The other day a really cool thing happened to me. I was dicking around on Instagram and some chick I’ve never met slid into my DM’s to ask me how much money digital nomads need. She told me she was jealous because she wanted my life but couldn’t afford it. She was going through a painful breakup, was about to turn 30, her job was boring her tits off, and she just wanted to escape for a while.
I WAS LIKE BISH, YOUR STORY IS EXACTLY THE SAME AS MINE.
I got dumped just before my 29th birthday, so just before my 30th birthday I quit my job and fucked off to Argentina. I had a one-way plane ticket and a loose plan which mainly consisted of kissing as many Latinos/Latinas as it took to mend my broken heart (it takes around 14, FYI).
This lovely internet stranger told me that my Insta was “so intriguing and hopeful for a lost 29-year-old gal,” and this made me very proud (I did a small cry, too). It also made me realise that loads of people are probably in the same position as she is, and that maybe they don’t think it’s possible to just pack up and piss off to a new country for a bit.
One of the questions I get asked the most is how much money digital nomads need. So I’m going to answer that question from the position of a relatively broke writer. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
How Much Money do Digital Nomads Need?
I started my new digital nomad life in Buenos Aires, Argentina and my lack of budgeting skills soon became painfully evident. I blew £1,500 ($1,939) in my first three weeks. Eugh. But, it was my 30th birthday and I was still fucking miserable post-dumping so I went a bit wild. I’d only brought £4,000 ($5,000) with me and I had just one regular freelance client at that point, so it was obviously a grave error that I don’t recommend making. If you’re not a massive baller/idiot like me though, you can easily survive on £1,000 per month.
How Much Money do I Make as a Freelance Writer/Digital Nomad?
I’m going to begin by saying that I’m quite lazy, so this is by no means a great guide of the earning potential of a freelance writer. In the last year, I’ve made a grand total of £11,868 ($15,329). My income is slowly creeping up towards being a normal human grown-up salary, but it’s been tough going and one month last year I only made £311 ($402) lolz. I’ve chosen time over money for now though – it’s more important to me to be able to go day drinking on a Tuesday than it is to work hard and have a phat bank account.
Being a digital nomad doesn’t have to mean having no money though, and there are loads of folks around that are raking in the $$$. They live in penthouses in the best parts of town and enjoy the kind of luxury that I can only dream of right now. And that’s awesome, but my point is that you don’t have to have a bank account like Beyoncé to become a full-time traveller.
With regards to what digital nomad jobs you can do, the topic’s been written about 1 million times and there are loads of options to look into. Instead of spending time researching and writing a list of potential jobs I’d rather just direct you to this mammoth list of ways to make money as a digital nomad (told you I was lazy).
How to Live and Work in a Foreign Country with a Tiny Budget
If you’ve got no money and want to run away from home to be an expat for a while, you need to learn how to be proper careful with your dough. And when I say careful, I mean sacrifice loads of nice stuff until you’re living a bare-bones lifestyle. There are loads of ways to save money and live on a little budget, and most of them involve just not buying loads of useless shit that you don’t need.
It turns out that you don’t need a wardrobe bursting with clothes, and even when your five tops all have taco stains on them it’s not entirely necessary to replace them. I was interviewed on Mexican TV in a t-shirt with ice cream stains on it and nobody batted an eyelid, so clean clothes are obviously overrated.
Vanity sort of has to go out the window too, and my makeup is all old or donated from friends who have spare shit lying around. I allow myself a waxing budget, but that budget is small so I defo leave it way too long between appointments (as everyone at the beach learned last week). Other than that, I don’t spend a penny on cosmetic stuff. I don’t really mind not being beautiful, it just doesn’t matter that much when you’re distracted by being proper happy and jolly.
You also have to learn to be honest about your financial situation and get over the shame associated with saying “I’m sorry I can’t come for dinner tonight, I can’t afford it” all the bloody time. I used to lie and tell people I was busy if I was invited to something beyond my budget, but here in Mexico City where I’m currently based, I’ve finally learned to be honest about the state of my bank balance. And, I’ve found a way to socialise while sticking to my budget: my amigas and I alternate between ‘nice’ places and the sort of joints that will probably give you food poisoning. Our system satisfies their more expensive tastes and caters to my lack of professional success. Perfecto!
Being Poor Isn’t Always LOLS
It can legit be tricky having no money sometimes, and I’ve had many sleepless nights worrying about my lack of dinero. Just one late-paying client leaves me hiding from my landlord because I can’t pay the rent, and I definitely have to rely on my trusty credit card to see me through my almost-constant cashflow issues. It can be horrifying to only have a couple of hundred quid/dollars/pesos in your bank with minimal savings to fall back on, and there have been times where I thought I was going to have to go home and beg my mum to re-home me for a bit. But, I’m finding that this bothers me less and less as time goes by. Being a little bit poor is only as frightening as you allow it to be when you don’t have any real financial responsibilities.
Don’t Believe the Hype
Why am I telling you all this? Because I can’t keep anything to myself? Well, sort of, but mainly because I think it’s really bloody important for everyone to know that it’s totally possible to become a digital nomad or a backpacker without being a millionaire. That chick that got all up in my DMs told me she was lost and “kinda giving up hope” and that’s no good now, is it? We digital nomads never talk about money and we really need to be more transparent about what we earn so it doesn’t seem like such an impossible dream.
Obviously, it would be nice to make loads of money as a digital nomad, and this coming year is shaping up to a lot less financially bleak. But, my point is that you can live overseas on practically bugger all if you’re careful. Don’t believe the hype that you need to have a huge pile of savings or a high-paying job to quit your home country, you’d be surprised what luxuries you can do without in favour of seeing the world.
Are you a digital nomad living on a shoestring budget? Drop me a note in the comments and let me know how many of your t-shirts have food stains on them.
Also, if anyone ever wants any advice on how to live on fuck all money, get in touch. I’d lurve to teach you my basic budget bitch ways.