In January 2020, Corritta Lewis, her wife, and their newborn son sold almost all of their belongings and packed up the rest to set off on a global adventure. It was a decision that would change their lives forever. But don’t get it twisted — they didn’t make this decision in haste. Instead, Lewis says, it took careful itinerary plotting and some extreme financial planning, too. By Stacey Leasca
“We started off saving. We cut all of our expenses and debt,” says Lewis. “We paid off our car. Whenever we bought things, we used Facebook Marketplace; we didn’t buy new stuff. And then, when we didn’t need it anymore, we sold it on Facebook Marketplace, too.”
Lewis says the couple saved USD 50,000 (INR 39,44,575) toward their trip prior to departure. But they weren’t done. They carved a path for remote work and spent time building their shared website, It’s a Family Thing, to bring in extra cash. According to Lewis, the blog now pulls in a four-figure income.
“If you can find remote jobs, go for it,” says Lewis. “And if not, why not create your own source of income?”
Saving, finding remote work, and figuring out a secondary source of income are just a few things that allow digital nomads, a growing number of travellers who stay on the road for weeks, months, or even years at a time, to thrive all over the world. If you’re ready to make the leap like Lewis, here are some more financial tips that digital nomads say helped them stay afloat and travel full-time.
7 financial tips from digital nomads to ensure smooth travel plans
Plan as far in advance as possible
For Katherine Cafaro of Katie Caf Travel, the financial planning phase began a full year in advance of her departure.
“During 2020, I didn’t leave my house at all, so I had accumulated a bit of saving,” she says. “This, coupled with the stock boom we had in 2021, helped me feel financially secure enough to start nomading.”
“I saved up money for two years before I left my job. I lived in New York City, an expensive city, but I cut all unnecessary expenses,” says Irvin. “For me, it’s a lot easier to budget when there’s a clear goal in mind. For example, it was easier to cook my lunch versus eating out because I knew the money I was saving would go toward meals abroad instead.”
In those two years, Irvin says she accumulated USD 27,000 (INR 21,30,637).
Pick destinations where your money will go further
Digital nomads are in it for the long haul, meaning they don’t need to visit the “must-see” destinations right away. Instead, try and think about starting at a few spots where your money can stretch a bit further.
“In the beginning, I was travelling very cheaply in Southeast Asia, where my money would take me further, completely depending on savings,” says Kristin Addis, CEO of Be My Travel Muse. “I only slept in shared dorms, ate street food, and eventually resorted to hitchhiking in China to keep going.”
Consider travelling around the off-season months
“If you have the flexibility of time, you’ll have a significant advantage in terms of cost savings,” says Rax Suen, founder of NomadsUnveiled. This method of travelling to destinations on their shoulder or off-season, Suen says, can help you score cheaper deals on everything from flights to accommodations to local activities, which will only help you get to know a place better.
But if you can’t work around the high and low seasons, Oneika Raymond, the world traveller behind @oneikatraveller, has one more tip: Use your credit card points.
“When travelling long-term, especially with my family, my goal is to maximise my reward earnings and look for ways to offset our travel costs using points,” says Raymond. “With the rising cost of airfare and accommodations, points are crucial to making the most of our budget — and they allow us to continue to check epic experiences off our ever-growing list. I like to use PayPal’s Pay With Rewards program because it makes our credit card points — across most of my credit cards — usable for more everyday purchases like clothing and car rentals at millions of businesses, in addition to the bigger-ticket items like flights and hotels.”
Get creative with housing
Sure, peer-to-peer home rental sites are great for short-term accommodations, but as Cafaro suggests, you may want to look into alternatives, especially if you’re working on the go.
“I usually choose to stay in coliving communities. They’re more expensive than renting stand-alone apartments, but you get office space and a hotel room, so I think they’re worth it,” she says. “Right now, my favourites are Outpost in Bali and the Selina chain in Latin America. All of my utilities are usually wrapped into the cost of housing, so I never have to worry about setting up water, Wi-Fi, or anything like that.”
If you choose to rent a home, Cafaro suggests you do your homework by asking friends, digital nomad groups, or locals.
“The most surprising thing I’ve learned financially while travelling is how much it matters where you book something,” says Cafaro. “For instance, I was paying USD 750 (INR 59,166) a month to rent an apartment in Merida, Mexico, a friend was paying USD 1,200 (INR 94,666), and another friend was only paying USD 250 (INR 19,722). All the apartments were of similar quality. In fact, my friend who was paying USD 250 (INR 19,722) had a better location, and I was paying three times as much.”
Find a job that allows you to work from anywhere
The good news is remote work appears to be here to stay, and the job market is looking better than ever. That’s why Tim White, founder of Milepro, says digital nomads should start looking for a remote-friendly workplace right now.
“Get a job that allows you to work from anywhere. Companies have become far more open to remote work since the pandemic started,” says White. “If you can work while travelling the world, you’ll be able to significantly reduce the cost of your vacations because you’ll be earning income while travelling. Moreover, countries like Barbados are offering generous remote work visas, like the Barbados Welcome Stamp, for digital nomads.”
Can’t find a job that allows you to have this lifestyle? Digital nomad Danielle Hu says you can make it on your own.
“I’m the founder of The Wanderlover, a travel and entrepreneurship brand I started five years ago that has grown to a community of more than 1,06,000 on Instagram,” says Hu. “I started my Instagram [account] while I was working a corporate job that I hated in New York City as a creative outlet to form a community of other travel lovers. Wanderlover’s mission is to inspire and help people design a life they love by building creative online businesses. I’m absolutely obsessed with enabling travel and freedom through entrepreneurship because it literally changed my life.”
Hu says, since quitting her corporate job, she’s travelled to more than 20 countries, living and working with luxury resorts and tourism boards around the world.
“I’m actually coming up on five years of full-time travel, having lived in Brazil, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Bali, France, Portugal, and remote islands around the world. During this time, I’ve grown and built a platform as an online business coach, so I can enable others to do the same.”
Stay in destinations a little longer than usual
It can be tempting to hop from place to place, ensuring you see as much of the world as possible, but Ravi Davda, CEO of Rockstar Marketing, says it’s likely more sustainable — and more rewarding — to slow down and savour each destination.
“I’m a full-time traveller and have been living away from the UK for the past 18 months,” says Davda. “I’m very different from others, though, and travel slowly. My wife and I (and our dog) usually move around every three to six months. Our next destination will be Thessaloniki in Greece, and we’re going to move there in July. We like to do it this way because we can work, but secondly, we like to get to know people and the culture in that place. Otherwise, it seems too quick. We both work so we can spend freely and save at the same time.”
Don’t go for the all-or-nothing approach
Suen says travel doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing experience that makes you burn through your savings in a day or two.
“It can be carefully planned out as a practical lifestyle choice. As the digital nomad hype keeps building…there’s a misconception that the lifestyle is all about travel and fun first,” says Suen. “From speaking with other nomads through [my] podcast, it’s important to note that most digital nomads are actually pretty disciplined entrepreneurs or workers. And many are working toward freedom in many areas of life apart from just the geographical aspect. If you want to build a business or career to create a sustainable lifestyle, consider how to take your career remote first, then the travel can just be tagged in later.”
(This story first appeared on travelandleisure.com)
(Hero and Feature image credits: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images)