Would Becoming Homeless Be A Good Strategy To Cut Costs?

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Orange Hippie Van

Ken Ilgunas spent his grad school years living in a van (but not this one). Could/would you do that?

A couple weeks ago, Ken Ilgunas popped up on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (here’s the best clip from the interview, apparently). As you may recall, Ilgunas saved money during grad school by opting to live in a van.

So, is becoming homeless a good strategy to save money? Ilgunas might say so (though it’s not a good way to meet women); however, it depends on whom you ask. And, lucky for us, that’s kind of the point of a website like Quora.


Quora lets anyone ask, answer, or edit questions. More than a year ago, someone asked the titular question of this post, and yet the conversation keeps going. Here are a few interesting responses from people who chose this lifestyle (a key distinction, in my opinion):

“I recently concluded a 4 month adventure of living from my car in Silicon Valley. Don’t listen to the naysayers. It can be done, and it will save you a ton of money. I did this out of choice, also while bootstrapping my startup.” (Kurt Varner, Product Designer at ZURB)

“Looking back it was the best experience of my life.  There were some serene days without any tech at all when we were completely cut off from the rest of the world, and it felt great. And when you share a 10×12 living area with your spouse for two years you grow very very close.  You can have no secrets and having someone so close in your life is priceless.  The other reward was a business that now earns a reasonable income from anywhere in the world.  Every challenge has seemed lesser since that one, and I would do it all again for sure.” (John Lavina)

“I never slept in a homeless shelter, and I never will. They attract destructive (usually self-destructive) personalities. It’s possible to be homeless and lead a healthy lifestyle. I’ve been sleeping outside for 14 months now, including the winter. I  live in Canada, so I need to be prepared for -30c/-22f. I sleep comfortably regardless of the weather. The gear to do this costs some money (my winter mat + sleeping bag + bivouac cost me around $600). But that’s nothing compared to rent. I was able to pay for this and other expenses through student bursaries.” (Anonymous)

“I have twice lived out of a car; once during high school (2006) for 3 months and a second time (2012) for 2 1/2 months for a book project. Both very different experiences but with many of the same daily issues. I really missed hot meals, warm showers, a shaved face, clean clothes, and a good nights sleep. It really showed me the many luxuries we take for granted! I don’t think “car living” cuts costs as much as it bootcamp forces you to be a better manager of financial and eating habits.” (Rob Brulinkski)

The complete conversation is worth reading, and you can find it here. (Quora account is required, but joining is free.)

So, readers, would you even consider homelessness as an option—or did you do this yourself? Share your story.

(Photo: ChrisGoldNY)

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