Many digital nomads are thrifty folk and they’re always on the lookout to keep their expenses down and their bank balances topped up. So, today, we’re going to take a look at how to save money as a digital nomad.
There are two main ways to save money as a digital nomad: spend less money and actually invest money in other things. Let’s explore those in detail as we have 26 ways in total for you to save money as a digital nomad.
Table of Contents
21 Ways To Save Money As A Digital Nomad By Cutting Your Costs
Tip 1: Consider Housesitting
If you’re completely broke and there’s no money coming in – you might want to consider housesitting. That is you get to say in someone’s home for free and, in exchange, you take care of their home, water plants, feed animals, mow lawns, that sort of thing.
Now, it takes quite a bit of time to find a decent housesitting gig (though the more you do it – the easier it becomes because you develop a reputation for it) so, if you’re earning – it’s usually better to pay for accommodation and keep making money in the time you do have.
There are a ton of different sites that offer house sitting opportunities – one of the biggest is Trusted House Sitters. You have to pay a small fee to join most of these sites but that puts off the time wasters and is supposed to lead to better opportunities.
Tip 2: Walk Around To Find Accommodation
Airbnb and Booking.com and their ilk are brilliant for finding accommodation online, but they take a fairly hefty fee from the property owners in exchange for their services. You can substantially cut your accommodation bill by turning up in a town, booking just for one or two nights and then getting out there and knocking on doors to see what you can get.
This is likely to save you money except during the busiest times of the year. So, make sure you understand when peak season is and try to avoid it.
Tip 3: Stay For At Least One Month
I typically only book a place for a month or more. That’s because I get a 30-50% discount on the day rate for doing so. This isn’t rocket science – most places are set up to need a minimum of 60% occupancy during a month.
If you give them a guarantee of 100% occupancy in a room for a month; they have margin to play with to incentivize you to stay.
Tip 4: Use Comparison Sites For Travel Bookings
Expedia, Skyscanner, Opodo, Tripadvisor, Booking.com, etc. they are all in competition with each other to some extent. You can’t save a fortune by shopping around, at least most of the time, but you can save a few bucks and if you bookmark half a dozen of these sites – it takes about 2 minutes to check them.
You may also want to shop around your destination at the same time too. It’s worth checking out several possible destinations at this stage if you need to keep your costs to a minimum.
Tip 5: Use Public Transport Where Possible
Buses are cheap. Taxis are not. Even in the days of Grab, Uber, and Lyft – public transport is usually the cheapest deal out there. Rail and boat can also be a good way to save cash.
Don’t be proud when it comes to saving cash. It means you can eat better, stay in nicer places and have more fun.
Tip 6: Sort Your Banking Before You Leave Home
I wish there’d been options like there are today when I left home but today you ought to be able to find (in your home country):
- An account that charges no ATM fees overseas (or at least for a large number of countries)
- An account you can open and manage online
- A low-cost banking facility (or even free)
N26, Charles Schwab, etc. are some of the options we’ve heard of. There are probably many others, get googling and find somebody that suits your needs.
Tip 7: Use Transferwise To Move Money Around
Transferwise isn’t quite a global service but it does offer a service in most countries. It’s easy to sign up for an account and it’s free.
If you need to receive large sums of money and then convert it into another country – it’s the cheapest (or one of the cheapest) services out there.
You can also move money easily into a local bank account when you need to without huge fees. It’s one of our favorite services.
Tip 8: Shop Around For Travel Insurance
We’ll be looking at travel insurance and health insurance in detail here soon. But let’s be blunt about this – most digital nomad blogs recommend World Nomads’ travel insurance and not because they’re the best deal out there but because a.) they have “nomads” in their name, there’s nothing like branding to pull people in and b.) they pay nice commissions for recommendations.
So, shop around. Find out what the best price for the coverage you need actually is – if it’s with World Nomads, awesome. If it’s not. Buy from somebody else. Save money.
We’re also seeing more and more blogs trying to push Safety Wing too. We imagine they pay decent commissions as well. However, they’re worth a look as a kind of minimal health insurance policy because they don’t require a permanent address (a big problem for many long-term nomads).
Tip 9: Work From Home
Co-working even in developing nations is an expense you don’t need to incur. When you book your accommodation make sure it has a desk. Then use it to work on.
There is no requirement whatsoever to do co-working. In fact, it’s a productivity drain (you have to go there, and you have to set up each day – you don’t need to do this at home).
It has always amazed me that many people quit their office jobs to pay to work in somebody else’s office.
Top 10: Work From Cafes
If you really must be around other people when you’re working – then go to a café. Try to pick somewhere a little off the main streets, nobody loves an idiot trying to make a latte last for 4 hours when they’ve got queues out the door.
Then plug your computer in, drink your coffee and work. We think it’s good manners to buy a coffee or some other product every 2 hours or so but there are some shameless people out there who make a drink last all day.
Tip 11: Eat Like A Local
Seriously, all those wonderful places, you pass each day where you can’t read the menu, that are packed out with locals? Those places are way cheaper than Western-style restaurants, in fact, they’re often cheaper than McD’s and the food is way better.
Tip 12: Go To Markets
Markets, by which we mean a large open space full of individual vendors selling a wide variety of products, as opposed to a supermarket, are way cheaper than supermarkets and 7-11s. The produce is fresher and you’re supporting the local economy.
Tip 13: Always Use Local Cell Services
We’ve never found an international SIM card that works out cheaper than buying one in the local area. A dual SIM phone can help you keep your home number on and a local number but given that almost nobody calls anyone nowadays – a local SIM is usually more than enough. Make sure to work out what the cheapest data plan is too.
Tip 14: See If There Are Any Free Tours Going On
If you want to learn more about a new place but don’t want to spend a fortune, Google for free walking tours in the area. These are becoming more and more popular with local students keen to improve their English willing to guide visitors around for 2-4 hours for no money. Sure, they won’t be quite as good as a professional tour but they are free.
Tip 15: Rent A Bike
Renting a bike (or even buying one and selling it when you leave) of either the pedal or motor variety can work out much cheaper than using taxis. It’s often not quite as cheap as public transport but it does offer far more flexibility on how you tour your new home.
Tip 16: Local Beer Is Cheaper Too In Many Cases
Local style bars are always a bit rougher around the edges than that big faux-Irish Pub in the center of a tourist district. But if you’re willing to put up with plastic chairs, local TV and the occasional waft of cigarette smoke – you can often drink for half the price of that Irish Pub too. You also get to rub shoulders with locals rather than tourists, which is a genuine pleasure.
Tip 17: Make A Budget
If you know how you’re spending money, it’s much easier to get it under control. You don’t need to buy a fancy tool for this either. Use a spreadsheet (Excel, Google Docs, Open Office, whatever) and write down what you spent each day and what you bought with it. You should quickly be able to identify areas where you can cut your costs.
Tip 18: Dress Local
This may not be possible if you’re much bigger than the locals (as I tend to be in South East Asia) but often local styles and fashions are locally manufactured and that means you can buy them for much less than your usual garb.
We would note, however, that there’s nothing worse than wearing these fashions in the next place you’re visiting. There’s something completely inauthentic about a guy in Prague wearing a longyi because he’s just been to Myanmar.
Tip 19: Buy Quality Products
The better made a product is, the longer it ought to last. For things you use a lot, it’s often a good idea to spend a little more, to begin with so that you don’t keep repairing or replacing those items at a later date. Sometimes, you need to take a long-term view to be truly cost-effective.
Tip 20: Use Facebook Groups And Google To Find Local Deals
It’s a good idea to join local Facebook Groups and then search them for meal deals, beer promos, coffee deals, etc.
You can Google for them too, particularly around major holidays (both local and international holidays).
This ought to be a digital nomad’s forte, really.
Tip 21: Don’t Break The Law
It sounds stupid but we’ve met more people hurting for money because they were speeding or got caught doing something that they shouldn’t have, than people who went broke by accident on the road. Avoid breaking the law and you won’t get fined.
The 5 Basic Ways Of Saving Money For Digital Nomads – The Investment Route
OK, this isn’t a finance school and nor is it ever going to be. So, we’re not going to run a huge course on investing but we’re just going to cover what you need to know:
Savings In The Bank
The best place to start saving money used to be in your bank account or a savings account at the same bank. Sadly, interest rates have been hovering around “stuff all” for years now and that makes saving in a bank a bad idea because inflation outweighs the interest – in effect, it makes you poorer over time and not richer.
Index Tracking Funds Are The Best Savings Tool
An index tracking fund tracks the average of the stock market and, in general terms, it’s the ideal investment for anyone who is a bit clueless about investments. Warren Buffet, the world’s richest investor, recommends them and he won $1 million by proving they beat out a hedge fund over time.
You just want to find a fund that is low on fees. They don’t require much in the way of management, so hunt around for a product that makes sense to you.
Shares in publicly traded stocks are a bigger investment risk because unlike an index tracking fund, you are putting all your eggs into a single basket. Get it right and you can get a huge return on your investment quickly but get it wrong and you could lose a small fortune quickly too.
If you want to buy shares, you can do this through your bank but it’s usually not as a good a strategy as an index tracking fund. You need to keep an eye on the share price if you buy shares too.
Buying Into A Business
It can be a good idea to buy a share of a business or even a whole business that is not publicly traded but which is seeking investment to reach the next level of performance. As a shareholder (or owner) you are entitled to some of the profits each year.
However, you may find it difficult or even impossible to sell on your shares if they are not publicly traded and this kind of investment is best if you intend to be involved in running the business long-term.
If you buy a property to rent out it can be a great investment. Though it’s worth noting that it can also be quite a lot of work too.
We know digital nomads who fund most of their travels with rental income but we know others who’ve been badly burned by a tenant moving out 2 months after they arrived in Thailand.
There’s some risk involved but the rewards are good.
Don’t Buy CryptoCurrency
We know there will be angry people shouting about this but let’s be blunt – this is not an investment, it’s a form of gambling (sometimes politely known as “speculation”). Feel free to put the money you would spend in the pub or on entertainment into gambling but don’t put your savings in. Any short-term gains will eventually be wiped out when the world finally agrees how worthless these systems are.
So, there you have it – 21 ways to save money by cutting costs and 5 ways to save money by actually investing it to make more money. Digital nomads that want to make their money go farther have plenty of options open to them.