Posts tagged "Q & A"

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Source: Trying out a new (slightly less anatomically accurate) truck graphic this time, from Tumundografico

Each financial post I do brings at least a few questions about my plan or different investment strategies. Before we get to it, I'll start with my usual disclaimer that I have no background in finance or financial planning, and taking financial advice exclusively from the guy living in a box truck probably isn't a sound strategy. With that out of the way, let's get to the questions.

Do you invest in bitcoins?

Nope. Aside from reading the white paper on Bitcoin, I'm not all that knowledgeable about it, and my current allotment of funds is about the right level of risk for me (>90% stocks, all broad index funds). Plus, I think unless you really know what you're doing, it's dangerous to treat a currency like a commodity.

Why race to pay off a loan with 3.4% interest? That's equivalent to investing at a 3.4% annual return, which is not a great return rate.

This is referring to my now non-existent student loans. I don't have a great answer for this one, except that I did delay paying the loans off for about six months, for exactly the reason given in the question. However, I do think there's something to be said about the psychological comfort of not having any debt looming ominously overhead. In my opinion, that was worth the decreased rate of return on my investment. In any case, I'm clearly not rushing to get a mortgage any time soon.

Another way of looking at it is that paying off my loans was a way of de-risking my portfolio a bit. The overwhelming majority of my portfolio is stocks, so "investing" $20,000 at 3.4% is like a really well-performing bond. It's a bit of a stretch, but the math works out.

Seems like you're putting a lot of money into accounts you won't be able to access until you're around 60 years old. Wondering if you're planning to save enough in cash or non-IRAs to live on from when you're in your 30s until you are able to withdraw from the tax-advantaged accounts. Have you done the math on how much you'll need during that time?

Nope, haven't done much of the math around this, but we can dabble in it now. I've been known to throw around phrases like "Trinity Study" and "Safe Withdrawal Rate", which is to say once I have a nest egg equal to 25x my yearly spending, I can (in theory) be financially-independent indefinitely. And while that's a good high-level description, it glosses over some of the details mentioned in the question here, mainly that my "nest egg" isn't a single account, it's spread over a bunch of different types of accounts, some of which have disparate and intentionally complicated rules.

My plans are nicely summed up by a Vanguard article I came across recently, titled 5 ways to make your portfolio more tax-efficient. The first item on their list is "Save as much as you can in tax-advantaged accounts", which I definitely do. I max out every possible tax-advantaged account I can get my hands on. The thinking is that the less money I subject to taxes (either now or later), the more money is available to grow and compound.

Skipping item two (and four and five), the third item from the Vanguard article is "Tap into your accounts in the right order", and this is where the math and planning come into play. For the sake of argument, let's say that I do this for 9 years. The first account to draw from is my non-tax-advantaged, normal brokerage account. About a year and a half into my adventure, this account has collected about $55,000 dollars. Doing some extremely conservative calculations (5% growth, yearly compounding, +$33,000/year), I'll have about $450,000 at the end of that 9 year period.

Once I've sucked all of the money out of my brokerage account, the next fund I would dip into is my Roth IRA. The big trick here is that I can withdraw the principal without paying any tax or penalty. Since I'm contributing the max $27,000/year to that, that's an additional $243,000 (remember, just the principal, no gains) I can take out whenever I need. After that's been exhausted, I can take out some tax-free HSA money offset with medical expenses paid out of pocket over the next nine years, and there are a few other rules and exceptions I can use to squeeze out a few more penalty-free dollars (SEPPs, Roth Conversion Ladders, Other Exceptions, oh my!).

Conservatively, that means I'll have $450,000 + $243,000 + HSA and other stuff = ~$700,000. Since 9 years have passed in this hypothetical example, I'd be around 33 years old. Do I think I could make $700,000 last for the 27-32 years until I can start taking penalty-free 401k, Roth IRA, and HSA distributions? Using the rule-of-thumb Safe Withdrawal Rate, this means I'd be living on ~$28,000 a year. While not impossible, it'd be a little tighter than I'd like it to be. I have a few options here for augmenting that income: 1) mess around with SEPPs and conversion ladders, 2) take the penalty, which isn't totally unreasonable, or 3) don't retire in 9 years.

It's very likely that the actual solution here is: 4) all the above. If my goals are in the same place in five years or so, I'll probably quit working in the traditional sense, and pick up one-off contract jobs like I used to do in college. I could also work remotely/part-time. The supplemental income from the part-time work would hopefully be enough to live minimally, but comfortably.

Is there a fee for each time you do the rollover? If so, have you done the analysis to see how long you should wait to do the rollover to the Roth?

Nope! No fees, but I do have to remember to do it every paycheck, because you do have to pay taxes on the gains when you do the rollover. So if I do it immediately, there's usually either $0.00 or $0.01 of tax to pay. But because I'm extremely easily distracted, sometimes I'll forget about it for a week or so, and then I end up having to pay like a whole dollar or two of tax. Not a big deal, but it's something I'll likely have to think about when doing my taxes this month.

I thought if you maxed out your normal 401k (the pre-tax one) you could not contribute more funds to the after-tax 401k in the same calendar year. Am I mistaken about that?

In short: yes, you are indeed mistaken.

In slightly less short: the IRS has two separate limits that are relevant here. The first is the pre-tax employee 401k contribution limit, which is $18,000 for 2017, and only includes your own personal contributions. The second limit is the overall 401k contribution limit, which is $54,000 for 2017 and includes your personal contributions, employer contributions, and after-tax contributions. I contribute $18,000 to pre-tax, and my employer matches $9,000, which leaves me $54,000 - ($18,000 + $9,000) = $27,000 to contribute to my after-tax 401k in 2017.


Thanks for joining us me for probably the least interesting, most detail-oriented Q & A thus far. As always, if you have any burning questions, feel free to pose them in the box to the right (or bottom on mobile), or shoot me an email.

Source: My actual "closet", aka a pipe bolted across the back of the truck. And it only took me 6 months to finish.

It's that time again, when I realize that I've been neglecting people's questions for too long and they've reached a critical mass. It's time to clean out the closet. Not the literal one pictured above, though I should probably do a write up for how I threw that together too.

I just read your leather strap solution to your drawer problem. Have you considered magnets?

Indeed I had, and in fact I use some neodymium magnets to hold a makeshift screen onto my sunroof. I decided against using magnets on the dresser drawers because of their force characteristics. Basically, I didn't like the idea that I'd have to Goldilocks my way to the right strength of magnet: too weak and the drawers do as they please when I take turns, too strong and they become difficult to open, not to mention they might rip the super glue off instead of simply separating. Snaps and straps are much easier to reason about: I snap them closed and the drawers don't move, I unsnap them and I can get at my clothes freely, without a fight.

I'd like to see a widget on the site that provides the current temperature inside the box. Or perhaps a temperature readout associated with the posts you make while inside the box. Basically, interested to see the temperature range and what the temperature drops to overnight in the winter.

That would be an interesting project. Get a little solar panel, a Raspberry Pi or Arduino, temperature sensor, and cell modem, and POST some data to the site every few minutes. I mean, I'm not going to actually do it, but I agree, it'd be interesting. How about a pretty good approximation though? The box truck may very well be an oven during the day, but I'm only ever in it at night, and the truck has basically zero functional insulation. At night, the temperature outside is the temperature inside, with maybe a degree or two difference, so checking the weather in South Bay will let you know how the box is doin'. To keep warm in "winter", I usually just pull a blanket or two over and that does the trick. I put winter in quotes because, as someone from a place with actual seasons, what happens in the Bay Area hardly qualifies.

Is physical address verification required for mailbox renewal?

You know, I really can't remember. I don't think so. Every six months when I go to renew my private mailbox, I swipe my card and that's usually the end of it. When I initially got the mailbox, there were definitely things to read and papers to sign, but I don't think I had to verify any other addresses, just provide a previous one.

You've talked about retiring and retiring early, so clearly the future is on your mind. Are you considering having a family ever/are your calculations based on providing for you alone?

This is a great question, even though the future is scary and I act like a small child. My ramblings at the end of this post explain it more thoroughly, but my strategy for the future is just to create as many opportunities for myself now, so that when the time comes to make Serious Adult Decisions™ (or SAD, for short), I have the flexibility to do what I want. You're right, my early retirement math gets a lot easier when it's just me, but I'm also not naïve enough to think that I know what I'll be like ten years from now. Do I want kids? Who knows. No doubt, there's certainly something attractive about the idea of tiny genetic hybrids of you and someone you think is awesome. That said, I'm fortunate enough to have the luxury of not needing to decide if that's what I want right now. One thing I'll say is that if I did "settle down", I highly doubt future-me would accept the traditional way of doing it. I'm not saying there'd be trucks involved, but there'd definitely still be a whole lot of travelling and something resembling retirement.

Can you please elude to your eating habits? Do you have a small kitchen, grill, mini fridge in the box? Are you going out to eat more often? Lastly, monthly food expense (approx), thanks!

The truck has zero kitchens, grills, and/or mini-fridges. In fact, the truck has zero anythings that aren't beds and/or dressers. I eat three square meals a day at work, and I go out on the weekends. I spend $50-75 a weekend on food, so probably ~$300/month. My diet consists of copious amounts of chicken, with some veggies thrown in for decoration.

Any plans to fix up the inside, like removing the garage door and putting in a wall with a camper-style door…or anything for the walls? It's looking pretty grim in there, man.

I've considered putting in drywall or replacing the rear gate, but I invariably end up asking myself the same question: why? Let's be honest with ourselves here, no amount of drywall or renovation is going to make up for the fact that it's a sketchy old moving van. I can put a new coat of paint on it, I can redo the floors in beautifully-finished hardwood, I can hang up paintings—you get the idea, but it'll still be the same truck. Something something lipstick on a pig. I chose the truck because I was indifferent to appearances and all I needed was a bed and a place to store my clothes. Everything else is superfluous. If I cared about how grim it looked or what people thought of it, it's unlikely I'd have ever gotten a truck (or even an RV) in the first place. The truck serves its function and it serves it well, so it's hard to justify putting in the money, time, and effort to make any "improvements" which do nothing to make me a happier, healthier person.

Thoughts on something like an RV park?

I very briefly looked into it after my unceremonious (but not unexpected or unwarranted) eviction. The conclusion I came to is that no RV park would want me and my MacGyver'd shanty. As it stands, the truck doesn't have much in common with an RV: it doesn't have electricity, water, or the hookups to provide them. Even if a particularly open-minded RV park was willing to take me under their wing, it'd likely be a non-zero distance from my work, negating all of my nice commuting benefits.

And that's all for this episode of Questions and Answers. As always, keep the questions, curiosities, and whatever else crosses your consciousness coming.

Source: I'm sure stock photos seem normal in the parallel universe they're clearly photographed in. I'll let the watermarks explain where this gem came from.

Looking at a list of unanswered questions people have sent me, I couldn't find a single reasonable thread that united any of them, save the fact that they all concern my truckly ways. They're all pretty much orthogonal in the N-dimensional space that truck questions occupy. Let's get to them.

What does your family think of your living situation?

I've kinda been doing my own thing since I was 15 or 16, and my family sort of accepts that I'll probably figure out something that works for me. That said, they naturally thought I was insane (and still likely do) when I told them about my truck idea, well over a year ago at this point. The more I explained it to them, the more I was able to convince them that I had some semblance of an idea what I was doing, for better or worse. So in short: they probably think I'm crazy, but they're impressed I haven't managed to burn the truck to the ground yet and/or get myself Very Arrested™.

What are the worst and best parts of living in your truck?

The best part is knowing that I'm building the future I want for myself. The worst part is probably not being able to cook. Not that I was good at cooking before, but I did definitely enjoy whipping up a meal for myself every once in a while. I hijacked a friend's kitchen (thanks Pragya!) to cook a Thanksgiving turkey, but I'm fairly confident that was the last time I attempted any comprehensive culinary conquest. Oh, and not being able to have any pets is also pretty sad, I'd most definitely have a canine companion if I was living in a more conventional location.

What do you do for ventilation?

As a consequence of having a rear gate that locks from the outside, I've always had to keep the door open a crack to avoid being locked in. That's provided sufficient ventilation thus far, though I also just had the sunroof installed in the back of the truck, both to provide some ambient lighting and have a more appropriate ventilation solution. Ventilation wasn't really a problem before, but the closer the source of ventilation is to where you're actually breathing, the better.

Why do you blur people's faces out in photos?

The first time was because I was (and still am) completely unaware of what the legal climate surrounding truck parties looks like, and I guess I'd also like to protect the privacy of my friends and family if at all possible. Plus, it lets me dust off my (extremely limited) Photoshop skills once in a while.

How's El Nino working out?

Initially, pretty poorly. Between the leak, and the impressively loud symphony of rain drops on a thin metal roof, the fairly frequent rain was less than friendly. But between patching up the hole and judiciously applying marine sealant to any location that looked like it might betray me at the first sign of water, the truck is in much better shape these days. I can relax and enjoy the occasional drizzle outside my office window without worrying I'm going to come home to a truck-cuzzi.

The first result for the search "truck jacuzzi", courtesy of Jalopnik

If I wanted to live in a truck, would you guide me through it, like buying the truck, insurance, and all that legal stuff?

I'd like to think I've covered most of that stuff on here, but definitely shoot me a question or email if you come up with anything I missed. I'm always happy to help people convert to the dark side get setup with a simpler, more efficient lifestyle.

Do you have a plan for when you contract a debilitating case of viral gastroenteritis?

I kinda do. My primary plan is to rely on my good health, nutrition, exercise, and sleep schedule to prevent debilitating cases of viral gastroenteritis in the first place. But if I were to find myself involuntarily returning the contents of my stomach with regular frequency, I'd probably take off work and grab a hotel room for a few days to sleep it off. Luckily, I get sick pretty infrequently and haven't had to resort to the suite life just yet. Fingers crossed.

Source: This weird stock photo brought to you by Google Image Search and Right Question.

This Q&A is a total potpourri of everything I've gotten in the past month (or three), but I've done my best to group them together.

Relationships and…Personal Matters

Do you have a girlfriend? What does she think of your lifestyle?

I don't have a girlfriend at the moment, so her opinions are nonexistent. If I were to have a girlfriend, I'd like to think that she'd be (at the very least) accepting of my choices. I'm pretty contented with the way my life is right now though, which is to say that I'm not in the market for a relationship at the moment. I don't want to say that I'll never have a serious relationship while living in the truck, because I have no idea how long I'll be doing this. But I definitely understand how ridiculous everything about my life looks From Outside The Box™, from the perspective of a reasonable person who has their affairs in order.

If you do get laid in the box, will you disclose this information on your blog (leaving out names and identifying details of course)?

Absolutely not, and I say that with the utmost confidence. I've chosen a lifestyle that dramatically reduces my chances of getting laid, I hardly think I'd be improving them if potential suitors thought I was going to recount my box truck (s)exploits for the Internet's perusal and entertainment. I'm also just not the kiss and tell type, as part of my Try Not To Be A Douchebag™ credo. On top of all these things, that's like a whole 'nother level of illegal. Like, we're talking sex-offender-registry-illegal, and for obvious reasons I have no intention of opening up that bag of worms and then proceeding to brag about it in a place accessible to the entirety of the Internet-connected planet.

Bike/Exercise Stuff

Are you going to the San Jose bike party tonight (11-20-15)?

I did actually read this on November 20th (you can tell I'm pretty awful at answering questions in a timely fashion), but tragically I already had plans at that point. But thanks for letting me know those exist, I'll definitely make it to one eventually, especially now that I'm upping the ante with my bike trips.

Have you considered one of those eBike conversion kits that turn a regular bicycle into an eBike?

I (very briefly) considered it, then decided otherwise. As I mentioned at the end of this post, an electric bike is actually worse for rides over 25 miles (which I've been doing a bunch of) because of the whole range thing. Plus, the logistics of how/when/where I charge the bike are pretty nebulous on weekends because I can't exactly plug it into the truck, and it takes 5+ hours to fully charge. Also, if I want my cardio to eventually not holistically suck, a normal bike that forces me to do actual work will whip me into shape much quicker than a glorified moped.

How's the new bicycle?

The new bicycle is doing wonderfully, thank you for asking! I've taken it on several rides that left my legs in a state of matter somewhere between solid and liquid, and it's holding up nicely (unlike my legs). I replaced the left crank arm and picked up some lights, but that was really all the TLC it needed to be in tip-top road-ready shape.

How's the gym going?

The gym is going well. I've been doing a modified version of Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 program, and I've finished 11 3-to-4 week cycles of that since starting work. The good thing is that almost every cycle still has new personal records, but I'm starting to see plateaus in press and bench. Eventually I'll do a detailed fitness post.

The Current State of Affairs

So your employer has told you you have to leave their parking lot. What solution did you come up with? | What's your current sitch? You left us hanging when you got the boot. | Where do you live now? Still in your truck? | Are you going to tell us how is going there? Do you like your neighbors, how has your commute and daily life changed?

A lot of people seem curious as to how I'm managing my effective eviction. If I've learned literally anything from it, it's that I need to keep my obnoxiously large mouth slightly less agape. So as an exercise in restraint, I won't be talking much about my current living situation. I will say, however, that I'm still a vehicular vagrant, and all of the reasons I do what I do are still valid. My day-to-day life is virtually unchanged.

Everything Else

How do you prevent the doors from being locked while you are inside the truck?

I don't. If someone really wanted, they could come up and tie or otherwise lock the hitch down to the frame of the truck, and I'd be pretty screwed. I'm sure if I called one of my friends (I get fine cell reception), they'd come over with a knife or scissors or the Jaws of Life or something and save my life. Honestly, I couldn't even be mad because I've been wildly negligent in preventing it from happening, despite knowing the risk. I'd find it pretty funny (and learn my lesson), just because of how ridiculous the whole situation would be. It's pretty rare that someone gets locked in their home. It'd be worth it for the story, if nothing else.

Do you play video games?

Nope. I own a non-gaming laptop and a phone, neither of which are conducive to gaming. The last game I got really into was LittleBigPlanet, and I haven't played that in four or five years.

Would you consider installing a Tesla Powerwall in the truck?

Is that you Elon? In the past, I've talked about potentially getting some sort of electricity source, like a Duracell Powerpack. The idea is that I'd charge it up with a (roof-mounted?) solar panel, and then I could use it to power…something? I really don't have anything that would benefit from a constant AC power supply, everything electronic I own is battery-powered, by design. So if I don't need that, I definitely don't need a Tesla Powerwall, which, doing some quick math, stores ~40x energy and takes up ~8x the space.* Plus I think I'd also need an actual earth ground, like, a wire from the Powerwall that just leads straight into the ground, though I'm not entirely certain about this. In a home, that's not really an issue (1. Dig hole. 2. Insert wire.), but it sounds like a weird and potentially dangerous thing to try with the truck.

*And that's not including the inverter I'd undoubtedly have to install too.

Have you read Thoreau's Walden? What about The Martian?

I'm in the process of reading both. Okay fine, you caught me, I'm actually listening to an audiobook for The Martian. Thanks to everyone who suggested I read them, Walden in particular is giving me a lot to mull over, so expect a future post on all of the ways that Walden is timeless and relevant to a truck guy.

Source: Questionably relevant image courtesy of Go by Truck

I gave my spiel about such lightweight topics as money, financial planning, and how I plan to live the rest of my ephemeral human life. Naturally people had some questions and thoughts of their own to contribute, and I'm more than happy to bring those into the mix.

Any reason you're using an ETF instead of a mutual fund? I don't see the soundness in the incurring fees on a brokerage account.

So I mentioned I'm using Vanguard for my brokerage account, and (as of now) my investments are in VOO. If you look at this handy chart here and included below for good measure, there are no commissions or fees as long as you're trading Vanguard funds/ETFs.

Vanguard is pretty awesome.

So between that, and the generally higher expense ratios for actively-managed mutual funds, Vanguard ETFs seem like the better option for me right now. But I'm also the first one to admit that I'm still very actively learning about all this stuff, and I appreciate any and all advice people have to offer.

I hope [...] you're not actually going to invest all of you "investment money" in that one ETF.

I probably didn't make this clear enough in my money post, but I won't be blindly dumping all my money into the one ETF. While it is diversified, it is still all my money being susceptible to the fluctuations of a single fund. I don't have enough money in my brokerage account to worry about it yet, but I will start picking out other types of funds to invest in once I'm putting serious cash (>$100k) into it . In the mean time, my 401k and HSA are invested in funds that are at the very least not identical to VOO, and 10% of my 401k (which has 10x more money in it than my brokerage account) is invested in bonds, so I'm not putting all my eggs into one basket by any means. I'll likely never pick out my own stocks, but I'll certainly branch out once I have some time to research what my options are. In the mean time, my current mix provides a nice balance of risk/reward.

Appreciate you sharing the numbers. What percentage are you spending/saving?

This is a tricky one to answer because my spending hasn't been consistent in the slightest. When I was first getting the truck setup, I was really making it rain on my expenses. Between getting truck-work done, and buying beds, dressers, bikes, clothes, and all the other bare necessities, my weekly spending was easily 10x what it is now. Six months into it, I think I have every large object covered. I can't think of anything I could buy that would make my life better in any meaningful way, and more likely than not, it'd just take up my precious and relatively scarce truck space. All that considered, it's much easier for me to hit my target savings rate (~90%) now as compared to six months ago. My biweekly take-home pay is $1,640.89 (as of now), and I have monthly truck insurance of $70, a music streaming membership for $10, a GitHub account for $7, and a DigitalOcean server for $5. That leaves me about $60 a week for random leisure spending, which is more than enough for a nice dinner, some drinks, and hanging out at a quiet cafe and typing up blog posts. It'll be easier to consistently hit the target when my income goes up in the New Year (raises, changes to 401k/HSA, etc).

How much are you spending on fuel?

Not much, especially since I learned I can keep my insurance cheap by driving less than 3,000 miles a year. Sometimes I'll go two weeks or so without driving, and then I'll drive it just to make sure it hasn't died on me/the tires aren't warping. The last time I drove it any significant distance was to help a friend move, and that was about 50 miles round trip. I probably drive, on average, 50 miles a month, so like $15 in gas a month. My bike and a sprinkle of public transportation serve me well for pretty much all the travelling I do in the area.

Back in the good ole college days (like six months ago), I was the proud owner of a 1986 Corvette, which had roughly the same fuel efficiency as my truck, but would probably make a much less comfortable home. Despite costing me a fortune in fuel, insurance, and repairs, I'm glad to have had it: at least I was able to get all most of the crazy, testosterone-loaded joyrides out of my system before entering the real world. It's strange to think I went from one extreme (loud, gas guzzling, male compensation machine) to the other extreme (long quiet scenic leg-powered bike rides) in such a short time. Hell, Last Year Brandon™ would have painted the front fender a fresh coat of cherry red with bicyclists like Present Day Brandon™. I blame the change on California and a life philosophy shaped by six months with The Truck.

The love of my life, Yvette.

In your savings clock, are you including the amount you spend on your various Home Improvement projects?

I'm not, and that may skew the numbers a little bit. That said, even the largest of my past and current Home Improvement projects hasn't cost me more than $100 (plus my time). I ignore smaller things like this in my calculation for simplicity, but also because it balances out other random costs of existing that my situation doesn't necessitate. For example, if I had an apartment, I'd likely be paying for some combination of water, electricity, and Internet, and I'd probably buy some food just so my refrigerator wasn't so lonely. At the end of it all, the savings clock is a very rough approximation, but rent and truck insurance are the dominating terms in the equation, and the rest is just noise.

Source: Yet another reason I shouldn't be allowed to use the Internet. From GMC and Ryder

I promised a mega Q&A, I'm delivering a mega Q&A. I had upwards of 750 questions, so I took some of the most popular (and least creepy) ones, scrubbed out the personal info, fixed some spelling, did a bit of rephrasing, and tossed them up here.

Bring In The Questions

Why don't you have ads? / Why don't you monetize the blog? / Have you considered selling your soul to the highest bidder?

As much as I love the tagline "This truck lifestyle brought to you by Home Depot", I honestly have no intentions of making money off this blog. This is a hobby for me, a vehicle for catharsis and documentation, so that when I'm 65 and (probably) a well-adjusted member of society, I can look back at this blog and laugh at my past antics. I have the attention-span of a small child, and my memory is abnormally bad for someone my age, so this blog takes the place of my seriously-lacking long-term memory capabilities. As an aside, thank you to the guy who estimated my server costs and sent me an anonymous tip, you totally didn't have to do that and I appreciate the gesture. If I were better at managing Datastore queries, your estimate would have been pretty close, but that's a story for a future post.

Why don't you live in an RV or a camper | trailer or housecar | motor home or conversion van | white or brown rice | black or pinto beans?

This was probably the most common question I got asked (not the Chipotle part), aside from "Where do I go to the bathroom?", which I answered here a few months ago. I know I've totally blown the whole "low profile" thing, but one big reason I got a truck was because it's much less conspicuous than an RV. If you see an RV in a corporate parking lot, your reaction is "Someone definitely lives there. Like, that's totally someone's home". In a corporate setting, large white box trucks are moving around constantly, and you develop a sort of selective blindness towards them. The other big reason I got a truck, decidedly less comfortable than an RV, is because I don't want to be comfortable. Affording myself cushy modern comforts means I'd likely get comfortable just hanging out, and not doing anything enriching or productive or fun. The truck isn't comfortable: it's unbearably hot (over 100° F) between the hours of 11-5 PM, it doesn't have a bathroom or windows, in fact, it barely has anything at all. That's a good thing. It keeps me out of it during the day, it's hard to sleep in and laze around when you're borderline being cooked alive. It forces me to go out and explore the area around me: I go on long bike rides or explore San Francisco, or maybe I'll grab my Kindle and read some travel books in a quaint cafe. I was well-aware of how uncomfortable a truck would be when I bought it, the discomfort is a tool to save me from myself. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if you're spending a lot of time in a small box (literally or metaphorically), you're doing it wrong.

Why don't you include Commuting Costs | Truck Resale Value | Food | Electricity | Hot Water | Other Utilities | Car Insurance | Postage | The Price of Tea in China in the savings calculator formula?

The savings calculator is meant to be a conservative rough estimate of how much money I've currently saved over renting. I'm not including the potential future money I'd get from selling the truck, because that's not liquid cash I have available to me. That said, I will update the clock soon (with an accompanying post), because my insurance did go up ever so slightly. It didn't go up nearly as much as I deserved, which I thought was pretty sweet.

Do you have a Facebook | Instagram | Snapchat | mailing list? / What do you look like? / What is your blood type? / What are your exact GPS coordinates? / Why don't you love me? / Are you even listening to me??

I do have a Facebook and a Snapchat, but those aren't for consumption by the Internet, they're for my own personal social-ification. As for what I look like: two eyes, one nose (on the larger side), a mouth, hair in all the places you'd expect. I've been told I have a very punchable face, so there's that. Blood type is O+, which makes me a good donor candidate.

What are you going to do when winter comes? / Are you aware that winter is a season? / I've heard cold air causes cancer, do you want cancer?

This is definitely on my radar, and I'm very aware that the Earth is tilted at approximately 23° and this causes seasons for most of the planet. Hold tight, I'm dedicating a full future post to the inevitable but temporary heat-death of the universe.

What's the login button for?

Valid question. It serves no purpose for anyone other than me. When I log in, the options at the top of the screen change, and that's how I write my posts. I'll hide it somewhere less obnoxious eventually, but for now, don't worry about it too much.

Have you heard of Mr. Money Mustache | ERE | my uncle Greg?

I actually had not heard of these places, but now that I have, expect a future post about how I'm applying their advice to box life.

I've been reading these posts in chronological order. Some ways through, I got a sinking feeling: is this what it's like to watch a person go mad bit by bit?

Having never watched someone go insane bit by bit firsthand, I'm not sure I can answer this one with any degree of confidence. That said, as a human being whose thoughts and opinions are shaped by his experiences, living in a truck has certainly changed my perception of a lot of things: homelessness, happiness, money, human nature; you name it. Personally, I don't think my ideas are tending toward derangement, but that's just my unbiased opinion.

Do you need a special driver's license to operate the truck?

Terrifyingly enough, no. Like some types of RVs, any pasty-faced teenager with a freshly minted license, no special training, and minimal real-world driving experience could hop behind the wheel. I have my CDL license, which is why I'd even considered getting something this large in the first place. The box truck is really just a decommissioned 16' Budget truck.

Where do you have stuff shipped to?

Sometimes my private mailbox, but most of the time I have it shipped directly to work. They bring packages right to your desk, which is unbelievably convenient.

Have you planned how long will you live in the truck?

I have not. It's hard to say, too. Certainly I could hop onto Craigslist and find an apartment/sell the truck in one fell swoop. The answer I always give people is that I'll stop living in a truck when it's no longer a reasonable solution for me. As of right now, and for the foreseeable future, I'm perfectly contented sleeping in the truck, and I wouldn't even be any happier in an apartment.

I thought I'd check out your blog, but now I see you use the modifier "super-" I'm outta here.

I'm so stupendously super sorry, seriously.

What's wrong with peeing in the woods?

If you're camping, nothing at all. If you're twenty feet from your office, everything.

Do you give box tours?

If you're in the area, and can convince me you have no intention of chopping me up into little pieces and feeding me to your multiple pet ferrets, totally!


As for everyone who emailed and commented with words of encouragement, links to similar blogs, or tips on how to improve my setup, thank you! I'm still digesting the enormous wealth of information, but over the next few weeks I'll be translating it into "Home Improvement" posts and everything like such as.

Back again with another riveting installment of Questions and Answers.

Mountain View has a car show during its Thursday Night Live series of events. Are you in that?

Erm, no. Though if I ever go fully insane and paint the outside of the box with flames and other crazy shenanigans, I'll definitely start attending some car shows. I could go the full nine yards, get an amp and put a sound system in the back, maybe a disco ball or two. Open up the back gate and have a good old-fashioned truck rager. I could even make a business out of it, call it "Block Party in a Box". Or I could not do any of those things, that's also an option.

Can people be in the back of the truck while you drive it? If no, could you attach seatbelts to your bed or something to make it kosher?

I'm not going to look up the driving laws surrounding this, because common sense dictates that it's illegal, much in the same way that riding in the back of a pickup truck is illegal, at least outside of the Deep South. Theoretically though, since I've secured everything down in the back, someone would be totally fine laying in the bed with someone driving, as long as they weren't going full-NASCAR. It'd actually probably be pretty cool, like a discount, white trash version of Space Mountain. Continuing the trend of monetizing my housing, I could just paint a huge "White Trash Space Mountain" sign on the side (next to the flames), and charge $5 for a ride up and down the 101. Again, I could also just not do that instead.

Do you have an emergency plan for when your truck gets stolen/explodes? Because then you will be extra homeless

For all the planning I did to get where I am, I've never really thought of any particularly good contingency plans. I've always known that if things don't work out, I can just fall back to an overpriced apartment for normal people, but I've never concerned myself with worrying about various truck-related disasters. Regarding the "stolen" scenario: Virtually no carjackings occur on the company campus, and it's surrounded by video cameras. If anyone was dumb/crazy enough to steal my gross, dumpy vehicle while it's surrounded by Teslas and Porches, they're going to get caught fairly quickly. The whole explosion scenario is far more likely, because it has about 160,000 miles on it, and while there's no outright mechanical issues with it, I wouldn't want to be my car insurance company. If it were to die on me (preferably not in a blaze of glory), I'd pack my gym bag with a few outfits, have it towed to a repair shop, and stay at an AirBnB or a hotel for a few nights. Hardly the worst thing that's ever happened to someone.

A few of the questions were comments on site features, and I've implemented a few of them, and some more are on the way. The Question/Comment box and the About/Search box should show up on more pages now, and I'll be adding in "Previous/Next" buttons from individual posts soon, so stay tuned!

Source: Clip Art Best

It appears I have a few prolific inquirers, so here goes Q & A round two.

Is what you're doing illegal?

There's two underlying questions here. First, is being homeless illegal, and second, are you homeless if you live in a car. To briefly answer the second one: living in a car is definitely considered being homeless, but I'll address that in one of the later questions. As for the legality of being homeless, I had trouble finding relevant city ordinances for where I frequently park, but nearby cities like Palo Alto and Manteca have cracked down in recent years. Additionally, there's an excellent paper that details all of the laws that California cities have regarding homelessness, in addition to providing a bunch of other useful information. Nearby places like San Francisco, Oakland, Sunnyvale, and San Jose all have anti-homeless laws, but there is no statewide ban on homelessness. I might just be missing the ordinances in my specific city, but from what I've read, it might not actually be illegal. Naturally, these laws only apply to public property. Since I'm in a parking lot owned by my company, it's well within their power to "evict" me, if they so chose.

Can you please figure out a way to lock yourself in at night? This doesn't seem safe.

I've mentioned my door situation before, it's one of the few things I haven't found a good solution for yet. I have some ideas, and they'll get their own posts when I get around to trying them. It's certainly not the safest situation, but it's no less safe than people who leave their front door unlocked at night. Except my door is giant, metal, and super loud, so any attempted intrusions would immediately yank me from my slumber.

You should get a pet!

Absolutely not. Not that I don't love animals, I really do, but I think it's frankly unfair to the animal to be subjected to my lifestyle. I chose to live in a box, an animal would not be doing so of their own volition. Even if I brought them to work every day (which is actually encouraged where I work), there'd undoubtedly be times where they'd have to stay in the car, and I'm not a fan of putting an animal in a dark, confined space. So, for the sake of any hypothetical future pets, I'm definitively not getting an animal while I live in a truck.

Have you made friends?

I have! I lived in the area last year and made some friends then, and they weren't entirely shocked with my housing choices this year. Since I started work, I've also met a bunch of great people who enjoy the novelty of my situation. If whoever asked this question was worried that it's hard to make friends when you're insane and living out of a car: people can be pretty flexible and compassionate. Naturally, not everyone is going to agree with your decisions, but people who can understand someone else's perspectives and choices make infinitely better friends, as a general rule.

Do you consider yourself homeless?

I alluded to this earlier, but there's really two perspectives that you can employ here. In the eyes of the law, I'm definitively homeless. All the cities with anti-homeless laws listed above included a snippet similar to the following:

[They] have daytime laws that criminalize the four basic kinds of activities that can be applied to the homeless: “(1) standing, sitting, and resting in public places; (2) sleeping, camping, and lodging in public places, including in vehicles; (3) begging and panhandling; and (4) food sharing.”

-Fisher, Marina and Miller, Nathaniel and Walter, Lindsay and Selbin, Jeffrey, California's New Vagrancy Laws: The Growing Enactment and Enforcement of Anti-Homeless Laws in the Golden State

Like I said before, it's not quite a "public place", but I am certainly "sleeping, camping, and lodging [...] in vehicles". I guess I'm guilty of "sitting in public places" too though, that's a pretty wide net they're casting with that one. The other perspective, and more to your question, is how I feel about my situation. And I don't feel homeless at all. I have a place I call home, it's distinctly mine, and I feel comfortable being there. Like my tagline says, "Home is where you park it."

A few days ago, I opened up a question form where people can ask whatever they want about the truck-life. I've gotten a few questions (potentially all from one person), and I'm going to copy them in all of their unedited, verbatim glory here, and answer them to the best of my ability.

Will you be throwing a truck-warming party?

Yes actually! I don't know specifically when it'll be, or where it'll be (besides in the truck, obviously), but plans are in the works. Moving into a new place can be stressful, as I've undoubtedly alluded to in previous posts. House-warming parties help to take the edge off and ease the transition. I think that the truck-warming party is just as important, if not more of a necessity, than a standard house-warming party would be.

Since you have fewer expenses, you should probably just take the extra dolla dolla bills and fill your truck so you can swim in it Scrooge McDuck style.

The main reason behind minimizing my expenses, aside from wanting to live simply, is to save up for my eventual travels. While it would be a total baller move to fill my truck with freshly minted dollar bills and swim around in them, I just don't see it happening. Also, I just did the math, and using stacks of one dollar bills, I'd still need $19.9 million dollars to fill up the entire box. That means filling it halfway would still be nearly $10 million, and even if I crumpled them up (to increase their volume), it'd still be a pretty pricey ordeal. Turns out living in a truck doesn't make you Scrooge McDuck-status wealthy.

I noticed there are no sources for your images. ARE A THIEF? Gosh.

I try to take pictures and use those whenever possible, but I do frequently resort to Google Image Search. And despite the caps lock and sassy attitude, you have a pretty good point, I should give credit where credit is due. I'll add in that feature very soon, and I'll update all of the old images.

How fast can your truck go?

Well, I've never quite taken it drag racing, but I do like to keep up with highway speeds so I don't get run down by a stressed-out techie with road rage. The truck will go about 75 miles an hour if you ask it nicely, though it's definitely much more comfortable not moving at all.

When you go traveling, are you planning on doing it all in the truck? Or will you (temporarily?) abandon your truck?

I haven't written a post about this yet, but the first part of my trip will be a road trip back to Boston, where I'll hit all the major landmarks and attractions on the way back. I'll drive/live in the truck for this part, and then I'll store it in Boston while I do my traveling. At no point will I actually abandon the truck, just store it away for safe-keeping.

You should probably just get a nestcam and live stream the inside of the box all the time.

So this isn't actually a question, but neither was the Scrooge McDuck one. Anyway, even if I did do this (incredibly creepy) thing, it would be super boring to watch for the following reasons:

  1. I'm never there.
  2. When I am there, I'm getting ready for bed.
  3. If I'm not doing that, I'm cleaning or folding laundry.

I didn't buy a truck to spend all my time in it or host lavish dinner parties, I bought it for almost expressly the purpose of sleeping. I've mentioned it before, but if you're living a large portion of your waking hours inside a small box, you're doing it wrong.

Those were all the generally reasonable/answerable questions/comments I've received so far. As always, I'm more than happy to answer any questions, so the box is on the side if you're feeling particularly curious.

Source: Acne Einstein

As I've talked with more and more people about my living situation, I've noticed a few questions that come up all the time. I'm going to answer them here in full, gory detail.

How do you go to the bathroom at night? Do you just pee in the woods?

As cool as it would be, my life is not an episode of Man vs Wild. I do have 24 hour key card access to any building on the campus that I work at, so I could use the facilities in there if I really needed to, but thus far it's just been about planning. I try not to eat or drink anything after about 7:30 PM, and I wash up and go to the bathroom right before I head out to the truck at night. When I wake up in the morning, I ride my bike to the gym and go to the bathroom there.

Where do you, like, shower and stuff?

I've mentioned this one in an earlier post, but my employer has showers and gyms on campus, mainly because a lot of people bike into work and need to shower off so the office doesn't smell like a frat house. So every morning, I wake up nice and early (around 5:30 AM), ride my bike to the gym, work out, shower, and start my day. While I could skip the gym and go straight for the showers, I feel like that would look strange. Even if I got passed that, keeping that regimen of working out every day is a good habit to be in.

Don't you get lonely out there?

The fact of the matter is that I'm hardly ever in here, except to sleep. I'm working until 5 or 6 PM, and then hanging out with friends or working on personal projects until 8:30 or 9 PM. When I'm in the box, I'm either writing these posts or getting ready for bed. The whole point of this experience is that a bed was the only part of a house that I needed, so if I was in here all of the time, I'd be doing it wrong.

How much money are you saving?

A really cheap apartment in the Bay Area (and I'm talking really cheap), would be about $1,000 a month, bare minimum. So over the course of four years, I'd be paying (again, bare minimum here) about $48,000 in rent, and have nothing to show for it. No physical property, no equity, nothing. After taxes, the truck cost me $10,000, plus about $750 a year for insurance. Let's also factor in the cost of gas. Assuming it gets about 10 miles to the gallon, and I drive it about 25 miles a week (I don't really drive it much at all), that's 2.5 gallons a week, and 130 gallons a year. On a pricier week, gas is $4 a gallon, so that's $520 a year. So $10,000 + $750 * 4 + $520 * 4 = $15,080. So for a super conservative estimate, I'm saving about $33,000 over the course of four years. That's just the raw minimum savings, I'll be investing approximately 95% of all of my post-tax, post-401k, post-benefits income. I've mentioned many times that it isn't about the money, but clearly this living situation makes my future plans much more flexible.

Have you ever been caught?/Where do you keep the truck?/What happens when you get caught?

In the week and a half that I've been doing this so far, I haven't had anyone approach the truck while I was in it or question me or anything like that. I keep it parked at the edge of an open-air parking lot on my employer's campus. If security were to come by, I doubt it would be a big issue. I've registered the car with the company vehicle database, so they know it belongs to an employee, and I've read stories about people at very similar companies having short conversations with security, and then never being bothered again. I'm not very worried about it right now, but if security does come knocking, I'll let them know that I work there. Worst case scenario, they aren't happy and they ask me to leave, at which point I get a membership at the RV parking lot down the street.

What do you do for electricity?

I don't actually own anything that needs to be plugged in. The truck has a few built-in overhead lights, and I have a motion-sensitive, battery-powered lamp I use at night. I have a small (15,000 mAh) battery pack that I charge up at work every few days, and I use that to charge my headphones and cell phone at night. My work laptop will last the night on a charge, and then I charge it at work. As I mentioned in a previous post, I could get a solar panel/power bank for real AC power, but I just don't even know what I would use it for right now.

Those were all the main questions I could think of. If you have any more you'd like me to answer, and you're reading this, you probably know me well enough to just ask me.