I just finished reading an article about Surviving (and Thriving) on $12,000 a Year. It was an article about someone who went back to school at the age of 48 and has to be extra-frugal to get by. The article caught my eye because I am currently living in a similar situation. I am a student and my monthly income is $900. The honest truth is that I don't live that frugally.
So how can I do this? Well first let's look at some expenses that I don't have to cover:
- Tuition - I am on a nearly full grant and the rest is taken care of by loans and my parents.
- Insurance - Health is tied in with school costs. And I don't have rental insurance.
- Car - I don't have to pay for my car except for gas. Although, to me this is a slight non-issue because I would be perfectly fine without a car. I just would not have one if I had to pay for it.
- I pay $530 per month in rent. It is a one bedroom 700 sq-ft apartment that I don't share.
- I pay for Internet. This is $25 per month.
- I pay for my electricity and gas. This varies per month but it is usually around $45 for both. (Although during November and December, I paid $27 per month for both)
- I have a cell phone bill of $40 per month. It is the unlimited data/voice/txt plan for my Treo 700p.
After rent, Internet, phone and utilities, I have $260 left over for a month of food, entertainment and other living expenses. At the end of the month, what money I have left over, I put in saving. I have built up a savings of over $1000 in about a year.
I do pretty good for $900 a month. How do I do it without being ultra-frugal?
- I take pride in helping to save the environment by not wasting electricity.
- I unplug my appliances when they are not in use. (Sleep mode is a killer). The only appliance plugged in and on at all time is my fridge.
- I don't leave lights on in rooms that I am not in.
- I don't use central AC. (Window units are easier to control).
- I have my modem and wireless router on a surge protector that I switch off when I am not using the Internet. (This one also helps control the web procrastination tendency).
- I don't like gas. So I try not to use it as much as possible. I actually have had the gas disconnected from my stove and I have a separate electric burner sitting on top of it.
- I don't pig out.
- I don't regularly go out to eat at places I have to stay and sit awhile to eat my meal. These places usually charge more. (I think they are charging me rent).
- Dollar menus are awesome!! Don't Super size anything.
- I try to keep every meal under $3. Most meals are a lot less.
- I also try to eat frozen dinners often. There are actually some very good ones that can give you a good meal for around 60 to 80 cents.
- For example, I spent about $5.50 on food today and included a breakfast shake, a 6" pizza for lunch and Deli Spirals for dinner. If I keep up that rate, that is $170 for a month of food.
- I check the price per unit on items from the grocery. You would be amazed the number of times that I have found that 2 small things of one item is cheaper then buying 1 large one despite them both being the same amount of that item. Most people expect it to be the other way around and not pay close attention.
- I take the bus or walk most places. Even though I don't have to pay for most of my car expenses, I do pay for gas.
- Walk is cheaper and much better for the environment.
- I only drive if I am in a big hurry to get from one place to another (about 5 miles a week).
When I get out of college, I hope to keep up this same life-style for a while. Adding in the Health Insurance and Car maintenance that I currently don't pay, I should be able to easily live for $1200 per month ($14,400 per year).