Living In Your Car

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Every now and then life reaches out and smacks you one. Your house burns down. Your significant other leaves you. Your medications are too expensive and without them, you cannot maintain a stable lifestyle. Regardless of the reason, winding up in the back seat of your car alone happens to the best of us. Having done so myself, here’s a few tips for you.

First off, pat yourself on the back. You have a car, which puts you rather high on the totem pole as far as homeless folks go. You have the capability to warm yourself, cool yourself, secure yourself and move yourself without ever setting foot on the ground. Keep a healthy mindset – it’s half the battle.

(image credit
Begbie Images)

Hygiene is huge. There just isn’t much air in a car and stink happens – keep that in mind when you buy the packet of baby wipes or crash the shower at college athletic complexes. It’s worth the effort to keep yourself presentable – this makes a huge difference in your dealings with others.

If you’re trying to keep it on the down low that your Honda is your home, it’s much easier to do if you’re clean and don’t have seat belt indents on your face.

Spend time outside of your car, if at all possible. Sacrifice the necessary fuel and drive to an outdoor park (if it’s warm) or a coffeeshop (if it’s cold). It can do wonders for your mental state to spend a day in the warm sunshine, kicked back against a tree with a decent book or relaxing with a cup of cheap coffee at a bookstore or coffeeshop. If you’re lucky and have a laptop, wifi is free at many places. Pick up a refillable beverage and hang out until they make you leave (this is where proper hygiene makes all the difference in the world).

BE MINDFUL OF WHERE YOU PARK. I cannot stress this enough. Pick the wrong spot and you’ll be woken up to a cop rapping on your window. If you’re lucky, it’ll be a good cop who will tell you to move on without giving you any trouble. Like any profession, there happen to be douchebags in the law enforcement community as well — these are the guys that’ll search your car just to hassle you, leaving all your possessions lying out beside your car as they pull away feeling all manly and crap. Seriously, just avoid all that and park sensibly. Don’t park in a loading zone, in front of a driveway, in a bar parking lot after 2am, an interstate off ramp, or anyplace that’ll draw the attention of your city’s finest.

Keep your car clean inside. You more than likely will have a ton of stuff packed into a tiny space; decreasing your personal space inside your car. Keep it picked up – a bunch of wrappers and trash strewn on the floor won’t help you at all.

It’s never an ideal situation, but with the right attitude you might even end up enjoying yourself.




Posted by Andy

Occasionally the need arises to conserve every last drop of fuel remaining in your fuel tank. Whether this is caused by negligence resulting in necessity or simply a newfound environmental consciousness, there are many ways to reduce the amount of fuel your vehicle uses to carry you over the road.

  1. Don’t step on the gas pedal as much.
    Seriously, this is probably the most important adjustment you can make to your driving style. Keep the pressure light. If you’re driving a stick, shift to the next gear sooner than you normally would. Don’t lug your engine, just shift sooner. If you’re in an automatic, use light pedal pressure. Don’t rev your engine above 2000 rpm – you’ll accelerate slower but use less fuel. Occasionally, letting off the gas for a moment will kick the transmission into a higher gear, cutting your revs and using less fuel.
  2. Coast.
    Modern fuel-injected vehicles will cut the fuel to the injectors during a prolonged period of coasting. Utilize every downward slope – take your foot off the gas and coast up to that stoplight. If you have to use your brakes, you’re wasting fuel! If you’re comfortable with the following technique, use it – but do not attempt this if you don’t feel safe. When you’re coasting down a longer stretch; say more than thirty seconds of coasting, shift into neutral and kill the engine. Be sure to immediately turn the key back to the ‘ON’ position so you’re still able to use your turn signals. Your vehicle will retain enough vacuum assist for your power brakes to function for a couple of pumps at most, so make sure you use them sparingly. Also, your power steering will not give you any assist when you’re coasting with the engine off – so be prepared for HEAVY steering. Coasting is the most fuel-efficient way to drive – if your engine is off, you’re using no fuel. Note that this will place more wear and tear on your engine’s starter (or clutch, if you’re in a stick – you are bump-starting your vehicle, I’m sure).
  3. Use Your Momentum
    This goes right along with #2. Don’t accelerate during turns – it wastes fuel. Coast through the turns and gently accelerate afterwards. Don’t slow way down for off-ramps or other turns, if you can help it. Yeah, you might get shoved up against your door, but you’ll exit the turn/ramp with enough speed to coast quite a long distance if you time everything right.
  4. Ride the Ridges
    You’ve probably noticed that roads wear more where everybody drives on them, forming ruts that gather standing water and bumps that steal momentum from your vehicle. Put your right wheel next to the solid white line on your right – it’s smoother, you’ll save your vehicle from having to expend energy plowing through standing water, and you’ll save fuel.
  5. Park Wisely
    This one’s simple. If you back into a space that faces downhill, you can simply shift your car into neutral with the engine off and coast out of the space without using fuel.

These techniques added together can stretch your next tank of fuel incredibly far. Try ‘em out and post your results in the comments.

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“Trashy Cup”

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posted by Jim Ellis

It bothers me a little bit, to know that Styrofoam cups will not decompose in my lifetime.

It also bothers me that others and myself are so willing to use them.What is wrong with a good ol’ fashioned mug?

Put one in your bag. When you go to the coffee shop, use it. When you go to church, use it. When you go to work, use it.

Is polluting God’s creation with trash that doesn’t decompose, worth it?

Find a Different Mode of Transportation

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posted by: Jim Ellis

I’ve been riding my old-school Fuji road-bike to work. I live 6.6 miles from my work, or at least that is what google says, and the trek takes about 30 minutes.

The benefits far outweigh the hassles.

I save money. Less use of a motor vehicle means less money spent on gas.

The exercise is great. I don’t have to spend money for a membership to a fitness club. I get my exercise riding to and from work.

It is better for the environment. I still use my car, but not as much.

The thing I like the most is I travel by things at a slower pace. I notice things I didn’t notice when traveling in my car. For example how big and beautiful the trees are, or how there are a lot of pot holes.

I do have to be more attentive, because people in vehicles aren’t attentive and don’t always enjoy bicyclists on the road. They always seem to be in a big hurry. I was almost hit a couple days ago by a vehicle who ran a stop sign.

Iowa winters are cold, and people think you can’t ride your road-bike in cold/snowy weather. I just put snow tires on my road-bike, and plan on riding during the winter too.

I encourage all people to think of different ways to travel. Like walking, biking, public transportation, roller blades, a moped, a skateboard, etc. You might discover it isn’t as efficient as a vehicle, but the joy linked to traveling in a different way fills the soul.

-Jim Ellis, 25-


Frugal Living: RV Life

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My wife and I recently went through a life change after I left the store I managed and signed up for college courses. We knew that having one or both of us going to school would put a fair-sized stranglehold on our finances. We came up with a few ideas – this one took second place (to an apartment) but we came very close to going with it.

Our income would dictate cheap living. This much we knew. Living in an RV can be incredibly cheap – challenging, but cheap. We identified several key areas we’d need to find solutions to fit our needs as well as a few tips and tricks from experienced fulltime RVers. We may have decided against this but who knows? Might work for you.


Anyone who’s been in one knows that the living space inside even a larger RV is tight. Not only do we have two people to allocate space for, we have an infant. This complicated things and basically ruled out any size RV except for a Class A.

Class A: Largest chassis, comparable to a bus. Some with high-displacement gasoline engines (Chevy 454, Ford 460) or diesel engines.
Class B: Simple converted van, usually with a raised roof.
Class C: Van chassis and front end, can be large.

As floor plans in RVs vary widely, we didn’t go into detail with space allocation at this point – saving that problem to solve later when we actually were looking at RVs.


Storage is at a premium in RVs. Usually the refrigerator is a dorm-sized unit, prohibiting long-term fridge storage of foods. However, RVs have fairly full-featured kitchens complete with microwaves, stoves, counter space and cabinets. We decided to purchase dry foods in bulk, storing them in our own containers to save space.


Most RVs have two systems for electricity – 120v (house) electricity and 12v (vehicle). Basically, you need electricity for lights, air-conditioning, appliances, personal electronics etc etc. RVs have large batteries that will allow you to run low-wattage (no hair dryers) equipment for a reasonable period of time – but like all batteries, they can go dead.

To recharge your house batteries, you can either:

-Run the RV’s engine to charge the batteries from the alternator
-Connect your RV to shore power
-Run your generator

Each has its benefits and drawbacks. If you run your engine, you inflict wear and tear on something you rely on to keep you mobile. Not a good idea. If you connect your RV to shore power, you’re either jacking power from someone or you’re paying a campground fee and plugging into their power. If you run your generator, you’ll use a smaller amount of fuel than the vehicle engine, but you’ll piss off everyone around you with the noise.

To avoid the drawbacks of the three options above, you can install a set of solar panels on the roof of the RV. These will trickle charge your batteries to get you through in a pinch if you’re far from shore power.

Internet Access

You’ve got several options here.

Hughesnet Satellite Internet

       -Expensive. Fast, but expensive. Also, you must first have service set up at your home and then move it to your RV. You also have to set up and aim a satellite dish anytime you want internet. Not very plug-n-play.

Cell Phone

      – Most phones will allow you to wirelessly connect to them via your laptop’s bluetooth radio and access the internet at dialup speeds. Great in a pinch (especially if you have an unlimited data plan with your carrier) but slow.


      -Many, many places are offering free broadband-speed WiFi access points – all you need is a laptop and a parking space for some of them. Great for speed, frugality – but you have to physically be near an access point in order to take advantage of it. Not so great if you’re in a beautiful boondock spot and want to get your youtube fix.

Part II coming soon.