How much does it cost?
Fortunately, J P Morgan's answer to a prospective yachtie ("If you have to ask, you can't afford it.") doesn't apply to the modern cruiser. However, it will cost somewhat more than you first planned.
We have met young couples who cruise on less than US$8,000 a year. We have met other couples who couldn't manage on $200,000. So much depends on the style in which you want to cruise, as well as the areas you plan to visit. A major factor is the condition of your boat when you start. Most cruisers do a major refit before they leave. For some, this refit even becomes a substitute for leaving! It is easy to exhaust your cruising kitty by buying every imaginable piece of cruising technology. Many are not necessary. If you buy them, they will cost you more money as you cruise. The simpler you can keep your boat and your cruising life, the less it will cost.
Basic living expenses are not too bad in most places, though there are exceptions, such as Bermuda and French Polynesia. Even fuel need not be a major cost for a sailing cruiser. The cost of eating out and drinking alcohol can significantly increase costs, but worst of all is staying in marinas for long periods. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but often a little homework will find an inexpensive alternative.
Whether to insure your boat and your health are also important questions for a cruising budget. Neither comes cheap. If you are resident in a country with a national health system, there are forms of travel insurance which will cover emergency health treatment and even repatriation, if you need major medical attention.
However, you manage things, there will inevitably be periodic capital costs for replacements of major items of equipment, both for the boat and for other interests, eg. cameras, videos, computers. The life of electronics at sea is a good deal shorter than on land. Unless you are happy to do without items that are lost stolen or become unrepairable, you will need a reserve for such capital costs.
If you have a readily marketable skill, then you may well be able to work periodically to refill your coffers. For a very few, your employers may be other cruisers - but don't count on it; they are notoriously bad payers! Unless you are willing to go through the tedious, time-consuming process of working visa application, you will need to be able to work in the 'gray' economy for cash. You may well find that you are better off going back to your home country to work for a spell rather than trying to pick up work in unfamiliar territory.
Superlatives - Our Bests and Worsts of World Cruising
Most efficient - Canada
Least efficient - Brazil
Rudest - Antigua
Politest - Chile
Most beautiful tropical anchorage - Fatu Hiva, Marquesas
Most beautiful temperate anchorage - Caleta Beaulieu, Seno Pia, Canal Beagle , Chile
Most frightening electrical storms - tied between Costa Rica and the coast of New South Wales, Australia
Worst seas - Bass Strait and the East Coast of Tasmania
Rainiest weather - tied between SE Alaska and the Chilean Canales
Windiest port - tied between Wellington, NZ and Cape Town, South Africa
Cheapest food and drink - Argentina
Most expensive marinas - Tied between Newport RI, USA and Angra dos Reis, Brazil
Best value marina - Huatulco, Mexico
Friendliest locals - Vanuatu
Best snorkelling - Tahanea, Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia