Managing Your Finances as a Digital Nomad: Tips for Budgeting and Saving Money

I started my blog way back in 2009, I became a digital nomad before the term ever existed, and it was the best decision on my life. But I was in my early twenties then. Footloose and fancy free, not a worry in the world. I’m in my (very!) late 30s now and life comes at you fast. I built my dream house in thailand, got married in Chiang Mai and wanted to build my future. So although technically I could still be a digital nomad, I’m very much based in Thailand. That being said, I need my digital nomad cap on when it comes to managing money. I too have finances-as-a-freelancer to keep track of finances as a freelancer or digital nomad. So here are a few tips I use to manage my finances:

My new house in Chiang Mai
My new house in Chiang Mai

Build an emergency fund

Before you start your journey, make sure you have at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses saved up. This will help you avoid debt or getting stuck midway. This is ESPECIALLY important if you’re just starting out on your entrepreneurial journey. You may not like to hear this, but you need this as your back. If you move to South East Asia, $6k or so will be enough to see you through those first 6 months. Don’t leave home without it, unless you’re already making money online. If that means working 2 jobs at home and living with parents, do it.

Pay YOURSELF; Don’t be a weekend millionaire

This is the number 1 most important money tip I can give to managing money as a digital nomad. It’s why I sit here as a multi millionaire while many of my friends, who earned similar to me, are broke in their late 30s. When you make your first $1k online, you need that money to live. Maybe even $2k, or $3k it’s the same. But once you start seeing $10k a month, or $20k a month, that doesn’t mean you should spend $20k a month! Living a flash life when the going is going means you’re going to live a broke life when the going is bad. And it will get bad.

I spend around $3k a month (aside from expeditions to Everest, South Pole etc!). My spendings have crept up from about $1k to $3k over 10 years. That’s fine. Lifestyle creep is the death of digital nomadism. Those guys on instagram opening bottles in dubai? Renting Lambos? They’ll be stacking shelves in 5 years. Be smart. Pay yourself what you need. Keep the rest for your business and future.

Save and Invest

As soon as I had my first $100k in the bank, I bought a little 2 bed condo in Bangkok, mortgage-free, 28 years old. Now, no matter how my blogging career, the SEO game etc went, I would always have a roof over my head, no rent, no mortgage. Since then, I made good money too. That went into more investments – more properties, Bangkok, London, Chiang Mai, London again and then finally my dream villa in Thailand, again mortgage free. How? No lifestyle creep. I paid myself my monthly ‘salary’, and I invested the rest. Once you make $2k or more in South East Asia, you can save over 50% of everything else you earn. Do that.

Oh, and investing in your business? Sure, of course do that. But don’t go all in. Invest, save too. Going all-in increases your chance to be worth $100m by what? 1% maybe. Not going all-in prevents you from ever having $100m, sure, but it all but guarantees you’ll be a millionaire in your 30s. Take that to the bank.

Invest in what? If you have no clue, throw it in an index tracker, the S&P500 is perfect. Don’t overthink. And get on the property ladder as soon as possible. Oh, and never sell any property you buy. When you upgrade, keep the old one. Scrimp and save. But that builds true wealth.

Open International Accounts

Keep your money in different currencies to make it inflation-proof. Use a service like Revolut or Wise to send and accept payments in multiple currencies.

Also, when you invoice clients as a freelancer and collect money, this allows you to bill in different currencies.

Finally, open an account in the country you live in. For me, that’s Thailand. The more accounts in the more countries, the better. Trust me.

Create a budget

Most people need this. Personally I don’t. Growing up poor scarred me. I’ll never be back there. So I know my networth to the nearest $1k every day of the week. I know the balance in every account and I’m always careful with my money. If you truly are the same, skip this.

If not, then plan your expenses in advance and allocate money to them. If you’re not sure how much you’ll need, multiply your rent by three to get an idea of the cost of living. Allocate tentative amounts of money to each expense head you will be spending on in a month.

Track Every Dollar

Tracking every dollar you spend will help you notice what you’re spending on, what your priorities are, and where you need to cut back. Open up a simple google sheet and save it on the go. After a couple of weeks it’ll become second nature. Gym membership, netflix, hulu (and apple TV, and HBO etc), travel insurance. GET IT ALL WRITTEN DOWN. It’s more than you think. But it’s better to know.

Pay off your debts

Work 2 jobs, work 3 if you must. Digital nomad life is amazing. Going bankrupt isn’t. If you have credit card debt, you’re not ready to leave your real life yet. Delay it until you pay back. Consolidate the debt. Tally it up, and put every last cent into until it’s gone. Simple.

Remember, wealth doesn’t come without sacrifice. But by following these tips, you can manage your money effectively and enjoy your life as a digital nomad without financial stress. Don’t forget to start small and create a habit of saving to secure your financial future.

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