Couple save whopping £15,000 per year on bills after converting old police van

It’s fair to say that no one can really prepare you for the expensive of being an adult. You know, the rent – or mortgage, if you’re lucky – the energy bills, the water and council tax, just to name a few.

But, while most people spend their lives giving away huge chunks of their income to landlords, without an awful lot to show for it, one couple have found their own way to cheat the system – saving a whopping £15,000 along the way.

Cameron Smith, a 30-year-old carpenter from south east England, grew fed up paying £650 a month just to rent a small room in a bungalow, on top of all the other expenses of everyday life.

So, in 2019, he decided he would give it all up for the nomadic lifestyle, after doing research into van living and realising that due to his profession, he could carve out a pretty nice home for himself with very little expense.

“I remember sitting in my six-hundred-and-fifty-pounds a month room in a shared bungalow watching YouTube and stumbling across van life videos. I was hooked and couldn’t believe that it was a real lifestyle that people live,” Cameron recalled.

“A few weeks later, a housemate told us that he would be moving out which left us all thinking what to do. With ten years of carpentry experience and one-hundred hours of van life videos behind me, I knew what my plan was. I was going to move into a van.”

His dream became a reality when he came across an ex-police riot van, which cost him £8,000 up front and a further £3,000 to sort out all the electricals, plumbing and interior, doing much of the handy work himself. He later named the van Kevlar, after the bulletproof material it was made from.

“After the initial investment, this would allow me to put my old rent money to one side and work towards building myself a future,” Cameron explained.

“I needed plenty of storage space to store my tools for work and I needed something I could easily stand up and move around in.

“When the riot van popped up on eBay, I knew it was perfect, with all the additional security that comes from its former life as well as the box shape which makes for an easy conversion.”

Once Kevlar was complete the end of 2019, Cameron reconnected with a former girlfriend, Rachel Franklin, who he’d previously lost touch with when she went off to university, and the pair immediately hit it off again, having been together ever since.

The loved up couple have since travelled all over the UK in the van, with their pet husky Oden in tow, including the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, road tripping around Wales, rambling in the Peak District and taking in the panoramic scenery of the Lake District.

Their relationship has been cemented by a shared love for nature, as well as being able to live sustainably, such as generating all their power from solar.

But, the most notable difference for the couple has been financial, with them having saved a combined £15,000 on rent, utility bills and other unnecessary purchases that they simply wouldn’t make now living in such a small space.

“We love being so close to nature all the time. Since living in the van, we definitely look outdoors more for entertainment and we have so much more appreciation for the world we live in. Obviously the ability to cut out a lot of expenses is brilliant too, we get our electricity from the sun,” Rachel said.

“There isn’t rent to pay and because of having a smaller home, you don’t spend as much money on material possessions. Small living also means we’re able to be a lot more environmentally conscious. We know exactly how much water, gas, and power we use each week and despite living in a vehicle, our carbon footprint is so much lower.”

While most people probably couldn’t imagine living in such close quarters with a partner, Cameron and Rachel believe living in the van has been good for their relationship and allowed them to get to know each other on another level.

“We actually find that living in close proximity to each other has made our relationship really strong,” Rachel said. “We know each other very well and are able to freely ask for alone time when we need it.”

She added: “The beauty of living in a van is that Cameron can pretty much take work anywhere, without worrying about a commute – this means we also get to explore places that we wouldn’t necessarily visit on a holiday.

“Having a home on wheels means we never have to pack or plan around our work commitments – we can be as spontaneous as we like.”

Rachel and Cameron have no plans to change their living arrangements anytime soon and plan to travel around Europe once the pandemic is finally over.

“We have no immediate plans to move away from van life because we want to travel around Europe and in particular Scandinavia, and freely explore even more of the UK,” said Rachel.

“Our long term dream would be to buy land and build our own tiny home on it, or to restore an old property and create a new sustainable home in its place.

“Regardless of where our future takes us, we have no plans to get rid of Kevlar and will be keeping her with us.”