The Cost of Digital Nomad Living: Our Year 4 Budget

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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.

  Daily Expenses Flights Extras Business Total
GBP £15,801 £2,581 £913 £4,703 £23,998
USD $26,550 $4,337 $1,534 $7,902 $40,323

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.

Daily Expenses

Hiking in Guanajuato, Mexico

Hiking in Guanajuato, Mexico

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.

Erin and Simon in San Francisco

A San Francisco selfie

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.

Flights

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

Extras

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.

Business

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:

How We Track Our Expenses

App

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.

Other Methods

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.

Simon trail walleting in Venice

Simon trail walleting in Venice

Our Income

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.

Swinging in a vine at an Beng Melea temple in Cambodia

Swinging in a vine at an Angkor temple in Cambodia

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 a trip? See our Travel Resources page for our favourite tools and gear to help you plan the perfect trip. 

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31 thoughts on The Cost of Digital Nomad Living: Our Year 4 Budget

  1. Pingback: A Comprehensive Guide To Budgeting For Long-Term Travel - Hecktic Travels

  2. Just stumbled across your page! God, i love it! After almost 20 years Backpacktraveling as often as it is possible, i absolutely adore you two for the step to quit the job/or adjust it to your travels. That’s a live priority! My first thought was: “What kind of conversation you two did have before quitting, trusting and change into longterm- travelers! Just awesome….i do hope i get there once in this live because i already know it would make me happy beyond compare. ( A bit more complicated in my line of work) A hug and a kiss, with deep respect from another traveler.

    • Thanks for your kind words Micha! For us, after spending a year travelling (without working online at the time), it just seemed a natural evolution for us to figure out a way to continue doing it—we just couldn’t adjust to life back in the UK. Good luck on your own journey!

  3. Hi Erin,
    Thanks for this post. It’s always nice to see what people spend on long-term travel, how they sustain themselves and get insight on how they’ve created their own lifestyle.

    I’m not surprised by any of the numbers and you did a great job clarifying your level of comfort with accommodation and food. After doing 16 months on the road we’ve grown out of hostels and have mixed things up a bit more.

    Recently we did a workshop on long-term sustainable travel and showed the extremes of budget travel through hitchhiking, local food, etc as a way to illustrate lifestyle creation and the idea that anyone can travel and that it’s not based on the level of income you have. To walk out the door each days is free.

    Also, we love your app! We’ve been using it since earlier this year. Only feedback is to add in an income aspect. We’ve made some money on the road and it would be good to be able to track that against our expenses.

    Looking forward to continuing to follow the journey. We’ll tweet this article out as well.

    Thanks again.

    Love from Manila,
    Mark and Camille

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  8. Hi,

    These figures shocked me a bit because I thought they would be much higher. But I have to say that it is great that you have such great discipline. I somehow can´t manage to save so much money . if I have it I spend it 😉

  9. For a person who would someday soon like to travel long term, this information is so inspiring! You really bring the true cost of long term travel to reality and its not as bad as some may think! Costs about the same as it does to live at home.

    • Travel definitely doesn’t have to be expensive, and there are plenty of options to bring costs down even more if needed. Good luck with it!

  10. Hey,
    I just found your website and love it so far. Is the Trail Wallet app only for iPhone? I looked for it on my android but couldn’t find it. I do something similar to your app but on a spreadsheet. It would be nice to just have it all on my phone though.
    -Julio

  11. Great cost breakdown guys, it just goes to show how cheaply you can live a really rich, fulfilling life. Andrew and I continue to find your Trail Wallet App really useful for tracking our own expenses 🙂

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  13. Thank you both for taking the time and trouble to inform us as you do via your site. We often take quality web content for granted when in reality a site such as yours is no easy job. So again, thank you for being so open with your finances. My wife and I are nearing sixty and about to do as you are doing. Your content has been informative and inspiring to us not to mention visually pleasing due to overall design and especially the high quality photos. Kudos and keep up the very good work!

  14. Lovely. Again, I’m reminded why you guys are my role models! “…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.” I hope to get to that place soon too!

    • Ha! I’m not quite sure it’s the best strategy to follow but we can’t seem to do it any other way. We figure we’ll worry about it when we get close to running out of money 🙂 Good luck with your own business plans Sam.

  15. So interesting! I love the fact that you’d rather work on things you love than things to make you more money. So true, and the key to happiness. It’s funny because $40k might not seem like much for a couple living back home but look at how much more of the world you’re really getting to see and the money just pales in comparison.
    We love your app. Use it everyday and it’s saved us so much money! Met someone in the Galapagos who was using it too, so it’s getting around 🙂

    • We are kind of amazed about how much we can do on our budget. Back at home you have to save up for holidays whereas now we are always out experiencing the world so we don’t have to.

      We’re so glad you’ve found Trail Wallet useful.

  16. I love seeing how inexpensive it can be to travel long term. I’ve been using your Trail Wallet app for over 6 months now (including tracking our spending when we’re home) and I love it. I write posts for almost every city or country we visit to show what we spend because we’re bare-bones budget travelers but we’re also not luxury travelers. I think it’s important to show more realistic expenses, like how you two travel. Using the app really helps me write those posts, and it helps us to not go crazy with our spending.

    • Thanks Ali and I’m glad you like Trail Wallet. Often budget posts are written by really budget backpackers so we think it’s important to show that you don’t have to stay in hostels to travel relatively inexpensively. I love your budget posts too!

  17. Super useful – thanks! It’s good to see a breakdown of how much someone else is spending. I know it sounds obvious, but travelling as a pair seems much cheaper than travelling as a singleton. Need to find myself a travel buddy!

    • It doesn’t necessarily have to be more expensive to travel alone. We know lots of solo travellers who spend less than us, it all depends on your travel style.

  18. Very helpful post. I am also interested in seeing what other people spend when they are travelling and this breakdown is very thorough. Travelling slowly definitely seems to be the way to go to spend less and stay in nicer places than hostel dorms!

    • Glad you found it helpful Katie. It’s definitely easier to spend less when you travel slowly and we’d much prefer a nice apartment than a hostel.

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