Originally posted Dec 8, 2017 – Updated Feb 24, 2022
Today I was chatting with a friend who inspired me to write a post about how to live on $16 a day as a digital nomad. Actually, she told me to write about how I’m living on $8 a day, but that didn’t include my hotel/lodging cost. So, if anyone has wondered about a real-life budget–what it actually costs to live abroad as a location independent online freelancer or entrepreneur, here’s a real example from me.
living on $16 a day as a digital nomad is not a lot of money!
You may have already figured that out, and you’d be right. This is actually my self-imposed frugal budget while I am either between paydays or am saving up to travel or some other thing. Currently, I am doing both. I’m waiting to get paid and I need cash to do some traveling in the next two weeks when my good friend will be in the country.
$16 x 30 days equals $480 for the month. Now, my actual budget lately has been between $600-$800 a month, which is more realistic and comfortable, although by no means luxurious.
Let’s go ahead and break down both $480 a month and $600-$800 a month to see what these amounts will afford you as a new digital nomad, living freely in the world.
(A private $8 room at Hotel Check-Inn Cuenca, Ecuador)
For $480 a month, or $16 a day, this is what my daily life looks like in Cuenca, Ecuador where I currently am:
- $8.00 – a night at my budget hostel for a private room with shared bath.
- Free – breakfast at the hostel, or skip it and wait for lunch (by choice! I don’t always like to eat breakfast.)
- Free – walk around and explore
- $1.50 – tasty slow-roasted pork sandwich from a local purveyor.
- $1.50 – coffee or iced tea at the local coffee shop (tip included) while I get some work done.
- Free – walk around, go to a free museum, park, etc.
- $4.75 – dinner and a beer from one of many affordable restaurants.
- $1.50 – a large beer to take home for more work, reading, or watching a movie.
Total = $17.25… Damn! I’m over budget. This is going to be a tough week… 😉
Let’s calculate a more reasonable budget.
If you’re just in the planning stages of becoming a location independent online earner, I would definitely recommend your monthly income goal be closer to $800 or more. $600 per month or less is technically doable, as I’m proving, but it’s much more of a struggle.
At $800 a month, plan on stashing around $200 of that away for traveling within your region or country, fun activities, and getting to your next destination. That leaves $600, or $20 a day. Broken down:
- $8.00 – a night in the same private room at the budget hostel.
- Free – breakfast or skip it!
- $2.75 – a super filling and delicious set lunch at one of several tasty spots around town. This includes soup, meat, salad, rice, beans, fresh juice, and sometimes even dessert. (This amount includes a 10% tip.)
- $1.50 – coffee or tea while you work.
- $4.75 – dinner and a beer or dessert.
- $3.00 – two large beers for the house (or other snack/treat.)
Total = $20.00 Woohoo, on budget!
If you’re only earning $480 a month, you are not traveling or doing much of anything!
With that amount you are going to feel pretty broke and left only doing free things within your immediate area. But, this strict budget can be great for motivating you to get some serious work done! I’m making some great progress with my blog, for instance, and getting my other work done.
The moral of this story is that if you are able to earn $150-$200 a week online, you can afford to live the life of the digital nomad. You should aim for more to allow for fun activities (and your onward air travel especially), but if you’re at the point where you need to get out and see the world, start with what you’ve got and hit the road!