When I wrote recently about a recent college graduate in Indiana who paid off his entire student loan in 11 months, a few people wrote me to make a fair point: It's a lot easier to do this when you can go home and live with your parents, paying no rent.
True. So, meet a guy who's doing something similar, but 100 percent on his own.
His name is Brandon. He's 23 years old, and he works for Google as a software engineer. And he lives in an 16-foot box truck out in the parking lot as part of a fairly extreme effort to save money and pay down his student loans.
Oh, he documents the entire thing on a blog called Thoughts From Inside the Box.
He's not the first one, apparently. As Brandon himself writes, when he graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst earlier this year and landed his job, he was anxious about the high cost of housing in Silicon Valley. He began researching alternative ways of living, and came across a short narrative on Quora that a former Google engineer named Ben Discoe had written.
Short version: Discoe had lived in the parking lot at Google, in the back of a 1990 GMC van, for 13 months. Google security bothered him only once the whole time. Brandon had a plan.
He'd already done a summer internship at Google, so Brandon knew firsthand how expensive it would be to rent an apartment. Instead, he'd buy a truck. He settled ultimately on a 2006 Ford E-350 Super Duty cargo van--basically like a medium-size U-Haul truck--that he picked up for $8,000. Since then, he's lived life pretty much as he predicted he would earlier this year:
I would eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at work, Monday through Friday. On weekends, I would ... explore the Bay Area for my other meals. ... I'd work out every morning at one of the corporate gyms, and shower and do other morning stuff after. If I needed a bathroom during the day, naturally I would use one at work, and I would hang around campus working on work and personal projects until I was ready to go to sleep, and then I would retire to my van conveniently parked in a nearby campus parking lot. ... I felt like I had my bases pretty covered.
I admit, it's shocking how easily I got sucked into this thing. Brandon's blog relays the details of his weird experience, from the extensive list of things he had to buy, to his first night in the truck, to the extreme effort required to install a dresser, to his philosophy, among a lot of other things. As The Washington Post reported last month:
Despite his initial predictions that living in a truck would be "social suicide" and that he was destined for "truck-induced celibacy," Brandon has so far skirted total isolation. In late July, he hosted a group of friends for a "truckwarming party" with drinks, card games, and plenty of legroom; the following week, he made the acquaintance of an intern living in a camper parked nearby.
In truth, the whole thing is as much about Brandon's attempt to live a minimalist life as it is about saving money. Or at least, the blog comes across that way. Regardless, he broke even by his calculations (meaning what he's saved in rent had paid for the truck, basically) on October 21.
I can't remember what was going through my head when I agreed to talk about this publicly, but it's pretty much the exact opposite of everything I've been advocating in my lifestyle. You know, things like subtlety, for example. The whole reason I got a truck instead of an RV was to maintain a low profile; well it turns out that works much better if you don't broadcast pictures of your truck on Good Morning America (my bad). The worst part though is that, as I've mentioned, there are plenty of other people in the area doing similar things, and I very well may have just ruined it for everyone by drawing so much attention to it. I sincerely hope that I haven't caused problems for any other truck people. If I have, I'm sorry. It was selfish of me to make such a spectacle of myself.
So with that, we'll leave him--although I'll note, he's still updating the blog. Got another example of someone going to great lengths to pay off student loans? (Any interesting story you'd like to pitch? Contact me here.)