Six years ago I was a poor college student. Two years ago I was a poor graduate student. Now I can just be classified as poor. Thanks to student loans, my monthly expenses average $630. (Though at least $50 of those expenses does go towards gas, it does not include food, outings, clothes or general spending money.) My monthly income averages $1200.
Still, if I don’t put anything in savings, that leaves me with about $570 a month, $142 a week, and about $20 a day. That’s $20 a day for food, toiletries (shampoo isn’t cheap when you have long hair), car expenses, and unexpected emergencies. To some, this might seem an impossible task, but let’s just say it can be done. In fact, let’s save half of that and live off of only $10 a day. That’s an extra $10 a day, $70 a week, and $280 a month that can go towards savings and unexpected emergencies (which I’ve found that you should actually always expect). In my case, it’s $280 a month that I can put towards a one-way ticket to Turkey.
Ok, so$10 a day. Impossible? No. Hard? Depends on how you’re used to living. With the way the economy has been lately, it’s not a bad idea to get used to living crafty. But living crafty does not mean that you have to stop living. Below I’ve listed some ways to help you get started on that crafty lifestyle. However, before you read, let me qualify that I am basing this off of a single status. Those will spouses or dependents may want to adjust accordingly (or try out a challenge).
10 Ways to live off of $10 a day (or $70 a week)
1. Reevaluate and consolidate
The first step is to analyze what you spend the most money on, determine what is unnecessary and see if you can limit those costs. For example, instead of having digital cable, get a cord to hook up your computer to your TV. There are many sites, such as tv-links.eu, where you can find shows or movies for free, or services such as Netflix which provide the services for a small fee.
Or maybe you get a coffee five days a week before work. Limit it to just Fridays and you can save around $20 a week. See how many minutes, texts or data you actually use on your cell phone. If you set a limit for yourself and keep an eye on it every month (I know Verizon can let you check your usage online), maybe you can get a smaller plan, or find a friend and share a plan. Put a timer in the bathroom and take no more than 10 minute showers. If you examine your daily habits, you’ll find there are lots of places where you can cut the costs…if you’re willing to make the sacrifices.
2. Leave the cards at home
Today it is more common for most people to carry debit or credit cards rather than cash. It’s more convenient. If you lose a card, you can call the bank before you lose the money, it’s easier to carry, and it’s faster and more convenient to use. However, unless you are fastidious about every penny you are spending, it’s easy to lose track of those pennies each time you swipe that card.
At the beginning of every week, take out $60 (most ATMS will only let you withdraw in increments of 20). This will allow you $10 still on your card, which you can choose to use or not use. But for now, leave that card and its $10 at home and carry only the other $60 with you. Being able to physically see the money go away can help you want to hold on to it and not having extra with you via a card will keep you from spending more.
3. Fight the urge
A key factor in spending only $10 a day is knowing the difference between need and want. I may think I need to have that new book I haven’t read because it relates to my research, or the $7 Panera salad because it is quick and “healthy,” or those really cute brown boots because I only have a pair of black boots this winter. But the fact is that I need to have my oil changed, and get new glasses, and fix my driver’s side mirror from when I backed into the trash can. So for now, I have to fight the urge and go to the public library, make my own salad, and rock my black boots.
4. You are what you eat
It may sound a bit cliche, but eating out is not only bad for you, but it is expensive. Unless you’re getting Taco Bell or McDonald’s every meal, you’re going to drop more than $5 on a meal and trust me, you do not want to eat Taco Bell or McDonald’s every day. True, we all have busy schedules and it is much more convenient to run down the street for a quick bite, but it is much more cost friendly to make your own meals.
If you are often cooking for yourself, as I am, it can be difficult to plan meals. But try taking a Saturday or Sunday and making three different meals. Divide those meals into portion sizes and stick a few of those portions in the fridge and the rest in the freezer. You have much healthier, cheaper frozen dinners that way. Or buy ingredients that are quick and easy to put together, such as sandwiches or salads, for those times when you’re in a rush and tired of leftovers.
Believe me, it is worth it in the end–for both your body and your wallet. For more tips on how to eat healthy on $10 a day, click here.
5. Shop around
Do your research. If there is something you truly need or just cannot do without, you don’t have to buy it right away. Look around. For example, when I crushed one of my taillights, I went to at least six automotive stores and repair shops. They each told me that I wouldn’t be able to find the part I needed for less than $115.The junk yard couldn’t even find it for less than $90. I went on Amazon.com and found the part I needed for $60–including shipping. If I’d listened to the price of the first store, I’d have spent $55 more than I needed.
And don’t underestimate the power of coupon clipping. Though the days of the Sunday paper may be coming to an end, coupons are still readily available. For example, some of us don’t have the luxury of health insurance, but may need glasses. Groupon.com is always sending offers for eye exams and I was able to get a pair of presrciption fitted eyeglasses from 39dollarglasses.com for $60 after adding anti-glare and shipping costs.
According to SmartMoney.com, the top coupon-clipping websites are: Coupons.com, CouponCabin.com, CouponMom.com, RetailMeNot.com, and SmartSource.com.
It may take some time to shop around and do the extra research, but if you’re living off $10 a day, you make it a habit.
6. Lower your expectations
Living off of $10 a day is certainly no easy task if you are used to living off more. I hate to tell you that you are going to have to lower your expectations. You’ll travel more locally, buy less brand names, visit a few second-hand shops, eat out less, and perhaps have to learn to do a few extra things on your own.
However, you’ll also find out some cool things about your region, learn that some in-house brands are just as good (and you’ve been ripped off all these years), encounter some awesome finds, eat healthier, and gain a few extra skills.
7. Recycle, recycle, recycle
This applies to more than just the bottles and cans in your recycling bin. What I’m talking about here is really using your resources. For example, if you use a jar of spaghetti, don’t throw the jar in the bin. Save it, wash it, and use it to store leftovers instead of buying new Tupperware. Plastic isn’t good for you anyway. Or use the jar as a vase, as a toothbrush holder, or, my personal favorite, as a milk jug.
Instead of buying a new outfit, dig out the old dress or shirt you haven’t worn in six months and you’ve basically got a new garment. Look through your movie or book collection and find something you haven’t seen or read in a while. Instead of eating the same baked chicken from last night, turn it into a soup. (Helpful side-not: soups are usually really cheap to make and delicious.) Look around your house or apartment. There should be plenty to recycle.
8. Stay in a couple nights more than you normally would
I love going out as much as the next twenty-something, but sometimes it literally pays to stay in. Instead of going to the movies, stay home with a Redbox rental and some popcorn you’ve popped yourself (from the kernels, not the bags), or maybe some homemade brownies even.
Invite your friends over for a pot luck or a game night. Buying drinks or snacks from the grocery store, especially when you split the cost with friends, is going to be a lot cheaper than buying your own $3 drinks or $7 appetizers at the bar. Plus, it’ll be easier to hear the people you’re with. 🙂
9. Find out what’s cheap or free in your area
For those of us who don’t mind a night or two in, but still love to go out and have adventures, don’t fret. Living on $10 a day doesn’t mean you have to become a hermit. Thankfully, we have amazing tools such as Google, where we can search cheap, or free, local events. You’d be surprised what you find. There are festivals, hikes, museums, and other fun things in most areas. If you find yourself going out to a bar or somewhere with friends, order only one drink and eat before you go. Or plan on your $10 for that day to go towards that night instead.
And if you haven’t already, you should join Living Social immediately. Another way to meet up with people who have similar interests and budgets is to create a Meetup account.
10. When you’ve got the hang of the other nine strategies, try a day where you spend nothing
It’s not impossible, I promise. And if you don’t use your $10 today, that could be $2o for tomorrow.