This week we surpassed the 6 month cruising mark! We have now been cruising on our beloved sailboat for over 180 days…and we are still alive and wanting to go farther. The cruising life has taken some getting used to but I think we are finally in the groove of things. Something we are always getting better at is saving money and I am happy to report that we are spending way less than we anticipated and realistically it’s possible to spend even less.

When we were still working and saving money to prepare for this trip we really didn’t know how much it would cost each month to live. We searched the internet and forums and decided that $3,000 a month would be a pretty conservative estimate so we aimed to save enough to go cruising for three years.

Also in our overall “trip budget”, which is separate from our “refit budget”, we saved $7k for the Panama Canal crossing which would cover a trip to a boatyard for a bottom job and minor refit work as well as the trip through and any provisioning or gear we needed to buy that was in excess of our monthly budget of $3,000. This put us saving over the course of 5 years $115,000 for the entire trip. We also ended up saving around $35,000 extra for emergencies but mainly to re-establish ourselves when the day will come for us to go back to work.

As the 5 years of working and saving for the boat progressed we kept up with other cruisers and found that we could could probably live on only $1,500 a month which would extend our cruising time to almost double. We then changed our monthly budget to $1,500 and have tried to stay within it or close.

The first two months of our trip were spent in Key West and then in Marina Hemingway in Cuba near Havana. We knew that our first two months would be more expensive than other places we would travel because 1) We really wanted to party and celebrate our departure and 2) While the anchoring is free in Key West everything else is expensive. In Cuba you are required to stay in a pay marina and doing anything outside the marina gates is pricey.

I don’t think that our 6 month cruising costs are an accurate reflection of what long term cruising actually costs per month. The real monthly cost of long term cruising will show itself I think sometime at the end of year two when we make it to New Zealand. There are lots of unforeseen conditions that can arise in the next 18 months like a major boat problem, a medical emergency or a marina stay.

As well we have sailed to places known to be cheap and have stayed away from the more expensive islands like in the Lesser Antilles. However if you take the route we did, have a sound boat capable of the passage and have similar spending (and drinking/smoking) habits then you can likely expect the same costs that we have incurred. Truthfully we feel we have a lot of money each month and get to go out to eat and to bars a couple to few times a week. We don’t feel like we are missing out on a lot. I think we could be a lot more frugal, cutting the budget in half, if we really wanted by drinking less, Tate not smoking and eating out less.

**A note about the watermaker. We did recently buy a Rainman Watermaker but back in the refit budget we had set aside money for a “guilt free watermaker”. We wanted to try cruising without one to see the real need. If we hadn’t purchased the WM the money saved from the refit budget would have gone into the overall trip budget and we could have either saved it completely or spent it on a few more months cruising. So far we can both say the watermaker was a great choice and we would have gladly sacrificed a few months cruising for YEARS of cruising without the worry about fresh, clean water.

Our monthly budget of $1,500 is fluid. Sometimes we don’t need the whole $1,500 and so we don’t spend money if it isn’t necessary. In fact we are getting to the point of trying to spend as little as possible while still being comfortable (“comfortable” is a really relative term). If there is something in particular we want to buy in the future, like snorkel gear, provisions, gifts or expensive checkin/out fees for the next destination, we “earmark” a certain amount of money to reserve it for that. I do that as soon as the want is identified so that our whole monthly budget is reduced and it’s as if we don’t have the money to spend.

The cost is so cheap here in Providencia that we were able to save $500 last month and are planning to save another $700 this month. This will help us pay for Panama’s high checkin fee of over $500 and also for some gear (wetsuit for me!) we’d like to buy once we are there.

*We cut the dock lines with about 6 months worth of provisions including alcohol. As we sail we try to provision the boat in little pieces to always keep her about 6 months cruising ready. We buy more if we have extra money and items are cheap. We are also so to speak “collecting” alcohol when possible to use in the Pacific where it’s expensive and hard to come by. Provisioning the boat in little pieces lets us take advantage of good prices and reduces the stress of a “huge provisioning trip”.

I use an app on my Andriod phone called “Spending Tracker”. In this app I have set up a core bunch of categories and allocate all of the costs among them. I don’t often carry my phone with me so while out spending money I keep receipts, write it down or just try to remember everything we spent that day for later when I input the costs in the app. I do this DAILY so that I don’t lose track. I also tally everything in the local currency but I input the costs into the app in USD based on the exchange rate for our credit card or cash while accounting for any transaction fees. So the costs you see below are what, IN TOTAL, we have spent in these foreign countries.

I tried to pick a variety of categories that would encompass anything we could spend money on and plan to keep these the same throughout the trip. They are sorted in a more logical order based on type instead of just alphabetically. I have added a few examples for each one to help give an idea of what is included:

  1. Alcohol – bars, grocery bought and sometimes restaurants if a large percentage
  2. Eating Out – restaurants
  3. Grocery – food or household items
  4. Books – kindle unlimited, ebooks, physical books
  5. Entertainment – tours, park entrance fees, horseback riding, movies
  6. Gifts – presents for family and friends
  7. Tobacco – Tate’s pipe tobacco and accessories
  8. Water Sports – snorkel gear, spearfishing gear, wetsuits
  9. Communication – Delorme InReach, internet, phone, postcards, blog hosting
  10. General – miscellaneous items for household
  11. Laundry – pay laundry service on shore
  12. Medical – doctor’s visits, dentist, medicine
  13. Travel – taxi’s, buses, ferries, planes, cars, hotels
  14. Cruising Fees – checkin/out fees, visas, permits, copies, insurance
  15. Fuel – diesel, gasoline, propane
  16. Maintenance – boat products, parts, labor fees, boatyards
  17. Marina/Anchoring – marina fees, mooring fees, dinghy docks

Cruising Costs from January to June 2015

Jan-Key West, Feb-MH Cuba, Mar/Apr/May-Isla Mujeres MX, Jun-Providencia CO

2015 CategoryJanFebMarAprMayJunTotal
Eating Out6312933681733922252,082
Water Sports360----152512
Cruising Fees-143220-78142583

I will post these costs every 6 months in a blog post but will also keep the tables at the bottom of our Cost page. Hopefully this will help all you penny watchers like myself out there and give a real basis to use in your budgeting. Happy Saving!