March 2019 Budget & Expenses | Digital Nomads Pursuing Financial Independence, Retire Early (FI/RE)
We’re sharing our budget each month to prove that you don’t need to be independently wealthy to travel full-time. As evidence, we kept our expenses low (well under $500!) this month. And March was a busy month as both digital nomads and house sitters! With three house sitting jobs, one in Philadelphia and two in New York City and several work clients, we kept ourselves busy working and exploring.
We’re on a role! This is the second of a recurring monthly article where we share our budget/expenses as digital nomads pursuing financial independence, retire early (FI/RE) and traveling continuously and long-term!
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Monthly and Year-To-Date Expenses
We’re often asked how much we budget for our lifestyle of continuous and long-term travel as digital nomads. So we’re pulling the cover off our expenses and sharing what we spend month to month!
Be prepared; we truly Screw The Average when it comes to our budget/expenses. We have many tricks up our sleeves when it comes to saving money, whether it be for travel (sightseeing, airfare, transportation, etc.), day-to-day expenses (groceries, haircuts, toiletries, etc.), or everything else (gear, supplies, odds and ends, etc.).
There are a few reasons why our monthly expenditures are extremely low (relative to most) and dialed in.
A Monthly Budget (Or Not)
Budgets have their time and place and do many people a great service. Surprisingly enough though, we don’t keep a budget in the traditional sense because we’re extremely intentional with our decisions, including how we spend money.
Since our living expenses are dialed in, meaning they’re mostly known and similar month to month, and our expenditures are calculated and thought out, we find that we don’t need a budget.
While we don’t keep a budget, as you can see we do track our expenses. This allows us to see trends in our spending and ensure we’re on track. Consider it mindfulness of our finances!
Financial Independence, Retire Early (FI/RE)
In its simplest form, reaching Financial Independence, Retire Early (FI/RE) means: A) making much more money than you spend, and B) spending much less than you make.
Now whether your put your emphasis on A (make more money) or B (spend less money) is a debate within the FI/RE community and in our opinion a personal decision. And really, either method means living below your means, so ultimately, why not do both?
For us, we’re building FI/RE into our lifestyle. We believe the journey to reach FI/RE doesn’t need to be a 10-20 year grueling grind where it’s the sole focus of life until reached. Don’t get us wrong, we’ve worked our fair share of intense hours and we’ve delayed gratification plenty.
After years of creating a financial, professional, and personal foundation we decided we could incorporate the pursuit of Financial Independence, Retire Early with doing the things we love. We decided that even if it delayed FI/RE a bit, it was well worth it!
Having a dialed-in, lean, and minimalist lifestyle (and therefore budget) offers us increased freedom. We’ve designed our life in a way that allows us, within reason of course, to make our own decisions, do what we want, and have the upmost flexibility.
We find satisfaction in being able to sleep-in on any given day, take a hike, or play a video game when we choose to.
We’re minimalists when it comes to ‘stuff’, allowing us to get up and go at a moment’s notice.
We only take on the jobs, contracts, or clients we want to and say ‘no thank you’ to the ones that aren’t a good fit.
Thankfully big expenses or unexpected bills don’t put us in debt or throw us for a loop. Because we choose not to inflate our lifestyle to the size of our income we’re able to have an emergency fund.
Once in a lifetime opportunities rarely pass us by because we’re ready for them, whatever they entail.
This freedom isn’t just luck (although we are lucky we haven’t been hit by a meteor or become terminally ill), we fundamentally believe we’re in charge of our own destiny and therefore have worked long and hard for these freedoms. We’ve made thousands of rational, logical choices for decades to get to where we are today.
Long-Term Travel, FI/RE, and Freedom are Fueled by Our Monthly Budget/Expenses
We don’t consider ourselves cheap, although inevitably some will. We’re frugal, as we worry less about cost and more about value. And finally, we don’t feel we sacrifice; we sometimes delay satisfaction but at other times we live quite luxuriously.
Where we place our value and therefore our money may not be where you choose to place yours, and that’s okay. We do however hope that just as we’ve learned from other people, maybe others can take a few things away from our approach.
Follow us each month as we post our actual and full expenses. We’ll share tips on how we saved money and insight into where we spent money!
Don’t miss our Ultimate Gear and Packing Lists! Whether you’re traveling long-term or going on a short vacation, we'll show you how to travel with a single carry-on. We share our packing lists (his and hers!), packing tips, and our favorite gear. Plus, we discuss what we don’t carry and why!
Our Expenses: March 2019
March expenses certainly weren’t as low as February’s, but to keep our expenditures well under $500 for a couple visiting Philadelphia, PA and New York City, NY, is still impressive!
Notable Expenses in March, 2019
It’s no surprise that a car isn’t necessary in New York City, and frankly a car would probably be more of an inconvenience. Also, being that in the last two and a half years we’ve only rented a car twice (for an across Ireland road trip and a Transfagarasan Highway road trip in Romania), it’s an easy and correct assumption that we forewent the rental car and took public transportation in New York City.
Of course, the subway and bus were much less expensive than renting a car, although relative to our total month’s budget it was still a significant expense. After purchasing and loading our New York City Metro cards we ended up spending $70 to get around the city for the month. We even have some money left on our Metro cards and will be saving them for the next time we visit.
(Yes, you read that right! Even though we typically don’t return to a place more than once, New York City is a place that we feel we barely scratched the surface on. So, rest assured New York City homeowners on Trusted House Sitters, you’ll be hearing from us in the future!)
House sitting full-time is amazing both experientially and financially. However, we’re sometimes left with a day or two gap between house sits where we need to find a place to stay. Usually we can stay a day or two extra with a homeowner but in New York City space is at a premium and a spare bedroom isn’t always available. So, we found ourselves needing to book two nights of lodging between house sitting jobs at two separate Airbnbs.
We don’t need anything special or fancy, especially when it’s for a single night. So, with a bit of searching, we were able to find relatively inexpensive accommodations on Airbnb (use our link to get a discount on your first booking!). Our bill for two separate nights at different locations totaled less than $110!
Notable Savings in March, 2019
Transportation to JFK Airport
Large cities around the globe tend to charge a ticket surcharge when going to and from the main airport(s). New York City is no different. However, we’re not your average tourists (proof is in the pudding, uh hum Rome!) so we found a lesser known method to get to JFK.
For reference, the flat rate of a taxi from JFK to Manhattan is $52.00 and the cost of the subway plus the Airtrain is a more manageable $7.75.
If time is of the essence, we do recommend going the Airtrain route, however if you want to see the surrounding city and have the time to spare, taking a local city bus at only $2.75 may be a good alternative. Since our Airbnb was mere blocks from the bus route, we opted to take the Q3 city bus from Jamaica Plain to JFK, where it let us off at Terminal 5 after a traffic-free 45 minute ride. However, with traffic it could have easily extended to 75 minutes or longer.
If the Q3 route doesn’t serve your location, then consider the B15 or Q10.
One of the big expenses of traveling is airfare. We combat this with a multi-pronged approach. First, we try to be logical about where we’re traveling to. It simply doesn’t make sense to travel back and forth across the country. It’s bad for the environment and rather expensive! Instead, we tend to make smaller moves in the direction we want to go (we have the exceptions to this rule because some opportunities we just can’t pass up!).
Second, we look at all the options that are available to us by using Rome2Rio. It’s a fantastic tool to see all the methods and resources available to get from just about anywhere, to just about anywhere else!
Bus from Philadelphia to New York City
We’re not shy about taking a bus or a train instead of flying if the value is there. So, to get from Philadelphia to New York City at the beginning of March, Mega Bus was our pick, at an incredible price of $5 each!
Airfare from JFK (New York City) to O’Hare (Chicago)
There was a bit of a snafu in our house sitting schedule, and a more logical move from New York City, to Dallas, to Atlanta wasn’t in the cards for us. Instead, when our Dallas house sit was unexpectedly canceled, we jumped on a chance to house sit in two different places within Chicago before we went to Atlanta at the end of April.
We’re sure a bus runs from New York City to Chicago, but when factoring in the cost of our time and comfort, it made more sense for us to fly. Plus, with all of the resources in our tool box, we were able to spend a total of $11.20 on two tickets from JFK to O’Hare Airport!
For those savvy on airfare, you’ve already figured out that $11.20 is the sum of the taxes on two tickets. We must also add that while we only spent $11.20 for our plane tickets, we did spend 11,600 JetBlue TrueBlue points.
Where We’ve Traveled to This Month
House sitting jobs dominated our travel this month, taking us from Philadelphia to New York City. Leaving Philadelphia and one of the most adorable small pups we’ve cared for was hard. But it’s part of our digital nomad lifestyle and comes with the territory.
Since our goal for the last year has been to house sit in the Big Apple, we consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to have had two back to back house sits in NYC!
Our first house sitting job took us to Sunnyside, New York, a fantastic neighborhood that was relatively quiet but very close to the action. We had the fortune to meet and care for two cats, Barnaby and Gilbert. They both loved a bit of cuddles and Gilbert had Shannon wrapped around his paw as he followed us around the home.
While they were both playful Barnaby in particular would perform fantastic jumps for us, while Gilbert kept a keen eye on the action, following every movement but never engaging.
Our second house sit took us to another great neighborhood, Flushing, New York. This time, instead of two cats we had the pleasure of caring for two dogs.
Cooper was a rather rambunctious Jack Russel Terrier and Charlie was a Greyhound that had the exact opposite temperament. Charlie was calm, easy going and enjoyed lounging around the apartment, while no matter how hard we tried (and trust us we tried!) Cooper couldn’t be worn out, he just kept going!
With three house sits we made 10 new friends in March (five human and five cats and dogs). Nearly two and a half years later it still amazes us all of the house sitting opportunities we get to have!
Our final day in New York City and last day of the month was at an Airbnb in Jamaica Plain. We’d be starting the next month off in Chicago…
Our tool box is full of resources! From travel hacking to house sitting, digital nomad jobs to privacy and security, financially independent retire early (FI/RE) to entertainment, plus travel hacking (credit cards, miles, points, and rewards), and much much more…
Year to Date (YTD) Expenses for 2019
Notable Expenses This Year (2019)
Reviewing our expenses each month and looking at the cumulative year to date expenses, it may seem that our most notable expense is groceries. We’d argue though that in fact it isn’t. Our grocery budget is rather low for a couple, but since we’ve eliminated the usual big ticket and high budget line items (we house sit instead of pay rent and we use points and miles instead of paying for airfare) it takes up roughly 50% of our budget.
The way we see it, our notable expenses so far this year are definitely related to transportation.
Our first three months of 2019 have been a tour of three historical cities along the east coast: Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, PA, and New York, New York. Travel between the cities was extremely inexpensive ($5 USD each between each city), but costs were a bit higher when using public transportation within each city. As we’ve mentioned before, public transportation is certainly less expensive than renting a car, but when it takes up over 15% of our budget it’s nothing to sneeze about.
In the beginning of the year we took full advantage of a Lyft promotion (20% off our rides) and used it to supplement some of our public transportation usage. And trust us, at the end of a 10+ mile day walking, a Lyft ride home is a welcome alternative to a long metro and bus ride home!
Then with Lyft’s new introduction of personal ride benefits when using Lyft for business, we were able to extend the 20% off for a few more rides in April. Ride share generally isn’t our go to option, but sometimes it works out fantastically!
Notable Savings This Year (2019)
Traveling long-term for us means we aren’t paying rent or a mortgage and in turn most would expect us to be paying for countless hotels and Airbnbs. Doing so would be a huge expense that we just don’t want to bare, so instead we house sit full-time and fill in the gaps with travel hacking and mattress running. So while lodging in any form is usually the #1 expense for most people, in the first three months of 2019 lodging is under 10% of our budget!
We’re known to enjoy our time sightseeing and exploring!
This year we’ve been in cities where what we’ve wanted to do and see has been free. For example, much of the sights in Washington D.C. have free entry, like the Library of Congress that even has free tours! Then, in New York City we opted to forgo the things that can be rather expensive and instead explore the city by foot and walk through Central Park, cross the Brooklyn Bridge, and walk neighborhoods like Flushing, Hudson Yards, Tribeca, Queens, and more!
This was less of a choice to spend less money and more of a choice to sightsee the way we like best. In due time, we'll return and do more of the traditional must see sightseeing!
All of this on top of our love of walking all areas of a city, means we’ve so far spent very little on sightseeing and must see attractions this year.
Where We’ve Traveled to This Year
The map below shows where we’ve been so far this year.
Note: The house icons are locations we’ve had a house sit.
London, San Francisco, Paris, New York City, Athens and more?! Trusted Housesitters has allowed us to travel the world on a budget, but more importantly given us an opportunity to make new friends and have cute and cuddly companions along the way. Sign up and start your next great adventure!
We may not keep a budget, but tracking and reviewing our expenses every month is a great way to make sure we’re staying on track. Not to mention, it’s an incredible motivator to see how well (in our humble opinion) we’re doing. By keeping our expenses low, we’re getting that much closer to achieving FI/RE!
The best part is that we’re loving the life we’ve made together!