Van Life Australia Monthly Budget Report – September 2020

Welcome to another Van Life Australia Budget post, where we open up completely about our expenses while travelling and living in our campervan full-time. This is our monthly breakdown for September, 2020.

Ever wanted to know just how much it costs to to do #vanlife in Australia? Well you’re in luck, because that’s exactly the kind of information we aim to share with you!

We’ve been super diligent by keeping track of every dollar we spend as we cruise around Australia in our Sprinter campervan, and this has allowed us to figure out what aspects of this full-time van life costs us the most, and where we can save money.

This has led us to creating this Van Life Australia budget series, and we’re excited to bring you our fourth edition.

You can read all of our monthly budget posts here:

Want to know what we spent in September of 2020? Read on…

Don’t forget to follow us on social media, where we share the real story of what it’s like travelling and living in a van full-time!

Van Life Australia Budget – September 2020

What you’ll find below is just how much we spent living in a van full-time for the entire month of September.

First up, a few notes:

  • This budget does not include any of our business expenses or income.
  • Some things in here are not necessarily van life-related, but we decided to include everything anyway in the interest of being transparent.
  • We don’t splurge, but we definitely don’t try to live as cheaply as possible.
  • We are vegetarians, so we save money on meat, but we also eat healthily, so our food costs are higher than some people might spend living on the road.
  • This is the cost for two people.
  • The budget doesn’t include things like car registration and insurance, which we pre-pay yearly, unless it falls into the current month we’re documenting.
Cape Tribulation beach
Looking over a beach in Cape Tribulation.


We are still up in Far North Queensland, and are loving it. This place has so much to offer up.

We started the month in Cairns visiting friends and making plans for our trip further north. There were a few jobs we had to finish up for some clients, and once we got on top of those it was time to hit the road.

One of our buddies Matt Littlewood drove up in his van to travel with us for a bit, and we ended up hanging out for the whole month.

We did the waterfall circuit around the Atherton Tablelands again to get some new photos of the place. Matt and Jarryd had a lot of fun getting so many different images, and sometimes getting pretty wet in the process.

Afterwards we headed north to the town of Mossman to revisit the Gorge. Even though we went last month, we loved going back again because it’s so beautiful in there.

The Eastern Kuku (Goo-goo) Yalanji (Ya-lan-gee) people have occupied this area for thousands of years. The most amazing thing is that they are recognised as the Traditional Owners for this area. They run and care for the park and also run Aboriginal Culture Tours, but unfortunately they weren’t operating the trips when we visited both times.

Waterfall Mossman Gorge
One of the many beautiful little waterfalls on the Mossman Gorge.

After this we went up to the Cape Tribulation in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest. We were so excited about this part of Far North Queensland and it did not disappoint.

We did some hiking, saw our first cassowary (an amazing animal that is just like a dinosaur) and relaxed in the rainforest. Not swimming up here though – there are crocodiles everywhere.

Cape Tribulation Drone Photo
Beautiful beaches in the Far North Queensland. This is Cape Tribulation.

After Cape Tribulation, we headed up to the furthest point we could go with Marlee, Cooktown. Beyond this town you need a four-wheel-drive. We learnt all about the history of the area and saw some amazing Aboriginal rock carvings in Laura.

Grassy Hill Lighthouse
Marlee in front of the Grassy Hill Lighthouse in Cooktown.

From there we made our way south towards Townsville with a few stops at places like Josephine Falls along the way.

On the way south, we stopped off at Ayr and went diving at one of Australia’s best dive sites, SS Yongala. It was incredible, although it did smash the budget a bit. Totally worth it.

The reason we headed to Townsville was for two things. The first was that we had to get Marlee a service. The second was that we had a friend reach out with a great offer that we couldn’t refuse. You will have to see the next monthly budget to see what we got up!

Total Kilometres Driven: 2,464 km


It was an expensive month for us in September, we had to get Marlee serviced which definitely blew the budget in that area.

We’re big believers in ‘Look after your van, and your van will look after you’. Well with Marlee being our home, we make sure we give her regular services and keep on top of maintenance.

We caught up with friends in Cairns, which pushed our budget in the alcohol category, as did spending time with our friend Matt. Actually, blowing out the alcohol budget seems to be a common occurrence now that we think of it.

We spent almost nothing on accommodation though which was awesome. Matt was more keen to free camp after spending a lot of money on building his own van, so it made us look harder for stealth camping spots or the official free camps around Queensland, which there are many.

We did spend a lot on attractions this month. They were all worth it and we had a blast.

Let’s dive into the breakdown of everything.

Note – All prices are in AUD.

Food (Groceries)$738
Food (Dining Out)$268
Accommodation (Campgrounds)$39
Coffee (Take-Away and Aeropress)$145
Phone Bills$80
Van Maintenance/Items$1387
Entertainment (Spotify, Netflix, etc)$30
Attractions / Activities$691
Total Cost$4,338
September 2020 Monthly Budget Pie Chart

So there you have it! For the month of September 2020, we spent $4,338 on van life in Australia.

This month was way over budget for us, but we did do a big van service and spent some money on lots of fun activities and attractions.

Now let’s break down each part for you guys.

FUEL – $331

As you know by now, Marlee is one thirsty girl. This month wasn’t too bad compared to last month. We did stop a few days at places and really enjoyed the area.

We also paid about $30 for the ferry across to Cape Tribulation. Keep your ticket as this was for return.


We went a little crazy on groceries this month, but a lot of the places we ended up didn’t have the typical huge supermarkets with bargain prices.

We also found lots of great farmers markets, such as the one in Mossman, where we stocked up on fantastic fresh produce.


This month we caught up with more friends and went out for breakfasts and lunches. We shouted two of our friends as well, because we owed them for beers and pizza when we were hanging out with them in Ushuaia, Argentina. We never forget our IOUs!


This was by far our cheapest month for accommodation! Thank you North Queensland and your great free camps.

One night we spent in Henrietta Campground which is in a National Park, so you need to pay. It was only $6.50 per person.

The other night was in the Cape Tribulation. There is no free camping in this area so we stayed a night at the Safari Lodge in the campground out the back. It was way cheaper than the campground right on the beach.

  • Paid Camps – 2
  • Free Camps – 28

COFFEE – $145

As you know we love coffee. We got some beans from Cairns and stoked up for the north. We usually drink 2 cups each a day. Sometimes more though, haha.

We did have a few coffee out in cafes with friends too.

ALCOHOL – $359

This was an expensive month for alcohol for us as we were hanging out with our buddy Matt (and we all like a delicious beer after a big day of adventures), and we saw our friends in Cairns.


This is standard every month for us. We are both with Optus, and surprisingly the coverage has been fine. We work online so internet data is what we use them mostly for.


After more than a decade hand-washing our clothes in hotels and hostels around the world, we’re absolutely over it. So to us, $12 for laundry is completely worth it.

We washed our clothes at laundries in campgrounds, where the price is usually $4 a load. Up here in the Daintree we did pay for the dryers as we had a big load and there was not enough space to hang it near our van.

We also have a Scrubba travel washing bag, which is fantastic, for when we just need to wash underwear on the go.


This month was a bit of a vitamin stock up. Cairns was the last place to get our vitamins cheap. Chemist Warehouse is also our go to – their prices are the lowest. Not an ad, we just love a bargain.

We got some suncream and Alesha bought some more creams, shampoo, conditioner and soap. This stuff all adds up.


This was a month for maintenance on Marlee, and boy did she get some work down to her.

We got some simple stuff from Bunnings for her and then she went into the mechanic shop.

She needed a service and we found a great mechanic in Townsville that specialises in Mercedes vehicles – Marty from Doyle Star Motors in Garbutt.

A standard B service was about $400, but we decided to get some extra things done like the transmission oil replaced and serviced, filters replaced, etc.

It was a massive amount but we got everything we needed done and we know she is safe on the road.

We also got our bikes insured through our campervan insurance, as they live off the back of the van, so we had to pay a bit more for that. Queenslanders tailgate hard, so this was a must for us.


Our monthly subscriptions for Netflix and Spotify, which we use regularly. Definitely worth it for us and we do not mind paying this monthly.

Attractions – $691

This was mainly scuba diving the SS Yongala Wreck. The dives were not cheap as they are so far out from the mainland and there are only 2 companies that head out there.

The dives were incredible and we thoroughly enjoyed them. Even though it pushed our budget even more, we love scuba diving, and it was 100% worth it to us.

Also we paid for the bus for Mossman Gorge entrance again.

Total Cost – $4,338

Jungle Cape Tribulation
The jungle of Cape Tribulation


So our fourth month of van life in Australia cost us a total of $4,338, which works out to be $2,169 per person.

We did do a lot of vehicle maintenance on Marlee this month, but this was needed. Considering all the free camp sites we stayed at, it did make up for the maintenance.

If you don’t include the vehicle maintenance and diving though, we only spent $2260 on actual van life.

There you go everyone – our fourth monthly van life budget.

If you found this helpful at all please leave a comment below, share it with anyone you think will find it useful, and make sure you follow our journey on Instagram and YouTube!

This is the tally of our monthly costs so far on the road. All amounts are in Australia Dollars:

  • 1st month on the road = $2369 (June)
  • 2nd month on the road = $2675 (July)
  • 3rd month on the road = $3460 (August)
  • 4th month on the road = $4338 (September)


And here’s our October 2020 budget!

Thanks so much for reading, and we hope to see you on the road one day.


Alesha and Jarryd

About the Author - Alesha and Jarryd - Van Life Theory

Hi! We're Alesha and Jarryd, the founders of Van Life Theory! We're currently travelling around Australia in our 2008 Mercedes Sprinter campervan and sharing our best experiences, stories, reviews and adventures as we go along. Make sure you follow along on our Instagram and YouTube!

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