The idea of sitting at a cafe with a laptop in front of you, eating exotic local delicacies and making money though it all sounds fascinating and something everyone can get behind. That’s the much-vaunted digital nomad lifestyle! However, it's not always easy, feasible or doable to most people. Being a digital nomad on a budget is even harder but possible with careful planning and a bit of a mindset shift.
The first step towards being a digital nomad is obviously landing yourself a remote job or working as a location-dependent freelancer who can work online and earn an income that's enough to cover the expenses in the particular location and preferably more as a cushion.
But between those home rentals, flights and cafes, costs do add up and you may not end up saving much or even covering the expenses. So how do you digital nomad on a budget?
As a freelancer marketing consultant at a remote email marketing agency and a home blogger, I'd say I'm now closer to living the digital nomad life than ever before. So here's some tips based on my experience
1. Choose a location based on its season
The first step to living in a location on a budget is to choose a time that’s not high seasons for local or international tourists. Nothing shoots the costs up like paying for high-season prices even though you’re there for a longer term than casual tourists. For example, being in Goa India during December will be twice as expensive as being there just a couple of months earlier without much compromise on the good weather
2. Join Local groups and communities even before reaching
Once you have your location pinned down, join local communities and online groups even before you get there. Research into cheap and safe localities, hunt for houses and flatmates, buy or rent used household goods from the peer network to get the best value.
3 . Rent an apartment rather than a hotel
It might be easier to go online and book a hotel for your entire stay in the location, but hold back. Book one or two nights at a hotel and use those days to hunt for a rental property by going around, keeping your eyes out for ”to-let signboards” and asking around with the locals. Usually the hotel prices can be 2-3x of renting a local property. Besides, you don’t want to be in a place on a touch-and-go trip and be there for at least a month or two to soak it all in. An airbnb or a homestay will be a better option and will also allow you to cook your own meals and save money on eating out.
4. Patronize a cafe and ask for special "regular" pricing
If there’s a particular cafe you’ve found your working rhythm at, then pally up with the owners and request them for an off-menu “regular” price. Sometimes you can get a good 10-20% discount if you’re a regular, but be nice about it. If you’re someone who lies low, sits in a corner and does their own thing, you’re actually a great regular to have from an owner pov. Better still, offer to do some marketing or another favour for them for an even bigger discount possibility. (Can you maybe do a beautiful mural on their wall?)
5. Cook at least one meal at your accommodation
Cooking is not as arduous as it sounds like. Even if you’re shacked up in a temporary accommodation where a kitchen setup for a fully laid-out dining table looks tricky, it’s always possible to arrange a small setup by yourself by buying a basic induction cooktop, a couple of pans and some cutlery. Just a few meals cooked by yourself rather than eating out can offset the kitchen setup costs and eventually the home cooked meals will pay for themselves. Even if a cooked meal isn’t possible, you can always whip up a filling salad with a few basic ingredients, without having to cook. Check out my page thesaladlife for tons of salad inspiration and recipes.
6. Rent a bike/wallk/hitchhike rather than take cabs
If you plan to go sight-seeing or travel around much rather than stay put at one spot forever, than investing in a rental bike or even buying a used bike for cheap rather than taking cabs everywhere will save tons of cash. Just for perspective, a local cab ride for a 10 km distance in most developing countries will cost around $10 while it’ll cost around the same for a bike rental and if you do multiple such trips in a day, the savings reallly add up. When you're about to leave the location, simply return or resell the bike. When walking is an option, walk. It also burns calories and is great to spot little-known bylanes and experience a city truly immersively.