will simply cling -- just like plastic wrap. You could try a sun shield in the main window (one of those things used to keep the car cool in sunlight) and those stick on child sunscreens on the rear door windows.

I'd also suspect that you'll get condensation on the insides of your windows if it gets cool during the evening.

I'm sure there are lots of resources for a raw foods lifestyle, but I don't know if they are geared towards beign able to store them without refrigeration. For foods that keep, you have dry foods such as bars and cereals, fruits, vegetables, and canned goods.

If you can afford it things like cured meats, beef jerky, pickled eggs, raisins, dried apricots and various types of nuts, which certainly aren't raw, can be a way to keep a variety of foods handy.

Given the temperature changes in the car during sunny days and cool nights, you might want to buy only a little bit of goods other than canned and dry items.

Good luck!

Frugal Guy said...

This post is getting traffic from the term stealth van living.

Obviously, it means that there are many people out there thinking about how to do this due to the tough economic conditions.

If you are one of those people...

Good luck out there. Please come back and share your story when things are better. Stay safe.

Anonymous said...

A note to new car-campers or traveling campers. Do a little research on the cities you are visiting. A friend couldn't understand why his parked car, at a local city park, got sooo much attention at night. He later found out he had parked in a popular pick-up spot for gentlemen looking for gentlemen. He moved his car.