Student couple save thousands by ditching halls to live in a converted van

When you’re a uni student, you’re typically faced with a couple of options.

You can stay in halls of residence, get a place with some pals, or move back in with your parents.

One couple said no to all three, and chose to do something a bit different – and it’s paid off massively.

Daniel Dayment, 22, and his partner Mary Cullen, 23, didn’t want to spend a load of money on student accommodation, so instead decided to buy a van and do it up.

Daniel bought an old Citroen Relay van for £5,000, then spent a further £5,000 transforming it into the perfect home on wheels.

He managed to save up the funds thanks to doing odd jobs along with his studies, including freelance photography, cleaning, and working in a bike shop – and used some of his student loan, too.

The couple spent three months working on the van as a lockdown project, over the summer of 2021.

Now, they’re able to live in the van full-time, and plan to travel Europe once Covid restrictions lift.

Daniel said: ‘It was always my plan to have my own home by my third year of university, specifically a home that was minimalist and one that I could travel around in.

‘I saved up the money to convert a van, as I didn’t want to pay the high rent of a student flat for a year.

‘It would have cost me £5,000 alone just to live in student accommodation for ten months.

‘Having a converted van is really a future financial asset to me now, I’m saving money by not having to spend it on bills or extortionate accommodation rent.’

Mary, a freelance graphic designer, added: ‘Before I met Daniel, I never thought about living in a van but it’s just so convenient and there’s so many adventures that we have yet to plan.

‘I miss having a toaster, as we have to fry our toast, but I have really come to enjoy van life and when living on the road, you come to realise you don’t need the same electrical appliances most households can’t go without.’

Besides a toaster, the van has all the couple need for student life.

There’s a hob to cook on, storage for clothes, a compost toilet, a kitchen counter, and a double bed.

The van also has a solar power system to make it more eco-friendly.

Price breakdown for the van and its renovation:

  • The Van, 2007 Citroen Relay MWB £5,000
  • Paint for the outside of the van £100
  • Interior wood, Ply and Cladding £500
  • Roof rack £150
  • Insulation £200
  • Windows £250
  • Roof vent fan £200
  • Swivel chair base £300
  • Solar panel and charge controller £300
  • Batteries £500
  • Battery to battery charger £230
  • Fridge £375
  • Mattress £180
  • Wiring £100
  • Led Lights £15
  • Fairy lights £5
  • Diesel heater £85
  • Compost toilet £50
  • Second hand welsh dresser £50
  • Sink and tap £60
  • 2 burner hob £60
  • Tools for the build £300
  • Endless trips to screwfix £300

‘The batteries and solar electrical system were probably the most expensive part of the renovation, but it was worth the money as it was the price of what someone would spend a year on their electrical bills,’ said Daniel.

‘To light the van, I got some fairy lights and LED lights to make it look homely, they were £20 and really light up the small space.

‘I managed to get a second-hand Welsh dresser for £50 that I broke down and converted into the kitchen counter where I store the pots and pans.

‘I also created a compost toilet for £50 from scrap pieces of wood, a bucket, and dividers for solids and liquids.

‘It might sound weird, but the toilet is my favourite part of the renovation.

‘I use a coconut peat, and a vinegar solution to neutralise the smells and as it’s compostable, it’s all very environmentally friendly.

‘One the most luxury items in the van is the 50l camper fridge that cost £400, it’s usually cool enough to hold ice cream which is a nice treat.’

Daniel used scrap wood to create the bed with room for storage underneath, as well as adding a food cupboard and hooks for to the inside of the van for coffee mugs.

Everything inside of the van is multipurpose, with seating including a storage box and the compostable toilet.

Despite enjoying the simplicities of van life, the couple have had to make a series of compromises in order to live on the road – but they have no regrets.

Mary said: ‘We both kind of miss hot running water, so we have to shower at campsites and use laundrettes when travelling.

‘I’m a notorious clothes hoarder, so when I moved into the van with Daniel, I had to cull a lot of things, only to realise I never really needed them anyway.’

‘Van life is all about improvising and doing things that may not be considered the norm,’ Daniel added.

‘Van life allows you to be as low impact and eco-friendly as possible while being able to travel as much as you like.’

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