When you move to another country, everything is new. There are lots of bright shiny objects to buy and many places to explore. Even when you get the basics in place, the opportunities seem to be multiplying every day. Suddenly, you may find that the money is quickly running out even if you control yourself and not take advantage of all the opportunities presenting themselves. What you need is a way to track your expenses and keep yourself on budget.
So how can a digital nomad track expenses and keep them low and on a budget? The easiest way to budget and track expenses is to:
*Use mobile applications which can help you track
*Create a realistic budget
*Have some money saved for real emergencies
*Check the cost of living of the country you are in
*Use budget airlines and search for discounts
*Find ways to save daily
A digital nomad is living while traveling and traveling often, so the need for tracking expenses may be higher than if they were living at home and traveling occasionally. While going from one location to another, it is easy to pay less attention to financial matters. However, if you neglect particular aspects, you risk ending up broke in foreign territory. A digital nomad can track expenses and reduce them to a minimum by picking up an array of money-saving tips.
Use Mobile Applications Which Can Help You Track Expenses
There are lots of applications, both mobile and computer available for download. One idea is to focus on mobile apps, simply because your mobile phone is almost always with you, especially when traveling or out in the city. Mobile applications on your phone come in lots of different formats and can be detailed or simple in terms of the type of info you record about the cost. My favorite is the applications that allow you to take a quick picture of the receipt or the item because if I need more info, I can get it from the image at a later time.
The benefits of tracking by mobile application are that with a lot of them, they can give you different snapshots of your expenses and categories of costs on a weekly or monthly dashboard. Seeing the trends that you have in your expenses can give you more determination to reduce or save in a specific category.
While it is not necessary to track every single expense if you start tracking, it will help you save. The point is to see where you are spending the most and to find solutions or alternatives to the spending. It allows you to save where you can, purposely, or at least remind you of the tradeoffs.
Create a Realistic Budget
Digital nomads always have many variable costs: from Airbnbs to flights, to Visa fees. Also, your income might change occasionally, especially for freelancers. It is, therefore, essential to coming up with a budget to track your expenses and income. You can choose to use expense-tracking apps like Mint to carefully follow your net spending or a spreadsheet to put down your spending plans.
While you do not have to record every expense, it is always helpful to watch your spending in particular categories such as housing, travel expenses, and food. With such estimates in mind, you will always have a sense of how much money you have for leisure, restaurants, and such experiences.
It will take a lot of time to get into the habit of strictly following a budget, but once you master this skill, you will always be in control of your total expenses. Discipline is your friend when it comes to making a budget, tracking, and sticking to it.
Have Some Money Saved for Real Emergencies
From canceled flights to extending your stay in a foreign land due to illness, we can all agree that unforeseen expenses can always pop up while you are away. Put your expenses in check by saving up some cash in an emergency fund. Some financial experts recommend that you should set aside about six months’ worth of salary in your savings account. If you are beginning your digital nomad life, I would recommend setting up a savings account that is separate from your checking bank account. To this end, some banks even offer high-yields interest rates on your savings.
Once the account has been set up, automate some amount of your earnings into it every month. Using the automatic feature will assist you to forget about it until you reach your objective. Hopefully, you will not have to use this emergency fund while away, but you can always enjoy some peace of mind knowing that you have a fallback option in case an emergency occurs.
When traveling, you will be tempted to spend. It is quite possible that you will be encountering incredible cuisines and new experiences that you do not wish to miss out. However, you will regret it once you spend outside your budgetary borders. Credit cards, unfortunately, carry high-interest rates than some student loans – this makes such debt hard to settle.
With that in mind, credit cards are not all bad. Some might be useful since they do not charge any transaction fees. Just avoid spending more than your budget allows or you might find yourself trapped in a deep hole of credit card debt.
Bankers and financiers often look at “good debt” and “bad debt.” They are looking at the interest rate of loans that you take. For credit cards, it is often the case that the interest rate is high (like over 18% annual) and can get even higher if penalties are applied. Long-term loans and low-interest rate loans are considered better, and this is what they consider “good debt.” Your situations will vary, and you should connect with an advisor or at least a good friend who knows about finance before taking lots of loans.
Find Out the Cost of Living in the Country Are or Will Live In
Digital nomads enjoy the pleasures of working remotely: all they need is a stable internet connection. While traveling and working remotely seems exciting, it also comes with numerous unique challenges: the cost of living changes considerably from one place to another. For example, tenants in New York City pay about 3200 US dollars for a one-bedroom house every month. In Chiang Mai, on the other hand, tenants can rent a one-bedroom home for about 350 US dollars every month. If you choose to leave Thailand and head to Paris or London, you will be facing astronomical costs again.
In light of this problem, ensure that you do some research work on the average cost of living before leaving for your destination. That way, you will always have an estimate of how your budget might be affected, and if you will have to adjust some of your habits accordingly. For example, you might go from getting massages twice every week in Chiang Mai to only once a month in New York City.
Moreover, you might consider getting a side hustle to survive in a more expensive city than you would in cheaper areas. Of course, for the sake of being frugal and cautious, you could choose inexpensive nomad cities to visit. That way, you can save some of your money as you continue enjoying a decent standard of living.
Use Budget Airlines and Search for Discounts
Budget airlines are always popping up as a response to the ever-increasing demand for cheaper travel. The model is that the airlines will not offer you luxuries like free snacks and drinks while on transit. Some budget airlines will also charge considerably high for checking baggage, so this is something you should look into before booking your flight.
Many discount airline websites offer substantial discounts, and you should find them and make a point to search for discount flight opportunities. It can make a significant impact on your travel budget.
Find Ways to Save Daily
One way of scaling back your expenses is to keep track of your daily costs and always look for other cost-conscious means to save some more.
- Pay very close attention to gas prices since such costs might add up considerably if you are using an RV. Consider using the GasBuddy app to find out gas prices near the places you will be visiting.
- Avoid eating out; it is expensive. Vary up your home meals by cooking your food differently.
- Consider how effective co-working spaces can be. For just a few dollars every month, you will get access to basic amenities at a very cheap cost.
Working while traveling requires a few adjustments, but if you religiously follow savvy spending methods while on your travels, you can quickly get to experience the best this life has to offer in a way you like.
Some Extra Thoughts on Tracking
Having been a digital nomad, and a travel adventurer for an even longer time, I know that tracking expenses can help stretch the money when there are so many options to spend on items in new countries. I also know that in the busy days that one has when traveling, tracking is an extra step that can seem like a burden.
Don’t look at it that way. Think of it as one step closer to keeping your budget and allowing yourself to continue your lifestyle.
I once worked for an experienced sales VP, and on our first meeting he told me “You get what you measure, so let’s work out today what we want and how to measure it.” Our results at saving and also increasing sales were outstanding during my time working with him. It all started with tracking and measuring. So if you want to keep a budget so that your digital nomad life will be a little easier, measure and track those expenses.
One more extra thought – tracking is secure once it becomes a habit. Especially with a mobile phone app. Make it super easy, and you will do it without thinking. Habits are formed when it is easy to do!
Having enough money is always important, and even more so when living and traveling as a digital nomad. Tracking can help you stay on budget so that you have sufficient money. Use this to your advantage! It will eventually help your business too, but that’s for another article!
I’m the owner of Digital Nomad Explorer. I’ve traveled to over 50 countries and been an expat in Scotland, Finland, and China. I was a digital nomad while having my own robotics company and traveled throughout Europe and China working remotely. Currently, I’m location independent with a home base in Kirkkonummi, Finland.