The big question. Before we decided on becoming full time cruisers we did hours worth of research on sailing forums hoping to find a “magical” number. Quitting jobs and selling belongs is a big decision and if you’re in the research phase it’s totally normal to be questioning yourselves of “Can we afford this?” Unfortunately I didn’t find that many people were sharing specifics in terms of cost. So, we put together a detailed excel doc broken out by our projects, boat needs, personal needs, and luxuries to help estimate our expenses. We also made boat friends at our marina in Florida who were very knowledgeable of cruising the Bahamas so we knew in advance on some of the higher cost of food, water, and dockage.
Now the costs of purchasing/refitting a boat is fairly simple to determine and thats a whole separate post in itself. However, the cost of living this lifestyle isn’t as simple since everyone has a different agenda, location, and boat. Luckily, we’re DINKS (dual income, no kids) and we still bring in a monthly income as we’re able to work remotely. But maintaining a budget and savings is still important to us. Things add up easily on a boat but I can honestly say that life aboard can be cheaper than on land, just depends on how frugal or extravagant you want to be. We’ve heard of some cruisers budgeting as low as $500 a month – Impressive! We immediately saw cost savings just from cutting expenses from apartments, cars, happy hours, take out, weekly impulse buys at Target and other “stuff” – haha. Living on a boat for the past five months has made me realize just how much I’ve wasted in the past and just how little you actually need.
We gave ourselves a budget of $1,500 per month, which covered living expenses/bills, fuel, and any maintenance + repairs. Sometimes we may not be able to stick to it, as there are other unexpected expenses but it’s good to have a target every month with some buffer. Here’s some things we do to help manage and minimize:
- DIY – Thankfully Brent knows this boat inside and out and has a talent for taking things apart and putting them back together. He has exceptional problem solving skills. Marine anything is crazy expensive, especially labor/parts. So get to know your boat well and don’t be afraid to ask questions! The boating community is so friendly and helpful to one another. This easily saved us both time and money on several occasions. If you’re refitting, put in the work, get creative, watch tutorials, and also do the research before running off to West Marine ($$$$) or hiring outside help.
- On the hook – Marinas are so convenient but can get expensive, you can pay anywhere from $2.00 per foot/night to $5.50+ per foot/night in the Bahamas. Not including fees for water, trash, and shore power. We have a 44′ boat so it adds up quick. We anchor out most nights, its fun, better views, more privacy, and sometimes even nicer than sitting at a high traffic marina. Anchoring out in the Bahamas cost $0 dollars a night! Mooring balls are usually $15-$30 a night.
- Make money while sailing – We’ve met a handful of people/couples who still work while living aboard and traveling. In industries such as copywriting, software, and book-keeping. If you want cash flow and flexibility, freelance is also a great option so you can pick and choose the workload according to your schedule. We invested in wifi for the boat (easy to do) and work from our laptops couple days a week for a few hours. But as young cruisers, it’s nice knowing that the cruising fund is growing!
- Plan, Plan, Plan, and ask questions – Don’t feel dumb for asking questions! Not doing the research may cost you more in the long run. We’re always researching our next anchorage/destination/marina for reviews and talking to other cruisers to know whats available to us once we get somewhere. Which allows for us to provision effectively and re-fill at a possible lower cost as well as anticipate cost or re-evaluate routes. We also plan out our meals, we freeze and marinate meats ahead of time for dinners and make lunches on the mornings of long travel days. It makes our liveaboard life more convenient since it’s not always easy to just venture out for food/restaurants. ActiveCaptain and Navionics have been big planning resources for us.
Here’s a breakdown of how we spent money last month (April 2018), accounting for two + two guests aboard. Our monthly spending averages (including marina fees, entertainment, boat work, food, wifi, phone, laundry, etc.) around $1800 – $2000. But you can do it on a lot less, and we certainly know people who spend a lot more. Our biggest cost is food and meals out. This tends to fluctuate for us based on where we are and what each place offers.
- Food $355
- Re-fill Water $53
- Re-fill Diesel $80
- Electric/Shore power (1 night) $18
- Dockage (1 night) $200
- Laundry (3x) $58
- Boat maintenance + parts $25
- Phones/Internet $285
- Hotel (1 night) $195
- Meals/drinks out $420
- Amazon order $322…If you’re coming to visit, you have to bring us goods! 🙂
George Town grocery prices: Milk $5.70, Eggs $2.79, Bread $6.05, Pop tarts $6.18, 3-pack Chicken Breast $14-16, Tomatoes $4.75, Cheese $4.29, Oreos $9.00, lunch meat $7.16, laundry detergent $11.28