A Google software engineer in the San Francisco area who chose to save on rent by living out of a box truck says he’s surprised by the amount of attention his story’s received.
Brandon, who prefers to not release his last name, parks his truck near Google’s campus. The 23-year-old University of Massachusetts Amherst alum joined the company in 2014 as a summer intern. At the time, he moved into a fully furnished two-bedroom apartment with three roommates. He told The Huffington Post that he paid about $65 a night while living there — that works out to a monthly rate of roughly $2,000.
“I realized I was paying an exorbitant amount of money for the apartment I was staying in — and I was almost never home,” he told Business Insider in an interview earlier this week.
So when Brandon accepted a full-time job with Google this year, he decided buying a truck would help him drastically cut down on the Bay Area’s high living expenses. In May, he paid $10,000 to buy a 2006 Ford E350 with 157,000 miles on it, according to his personal blog, Thoughts From Inside the Box, where he’s chronicled his living experience.
Insurance on the vehicle is $121 a month. He doesn’t pay for electricity, and he can take care of showering, bathing and charging his gadgets in the Google buildings.
“I do have a 24-hour key card access to any building on the campus that I work at,” he wrote, adding, “I try not to eat or drink anything after about 7:30 p.m. and I wash up and go to the bathroom right before I head out to the truck at night.”
Besides a few inconveniences with bug infestations and a hole in his truck, Brandon makes it work — especially since he mostly spends his time out with friends or working on personal projects after work until about 8:30 or 9 p.m.
“The whole point of this experience is that a bed was the only part of a house that I needed, so if I was in here all of the time, I’d be doing it wrong,” he wrote on his blog.
However, that has not stopped him from hosting a “truckwarming” party at a quiet park with friends.
Brandon estimates that if he’d rented a studio apartment near where he works, he’d be paying about $2,180 a month to live there. He created a formula to figure out his net savings on rent since he moved into the truck. Per his calculations, he broke even on his spending and saving this week. As of Friday morning, he’d tallied more than $325 in net savings, with the number increasing by the hour.
Brandon says his blog was initially intended to document his experience for his family and friends, but he’s received an enormous amount of attention, which he described as “intense.”
Many have applauded his frugality and his creative use of the resources available to him. However, people on Facebook and Twitter pointed out that Brandon’s privileged position as an employee at one of the world’s most profitable companies places him well outside the reality that many in the Bay Area face.
The region struggles with affordable housing and people experiencing homelessness — a January report cites 7,539 sheltered and unsheltered people in San Francisco. The city is one of the most expensive place to rent in America, and the surrounding communities aren’t exactly cheap. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city is $3,410, according to a January report by a real estate listing site Zumper.
Brandon acknowledged his unique situation, writing on his blog that people who live in their car out of necessity don’t usually find themselves in the spotlight.
“Real homelessness is a systemic issue that doesn’t get exposure because it’s a decidedly uncomfortable topic,” he wrote. “People barely scraping by working minimum wage jobs and living out of their cars isn’t a news story, or particularly glamorous.”
“I felt it reasonable to dedicate a little section to addressing something far larger than the myopia surrounding my situation,” he told HuffPost.
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