Monday 18 February 2013

What is the cost of living on a narrowboat?

You may notice that I very rarely review products or services on this blog. However, when Paul Smith from Living on a Narrowboat asked me to review his new budgeting software I felt that it was something that could be really relevant to any of my readers who dream of living on a narrowboat.

Narrowbudget the world’s only budget calculator designed specifically for narrowboat owners. The Standard version is free but the Gold edition allows you to load recent data from a real liveaboard narrowboat, save the data you enter, add your own categories, download the eBooks, Living on a Narrowboat: The real cost of a life afloat, and Living on a Narrowboat 21`Liveaboard Case studies, and it includes the Narrowbudget Cheat Sheet.

The introductory booklet points out that, “Living on a narrowboat is likely to cost you more than you imagined and is much harder work than living in a house.” 

Quick Start Guide 

Despite the title, ‘A Quick Start Guide’ I found myself six pages in before I got to the page describing how to enter data. The first few pages are all about initial log-in with repeated invitations to upgrade to the Gold version (which I already had.) So, I might suggest restructuring the Gold edition guide to begin with a ‘Quick Start’ summary, followed by a more detailed section, including trouble-shooting any log-in problems.

I then got stuck in and had a good look through every section of the process, adding estimates of my own based on my liveaboard life on a 70ft narrowboat. I also took a look at the pre-entered data Paul has offered based on his own lifestyle.


I loved the explanations, hints, advice and links in the right hand column that accompany each section; very informative. For example, in the section on propulsion diesel Paul writes,
“There generally isn't much difference between your engine's fuel consumption whether it's running on your mooring to charge your batteries or gentle cruising along the cut.”

I wanted to add here that the EU tax on propulsion diesel is a tax on leisure boating and in my opinion running your engine to recharge domestic electricity is not a leisure cost. Our family therefore declares about 95-100% domestic use in winter. Our only ‘leisurely’ cruise is to the water point!

However, I then found Paul explains this very well in a side-link from this page to his forum: “The duty paid/duty free split is not an exact science.” 

Cheat Sheet 

The Narrowbudget Cheat Sheet is brilliant because it breaks down what Paul spends on his own lifestyle. He really has thought of everything in this detailed summary of his expenditure.

I’m quite jealous that Paul’s mooring is around half the price of mine, and yet he’s in a marina with laundry facilities and an electric and water supply close to the boat. (I'm on the towpath.) So the mooring you are able to find can really affect your costs. I would add that engine repairs can be a really ‘wild card’ of unpredictable expenses, as you never know what is going to break next. 


In addition to the bonuses that come with the Gold version of the software, of course you also have access to all of Paul’s site: Living on a Narrowboat. This is full of informative articles and forum discussions that answer almost every question you could think of about living on a narrowboat.

I love the visual layout of the dashboard which is the final page of the process where you receive your results. There are several bar charts that give you a graphic overview of your data. 


Over the past couple of years I have watched Paul develop and grow his website and I must say he is really passionate about his topic.  (He created the site shortly after he moved onto James in April 2010.) Having tried out the software it is also now clear to me that he has been passionate and thorough in his research in trying to create the best experience for anyone with questions about living on a narrowboat. The extra bonus materials included in the Gold version give the newcomer a good idea about the realities of life afloat.

I would recommend this product to anyone thinking of living on a narrowboat, it could save you a lot of time as Paul has kindly done the research for you!


Disclosure: The product was supplied free of charge to me for the purpose of review. The opinions are my own. This article contains affiliate links.

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