How Much Income do i Need to be a Digital Nomad?

You might be thinking about quitting your job or you have a new online income stream such as a blog, a YouTube channel or an online service and you’re wondering how much you need to be earning to become a digital nomad.

Here is a breakdown of the year below. How much you need to earn to be a digital nomad.

ExpenseCost
Rent$4800
Living$8000
Flights$1200
Business$1000
Other (Souvenirs, visas etc)$1000
Total$16,000
Total/month$1,333

These numbers are assuming you want to stay in the three places discussed below. Of course there are lot’s of variables, I discuss them below.

Expenses

How much to be a digital nomad

In many ways the expenses of a digital nomad are the same as anyone else. We still need to pay for food, rent and other living necessities (Coffee!!.) But there are some differences.

Transportation

As a digital nomad, travel is going to be a permanent fixture of your life. Though you may not be on a constant round-the-world tour, moving from place to place every week but a nomadic lifestyle does mean (usually seasonal) travel.

Travel expenses therefore are something you will need to take into account when calculating your expenditure and required income.

If you are changing location 3 times a year for example and staying in one geographic are (E.g. South East Asia) four flights a year will likely require $100 of monthly income. Assuming 4 flights will cost you around $1200. You will need to look for good deals but this is easily attainable.

Accommodation

Most people pay rent or a mortgage, and digital nomads are no different. Staying in one location for longer periods of time is usually the most financially efficient and so most digital nomads try to find rental properties which cost much less than staying in a hotel and offer much more comfort than living in a hostel.

Food

Food is another thing that everyone has to budget for. The benefit of being a digital nomad is that you have the choice of living somewhere food is cheaper. For example finding a meal for $2 is still quite easy in most of South East Asia, not so in Western Europe or North America though.

Of course the price of food drops even more if you cook for yourself. Even in China, where the cost of living has been steadily increasing every year, I’m still astonished at how much food I can walk out of a market with after only spending a few dollars.

Other Expenses

Going out

There’s no point traveling to exotic, beautiful locations if your just going to spend all day in Starbucks with your laptop. You have to get out!

Whether it’s a cocktail at the beach in Phuket, or exploring Ankor Watt in Cambodia, there’s more to life than working and cutting costs. Tourist attractions are usually priced way above the local cost of living, especially in developing countries as they are priced for international tourists, rather than local ones. This means that you need to budget for the tourist attractions that you want to see.

Of course there are ways around this! Rather than visiting The Great Wall at Ba Da Ling (the main tourist site for The Great Wall of China) you can go to see the lesser known sites. Obviously, visiting the less touristy areas means it will be more budget friendly but also you get a more authentic experience. Check travel blogs and expat forums for the places you are visiting to find some lesser known places to visit.

Business

If you have your own online business or content creation fueling your digital nomad lifestyle, don’t forget to budget for your business expenses!

Whether it’s paying for hosting, freelancers or other online services, they all add up and have to come out of your income.

Souvenirs

Even with limited bag space, everyone buys the odd souvenir.

I have singing bowls from Nepal, cattle bells from Tibet and model tuk-tuks from Thailand. The more I travel the less I buy but I still occasionally see something I just can’t resist.

If you’re just starting out as a digital nomad, be sure to budget for souvenirs.

Medical Expenses

Anything that can happen will, especially when you’re in a far away land!

I have known people who broke legs in the mountains of Bolivia, who had to seek out the hospital in Dharamshala, had to be airlifted in Nepal and who needed surgery in China (me.)

Even with travel insurance, medical expenses will need to be a part of your budget.

Location Location Location

Location is everything when considering how much income you need to be a digital nomad. Obviously the more developed a country is the higher the cost of living will be there. But there are also large differences from place to place in the same country. Think about the rent in Manhattan compared with rural Missouri.

Cities usually cost more than the country surrounding them. Use this to your advantage and try to find suburban areas that offer lower prices with access to the nearby city.

Thailand

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Thailand has long been a destination of choice for digital nomads, those looking to settle down permanently and regular tourists. Aside from the lovely people, the beautiful architecture and the amazing food, the price of living in Thailand is relatively low.

Chiang MaiPhuket
1 Bed Apartment$300$500
Living Expenses*$500$550
A Meal$2$4
Total per Month$800$1050
*according to numbeo

Tianjin

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Tianjin is a good choice for someone wanting a China experience without the price-tag of Beijing or Shanghai. Only 30 minutes from Beijing by high-speed rail, Tianjin is a 10,000,000 resident historic city that offers a cheaper price of living at a stones throw away from the capital.

TianjinCost
1 Bed Apartment$400
Living Expenses$600
A Meal$5
Total per Month$1000

Italy

alley, path, closely-3458742.jpg

Trento

Trento is a small historic city in the north east of Italy. In many ways it is the perfect digital nomad hub, lots to see from Roman remains to medieval castles. Trento is also the perfect place to unwind and relax with only 110,000 residents, it’s a small city with mountains in range for the trekker in you.

TrentoCost
Rent*$500
A Meal$16
Living Expenses*$900
Total per Month$1400
*According to numbeo

A Full Year’s Expenses as a Digital Nomad

As you can see, there are many variables to answer the question how much income do I need to be a digital income. Assuming you wanted to live a year in the three locations above, the table below show you how much you need to earn each month.

ExpenseCost
Rent$4800
Living$8000
Flights$1200
Business$1000
Other (Souvenirs, visas etc)$1000
Total$16,000
Total/month$1,333

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