My expenses as a full-time housesitter and travel blogger.
Here’s the part when people tell me they can’t afford to travel and I say ‘really?’ because I’m probably doing it on your disposable income alone. I have a very unique way of traveling because I am a full-time housesitter and travel blogger. I don’t have any of the traditional living expenses most people have. Instead, I am voluntary homeless. I can also live very frugally if I have to, since I'm only one person (although I don't because I love to eat and drink Bourdain-style). You only live once!
let's dig in
The secret weapon to how I travel full-time is to not pay for things! I live-rent free by housesitting. I exchange my care of a house and pets for free accommodation. That means I get to live in luxurious homes all over the world. These homes often have anything and everything in the way of mod cons such as top of the line entertainment systems, pools, hot tubs, chef-quality kitchens, solar shades, home gyms, housekeepers, gardeners, and more... and, of course, amazingly sweet animals to love.
Secondly, I write this very darn blog you are reading now so that I can pay for travel and food, and also barter for goods and services by exchanging my personal resource, my time and work, for advertising and promotion.
So, if I can get free accommodation, food, and stuff, then what the heck did I spend $6,000 on? My expenses are mainly food, transportation, travel insurance, and the costs of running this ridiculously amazing website that you are on right now.
Zilch! Zero! Nada! Because housesitting. Sometimes there are gaps between the sits where I like to explore different areas or check out new cities. During the gaps, I'll usually do one of 3 things. I'll either stay at the housesit a few more days before and/or after the sit, or stay in a hotel in exchange for a review, or couch-surf and stay at a local’s house.
I've tried airbnb before, which is great if you're renting a private apartment to yourself, which I highly recommend, but if not, it's pretty much exactly the same thing as couchsuring, and couchsurfing is free. And throughout the year I actually got to stay in a couple surprisingly nice hotels due to flight rescheduling, but those were all on the airlines' dime, of course.
Easily my biggest expense. Everything from coffee to groceries to dining out to beers. I love to eat and drink and this makes me super happy so I spend most of my money eating. I love trying local foods, street food, new cuisines, different restaurants and sampling local produce. And, stimulating the local economy and supporting vegan establishments wherever I go, of course!
But, I do get lots of free food. Housesit hosts often leave stocked kitchens, pantries, cash tips, and gardens of fruits and veggies. Neighbors may offer me home-cooked meals or produce from their gardens. Sometimes I eat at restaurants for review articles.
So, subtracting all the free food, after that I have about a 50/50 mix of buying groceries (because I always have full kitchens at my disposal) and going out to eat at restaurants (because I can’t really cook that well, or, at all). So, when left to my own devices, my food expenses seem to average out to about ~$10 a day. There have been times I've gotten a $600 tip for a week housesit and totally splurged by spending $100 a day eating out all day long. But mostly I’ll either range from spending $50 in a day dining out, or I’ll just buy $50 in groceries, stay home for a week, and not spend another cent (while binging on netflix).
My second biggest expense. All those darn things that get you from point A to point B and want money for it! Trains, buses, boats, ferries, taxis, rideshares, airplanes. A necessity of travel.
But again, going back to slow travel, the slower you go (the more time you can stay in one place), the less you spend on travel. So if you stay in one place for one month, then you can usually spend less than $100 on travel to that place, depending on the distance.
Most of my housesits are around 3 to 6 weeks so it mostly evens out the travel cost to get from one to the next at about $100 a month. Usually I can spend about $50 on a train or plane ticket if it's close to where I already am. Sometimes I’ll travel a farther distance to a place I really want to go, spend $200 on a plane ticket, but then stay for 2 months, so it’s still averages out to $100 per month.
When major transportation like a plane or train isn't absolutely essential, then I just walk. I like to walk, I like to take the time to explore and not feel rushed. So, given the option of a bus, tram or taxi over a 30-60 min walk, I’ll almost always walk. Walking is free! It's safer than being trapped on public transportation. It's good for the environment and for you, too. We are bipedal mammals afterall.
travel insurance: ~$55/month
I use World Nomads because I think they rock and have the most features that I care about. Plus they’re super easy to buy from and extend policies while on the road. I’ve never had to make a claim yet (knock on wood) but I’ve known others that did and never had a problem. I pay about $670 a year for travel insurance. And, I buy it 6 months at a time, which gives me a better rate than yearly.
online costs: ~$42/month (or less*)
Contrary to popular belief, websites do not run on unicorn magic. No, us website owners have to fork out actual cash to keep things things up and running. I’ve seen some people get really carried away with adding on service or app or theme or plugin or whatever, but the minimalist in me likes keeping things simple. That's why I use Jimdo. An all-in-one service that's user-friendly, beautiful and awesome. I got the plan with all the bells and whistles so I pay $240 a year. And that’s one payment for everything (domain, hosting, email, templates, storage, support, everything) all included. Plus I love them. Did I mention that? Check out this post for more.
I also use a social media scheduler, Buffer, to keep things moving along on social media. I found it saves time to throw everything in there and let do all the sharing for me and minimize my actual time involved. For this automagic I pay $102 a year.
I used to use about half a dozen housesitting websites, but I've paid attention to the traffic over the past couple years and I've narrowed it down to just 3: Trusted Housesitters, House Carers, and Kindred Spirits. Trusted Housesitters has a ton of traffic and I’ve seen housesits there for most anywhere in the world. It has the best user platform in my opinion, and a 24/7 vet tech help line, which could really save lives. HouseCarers also gets lots of international traffic, but their website functionally is not the best. Kindred Spirits is a newer contender, offering sitting and swaps for vegans and vegetarians, which I think is brilliant, because most pet owners are vegetarian or vegan since they love animals.
These cost about $165 a year. At the most*. Because another great feature of Trusted Housesitters is that you can refer people to sign up and they'll give you free months of membership, so essentially you could get the service for free and not spend anything.
grand total of expenses: ~$497/month or ~$5964/year
There you have it. That’s less than $6,000 USD in one year. This might seem awfully extreme and minimalist to some. I know because I see the looks of shock on people’s faces when I tell them. But this just happens to be how I did it. (And I am an extreme minimalist.)
I was never homeless nor starving. Quite the opposite in fact. I spent my time lounging about in luxury homes, reading books, watching movies, taking walks on beaches, checking out restaurants, pubs, farmers markets, and snuggling lots of cats and dogs and chickens. And I got to enjoy really nice houses, animals, tasty foods, and fun travel experiences. I think that's a win-win-win-win!