I had a back and forth with an Opponaut the other day who might have to live in their car for a period of time, and it got me to thinking of my own post college days and how I did it myself for a bit. I know the majority of Oppo is in a very vulnerable age bracket too where there isn't a whole lot of savings going on, tough to find a job, no one to lean on for help etc. So while I do not condone doing it just due to the whole economics of it - this being that it really isn't that much cheaper to live in your car than getting a roommate or 6 - a little guidance might be in order. I lived in my car 12 states away from home due to family stress, no savings to speak of, no job prospects and desire to get away from home (and maybe a little bit of adventure). It was in a major city with average crime, average prospects, higher than average rent, but I pulled myself out of it soon enough and on to what I am today, which is to a pretty successful level of career, and the stuff associated with it. I actually think it was good to be at the bottom for a bit. Okay enough backstory, here are your tips:
1. Make sure you have an inconspicuous vehicle, that is registered and insured
You are just inviting all kinds of issues if you are trying to live out of your unregistered Accord EX wagon all stanced out or anything out of the norm. More on this later, but you do not want to be in neighborhoods where your car seems out of place. Your car wants to scream "I am normal here" so much you cant even hear it. Your car will be out on the street, subject to random license plate screening and damage. Nice tidy car, no mods if you can help it. Pay your insurance up a few months in advance if you can because you are going to want to save
2. Gear up
Whatever you decide to gear up with will come in handy once you are settled and want to go camping. Hit the store or whatever and get a sleeping bag and a pillow, a canteen, a small cooler, a first aid kit and a good flashlight. Optional with this I would say get some cheap tint for your car. Not super dark, but just enough to keep prying eyes away and less tinted than legal.
3. Keep it clean
what formerly was what you would take dates in and to work is now your humble abode. Treat it as such. Keep your clothes folded and clean, air the car out every day if you can, keep stuff off of your front seats, keep anything valuable out of sight. Even if you are right there people sometimes only see shiny things. Imagine what it would be like for someone to smash your window in and for you to wake up to that. No thanks. Also keep the exterior as clean as you can. It just looks better for everyone involved. Keep yourself clean too or you might as well live on the street. Grab a cheap gym membership to shower if possible. If you "live" near a truck stop, they have showers for rent as well. Skeezy, but it works in a pinch. This will also keep your living space alot cleaner. Pack your sleeping gear daily so if you do get pulled over during the day it can be written off as your camping gear.
4. Choose your parking spot well
There are numerous schools of thought here. You might think you blend in better in an area where everyone else is camped out in their cars, like the ghetto or in a park. I do not believe this to be the case. If you are in a place where down by the river where noone goes exists, use it. If you are in an urban/suburban area this is what I recommend: quiet residential areas with alot of people parked on the street are the best spots of all. Park on the side without a sidewalk if possible. Less preferable are 24 hour parking lots due to the higher incidence of car crime and targeting, as well as traffic. Wal Mart used to allow people to spend the night in it's parking lots, but that was more targeted to RV owners. I believe the policy only includes RV's these days due to abuse. Also if you can park next to/under a tree this helps. Keeps any overhead light from revealing your presence and blocks some of the view on the side of your car.
5. Take care of business before sleeping
One sure fire way to get yourself caught is to wake up in the middle of the night and the neighborhood night owl walking her dog sees you get out of your car, take a big piss on the tree next to your car, then get back in and disappear. Now imagine if you had a big steaming dookie on deck... enough said. Also make sure you crack your windows so it doesn't fog up. That is a tell tale someone is in there!
6. Don't eat out all the time
Remember I said buy a cooler? Yeah, use it for food. One of the worst habits you can get yourself into is eating out all the time for company and to get out of your car for a bit. It isn't a goddamn vacation. Get some cold cuts, bread, ice, whatever. And if you do go out you can save your leftovers. Always get lasagna. Cold leftover lasagna is the best! The other bonus is you are cutting your sodium levels and feeling better with yourself. And you won't be eternally parched and drinking stuff to stay hydrated. Less midnight piss breaks.
7. Respect the neighborhoods you are living in
Remember that one rule we have on Oppo, "don't be a dick"? Yeah live by that like it is the ultimate truth. Not only are you just being a good person, but who knows, the neighborhood that houses the car you live in might be a real home someday. If you start losing trash out of your car, waking people up, being raucous at all, you are going to get the boot or the unwanted attention of others. Also be a good parker. If you are taking up 2 spaces someone is going to get curious quick.
8. Adjust your sleep schedule
Your goal here is to get or maintain a job. You need your sleep. It takes a little bit of time to get used to sleeping not in a bed like normal people, but in the back seat/cargo area of your car. However, you need to get up and be mobile before there is alot of activity in the neighborhood you are living in. Don't stay up late. Again imagine there are people walking the dog at all hours, and believe me, there are.
9. Don't smoke cigarettes, drink booze, or do drugs
Alot of you on here know I have an affinity for smoking and drinking beer, but I earned that. Don't smoke, people hate it and either your car is going to smell like shit, you are, or the amount of butts is going to pile up in or out of your car. Goes back to respecting your neighborhood. And just quit while you are at it. Don't drink for numerous reasons. One is the smell, another is the need to use the bathroom more often than usual, but the most important part is if you do get questions from neighbors or the cops, and have to move out, you just made your life a whole lot worse. Don't do drugs because drugs cost money and are typically bad for your psyche, especially if you are in a less than ideal living situation.
10. SAVE your money!
In the end, you need to make moves to better your living situation. Either you need a new career, a place to call home or there is something there that needs fixing. Usually boils down to cash money though. Whenever you can make sure you put it into savings. Make smart choices. You need to have the mindset of "what would I like to have as a life, and how am I going to get there legally", and then get out there and do it. People are out there to help you do this.
Ok well I actually wrote this with one person in mind, but maybe it will help someone someday. Keep your head up if you find yourself in a situation. This is from my memory of a time like 13 years ago when I was young, so some things may be changed or different than they once were. Good luck Opponauts. Stay indoors if you can!