2018 Year End Spending Report – Traveling the world for half of the cost of staying home

When we decided to get married and sell everything to travel the world, we knew that this new lifestyle was going to be fun, exciting but also much cheaper than staying at home. What we did not know was how much cheaper it was going to be to live a very high quality of life where we would go grocery shopping at local farmers market to cook amazing meals, eat at nearby restaurants to enjoy the local food scene, rent cars or hop on a buses to take regular getaway trips, go on long hikes to spend more time in nature, attend local shows/festivals to immerse ourselves in the culture of the places we are visiting and everything else you get the freedom to do when you decide to travel the world slowly.

As we are closing 2018 and our first six months of nomadic travel, I am digging into our finances to answer this question and the results are pretty exciting. In a nutshell in the last 6 months, we slashed our spending in half, rebalanced our spending towards activities that we enjoyed the most, are living a less stressful life and are having the time of our lives.

So let’s dig into our 2018 Year End Spending Report!

California residents VS World Travelers

As aspiring minimalists, we spend money on experiences that bring us value. As such you might find our budget pretty low for a couple that lived in San Francisco since we spent just around $25,000 for 6 months (or $50,000 / year). This it pretty good since the average cost of living for a couple in San Francisco (with no kids) is about $90,000 / year! (source)

In contrast, our budget since we started to travel the world (after selling everything and keeping most of our possessions in our carry-on backpacks) was just under $14,000 for 6 months (or $28,000 / year). During this time we were able to spend 4 weeks in Montreal, 3 weeks traveling with our family in Quebec, 6 weeks in Quebec City, 4 weeks in San Francisco, 1 week in Puerto Vallarta, 6 weeks in Mexico City and 2 weeks in Oaxaca. Not bad, right?

Spending per category

When living in California, more than half of our budget was paying for rent! Travel and restaurants came next as you can see on the following chart:

Now let’s take the same pie chart out in our budget as we started to travel the world.

The first thing you will notice is that only half of the chart is filled as traveling allowed us to slash our budget in half. You might also notice that we were able to increase our spending in categories that we care about (such as groceries, eating out at restaurants or using local transportation to explore places around us). Not only are we spending less, travel is now our full time lifestyle while before it represented only about 15% of our time (or 7 weeks a year).

Want more details?

Because at NomadNumbers we love numbers, let’s look at a detailed monthly spend for each category comparing living at home versus traveling the world. Since we conveniently left on July 1st of 2018, each period is 6 months long which is perfect for a yearly side by side comparison.

Monthly average: living in California (Jan’18 – Jun-18)Monthly average: traveling the World (Jul-18 – Dec’18)
Accommodation$2290

Note: this includes both utilities ($23) + internet ($29)
$1096 through AirBnB

Note: this includes both utilities + internet and sometimes even weekly cleaning/laundry
Phone$100

This is for 1 phone using Project FI & 1 phone using a regular carrier plan(*)
$50

This is for 2 phones using Project FI.
Pro-tip: You can also save money by signing up with Project FI using our referral ink and get a $20 credit on your first statement, which is pretty much our monthly usage per device!
Local
Transportation
$116

This include Uber/Lyft ($36) and public transportation ($80*)
$169
Travel away from home$718Travel is our new lifestyle so our entire budget is about travel 🙂
FlightsThis is included as part of the previous category and I don’t have a specific breakdown for it$147
Groceries$207$333
Eating Out$314$427
Activities
(incl. sports…)
$182* $72
Others Expenses$304

This includes electronics ($252) & home maintenance ($52)
$13

This covers pretty much our Traveling Mailbox subscription which conveniently takes care of our physical mail for us.
TOTAL$4231$2312
(a 45% reduction from our stay at home lifestyle)

(*) These amounts are subsidized in part by our employer so the real cost is likely to be higher.

Another way to look at this data, is by looking at our monthly spend during the first 6 months of the year while living in California.

Travel expenses are showing up as a regular instance as this has always been a priority for us. For the first half of 2018 we spent time in Mexico, France and the USA (New York, Portland & California).

We can then compare it with our budget in each destination we visited in the second half of 2018 as we started to travel the world. We are breaking expenses per destination (rather than per month) as it makes it easier to compare the cost of living in each place we stayed at.

If you are interested to get more details about the budget related to each place we’ve visited, please take a look at both our destination reports & weekend guides.

What did we exclude from our budget and why?

We excluded in this budget a few common categories as they did not apply to us, were just one time expenses or we did not have enough data to compare them between both periods. For full transparency here is what we have not included from this spending report and the reason why:

  • Healthcare cost: We were covered by at least one employer through 2018 so our healthcare coverage costs were roughly the same and pretty low throughout this year. This is likely to increase in 2019 as we will need to self insure ourselves. (Pro-tip: Subscribe to our newsletter to be the first ones to know when we will be writing about it)
  • Automotive: We don’t own a car, so we aren’t spending on car insurance, parking or car maintenance. You can probably add anywhere between $150-$400 / month if you have a car.  
  • Online Services subscriptions: We don’t have any active subscription (cable, Amazon Prime, Netflix…). We actually canceled our last active subscription (Amazon Prime) back in 2017. You can easily add anywhere between $10-$200 here based on many services you like to subscribe to.
  • Clothing: As aspiring minimalists we are traveling carry-on only so the spending on this category is really limited for us as we aren’t changing our wardrobe very often.
  • Loans/Debt: Because we are focusing on our spending, we are not including any loans we have, especially as they are getting compensated by our passive income which are also not part of our expenses.
  • Gifts/Charitable giving: This is a discretionary expense, so I’m excluding it from this report.
  • One time events: We did spend money in 2018 on one time events (like our wedding, our backpacks and other travel gears…). These are one time expenses that will not likely re-occurs each year so I have excluded them from our budget. (Pro-tip: If you are interested to know about the cost of our travel backpacks, check out our carry on packing list for nomadic long-term travels).

Are we missing anything else? Please let us know by leaving your feedback in the comments section below.

Our bottom line

Since we started our nomadic lifestyle, we felt less stressed and are having a lot of fun roaming the planet, one city at a time. This lifestyle gives us the freedom to spend our time on the things we care about like reading some life changing books, learning news skills, starting projects we are excited about like this blog and our cost of living expenses series, our daily Instagram feed or some drone footage I’m slowly editing and publishing on our Youtube channel.

As an added bonus, slow and nomadic travel is much cheaper than taking on a full blown/luxury year long trip around the world where people can easily spend up to $300K for the entire journey.

Because this is the time of the year when people like to make new year resolutions, we would like to encourage everyone to consider taking a 6+ months break and embracing slow travel to get the mind space necessary to pause and reflect. Would you be willing to make this one of your priorities for 2019? If so, please let us know in the comments section below.

If you don’t know what a slow travel life can look like, feel free to read our destination reports, weekend guides and take a peek at our carry-on packing list for nomadic long-term travels. You might realize that this lifestyle can be more affordable that you thought and definitely fun!

Happy New Year & Happy Travels
Mr & Mrs Nomad Numbers

EOY 2018 – Spending Report

14 Comments

  1. FIRECracker says:

    Congrats on getting married and slashing your budget in half with travel!
    Love the numbers breakdown and hope to see you somewhere in the world in 2019! Happy New Year!

    1. Thank you very much FIRECracker. It means a lot that you spend the time to stop by and say Hi! We also love numbers here, so you should see more of them in our upcoming posts!

  2. Wow! This is awesome and super inspirational. I’m impressed with how low you’ve kept your numbers traveling full time. This is on our bucket list at least sometime in the near-ish future. Keep getting after it!

    1. Thank you! If you have checked our some of our destination reports (https://www.nomadnumbers.com/category/destination-reports/) you will probably notice that the cost of living is closely tied to the location and more especially your accommodation cost. While we loved spending time in the places we’ve picked in 2018, we have booked a month on a tropical island located in the Caribbean in the first part of 2019 that should be a good test to see how far our budget will need to stretch. That being said, being nomadic give us the freedom to adjust our yearly budget pretty much the way we want since we can pretty much live anywhere 🙂

  3. Brad says:

    Great numbers. As a family we visit Mexico a couple weeks per year and are always amazed how affordable it is. Small apartments in the city, like the one you found in Puerto Vallarta ,are the way to go. I can live on $1 fish tacos. We found lots at Taco Revolution in Puerto Vallarta.

    1. Thanks you Brad! We decided to live away from the hotel zone in Mexico city because – beside being really expensive – it is not the best place you want to be if you would like to enjoy the local culture and cuisine. Oh and those $1 fish tacos were definitely delicious. Let us know where you plan to travel as it will be interesting to connect back with you through our nomadic travels. Happy New Year!

  4. Thanks for sharing! This is exciting to see how we could drastically reduce our expenses by doing something awesome like traveling! I’m excited to see where you go in 2019 and read all the destination reports!

    1. Thank you Jessica! We are gonna explore more of the world in 2019 than just America so it will make for an interesting year for us and see how far our cost of living can go!

  5. Tawcan says:

    Congrats on getting married. Interesting that you ended up spending less traveling than staying put in CA. This is something we are aiming for as well, traveling around the world with our kids in the near future.

    1. Thank you Tawcan. Happy Friday! Traveling with kids will definitely affect your budget, but since cost of raising a kid in the US are pretty high (should I say astronomical?) you should get a pretty nice “discount” if you take them with you on the road for long term travel. Definitely let us know if you plan on traveling as I would love love to see what your budget ended up at.

  6. Kent says:

    Hey NomadNumbers. Just found you via FIREcracker’s 2018 post. It’s so encouraging to find new full time world travellers. I’ve been a 6 month winter traveller now for 4 yrs. home based in Victoria, Canada. And while I’m old school having just turned 60, I was a child of the 60s – 70s and travel has always been the way to go for my gen. I look forward to following along as you experience the world.

    1. One of the reasons we decided to share our journey on this blog is to connect with like minded people. So thank you Kent for stopping by and saying Hi! Let’s definitely stay in touch and hopefully one day our path will cross 🙂

      Long before meeting Kristy & Bryce, we followed their blog and their incredible journey. After we had the chance to meet with them we got sold that our idea of long term & slow/nomadic travel can actually be less expensive that staying st home. And as I’m sure you can relate to, long term travels get you a radically better lifestyle, where you have more time to explore and don’t have to get stuck in terrible commute to get to a 9-5.

      What part of the world are you exploring during your 6 months winter trips?

      1. Kent says:

        I have to admit to being rather conservative so far and usually pick at least somewhere each winter I have yet to travel. And more familiar places I like to return to. Costa Rica and Australia to name a couple. Like you, I prefer long term, live locally stays. My sweet spot seems to be about 6 weeks. I’m currently in the Grampians region of Victoria, Australia and plan to be here for 7 weeks. Followed by the Big Island of Hawaii for 5 weeks after that.

        1. Oh great. We were thinking to hit Hawaii in 2019 but decided to pick a different Island: Aruba! Enjoy your travels. Never been to Australia and this is definitely on our list after 2019!

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