3 Tips For Digital Nomads on a Budget

3 Tips For Digital Nomads on a Budget

The 3 biggest lessons I learned in my first fortnight as a digital nomad.
Personal Finance
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Josh Sultan
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Nov 13, 2021
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I’ve been a digital nomad for a couple of weeks now.
I’ve always believed that the first couple of weeks of doing something is when the most important lessons get learned- and often the hard way.

Food Delivery Apps Are the Best Menus

Apps like UberEATS and Deliveroo (or Wolt, the most popular food app in Athens) give you a variety of choices in cuisine, budget, and dietary requirements. I’m not saying you should order through these apps, I’d encourage you to get out into the city to find your food.
What I am suggesting is that you leverage the fact that these apps tend to have excellent UI’s and allow you to view several restaurant menus in a short time. Use them to scope out which restaurants interest you, then head out and find those restaurants.
When you’re on a budget or have dietary requirements, you don’t want to be wandering the city and settle for the first food joint you find.
A little bit of planning goes a long way, and scoping out interesting, affordable restaurants through food delivery apps is a great way to keep tabs on your options. You could take this a step further and identify all of the restaurants that are of interest to you, mark the locations on a map, then whenever you’re exploring and want to stop to eat you can see what’s close to you.

Don’t Skimp on Wi-Fi, Washers and Workspaces

These three amenities are so much more important than I’d thought they would be for long stays. They’re now the three most important things I look for in accommodation.
Not everywhere in the world is going to have good Wi-Fi, but where you can I’d really recommend accommodation with fibre optic. If your ability to work is reliant on internet access, then you might be underestimating the impact of that access suddenly S L O W I N G   D O W N.
It used to take me about 2 hours to edit and publish my weekly Magic: The Gathering podcast. It now takes about double that simply because my Wi-Fi is slow.
The same thing goes for your workspace. Your “desk” is going to be where you spend most of your waking time. Forgo the “I can make do, my productivity isn’t tied to my comfort” heroics.
The work surface doesn’t matter as much. A dining table will do- but do the chairs look comfortable?
If all you’ve got is a breakfast bar and a stool your back is going to hate you.
Finally, have a plan when it comes to laundry. I’m travelling one-bag style, so I’ve packed light. I’m perpetually doing laundry.
I hand wash my clothes in the kitchen sink, but I can’t do the same with larger items like bedsheets and towels. I also don’t have a bathtub to wash these in.
Here in Athens, there’s a laundry collection service that will pick up your laundry, wash and dry it and return it to you the same day but that’s more costly than doing it yourself. The nearest launderette is a 15-minute walk away which I thought would be fine before I arrived, but it’s a little far to lug a bag of laundry.
Make sure your accommodation has a washing machine, a launderette very nearby, or a tub big enough for hand washing.

Plan Ahead

One of the most attractive parts of a nomadic lifestyle is freedom, but one of the common mistakes made by new nomads is correlating freedom to a lack of planning. There seem to be two major schools of thought when it comes to planning travels:

Fast and Loose

Flexibility isn’t freedom.
The Fast and Loose nomad won’t decide where they’re going until a few days before they leave. They might have a vague idea, but ultimately, they follow their nose.
They’ll book a hostel for the first few nights. They use this time to connect with other travellers and scope the place out. This gives them important insight on a location before they make any commitments.
They can decide which area of town they want to live in and physically view accommodation before signing up for a month or two. They can even find temporary roommates to split accommodation costs with.
It’s dynamic, fun, and there’s high upsides to this approach. It’s also unreliable.
If your hostel doesn’t have a good workspace, you may be increasing your “travel downtime” from work. You might find that all the good accommodation is gone by the time you arrive somewhere, and what’s left is expensive or bad.

Slow and Smooth

The key to staying on budget isn’t to always go for the cheapest option, it’s to go with the predictable.
The Slow and Smooth nomad plans several weeks ahead, at least. Since they can’t physically scope out a location, they do a lot more research. Sometimes it can take a day or two of reading articles, watching videos, leafing through Airbnb listings, and messaging hosts before they choose.
The upside is that you get access to early bird discounts and better flight times. You’re more likely to find that superb Airbnb at a decent price. You minimise your downtime by knowing that you’ll be able to work within a day of your arrival.
If you’re extroverted, then one downside is that you miss out on hostel culture and the chance to connect with other travellers.
If you’re introverted, then another upside is that you miss out on hostel culture and chance for other travellers to try and connect with you.

I prefer the Slow and Smooth approach because it’s predictable and the key to staying on budget isn’t to always go for the cheapest option, it’s to go with the predictable. Yes, you lose some flexibility, but flexibility isn’t freedom.
Don’t go thinking that things like budgets and travel plans are a restriction when in fact they’re exactly the systems that are allowing you to live this beautiful lifestyle.
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