Monday, October 20, 2008

Earn Money by Cutting Expenses

This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

I've been talking to a few people and reading forum posts about earning enough money for a mobile lifestyle. A recurring theme that is too often over looked when trying to increase income, is that any money you can save on expenses is actually the same as extra money earned.

In business it is recognized that profit comes from two areas. More income and reduced costs. There is no difference when it comes to personal finance.

So how can we apply this philosophy into our every day personal lives?

To start with, we need to take a close and objective look at our current lifestyle. This probably applies more to people who are contemplating a nomadic lifestyle, than those already living one. But future plans of transitioning to a nomadic lifestyle should also be examined in the same way.

The key here is to look for ways to simplify our lives. This doesn't mean the same thing as making everything more convenient.

As an example, eating out is more convenient than making a meal at home, but in the broader context it is not simpler. On the face of it, eating out is quicker than making a meal at home, but when you look at the whole process it is not. There are two things to look at here. The first is cost and the second is time. We are all familiar with the term "time is money."

If we start with the cost of a meal, it is reasonable to suggest that the one we get at a restaurant will be about twice the price of one we can make at home with the same calorie and nutritional value. This is in straight dollar terms. To counter that, you may suggest that the extra time taken to make the meal yourself costs more in lost earnings, than you have saved by the convenience of eating out.

So now, lets look at the time side of the equation. Say it takes three quarters of an hour to make the meal yourself and another fifteen minutes to wash the dish's (I'm assuming you don't have a dish washer, remember simplicity), so you now have an additional hours work to do over eating out. Or do you?

First off, you spend time driving to where you are going to eat. This takes both time and costs money running a vehicle, which you wouldn't have done if you were making your own meal at home. Now that you are at the restaurant, someone still has to make your meal, which is still going to take time, unless you are going to a fast food outlet, in which case you are getting even less value for money with your food (very poor nutrition) then you are going to spend more time and money driving your vehicle home again.

So you have lost all of the time you would have saved, staying at home and preparing your own meal; it has cost you twice as much up front, plus you have the additional cost of running the vehicle to and from the restaurant.

I used to eat out frequently. Now I rarely do. I now spend less money on food and also eat much better. The money saved equates to less hours that I need to work to have the same amount of money, though in practice it means I have more money to do things that I want to do.

Practice doing this kind of cost benefit analysis on every aspect of your lifestyle and you will be surprised at how much extra money you can have in your pocket, without having to earn any more money than you already are.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

On a forum that I follow, a question was asked about how to stop condensation. In this particular case there was a problem with condensation forming on the ceiling around the light fixtures of a motorhome.

This was my response.

It would probably help to see why you are getting the condensation problems. Condensation occurs when warm moisture carrying air comes into contact with a colder surface, reducing the relative humidity to the point that it condenses into liquid water.

There are two approaches to this. One approach is eliminating or reducing the temperature differential between the surface and the surrounding air. The second approach is to reduce the humidity in the air. A combination of both approaches is probably going to be the most practical.

Starting with reducing the surface to air temperature. It sounds like there is no, or little insulation around the light fixtures. They are obviously the cold points in your rig. It may be that there is a lack of insulation in that area to reduce fire risk, or it could be that it is just easier to install the light fixtures that way.

If you can fix some insulating material onto the area that is getting the condensation you will either reduce or eliminate the condensation.

The second thing to look at is the air humidity in your rig. Most of it is likely to be coming from the occupants. People release a huge amount of moisture into the air just from breathing. For this reason ventilation is king. It may seem counter intuitive, but keeping everything shut up to keep the warmth in, can will usually make things feel colder, because of the high humidity levels. You should have vents in your camper/RV. Make sure that they are open at all times. If they already are open, then try to keep a window cracked, if possible.

It is also worth evaluating any heating system you may have. If it is run on gas and is not flued externally, it will be introducing huge amounts of moisture into your accommodation.

Also humidity is relative to temperature. What that means is the higher the air temperature is, the more water it will hold in gaseous form. When the temperature reduces, it can't hold as much water in gaseous form and must release some of it in liquid form, usually by condensing onto a cooler surface.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tethered or Free?

This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

I follow various forums about boating, house trucks, motor homes, van dwelling etc.. One common thread that I see, particularly in the boating and motor home forums is people looking to take up the lifestyle, or who have already purportedly taken up the lifestyle, yet are unable to break from the tether of the A.C. power chord, connected to the main grid.

Common questions are "where is a good marina for liveaboards?" or "Where is a camp ground with good facilities for motor homes?"

People that ask these questions, have, in my opinion missed the point. To me, the whole point of living in a motor home or boat is to be able to travel and stop at will. Not to be dependent on stopping at specific facilities, just so your nomadic home can function as a home. It should be able to do so, where ever it is. A large part of the experience is the different places you are stopped at, not just where you are traveling through. One marina is much like another, as are camp grounds really.

By and large, it is no more expensive to make a boat or motor home non-reliant on the A.C. umbilical power chord and to my way of thinking it is poor value for money not to do so.

To illustrate my point, I will use my current boat as an example.

This boat is as comfortable to live on right here, on her pile moorings, which requires a dinghy to access it, as it is alongside the nearby pontoon mooring with onshore power supply, or at anchor in a small uninhabited bay. Even being just a few metres away from the shore as she is, my boat is much more peaceful and secure to be aboard, than when she is berthed to the shore accessible pontoon berth where all of the other local liveaboard boats are. I still have electric lighting, fully functional galley (kitchen)(with oven), water supply and toilet.

Here is a composite photo of the living quarters as they are now. Note this is a small vessel, being only 27'3" or 8.3metres long. Even an additional three feet in length would add additional room beyond proportion.

Going back to an earlier post, I will take this opportunity to give an example of what I mean by the difference in a nomadic home being designed for holiday's and one that is designed for permanent living, by showing before and after photo's of my boat's galley (kitchen), from when I purchased it to how I converted it. This is not the only modification I made to the boat, just the easiest to illustrate my point.

Before: Note that there is only a small gas stove and sink, with no real bench space. Quite suitable for short holidays, but not permanent living.

And after: This was taken during the galley construction but you will see that in addition to the original sink, there is now a decent size bench with ample storage space under and powerful diesel powered stove/oven which is also the main heating source for the boat. It has an outside flue, so no fumes or humidity problems, which keeps the boat warm and dry.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Holiday Caravan

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Here are a couple of pictures of a caravan design I am working on (click on to enlarge). It is designed for short term accommodation only, but gives an idea of how much can be fitted into a small space, if you keep the number of people you are trying to accommodate to a minimum. In this case a couple. It is 12' long x 6'8" wide, with 6'3" headroom. The entrance is through a door at the back end of the caravan. The table will need to be split in two, with the end only used when making up the bed, otherwise it will be very difficult to access the sitting area. To make up the bed, the table is lowered to the same height as the settees and one of the back cushions fits between, to make a standard queen size bed. The shower is big enough for holiday use, but, I would go bigger for permanent accommodation. Unusual for mobile accommodation (especially in this size) is that there are two doors between the toilet and kitchen, like you would expect in a house. Also there is no allowance for heating, though a couple of ceramic flower pots turned upside down over the gas stove top would probably heat a small area like this adequately. Because I would plan on using gas for cooking, ventilation would have to be sufficient to prevent problems with carbon monoxide which can and does kill people. There is plenty of room left for storage under the settees and in the kitchenette, for food, clothing, etc.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Technical Books

This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

While I'm on the subject of book reviewing, I'll mention a few more. I have not been able to find many good books for land/road based mobile homes, but there are a couple that I am impressed with.

The first book is "The Bus Converter's Bible" by Dave Galey. This book is aimed at large bus conversions. Dave Galey spent his professional working life, primarily as a structural engineer in the aeronautical and oil industries which shows in his instructions for making structural modifications to buses. Along with a variety of design ideas, this book is really a systems manual covering everything from electrical and plumbing, to heating and insulation.

The next book is "Bus Conversion Floor Plans" by Ben Rosander With over fifty plans from bus conversion professionals and individual converter's, this book has a wealth of ideas. It includes excerpts from the works of Dave Galey, Larry Plachno and Louis C. McClure. This book offers some good philosophies and direction for designing bus conversions, including a good list of critical dimensions for the things you will want to install, like beds, kitchens and bathrooms.

When it comes to the nautical side of nomadic homes, I own a veritable library of good boat books, covering everything from design, building, maintenance, to seamanship, chronicles and lifestyle. Out of those books, the one I advocate above the others, when it comes to offering advice on accomodation layouts, is "Backyard Boatbuilding" by George Buehler. George is a practicing naval architect, who has been building and living aboard boats since the early 70's. His advice on accomodation is pure pragmatism and he likes to get a big bang for his buck. This book also gives critical dimensions for the stuff you will want like beds, galleys and bathrooms, which, incidentally, are different in requirement to those you would use in a motorhome.

The last book I will mention is "Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual" by Nigel Calder. This book is without a doubt the bible, when it comes to maintaining, repairing and improving your boats essential systems. I'm sure that this book would be invaluable for motorhome owners as well as it covers thoroughly, all aspects of AC and DC electrical systems, refrigeration and air-conditioning, toilets and plumbing, stoves and heating, as part of the boat systems.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Voyaging on a Small Income

This blog has shifted to a new web site called Nomadic Home. Click here to see it.

Nomadic homes come in many different shapes and sizes. As mentioned in previous posts, I don't believe that many production model nomadic homes are designed for permanent living. Irrespective of whether they are land or water based, custom design and building is usually required. In this process there are many facets of the lifestyle that determine the most efficient and ergonomic layout possible for a given circumstance. I have yet to find any really good books about self sustainable living in a land based mobile home, however there are a number of good books written by people living on boats, which have plenty of ideas relevant to land based mobile homes. Of these, my favorite would be Voyaging On A Small Income by Annie Hill. Here are a couple of excerpts from the forward, written by Tom Cunliffe.

"Unless you are already living creatively on the uttermost boundaries of the monetary system of Western civilization, you should read Annie Hill's book with the utmost caution.
The work you have in your hands purports to offer a series of hints concerning the art of voyaging on a small income. So it does, but if you think that is all you are getting, you have been misled by a remarkably innocuous title. What you are about to read is a volume dealing with the business of sailing in it's broadest context, but which also poses a number of serious questions about the true priorities of life for the long distance mariner. In case this makes you want to dump the thing like a hot ballast pig, don't panic. Annie Hill and her skipper, Pete, are emphatically not "drop-outs," pushing half baked philosophies to the disenchanted.
They are members of the Royal Cruising Club and are the most successful capitalists I have ever met. The fascination of the following chapters is that, for many of us, they may serve to redefine the meaning of "success.""

"Annie Hill takes us gently but firmly by the scruff of our consumer necks and leads us back to the all-but-forgotten green pastures of simplicity. She never patronises us for missing the point; she merely offers us rest from our labours and our stress. Even as we squirm and wriggle to find the flaw in her logic, the truth begins to dawn that there isn't one. To those with the courage to re-examine their lives and their needs, this book presents the possibility of genuine freedom experienced by only a few, even amongst people who are now sailing the great oceans.
So take thought before you dive into these pages. They might change your life, as my own was changed by a forward from Weston Martyr, whose work also occupies the first paragraphs of Chapter One."

The Weston Martyr forward referred to is called "The 200 pound Millionaire," written in 1932. If you are interested in reading the forward mentioned by Weston Martyr, google "Weston Martyr" and "Millionaire". There are several places on the web that you can read it for free. Here is one link to it that was working at the time of writing this post.

Annie Hill has lived what could be considered the contemporary version of Weston Matryr's story for over twenty years now, cruising from the Arctic to the Antartic, with many places in between. She continues to live this life, now on "Iron Bark" with current husband Trevor Robertson.