This couple lived in an RV in Google's parking lot for 2 years and saved 80% of their income

Pete.karaPete and Kara LivingHusband-and-wife duo Pete and Kara pose in front of the RV, which they refer to as their ‘mini Winnie’.

One Google employee brings new meaning to the term “company man”: For nearly two years, he and his wife lived in a small RV in the parking lot of the tech giant’s Mountain View headquarters.

They’re not the only people to live on the company’s campus — which is known for perks like free meals and fitness classes — and they claim to be the longest-running residents of the lot.

Pete, 33, will have been at Google for five years this April. He started as a temp and currently works as a program manager for the research and development team. Nearly two of those five years, from January 2012 to October 2013, were spent living in the Google parking lot with his wife Kara, 28.

They had no electricity or water during their parking-lot stint. It was basically “glorified camping,” Kara described on their blog, “Pete and Kara Living,” but it allowed them to save 80% of their take-home pay, despite living in the notoriously pricey Bay Area.

Today, their “mini Winnie” is still alive and kicking, but now it’s parked in the driveway of their home, which they bought with their sizable savings in the summer of 2013.

Business Insider spoke to the couple about their unique experience and their transition to traditional home ownership.

Pete and Kara's 1985 Winnebago Lesharo.

The couple purchased their 21-foot 1985 Winnebago Lesharo in September 2010. At the time, they were based in Chicago, where Pete was finishing up a summer contract with the Chicago Park District and Kara was teaching at a Montessori school.

They found the lightly used Winnebago Lesharo for sale in Warrenville, Illinois, Kara wrote on their blog. 'We went to see it, took it for a test drive, and made him an offer. It was ours for $1,900, about half of what we originally expected to pay.'

Shortly after, they quit their jobs, sold all of their belongings, and moved to Pete's parents' home in Attica, Michigan, to prepare the Winnebago before setting out on the next chapter of their lives: living as full-time RV residents in Austin, Texas.

Pete installed a bed where the back passenger seats used to be.

They kept renovations cheap -- under $100 -- which consisted of ripping out the back passenger seats to build a twin bed with storage underneath and installing 'a peel-and-stick wood-looking floor,' Pete tells Business Insider.

While renovations cost next to nothing, repairs ultimately became one of their biggest expenses. Pete estimates that over time, they have put a total of $10,000 into the RV, mainly for repairs.

A little less than 100 square feet, the Winnebago came with a small kitchen area with a propane stove top and sink, a kitchen table surrounded by two booths, and enough storage to accommodate their two bikes, clothes, and spare parts for the RV. It also had a shower and toilet, which they didn't use often.

They kept bins under the bed for storage.

After finishing preparations, they left for Austin in early December 2010, where they set up camp in an RV park and started looking for work. 'There was quite a bit of uncertainty at this time because we had no jobs and only $10,000,' Pete tells Business Insider.

Four months later and in the nick of time, Pete got a call about a temp position at Google. 'We were on our last $50, shopping at Walmart for rice and beans,' Pete remembers. 'There was some legitimate fear and uncertainty at that time and we were a few weeks -- if not days -- from losing everything.'

The call turned into a job, which he started right away in April 2011. He worked remotely until January 2012, at which point Pete, Kara, and their Winnebago left Austin and headed west to Google's headquarters.

Pete and Kara in Austin in 2010, before heading to the Bay Area.

Not wanting their funds to ever get as low as $50 again, Pete and Kara decided to continue living in the RV full-time to keep their expenses low and build up their savings. Additionally, 'we really liked the idea of retiring early and thought we could make that a serious reality with some upfront sacrifice,' they tell Business Insider.

They didn't start living on campus right away. 'We were scared of Google security, and Pete was a temp, so we felt it was best not to make waves,' the couple explains. But once they decided to take the leap and move into the parking lot, they didn't run into any problems with security.

'Security only came by every once in a while when there was a new guy on shift or if the security officer was bored and wanted a chat,' they explain. 'It became more like a neighbour stopping by than security.'

Pete has been at Google for nearly five years.

Kara took a job with a tech startup, Kiwi, and got a membership at Gold's Gym for showers and other facilities. Pete was able to use the facilities at Google.

As for food, 'I mainly got 'to-go' food from Google's cafe and we'd split it,' Pete explains to Business Insider. 'But we'd often end up at The Sports Page (a sports bar nearby), which we called our living room. We also liked to cook and had no problem making our staple pot of rice and beans on our propane stove top.'

Minimal expenses meant significant savings: about 80% of their take-home pay, Pete estimates. 'Kara and I saved quite a bit of money,' he says. Aside from liability insurance for the Winnebago, 'our only bills were personal cell phones, some food and beverages, and entertainment. By far our largest entertainment expense was eating out and cocktailing.'

'We could fit, like, 75 Winnebagos in this place!' Kara wrote on their blog of their new home.

In June 2013, they bought a $530,000 house in the Santa Cruz mountains. They didn't originally plan on living in it -- they bought it purely as a rental investment -- but in October of the same year, they decided to move out of the Winnebago and into their new home.

'There was something about running water, electricity, and heat that made us submit to the conveniences after a while,' they tell Business Insider.

Living unconventionally to save money was never for the sole purpose of buying a dream home, but it was a nice bonus.

'We really didn't become so frugal in order to buy a dream home,' they explain. 'When we were in Austin, before Pete was hired at Google, our funds had run really low. That scared us, and we didn't ever want to be in that position again.'

The house has four separate units, one of which they live in. 'We have used the rentals to subsidise our mortgage and actually have paid very little for our home besides the down payment,' they say.

Pete in front of Google's self-driving car.

A new home didn't mean completely abandoning the Winnie -- Pete used it as a crash pad and office when he worked late a couple of times a week. He kept this up until late 2014, when he felt the need to move the RV off the increasingly populated campus.

Parking is scarce in San Francisco, so many Googlers will park their cars on campus during the week, take public transportation to and from work, and drive their cars back home on the weekends, Pete tells Business Insider. 'This was becoming an epidemic, as Google started to outgrow its main campus,' he explains. 'Living in a parking spot on campus is still viable, but it seems less socially acceptable as the culture is changing rapidly. There are unspoken rules, similar to fight club, that have become more strict as Google becomes more corporate.'

These unspoken rules include never discussing living on campus, not parking at your building, and not using the showers and facilities during the morning, which is 'prime time.' You have to 'know your place,' they say. 'Understand that you never have the right of way regardless of your level at the company. If the lowest-level temp has a problem with something you as a campus dweller are doing, you must do whatever it takes to make it right and fix the problem.'

California wasn't originally in Pete and Kara's plans, but today they live in the Santa Cruz mountains.

While running water, electricity, heat, and other conveniences that come with their house are a nice change, they come with a price tag. 'Our transition to a real home was quite an adjustment,' the couple explains. 'We watched our entertainment expenses drop and housing, food, and utilities spike overnight. These were expected and anticipated, but it still didn't make it easy to pay the bills.'

'We do miss the Winnie life for a number of reasons,' they continue. 'It keeps you humble. It's a small space to maintain and clean. Your whole life is mobile. It's financially liberating. Tailgating is next level. The campus life was fun, too. You see and know things that nobody else knows.'

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