A Digital Nomad Budget: How Much Does 6 Months in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay Cost?

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It’s been six months since we sold everything we owned and left the UK permanently to embark on our Never Ending Voyage. We saved enough to keep us going in Latin America on a basic budget for a year, and Simon planned to get his web design and development business up and running to eventually cover our expenses.

We wrote about how to plan a round the world trip budget based on our previous experience, but this time budgeting was difficult. We had no idea where we would be going (except that we would be starting in South America) or for how long.

So, rather arbitrarily we allowed for UK £1000 (US $1500) a month for both of our living expenses for a year, plus an extra £3500 (US $5250) for Spanish classes, big activities (such as the Bolivia Salt Flats tour, staying at an Amazon lodge and scuba diving), and a few internal flights if needed. We have also kept back a few thousand contingency so that if we run completely low we can get a flight somewhere to find a job (such as teaching English in Taiwan).

Six months in are we keeping to our budget and how is our digital nomad income coming along?

Well, the bad news is that we haven’t quite managed to keep to the £1000 monthly budget (it averages at £1248), but the good news is that Simon’s income has covered the overspend and more. Although our income doesn’t currently cover our expenses it looks on track to do so by the end of our first year.

For those of you who are interested in how much a digital nomad life costs here are details of our expenses (for two people) so far.

Expenses for 6 Months in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay

(If you’re viewing this in a feed reader, click through to get the breakdown in both GBP and USD).
Summary
CountryTotal SpentDays in countryCost per day
Brazil£1353.6117£79.62
Argentina 1 (Buenos Aires)£2823.3169£40.92
Paraguay£762.7121£36.32
Argentina 2 (Salta)£2550.9677£33.13
TOTALS:£7,490.59184£40.71
Breakdown
CountryAccommodationFoodTransportEntertainmentOtherTotal Per Day
Brazil£42.57£23.14£9.33£3.70£0.88£79.62
Argentina 1 (Buenos Aires)£17.67£15.12£3.32£3.97£0.83£40.92
Paraguay£17.75£9.26£5.93£1.06£2.31£36.32
Argentina 2 (Salta)£16.60£9.05£4.59£0.91£1.97£33.13
Summary
CountryTotal SpentDays in countryCost per day
Brazil$2,030.4217$119.44
Argentina 1 (Buenos Aires)$4,234.9769$61.38
Paraguay$1,144.0721$54.48
Argentina 2 (Salta)$3,826.4477$49.69
TOTALS:$11,235.89184$61.06
Breakdown
CountryAccommodationFoodTransportEntertainmentOtherTotal Per Day
Brazil$63.86$34.71$13.99$5.55$1.33$119.44
Argentina 1 (Buenos Aires)$26.51$22.68$4.98$5.96$1.25$61.38
Paraguay$26.63$13.89$8.90$1.59$3.47$54.48
Argentina 2 (Salta)$24.90$13.57$6.89$1.36$2.96$49.69

This is the breakdown of how much this works out on an average daily basis.

Notes On Our Expenses

  • These costs cover our basic daily expenses for two people. Larger items are accounted for separately (see below).
  • Our budget for six months was £6000, so we were £1490 over budget. Hopefully we will make this up when we move on to cheaper parts of South America.
  • We definitely could have done things cheaper as we did not skimp on food and sometimes stayed at more expensive hotels. When we stayed in cheap hotels and hostels we usually had a double room with bathroom (occasionally we had shared bathrooms).
  • We spent four months ‘settled down’ in Buenos Aires and Salta so this reduced our expenses.
  • We rented pretty luxurious apartments in Buenos Aires and Salta, which worked out the same price as staying at a basic hostel.
  • Entertainment includes going out to bars and events (which we don’t do often) as well as non-major activities such as horse-riding and entrance fees to attractions.
  • Other includes laundry, medical supplies, and other miscellaneous items.
  • In our travel budgeting tips we recommended working out a daily budget based on about double your accommodation costs. Generally this seems to have worked out about right.

Brazil

  • Brazil was expensive and our budget had no chance there. It was also the very beginning of our trip/ new life so we allowed ourselves some leeway and stayed in nicer accommodation at times.
  • We spent our three weeks in some of the most expensive parts of the country: Rio de Janeiro, Isla Grande and Paraty.
  • Rio is an expensive city but I found the cheapest double room I could for 80 reais (US $45) at Villa Leonor Hostel in Santa Teresa. Our hotel in Paraty cost the same.
  • In Isla Grande we wanted a nice, quiet place to relax and although we looked at lots of options we ended up paying reais (US $90) a night which was really overpriced. It made us long for Asia’s cheap beach huts.
  • We spent more in Brazil than we did in any other country except New Zealand on our last trip.

Argentina

  • Our Argentina travels were in two parts. Part 1 involved four nights at a Buenos Aires hostel, two months renting an apartment in the city, plus short trips to San Antonio de Areco and Puerto Iguazú.
  • Part 2 included couchsurfing for a week and house sitting for three weeks (so we had no accommodation expenses), renting an apartment for six weeks and 12 nights of staying in hotels in Salta and while on a road trip around the area.
  • We self catered a lot (except for when staying in hotels) but ate out 2 – 3 nights a week in Buenos Aires.
  • Transport costs in Argentina Part 2 included hiring a car for a week (US $275).
  • Other costs in Argentina Part 2 included buying extra warm clothes.

Paraguay

  • We spent four nights couchsurfing which saved on accommodation costs. Eight nights were spent in catered accommodation which included all our meals.

Extra Expenses

We budgeted for extra, bigger items separately. These don’t include our pre-trip expenses of flights (London – Rio and Rio-Buenos Aires), travel insurance and gear.

We spent £771 ($1156) on Spanish lessons which included three weeks of 20 hours a week group classes, and 17.5 hours of private lessons each.

We realised that sharing our Macbook Pro wasn’t going to work out, as we both needed to work at the same time in order to share our free time together, so we bought an Asus Eee PC netbook in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately it was a lot more expensive than it would have been in the UK, but luckily the cost was covered by leaving gifts we were given by family.

Income

We earned £4829 in the past six months. This doesn’t cover all of our expenses but the business is growing all of the time so we should get there.

Notes

  • The majority of the income is from Simon’s growing Line In Web Design business. Work has included designing and building web sites and creating custom WordPress plugins (both large and small).
  • He has done minimal promotion for the business and most of the work has come from word of mouth and repeat customers.
  • Making money from blogging is not a focus for us at the moment, but we have taken advantage of some opportunities that came along and £328 of the income has come from this.
  • The blogging income came from commissions for promoting the Language Hacking Gui de, advertising on Erin’s Kerala India Travel site and selling a few copies of our Blurb travel photo book (which we created for ourselves).

We are now moving on to cheaper parts of South America (Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador) so hopefully we can start sticking to our budget as well as continuing to develop the income. All in all, I think we’ve made a pretty good start to our digital nomad life.

Note on the tables: Simon created a WordPress plugin that calculates your average daily expenses and displays them in a table in multiple currencies (see our table above). If this is something you are interested in for your blog then please leave a comment, and it’ll inspire him to finish it off and release it.

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49 Comments (6 pingbacks)

  1. Great article, so many ideas and useful comments.

    My travel plans to Argentina and Chile just took a very big step on to the possible pile.

    How do you keep your laptop going in these places? Do you have any tips?

    All the best
    Phil

    Reply ↓

    • We haven’t had any problems with the laptop – we have a good case to keep in protected and keep in with us on buses rather than putting it in the luggage compartment. There’s always power and in Argentina usually wifi. It’s still going strong so far.

      Reply ↓

  2. Thanks for sharing your expenses! That gives us a rough idea of what’s coming. I checked out the link to your apartment in Buenos Aires – looks great!!! Bookmarked the website for next year… Brilliant plug-in, by the way!

    Reply ↓

  3. What a great post, going to stumble this for others to see. It’s always nice to see a break down of budget, especially for analytical people. I tend to track every penny I spend and have been thinking of doing a similar post for my time in SE Asia and Australia.

    Good work on getting the web design business going too :-)

    Reply ↓

    • Thanks for the Stumble Rob. Glad you enjoyed it. I am sure people would be interested in your travel budget – it’s helpful to know what others spent.

      Reply ↓

  4. Just the kind of advice we need – we’ll be following a similar path in a month, starting in Rio then Buenos Aires and over to Chile where we’ll fly to NZ and Oz. I work on the net too and have managed to keep my clients working away for the last three UK winters.
    Just a wee nerdy tip whilst we’re chatting – you can get rid of the awful NEXTgen gallery lightbox by using slimbox with it, here is a quote from the clever person that worked this out in the first place

    ‘I have Nextgen gallery working well with Slimbox. I set the Slimbox plugin to use the autoload feature.
    Then, in the Nextgen gallery “Effects” settings, I set “Javascript Thumbnail Effect:” to be “Custom”. I did not change the “Link Code line.”
    Now, Slimbox handles all the image displays for inline images as well as the gallery images. Seems to be working well.’

    You can see it working on my blog – I needed it as the old lightbox I was using conflicting with the jquery on my Rockettheme theme.

    Right, now that’s over we’ll catch up with you somewhere in the big blue for a beer :0)

    Dom

    Reply ↓

  5. Hey Erin & Simon..
    Just found your blog from twitter – Your site looks great and I love your adventure…

    I was in Latin America for a couple of years – from Mexico down to Argentina.. If you need anything/have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. (p.s. Colombia #1!)
    x

    Reply ↓

    • Thanks Jordan. Another vote for Colombia – we have only heard good things about it and plan on settling there for a few months if we like it as much as everyone else.

      Reply ↓

  6. Seriously good record keeping guys. I never have much of an idea on specifics of where my money goes. Had a quick look at the apartment – looks amazing… It’s unbelievable how much you can get for your money, the trick is location independent income, and you seem to be doing well on that front!

    Reply ↓

    • Yeah, I’m a bit anal about writing down everything we spend! The BA apartment was lovely, and great value considering it included all bills and was fully furnished with kitchen equipment etc. We are getting there with the location independent income – things are definitely picking up.

      Reply ↓

  7. It’s great to be able to share concrete numbers like this and show others how it is possible to travel rather inexpensively. We found Argentina (and Chile) to be expensive compared with the rest of the places we visited in South America.

    You’ll likely be able to make up some of the overspending in Bolivia and Peru. Now, the internet connectivity there may slow you down a bit and cause a few gray hairs if you’re working on a project. It’s all a trade-off, right?

    Reply ↓

    • The internet issue is going to be interesting. We were waiting in Salta until Simon had finished a big project, but now another one has come in and we can’t turn down work. Hopefully we have allowed enough time for it to deal with periods off line and slow connections. We’ll see…

      Reply ↓

  8. I love these types of post. Even though I am not going to those areas it is still very interesting to see how people manage to make it backpacking around the world. Congrats on being on the road for 6 months.

    Reply ↓

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