How exactly are we financing a multi-year international road trip with our dog?
How We Plan to Make Money from the Road
Unlike many international road-trippers, Andrew and I aren’t going to quit our jobs after saving and planning for years.
It’s all about lifestyle design.
Andrew works as a digital marketer and entrepreneur, which isn’t location-specific. He can work from anywhere as long as he has an internet connection. He’ll also have to work a lot and travel back to Denver several times per year.
I’m quitting my job, but I’m picking up several more. I’ve spent the last year working on building up my web design skills, freelance writing portfolio, and virtual animal behavior consulting clientele. It’s taken a lot of time, thought, and creativity to come up with a way to fund this trip from my end. Dog training isn’t a naturally mobile profession!
We anticipate working 40 hours or more per week during this trip. However, that still leaves plenty of time for us to have fun – we’ll publish a bit more about our daily and weekly schedules soon.
I’m naturally skeptical and cautious – at least in comparison to Andrew. It took several read-throughs of inspiration like Recession Proof Graduate, Money-Making Blog, and The Four Hour Work Week for me to feel confident that this was something I could and should do.
It doesn’t hurt that Denver is extremely expensive, so leaving Denver will actually be cheaper for us than staying!
How Much Money Will We Need?
Luckily for us, I already meticulously track my expenses. This led to a lovely backbone for our budget. We removed a few items (like utilities) and added several others (like health insurance, since this won’t come from employers anymore). Then we started adjusting.
We broke down our budget month-by-month based off of anticipated location (Mexico is cheaper than California), anticipated rent (we checked Airbnb, Couchsurfing, and family networks to guestimate this), mileage, and static line-items. This took a few hours of research but created a lovely projection.
This helped us calculate a basic cost of living for each month. As a finishing touch, we added in some colors to identify high-priority items (groceries, rent, insurance, student loans) versus lower and medium-priority items (savings, travel to the US, shopping, dates, and gifts).
Finally, we included some one-time purchases in a separate spreadsheet so that we can plan ahead and prepare for big one-time expenses (like a roof rack, extra car alarm, and window-tinting before the trip). We won’t share this here, but it’s a good idea to make a similar sheet if you plan on making a similar trip.
We’re both big believers in transparency, so we’re publishing our anticipated budget in full here. Feel free to copy and modify this for your own use on your travels!
Line-by-line Breakdown of Our Finances
- Expenses: Projected. This just lists the month that each column refers to.
- Anticipated Location. This is where we estimate we’ll be in the country and world at that time.
- Anticipated Mileage. I spent an hour or so on Google Maps, mapping the distance between our big-ticket locations for each month. We then multiplied the mileage by 1.25 to account for trips around town.
- AirBnb/Rent. We calculated roughly how many nights we plan on sleeping at AirBnbs instead of with friends and family. We then took a quick peek at AirBnb’s website for the cities on our list and pulled out an average low-cost AirBnb. We ensured that we were looking at AirBnbs that had good internet, safe parking, and allowed dogs. Most AirBnbs were roughly $30-$40 per night. Our rent in Denver was about $53 per night.
- Gas. This line multiplies the “Anticipated Mileage” line by 0.15, or 15 cents per mile. This assumes a relatively static cost of gas, which surely won’t be true. Cars with better gas mileage than our 2006 Saturn Vue will produce cheaper lines here. Turtle averages about 22mpg.
- Groceries. We based this line off of our monthly groceries in Denver, which averages between $300-$400 per month for both of us. Once we hit Mexico’s border, we expect this cost to decrease a bit.
- Student Loans (K& A). These are the fixed monthly payments for our student loans, with K being Kayla and A being Andrew.
- Car Maintenance. We plan on doing all we can to keep Turtle in tip-top shape. That means we’ll put aside $150/month for car care. Some months we might spend nothing, other months our costs will probably be $1,500 or more!
- Car Insurance. Our car insurance is $190/month in the US. We hope that this cost will decrease internationally, but we’re still working on finding quotes for each country. Stay tuned.
- Health Insurance. We’re both under 26, so our parents are currently covering our health insurance. Once we hit the Mexican border, we’ll be getting international health insurance. Stay tuned for a post on finding the best international health insurance!
- Barley. We can’t forget the dog! Barley’s food, shots, toys, and classes average $300/month in Denver. This cost will decrease dramatically once Kayla isn’t able to take so many classes with him. We’re probably over-estimating his monthly cost when we get to Central America, but the spreadsheet will update as we change our expectations.
- International Misc. This line includes customs, visas, and other fees associated with crossing international borders. We estimated this cost at $200 per border crossed.
- Savings for Car Repair, Emergencies, and General Savings. This is the first non-essential line item. Once we take care of all of the above essentials, we want to be putting money away to prepare for the inevitable hiccup along our trip.
- Website Hosting, Advertising, and Saas. This line item covers our monthly costs of running our various websites, businesses, etc. This includes the costs of running this website!
- Restaurants/Alcohol/Dates. We like to have fun, so we made sure to include a line item on fun things! This is a non-essential item that should only come out after we’ve covered the more important items.
- Subscriptions and other misc. We both have Audible, Andrew pays for Spotify, and Kayla has Pandora Plus. We can’t forget those sneaky recurring costs in our budget.
- Shopping. We’ll surely run into a few items that we feel like we need to buy along our trip. We aim to keep our possessions minimal, but I’m sure there will be a few trinkets, replacement shirts, and other purchases along the way that aren’t related to our survival.
- Gifts. We’d be remiss if we forgot to bring home a few gifts for our friends and family.
Our average monthly estimated cost of living is between $3,000 and $3,700 per month for two people, one car, and one dog. (Including savings and gifts). Not bad, eh?
This includes a few months that are closer cheaper (August in Seattle, where we won’t be paying rent) and $4,400 (November, our first month in Mexico that has an absurd amount of driving).
We’ve surely forgotten some things along the way, but hopefully we’ve also overestimated in some realms. Don’t worry, we’ll be publishing financial realities as they appear!
Take advantage of our hard work and use our budget for your own trip. Here’s a link to our Google Sheet so you can modify it yourself!
Kayla is a biologist, writer, and web designer. She’s passionate about animal behavior, the science of habits, and anything outdoors.