Last year we shared how much we spent during the first three and a half years of living as digital nomads, working online while travelling the world. We’ve now completed our fourth year on the road and here’s our total budget for the year.
We track our annual expenses in four areas:
- Daily Expenses – Day to day living costs including visas, accommodation, food, in country transport, toiletries, and low cost activities.
- Flights – Domestic and international flights.
- Extras – Insurance, major medical expenses, new passports, expensive activities, and other large unusual costs.
- Business – These expenses aren’t related to travel but to running our online business. They include technology (laptops, hard drives, iPhone, camera), website hosting, domains, software, and cloud storage.
These are our expenses for Year 4 of our travels from March 2013-February 2014. This is for two people in British pounds. The second row has the amounts converted into US dollars at the current exchange rate.
This works out at £2,000 ($3,360) a month for us both with an average of £1,317 ($2,212) a month spent on general living expenses with the extras spent at various points during the year.
In our last budget we reported our spending for the first six months of Year 4 and expected to spend about the same as we did in Year 3. We ended up spending £1000 less.
We aren’t hardcore budget travellers. You could travel for far less than this but this is our life, not a time limited trip. We are reasonably careful with our money (and track every expense using our Trail Wallet iPhone app) but we prefer comfortable places to stay, flights instead of overnight buses, and we are always willing to splurge on good food (especially in San Francisco). We also spend part of the year in more expensive destinations in Europe and the US.
To give you a better idea of what we spent our money on here’s a breakdown of each area of spending.
In Year 4 we travelled to 11 countries. We started in Cuba and Central Mexico, before settling for three months in the small Mexican beach town of San Pancho. Spending longer in one place helps reduce our spending as the cost to rent an apartment is much less than a hotel, and we save money by cooking for ourselves. We also tend to spend more time working or doing free activities like enjoying the beach rather than expensive activities and sights.
In July we spent a few weeks house sitting and staying with a friend in San Francisco (accommodation was free but we spent a lot on food and new clothes), and rented a car for a week-long road trip to Sonoma County and Yosemite National Park.
In August we visited family and friends in the UK for a few weeks before setting off on a month-long train trip across Europe. We travelled much more quickly than usual and visited Paris, Munich, various places in Slovenia, Venice, and then on to southern Italy: Puglia, Matera and Naples. Our final destination was Sicily, and after a week in the Aeolian Islands we rented an apartment for a month in Palermo, then had a few weeks travelling in Western Sicily with my parents.
With the winter approaching we booked a last minute flight to Thailand and returned to the digital nomad hotspot Chiang Mai, an affordable place for us to rent a house for three months. We ended the year with a month travelling around Cambodia.
The year was a good mix of fast and slow travel and we were able to make up for spending more in the US and Europe by slowing down in Mexico and Thailand.
We did a number of sponsored trips that helped reduce our costs including Sonoma, Slovenia, Puglia, some hotels, and our InterRail train passes in Europe, but this was a small percentage of the year overall.
The flights we took this year with the costs for two people:
|From||To||Cost in GBP|
|Puerto Vallarta, Mexico||San Francisco, USA||£584|
|San Francisco, USA||London, England||£968|
|Palermo, Italy||Rome, Italy||£100|
|Rome, Italy||Bangkok, Thailand||£569|
|Bangkok, Thailand||Chiang Mai, Thailand||£83|
|Chiang Mai, Thailand||Udon Thani, Thailand||£108|
|Chiang Mai, Thailand||Siem Reap, Cambodia||£183|
This was all insurance this year: travel insurance (we use True Traveller who are one of the few digital nomad friendly insurance companies), and separate insurance for our camera and laptops with Photoguard.
Our business expenses were high this year as we stocked up on new gear in the US including a new camera and lens (a mirrorless Olympus OMD-EM5), Macbook Air, iPad mini, and a new external hard drive.
We also have regular expenses to run our business including hosting, domains, cloud storage, and software (Adobe Creative Cloud).
Destination Budgets for Year 4
We’ve written more detailed budget breakdowns for the following places:
- San Pancho, Mexico
- Paris, France
- Chiang Mai, Thailand (this budget is from our first stay and we spent slightly more this time)
How We Track Our Expenses
We believe that keeping track of your spending is so important that we created an app to make it easier.
Trail Wallet is an easy travel expense tracker for the iPhone. We use it to input our expenses while we’re out and about and see how we’re doing against a daily budget (we set up different trips for each country). The app has support for multiple currencies, you can track your expenses by trip or month, choose your own categories and see how much you’re spending in each on the pie chart, and email CSV reports to yourself.
It has made our lives much easier and we’re not the only ones—there are thousands of Trail Walleteers who’ve become hooked on tracking their expenses and the app has an average rating of 4.5 stars from 119 reviews around the world.
Trail Wallet is free for up to 25 entries and $3.99 if you want to continue using it. You can download it from the iTunes App store here or see more information and watch a demo video on Voyage Travel Apps.
I also use a spreadsheet to track our income and overall expenses (in the way we’ve shared above). On the first of each month I check every bank balance, plus our Paypal accounts and the amount of cash we have on hand, and enter the totals in another spreadsheet so I have a clear picture of exactly how much money we have.
We have multiple credit and debit cards in case we lose any, plus some emergency cash. We manage everything by internet banking. You can read a more detailed post about how we manage our finances while travelling.
Our income comes from advertising and affiliate commissions on this site, the iPhone apps we make at Voyage Travel Apps, and rental income from a house we still own in the UK. In Year 4 Simon did a few last web design and development jobs but he is now focusing entirely on making apps. For more details see our post on how we fund our travels.
As we did in Year 3 we broke even again this year. Our income varies wildly each month so we’re glad we have some of our savings from before we left the UK to carry us over more expensive months when we buy long haul flights and new gear.
We’d like to be able to reach the point where we can add to our savings each month but ultimately we aren’t very motivated by money and are more interested in working on things we love than those that could make us more money.
Year 4 was another amazing year. We visited world class cities like San Francisco, Paris, and Venice; lived in a jungle house by the beach in Mexico; hiked in Yosemite National Park; white water rafted in Slovenia; climbed a volcano in Sicily; hugged elephants in Thailand; and explored the temples of Angkor. We are always grateful that we are able to live such a rich life despite a modest income, and love the flexibility and freedom that a nomadic life provides.
Are you planning your travels for 2018? See our Travel Resources page for our favourite tools and gear to help you plan the perfect trip.