Living on a Boat with a small budget – Sailing & Cruising

A friend of mine recently asked me to answer a few questions about living on a boat on a budget for an article she is writing. I really enjoyed answering them and thought our readers would find it interesting especially as many of you have said you’d like a post about finances. Hopefully it will make a nice change to read………

 What is your monthly budget?

£570 that’s for everything!
(Food, cooking gas, diesel, water, general repairs, customs & immigration fees, cruising fees, vets & import/export pet requirements)
Major repairs & upgrades are taken out of a separate slush fund/savings account but we avoid this wherever possible.

What does your cruising lifestyle look like, as limited by your budget? Obviously you can’t just spend money on whatever you feel like- so what do you give up?

When I lived at home (England) in a house & earned a good wage I would spend so much in the supermarket throwing whatever I wanted into the trolley without a second thought, now meals are planned before going shopping & we write a list of the things we need rather than want, nothing is wasted. Non-essential items are put to the end of the list & if we can’t afford them then we have to do without. People must laugh watching us with a note pad and pen adding up the total cost of our basket as items are put in!”

Now we have solar panels as well as a wind turbine this generates enough power to run our navigation equipment, lights and refrigerator on board so we don’t need to go into marinas to plug into shoreside power so we spend all our time at anchor, saving a small (actually large) fortune. We don’t use mooring buoys as I personally think they are ‘money for old rope’ excuse the pun (unless of course it’s a marine park and they are there to preserve wildlife/coral reefs).

Eating out is a rare luxury and when we do it’s such a treat that expectations are high so it’s usually a disappointment. You can find amazingly cheap local cooked food from little shacks or street venders around the Caribbean for a fraction of the price of the restaurants, which are aimed at cruisers with money to burn.

Cruising with our dog costs an absolute fortune in Veterinary health certificates and import permits but we’re not always checking in and out of countries frequently so this tends to keep the cost down a bit. However, recently Scrumpy our Jack Russell Terrier needed some antibiotics and it took a big chunk of budget.

Clothes shopping is just a distant memory and most items gets ruined by the UV rays, sweat, salt water & mould so it’s just not necessary.

Wherever possible we catch rainwater to fill up our fresh water tanks and only use the bear minimum. For example we wash in the sea and then rinse off with a cold fresh water shower on the back deck. YES sometimes naked (more like all the time) and in broad daylight so our neighbours get an eyeful. The deck shower pump works at 3.5 gallons a minute and the indoor shower pump is 7 gallons per minute so washing inside is just not an option otherwise we’d be constantly paying to fill the tanks. Some cruisers are lucky enough to have watermaker but that’s not a perk on our boat unfortunately. We used to drink the tank water but this season it doesn’t taste very nice so buying drinking water is a big expense however we try to avoid it but asking the boats with watermakers very nicely if they wouldn’t mind filling some drinking bottles up for us and so far its been pretty successful.

Its funny how far you go to save every penny, even down to making meals that don’t use lots of cooking gas. Any boat maintenance and repairs are undertaken by ourselves, well by my partner (I’m just the cook, cleaner & child minder) unless of course it something specialist. He’s not a plumber, electrician or mechanic by trade but it’s amazing what you can find online so he’s pretty much self-taught and services the engine as well as has fitting the GPS, wind turbine, solar panels and building a radar arch, the list is endless. On a few occasions I’ve repaired the sails on my domestic sewing machine, made cockpit cushions and we are in the process of upholstering our saloon seats.
Tell me a bit about WHY you’ve chosen this cruising lifestyle?

I don’t think I necessarily chose this lifestyle it has just kind of developed over time. Initially we’d just had enough of spending most of our lives working and thinking/worrying about work. Every month striving to make ends meat to cover a ridiculous mortgage and I was sick of living for the all to short weekends.
The dream was to buy a boat move on board and go on a sailing adventure to find sun and rum with no real time frame set out. The only plan was to return home when the money ran out, however now we have realised that you can live an amazingly rich and fulfilling life on not a lot of money.
Although, since setting sail from the UK we now have a 10 month old daughter so our motivations have changed, this life allows us to spend real quality time as family and she gets to enjoy both parents raising her together without the stresses of a ‘normal’ life.

What are some of the main sacrifices you’ve had to make due to budgeting restraints that you wish you didn’t have to give up?

Wine & well all alcohol ….. Its just not something our budget can stretch to, occasionally I’m ‘allowed’ to treat myself to a bottle of wine or rum but this is a rare luxury. Now we have a baby its not like we are partying every night getting drunk, but also being a parent having a glass of vino now and again really helps you to unwind so I really do miss it.
Entertaining guests, a big part of cruising is meeting other like-minded people and inviting them for sun-downers and dinner. I’d love to be able to put on a decent spread especially when someone has done so for us and that is really difficult to do on our budget. Also I hate having to sacrifice on food shopping in general I try to give my daughter a healthy balanced diet which is difficult enough in the Caribbean as the fruits and vegetables available are limited but I really wish I had more money to buy her treats particularly as some items can be pretty expensive on remote islands.
Disposable Nappies, they cost an absolute fortune compared to England so I’m having to hand wash reusable nappies EVERYDAY and I despise doing it, mainly because its never ending. However it does feel kind of good doing something positive towards the environment.

Any final thoughts on living on a boat on a budget?

It’s certainly not for everyone especially if you’re extravagant and like all your home comforts. You have to be uber organised, monitoring all outgoings and planning spending. Sometimes when you have to make sacrifices or unforeseen costs crop up it can really get you down but on the other hand it feels very rewarding being self-sufficient and not wasteful.

If you have any questions please comment below ……Thanks for reading


1 thought on “Living on a Boat with a small budget – Sailing & Cruising

  1. Hopefully you will remember all your budgeting skills when you are finally living on dry land again! No take always after dinner Simon Johnson!🍟🍔🍟🍔🍟🍔


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