‘I’m a frugal van dweller on Clifton Downs in Bristol getting by on up to £100 a week’

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Most of her money goes on food, parking and the Clean Air Zone

A woman says she’s escaped sky-high property rental prices in London to live the van dweller’s life on Clifton Down in Bristol - where she can get by on up to £100 a week.

Mal Jones, aged 30, is among a community of around 60 van dwellers who park on roads in the leafy surburb, saving money on rent or mortgages and council tax.

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The stage management worker now classes Bristol as her ‘base’ and she only pays parking and for the Clean Air Zone. She regularly tours the country due to her job in performing arts.

She said: “I very specifically live in a van for financial reasons. I live frugally, and I haven’t been on holiday for two years.

“Now I’ve saved £22k - working in the arts that’s unheard of. I’m very, very lucky to be able to save that. I’m 30 and single - so why not do it now when I have freedom to move around and do what I like?”

Mal was renting in the capital when the pandemic hit, and she decided to then move into a van full-time. She plans to return to living somewhere more permanent in the future, when she has enough for a deposit.

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Mal said: “Financially it makes a lot of sense [to live in a van]. I was going to end it this summer but now I’m looking at going back out on tour. I think I’m going to have to go back to renting.

“Eventually I do want to buy somewhere and a big reason I did this was to save up some form of deposit. But I’m not paying council tax or utility bills so I have no real credit score.

Mal Jones, 30, is currently parked up on Clifton Down, where houses regularly sell for millions of poundsMal Jones, 30, is currently parked up on Clifton Down, where houses regularly sell for millions of pounds
Mal Jones, 30, is currently parked up on Clifton Down, where houses regularly sell for millions of pounds | Tom Wren SWNS

“I would have to go back and rent just so I have some kind of record if I wanted to try and buy somewhere.”

Mal’s new home is surrounded by some of the city’s most affluent areas, including Clifton and Sneyd Park. She says her costs are much lower than if she rented - but are not immune to the rising prices nationwide.

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And she could be faced with more costs soon if parking charges being considered for the roads around the Downs are brought in.

She said: “Sometimes I pay for parking every day which is still less than rent but my outgoings are going up. Clean air zones are making it more expensive, and parking is also getting more expensive.

“At the moment I spent £80 to £100 week on fuel and food but at rent alone I’m looking at £1,300 per month in London.”

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