From a shoestring budget to a relatively extravagant lifestyle it depends entirely on the sailors, their financial situation at the time, and a number of important factors that have to be taken into consideration.
Cruisers come in many different categories…
• Ones who have sold up to sail, and have some savings!
• Sailors who have retired, possibly with pensions they will live on!
• Those that have an income or are able to work from a yacht!
• Many who have to take breaks to build up the ‘kitty!'
• The lucky ones who have found alternative ways ‘to live the dream!'
These are some of the questions that need to be answered…
• Are you able to handle maintenance and basic repairs yourself?
• Is it likely your boat will need a haul out in the future, when is it due for the next antifoul; will you do it and what about emergencies?
• Will you be looking at flights back to your home or family?
• Do you like to dine out at times or go on sightseeing tours?
• Are you going to spend time in marinas or anchorages?
• What about other living expenses like fuel and communications?
It comes back to desire. If you really want to go cruising your budget whatever it may be will fit into place, you will make sacrifices and improvise so you can live your desired lifestyle.
Low budget cruisers can live on small fixed incomes such as a pension, living extremely simply with none of life's luxuries. It is the freedom and pleasure of the cruising life that give them satisfaction.
For others a reasonable budget can range between $15,000 and $30,000 a year. It means focusing on good money management, preventive maintenance and being true to your values.
Cruising Food Budget:
Food is individual and costs vary between cold and warm climates and coastal or off shore sailing. If you have good storage some things can be bought in bulk or even shared between several other sailors. Shop where the locals shop it's always cheaper than the smaller stores on the tourist strips. Meat keeps better and is tender when vacuum packed.
At some islands you can exchange goods for fruit, vegetables and seafood's. For example at Minerva Reef on the way to Tonga we swapped cans of beer for whole lobsters. Buy fruit and veggies that are in season at markets and long life vegetables like potatoes, pumpkins, onions and garlic can be bought in a bigger supply.
If you're lucky to catch a few fish it's a great supplement for meat that may be expensive in some areas.
One of the ‘must haves' in the galley is a pressure cooker. It saves time, money and in the tropics is so fast in cooking it keeps the heat down in the cabin. A pressure cooker makes a great pot roast, can turn cheaper cuts of meat into tender and savory meals. Try baking bread in it if you don't have an oven.
Dining out and entertainment can vary enormously depending on sailors and just where you happen to be. If you go out for lunches, or a ‘take away' that you can eat down on a beach with a bottle of wine it is far cheaper.
In a different country part of the fun of cruising is tasting the local cuisine. Some countries are fantastic with cafes and delicious meals and it doesn't break the budget. With other places you may need to budget more money for eating out!
The cost of fuel:
The best part of the cruising budget is the wind is free, and we are sailors so cruisers prefer to use their engine as little as possible. Entering and departing anchorages or at times marinas there is minimal use of fuel.
If coastal cruising and its necessary to make a destination before night fall or against current and wind the motor can be used to get in before dark.
My diesel inboard motor runs on the smell of an oily rag. The other two fuels we have to take into account are dinghy fuel and cooking gas, neither should put much of a dent in the budget.
When planning your fuel cost take into account the distance you are traveling, if you are going blue water sailing consider the cost of fuel in the areas you travel.
Based on cruisers I've talked to your total fuel budget can range from $10 to $50 a month, depending on if most of the time you spend sailing or at anchor.
Mobile phones and the internet for most of us are a necessary part of living and keeping in touch. Prepaid phone cards help you keep your call in a set budget and that too depends on the individual it can be $20 to $50 a month.
Satellite phones will keep you in touch anywhere in the world and have many added features… look at the cost and build it into your cruising budget! There are internet cafe's all around the world if you don't have the facilities on board.
There is also Sail Mail for off shore sailors with SSB radio, it can be hooked up to your computer and costs around $200 per month.
This depends where you sail; the tropics or a colder climate. In the tropics minimal clothes are needed and washing and drying them is easier. Winter woolies and heavy fleecy clothes cost more and are harder to wash and dry.
It's often better to wash and dry them ashore in a washing machine and a dryer; they do not dry very well when washed in salt water. So laundry cost will have to be put into the cruising budget.
Ones own style and values and how often there are shore trips and what kind of entertainment is enjoyed will also dictate the type and cost of clothes. I personal like to have some shore clothes set aside and ready to go! Sailing clothes can sometimes look creased or get stains from your last meal tossed on them when you miss your mouth hitting a wave. So the cost? This is as individual as it is on land!
Travel a few hundred miles or over seas and part of the enjoyment is getting out there and exploring the sites, natural wonders, history and all that the culture has to offer. Cruising budgets can be guess'termated according to the destination
A lot can be seen free; walking, hiking, snorkeling or scuba diving, and beachcombing. Some museums and cultural events can be free. Cinemas and local café's need not break the budget, but a good concert may cost us a little extra.
Entertainment aboard is different between cruisers. Most read, listen to tapes and CD's also watch DVD's, there are also electronic games and board games and cards.
None of these things will cost much and books, games and DVD's can be swapped between sailors; marina laundries are notorious for have a large range of books left for the next person to read. Hobbies like writing journals of the places traveled, or painting is enjoyable too. Some play musical instruments and sing… great at pot-luck parties or bar-b-que's on the beach it's entertainment for everyone!
Medical – Dental – Optical:
This varies in different countries and the individual's health. In Australia there's Bulk Billing Medical Centers which are free and dentists if you are on a pension and join the free dental waiting list.
Magnifying glasses can be bought at a chemist for reading. That doesn't discount going to an optician.
Health Insurance can be a protection in cases of emergencies, some have it, some don't; this is no different to when you're on land.
Other Costs… you may have to consider things like fishing licenses, prescriptions and souvenirs and flights home. These things are all individual and things like Customs and Immigration fees for off shore travel must be considered.
Some cruisers can live on $5,000 a year if an extremely frugal cruiser with no luxuries. Others say they live on around $10,000 a year on a pretty strict cruising budget and from there it can increase according to values and the way one likes to live.
You can spend what ever you have and live extremely well when the budget reaches $20,000 to $30,000 a year. For most people they can cruise for less than they can live on land.
A lot of stuff to think about!! A lot to calculate and weigh up when looking at your cruising budget! And good news! You won't have mortgage payments or rent, electricity bills, car payments and fuel for your car and all the land based costs that eat into your finances very heavily.
The other big bonus is your vacations and travel, which are endless are all taken care of too! No hotel or transport to pay for!