Being Digital Nomads: 5 Tips To Save And Make Money

I first shared our story on The Nomad Economy's Blog with some money-managing tips for people who travel and work full-time, but I got to think that the beginning of our new journey should also be told in this blog. So here it is: 

Taken during our extended honeymoon in Java, Indonesia 

Taken during our extended honeymoon in Java, Indonesia 

“So we are getting married in Vietnam?”, we had to ask ourselves this question a few times over until the idea stuck. As we lived in the Netherlands, organizing a wedding in Vietnam would be, at the very least, challenging. Certain things wouldn't be possible to arrange remotely, so we would have to fly back early. Four weeks would have been the minimum amount of time for putting the final touches on the plan and catching up with everyone. 

“Maybe we book the return flight after one month...”

“How’s about we keep going?”

We both liked the sound of it. Our relationship started when we backpacked across South East Asia for three months. It would be nice to get back on the road again as our honeymoon starts. There would be one major difference: We didn’t work then, but we would work this time, so we could keep going longer. 

Ian and I are freelancers. One writes code and the other writes Call To Action. 

My client work has always been online so it makes no difference if I am in the center of Amsterdam or deep in the jungle of Malaysia (as long as there's wifi 😬). 

It was more often required for Ian to be at a client office. That could, however, change when he picks a new client. He could also work on his own project, an app for travelers to bookmark an interesting place to come back again.

The digital nomad idea came to us on the spur of the moment, but we were prepared. Our jobs are digital, our belongings are minimal, and the most important thing: we know we'd be happy on the road, as we always were. 

That was how we start our nomadic life: visiting places and working on the road. 

We have been traveling and working for months since our wedding. Our friends joked about the length of our honeymoon and our family concerned about our finance. The vagabond lifestyle could be expensive, counting cross-country trains and trans-continent flights, short-stay accommodations, and restaurant bills. However, we are trying to make it cheap.

If you are interested, here's how: 

Rent cheaply

We put own our possessions in the smallest storage unit that could fit. The rent is 40€ per month, nothing else. Our rent in Amsterdam was 35 times that much, before the internet bill and water tax. Of course, we still have to pay for nights on the road but nowhere we've been is as expensive as Amsterdam.

Besides, Airbnb hosts often give you a discount if you stay for the whole week or month. That is where we save some money. We also have travel credit with AirBnB when a friend uses our code to be a guest or a host. Our friends get the credit too. 

Eat locally

We eat where the local eat. In Indonesia, for example, we went to “warung” all the time and pay as little as 2€ for lunch for two. The menu might be limited to a few or even one dish, but we got good food. All the "warung" we’d been to in Java was fantastic. 

A warung in Java 

A warung in Java 

If you are in Bali, it is different, though. You still can find the small, family run warung outside the center of Ubud, Denpasar or Sanur, but there are also the expensive restaurants called themselves a warung for the authenticity. There you could find all the comfort western food, but at the western price. 

Make your food or at least drinks

We make our own tea and coffee. As we drink a lot, we could end up paying 10€ per day for tea and coffee, even in cheaper destination in Asia. 

So I carry tea bags, which are very light and much more affordable. A fancy Clipper Organic Earl Grey costs less than 3€ for a box of 15 sachets. You do the math. 

Ian buys grounded coffee and uses his Aeropress to make his morning cup (then the afternoon and the evening ones). As most Airbnb places, hotels and hostels would provide us with something to boil water, we almost never have to go without, or pay ten times more for our drinks. 

The art of light packing

We travel light: one cabin backpack each, which means we could go for the cheapest option offered by budget airlines. Besides, we whizzed through airports: no waiting in line for baggage drop-off and by a slow moving luggage belt.

Time is money, right?

The most important one

We work the hours. It is hard to fight the mentality of being on a holiday when, for example, the mountain literally started from the backyard of our Airbnb apartment. However, we set the hours, 6 to 8 per day, and fit them around our life-exploring priorities. 

For example, we would get up very early in the morning, do 6 hours before lunch time at 2pm. We would then go out for a long lunch at a highly rated restaurant on Foursquare or take a packed lunch and go into the wood for a few hours. When we come back, we would work later, until 9 or 10 depending on the work.  

We also work on the road. We like traveling with the train. Even though they are more expensive than buses, they offer the space for working. Some trains have power sockets so you can keep working for hours. We would take long-distance trains during the day, admiring the view here and there while working. When we get off the train, our hours pile up and we are in a new exciting place. 

We both use Toggl to keep track of our timesheet so we can be sure that we have work enough, not too little and not too much either.

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