Being a digital nomad is a life-changing experience that lets you explore new places, find out how little you really need to get by, and cross paths with people you might never otherwise have met. It’s a personal journey that tests you and makes you more independent, insightful, and confident. However, you can’t just decide one day to hit the road. A nomadic lifestyle takes careful planning. And a lot of that planning involves money.
You don’t need to win the lottery to be able to afford to travel, but you do need to have a reasonable financial plan. Here are four strategies to help you reach your goal to afford to live a nomadic lifestyle.
Settle Things at Home
To start a nomadic lifestyle, you need to put some closure on your old one—even if it’s just a temporary plan. Things like housing, utilities, and other details need to be taken care of before you can embark on your long-term journey. If you don’t settle things at home, chances are you’ll end up spending more money than you need to.
- Make a plan for your house or apartment. If you own your home or are locked into a lease, try renting or subletting your home or apartment while you’re away. By managing your home remotely, you ensure your place is taken care of and also secure a good income stream to help support paying for your travels.
- Downsize your possessions. You can’t take everything with you, but you may not be ready to give up all your belongings either. Go through your stuff, decide what’s essential, get rid of anything you don’t need or want, and put the sentimental or “must keep” items in storage. Don’t pay for storage on things you don’t want anymore.
- Cancel utilities. Remember to cancel subscriptions you won’t need, halt utilities, and close any accounts that won’t be relevant. No need having unnecessary bills while you’re away.
- Set a legal address. One challenge some digital nomads have is setting a “home” address. Ask a family member or trusted friend if you can reroute your mail to their house. However, be sure to meet any legal requirements, including setting up a way to calculate and cover your taxes and expenses.
Once you have a plan in place for your “old” life, you can start planning your new one. This is where the fun begins.
Set a Budget for Your Nomadic Lifestyle
Going on the road means you can ditch traditional expenses, such as rent and utilities, but you’ll also incur new ones. You’ll have to plan for accommodations, transportation, food, mobile data, and any excursions you want to go on. Be sure to prioritize your expenses and don’t plan to put all of them on a credit card so you don’t sink yourself in debt.
- Start a spreadsheet (or another preferred visual aid) and list your income streams and expenses. Always know what you’re working with, and be sure to plan for an emergency fund because things don’t always go as planned.
- Plan for at least six months of living expenses before your anticipated departure date.
- Try to determine the primary cities you want to see, so you have a good idea of the cost of living – some cities are much more expensive than others! You might want to add another line on your budget to help pay for the pricier destinations so you have some buffer in your spending.
- Set up automatic bill pay where you can so you don’t accidentally miss any payments and incur penalties.
- Set up a system where you can compare your receipts to help you stay on budget.
Once you know approximately how much you’ll be spending (and add 25 percent on top of that number), you can then turn your attention to income.
Fund Your Nomadic Lifestyle by Planning Your Income
As you get ready to travel from location to location, you’ll need to figure out how to have a steady income. Can you work remotely? Do you have skills you can sell as a service? Do you plan to take on local jobs?
- Develop several streams of income. You don’t want to keep all your eggs in one basket in case a major client bails or something else happens to disrupt your income flow.
- Make planning for connectivity a priority. As a digital nomad, you’ll need reliable internet on a regular basis. Buy a data plan that meets your high needs and take the time to map out all the coffee shops, libraries, or other places you can find wi-fi along the way.
- Plan to attend trade shows and conferences. If you work remotely for an employer, you might be able to get your company to cover some of your travel expenses. If you are a solopreneur, chances are networking would be a good investment – increase your brand awareness while meeting new people.
- If you want to work locally, be sure you do it legally. If you need a visa or other documentation, plan to secure it in advance.
While you may be able to adapt during your time on the road to find additional revenue streams, it’s best to plan as much as you possibly can in advance.
Determine Your Route
One of the best things about becoming a digital nomad is the freedom associated with this lifestyle. That being said, you should still set up a route and schedule – even if it’s a loose one – so you can plan both your budget and income needs.
- If you have expensive cities on your route, plan to visit these in the off-season. This way, you can score some lower prices for transportation and accommodations.
- Determine the length of time you’ll stay in each place. Keep in mind, the longer you stay in one place, the cheaper it’ll be.
- Explore less-expensive cities. You can stretch your money further in Philadelphia than you can in New York City.
You will want to be able to pay for your expenses associated with each stop. Be sure to do your research to find good deals and prep yourself to choose the smartest options when it comes to prices.
Living a nomadic lifestyle is a unique experience. You get the opportunity to learn about different cultures, discover new ways to live, and attain a valuable understanding of the world. Not to mention, the personal growth you’ll gain. However, you do need a plan. But once you get your proverbial ducks in a row, you’ll be ready to embark on your adventure.
Molly Barnes is a full-time digital nomad, exploring and working remotely in different cities in the US, along with her boyfriend Jacob. Molly and Jacob created the website Digital Nomad Life to share their journey and help others to pursue a nomadic lifestyle.