Digital Nomad Cost of Living: How to Afford the Remote Work Lifestyle

by Candice Boyers
Published: Last Updated on

It’s all fine and dandy having the dream on paper, but money is needed to transform it into a reality. The good news is that affording a remote lifestyle is not impossible. In fact, it’s completely possible for people in all sorts of industries and professions, and the digital nomad cost of living depends largely on where you choose to live.

The remote work lifestyle does require discipline with spending and a bit of capital to get started. We say capital because you’ll need to have a little bit of money in your savings so that you can afford a flight to your first destination. Once you’re there, your living expenses are basically echoed from your home base.

With this in mind, there are still a few key factors to consider when you’re budgeting for your remote work experience. The following tips and considerations need to be kept front of mind when deciding how to afford a remote work lifestyle.

Wondering how to choose the best digital nomad destinations? Read our blog here.

* Just to let you know that this article contains affiliate links. If you click on them we might receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you.


digital nomad cost of living

Spoiler: The Dream is Not the Reality

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, it’s important that we shatter the illusion of sipping cocktails on the beach and working for an hour each day. This false dream of remote work is not a reality. The lifestyle requires discipline and focus, and affording the lifestyle requires the same.

When traveling, you’ll want to try new experiences, taste new food and visit new places. And we encourage you to do this! However, you do need to keep coming back to your finances and prioritizing how many of these perks that you can enjoy.

This leads us to our first tip…

Have a Job

If you want to enjoy the experiences offered by the new destination, then you’ll need some sort of income to pay the way. Yip, you guessed it. In order to afford the remote work lifestyle, you need to have a job.

This may be obvious but we’d be doing you a disservice by not making it glaringly obvious. Both of us work a full day during the week and this affords us the opportunity to travel and explore. If your current job doesn’t support the remote work dream, and you decide to quit, then we strongly recommend that you have a backup plan.

Looking for a job? Here are 10 great digital nomad jobs for working remotely.

We’ve shared tips on how to transition from the office to the remote work life, how to approach your employees about working abroad, as well as a guide on applying for remote work.

Catch up on these suggestions here:

working remotely

Pick Your Destination Wisely

We could never afford a long stint in Paris. The city is just far too expensive for us to live comfortably. One of the most important considerations when choosing a digital nomad destination is affordability.

If you want to afford the remote work lifestyle and keep up with the digital nomad cost, then you’ll need to pick a destination that has a friendly exchange rate and doesn’t put you out of pocket after a single dinner out. The affordability of a destination will depend on different aspects such as your income and the exchange rate.

If you’re desperate to experience a city that is initially out of your budget, then you can plan a shorter stint and still get your fix. Just remember that flights are an expense and you want to make the most out of each ticket.

Speaking of destinations, read a bit about our top digital nomad destinations for surfers here.

Travel Only When You Can

Another way to afford the digital nomad cost of living is to only travel when you can afford to. You may have 10 destinations on your bucket list for the first year of your remote work, but this can put a heavy burden on your wallet (and the environment).

We typically follow a three-month rule where we choose to stay in a place for a minimum of three months. This length of stay absorbs the cost of the flight and gives us enough time to explore a city without compromising our hours of work.

Build Up Your Gadgets Slowly

There are a few gadgets that we think can be a huge asset when working remotely. Items such as a portable monitor and noise-canceling earphones can be invaluable. But they also cost money.

If finances are limited, don’t be shy to take your time and build your inventory of gadgets up slowly. There’s no point in crippling your bank account for the latest portable monitor when you can save up for three months and manage the purchase without added pressure.

Decide which gadgets will improve your productivity the most and make this your first goal to purchase.

To help you get started, we’ve put together a guide on some of the best digital nomad gadgets here.

ollie wearing bose headphones

Draft a Budget – and Stick to It

When you live in a city, knowing the cost of groceries, rent, and transportation is second nature. But when you’re traveling to a new destination, these costs and their ratio on your budget may differ. Take the time to research how much it will cost to live in each city, specifically pertaining to the cost of living. From here, draft a budget for monthly expenses that you can afford.

Once you’ve drafted a budget, take the first few days or weeks in your new destination to feel out its accuracy. You may need to adjust it slightly but once you know where your costs lie, it’s important to stick to your budget so that you can afford the experience.

Some important aspects to consider include. To add perspective, we’ve included what we spend in Bali in a month (in USD) per person. Where there is a once-off cost, we’ve divided it by three as an example of a three-month digital nomad stint.

  • Transportation – including flights
  • Rent for accommodation
  • Food (groceries and eating out)
  • Coworking or coffee shops
  • Health and fitness – surfboard rentals, gym membership, etc.
  • Visas
  • Entertainment
  • Tourist activities
  • Insurance and medical aid
  • Miscellaneous – telecommunications, laundry, haircuts, etc.

cost of living in bali

Have an Easily Accessible Currency Convertor

This is a useful tool for both when you’re preparing to travel as well as once you’re at the destination. Exchange rates are changing all the time, and they can jump quite dramatically within a short space of time.

Before you make a purchase or pay for an experience, do a quick calculation and figure out if it fits into your budget. Don’t be shy to put items back onto the shelf or save up for an experience. The only way that you can afford the remote work lifestyle is if you’re honest with yourself about how much it is going to cost.

Nomad Travel Tools is a very useful tool to keep on hand, comparing the digital nomad cost of living and currency.

Save Paper While Making Paper

A little bit of planning can go a long way in making the digital nomad dream a stress-free and financially viable reality. We’ve been through it all – expensive destinations, affordable destinations, and moments when we’ve felt both rich and poor.

Make sure that you budget accordingly and choose your destination wisely. Once you’ve done that, you can enjoy the benefits of remote work without the financial fuss.

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Chanin Kaye 25 May 2021 - 4:10 am

Great article! We are 6 months into a 4 year road trip through Mexico and beyond and who knows after that… Your suggestions were dead on! I will share it in our social media!

Oliver Boyers 31 May 2021 - 8:47 am

Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Comments are closed.