Our Location Independent Lifestyle: What Does It Cost?

Dariece Swift author's bio Goats On The Road

Before going into detail about how much our lifestyle costs us each month, it’s probably a good idea to talk about what being location independent actually means! This is a term that we first heard about a couple of years ago, and is one that we think fits our lifestyle perfectly. Here’s how Wikipedia describes location independence:

“A location independent professional – or digital nomad – utilizes new technology to design a lifestyle that allows them to live and work wherever they want – be it from home, the internet cafe, on the beach, or even from the other side of the world.”

Yep, that definitely sounds like us!

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location independent blogger
This is what a lunch break in the Caribbean looks like!

Nick and I have been fortunate enough to live and work abroad for three years now. Our first job was teaching English in China, and during our time teaching, we were able to work on this travel blog and create articles. We knew that our true location independence would not only come from teaching, but from writing about our travels – that was our true passion.

Since leaving China in July, 2013, we have lived off of an income earned solely from our website, and various opportunities that have arisen (and continue to arise) from it. The money we make each month is enough to live comfortably, travel when we want to, and put some money in the bank. We’ve lived and worked online in a few countries now: Grenada for a total of 10 months, Mexico for 2 months, and Guatemala for 2 months.

location independent blogger in mexico
Working at a cool coffee shop in Guanajuato, Mexico

Our travel style has changed since we became serious about our website, and we definitely travel at a slower pace these days. Not only does snail travel allow us to immerse ourselves further into the cities and cultures that we’re exploring, but it allows us the time we need to be able to work on various partnerships, business campaigns and freelance writing.

The costs of living this laptop lifestyle vary depending on which country, city or part of the world we are in. However, we try to keep our monthly costs to around $1,500 USD for the both of us. You would think that our monthly expenses would be significantly less when we are receiving free accommodation from house/pet sitting, but that simply isn’t the case as we’ve accepted jobs that are in countries with higher living expenses (Grenada and Costa Rica).

pet sitting in costa rica
Living in Costa Rica wasn’t cheap, but it was worth it to take care of Jack!

Here’s an estimate of where our money goes each month, broken down into the countries we’ve spent a significant amount of time living in:

(All costs are listed in US Dollars)

Living in Grenada - Monthly Expenses
Accommodation Costs (Oceanfront Home) $0.00 (Pet-Sitting)
Utility Costs $0.00 (Included)
Cooking Gas $7.50
House Cleaner $22.00
Groceries $1,050.00
Restaurant / Entertainment $266.00
Alcohol at Home $50.00
Drinking Water $0.00 (Water is Safe to Drink)
Transport (Car included) $76.00 in Petrol
Phone / Wi-Fi $7.52 (Cell Phone Pay-As-You-Go)
Total Costs $1,479.00

If we had to pay for accommodation while living in Grenada, our costs would be much higher, as a basic apartment would cost around $600 / month. Being able to house / pet sit in Grenada has been truly an amazing experience, and this will be our digital nomad base for 5 – 6 months of the year. We are able to live off of approximately $1,500 each month, which includes living a pretty lavish lifestyle filled with live music nights, eating at restaurants, enjoying cheese and wine platters, and being able to explore the island.

house sitting location independent
Sunset from one of the beautiful homes we take care of in Grenada

For more on living in Grenada, check out:

The Cost of Living in Grenada

Living in Grenada: Our Life in Photos

61 Awesome Things To Do In Grenada

Introducing Grenada: A Drive Around The Island of Spice 

Living in San Pancho, Mexico - Monthly Expenses
Accommodation Costs (2 Bedroom, 2-Level Apartment) $380.00
Utility Costs $0.00 (Included in Rent)
Groceries / Drinking Water $500.00
Restaurant / Entertainment $1,000.00
Transport $0 Around Town (Walked), $9.60 Bus to Next Town (4 Return Trips)
Phone / Wi-Fi $60.00
Extras (Pilates class, golfing, festival costs) $200.00
Total Costs $2,150.00

During our two months in the little west coast town of San Pancho, we had 5 sets of family members come and visit us! This meant that we spent much more money than usual on activities, eating at restaurants, and party nights! Plus, we lived there during Christmas and New Year’s, so we spent more money on festivals and celebrations than normal.

Our monthly costs during our time spent living in San Pancho could have been significantly cheaper than listed above, and definitely would have been if it were just the two of us living our typical lifestyle.

location independent in san pancho mexico
The lower level of our apartment in San Pancho.

For more on living in San Pancho, check out:

Finding an Apartment in San Pancho, Mexico

Introducing San Pancho

15 Things To See and Do In San Pancho

Living on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala - Monthly Expenses
Accommodation Costs (Lakefront, 2-Level Apartment) $550.00
Utility Costs $0.00 (Included)
Gas for Cooking and Hot Water $36.00
House Cleaner $0.00 (Included)
Groceries $517.00
Restaurant / Alcohol / Entertainment $114.00
Drinking Water (Five 18L Bottles) $13.00
Transport $48.32 (Boats and Tuk-Tuks)
Phone / Wi-Fi $6.50 (Cell Phone Pay-As-You-Go)
Total Costs $1,284.00

Our cost of living in Guatemala was very low, especially considering we had to pay for our accommodation there! With this budget, we were able to travel to other villages around the lake, go kayaking and wake-boarding, and eat / drink a lot. And honestly, that view from our apartment was priceless!

location independent lake atitlan
View from our apartment on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

For more on living on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, check out:

The Cost of Living on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Travelling to Lake Atitlan, A Guide to The Villages

A Tour of Our Lakefront Casita on Lake Atitlan

We can’t believe how little it costs us to live abroad, especially when we think of how much money we spent each month while living in Canada – our mortgage alone was over $1,500 USD / month! On top of that, there were expensive grocery bills, utility costs, vehicle maintenance, gas, insurance, property tax, condominium fees, etc.

We calculate that we spent around $3,675 USD / month in Canada on necessities alone! That’s not including any entertainment whatsoever. That’s simply what we needed to live in a house, eat, pay bills and get to and from work every day.

Since becoming location independent and working on our website, we’ve been able to live and travel in tropical countries, immerse ourselves in the city that we’re visiting, and live the lifestyle of our dreams. Eating, drinking, playing, living, travelling, exploring and pet-sitting, all for less than the cost of our rent/mortgage in Canada. Now, that’s a good deal!

location independent lifestyle cost of living
Royal Carmel Waterfalls in Grenada.

This is why we continously write about this topic and try to inspire you to consider this alternative lifestyle. As always, we’re not trying to boast about this life, we’re just trying to shed some light on the reality of what it costs to live abroad and how enlightening the experience can be.

There are many places in the world where the dollar / pound / euro etc. will go much further and life is more relaxed. This style of living definitely isn’t for everyone and we don’t assume that, but if you’re reading this article, we will assume that you are looking to try something new.

This will be our way of life for the foreseeable future and we invite you to join us! In our minds, it’s $1,500 per month well spent 🙂

Our location independent lifestyle: What does it cost?

For more information on Location Independence, check out these articles:

7 Reasons Why We Love The Location Independent Lifestyle (and Why You Could Too!)

27 Inspiring Photos That Will Motivate You To Become a Digital Nomad Today

Our Digital Nomad Lifestyle: Answering Your Money Questions

What do you think of the location independent lifestyle? Tell us below!

Dariece Swift author's bio Goats On The Road

Written by

Dariece Swift

Dariece is a co-founder of Goats On The Road, and an expert in saving money, finance management, building an online business and of course... travel. She loves meeting new people, trying new cuisines, and learning about the unique cultures of our world. She has over 12 years of experience helping others to realize their travel dreams and has worked in numerous jobs all over the world to help pay for travel.

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22 thoughts on “Our Location Independent Lifestyle: What Does It Cost?”

  1. Awesome post guys! You are so good at keeping costs down. We splurge way too much… But like you said, that’s what living in more expensive places will do to you 🙂 And drinking lots of wine and having a soft spot for massages haha. I love that photo of Jack btw! I so wasn’t expecting it and was like.. hey, I know that pup!

  2. Oh the jealousy! 😉
    Its amazing to see how you can be location independent. This is something Gabby and I are counting the days until we can experience it ourselves too.
    Thanks for sharing the figures. Utilities being inexistent is a thing of dreams 🙂
    So far, has there been anywhere you’ve stayed which would tempt you to return and ‘plant routes’?

  3. haha, ya, but that was “small” Jack! Would love to see him again 🙂

    I have to admit that even though we do drink a lot of wine (as you know) we are still able to keep our costs down. Places like the Caribbean and Costa Rica though, costs are higher, so if we had to rent a place, we might have to cut way back on our entertainment and spending, which we just wouldn’t wan to do. Therefore, when we have to pay for the roof over our heads, we try to find an affordable place, like Guatemala or Mexico!

    Thanks for the comment 🙂

  4. Hi Guys!

    We don’t want you to be jealous…hopefully inspired though!! Pet-sitting has been great for us to save on accommodation and utility costs for sure. But when we had to pay for it in Mexico and Guatemala, it was still affordable! Grenada (where we are now) is going to be our base for 5 months of the year next year again! So excited about that. I’m not sure that we’ll ever have permanent roots, just temporary ones 😉


  5. love the breakdown of expenses here. we’ve thought about going full time on our blog but have other passions were gonna pursue. Expat living has been our go to strategy for living and traveling overseas. Housing is usually included. Love the idea of house sitting we looked into it but never found a place.

    Lake Atitlan was a dream place. We’d definitely love to go back here. 550 for a place must have given you a great pad.

  6. My husband and I aspire to do this, but our one obstacle is a big one … we have four dogs of our own and can’t stand the thought of leaving them with sitters for such long periods of time!

  7. Love the post. Have just recently found your site and subscribed. Really love reading about your lifestyle – very inspiring (and my husband worries: gives me dangerous ideas haha!)

  8. Holy cow, groceries in Grenada are so expensive! Islands are the worst for food costs, I guess.

    We currently live on Vancouver Island in Canada and are aiming to keep our costs below $2,000. So far, it’s working, though we have had to cut back on beer and wine quite significantly. Early next year we’re planning to become expats again and move to Europe. Through a combo of house sitting and staying in friend’s empty places we hope to continue our low-budget lifestyle.


  9. Really helpful that you have broken down your costs, but it is also important to mention about the flight (or boat) costs to get to the country in the first place. Novice travellers may not realise that getting between countries can be the greatest cost.

  10. Nice breakdown. We’ve been doing the same over the last year in places like Prague, Bangkok, Nong Khai (northern Thailand), Split (Croatia), and now Budapest. A lot of surprises along the way: Prague and Nong Khai were our cheapest stays and monthly costs would come out to about CAD 1500 /mo. That’s jumped to about $2800-$3000/mo in Bangkok, Split and Budapest where we pay rent of about $1000/mo on Airbnb. Take out rent (the biggest cost determinant) and most of our other costs pretty much in line. Like you we like our beer and wine 🙂
    Frank (bbqboy)

  11. This is a great post! I travel full-time with my family and find information like this so helpful when we are planning where to travel to next. The cost of living in some countries can be so cheap compared to Canada! Spain has been the best for costs for us so far. We managed to live very well in a small seaside town in Southern Spain for a fraction of what it cost us to live in our hometown in Canada.

  12. Hey guys, just curious, I have Googled many different places around Earth, and I have noticed that many locations require leasing agreements and also the signature of a local contact for a reference. Have you ever run into any trouble like that? Or is cash the king of everything, and this is not a hurdle at all?

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