Monday night I slept in my car for the first time. It didn't make economical sense to stay in a hotel, plus I'm stubborn. Originally I had a trip planned which included an overnight stay in Birmingham with my mom. We've never been on the best of terms and because I do not wish to detail the story here, I will just say that my plans to spend the night at her house fell through a few days ago.
When my plans changed I did look at hotel rooms, but the least expensive rooms were $50 per night. I also looked at redeeming loyalty points but even that did not appeal to me. Why redeem 25,000 points for a place to lay my head for a few hours when I could save them for a frugal vacation? Then I started thinking,
What's the worst that could happen if I slept in my car?
I did some online research - where to park my car, how to make the car more comfortable, the risks involved. What I found was that truck stops and Wal-Mart parking lots were overwhelmingly favored by folks who do this thing regularly. Based on my research I decided to fold down the back seat so that I would mostly be sleeping in the trunk of the car. I just couldn't imagine sleeping in the front seat or snuggled up in the backseat. I drive a Toyota Corolla; it's too small for that.
I shopped five gas stations Monday night on my way from the Atlanta conference to Birmingham. At the last station there was both a McDonald's and a Wal-Mart in the same parking lot. This was my spot. I hung out in McDonald's while I entered my shops and surfed the Internet, then I pulled into the Wal-Mart lot behind the restaurant. Logistics were straightforward: I brought two comforters, three pillows and a sheet. I folded down the backseat, draped the sheet above stretching across the folded down area to conceal myself from prying eyes and shield some of the lights, and made myself a bed.
It wasn't the best night's sleep I ever got, but I didn't expect it to be. Fortunately the weather was perfect. I prefer cooler weather when sleeping and it was about 65 degrees when I fell asleep. But still, I saved $50 or more and didn't sacrifice much if anything. This wasn't such a bad experience. I had a day of mystery shopping to do when I woke up, so I freshened up in the McDonald's bathroom and began the day.
Sleeping in my car turned out to be a frugal adventure, and I imagine I will do it again if the circumstances are right. I wouldn't recommend it if you have to be dressed up the next day or in a very public setting because taking a bird bath at McDonald's won't cut it, at least for me, and this wasn't the most comfortable sleep I've had. It's probably something that takes a little getting used to. For example, I woke up several times and I think it was more out of anxiety than actual noises around me.