The Economics of Living a Digital Nomad Lifestyle
Could travelling while you work be cheaper than staying put?
If you work online, could it possibly make more sense financially for you to travel while you work, rather than to stay put in the one spot?
You wouldn’t think so, but for some (myself included) this is often the case!
If you’re from an expensive city like Melbourne (my home town), Sydney, New York, London etc., then you know all about how much it can cost just to live a basic existence.
In this post I’m going to break down the costs of living 3 different ways:
1) Living permanently in an expensive city such as Melbourne
2) Living the cheap Digital Nomad lifestyle, travelling through South East Asia
3) Living a higher class Digital Nomad lifestyle, travelling all over the world in style
The aim of this post is to show you just how economic it can be to own less things and to travel around while you work. If you have the ability to work from anywhere with an internet connection, you might want to start packing after this post!
NOTE – all prices in this post are AUD
If you prefer to watch videos rather than read blog posts, I have a video version of this post that you can watch below instead, or watch as you read along with the post!
OPTION 1: MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
These are the approximate costs for living in the outer-suburbs of Melbourne. If you were to live in the city centre, it could be even more expensive! This provides a range of prices, dependent on how often you want to go out, what things you like to buy, and just how cheaply you’re trying to live!
• Cost of rent for 1-bedroom apartment in outer suburbs: $1200 p/month
• Utilities + Internet: $100 – $250 p/month
• Food/Groceries: $300 – 400 p/month
• Phone: $40 – $70 p/month
• Transport: $30 – $400 p/month (public transport vs. car payment)
• Activities/Going Out once per week: $200 – $600 p/month
TOTAL = $1870 to $2920 per month
$22,440 to $35,040 per year
OPTION 2: THAILAND
Here, I’m going to assume you’ll spend 6 months of the year in the Digital Nomad hub of Chiang Mai. For the other 6, we’ll have you living down on the islands. On the lower end, these costs are for those bootstrapping, catching the bus/train, never going out, and eating only Thai food. On the upper end, are the costs for living a more-expensive, enjoyable lifestyle, eating western, renting a bike, flying instead of taking the bus or train, partying a couple of times a week, and in general living a pretty baller lifestyle for Asia!
• Cost of rent for 1-bedroom apartment: $150 – $500 p/month
• Utilities + Internet: $40 – $100 p/month
• Food/Groceries: $170 – $500 p/month
• Phone: $8 – $30 p/month
• Transport: $15 – $150 p/month
• Activities/Going Out: $0 – $400 p/month
• Co-working Space (Optional): $120
• VISA run cost average per month: $40
TOTAL = $423 to $1840 per month
$5076 to $22,080 per year
OPTION 3: LIVING THE HIGH LIFE TRAVELLING ALL OVER
This option is what I consider to be ‘living the dream’. Travelling all over, staying in nice places, and not being afraid to spend a bit of money living it up! At the same time, we’re being smart in this example with how we spend our money. All accommodation is nice, but not overpriced. Some transport will be with business class flights, some economy, and in some parts of Europe it will be via train or bus.
For this example, I’ve created a bit of a rough plan so that we can estimate costs. I’m assuming that you’re travelling solo and staying in each place for 1 month at a time. Personally, I think this trip sounds pretty cool!
Here is where you will be living each month. I’ve priced nice, yet affordable AirBnb accommodation (or used my personal experience for price) and averaged it out for each of these places. We’ll start in Asia, and then move onward!
January: Bali, Indonesia = $600
February: Chiang Mai, Thailand = $300
March: Koh Phangan, Thailand = $400
April: London, England = $2500
May: Paris, France = $1600
June: Moscow, Russia = $1200
July: Barcelona, Spain = $2100
August: Lisbon, Portugal = $1400
September: Rome, Italy = $1700
October: Munich, Germany = $1500
November: Cyprus = $800
December: Dubrovnik, Croatia = $1600
Total Accommodation cost = $15,700 p/year
Per month average = $1308
Bali to Chiang Mai economy class flight = $490
Chiang Mai to Koh Phangan economy class flight = $250
Ko Phangan to Bangkok economy flight = $160
Bangkok to London business class flight = $1400
London to Paris train (first class cabin) = $160
Paris to Moscow business class flight = $830
Moscow to Barcelona business class flight = $600
Barcelona to Lisbon business class flight = $285
Lisbon to Rome business class flight = $465
Rome to Munich economy class flight = $190
Munich to Cyprus economy class flight = $170
Cyprus to Dubrovonik economy class flight = $390
Total Transport Costs = $5390 p/year
Per month average cost = $449
For everything else, I’ve obviously had to do a bit of estimating, and for everyone these costs will vary depending on what activities you want to do, how often you go out, and your taste in restaurants. These estimates are for the person who is living well, and not counting every penny, but at the same time don’t mind eating at the cheap local spot on the corner from time to time.
Cost of Everything Else:
• Food/Groceries = $300 p/month
• Phone = $40 p/month
• Local transport around the area (taxis etc.) = $40 p/month
• Tourist activities = $200 p/month
• Restaurants/Clubs = $500 p/month
• Co-working spaces = $120 p/month
• Souvenirs & other random purchases = $50
Total average cost per month = $1250
Total cost per year = $15,000
So, to live this cool lifestyle where you’re staying in nice AirBnb accommodation, moving every month, taking 5 business class flights a year, going out to nice restaurants and clubs, doing tourist activities, and in general living the high life, how much does it all add up to?
Accommodation = $15,700
Transport = $5,390
Other Living Costs = $15,000
GRAND TOTAL PER YEAR = $36,090
PER MONTH = $3,007
PER DAY = $99
This works out to be pretty much the same as a mediocre life in Melbourne! But, instead of staying put, you get to see 12 different cities and meet a ton of new people!
You could of course, make this even cheaper. You could cut out the business class flights, stay in cheaper accommodation, and plan the locations out differently so that you could easily travel from place to place via train or bus. On the other hand, you could easily make it more expensive too. You could stay in fancier places, make all of your flights business class, and go out more. Even then, spending much more than $50,000 could be challenging!
Personally, I just picked a handful of places that looked cool to me, decided which flights I’d want to fly in business class for, and the times of the year to travel to each place when the weather looked decent and/or cool events are on!
To sum it all up
Whether you’re wanting to bootstrap it, or if you have some cash to spare, moving about rather than staying put can definitely be the better choice financially. Your quality of life will be dramatically higher, and you’ll get to have so many amazing experiences.
I know of many people who earn a comfortable 6-figure income in Australia, yet struggle financially. If you choose to buy a house rather than rent, get a nice car, go out once a week, and maybe take a short trip or two each year, you can easily burn through $100,000 a year in Australia without living an incredible lifestyle at all.
On the other hand, if you have the ability to make that same $100,000 online, and you’re in the position where you can travel the world, you can do so in style and still save a ton of cash!
If you’re in the position to do it, why wouldn’t you? And if not, maybe this has given you something to work towards!
Until next time,
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