This post was written by Nicole, a featured guest writer on this blog. Nicole, an explorer at heart, transitioned from a corporate role to embrace a global citizen's life, living out of her suitcase and empowering others in finance optimization for the nomadic journey. Her wanderlust fuels a unique "lifestyle design" shared through engaging content on social platforms, podcasts, and blogs.
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13 Finance Strategies For Digital Nomads
The digital nomad lifestyle, characterized by the freedom to work and travel simultaneously, has become increasingly popular in recent years. It's an appealing lifestyle: working from a cafe in Bali one month, and then a cozy apartment in Prague the next.
However, with this newfound freedom comes a unique set of financial challenges. Here is a list of my key strategies for managing finances as a first-time digital nomad.
1. Know Your Numbers
Before hitting the road, sit down and work out a plan. Factor in costs like accommodation, food, transport, and insurance, as well as a savings cushion for unexpected expenses (you will need this)!
While it’s good to have a picture of your expenses in different countries around the globe, factor in your income as well. To make a well-rounded financial gameplan, you need to know all the numbers. Include income as well as potential expenses in your planning.
Also, be sure to do research on living costs in your chosen destinations. My favourite cost of living website that is most accurate is Numbeo.
2. Separate Business & Personal Expenses
This only applies if you have a business… but if you do, but sure to keep your expenses separate.
Not only is this important for corporate liability, but it also gives you a clear picture of what your income that is personal and business-related looks like.
Be sure to open different bank accounts (they may even be at different banks, and that’s okay) for your personal and business-related expenses. This not only helps in tracking where your money goes but also makes things simpler during tax time.
3. Choose The Right Bank & Credit Card
This one applies in every country, but if you are American, you have some great options! However, almost every country offers some sort of points or travel credit card that you can take advantage of.
It is important to note that you should only be applying for credit cards if you can pay them off in full each month and you have the discipline to use them properly.
You will also want to consider banking options that offer low or no foreign transaction fees. Online banks and fintech banks like Wise can often provide a great combination of low fees and user-friendly interfaces.
4. Use Reliable Financial Tools
If you have credit cards and bank accounts, you can link everything into one app to get a holistic view of your income and expenses.
If you don’t have your credit cards, bank accounts, and just general life all in one country, it may be easiest to track everything in an easy-to-use tracker, like the one I’ve created for my own global citizen life.
5. Understand Taxes
Just because you're abroad doesn't mean you're exempt from taxes. Research the tax implications of your home country for citizens abroad.
Countries have different treaties and rules around taxation, so you may be taxed on your world-wide income, or perhaps only income made inside your home country. You can also choose to leave your home country and set up your business and taxes in countries that are more beneficial for you (be sure to consult a professional and let’s hop on a call if this is the case for you – where you set up your life depends on various factors and is never a one-size-fits-all).
6. Diversify Income Streams
Relying on a single source of income can be risky, especially as a digital nomad. Aim to diversify your income by taking on different projects, exploring passive income options, or even investing in stocks or real estate.
There are countless ways to make money online. My recommendation is always find something you’re passionate about, otherwise it will be difficult to sustain yourself in your business during difficult times.
If you love what you do, it will never feel like work.
7. Save For Emergencies
This is crucial! An emergency fund is even more essential for someone living the digital nomad life. From unexpected medical emergencies to sudden travel changes, having a safety net ensures you can handle any unforeseen expenses.
8. Get The Right Insurance
To build off the last point, always be sure to get travel insurance. And it’s important to get the proper insurance.
Standard travel insurance might not suffice for a digital nomad. Look for insurance plans specifically designed for long-term travelers or digital nomads, covering health, gear, and potential travel disruptions. If you want the best, reach out to me and I can connect you with a nomad insurance expert who can help you further.
9. Factor In Connectivity Costs
Reliable internet is the lifeline of a digital nomad. Sometimes, you might need to invest in co-working spaces or premium internet packages to ensure you have fast connectivity.
Be sure these costs are factored into your budget, as it can be a long day if you don’t have internet and have a long to-do list.
10. Plan Ahead
While spontaneity is part of the nomad charm, planning can save money. Early bird rates for accommodations, discounted flights, or co-working space packages can cut down costs significantly.
This is especially important in the beginning of your journey when you are just starting your business and nomad journey.
11. Be Currency Smart
Keep an eye on exchange rates. With apps like XCurrency, you can track and calculate live currency rates. I personally like XCurrency best, as I can easily see 5 different currency exchange rates at a glance.
When converting money, platforms like Wise offer real exchange rates without hidden fees – and the lowest cost I’ve seen for transfers!
12. Think About Your Future
If you’re wanting to live the nomad lifestyle long-term, congrats! It’s absolutely manageable to do so, however you want to ensure you are planning properly for older age or retirement as a digital nomad now.
What accounts and investments do you hold that could help in this long-term planning? Do you want to diversify and invest in other markets to find undervalued shares? Figure out a plan of action now and start working toward that, so you are set for retirement!
13. Review & Adjust
What works for you now likely won’t later in your nomad journey. It’s normal to pivot and adjust as needed. Life changes, and so do your finances.
If you use these tips to know your numbers, and not shy away from them, you will be ready for your first adventure as a digital nomad.
Setting Financial Goals As A Digital Nomad
Next, we will discuss setting financial goals as a digital nomad, and what that can look like.
To ensure long-term financial security and make the most of your nomadic journey, it’s crucial to set clear and realistic financial goals. By striking a balance between short-term experiences and long-term financial stability, you too can create a sustainable lifestyle that brings you joy and financial freedom as a digital nomad.
Short-Term vs Long-Term Goals
When it comes to financial planning as a digital nomad, it’s important to distinguish between short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals often revolve around budgeting for specific trips or experiences.
For example, you may want to save up for a thrilling adventure like skydiving in New Zealand or exploring the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru. These short-term goals allow you to enjoy the present moment and make the most of your nomadic lifestyle.
On the other hand, long-term goals focus on building a solid financial foundation for the future, and for your potential retirement as a nomad.
This could involve setting aside a portion of your income in a separate account for retirement, creating an emergency fund, or long-term investing in different markets around the world.
By prioritizing these long-term financial goals, and not only thinking about the short-term goals, you can ensure a secure future for yourself as a long-term traveller.
Balancing Travel and Financial Goals
As a digital nomad, its crucial to find a balance between our desire to travel and the need to manage our finances effectively.
I get it – it can be tempting to go all out on a trip and completely disregard your bank account. But trust me, you’ll end up paying for it later when your finances are a mess and you feel shame looking at your bank account or credit card bill.
That’s exactly what we don’t want for you!
By aligning your travel plans with your financial goals, you can strike a harmonious balance between exploration and financial stability.
For example, you might choose to spend a few months in a low-cost destination to save money and then splurge on a bucket-list adventure.
We call this geo-arbitrage, and all this means is striking a balance between living in a low cost of living destination and your money going further, and balancing living in a higher cost of living destination where your money doesn’t go so far.
I love embracing this concept of geo-arbitrage in my travels, because almost every country (with the exception of the few Western countries) has a much lower cost of living than you would expect.
And guess what… the quality of life is often higher than in these high-cost Western countries! Yes, you heard me right.
From living on the beach in Thailand or Vietnam, to living in the mountains in Argentina, you can live an amazing life that doesn’t break the bank, allowing you to enjoy breathtaking experiences while also building up your savings and investments for the future. Not a bad life, right?
And That's A Wrap!
Embracing the digital nomad lifestyle is an exhilarating journey of freedom, discovery, and growth.
However, it's essential to be financially savvy to sustain the nomad lifestyle long-term. By establishing a robust financial strategy and continuously educating yourself, you can enjoy the best of what being a digital nomad has to offer without the financial stress. Safe travels and happy working!