People thinking of replacing their 9-5 work schedules with the digital nomad lifestyle think in terms of enhanced freedom and the chance to travel the world while taking their job with them. However, anyone who has ever tried to win a gig online knows that remote work — unless you run a business or have one big employer — requires some sacrifices in the beginning.
For one thing, finances can be unstable and, contrary to popular but ungrounded belief, you do need some money on the side. Unless you have a lot of savings, you’ll need to think about your finances in advance.
There are actually many burning questions. How much money do you need to start being a digital nomad? How much can you earn monthly and how much can you save? How can you withdraw money from different locations without paying outrageously high fees?
Let’s see what you can do to make the transition as painless and stress-free as possible.
1. Set Up Your Banking
For many people, the choice of credit/debit card and actual banks are the first question. While nowadays, setting up an online account isn’t a big deal, the fact remains that some banks charge way too high fees for transactions abroad.
Set up an e-checking service before you set out. Also, look into credit cards specifically designed for remote workers and freelancers, like Payoneer and e-wallets. Depending on your needs, you may need to combine services.
2. Learn About Filing Expat Taxes
When planning your finances, don’t forget about expat taxes. There will be new forms to file, such as the FBAR Form 8938, so make sure to familiarize yourself with them in advance.
You’ll also need to think about the taxes of the country you’re relocating to. Sometimes, the expat community may be able to provide all bits of information you need to get started, while at other times, it is recommended to hire a bookkeeper.
There is no general advice in this matter except for — stay informed and plan ahead. Whichever option works better for you is just fine.
3. Set Up a Budget
When it comes to savings, the safest approach is to calculate the approximate amount of the money you’ll need and add some extra to the sum. But, how to do that?
The easiest formula is to calculate:
- The expenses you’ll have before you leave the country
- Your monthly expenses in the new country of residence
- Emergency money
Examples of the expenses you will need ahead include the price of health or life insurance (if any), flight tickets, vaccinations and check-ups, visa costs and equipment costs.
Examples of the monthly expenses in the new country of residence include pretty much the same items as the monthly expenses at home, including: costs of accommodation, food, transportation, any form of entertainment you’re planning to enjoy, other small expenses and co-working (if you’re planning to visit co-working spaces).
As for emergency money, it’s simple to calculate: set aside as much as you can and you’ll never go wrong.
For best results, you should accumulate enough money for the first two or three months of your new life, especially if you’re relying on gigs. Reach out to the local expat community before you leave so that you can get a realistic idea on average costs in the country you’re planning to relocate to.
4. Evaluate Your Available Assets
Once you know that, it’s time to evaluate your available assets. Take all sources into account: your own money, money that you may or may not need to borrow, stipends (if any), insurance policies and savings.
It goes without saying that you’ll need to make a sustainable plan before relocating. Consider the fact that it will take you some time to get used to the local life abroad, so you should allow for some extra expenses until you learn how best to economize, at least in the beginning.
5. Organize Your Financial Communications
As mentioned above, organizing your finances is extremely important, but there’s another aspect not to be overlooked — financial communication.
Don’t forget that you’ll be in a different country, so anything that you forgot to do prior to relocating will be impossible to accomplish from abroad. This includes banking expenses and expenses for other services you may not need while abroad. Make sure to cancel all unnecessary services and cut on the costs accordingly.
One good way to stay organized in this matter is to use Gmail labels, for obvious reasons. You will want all important emails to be accessible without much fuss, for reference and for further correspondence.
Once you’ve done all this, you’re ready for the adventure of your life that will hopefully last your entire life. Digital nomadism is a great lifestyle. Whether you decide to set up a business base in one country or to simply travel from one country to another and enjoy learning about new cultures and customs, one thing is certain: once you’ve begun your journey, you’ll hardly ever think about the old boring 9-5 job.