Cruising itself must be one of the lowest cost ways of living. Certainly while under way there is no opportunity to spend money, and anchoring is still free in most places! The trouble comes when you start visiting marinas and the temptations of the land start to nag away: extreme self control is necessary if you are to keep your expenses down. Some of our inspiration came from the book 'Sell Up and Sail' by Bill and Laurel Cooper, and John's son Mike took his from Anne Hammick's 'Ocean Cruising on a Budget'. Our tattered copy of the latter travelled around the world with Mike and Lisa on their Contessa 32 Jemmana in 1999/2001.
When we started out we maintained a record of our expenditure. That was when we were trying to rely on the income from rented property to support our lifestyle. Gradually things became easier for us: we drew down some of John's pension, Mo reached the magic age when her state pension kicked in, and then John reached his. Future sailors will need to wait longer for their pensions, so we have been fortunate.
During our first years out we had to raid savings from time to time, as our costs exceeded our income. For some while we were able to save out of income, although more recently we have spent more on renewals and upgrades for the boat.
A very rough figure for what we have spent on an annual basis is £20K (GBP). This has to be related to our chosen way of operating. We rarely use marinas, unless we have to. Our actual marina costs during cruising are detailed in our daily journal summary pages. In winter, we have either stayed afloat in a marina, or the boat has come out of the water. In the former situation, marina costs over winter can amount to £3500. No doubt there are more expensive places than Lagos (Portugal). We have also managed for less. Where the boat came out of the water, we flew to New Zealand, and our cruising expenses there were camp site fees for a caravan and petrol to tow it. We have run cars, one in the UK and one in NZ, for much of the time. We choose to eat out only on rare occasions, and we do not frequent bars and coffee shops. Over wintering in a marina we have tried to join in the social activities available, so we have tended to spend more in this way, although not excessively.
For most cruising people, the boat always comes first! It is important to keep it running and well maintained, and you can expect surprises when something fails, a propeller blade falls off, or a sail is torn and needs repair. You have to have a contingency budget. In summer 2005 we were hit with the extraordinary expenses associated with John's illness, returning to the UK, and even buying and running two cars!, and then again in 2007 another health issue incurred more unexpected costs.
However, whilst cruising, you do not incur the costs associated with life on land. We look with horror at Council Tax, heat and power and telephone bills,television licenses, and other such overheads. It is in reality a very low cost way to live, and if you are prepared to rough it a little more, some of the costs we incur can be avoided.