Digital Nomad Finances 101: How to Make Your Money Go Further

Digital Nomad Finances 101: How to Make Your Money Go Further

Digital Nomad Finances 101: How to Make Your Money Go Further

If you’ve scrimped and saved for months to fund your new life as a digital nomad, you want to make sure your money goes as far as possible. Fortunately, there are a few deliberate decisions you can make with your digital nomad finances to make that happen.

Choosing the right credit card and bank account will help you stretch every dollar (or pound, or euro). Similarly, knowing where and how to exchange money for the best rate will help you get the most bang for every buck. Here are the key things to consider:

Get the right bank account

The bank you use at home may not be the best bank to use while you’re traveling or living overseas. Before you leave, find a bank account that has most or all of the following:

  • No ATM fees: No matter where you go, you’ll need cash. You can easily get cash from an ATM, but you’ll want to limit ATM fees. Keep in mind that while most banks don’t charge you to withdraw money from their own ATMs, they often charge you to use other ATMs, which is what you’ll be doing when you’re overseas. In addition, foreign banks may charge you an additional fee to use their ATMs. Look for a bank that has partner banks in the country where you’re going, or choose a bank that will refund all of your ATM fees.
  • No account minimum: If you’re a solo entrepreneur and you’re traveling, your income and expenses can fluctuate a lot. Make sure your account doesn’t require a minimum balance that you can’t meet.
  • No monthly account fees: Some banks charge you a monthly fee if you don’t meet certain requirements beyond the minimum mentioned above. For example, you may need to set up direct deposit of a paycheck or perform a certain number of monthly transactions in order to waive the monthly fee. Double check your bank’s policy and consider switching if you might be charged fees.
  • Online access/app: Before you leave, set up online banking on all your devices. Make sure you can deposit a check and pay bills remotely before you leave. Many unexpected circumstances are sure to arise as you travel, so test out the services before you leave. If anything goes wrong you’ll be less stressed and it will be easier to contact your bank when you’re still at home than when you’re in a foreign country.

Popular bank accounts for digital nomads:
Your local credit union might be tough when it comes to finding all of the above (though it’s not impossible!). The banks listed below operate on a larger level, therefore making them more suitable to travelers:

Get the right credit card

When it comes to travel, some credit cards are better than others. Here are some things to consider when you choose a card:

  • No foreign transaction fees: This is non-negotiable! You do not want to get dinged every single time you use your card.
  • Reward points: Most cards offer reward points, so think about how you will spend the rewards. Do you want to use the points to book plane flights? Hotels? Simply get cash back? Different cards will give you more points towards different reward categories, so research each card to see what fits your needs best.
  • Annual fee: Cards with an annual fee usually have a better sign-up bonus. If you only plan to travel and use the card for a year, it might be worth getting a card with an annual fee, because the fee is almost always waived in the first year. You can cancel the card after a year to avoid paying fees, try to negotiate with the credit card company to reduce or eliminate your annual fee, or pay it. If you are earning a lot more in rewards than the cost of the annual fee, then it might be worth paying.
  • Is it widely accepted? For example, American Express is widely accepted in the U.S., but in many other countries only Visa and Mastercard are used. Do research or play it safe by using a Visa or Mastercard.

Popular credit cards for digital nomads:

Pro tip: Remember to call your credit card company and your bank before you start traveling. They look out for your best interests and might freeze your accounts if they see suspicious spending in Vietnam and you haven’t told them that you are visiting Vietnam for three weeks.

Exchange money at the right places

There are tons of options for exchanging money, but some of them will offer you a better exchange rate than others. Here are the best ways to get a great exchange rate:

  • Use your credit card, and pay in local currency. Sometimes you have the option to pay using your home currency, but the rate is almost always better if you use the local currency.
  • Use an ATM at a bank (assuming your bank does not charge ATM fees).

If you want to get the best exchange rate, then avoid exchanging money anywhere that seems too convenient. You will pay for this convenience with a less favorable exchange rate. For example, you’ll often lose money when you exchange cash at the airport, at hotels, or at travel exchange counters. The exchange rate will be lower than your credit card or a bank ATM offers, plus you’ll often be hit with additional fees. These places are great for exchanging money in an emergency, but to get the most bang for your buck, plan ahead by contacting your bank to see if they can do the exchange for you, and use your credit card or a regular ATM while traveling.

Avoid budget-busting bank fees

You’ve saved to make this happen. This is how to make that money go even further as you take your life and business on the road -- something that, despite its unique challenges -- is entirely worth the preparation.

Digital nomad and location independence resources

How to Keep Clients Happy While Traveling the World

It's Location Independence Month on One Woman Shop!

Working from a laptop on a beach: the entrepreneurial dream. Straight out of a Corona commercial, this picture often represents the ultimate freedom in business.

Yet most location-independent entrepreneurs will tell you that it doesn’t really work that way. First off, it’s way too hot at the beach to put your Macbook through that. Add water and sand, and you’ve got yourself a disaster waiting to happen. I hope you brought an extra laptop!

In all seriousness, this isn’t what being a digital nomad really looks like. Most entrepreneurs find a cafe or coworking space (with power, wifi and AC!) to get their work done -- and keep clients happy -- before heading to the beach or out sightseeing. Priorities definitely have to be set and kept to live this lifestyle.

While most entrepreneurs who’ve taken on the digital nomad lifestyle know this, their clients might not. Problems can arise when clients think that you are lounging on a beach, 24/7.

I learned this the hard way on a recent trip to South East Asia with Hacker Paradise, when a client thought I would be abandoning her for four months while on an extended holiday. Far from the truth, I learned a few things about how to keep clients happy while traveling:

1. Explain that you are not on vacation

Start by making it very clear to your clients that you are not simply taking an extended vacay. Assure them that this is just remote work, which you are likely already doing anyway.

What most clients care about is knowing that the work is going to get done on time, so reassure them that this remains your number one priority.

If they are still weary of your work ethic on the road, you can try a few things:

  • Share your goals/reasons for being location independent. It may give them a better understanding of your choice to work from anywhere.
  • Tell them about the spaces you plan to work in so they know you really are prioritizing work and you’ve planned ahead.
  • Traveling with other entrepreneurs? Share that information, too. It makes it clear that everyone will be working, not just partying or getting Thai massages.

Most clients will actually be really excited for you and your adventures, so don’t fret about this conversation too much.

2. Set your schedule, but be flexible

Be as firm as possible with your schedule: build a routine you can stick to, and put important work deadlines in your calendar, along with any travel days or activities. This way you can see everything in one place and work backwards from your deadlines to make sure you can get enough work time in to get it done.

That being said, always schedule more time than you think you need. Delayed flights. Last minute trips to see a temple with friends. Power outage. Seven hours at the immigration office to renew your visa. Things come up and you have to be flexible and roll with the punches when you’re traveling.

A good schedule for me was to work from about 9am - after my morning run on the beach - until 1 or 2 in the afternoon. After 2pm, I could go for a swim or go sightseeing for a while and not worry about work because it was already done! Then if I wanted to look at work again before or after dinner, I could.

There will be days when you are going on a day-long trek, or traveling to a new location, and on those days you can expect to not do any work. Use your other activity-free days to make up that lost time if you need to.

This flexibility allows you to satisfy client commitments while still enjoying yourself and your freedom.

3. Make scheduling meetings easy

To avoid back and forth emails, or worse - missed meetings - solve the time zone confusion with an app like YouCanBook.me.

A 12-15 hour time difference makes for awkward meeting times. YouCanBook.me allows you to set your available times so that your clients can go in and book something that works for both of you. No questions and no back and forth emails. It also automatically converts the time zone to wherever you are so no Google searches are required.

If you can, try to set aside one day a week or month, depending on your client needs, where you will wake up extra early or stay up extra late for meetings. It might put a damper on the day, but at least it’s not every day and the structure will make your clients happy.

Get the work done

The best way to keep clients happy while you’re exploring the world is to get the work done. Keep your schedule flexible, be transparent, and work when it’s best for you. Finding your balance might take time, but you’ll get into a groove soon enough.

And don’t forget to enjoy yourself and go on adventures. That is, after all, why you chose this crazy life.

Digital nomad and location independence resources

4 Must-Have Elements to Rock a Location-Independent Routine

It's Location Independence Month on One Woman Shop!

Most of us tend to think of “routine” with a bit of a negative connotation. We start by thinking of all the responsibilities we have to cram into our day - emails, meetings, work, exercising, etc. It sounds monotonous and ordinary, and as a solopreneur, I think we can all agree that we’re anything but ordinary.

In the beginning of our location-independent solopreneur journeys, we rejected routine. We tossed it out the window, replacing it with constant movement, travel, adventure and change. That’s what location independence is all about, isn’t it?

After all, everything we knew about routine had come from previously working corporate and being in school for 16 years. Early morning alarm, breakfast, commute, work, lunch break, work, commute, workout, dinner, sleep…repeat. Routine left us feeling uninspired and tired and frankly - we wanted nothing to do with it.

Fast forward two years later, as two successful location-independent solopreneurs working online and traveling the world. We now not only embrace routine -- we love it. It all started with changing our negative perception of routine with what we now like to call “designing our ideal lifestyle” in each new city or country we travel to.

Why do we need routine as location-independent solopreneurs?

You’ve probably read before that the top productivity experts and entrepreneurs thrive on routine. Is it possible to combine that with the freedom of location independence and being in total control of how you spend your days? Absolutely.

While at home, you’re probably aware of your most productive working hours, the time of the day you’re most likely to hit a slump, where you find inspiration, and your favorite way to relax after a long day.

As a location-independent solopreneur, it is just as important, if not more, to incorporate these aspects into your daily routine in a new country or city. The overwhelm and excitement of a new place can easily hinder your progress in your online business, and routine seeks to prevent that from happening. In fact, routine is the key to not only enjoying your experience abroad, but also becoming as successful as possible in your solopreneur business.

As perpetual travelers, our routine looks a bit different in each city, but overall, integrating a routine is a constant. Through our experience over the past two years, we’ve come up with four key elements you can use to design your ideal lifestyle or “routine” as a location-independent solopreneur. Find them below, along with how we incorporated them into our daily life while we were in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The elements of a successful routine on the road

1. Work time + work space: Find your most productive work times and work spaces and rock them. Do you thrive in the early morning or late evening? Are you most productive working from home, your favorite local coffee shop or the cool co-working space in your new city? Do you prefer to use techniques like Pomodoro to tackle your work? Building a routine starts with figuring out the schedule and locations that are going to allow you to be as efficient as possible in getting your work done. Once you’ve decided on the best way for you to be the most productive and produce your best work, set your business up to match it.

For us in Chiang Mai, here’s what that looked like:

Work Time: Mornings 8am - 1pm, evenings (if necessary) 7pm - 10pm

Favorite workspaces: A'b Petite Cafe, Kaweh Cafe, Wake up Cafe

2. Healthy habits: Staying healthy looks different for everyone. If it’s about eating healthy, do your research ahead of time and ask locals to find where you can eat well in your new city: shopping at local markets, cooking from home, or choosing healthy restaurants? When it comes to exercise, find your go-to for your preferred activities: safe routes or parks to run through, a studio to practice yoga or pilates, a shop to rent a bike or surfboard. Maybe staying healthy is all about building in 30 minutes of meditation each day. Plan ahead and build these activities into your schedule to make them part of your routine.

For us in Chiang Mai, here’s what that looked like:

Eating Healthy: Salad Concept restaurant, Shopping at local night markets for fresh food

Exercising: Pilates classes

Other: Green Bamboo Massage

3. Social activities: Staying inspired in both business and life, for us, requires a certain level of social engagement. That’s why it’s crucial that it’s part of our routine. Think of different ways you can meet new people in your area: through co-working spaces, meetups, dance classes, and more. This not only plays a big part in your mental health and feeling satisfied with your life on the road, but also can improve your business. When you’re out engaging with new people, you’ll hear about all the amazing things other digital nomads are up to. This not only serves as inspiration -- it might even end up turning into new clients or collaborations.

For us in Chiang Mai, here’s what that looked like:

Meetups: Chiang Mai Digital Nomad Facebook Group, live jazz music night, co-working spaces, coffee shops

4. Trying something new: Incorporate things other than work into your routine that bring you joy! Especially because you’re in a new city, sign up to try something new at least once a week: cooking classes, language lessons, local activities and more. Trying something new pushes you outside of your comfort zone, where you learn things about yourself you didn’t even know existed. When you take risks in your life you’re more likely to take bolder, calculated risks in your business that will result in bigger wins for you.

For us in Chiang Mai, here’s what that looked like: Thai cooking classes, elephant caregivers, explore temples, local night markets etc.

Routine provides the foundation

Designing the routine behind your ideal lifestyle will be anything but boring, ordinary or monotonous!

When you’re constantly on the road as a digital nomad, sometimes the only way to stay sane and satisfy client requirements is to rely on your routine. At the end of the day, it’s all about making the commitment to incorporate these aspects into your “routine” to thrive in your business and life!

If you’re a soon-to-be location independent solopreneur or if you’re already on the road, use our free PDF worksheet at this link to start creating your ideal lifestyle!

Digital nomad and location independence resources

How to Experiment with Location Independence as a Solopreneur

It's Location Independence Month on One Woman Shop!

Imagine waking up to the sound of exotic birds, throwing on a sundress and walking out of your condo straight onto a gorgeous beach. It’s early morning and the only people up yet are the fishermen coming back in with their catch. You yawn, put on your flip flops, grab your bag and head over to the local coffee shop.

In fact, this is the only coffee shop on this tropical island that has a steady wifi connection, and you’re now a regular. From your spot in the corner you are totally rocking your business, working with clients from all over the world.

When the work for the day is done, you wrap up, head back to your cabin, leave your laptop and go for a swim. Other days you head over to the local market, meet up with your friends at the beach bar, head to a yoga class or take the boat back into the mainland to explore the nearby towns.

Then, when you’re starting to feel an inkling to move on, you pack up your backpack, say goodbye to your friends and board the next bus. Somewhere, a new exciting place is waiting for you. A new culture, a new coffee shop, a new group of friends.

A new life.

Does it sound like a dream?

It doesn’t have to be.

If you feel like the thought of becoming location independent is alluring, but scary – let me show you how you can make it happen -- while at the same time limiting risk, fear, and overwhelm.

Experiment your way to freedom

Treat it as a science project

The thing is, you can’t really fail at an experiment. You can only learn and improve. This takes the pressure off! Start by thinking about location independence as if you were a scientist crafting out a research project. What is your hypothesis? How long will you need to experiment for before you can conclude? How much can you scale down while still getting valid results?

Change your mindset

Repeat after me: I. am. not. on. vacation. Say it again: I am not on vacation! This shift in thinking is the most important thing you can do to succeed at location independence. Don’t plan your trip as if you were planning a vacation. In other words: unless you are already swimming in money, stop yourself before you start to imagine your last vacation, just indefinitely. Instead, try to imagine living the same kind of life you are already living now, or even less fancy. It will make the financial side of things much less overwhelming to plan out. Also, stop yourself before you imagine sleeping in, chilling out all day or exploring your new place for hours on end. As a location-independent business owner, you still put in the normal work hours, if not more.

Keep it open

Find a way to experiment with location independence without having to move, cancel your cable or give away your cat. Your regular life is your safety net, and the more you can keep it as normal while you experiment, the less overwhelmed you’ll feel. If you can’t afford to pay double rent, rent out your home or experiment with leaving on multiple shorter trips.

Start small, but not too small

As a scientist planning out the best way to conduct an experiment, you have to figure out the best way to plan everything to increase your chances of getting the right results. This means to find the balance between how long you can take time off from home and how long you need to stay to be able to focus on your work. If your trip is too short, you may not have enough time to really get into the flow – as the first days/weeks in a new place tend to get taken over by excitement and wanderlust. However, if you plan to stay too long, your planning and taking care of everything at home could be much more difficult to navigate.

Go to a place you’ve been before

For your very first experiment with location independence, visit a place you have been before. This way, you’ll be able to experiment and focus on your work without being distracted by a new, overwhelming and exciting place. Anything you can do to “lower the bar” will make your experiment more likely to happen!

Location independence is within reach

Location independence doesn’t have to stay this thing you dream about, but never make happen. By experimenting and starting small, you can overcome the overwhelm and create the lifestyle that you have always dreamed of.

If you were location independent right now, where would you go?

Digital nomad and location independence resources

6 Packing Essentials for Your Next Digital Nomad Adventure

There's nothing better than an extended vacation, am I right? A few extra days in the mountains; on the lake; in the sand to relax. But with work, email, keeping up with Twitter and all the other bits it takes to run a business, sometimes taking time off is easier to do when it’s a few hours a day instead of a few weeks a year.

As newly-minted solopreneurs, my husband and I have been experimenting with extra long road trips that mix fly-fishing with work hours, stops on the water with wifi and giving ourselves a few extra days of exploring to conquer both. We've seen the Smoky Mountains, snacked on Alligator wings in Southern Georgia, climbed the fossil hills of the Badlands, kayaked in one of Puerto Rico's bioluminescent bays and used the wifi at every Starbucks we passed along the way.

With three road trips under our belt since our wedding in March, I've put together a quick list of six digital nomad essentials that have made our road trip life of biz time and break time easier:

1. Pocket-sized notebooks

If you're anything like me, your brain is chugging out genius plans just as your iPhone hits that dreaded "no service" zone. I make sure I bring a notebook to document any brilliant ideas that come to me at the edge of Lake Coeur D'Alene. My favorite notebooks: Moleskine. I particularly like the blank-paged ones and the grid paper: perfect for organized lists of client work and plenty of space to sketch my surroundings. As an illustrator, I never leave home without a Sharpie. For road trips, I pack at least six. (I tend to lose at least a few along the way.)

2. Extra USB cords

We have at least four USB cords for our iPhones to plug into the car charger, the computers, and many budget hotels now offer USB ports in addition to outlets in their rooms. Inevitably one gets left behind. It pays to pack a couple just in case. (Side note: bring. your. computer. charger. They are expensive to replace and oh-so-necessary on the road. I charge my MacBook over night to make sure it's pumped up and ready for my morning work hours.)

3. Yakima Rocketbox

This car topper was a new addition to our road trip chariot (the beloved Hyundai Santa Fe) and let me tell you, it was the very best. When we're on the road we're fishing, exploring, and wandering in Filson pants, t-shirts and, sometimes, waders. On our first extended road trip we packed work bags with our rugged clothes (and camp chairs and fishing rods and snacks) and things got very crowded. The Yakima Rocketbox was a life saver. It allowed us to keep outdoor gear up top, leaving the car feeling a bit more organized. I could quickly grab my work bag when we pulled into a coffee shop, rather than dig through the blankets and tackle box to find my MacBook.

4. Business cards

While you might not always be working on the road, you never know who you might meet along the way. I've exchanged contact information with a business professor I met while dining in Idaho, who just so happens to specialize in entrepreneurial business. I met a super talented calligrapher/barista who dreams of a creative business plan. I still keep in touch with a financial advisor I met in Italy AND illustrated some thank you notes he sent to fellow trip goers. Business cards are key, friends. As key as connecting with the sweet souls you meet along the way. Pack more than you think you'll need. (And I always forget to put a few in my evening clutch. Be sure to stash some in all your bags.)

5. Mini file for receipts

My accountant suggested this to me and it's been a GREAT way to keep tabs on all my potential write-offs on the road. You know those plastic coupon books you've seen to sort the egg discounts from the 2-for-1 cereals? Pack one of those in your glove box. Mark the tabs with key tax categories (i.e.: meals and entertainment, travel, postage, etc.) and stash your receipts accordingly and immediately. This will save you a ton of time come April, especially if you make a habit of labeling the receipts before you file them. Also -- don't forget to do your research on write-offs. That dinner I had with the business professor: it quickly became a write off-able meal as we talked marketing strategy and business planning over marinated cucumbers and garlic bread.

6. Stamps

I never leave home without them, especially postcard stamps. There's nothing better than writing "home" about your trip. I send clients and friends postcards from each city we visit. (And occasionally a note to my husband documenting our day. It's a nice surprise in the mail hold pile when we return.) Pack 20 of them in your wallet and document your adventure. Have a client who mentioned they've always wanted to see Mt. Rushmore? What a thoughtful way to let them know you're still focused on their projects -- send them a quick postcard from below George Washington's chin.

A couple other tips for mixing vacay and work day:

Can’t let these go by the wayside:

  • Let your clients know what's happening. I try to sign my emails with "from the mountains of Montana, LP" or other bits that give clients a window into where we are, but also let them know that I'm accessible.
  • Check with your cell provider before you hit the road and ask about: roaming data limit, turning your phone into a hot spot and about coverage in the states you're visiting.
  • Use your early morning hours as work time if possible. You'll be amazed by how efficiently you can use the first three hours of the day if you know your afternoon is being spent at the Cody, Wyoming rodeo.

We're still learning the digital nomad basics, yes, but with each trip we take, we get a little bit better.

(And honestly, for an artist, seeing beauty on the road inspires all kinds of new work!)

So what are you waiting for? Get out there. Explore. Pack your laptop charger and bring a pen. It'll be worth it.

Digital nomad and location independence resources

Weekly Finds: The Location Independence Series

Welcome to One Woman Shop Weekly Finds - where we members of the community scour the web to bring you a curated list of posts, links, and resources that we they think will help your business—and maybe even your life! This edition, we’re celebrating the kick off of Location Independence Month here at One Woman Shop!

Honestly? Building a location-independent business might lead to a dreamy result, but it takes a great deal of work upfront. Tom Morkes explains five (and a half) steps to build from the ground up.

For a different take on building a location independent business, Nathalie Lussier shares her story to make you consider what’s realistic if you want to travel and build a business from the ground up.

The location-independence biz life doesn’t always require wi-fi. For inspiration on how other digital nomads make it work, check out this list from Fizzle.co for how 64 people make a location-independent living.

Some will build a location-independent business in order to enable full-time travel. Others simply want the freedom. The Minimalists debunk what location independence is, and how it relates to the minimalist lifestyle.

With a limitless client pool and the world as your office, there’s not much holding you back from working online and traveling the world if you set your mind to it. Cassie + Shay from Bucketlist Bombshells tell you more in this article on Elite Daily.

We love learning from those who are doing. The Next Web took the chance to interview seven digital nomad entrepreneurs who are building a biz while in motion.

A podcast to inspire your location independent action: Dan Andrews’ Tropical MBA. Pop in those headphones and learn from other lifestyle businesses making it work.

your location independence journey starts here