Freelancer saves £1k a month by ditching renting and living in a van

When Covid-19 struck the world in 2020, our lives changed forever.

That was the case for freelance marketing consultant Amy Nicholson, 33, from Kent.

Living in rented accommodation at the time, Amy was saving up for a mortgage, but found her freelance work disappeared as the UK went into lockdown.

Suddenly, she was unable to afford her rent and bills.

But rather than letting this get her down, Amy turned this bad luck into an opportunity.

She used her savings to buy a Mercedes Sprinter WVB High Top van £11,000, then got started on a major renovation project to make it her perfect home on wheels.

Amy was able to completely fit the van for just £10,000, doing most of the work herself – despite having never done much DIY before.

She relied on YouTube tutorials to guide her through the process, which started with stripping the walls and sound-deadening the van.

Next, it was time to install insulation, and a technician was brought in to install solar panels and electrics.

The vinyl flooring, wooden bulkhead wall, and headline shelf followed, then the wood cladding.

Amy then painted the cladding, built her furniture, added a water system and gas, and completed the van with cosy touches to make it feel more like home.

To keep costs down, Amy repurposed old scaffolding boards, 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. Easy peasy.

Whereas Amy was previously spending £1,500 on rent and household bills, her outgoing spends in the van are just £500 – saving her an impressive £1,000 per month.

Amy, who shares her journey on Instagram at @freelance_amy, now believes van life is the perfect way to live like a nomad while maintaining her freelance work and lowering her expenses.

Amy said: ‘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.

‘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.’

The van was finally completed in April 2021.

While Amy is yet to travel abroad, she has gone on van trips to UK beauty spots including Cornwall, Devon, and Kent.

She hopes to head to Wales, Scotland, and across Europe, next.

‘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,’ said Amy.

‘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.’

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