Finding the right type of housing as a digital nomad can be incredibly challenging. Since you travel constantly, there’s not usually an opportunity to investigate a new place in person and evaluate your options. Instead, many digital nomads rely heavily on reviews, photos and digital communication with property managers to choose their next home.
When looking for housing, there are a few crucial things to keep in mind.
1. Your Budget
Finding appropriate accommodations starts with your budget. Many digital nomads choose to work in locations where the cost of living is low. Even so, it’s important to set your budget at a level that you can easily afford. Surprise costs can cause a lot of stress, and many things can go wrong while traveling. It’s smart to leave a bit of wiggle room in your budget to handle unexpected costs.
Start by figuring out how much you’d like to spend on accommodations, including any utility costs. Add 10-20% to that amount and resolve to keep your housing costs lower than your limit. As you search for housing that fits your budget, be sure to consider the neighborhood, as well as its proximity to restaurants, grocery stores, entertainment and other services.
You may feel like a certain place is well within your budget but be surprised when you see it in person and realize that its low price is due to a less-than-ideal location.
2. Your Idea Location
When you choose a location for your next adventure as a digital nomad, consider how long you’d like to stay and whether you prefer to live like a local or would enjoy a more tourist-like experience.
Look for a location that fits with your preferred lifestyle, as well. For example, if you prefer to go to bed early and work in the morning, choosing an apartment with a busy pub downstairs may not be conducive to getting a good night’s sleep and waking up refreshed.
Your work life will also help determine your location. If you need space to set up a studio or you need a separate room for an office, you may prefer longer-term accommodations in a residential area. Choosing a home base away from tourist attractions can help you make the most of your budget, as costs may be lower in residential areas.
3. Types of Accommodations
Many digital nomads rely on hostels or short-term rental sites when searching for a place to stay. However, there are many other ways to explore your options for accommodations.
If you know you’ll be in one place for a few months, look for short-term rental studio with a three-month lease to potentially expand your options and keep costs lower.
Hostels offer limited privacy and aren’t ideal for extended stays. Co-living may provide the social interaction you get in a hostel without sacrificing legroom. Some co-living spaces provide dedicated workspaces and included utilities. There are some definite advantages to living with other digital nomads, as well. When your roommates have similar professional and personal goals, there’s a real opportunity to build lasting relationships.
4. Reliable Internet Service
It can be exciting to live as a digital nomad, and after a few months of checking destinations off of your bucket list, you may start to feel more adventurous. While working in a remote or exotic location may seem like a dream come true, it can quickly turn into a professional nightmare if you find out the hard way that there’s no reliable internet connection available.
Having excellent wifi is crucial for digital nomads, so before you book a stay, verify that you’ll have access to high-speed internet 24/7 for the duration of your trip. If possible, choose a location near a coffee shop or cafe with free internet access so you have a backup plan in case the internet connection at your home base is spotty or non-existent.
It’s wise to plan ahead for cell service, as well. The phone you use in the United States may not work overseas. Take some time to research phone plans to make sure that you don’t accidentally go off the grid when you change locations
5. Your Taxes
Even if you are traveling and living overseas, as a citizen of the United States, you must file and pay taxes. Fortunately, there are some important tax deductions that can help reduce your financial burden.
The Foreign Housing Exclusion is a little-known money-saving benefit that can help expats reduce their tax liability and make living overseas a bit more affordable.
With the Foreign Housing Exclusion, expats can deduct certain expenses from taxable income. The IRS created this deduction to offset extra expenses that may come with living in a foreign country.
If you are present in your country of residence for one calendar year or 330 days out of a 12-month period, you may be eligible for the Foreign Housing Exclusion. If your qualifying expenses are more than the base housing cost (as determined by the IRS) in the United States for the year, you may be able to deduct your qualifying housing expenses for the year.
If you live in a city that the IRS considers “ultra-high cost”, you may be able to claim an even larger tax deduction for housing expenses.
Rent and utilities are considered qualifying expenses. You can also add household repairs, parking fees, property insurance, and accessory and furniture rentals. You can not count domestic labor costs, furniture purchases or mortgage payments when figuring your deduction.
There may be other ways to save money on taxes as a digital nomad. Some even look into renouncing their U.S. citizenship. Be sure to talk with an accountant or financial planner with experience helping digital nomads handle their finances.
Where you choose to live as a digital nomad has a great effect on your experience. Your success as a digital nomad relies on your ability to research, plan and adapt to unexpected situations. Fortunately, living as a digital nomad doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.
The first step to changing your location is determining which type of available accommodation may best meet your personal and professional needs.