Cost of Boat Life: Monthly Living Expenses

Cost of Boat Life: Monthly Living Expenses

In 2016 we set off to explore the world on a sailboat with absolutely no previous experience.  We didn’t know what to expect or how to budget for such an unknown lifestyle.

Sure, we had done several google searches on “how much does it cost to sail around the world” but we couldn’t find anything all that helpful (sooo much more info out now).  It was mostly a bunch of hypotheticals or listicles of what to consider.

Some things were easier to guess at, like how much we would spend on food (because we’re still going to eat).  But we had no idea what we would be spending on things like fuel, repairs, and maintenance.

Over the past four years, we’ve sailed to seven countries and put over 13,000 nautical miles under our hulls.

We’ve learned a lot in that time and learned a lot about our spending habits in this new salty life.

Everyone always says BOAT is just an acronym for Bust Out Another Thousand.  And in the beginning, it felt that way.  The first year was buying and outfitting for off the grid and it was a total wallet buster!

But since then, we’ve been able to stick to our budget pretty closely and we’ve been pleasantly surprised.

So, what does it cost to sail around the world?

Not many people are willing to share their personal expenses or talk about money (so please be kind).  But it’s hard to plan a big life change on hypotheticals.  So, here is what it costs us to live and travel full time on a sailboat.

We’re not living on a shoestring but we are living on a budget.

Everyone has different habits (and vices) so how and where we spend money could be drastically different from yourself.  But, at least with some real-world numbers, hopefully, this helps give you some insight into this lifestyle on the sea.

The devil is in the details…so please watch the video as we explain a lot more about each of these categories.  Jason is incredibly disciplined about keeping track of our expenses…every single penny.  We’ve averaged out our annual expenses from each category from 2017 – 2019 to get these numbers.  So they are representative of our life from Panama all the way to Tonga.

boat life living costs

Boat Insurance: $500 per month

Boat insurance has become increasingly more expensive and more difficult to get every year.  So let this serve as your fair warning.  (P.S.  If you are not a USA citizen it will most likely be easier/cheaper for you)

  • Boat Insurance: $424 per month
  • Renters Insurance: $76 per month
  • The general rule is 1-3% of the value of your boat each year.

Repairs & Maintenance: $396 per month

Remember we blew our Maintenance budget (and boat buying budget) when we were outfitting the boat in Florida.  So she was in tip-top shape when we hit Panama.  We got off light here with minimal issues and repairs:  Watermaker (a few times), fridge repairs, Fake G4 Chain, New Starter, we mostly try to forget these expenses because they happen at the most inopportune times. Unfortunately, after a couple of years of minimal repairs, our next year is going to be a beast.

  • The general rule is 10-30% of the value of your boat each year.  This is a sliding scale and wildly variable based on how much of the work you do yourself.

Bureaucracy: $131 per month

Documentation, Customs & Visa’s.  This includes all the government fees for checking in and out of new ports and countries: Health Minister, Customs, Immigration, Zarpe, Visas, BioSecurity, Waste Authority, and whatever other badged person they can send to collect money.

This also includes our USCG SailBoat Registration and the Delaware Boat Registration for our dinghy (Minion).  This also includes the fees we paid for sailing through the Panama Canal without an Agent.

Dockage: $124 per month

Occasional dockage for the boat, fees for using a dinghy dock when we’re anchored out, the random mooring ball fee, and our haul-out in Tonga so we can get the boat on the hard for cyclone season.

Fuel: $112 per month

  • Gasoline $26
    • Dinghy
    • SCUBA Compressor
  • Diesel $86
    • Generator / Watermaker
    • Engines
boat life living costs

Provisions:  $736 per month

All supermarket items from groceries to wine and even household supplies like biodegradable cleaners, body lotions, toilet paper, laundry soap, and so on.  It even includes random things we’ve purchased at supermarkets like a frying pan, a sarong, a pair of sunglasses, a hat, replacement flip flops, etc.

Entertainment:  $252 per month

The majority of this goes to Eating Out: $230 per month

There are a few random expenses like Audiobooks, Music, Museums, National Parks

Travel:  $196 per month

Telecom:  $165 per month

This includes our Iridium Go which acts as our Satellite Phone, email, and weather. We turn this off if we know we are staying in an area for longer than a month to save $$ and reactivate before we take on our next passage.

We also have Google Fi so we can keep our USA phone number and get cell+data as we near land and before we check into port.  It also includes the occasional Cyber Café for WiFi and the local SIM cards we once we get to land.

Misc: $142 per month

The biggest one in this category is Pet Fees: $88 per month.  Food, vet visits, litter, biosecurity & importation fees for each new country…

Bank Fees – In the beginning, we rarely had the opportunity to pay with a Credit Card, so the few times we used a CC we were charged Foreign Transaction Fees (FTFs).  In Panama City, Ecuador & French Polynesia more businesses use credit card machines, so I applied for a $0 FTF card, but it has a yearly fee.  I prefer to use a CC to track expenses, so this yearly fee is worth it for us.

This also includes wire transfers, and the occasional ATM Fees (I have ZERO Fee ATM card, but certain ATMs won’t read it, so I have to use a different ATM card.  It’s complicated…I know 🤷🏼‍♂️).

And Postage/shipping for occasional items we need (like boat documentation renewals).

Healthcare: $106 per month

boat life living costs

Average Costs From 2017 – 2019: $2,800 per month

This does not include business expenses: camera gear, computers, website hosting, email service, etc.

This also does not include any clothing items we have picked up along the way not purchased at a market (which is rare).

And that’s it!  I hope you found this helpful or at least interesting.  The pie charts make it easy to see where the majority of our money goes.  Provisions and boat insurance.  Bet that wasn’t your initial guess!


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