The Cost of Living the Dream

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January 2016 income and expense report
How much did you save to go on your trip?
How do you make money on the road?
What’s your monthly budget look like?
These are the first questions people ask us whenever they find out what we’re doing (i.e. running a camp cooking and outdoor travel blog from the road). And for good reason! These are the exact same questions we ask whenever we come across somebody who is seemingly “living the dream.”

There’s no shortage of personal travel blogs and Instagram road trip accounts, but few of them are willing to reveal what we’re all thinking: “How, exactly, are they pulling it off?” We spent months trying to answer to this question in preparation for our own trip. We looked at other people living on the road and we guessed, we speculated, and we made assumptions. But ultimately we were flying blind. While many people inspired us to hit the road, few people really empowered us. It wasn’t until we made the leap ourselves that we got any real information.

Over the holidays, we listened to a fantastic Planet Money podcast about financial transparency. The podcast specifically examined what happens when companies make the salaries of their employees public. What happens when everyone knows what everyone else is making? And how does that information affect the decisions people make? (Spoiler: Everyone benefits.) While this is a noteworthy concept in its own right, it got us thinking more broadly about being transparent with our own lives.  

Because after six months on the road, we realized we were perpetuating the same cycle of misinformation. Up until now, we have been showcasing a lifestyle that many people find to be inspirational, but we haven’t shown how we make that lifestyle work. With these new monthly income and expense reports, we hope to shed a little light behind the scenes and give people a glimpse into what it actually costs for us to “live the dream”.

While no two paths can be duplicated in life, we hope you find the information here to be useful, inspirational, and empowering.

January 2016 by the Numbers

Miles Driven: 171
Train Rides: 3
Nights off the Road: 31 (We spent the month staying with family on both the East and West coasts)
States visited: 5 (CT, NY, RI, MA, CA)
Slices of pizza: 18 (NY style, SE CT Greek Style, and New Haven style!)
Oysters on the half shell: 16

Income

Notes: This was a slow month for us, income wise, because we put most of our energy into two things 1) Quality time with family, and 2) Generating new leads for freelance work in the upcoming months.

Blog Income:
– Affiliate Income $47

Freelance Work:
– Digital Content $325

Total $372

Business Expenses: $216 (includes monthly services like Adobe CC and food purchased specifically for recipe development)

Net Income: $156

Expenses

Notes: Since we stayed with family this month, we didn’t have to pay for camping, some of our meals were “comped” (thanks moms!), and our mileage was low. However, we did make up for that with train rides into NYC + Boston.

Gas $72
Food $486
Camping $0
Car maintenance & repairs $37
Insurance (auto/health) $389
Cell phone $50
Gym Membership $29
Misc. expenses $178

Total Expenses $1,241

Net for January ($1085)

Amount from Savings $1085
*As you can see, our earned income from our blog and freelance work doesn’t cover all of our expenses. We saved a lot before this trip, so this represents what we had to pull from our savings account for the month. We hope eventually the income from our blog and freelance work will cover the cost of our trip and perhaps some day return a profit.

If you have questions about anything we have listed in this report, please leave us a comment below and we’ll try our best to answer your questions. Thank you for your continuing support!

NB: This post was reformatted on 4/29/16 to provide better distinction between income & expenses relating to our freelance business, and the costs relating to traveling full time & living on the road. Ultimately, all numbers remain the same but have simply been re-organized.

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19 Comments

  1. So great that y’all are doing this! Linds and I get the same questions and when we are just honest it creates a while lot more light bulbs and encouragement. At the end of the day, all is us nomads have a goal, save responsibly and then hustle hard.

    1. I absolutely agree. The more we all know, the better off we all are.

      PS – just saw your Digital Nomad CPA biz… you might be hearing from us soon 🙂 We were just talking about how tricky these things are now that we’re on the road.

      1. I’m here to help for sure! I know. Tricky is a nice way to put it….I prefer to use ridiculous. Looking forward to hearing from y’all…AND really excited to try some of these recipes. Our Casita doesn’t have an oven, so I’m pumped to whip out the Dutch Oven and make some goodness in the skillet.

  2. I appreciate your honesty and transparency. These are the questions I have, as well. I’ve toyed with the idea of taking our small family on the road… this kind of information goes a long ways towards making informed decisions. Thank you, and keep up the great work!

    1. Stacy, I’m so happy to hear that you found this helpful! Our only goal is to help shed a little light on what it looks like for us, and we hope that will give some sort of starting point for other folks.

  3. Fantastic! Looking forward to seeing some helpful trends develop over the next few months (especially the amount of pizza consumption)! Could I be a little impolite and ask what makes up the monthly blog costs?

    1. Hi Caro! Haha, we are big pizza fans over here. This month the count might be “tacos” though…. 😉

      The blog expenses are made up of a few things – software & services (Adobe Creative Cloud, MailChimp, advanced analytics, etc.), some legal stuff, a new hard drive, and anything bought specifically for posts – mostly food items.

  4. I love this post! You help explain the true reality of it. There’s the pictures we all love and know on Instagram, then there is the reality that goes on off the camera.

    I am always so inspired to want to try traveling this way, and always wonder how people can pull it off. The financial numbers put things into true perspective.

    As a beginning blogger myself, thank you for demonstrating transparency of how income starts slow in the beginning, and how important it is to have a back up plan for savings in that beginning process.

    Keep carrying on, your website is and will be a gold mine! Look forward to your future successes!

    1. Thank you for the encouragement, Brittany!
      Yes, we’ve definitely found the blog-related income to be slow to start. We don’t currently run ads so I can’t draw any conclusions there, but we have seen a slow and steady increase in our affiliate sales over the last few months. If you’re just starting out there are a bunch of sites that offer some insight on the income side of blogging – I love SmartPassiveIncome.com, ProBlogger.com, and if you go to Pinch of Yum’s income reports, you can see how their growth happened as well (food blog, but there are a lot of similarities).

  5. I applaud you for your transparency! It makes your commitment to adventure on the road and an interesting life all the more admirable. I’ve been so inspired by your and many other blogs, but – like many others – always wondered how you could pull it off. I tend to assume you all have lucrative remote-work businesses or you easily pick up seasonal work as needed. Your honesty shows that many people living this life are not breaking even once on the road. But they have done the hard work needed to save, and stared down the fear of not having a dependable paycheck once on the road. For me, this fear of not having financial “security” has been the biggest hump to get over in wanting to live on the road myself.

    Keep it up! Your commitment to a life you love will never fail you. Now if only I could take my own advice 🙂

    1. Katie, thank you for your kind words. I know there are people out there who have remote-work business that allow them to be location independent, but we just knew that wasn’t going to be an option for us starting out. So, we buckled down, cut down a ton of expenses, and saved. It does mean that our timeline is limited – “till the money runs out” is our motto – whereas folks who do have a location independent job could theoretically travel indefinitely. But, this is what works for us, for now!
      Financial security has always been a sticking point for us, as well. We both had jobs that we’d worked since graduating college, and there were (and are) times it seemed insane to let those go. But, again, we came up with a plan and it seemed (a LITTLE) less scary to take the plunge.
      Your advice is great – you should definitely take it sometime 😉

  6. I really appreciate this!! Thanks so much for sharing. Its helpful even for life as a freelancer 🙂 This also makes me feel better about the money I spend on food :p I always feel like I spend a lot on food – but dang it, its food! haha I look forward to checking out your monthly reports! Keep livin’ the dream 🙂

    1. Thanks, KJ! Haha, we have *always* spent a lot in that category as well. Staying nourished with healthy food has, and continues to be, a big priority for us. We really do feel that health is linked to what we put into our bodies. But, I’m sure that writing about food + recipes also contributes to our spending habits as I’m sure you’ll agree – we are both food bloggers after all! 🙂

  7. Great post! It’s so helpful to see how other folks manage living a nomadic lifestyle. When we decided to chuck it all in and buy a sailboat to live and travel on, I found these types of posts super helpful in our thinking about how we were going to pull it off. We track and publish our costs as well – it helps keep us accountable for what we spend (and make better decisions about where we spend our money hopefully), but we also hope it helps others out too. If you’re interested, you can check it out here – http://thecynicalsailor.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_9.html

    Looking forward to following along with your adventures! Cheers – Ellen

  8. This is awesome! I think being transparent in how and where our money comes from is an excellent precedent to start setting. Culturally, I feel people in our country get very uncomfortable, if not offended, whenever you try to talk honestly about money (which is probably what leads to housing bubbles…but I digress). Even a simple fact like showing that savings are a crucial step is great, and helps dreamers like me remember that you’ve got to stay grounded and hustle hard in order to live the life you’re wishing for. Thanks and keep up the great work!

  9. You guys are awesome! Thanks for being so honest and showing how thing really work! Love to follow you even more now! <3 Cheers from Germany! Sophia

  10. I think this is just great! Thank you for sharing your expenses with everyone. After, “do you get lonely”, the most common question I get is “how do you make money” or “how do you afford it?” I hate to burst their bubble by saying that I worked years and saved for years to be able to quit my job. I still get gigs here and there but most is from savings. Anyway, congrats and if you want it bad enough, you can do anything!

  11. Thank you for this! I am planning my own 6 month road trip next year and it’s so helpful to see some actual numbers! Of course, everyone is different, but I do look forward to your camping expenses to see how that all shakes out.

  12. Amy Martin says:

    Fantastic, guys!! My partner and I (preparing for our own vanlife) really appreciate the transparency and simply addressing “what isn’t there” as we info-gather. We love the food/travel guide concept…keep up the great work and wonderful writing, enjoy your adventure and safe travs!!