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I'm Living In My Car & Need Help

If you're sleeping in your car, chances are you've been having a rough time. Nobody plans on living out of a vehicle, and for most of us, it's a last resort. Whether you just moved to a new city and your plans went bust, you got laid off work, your home went into foreclosure, or you just ran out of options, remember that these circumstances could happen to anyone. There are a lot of stereotypes about people in your situation, generally believed by those who don't understand how quickly homelessness can strike, and people may look down on you. Don't fall into the trap of looking down on yourself. You're still in the game. You're alive, you're hopefully healthy, and you have a car. Millions of people have been in the same place and gotten out of it, and you can do it too.

Before you can turn your life around, you have to get through tonight. That's not always easy. Living out of a car isn't comfortable, and in some places, it's even illegal. You need to keep your chin up, keep your attitude positive, and do what you have to do. It can be done, but it's not going to be easy. You're going to need smarts, courage, and determination on your side. Luckily, you've come to the right place. Here is a practical guide to living out of your vehicle.

Getting comfortable is half the battle, right? Your options depend on the type of vehicle you have, so take a look around your ride and decide on the best place to sleep. The back seat is often an obvious choice (unless you're very tall) as you can stretch out across the rear seats. If it is your only option, try every angle you can imagine as you search for a comfortable position. Sleeping this way is a last resort, and you may have better options.

Most back seats fold forward, allowing you to stretch out and use the trunk for some extra legroom. If the back seats don't fold down, try folding the front passenger seat forward and see if that works. If that doesn't work, and your back seats don't fold (or you don't have back seats at all) then you're stuck sleeping in the front seat. Take the passenger side and fold that seat back as far as it will go. Depending on how far back you can fold the seat, it can be quite comfortable.

If you've got a van or an SUV, you're golden. These vehicles often feature modular, easily configurable seats, as well as plenty of legroom.

As soon as you've decided on a comfortable sleeping position, get padded up and cozy. What may seem like a minor irritation in the night, like the lump of a seat belt buckle, will have your back broken by morning!

Temperature: Summer
Your biggest issue is heat. Why? There's not much you can do about it unless you plan on running the air conditioner all night, burning up expensive gas, and attracting unwanted attention. It's hard to escape the heat, but getting a small, cigarette lighter-powered fan can minimize the problem. Whatever you do, don't fall asleep with your windows rolled down too far. An inch or so of allowance should be okay, but be wary of letting strangers get in through the window. Most places simply aren't safe at night, and having your windows down too far could lead to an awful wakeup call.

If you can get your hands on a windshield sun-shade, awesome! It will help insulate your temporary home against harsh glares while it's light out while absorbing the worst of the summertime heat 24/7.

Temperature: Winter
In winter, as in summer, you don't want to run your engine all night, and you should never run your engine with your car sealed, as you'd risk fatal carbon monoxide poisoning. Unfortunately, you won't be able to rely on an electric heater to modify the temperature. Unlike a small fan, an electric heater uses so much energy that it might kill your battery. Instead of warming the air, you will need to rely on insulation.

You've got a few options here. A good sleeping bag or set of blankets works best for cool winter nights. If it's really cold, pile on the layers by wearing leggings, long-sleeved tops, or even gloves and a hat! Be resourceful, and use whatever it takes to keep the heat in. The body of the vehicle will protect you from outside wind and rain, and as long as you've layered yourself adequately, you can crack a window or two for some fresh air.

Outside Disturbances
We all know noise doesn't do us any favors when we're trying to get our beauty sleep, but it's hard to find a place that's completely quiet. You might stumble across a noise-free spot, but you shouldn't count on your luck all the time. You might be better off just investing in a pair of earplugs for when the fates are against you. Comfort is another factor, as you'll be lying down while wearing the earplugs. Find a soft, flexible pair that doesn't interfere with your trip to dreamland.

Light is another factor that can easily rob you of adequate sleep. Finding a dark place to park is obviously your first choice, but that can come with security issues. You should prioritize your safety over your lighting preferences. If outside lights disturb you too much, use the same windshield sun-shade you used in the summer to block intrusive light at night.

Your Body's Needs
Unless you're also running a deli out of your car, you're going to need to stock up on food. Unfortunately, eating out will break your bank pronto, so you'll need to prepare food. Find yourself a good, energy-efficient cooler to store your supplies. Avoid anything like electric mini-fridges. You want to avoid killing your battery, and devices like that will do it in no time.

Finding a bathroom at the right time can be a real challenge. If you're camping out in an RV, you're a lucky duck. Sadly, most regular vehicles don't come with a toilet. Take that into consideration, not just during the day, but right before bed. A lot of large stores (that also stay open pretty late) or 24/7 restaurants have public restrooms. Try and heed nature's call at one of these establishments before settling in for the night.

Pay attention to hygiene. A shower is not only good for you physically, but also mentally. When everything seems to be flying out of control, little things like taking care of your hygiene can help you retain your sense of normality. So, you'll need to find a spot that will allow you to shower, brush your teeth, and take care of all your other bodily needs. One of the best options is at a gym, and fortunately, many gyms offer monthly memberships for as little as $10 per month. If you have no access to a gym in your area, you can also consider using the shower amenities at truck stops and state parks.