Living simply in the wild

The Vagabond How-To series: Making a daily budget for your Trip

The dreaded budget. If you hate budgeting for life at home you may actually find it a relief and fun to budget for Vagabond. Or maybe i’m just thinking crazy again. Either way, it must be done.

There is no secret formula here, it’s almost exactly how you plan your regular day to day life. You know how much money is coming in…you know how much is going out.

People keep asking us the same question.

How can you afford it?

Truth is, it will cost us LESS to live in Guatemala over the winter then it will to stay where we are.

How is that possible you ask?

Rent:  To live here over the winter will cost upwards of $800/month. And that is just for a roof over our heads. That doesn’t include utilities or extras like internet. Don’t get me started on groceries or gas.

In Guatemala we have found a place to stay for under $200/month on the River, great views, Restaurant next door, and free wifi.

That my friends is HUGE!

Food: I very rarely can keep groceries under $120 a week here. Things are pricey! And trust me, we’re not eating steaks and lobsters. Most are budget friendly meals.

For $25 in Guatemala you can buy:

2 watermelon, 2 pineapples, 4 dozen mandarin oranges, 2 dozen bananas, 20 pears, 3 pounds onions, 9 zucchini, 17 pounds potatoes, 5 huge cucumbers, 2 pounds tomatoes, 3 huge avocados, 4 red peppers, 17 pounds of apples

We will still have to budget pretty tightly with food, but all the fresh (and mostly organic) produce coming straight from the markets we surely won’t be going hungry.

Aside from food and accommodations, traveling around will be our only other big cost. Depending on how much money we have will determine if we travel around the country at all or just stay put in one area. Public transportation there is cheap if you take the buses. Prices range from 0.12 across town, 2.50 from one city to another on up. I also hear that if kids are small enough to sit on your lap they don’t pay a fee. Bonus points for small kids!

So that’s how we can afford it.


Making Your Budget

1. Research prices Is a great site to get a snapshot of what prices you can expect where you are visiting. It is important to know how much to expect to pay for things where you are going.

2. Talk to Locals

The most helpful thing i’ve done is to find and talk to other people living where you are going. Facebook, Lonely Plant, blogs, and Google are awesome ways to find and connect with people.

(I’ve received amazing advice from, who are currently living in Guatemala, both of who i found via other travel blogs and google)

3. Leave some Wiggle room

We aren’t leaving much room, so do as we say…not as we do. Having some savings put back is very wise just in case unexpected things arise, things cost more then expected. Blowing your budget happens, so having a safety net is very comforting.

4. Big ticket items

Keep your big ticket items separate from your daily budget. Things like your airfare, passports, travel insurance. These are all things that are bought a head of time and usually are bought by holding your breath and emptying your savings account. As soon as you have enough to purchase these items and you press that “checkout” button…it becomes real.

5. Know how much is coming in

Once you know how much money you’ll have coming in for the time your gone, just work backwards.

For example:

Income: $1500/month

Days in Month: 31

Daily Budget: $48/day

From there you can figure out how much you’re willing to pay for accommodations, food, and extras.

8. Importance

Find out what is important to you and allocate your money there. Do you want a private room or are you ok with sharing rooms. Same goes for bathrooms. Is eating well more important or are you ok with eating street food or cooking your own meals. Maybe site-seeing and adventures are more important then buying souvenirs. Find out what you want from the trip and balance your money to suit that.

So the big question…..What is our budget?

drum roll please…..

A whopping $35 a day. Traveling  solo through Guatemala on this budget would be awesome. You’d be able to hit all the places you wanted, eat out every day, stay in a decent hostel, and visit all the sights. Throw in a spouse and two kids. Let’s just call this budget TIGHT…or an EXTREME BUDGET.

Things we aren’t including in our daily budget:

Our Big tickets: We’ve had our passports and our plane tickets for a while now. The only thing left we have to buy is our insurance, but thats not from our daily budget allowance.

Savings: We have put away as much in saving as we can which will hopefully stay there throughout the whole trip and be there when we get home, but it’s a very small safety net should we need it.

Fee: We may have to pay for overstaying our 90days. I’ve been told its about $1.25 a day per passport. But that’s a big ‘if’…if they charge us the fee, or if we don’t make a border run sometime within our 90 days.

Donations: Any donations we’ve received for this trip that people have so generously donated to us via personal check, cash, or our “Buy Now” button on the right side of the screen. This has gone into our safety net or money we may use along the way! *All Donors will receive a small token of our appreciation while we are in Guatemala 🙂


This $35/day budget would be impossible to hit if we were staying in Chelan over the winter.

Renting a place in Guatemala will only take up around $7/day. With some good negotiation skills (hopefully Ranger hasn’t forgotten from his car salesmen days) and staying in one place for a few weeks, we could lower that even more.

That leaves $28 to eat off of (which i’m assuming most of our budget will literally be eaten), travel around, shop, site see and anything else we want to do.

So hopefully that answers some questions out there. We are not going to Guatemala and staying at beautiful resorts with in room spa services. Although that does sound divine. We are going there to live. And enjoy life.

We hope that you can see that it is possible to go live in another country for an extended amount of time and it won’t cost you your second born son. A family of four living on $35 a day in another country…anything’s possible right?



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