This is so important that this section promises to be a long one. We start with a formula which suits our way of thinking and has helped us decide whether we could afford a life aboard a sailing boat:

Budget versus Actual spend = Peace of Mind
 In order to get to the ‘Peace of Mind‘ bit at the end you have to go through two preliminary steps:

Step 1. We first of all went through a process of calculating how much we might anticipate spending day to day when we were living on board our boat. Since we had not yet started, we looked for guidance wherever we could and then tried to ‘guestimate’ for other things. We found it most useful to categorise our spend under the headings shown in the table below:

Estimated net combined pension income £20,000

Predicted annual outgoings:
Food and other consumables (est. £500/month) 6,000
Berthing charges (est £20/night) 7,300
Storage of effects (£150/month) 1,800
Diesel (est £80/month) 960
Phone charges (est £30/month) 360
Boat and contents insurance 350
Mobile internet (£15/month) 180
Gas & electric (est £12/month) 144
Cruising Association membership 112
Mail redirection (£36/yr) 36 16,892
Predicted annual surplus/deficit

Food and other consumables’ can encompass as many things as you like or you can break it down into separate items. It seemed sensible to us to include meals out, clothing, cleaning & hygiene items, even travel, but you may decide any of these warrant a category of their own. The important thing here is to try to come up with reasonable estimates for everything, or as much as possible, that is predictable. Everything else you spend money on when living on board the boat is… well, unpredictable, but at least you will have reduced this to a minimum. The unpredictable may include boat maintenance and repair costs but you may be able to predict and budget for some of these too.These figures above are annualised, which is useful for planning purposes, but it did not give the full picture for us since we anticipated laying up the boat and living ashore during the winter months. Our second attempt makes allowance for this:

Estimated net combined pension income £20,000

Predicted annual outgoings:
6 Months sailing Winter

Food and other consumables 3,000 3,000
Winter accomodation 3,000
Berthing charges 3,650 1,400
Storage of effects (£150/month) 900 900
Diesel – motoring & heating 480 300
Phone charges 180 180
Boat and contents insurance 175 175
Mobile internet 90 90
Gas & electric – cooking & lighting 72 180
Cruising Association membership 56 56
8,603 9,281 17,884
Predicted annual surplus/deficit £2,116

This is as far as you will ever get prior to starting your life on board; not true peace of mind at this stage but at least you should have a fair idea as to whether you should be even thinking about it. You will also have some clues on what are the biggest items of spend for you and therefore where the biggest financial risk lies.

Step 2. This can only take place once you have started to live on board. You will need to know how much you are actually spending to see whether this is in line with your budget predictions. Calculating this accurately is extremely tiresome as it involves keeping a note of every item you buy under each category – even those ice creams and the odd drink of beer. However the more effort you put into this, the more accurate it will be and the greater will be your peace of mind. Fortunately there is no need to be record-keeping forever as once you have gone through several months of detailed recording you should have a fair idea of what a ‘normal’ month feels like – for example what sort of food items you normally buy and how many times you eat out.

Finally. If your planned budget was in any way realistic then by comparing what you actually spent against the original budget you can easily see whether you are on track and indeed whether the surplus is enough to cover the unplanned eventualities and to keep the boat in good repair. As time goes on you will acquire a feel for whether you are within your budget and when you are not and hopefully you will find the objective, Peace of Mind, comes naturally. You finally know for certain that you can afford the life you have chosen to live.

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