Van life lets man live on $1K per month in Canada’s most expensive city

A Vancouver man who’s been living out of his van for nearly 30 years is sharing how the nomadic lifestyle has been a smart financial choice for him, allowing him to keep his expenses low enough to finally buy property in BC.

Justin Credible, who shares updates about his lifestyle on YouTube, has lived out of a van since he was 15. It all started when his parents told him he’d need to get a job and start paying rent — and Credible decided he’d rather own his living space.

“I didn’t even have my full driver’s licence yet,” he said. “I actually had someone else with a licence move the van around for me. I got my Class 5 in a motorhome. They couldn’t believe it.”

He remembers 20 or so people living in vans parked in the lot of his Vancouver high school, and loved the freedom living in the van gave him.

As he got older, the money he saved made van life the only logical choice.

Fixed expenses low, fun budget high

justin credible salt spring trailer

Justin Credible/Submitted

Credible is upfront that he’s not a frugal van dweller. He has a full-time job with BC Ferries and loves being able to head into the mountains for a ski day or take advantage of Vancouver’s great restaurant scene.

During months when he works most days and doesn’t go out, he’s able to keep his living expenses below $1,000. That means the rest of his salary is for fun.

“[Some people] can get away with living in their van for $600 or $700 per month. But I don’t want to live like that. One of the reasons I bought the van was so that I could actually enjoy my life,” he said.

He was even able to save up enough to buy property on Salt Spring Island — something he doesn’t think could’ve happened if he was shelling out $1,000 per month or more on rent.

“I feel privileged in that way. Because I’m not spending on rent I can afford to do these things and live a little better, I think.”

Of course, van life isn’t without its sacrifices. It’s not something Credible recommends anyone jump into. He likens living in a van to living on a boat, because people need to source their own water, find ways to dispose of waste, and somehow create their own electricity. It may have some people craving the simplicity of turning on a tap in their apartment and having water come out.

“It’s not as easy as just buying a van. Sure, it looks like a little apartment… but it’s nothing like that at all,” he said. “There are a lot of things that are a shock to people at first.”

How has Vancouver’s van life scene changed over the years?

van life vancouver

Justin Credible/Submitted

Credible remembers living in a van being popular when he was in high school, a trend holding over from the ’60s counter-culture days. But then van life dropped off, becoming less popular.

Now it’s resurgent though, Credible says. And the motivation isn’t always a hippie-esque lifestyle, but financial reasons.

“A lot of people were forced into it for economic reasons. The interesting thing is… a lot of these people ‘forced’ into it against their will ended up loving it and continue to do it.”

To anyone getting into van life, Credible urges them to follow the golden rule of moving around every few days. He says staying for prolonged periods in one place only results in restrictions that hamper the whole community.

Most recently, the City of Vancouver announced it’s introducing paid parking at Spanish Banks — a popular parking spot for van dwellers.

Despite the challenges, Credible still loves living out of his van.

“Instead of paying someone else’s mortgage off I’ve literally got unlimited beer and food money,” he said. “If I can get enough time off, I have the ability to turn my key and drive across Canada.”