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How to Be a Digital Nomad on a Budget
Taking your entire digital life on the road can get surprisingly expensive, surprisingly fast. The main ingredients you need to support a digital nomad lifestyle are power, devices, and an internet connection. You can get all three of those things for cheap (or even free) if you know where to get it.
We’ll split this article into three sections for becoming a digital nomad on a budget: power, devices, and internet connection. Skip to whatever section you need the most help with, or feel free to start from the beginning if you’re starting your digital nomad life from scratch.
Portable power stations
Every digital nomad eventually needs a power source to charge devices. Check out some cheap, sustainable power stations.
MARBERO Portable Power Station Solar Generator
It’s easy to spend well over $100 to get quality portable power. But this portable station only costs $93.98 on Amazon*, and you don’t need any extra equipment to get it working. All you need to do is set this power generator somewhere in the sunshine and you should get all the energy you need to power your devices.
If you get stuck somewhere without much sun, you can also charge this generator with a wall outlet or a car adapter. Wherever you end up in your nomadic journey, you’ll definitely find some way to charge this baby.
As far as outputs are concerned, you get a 83Wh (watt-hour) standard AC outlet, along with two USB C ports (perfect for new Apple products), and two standard USB ports for everything else. Also the backside is a giant LED panel that can provide plenty of light for your campsite.
FOVAL 150W Car Power Inverter
Digital nomads and car adapters go together like peanut butter and jelly. Your car battery should have enough juice to power just about anything as long as you keep the motor running. You can get an affordable car power inverter for $17.98 on Amazon* that can charge a phone and a tablet at the same time.
You get the standard AC outlet, but only two USB ports to charge your devices, as opposed to the four that comes with the MARBERO portable power station. Also, this adapter doesn’t come with any USB C ports, so make you keep your charging block for the new iPhone and iPads that charge with USB C ports.
Basically every public space you can think of has outlets. You can hit up a public library, a restaurant, or supermarket and you’ll probably find an outlet somewhere. Take advantage of these free outlets to charge your devices, and save the energy on your portable power devices for when you need it.
Devices with long battery life
Constantly needing to charge your devices on the go gets super annoying, even with car adapters and solar-powered generators. Batteries get better every year, but that doesn’t mean you need to pay top dollar for awesome battery life.
Lenovo Yoga 6 Two-in-One Laptop
This laptop/tablet combo came out last year, but has already begun to dip in price. When the Yoga 6 launched, it cost $649.99, but you can currently get it for $589 on Amazon*. It’s a perfectly suitable laptop/tablet that will easily run work apps from Microsoft Office, Google Drive, and Adobe Suite, but the best part is the battery that can last up to 19 hours with heavy use on a full charge.
In other words, if you remember to plug in this laptop to charge at night, you’ll never need to worry about charging it during the day. Such a long-lasting battery life gives you the flexibility to work from anywhere without worrying about a nearby power source. You want to go type your memoirs on the top of that mountain? Go for it. You want to design the next great corporate logo while relaxing on the beach? You can do that too.
As far as the computer’s guts, the basic model comes with 356 GB of hard drive storage, which can fill up quickly if you don’t empty your trash bin from time to time. You also get 8 GB of RAM, which should be enough processing power to run most apps on Adobe Suite, for example. Granted, you probably don’t want to run anything super hardware intensive, like film editing software on this bad boy.
Sadly, Lenovo doesn’t give you a free stylus when you purchase the Yoga 6. We reached out to Lenovo for a recommendation on the best stylus for the Yoga 6, and the support team recommended the Bamboo Ink Smart Stylus from Wacom. If you’re a designer, it’s probably worth shelling out the $47.99 on Amazon* to get a responsive stylus to go with the laptop/tablet.
Moto G Power Smartphone
Yes, the new iPhone 13 Pro Max offers amazing battery life, but since we’re working on a budget here, the Moto G Power smartphones beats out the competition for a fraction of the price. The iPhone 13 Pro Max comes with a built-in battery capacity of 4352 mAH, whereas the Moto G Power comes with a battery capacity of 5,000 mAH.
Oh, and the Moto G Power smartphone costs literally $1,000 less than an iPhone 13 Pro Max. The Moto G Power retails at $199, but you can get the phone heavily discounted or for free if you buy it and sign up for a data plan at the same time. Check out some unlimited data plans that pair with the Moto G Power:
Under normal use, you can expect to go three days before needing to charge your Moto G Power smartphone. That sort of battery life certainly comes in handy when you’re on a long hike or trip without a reliable power source.
Since the Moto G Power is an Android device, you can download whatever apps you need from the Google Play Store. If nothing else, it’s nice knowing you have a Google Maps–ready device that can last you for dozens of hours.
If you can maintain an internet connection, you can basically work and live wherever you want. As a digital nomad, you can’t always depend on public Wi-Fi, so you’ll need to bring an internet connection with you wherever you roam. Portable internet basically boils down to two options: a Wi-Fi hotspot or subscribing to satellite internet.
Most cell phone plans come with a few gigs of hotspot data, but you’ll need more than a few to realistically work remotely. Don’t be fooled by some unlimited data plans that claim to give you unlimited hotspot data as well.
Most cell phone plans come with a hotspot data cap. When you surpass the data limit, your speeds will throttle significantly. We’re talking down to kilobytes-per-hour, with which you’ll struggle even getting a Slack message out. But if you know where to look, you can find hotspot data plans that will actually last.
Visible Unlimited plan
Visible Wireless is a prepaid cell phone carrier that uses Verizon’s network, which offers the most reliable coverage in the country. Two bits of good news: a Visible unlimited plan costs $40/month, which is way less than anything Verizon offers for unlimited data, and you get truly unlimited hotspot data.
The catch with Visible hotspot data is that your speeds cap at 5 Mbps, which is enough to send Slack messages back and forth, respond to emails, and browse the internet (albeit at a slower pace). You might struggle getting Zoom meetings to run smoothly via your Wi-Fi hotspot, so you should plan on taking Zoom meetings on your phone (assuming you have service).
Boost Mobile Unlimited plan
If you want consistently high-speed hotspot data, Boost Mobile currently offers the best deal. With Boost’s unlimited plan, you get 30 GB of high-speed mobile hotspot data every month, which equates to about 30 hours of HD streaming for reference. That should give you enough hotspot data every month to hold regular Zoom meetings and stay connected on Slack. Just to be safe, make sure to turn off your hotspot data when you’re not using it to help you get through the month.
If you don’t want to run your Wi-Fi hotspot through your phone, you can purchase portable hotspot devices that do the same thing. Don’t worry, we’ve already narrowed down the best hotspot devices for you.
Satellite internet providers
Satellite internet isn’t as fast as fiber, cable, or even DSL internet, but it can get you a connection in rural areas of the country. Here’s a breakdown of your options for satellite internet providers:
|Viasat Internet||$30–$169.99*||12–100 Mbps||12–150 GB||View Plans|
|HughesNet Internet||$54.99–$149.99†||25 Mbps||15–75 GB||View Plans|
|Starlink||$110–$500‡||5050–15000 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
You don’t have many options for satellite internet providers, but if you’re operating on a budget, HughesNet gives the most value. See, Viasat increases your bill $20 to $50 after three months of use (they call it “special introductory pricing”), whereas your HughesNet bill will stay the same. Overall, HughesNet offers solid download speeds and data caps for the price. Check out your HughesNet options below:
Digital nomadism is all about going wherever you want, but maintaining a reliable connection to the internet. You can easily spend thousands of dollars achieving this, or you can take our recommendations and live the digital nomad lifestyle on a budget.
- Portable power: Every digital nomad will need a portable power station to keep devices charged and connected to the internet. The MARBERO portable power station ($93.98 on Amazon) can charge iPhones, iPads, laptops, and other smart devices via solar power. Alternatively, you can use a car adapter to charge devices with your car battery.
- Devices with Long Battery Life: The longer your device lasts on a full charge, the longer you don’t need to worry about using a power source. You can get relatively new laptops on a budget, like the Lenovo Yoga 6 laptop/tablet combo ($589 on Amazon) that lasts up to 19 hours on heavy usage. You can also get an affordable smartphone, like the Moto G Power, that can last for days on a full charge.
- Internet coverage: Your two best bets for finding internet coverage while traveling the country are satellite internet and mobile hotspot data. We recommend HughesNet as a solid value choice for satellite internet on a budget. As for mobile hotspot data, Visible Wireless offers unlimited hotspot data capped at 5 Mbps for $40/month (along with unlimited talk, text, and data), or you can go with Boost Mobile, which offers 30 GB of high-speed mobile hotspot data every month for $60/month.
Now that you’ve got power, long-lasting devices, and a portable internet connection, you can basically take your van anywhere in the country.
To help folks live a digital nomadic lifestyle, we recommend finding a portable power source, devices with long-lasting batteries, and a reliable internet connection.
We recommend power sources that can be charged via solar power, in addition to charging with a typical AC outlet. Car adapters also work well for charging devices. We recommend laptops and phones that have a longer battery life, so you can explore more without having to worry about charging. Lastly, we recommend finding a cell phone plan with hotspot data, or opting for a satellite internet subscription to have Wi-Fi internet on the go.
* Amazon.com List Price as of 7/26/22 10:15 (MT). Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Reviews.org utilizes paid Amazon links.