How Expensive Is It to Be a Digital Nomad?

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It’s not just me who is really fond of becoming a Digital Nomad, but the entire world seems to become more and more interested in this type of lifestyle. Being a digital nomad means that you travel the world and see amazing places, all while working remotely. With the internet available everywhere and with more and more options to work remotely (either for a company or for yourself as a freelancer or business owner), it makes sense that adventurous people want to take on this type of lifestyle. And who would say no to being able to swim in the beautiful waters in Thailand one month, then climb up the mountains in Switzerland next month, only to explore the forests and rural lifestyle in Ecuador next? Being a digital nomad sure is fun and sounds great, but everybody fears: isn’t being a digital nomad expensive? Well, we’ll try to answer this questions in this article: how expensive it actually is to be a digital nomad?

First of all, before getting into business, I should note that at the moment of writing this I am not a 100% digital nomad. This is my dream and I will make it happen someday: I dream of living in the Philippines for three months, then explore all the countries in Asia, move to South America and so on. I have a family and it’s a bit more difficult to do it with a really young kid (more on that in another article), but we still gave it a shot last year when we spent an entire month exploring Europe – read about our trip plans here. Finally, there is a BIG difference between being a digital nomad and traveling. The big difference? A digital nomad tries to combine working with leisure and usually has to work in order to sustain this type of lifestyle. So it’s a bit more difficult to be a digital nomad than just travel the world spending all your savings (even though this works as well!)

But how expensive it is to be a digital nomad?

If we were to base it on our spending during our one month of nomading, I would have to say that you’d be spending about 3,000 Euros (about $3,260) per month: this is the amount we spent. I say “we” because I traveled together with my wife and 2-year old son. However, we were so excited to do this that we rushed everything: during the 30 days of digital nomading, we visited six countries and nine cities in Europe. If we had traveled slower, our costs would’ve been lower because we would’ve gotten weekly deals (or monthly) for our apartments (we do everything via AirBnb – click here to get 18 Euros to spend on it). Also, transportation costs would’ve been lower since we wouldn’t have had to go on and off airplanes or trains or buses so often.

Enjoying our AirBnb rental in Budapest
Enjoying our AirBnb rental in Budapest

Therefore, I believe that the key to being a digital nomad, especially if you’re on a tight budget as we are right now (we can’t afford spending $3,000 per month!) is slow travel. Instead of rushing through countries to see as much as possible – and forget everything as soon as it’s all over, travel slower. My ideal pace would be one month per city/country. That would be enough to help you get to know people, really experience the culture and live like a local. That would also reduce the costs a lot in many areas: you’d be able to save more money by cooking at home, you’d pay less rent and so on. For example, a quick search on accommodation in Munich on AirBnb, since this was the most expensive city we visited, shows that you can find a one bedroom apartment in a central location for 1,130 Euros per month, while the daily rate for the same place is 109 Euros PER NIGHT! So you’d be saving a whooping 2,140 Euros on accommodation only!

It all depends on how you travel

Most digital nomads are not like me. They are single people who can (and should) keep costs even lower: you don’t need a one bedroom apartment when you travel alone. In this case, a studio or even a room in a shared apartment would be enough (and a lot cheaper). Trying the same search in Munich, but for a private room instead of a one-bedroom reduces the monthly lodging costs to as low as 500 Euros. Now that’s decent for one of the most expensive cities rent-wise in Europe!

Do you like fancy restaurants? Well, who doesn’t? But fancy restaurants are expensive. Home cooked chicken breasts with french fries might not look as good on Facebook as eating a fancy meal at a restaurant, but it saves you a ton of money. What would you like to get, in the end? Very expensive poop or the opportunity to LIVE anywhere you want and have great memories in the process? You should not live to eat, you should not live to impress others. You should live for yourself, you should live to make more and more amazing memories. Experiences are more valuable than caviar!

My digital nomad "office" for a few years now
My digital nomad “office” for a few years now

I know people in both extremes: those who go all hippie: backpacking, sleeping in tents, hitchhiking and living on a few dollars per day and I know people who are spending over 20,000 per month as digital nomads. This means that, no matter how much you’re making, if you really want to do it, you can do it.

Being a digital nomad is as expensive as you want it to be.

Before leaving for our one month nomading adventure throughout Europe, after reading forums, after checking out cost of living articles and doing all the math, I budgeted 5,000 Euros for the trip. Those were ALL our savings and I was ready to give them all away just because I have a dream and just because I love this. And even though we had all that money on us, we managed to bring the costs down to 3,000. And this was our first real nomading experience: we learned a lot during this time and I am sure that if we were to do it again, we’d spend at least 500 Euros less.

And we still enjoyed every second of our adventure, never feeling that we’re not getting everything we could out of this. We ate out, we enjoyed local food, we visited great places and slept in great apartments. It was great and it proves that you don’t have to spend a fortune to become a digital nomad. Just know your limits, know your needs and always, ALWAYS try to optimize costs.

What other people are saying about the costs of being a digital nomad

Of course, since I’m not the only one interested in how much does it cost to be a digital nomad, other people wrote about this. For example, Erin at Neverending Voyage shared her yearly nomading costs for the past four years. The results? About $2,500 per month. Mish at Making it Anywhere has an amazing article as well, detailing everything about digital nomading and proving that not just how you travel matters, but also where: they’re spending about $3,400 per month (for two people) in Europe, while living in the still-cheaper SE Asia costs them just $1,700 per month. Also, if you read comments and talk to people, you will find out that many are doing solo digital nomading for as low as $1,000 per month, while enjoying a good life. That’s amazing!

Conclusion

Being a digital nomad is not necessarily expensive if you can accept that you’re not leaving your life behind to live like a King or Queen abroad. Being a digital nomad should be all about experiencing other cultures, meeting new people, living like a local and building a life of amazing memories, not drinking champagne while in a Jacuzzi in your 5-star hotel. Of course, if you can afford the latter, there’s no reason not to do it if you want to, but you can still do it living in a tiny room: you’re not spending too much time inside anyway because you have to explore!

So are you a digital nomad? How much are you spending per month to keep this dream alive? What countries/continents do you prefer to visit and where did you find it cheaper to live in? Let us know in the comment section below!

2 COMMENTS

  1. +1 for any article that uses the phrase “very expensive poop”.

    I always feel like people need to remember to not get *too* caught up in making expenses as cheap as possible: better to spend a bit more in a place you want to be than to suffer somewhere because it’s less expensive.

    • Great point! Traveling should be all about pleasant experiences and if that becomes a drag, then it makes no sense. Just go out there and enjoy things – if you can’t, wait until you can! 🙂

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