Alice Everdeen earns $15,000 a month and lives on the school bus
This story is part of CNBC Make It’s Millennial Money Series describing how people around the world make, spend and save their money.
When Alice Everdeen began recording voiceovers for airlines, video games, and corporations in 2020, she had to work under a laundry basket lined with a mattress pad to get clear audio.
Everdeen’s freelance nature hasn’t changed since then, but her background has. In September, she and boyfriend Jay moved into their teal 30-foot school bus and began living and working off the streets.
Everdeen’s income also differs significantly: Before she started as a voice actress, she made $42,000 a year as a content manager for a supplement company. She now makes up to $15,000 each month as a freelance speaker through her private business and listing her services on platforms like Fiverr.
After expenses, Everdeen earned $92,000 in 2021 and has already earned $150,000 this year, according to documents verified by CNBC Make It.
“The goal was to make a few hundred dollars a month on gas money,” Everdeen, 31, tells CNBC Make It. “Within four or five months, I think, I was able to quit my full-time job.”
Everdeen says her income makes her agency work in both her professional and personal life. She works three to five hours a day on about 150 projects a month, and living on a bus allows her to travel the country.
But that freedom comes at a high price: Everdeen and Jay bought their school bus at a state auction in January 2020 for $7,324. They spent about $85,000 and nearly three years converting it into their new home, and those renovations are standing in the way of Everdeen building her savings account.
Here’s how Everdeen built a six-figure career and how she affords her life on the road.
A natural talent behind the mic
Everdeen grew up mimicking car ads on the radio, but after earning her bachelor’s degree in journalism and fine arts from Rutgers University in 2013, she didn’t necessarily believe her voice would lead to a lucrative career.
But things came full circle in 2018 when Everdeen landed her first and unplanned voiceover job. She worked for an advertising agency, reading clients a screenplay she had written for a local car dealership in Austin, Texas. They liked her voice so much that they decided not to hire an actor and only use Everdeen’s voice in the commercial.
In the months that followed, Everdeen recorded about 10 positions for the dealership. She left advertising agency for a content manager job at a supplement company, where she made $42,000 a year.
In March 2020, two months after she and Jay bought their school bus, she decided to look for voiceover jobs on Fiverr to earn extra money. She brought in over $1,000 in her first month and quickly realized this could become a viable part-time job.
In less than three months, she brought together her monthly income from her full-time job. In July 2020, she decided to quit and work full-time as a voice actress.
“I mostly do commercial TV and radio spots,” says Everdeen. She also records many voicemails for businesses. “It’s been two and a half years and I’ve done almost 3,000 jobs. So it got very busy very quickly.”
Life in a 30 foot school bus
One night in 2019, Everdeen and Jay talked about their goals over drinks, and both realized they wanted to travel. They decided to buy the school bus and began dismantling its seats and windows to convert it into their 30-foot home.
“We wanted to make a bus because it’s a lot more customizable. RVs usually have a set layout,” says Everdeen. “Besides, they’re not so sure. Buses are designed to keep dozens of children safe, especially if they roll over or crash. They are made of steel.”
It took almost three years to integrate the bus – which has 21 feet of interior space – into their home. Jay’s resume is packed with trading experience, particularly in water irrigation, so he and a friend were primarily responsible for building the new indoor and outdoor space.
On the outside, the bus has a signal-boosting antenna, solar panels, and a custom windshield. Inside, her front seat converts to her bed. It also has a wood burning stove, four burner stove and oven, chest style fridge and freezer, working shower and composting toilet. But the bus’s shining star is the filter, which Jay rigged to turn fresh water into drinking water.
The bus also includes Everdeen’s ISO box, an isolated, insulated cover that contains a microphone in which she makes her voiceover recordings. Everdeen rolls out on a drawer. It blocks out most of the bus noise when she’s standing in the pits or sitting on a stool, so it doesn’t sound like she’s recording in a “tin can”.
Not a typical budget
Everdeen previously had a tumultuous relationship with money. She would immediately spend the money she earned on travel and then save for months while she paid off her credit cards.
But once she started making more money doing voiceovers and using savings to refurbish buses, she knew she had to develop new habits. She hired an accountant to help organize her finances.
For the most part, Everdeen’s new method has worked, although it will take time for this progress to be reflected in her bank account. She’s working to pay off a $34,440 credit card balance, thanks largely to the bus.
In her first month on the road in September 2022, she spent $15,520. However, much of that expense went into transitioning to bus life and dealing with an unexpected bus breakdown. Everdeen and Jay were also in Florida when Hurricane Ian struck, so they spent more money to reinforce the bus’s exterior and stock up on groceries and gas.
Here’s where her money went in September 2022:
- Discretionary Expenses: $6,607 on bus renovations, relocation, Airbnb, HipCamp parking, and pet expenses for her dog, Bentley
- Credit card payments: $2,914 to pay off debt
- Unexpected expenses: $2,596 for repairs when the bus broke down preparing for Hurricane Ian
- Meal: $1,880
- Insurance: $762 for medicine, pet, bus and car
- Gas: $581
- Phone: $105 to Verizon and T-Mobile. She has two service providers who guarantee that she can work anywhere.
- Subscriptions: $75 for Amazon Prime, Netflix, HBO, Spotify and Xbox
Everdeen is currently funneling her disposable income into her credit card debt, but once she pays it off, she plans to start building her savings account.
She also owes $6,412 in student loans that are currently on hold.
A long way ahead
Despite the temporary challenges, Everdeen and Jay have no intention of giving up their life on the road. Everdeen already owns land in New Orleans — she bought it in 2019 for $19,500 and pays $143 a year in property taxes — but she wants to buy more land and have offices in the US
Right now, the point of bus life is that Everdeen and Jay have no plans other than to travel. While the couple is only two months into their journey, life on the road has already changed Everdeen’s attitude towards money and her life, she says.
“Before that, I was very busy wanting more and needing more. I was bored, I never felt fulfilled,” she says. “Now that I have everything I need in such a small space, I’m not as stressed as I used to be.
“I don’t have to make so many decisions every day… It’s a different sense of freedom that I didn’t think I would ever feel, and this is the first time in my life that I haven’t just wanted more all the time . “
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