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Ever wondered how to manage your digital nomad budget? You’ve come to the right place!
Managing a digital nomad budget involves careful planning and adapting to the various costs of living across different locations globally, and strategies to save money on travel, accommodation, food, and other expenses are essential.
Having the right tools, financial discipline, and flexibility can make living the digital nomad life financially sustainable.
We should know because we’ve been full-time digital nomads since 2019! And we had a pretty low digital nomad cost of living for a lot of that time, too.
So we mean it when we say that tussling with a blown monthly budget needn’t be your next travel horror story.
In this article, we’ll delve into all the financial aspects of the digital nomad lifestyle. All based on our personal experience.
From monthly expenses to sporadic costs and optional investments, we’ll cover it all to help you achieve a fulfilling journey as a digital nomad.
So let’s jump in! 💸
Digital Nomad Budget: Monthly Essentials
The answers to “how much do digital nomads make?” and “how much do digital nomads spend?” vary greatly. There’s no single answer.
And let’s face it, no matter where you are in the world, there’s stuff you just can’t live without each month in your digital nomad budget.
First things first: before embarking on your journey, it’s crucial to secure a comfortable place to lay your head each night.
Opting for a room in a hostel will certainly be more economical compared to splurging on a fancy hotel.
And, if you plan on an extended stay, monthly rentals in one place are a wise financial choice as they can save you a lot of money compared to multiple shorter stays within the same time frame.
Whether you’re charging your laptop to finish an important project or running a fan to combat the scorching tropical heat, one thing is certain – you’ll definitely need a reliable source of power.
Don’t let energy shortages or dead batteries dampen your day. Stay prepared and powered up for whatever comes your way!
And look at the cost of electricity in the places you’re visiting. From experience, we can confirm that aircon in Europe during a massive summer heatwave will cost a lot more than a pellet stove in the Andes during the wintertime!
Whether it’s for work, staying connected with family through video calls, or binging your favorite series on Netflix, having reliable internet is crucial for digital nomads.
However, it’s noteworthy that the quality of rental accommodations and their associated internet costs often go hand in hand.
While opting for a budget-friendly hostel may seem tempting, it’s important to consider that these shared spaces tend to accommodate a larger number of people, leading to potential bandwidth constraints.
As a result, the expected savings might dwindle once you factor in the expenses of a coworking space fee to ensure a smoother and more efficient internet experience.
👉 We love the GLocalMe hotspot because it gives you wifi anywhere and includes a global sim card!
Environmentally conscious digital nomads who strive to minimize their ecological footprint often prioritize refilling a reusable water bottle.
However, there are instances where relying on bottled water becomes the only viable choice to ensure safety and well-being in unfamiliar environments.
In these cases, there are a few steps that travelers can take to help ensure that the water is safe to drink.
To ensure the safety of bottled water, consider purchasing from reputable brands and checking expiration dates and packaging details.
Make certain the seal on plastic bottles is intact. Familiarize yourself with the quality ratings and monitoring systems in the country you’re in.
👉 We love this Lifestraw water bottle because it filters water while you drink!
Even globetrotters can’t elude the unavoidable task of doing laundry.
Personally, we prefer to opt for accommodations equipped with on-site laundry facilities. However, sometimes the cost-effectiveness of laundry services makes it a viable alternative.
During our time in Bali and Thailand, we only had to pay around $2 USD per kilogram to have our clothes professionally washed, dried, and neatly folded!
Regardless of your chosen approach, whether it’s utilizing on-site washers or drop-off services, it’s essential to budget for this necessary expense a few times each month.
Food & Drink
What’s the joy of traveling if you can’t indulge in the local cuisine and experience the unique flavors of each destination? Food and drink are just as important as visiting landmarks and embracing local customs.
Imagine savoring the exquisite flavors of aromatic curry in Thailand, tantalizing your taste buds with its rich and spicy goodness.
And while cuy, a delicacy in Cusco, might not have been our personal favorite, it was an intriguing cultural experience that allowed us to delve into the culinary traditions of Peru.
Wherever we go, we make it a point to try the local dishes, as it adds an extra layer of depth and authenticity to our travel adventures.
It’s one of our favorite aspects of being digital nomads, so we allocate a fair share of our digital nomad budget towards it.
Total Budget for Monthly Essentials
And now, for the grand total. You’re likely looking at a minimum of $1,000 USD per month if you’re a backpacker in South East Asia to well over $5,000 USD in Western Europe for a family of four.
Keep in mind, that these are ballpark figures. The true digital nomad costs for essentials could be less or more depending on your choices and needs.
Digital Nomad Budget: Non-Monthly Recurring Essentials
Living the life of a digital nomad carries certain expenses which, while non-monthly, are indeed recurring. These factors should be considered in the long-term view of your digital nomad budget.
Whether you consider yourself a minimalist, valuing simplicity and efficiency, or you enjoy pampering yourself with an indulgent self-care routine, the need to invest in essential toiletries is inevitable.
Even if you opt for travel-sized items or support locally produced goods, it’s important to recognize that these expenses can accumulate and should be carefully considered as part of your budgeting process.
This is particularly crucial if you have specific preferences, such as choosing sulfate-free shampoo to prioritize the health and well-being of your hair and scalp. (Yes, we say this from experience!)
By thoughtfully evaluating and planning for the average cost of toiletries per month for one person, you can strike a balance between self-care and financial responsibility.
Choosing the right clothing depends on your style and the climate of your stay location.
That’s why many digital nomads prefer tropical destinations, where hot weather allows for a minimal wardrobe, while winter weather necessitates specialized attire.
Our own experience taught us a valuable lesson when we embarked on a winter skiing trip in South America!
While investing in traditional or local clothing is optional, everyone needs a basic set of clothes for comfort. We don’t go anywhere without long sleeved rashguards for water activities!
To keep expenses low, you can take advantage of sales, thrift stores, or affordable markets. However, be cautious about compromising quality and ending up with repetitive shopping. Striking a balance is key.
When comes to selecting footwear for your adventures, a good pair of shoes can make all the difference in the world. Consider it a one-time investment that will provide you with long-lasting comfort and durability.
However, keep in mind that extensive travel can put a strain on your shoes, wearing them out quicker than you might expect. So, prepare yourself to invest wisely in quality shoes, especially when it comes to managing your digital nomad budget.
Remember, choosing the right footwear is a small but significant detail that enhances your overall travel experience. That’s why it’s crucial to prioritize durable and comfortable footwear when you’re constantly on the move.
We personally experienced the lasting power of Keens hiking sandals, which we purchased in 2019. They’re still going strong, unaffected by the challenges of our nomadic lifestyle.
On the other hand, the off-brand boots we impulsively bought at a shop in Chile barely lasted two months.
👉 We love Keens footwear for our whole family!
As a digital nomad, your work revolves around your tools, primarily your computer, which serves as the backbone of your productivity.
Depending on the nature of your work, you may find yourself needing to upgrade software and acquire new hardware.
You may even need to replace your computer entirely every few years to ensure seamless efficiency and keep up with the ever-evolving demands of your profession.
Investing in the right technology is crucial for maintaining your productivity and staying ahead in the dynamic world of remote work.
👉 We love HP laptops for getting our work done!
Specialist Tools Of Your Trade
Whether you are a passionate writer always seeking fresh notebooks or a skilled painter who’s armed with an assortment of brushes and canvases, one thing remains certain.
Regardless of your trade or profession, recurring work-related expenses are inevitable. They demand attention and meticulous financial planning, a constant presence regardless of the endeavor.
While planning your international travels, it’s important to note that not all countries offer the convenience of free entry or allow extended stays without incurring visa costs.
These expenses can vary significantly between destinations, particularly if you have a preference for exploring diverse continents and hopping between countries.
For instance, during our visit to Myanmar, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the visa costs were only $30 USD per person for a 30-day stay.
However, in Bolivia, visa costs for US passport holders can be quite steep, amounting to $120 USD for a single month.
These costs apply individually with no discounts available for children. Being aware of these details will help you plan and budget accordingly for your international nomad list of adventures.
The little blue (or green or red) book doesn’t last forever. You’ll need to pay for a new passport if you want to remain a digital nomad.
In the US, for adults, a renewal is required every ten years. Kids in the US have to get a whole new passport every five years, with no discounts either.
These costs, while not monthly, should be considered for long-term budget planning.
None of us want to encounter mishaps, but unfortunately, they can happen.
Whether it’s safeguarding our health, travel adventures, or protecting our valuable possessions, having insurance coverage is a prudent choice.
Being prepared for life’s unexpected challenges is far preferable to facing significant financial burdens later on.
Remember, it’s wiser to invest in decent travel health insurance now rather than having to bear the costs of major surgeries or accidents without any financial protection in place.
Prioritize your peace of mind. Get the right insurance coverage before leaving home so you don’t wish you could time travel to get it!
Total Budget for Non-Monthly Essentials
When factoring in these recurring but non-monthly necessities, the total additional budget can range between $200 to $500, depending on your specific needs and long term travel lifestyle.
Remember, while these costs don’t come up monthly, it can be beneficial to distribute them over the course of the year to avoid any sudden significant dent in your monthly economic plans.
Digital Nomad Budget: Serious Potential Expenses
Life as a digital nomad can bring along unforeseen, one-time expenses that you must consider in your overall budget. While these aren’t recurring, they can significantly impact your finances if they’re not planned for.
Emergency Medical Expenses
Though insurance often covers serious medical issues, there can be minor incidents or general check-ups that fall outside insurance coverage.
Little things like pharmacists’ bills or dental checkups can add up, especially if you’re in a pricier part of the world.
It’s also a good idea to look at what your healthcare insurance actually covers, so you know which medical expenses will be out of pocket and can plan accordingly.
Lost or Stolen Items
While it’s not something anyone wishes for, there may come a time when you unexpectedly lose or have something valuable stolen from you.
By allocating a portion of your budget towards these unfortunate incidents, you can alleviate panic and financial hardships down the road.
Being prepared for such mishaps is not only practical but also brings peace of mind.
Phone Loss or Damage
Losing or damaging your phone can be a costly affair, especially if it’s a more valuable model.
Beyond the price of a new phone, remember there may also be costs associated with moving your number, unlocking new devices, and replacing apps or ClassIn vs Zoom: Which is Best for Online Teachers?software you paid for.
Major Equipment Replacement
At some point, it’s inevitable that your laptop, camera, or other indispensable work tools will need to be replaced.
Whether they break, get stolen, or become outdated, having a plan in place for their replacement is essential.
Flight, Travel Changes, or Cancellations
Flight cancellations, changes, or even missing your bus or coach can inevitably add extra costs to your journey.
While some tickets do come with refunds or rescheduling options, that’s not always the case.
Sometimes it’s an airline software glitch that accidentally deleted your pre-paid luggage from your ticket and the airline staff makes you repay for it.
Weird stuff happens when traveling so that you’re left fishing out an unexpected amount from your pocket.
Budgeting for Unpredicted Expenses
Because these expenses can be large and difficult to predict, consider keeping a dedicated ’emergency’ savings account or fund.
You may decide to add $50, $100, or $200 per month into this fund. The exact amount will depend on your overall budget, livelihood, and where you are in the world.
Remember that a certain level of uncertainty is inherently part of the digital nomad lifestyle. By planning for the unexpected, you’ll be better equipped to handle whatever comes your way!
Digital Nomad Budget: Optional but Desireable Expenses
While the digital nomad lifestyle demands adaptability and sometimes minimalism, there are additional costs that, although optional, often enrich your experience. Here are some considerations for your digital nomad budget.
Though not mandatory, many remote workers prefer to work from dedicated co-working spaces.
They not only provide a conducive working environment but also offer an opportunity to connect with like-minded people, making the isolated digital nomad life more sociable.
Costs can range from daily, weekly, and monthly passes, depending on your use.
Exploring new locations and local cuisines, and experiencing regional festivals or entertainment. These are essential aspects of the digital nomad lifestyle.
We couldn’t go to Peru without seeing Machu Picchu! Or to Guatemala without seeing the Tikal ruins.
While they vary drastically depending on your location and tastes, setting aside some of your digital nomad budget for these ‘fun’ expenses will ensure you enjoy your nomad life to the fullest.
Gym and Fitness
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important, especially when your work involves prolonged periods of sitting.
Gym memberships, fitness classes, or sports activities are measures that digital nomads often opt for to stay fit and active.
The fees can vary depending on the country, city, and type of activity you choose. Personally, we prefer hiking to gyms but we budget for this, too.
Regardless of whether you’re in an online or offline setting, acquiring the language of the host country can greatly enhance your experience and minimize any initial apprehension.
It not only unlocks a multitude of opportunities for authentic local encounters but also enriches your overall stay.
From ergonomic backpacks and a sturdy pair of hiking boots to quality camping equipment and microphones for your video calls – quality travel gear maximizes experience and minimizes discomfort.
Although these are one-time investments, it’s good to account for these in your travel budget if you’re planning on such activities.
Remember, these are all completely optional and entirely depend on personal preferences and lifestyle choices.
They’re meant to make your digital nomad experience more enjoyable and enriching, not to strain your budget. So, consider them and see which ones align with your vision of your digital nomad lifestyle.
A cardinal rule for a digital nomad budget: total expenses must align with total earnings.
Digital Nomad Budget Calculator
Use whole numbers (no decimals) to calculate your basic digital nomad budget below!
FAQs for Digital Nomad Budgets
Do you still have questions about making your digital nomad budget? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.
How much should I budget for as a digital nomad?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, it’s crucial to remember that your spending should not outpace your earnings. If you want to be a digital nomad for a month, or even longer, the cost of living can vary greatly based on your location and lifestyle.
For some, your digital nomad budget per month may be less than $1,000 USD, while for others, it may exceed $5,000 USD monthly.
What are some mandatory expenses for a digital nomad?
Essential monthly expenses typically include accommodation, food, internet/Wi-Fi, and utilities like water and electricity. Other expenses such as laundry, regular toiletries, clothing, and digital nomad jobs tools occur on a recurring but not necessarily monthly basis.
What are some unforeseen expenses I should be prepared for?
Unexpected costs might include replacing broken equipment, visa fees, travel insurance, or medical emergencies. Always have a contingency plan (besides racking up debt on credit cards) for these unplanned expenditures.
How much do you need to make to be a digital nomad?
If you’re traveling solo, you’ll need to make at least $1,500-$2,000/month to live a comfortable digital nomad lifestyle. This could be through working online with a corporate job or freelancing. Of course, living on less is possible if necessary.
If you’re traveling with a family, costs will vary depending on the size of the family and what kind of activities they do while traveling. In Europe for example, costs can be much higher than in Southeast Asia or Africa due to the higher cost of living and travel there.
You would most likely need to make at least $5,000/month to sustain this type of life depending on your lifestyle and location.
How to become a digital nomad?
Living the life of a digital nomad can seem like an impossible dream. In reality, it is entirely possible to become one with the right mindset and dedication. The key is to plan ahead, set achievable goals, and become comfortable with an ever-evolving lifestyle.
To become a digital nomad, ensure a location-independent source of income, such as an online business or a remote job. Prioritize health while traveling, staying active, and eating well. Research visa requirements beforehand to avoid legal complications abroad.
Final Thoughts on Digital Nomad Budgeting
Managing your finances as a digital nomad is about proper planning, flexibility, and staying mindful of your expenses.
Crafting a digital nomad budget requires prioritizing monthly expenses like accommodation, utilities, food, and internet.
It is also important to consider periodic costs such as clothing, toiletries, travel documents, and work tools. Embracing unpredictable and discretionary expenses is part of the lifestyle.
Maintaining sustainability hinges on finding a balance between spending and income, through mindful and flexible budgeting. Adapt as your travel plans and lifestyle evolve.
In essence, whether you’re a single backpacker or a family traveler, understanding and managing your budget efficiently is the key to fully enjoying and sustaining the digital nomad lifestyle.