I believe a common misconception with being a digital nomad is that you need a lot of money. Yes, flights and hotels can be expensive. However, just like having a home base, I think you can live cheaply, splurge, or live somewhere in between.
Andrew and I have been on the road for two years now. We moved out of our apartment in San Francisco and started living out of Airbnbs. Out of curiosity, I wanted to break down our spend. Which category are we spending the most? Where can we cut down?
Money is always such a touchy topic but I hope the numbers below are a helpful benchmark. I'll include some tips as well for those who are thinking about hitting the road.
First, some background
To be clear, being a digital nomad is quite different from traveling.
We are not:
- Hitting up the top tourist attractions in every city
- Bouncing from city to city every few days
- Staying in fancy hotels or ryokans
- Working a pretty standard work week either from co-working spaces or, more commonly, coffee shops
- Exploring the city on weekends
- Still living comfortably, usually away from the city center in more local areas
Some other factors from our personal situation:
- We are traveling as a couple. Being able to split accommodations saves us a significant amount of money.
- Most of our stays in a city are for one month. We find it's a good balance between seeing a lot while not constantly on the move.
- Early on when it was just Andrew and I, we didn't care much about time zones. Now that we have more customers and a team, we tend to stick to North American and European time zones.
Onto the numbers! I'll be breaking it down by category and using numbers from 12 months of travel, in USD. Your mileage may vary.
Housing is our biggest expense. We usually try to budget around $1,000 for an Airbnb for the month. In expensive cities like London, that meant staying in a private room with a host. In cheap cities like Bangkok, that meant getting a one bedroom condo for below budget.
We usually opt for an entire apartment because we work a lot and we have expensive equipment with us. Also, you never know when you might land a crazy host for the month. We've been lucky with our few hosts!
The only way we're able to stay under this budget is by staying for at least month. Airbnbs are significantly more expensive for short stays. A lot of them have discounts built in for longer stays.
12 Month Total: $15,880
Monthly average per person: $662