A woman says she now saves £1,000 a month after the coronavirus pandemic forced her to give up her apartment and live in a van.
Amy Nicholson, 33, was living in a rented property in Kent when her life got turned upside down when the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK early last year.
The freelance marketing consultant was saving up for a mortgage but soon found her freelance work dwindled as the world began to shut down.
Suddenly unable to afford her rent and bills, Amy turned to the van life. Having done a few van trips before, Amy was no stranger to this nomadic lifestyle and decided it could be the perfect way to maintain her freelance work whilst lowering her outgoing spends.
Amy used her mortgage savings to purchase a Mercedes Sprinter WVB High Top van for £11,000.
She then was able to completely fit the van for just £10,000 despite having never dabbled in DIY before – spending several weeks carefully planning and watching YouTube tutorials.
To begin the build, Amy stripped the walls and proceeded to sound-deaden the van. Next, she installed insulation and had a technician install solar panels and electrics. The vinyl flooring, wooden bulkhead wall, and headliner shelf were then fitted followed by the wood cladding.
Amy proceeded to paint the cladding, build her furniture, added a water system and gas, and finally added homely d cor touches. Costs included a £1,000 on electrics and a £500 Bluetooth map system.
To keep costs down, Amy repurposed old scaffolding boards by converting these into a worktop and table. She also reused blackout blinds she already owned and simply cut these down to size to fit the van.
Whereas Amy was previously spending £1,500 on rent and household bills, her outgoing spends in the van are just £500 – saving her an incredible £1,000 per month.
With the van only completed in April 2021, Amy has yet to venture abroad but has frequented UK beauty spots over the past several weeks including Cornwall, Devon, and Kent. When conditions allow, Amy hopes to visit Wales, Scotland, and Europe.
“I was living in a flat and saving for a mortgage but when the pandemic hit, I lost all of my work and suddenly couldn’t afford rent, bills, or look to get a mortgage,” Amy said.
“I had done a few van trips before and had loved the simple life that living in a van brought. I also love travel and exploring and due to my work being remote, it is the perfect way to explore the UK whilst restrictions were in place.
“I also wanted a project for lockdown and so, converting my own van was the perfect fit.
“At the start, I looked at the whole project to try to break it down into stages. Then, with each stage, I researched and watched a lot of YouTube videos before tackling it myself.
“I hadn’t done any DIY before this. I hadn’t even used a drill before. The van is difficult because there are no straight lines so cutting straight things like the bed frame was meticulously hard to get right and to get equal.
“It is also hard to manage space and the weight of the van. You have to take a lot into consideration such as the weight of the wood or where can save on space.
“I was working in awful weather including snow. I also had no idea what I was doing and often experienced lots of trial and error.”
Van living has become a hot topic in recent weeks due to feature film Nomadland sweeping up during this year’s awards season. Similar to
Amy’s experiences, the Oscar and BAFTA winning film tells the story of a woman, Fern, who takes to living the van life following an economic recession.
“The challenge has made me a stronger person mentally and I’ve proved to myself that I can do anything I put my mind too,” Amy said.
“It has also giving me confidence to live the life I want and not be worried that it might be different to what society considers to be normal.
“Life is short so don’t worry about social pressures – how old you are, what your situation is, whether you are married or have a mortgage.
Just do what makes you happy. Live in the present.”