How can you (kids) afford this?
The first question we usually get asked when people figure out that we quit our jobs and are going cruising is: How long do you plan to be gone for? Our answer to this question varies, but it’s usually one or all of these four answers 1) until the money runs out, 2) until we get homesick, 3) until we stop having fun or 4) about 2 years. Most people are taken aback by the length of time we plan to travel. This inevitably leads to the question How can you (kids) afford to do that? It’s a fair question…it’s one I would certainly ask (and sometimes do). Sidenote: as a little girl I would walk into a stranger’s house, pick up anything within my grasp and ask our hosts how much it costs…it drove my godmother absolutely crazy, but it’s human nature to be a bit nosy. I’m giving you permission to be a bit nosy. Plus, it might help a future cruiser plan for their adventure.
Saving up for our cruising kitty
A lot of people assume that we come from very moneyed backgrounds. We must be trust fund babies to be able to afford this adventure, right? Well, we’re not. How can we afford this? The answer is quite simple: we worked hard and we saved our money. Even when I was in graduate school earning around $17,000 a year, we were able to put quite a bit of money in the bank. Here’s how:
- Pocket Cruiser – Serenity was not terribly expensive. We opted for a “pocket cruiser” since smaller boats have a smaller upfront cost and are (theoretically) less expensive to maintain.
- Debt Free – We had already paid for Serenity (thanks to our “single young consultant” days). No monthly payments while we cruise! Neither one of us had any debt (I had paid off student loans, Jeff bought pretty much everything outright and we always paid off our credit cards). We generally like to live debt free.
- Dual Income Household – Jeff and I were able to stash some money from our “single young consultant” days (before I went to graduate school and became a poor student). Jeff brought home the sugar when I was in graduate school. My tuition was paid for by my advisor and I worked as a research assistant for 20 hours a week. I also worked a second job during my second year of grad school. We weren’t making a ton of money, but we were still able to save.
- Cheap Wedding – We had a very cheap wedding (about $5500) and our parents gave us a generous gift, which offset the cost of our very cheap wedding.
- Cheap Rent – During our first year of marriage we lived with another (newly engaged) couple to save on rent. This was a huge money saver and we got to live with some of our best friends during some of the most interesting years of our respective lives.
- Spending Habits – We didn’t go out much, mostly because I was busy working day in and day out and because we’re kind of home bodies. When we did go out we looked for good deals (Groupon anyone?) We didn’t buy much stuff (just take a look at our wardrobe…old, sad clothes). The one exception for me was kitchen stuff (can. not. resist. Fiesta. Ware!) Jeff’s temptation was games and gadgets.
- Stay-Cations – We vacationed close to home (usually on our boat) and didn’t spend much money when we did travel.
- Reduce, Reuse and Do-It-Yourself -We’re both pretty good at denying ourselves the things that we think we need…but in reality they’re just wants. Jeff is a master at repurposing things rather than just tossing them out and starting over. We (but mostly Jeff) have a DIY approach to most everything, especially boat related things (which saves us a lot of money in the long run).
A wise investment?
Within a couple of years we had saved up enough for a solid down payment on a house, but rather than buying a house we decided to invest our money in a couple years of freedom. This wasn’t an easy decision…there were times when Jeff and I would exchange real estate listings or news articles talking about how now is the time to buy a house (especially with low interest rates and low[er] housing prices in the places we are likely to live).
We discussed multiple future trajectories. We were certainly tempted at times to buy a piece of land and settle in, but the allure of freedom and exploration was too great. We wanted to spend time with each other, exploring the world before we committed ourselves to a family and careers. A wise investment? Only time will tell. Our parents our leery, but our guts tell us yes (most strangers tell us the same).
Making money while underway
I had the great fortune of working for my grad school adviser as a research assistant during the first year or two. On average I worked about 10 hours a week transcribing interviews, reading journal articles, writing fact sheets, policy briefings and journal articles, all sorts of glorious academic-y things. It really was a nerd’s dream come true. I also do some freelance web design and small business marketing consulting work when I have the opportunity.
Jeff has done some odd jobs for other cruisers and sometimes he gets paid for that work. Jeff also had the opportunity to buckle down and do about 2-3 months of work for his old consulting firm when they were in need of some extra support. We temporarily moved to shore so that he could be plugged in and working a normal work week.
Does the blog make money?
The short answer is…no, not really. We were hoping that the blog would kick a couple pennies our way, and it has, but not much more than that. We get a little bit of money from the Adsense ad you see towards the top of the page. If you shop through our Amazon “store” (see the sidebar) we receive a small commission. Finally, a few generous souls have contributed directly through the PayPal link in the sidebar. A big THANK YOU to all those who have offered some financial support for this site! With your help we will be ale to cover the hosting fees associated with this site.
Living on the cheap
It turns out that you can’t just take your old life and put it on a boat in Mexico (or wherever) and expect to save money. Living on the cheap requires a lifestyle change and an enhanced ability to tell yourself (or your partner) “no.” When you spend time living in semi-rudimentary conditions (no shower, very little water, a kitchen smaller than most broom closets, diurnal or no refrigeration, etc) and traveling (sometimes in very stressful conditions), it’s hard to move past the “you’ve earned it” mentality.
That being said, sometimes spending a little money can bring you an immense amount of joy (e.g., a hershey’s bar after a month in the Sea of Cortez without chocolate, a cold beer on a semi-deserted beach, ice cream after lugging groceries around town, a movie in an air conditioned movie theater, tacos and margaritas after a long passage). Furthermore, there’s a lot we would probably miss out on if we didn’t get out there and spend some money. It’s different for everyone.
We’re still trying to find the balance between saving and spending, staying home and going out, living frugally and experiencing all that we want to experience. I can’t tell you with any degree of certainty that we will “figure it out” definitively…it will just continue to morph over time as our circumstances and expectations change. It’s like tuning a machine, the longer you’re out and the more you know about your spending habits, the better you get at controlling them.
Tracking our Dolla Billz
We’ve been keeping track of finances (tracking every last taco and paleta) because 1) I’m a tiny bit obsessed with understanding how our money is spent, 2) you can’t change what you don’t know (or at least it’s more difficult to change what you don’t know), and 3) others may benefit from knowing what it costs to live the way we live.
You can check out our monthly cruising budgets here, which should give you an idea of what it costs us to go cruising, though it can vary a lot from one cruiser to another and I recommend you check out other blogs with “cost of cruising” information (see the bottom of the page).
- January 2015 (Mexico)
2014 Expenses – $16001 total / $1342 per month average (click here for the annual wrap up)
- December 2014 – $832 (Mexico)
- November 2014 – $1372 (Panama + Mexico)
- October 2014 – $1150 (Panama)
- September 2014 – $1491 (Panama + USA)
- August 2014 – $1639 (Panama + USA)
- July 2014 – $2201 (Panama + USA)
- June 2014 – $1504 (Panama + USA)
- May 2014 – $1068 (Panama)
- April 2014 – $1201 (Panama)
- March 2014 – $1206 (Panama)
- February 2014 – $1266 (Panama)
- January 2014 – $1174 (Panama)
2013 Expenses – $21732 total / $1811 per month average (click here for the annual wrap up)
- December 2013 – $2166 (Costa Rica + Panama)
- November 2013 – $1183 (El Salvador + Costa Rica)
- October 2013 – $1850 (Mexico + El Salvador)
- September 2013 – $1100 (Mexico)
- July & August 2013 – $5574 (USA)
- June 2013 – $1722 (Mexico)
- May 2013 – $1032 (Mexico)
- April 2013 – $2086 (Mexico)
- March 2013 – $1563 (Mexico)
- February 2013 – $1893 (Mexico)
- January 2013 – $1563 (Mexico)
2012 Expenses (click here for the annual wrap up)
- December 2012 (Mexico)
- November 2012 (California)
- October 2012 (Oregon + California)
- September 2012 (Oregon)
- August 2012 (Oregon)
Working on this!!!
Other Resources – Cruising Costs on Other Blogs
As I mentioned above, the costs of cruising are going to vary considerably depending on countless variables (how many people on board? how big is your boat? where are you cruising? what are your recurring monthly costs? what are your eating and drinking habits? what are your shopping habits?). Can you use our budget as a guide? Sure, if you want to…though some people would put us squarely in the “minimalist” camp and others would put us in the “living large” camp. It all depends. Here are some other cruisers who are recording their cruising costs so you have more data points!
MJ Sailing – $1910 per month average
Del Viento – $4350 per month average (including a lot of boat maintenance and upgrades)
The Hacking Family – $3000 estimated per month average
Bumfuzzle – $3100 per month average
More to come!