14 January 2019

Cost Of Living Aboard A Sailboat & Not Going Anywhere | 2018 Recap

Although I post regularly on our cost of cruising and living aboard Tickety Boo, our Moody 346 sailboat {see our How Much It Costs page} I thought it would be useful to do a recap of how much we spent during all of 2018. That way you can see the total picture including yearly spend and average monthly spend by category.

So let's cut to the chase - we spent $20,567 during 2018, which comes out to a monthly average of $1,714. That's around $4,000 less than what we spent the previous year.

If you want to see the breakdown behind those numbers, have a read below. Be warned, it's a long post so I'll throw some random pictures in to jazz things up.

By the way, you'll notice that I titled this post, "Cost of Living Aboard a Sailboat and NOT Going Anywhere." That's because our boat didn't move out of her slip in 2018. Well, actually she did, but it was just to go to the other side of the marina to be hauled out. We had hoped to be in the Bahamas in early 2019, but we've discovered an issue with our boat which means we're in the boatyard and need to do some repairs.

But before we get started, here are a few thoughts about expense tracking vs. budgeting, income, and categorizing expenses.

Expense Tracking vs. Budgeting

We track our expenses on a monthly basis. We do not track our expenses against a budget. In fact, we don't have a budget. For some people budgeting (i.e., setting limits on how much you're going to spend in certain categories) is a very useful tool to control expenditure and prioritize spending decisions. For example, they might allocate $200 a month for eating out. Once they've reached that cap, they don't go out to eat again until the following month. Or they might only spend $150 that month, which means they've got an extra $50 in next month's budget.

We've found that by tightly monitoring and managing how much we spend, we don't need to budget. We know that in some months and some years we're going to spend more than in others. We're naturally frugal (some might call it cheap) and tend to consider what we spend our money on quite carefully. Keep in mind that this approach works for us, but it might not work for you.


The questions everyone really wants to know are How much money do you have? and How can you afford this? If you're hoping that we'll answer those questions, then you're going to be disappointed. Suffice it to say that we have a little bit of income and some savings.  By taking a minimalist approach, living frugally, and stretching our dollars, we've been able to enjoy this lifestyle for now. It may not last forever, but we're going to keep at it while it's still fun and we still have our health. {FYI, for what it's worth, we're in our 50s, so we're not collecting retirement income, social security etc.}


Everyone categorizes their expenses differently, which can make it tricky to compare different people's reports of their cost of cruising.

For example, some people categorize everything they buy in a grocery store as groceries even if it includes things you can't eat. And I can see why - it probably makes for easier tracking. You just enter the total on the grocery store receipt under the groceries category. I like to make things hard for myself, so I go through each grocery store receipt line item by line item and assign things to separate categories. That way I know exactly how much we spend on food versus things like shampoo.

There's no right or wrong way to categorize things. Whatever works best for you is the right way.

* * *

When you look at the nitty-gritty details of what we spent below, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1 - All costs are in US dollars.

2 - Not all expenses are included - here's what we've left out:

(a) We don't report how much we spend on alcohol. I remember reading some horrible, judgy comments in a blog post a few years back about how much someone spent on booze, so I left it out when we first started tracking our cruising costs back in New Zealand. For consistency's sake, I've continued to leave it out when tracking our cruising costs.
(b) We've also left out our costs for medical insurance. We didn't think it made sense to include insurance costs as they can vary so widely depending upon your nationality, where you cruise, what level of coverage you want and can afford, whether you get subsidies etc. In case you are curious, while we're back in the States, we do have insurance through the health insurance marketplace (aka the Affordable Care Act), primarily to protect our assets and cover us in case of a catastrophic medical condition.
3 - I've included any shipping and taxes we've paid in what we report. Florida has a 6% sales tax.

4 - We have two people living on board full-time - my husband and me (although Scott was gone for much of the year overseas working). No pets and no kids.

5 - Because Scott was away for an extended period, our expenses for things like groceries and entertainment are less than they normally would be.

6 -  I haven't included any expenses related to my writing (e.g., editor, book cover design, publishing expenses, author website).

A gloomy day at the marina.

 >>Marina Costs<<

Yearly Total = $8,428
Monthly Average = $702

We include all costs for marina slips and mooring balls in this category. Basically a place to park our boat when we're not anchored out. You can think of it like rent. We spent all of 2018 at Indiantown Marina in southern Florida. We were in a slip until mid-December (around $672 a month for a boat our size) when  we moved into the boatyard ($30 a day). I've also included out costs for pump-outs in this category.

Tickety Boo on the hard in the boatyard.

>>Boat Stuff<<

Yearly Total = $4,029
Monthly Average = $335

This includes everything we buy for the boat, items related to repairs and maintenance, insurance, and other miscellaneous costs.

One of the big ticket items was boat insurance ($937 a year through Geico). We also have Tow Boat US insurance ($124) which offers peace of mind should we need need a tow or assistance (you can think of it like AAA or CAA insurance for your car).

In terms of boat equipment, we bought new house and starter batteries ($484), a new-to-us Walker Bay sailing dinghy ($250) and a new-to-us windlass ($160). We also bought some components to build a composting toilet including a urine diverter, coconut coir, and a 3-gallon jerry can, however this project has been put on hold (along with other boat projects) while we work through the insurance process for the repairs to the crack in our hull.

The other big cost captured in here is related to hauling out boat out of the water and moving her to the boatyard ($288).

Other expenses in this category include $27 for a Customs & Border Protection decal (which allows you to clear back into the States over the phone as part of the Small Vessel Registration System) and $26 for our annual Coast Guard documentation renewal.

Experimenting with meal kits.


Yearly Total = $2,726
Monthly Average = $227

This category includes everything we put in our bodies in terms of food and drink (excluding booze) that we prepare ourselves. It doesn't include things like paper towels and ziploc bags, which I know some people would classify as groceries. Sure, you could probably eat them, but they wouldn't taste very good.

Our monthly average probably looks quite low, but that's due in large part to the fact that Scott wasn't here during much of the year. When it's the two of us, our spending usually comes in around $400 a month.

Chloe the Coconut Husking Lab, one of the adorable boat dogs at the marina.

>>Personal & Hygiene<<

Yearly Total = $200
Monthly Average = $17

This is the category where we include household things (like paper towels and ziploc bags) and personal hygiene items (like soap and shampoo). We also capture items for the "home" here, like bug spray.

Ethiopian food with friends in West Palm Beach.


Yearly Total = $1,107
Monthly Average = $92

In terms of drinks and eating out, this includes everything we don't prepare ourselves, even if we get something to go and eat it back on the boat.

Tracking pizza, fast food, coffees etc. in the entertainment category helps to remind ourselves that, in an ideal world, we would only drink and eat out as a form of entertainment - enjoying the company of friends (Taco Tuesday comes to mind), as part of our travels, or indulging in Ethiopian food (one of our favorite cuisines). However, we don't live in an ideal world and fall prey to the lures of take-away food from time to time.

We also track how much we spend on books, magazines, DVD rentals, and going to the movies in this category, as well as the occasional lottery ticket.

This is one of the categories where we can really try to control costs and look for ways to cut back on spending as part of our yearly review.

One of the marina's resident alligators.


Yearly Total = $660
Monthly Average = $55

Our cell phone is actually one of our biggest non-boat related expenses. We have a $55 monthly GoPhone plan with AT&T which includes 8GB of data and unlimited calls and texts. We continued with that plan while we were out cruising so that we can keep our US cell phone number.

Our vehicle broken down on the side of the road.


Yearly Total = $652
Monthly Average = $54

This includes registration, gas, repairs, and maintenance for our 1995 Nissan Pathfinder.We spent about $300 on gas, mostly going into the "big city" of Stuart to run errands. Our vehicle also broke down twice during the span of a week. We ended up getting a new battery and a belt replaced. Our Pathfinder is holding up pretty well considering how old she is.

Sunrise at the marina.

>>Medical Expenses<<

Yearly Total = $333
Monthly Average = $28

This category includes medical expenses outside of our monthly insurance premium (which aren't included here - see section on exclusions above), like over the counter medications, prescriptions, and things for our medical kit. It also includes the costs of doctors visits and medical tests which aren't covered by our insurance.

The only real boat ride of the year - being towed out of the St. Lucie lock on a friend's boat.


Yearly Total = $2,432
Monthly Average = $203

In this category, we include how much we spend on clothes and travel expenses. We also include a catch-all miscellaneous group for stuff that doesn't fit neatly anywhere else, things like laundry ($3.25 a load)..

Some of the larger expenses were for plane tickets ($772) - one for Scott from the UK back to Florida and one for me to visit my family in Portland.

We spent $212 on clothes, $156 on Amazon Prime, $1 on library fines (oops!), and lots of other money on random things like a frying pan, eyeglasses case, bike lock, hand mirror, solar shower, sheet music, tiny toy dinosaurs, storage boxes, and food for the marina cats.

Did we spend more or less than you would have expected? Do you track your expenses? Any frugal tips and tricks to share?

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  1. While your boat is a huge chunk of your expenses, it's still cheaper than living in a house. Well done!

  2. Wow. You're so detailed with your tracking. I love that you're so frugal. My thrifty ways have me never having bought my son new clothes. (Family does, but not me!) I buy clothes for him from a secondhand store. He grows so fast. He rarely has any clothes carry over one year to the next. I got his winter coat this year for $20 and it was like brand new! I don't go to a hairdresser. I cut my own. I cut my kid's hair too. My husband won't let me near his hair, though!

    1. It makes sense to buy secondhand clothes for kids considering how quickly they outgrow them.

      How do you cut the back of your hair? I've tried cutting mine before - not a good look :-)

  3. Very well done. Boating has it's ups and downs, but it's a wonderful way to live.

    Have a fabulous day and week, Ellen. ♥

  4. Maybe when we downsize we'll move into a boat. It sounds like a cheap way to live.

    1. It's definitely not always cheap. When things break or you need to get new equipment/gear it can get pretty pricey.

  5. Wow! I think you did amazingly well - much better than us especially considering that we mostly don't pay any kind of rent - but then again if it was just me and/or we didn't count alcohol we'd be doing much better.

    I love your graph. I'm going to have to figure out how to make one for my one year of tracking expenses next month.

    1. Let me know if you need help with the graph - they're fun to make :-)

  6. I would say tell nosy people you're a drug lord, but in this day and age, people may not think you're joking.

    1. So true :-)

      We have some friends who bought a boat that was used for running drugs before they got it. It does happen.

  7. I must admit our expense tracking is very low key. We've been trying out Hello Fresh and have enjoyed trying out different meals.

    1. Hello Fresh was a gun experiment. Great for trying new things.

  8. You two seem to control your costs very well, and i hope the insurance comes up to scratch and gets your boat repaired and you two on your way soon.

  9. Hmm. Not much really when you consider the cost of living in "The Big City. I'm under the impression you should be a book keeper, or were. I don't receive a monthly income so tracking my expenses doesn't make for very inspiring thoughts but I do manage to get through each month, by the grace of God that is.
    Which would I prefer, Living on board a beautiful boat and having to maintain it or living in the city and having to pay for maintenance on the building? Personally I think you two have chosen exactly what I would have.
    Living on board a yacht isn't anything like living in a building, there are so many advantages to living aboard that don't necessitate the acquisition of money to be able to cope. When you live aboard and have children staying over, "Go play" has a completely different meaning from when you live in a house or apartment.
    I miss living on board a yacht tremendously and think your tracking of your expenses highlights the advantages admirably.
    Blessings from Geoff in Johannesburg a thousand miles from the marina.

  10. This is always so interesting—and you live so cheap! My 'Burby' is from 1995 too...and I'm fearing she'll need more than a battery and belt soon. Here's crossing fingers that your Pathfinder has many golden days still!

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one with an "antique" car :-)

  11. I am not worthy to read about your budgeting prowess! My process: have money, spend money. YIKES.

    1. You just described the process of living on a boat :-)

  12. Not a bad year, especially compared to last year. Imagine getting rid of the marina cost and anchoring instead. That would make it a really cheap year, even with added grocery costs for Scott. Maybe next year. :-) Well done, though! Is your car insurance included on the car category as well? I still have to create my own yearly expense report for the blog... One of these weeks. It’s a few thousand less than your total, but that’s only because we don’t have aboat anymore. :-)

    1. I know, wouldn't that be nice to ditch the marina costs. I don't think I included the car insurance costs - not sure why.

  13. I am very impressed by your frugality! I was sorry to read the post about the crack in your hull and am hopeful it can be sorted in short order so you can still find your way to the Bahamas this season.

    1. Thanks, Lisa. We're hoping we get a resolution to it soon too.

  14. Wow, I'd say you kept your expenses very low. I had no idea marinas were so expensive, though. It's almost as much as my mortgage.

    1. Marina costs really depend on where you are. They're relatively pricey in Florida. It also depends how long your boat is as rates are often determined by foot.

  15. Good job with managing the money! I know my family spends a lot more than that in a year. I hope you get to take your boat out this year!


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