Living on $34.01 a Week

by David Ning · 99 comments

As my wife isn’t here, I figured it was a great time to try something I always wanted to do since starting my blog – live with very little money for a set period of time and see what I learn.  I think I did well, because I ended up using only $34.01 in a whole week.  It was interesting and eye-opening, but more importantly, what I learned was invaluable.

A Little about the Frugal Experiment

My goal was to use as little money as possible.  This included both:

  1. Money I needed to pay (like going out to eat)
  2. Money I already paid for (e.g. milk that I’ve bought)

I did not include the rent as part of the experiment because there is no way I could cut back unless I moved.  I did however cut back on electricity during that week, which I will talk about later.  The plan was to live for a few days with as little as possible and see how I do.  At the time, I really didn’t know what I would get out of it but it was an experience that I wanted to have since I know I will gained a better understanding of life and frugality.

The Daily Frugal Life

During that week, I seriously cut back on everything except the bare minimums.  I actually felt more energetic because I ate less and went outdoors more often.

Food
For the week, I ate beef noodles and vegetables that my wife prepared for most of the days, as well as some dumplings that my wife hand makes.

Cost: $28.52 (according to her)

At the end of day 4, I really felt an urge to have some ice-cream, so I had a scoop from the $4.99 no-name brand ice-cream container.

Cost: $0.49 (it was a big container and it was good)

Electricity
I was trying to conserve electricity within the house as much as possible, so I unplugged all appliances from the wall.  I also never turned on the air conditioning, which we seldom use anyway.

As our monthly electricity bill is around $25 a month and all I really used was the microwave, I figured:

Cost: $5

Water
I could cut back on eating but probably not on drinking water, so I went down to the water fountain by the fitness center to fill up a few jugs of water.  It was plenty for the week so no cost incurred.

Activities
I went out to jog and walked a lot at night.  It’s amazing how many things you overlook when you are always in a rush. Plus I always feel refreshed after the outdoor activity so that’s certainly something I will keep doing.

I also got in a lot of blogging, as I wasn’t watching TV or using the computer for anything else but something productive. It’s amazing the efficiency you can achieve when you don’t give yourself the option to slack off.

What I Learned

There are so many things that we hear/read about but unless we actually feel and live through it, the lessons won’t sink in.  During the past week, it was a different lifestyle to say the least and while it was only short term and more extreme than normal, I learned a great deal.

You Are Using More Than You Really Need
This further strengthens my belief that the majority of people who think they can’t cut back are probably not looking hard enough.  Next time someone asks me for advice on savings and say they are already spending as little as possible, I will know what to say.

It’s Not as Bad as You Think
Knowing that I can live just as happily with no “extras” will allow me to control my desire to splurge.  It is great to know because it will further strengthen my mentality as being a saver.

It CAN be Done
The message that struck me the most was that “it can be done”.  I can actually practice extreme frugality and still be comfortable and happy.  This is so powerful because I am now not afraid of survivability.  Knowing this gives me a reference point for where my necessities lie and it also gives me the courage to venture out comfortably on my passion without worry.

Closing Words
Obviously, this experiment only lasted for a week and things could change if I did this long term.  However, I felt that the experiment was a success as I’ve found a new perspective on life.  If you have any insight as to what you think about this, please share as I’d love to know.

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{ 99 comments… read them below or add one }

Frugal Dad September 9, 2008 at 12:28 pm

This was a great experiment, and something I’ve done myself in smaller doses (for a weekend or so if the wife and kids were away). So here’s the dilemma for both of us–why can’t we do this when the wife is home? My wife just isn’t quite as hardcore frugal as I am–has to have air conditioner running, etc. Maybe some of our frugal lifestyle will begin to wear off on them. Great post.

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Paula November 20, 2013 at 9:03 am

Even though my ex and I were both frugal in some ways, on the discussions we used to have was about the equation of “frugal + hidden costs + complete discomfort” sometimes equals “not worth it.”
Case in point and my reason for responding to this post is the air conditioning debate. He liked it off, I liked it on. Sounds like an easy answer when your emphasis is saving money; however, we both also had a thing for clean sheets. Sheets that are sweaty are gross. Sheets are way too enormous to hang up to dry inside a small urban apartment. Where does that lead us? To the energy hogging dryer. Add all this up with getting awful sleep and its just not as easy of an equation as it appears. Frugality must be very personal and tailored to work and I think there are so many great blogs out there now making this point better than I. But when it comes to airconditioning, I had to chime in:)

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Paula November 20, 2013 at 9:05 am

“one of” the discussions. Not “on the.” My new cheapie cell phone on pageplus wireless does have a bit of a keyboard issue… At least that’s my excuse.

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Miranda September 9, 2008 at 1:24 pm

Thank you for sharing your experiment. I enjoyed readying about this. I’m emailing a link to my husband, and we’re going to try. It’s funny — but my husband and I are opposite Frugal Dad. He has to have the air conditioner running. But now that things have cooled off a bit, I’m thinking we can give this experiment a try.

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Metz - Empty Streets September 10, 2008 at 3:20 am

I just love all the tidbit tips about money and other stuff. I’ll be adding your site to my blog roll if it’s alright. :)

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BK September 10, 2008 at 3:53 am

Interesting experiment. I did my own experiment on cutting back on electricity usage. I always heard that electrical appliances not in use should not be put in the standby mode and the switch should be off. I did not think much of it and always left my TV in standby mode and the switch to my fans in the on mode. Until I decided to try an experiment to switch off all appliances not in use and to put the switch in the off mode. The result: I saved up to 21% of electricity. :)

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Metz - Empty Streets September 10, 2008 at 4:28 am

It’s my pleasure :) and you definitely deserve it ;)

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CrackingGold.Com September 10, 2008 at 5:54 am

Helllo. I’d just like to add something here.

CAR
As much as possible, do not make use of your aircon. This really saves gas.

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marci September 10, 2008 at 9:03 am

It’s great that you know have this favorable experience to fall back on with good memories, in case a time comes when you do need/want to cut back again.
Transportation costs? Medical? Insurance?

Think you found out three great things – entertainment you make yourself is very frugal, and bulk cooking/eating at home is also very frugal. And the most important – you CAN be happy without spending a lot of money :)

Congrats on this life milestone.

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David September 10, 2008 at 9:37 am

Did you shower? ;-)

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marci September 10, 2008 at 10:18 am

I think what we’re trying to say is that you ate and entertained for $34.01/wk – and that is great.

Just remember all those little hidden life expenses :)

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MoneyNing September 10, 2008 at 7:33 pm

David: Yes, I showered. Actually, I could have showered in the community pool in my apartment complex if I really wanted to but I showered at home.

marci: Yup I do remember them. Since I will be working from home soon, there won’t be transportation cost to speak of. I currently don’t have insurance yet (something I need to start thinking about) and I will be under my wife’s medical insurance plan soon.

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James - Forex Trading Blog September 12, 2008 at 1:24 am

I did a similar experiment some years ago now where I tried to live on a food budget of £1 per day.

I managed it quite comfortably buying the non-branded and special offer foods from the supermarket but I don’t think it could be done now as food is about 3 times more expensive than it was then.

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Eliot September 12, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Interesting experiment. If I would have been asked with how much money a human can survive in urban environment, I would have said more than 34 bucks. Good to see that this is possible…

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Uncommonadvice September 13, 2008 at 12:25 am

Well done mate. It is true that you see a lot more of the world when you are on two feet. I often do leafletting (don’t know what that would be called in the U.S.) and I am amazed by all the little things that I see.

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financial freedom September 14, 2008 at 9:15 am

Wow. I did not know living on 34 dollars a week is possible. I should try this one day.

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Mary@SimplyForties September 17, 2008 at 8:21 am

Interesting. Even though in real life you’d have to factor in a week’s percentage of all your non-negotiable bills like mortgage, insurance and utilities, it’s still a great way to figure out what you can trim on your discretionary expenses. Good post.

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Jodie October 13, 2013 at 3:34 am

@Mary, I think he meant AFTER

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Jodie October 13, 2013 at 3:36 am

(oops!)
@Mary, I think he meant AFTER bills are paid for. At least that’s what I got from it. We have only a few more dollars than that left over after we pay our bills. We’re both disabled, and have a ‘big’ daughter, so we have to be careful how we spend our extra income.

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Gayle October 6, 2008 at 8:40 am

Very interesting experiment, and I applaud you. But I do have one bone to pick – when you got your water from the fountain by the fitness center, you simply transferred your own expenses to someone else. It’s a personal choice, but one I wouldn’t make.

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Thrifty Gal January 23, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Businesses save money by transferring their costs to their employees. For instance, my employer decided to encourage direct deposit of paychecks. This way they save paper, as well as a secretary’s time to pick up the checks and deliver them to each person. You can look at them online if you like. When people look at them online from home, if they decide to print off the info, it’s their paper, not the company’s.

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Lisa August 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm

That’s exactly what my company has done. I don’t mind so much because I don’t need to print them off unless they are needed for proof of income. Saves a few trees as our personnel director had stacks of paycheck stubs that people didn’t pick up because they had direct deposit.

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Bill September 24, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Agreed, it is called “mooching”

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Lee November 30, 2013 at 6:16 am

@Gayle, I agree with you and you were much more diplomatic than I would have been.

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Ray The Money Man November 10, 2008 at 5:45 pm

Love your experiment. It is actually my life and not because it has to be. We are trying to put every penny, and I mean every penny, into the oil market right now so I guess it is sort of an experiment. Being a vegetarian I can eat for $20.00 a week. Really, $20.00.

Great post.

P.S. A wonderful quote I read this week “every penny you spend is risking a little bit of your future”

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Kate June 14, 2012 at 8:50 am

On the other hand, my father tested milk for a farmer who was 93 years old and “saving his money for his old age.” When he died, never having enjoyed a single cent of his money, his son blew every dime on the horses.

Rather than saving my money for my old age (and who knows if I’ll even have an old age), I am spending my money to build memories which I am recording on paper in a book (having had three computer hard drives crash and eat everything I had stored in them, and four different kinds of “media” vanish so that the disks can no longer be accessed) so the kids will know why they’re not getting my money to blow on the horses.

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Jodie October 13, 2013 at 3:49 am

I love that!

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Isabelle January 22, 2009 at 12:51 am

It really is amazing what you can do, we have done this kind of thing when we wanted to save fast – or when I bought a sofa in the sale and paid cash leaving only £10 in the bank for the month’s food. We could have paid by credit card and paid it off with minimum payments and the sofa would have cost twice as much – mmmm, a no brainer really.

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Pev February 10, 2009 at 1:24 pm

That’s a neat experiment. I don’t know if I’d be able to do that – filling up on several jugs of water for free at the local fitness center kinda makes me feel pretty embarrassed.

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Kate June 14, 2012 at 8:52 am

This is like helping yourself to extra condiments at the fast food place — essentially, my mother would have said, it’s stealing. (She was very strict about those little hotel amenities too; she said they were to use while you were in the hotel and if you didn’t need them, you should leave them alone.)

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Mar October 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm

It’s not stealing when you take a few condiments at the fast food place or the hotel amenities to carry home. Trust me, you are paying for them, indeed! Companies figure out what the average person uses & the cost is figured in to the bottom line of what you paid. Now, if someone were hoarding the condiments & amenities (taking more than what the average person would use), then that would, indeed, be stealing. There’s a very thin line.

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orfan February 27, 2013 at 10:54 am

With both hotel shampoos and ketchup packets, once they’re opened they’re essentially yours. If you take two packets and only use one, you can put the extra back. But if you use half the shampoo bottle, the hotel doesn’t combine it with another patron’s half-full bottle and put it out again. And I’m not sure, but I think even if you leave a full bottle they may trash it in order to leave the next patron a bottle they know is new. Kind of like how if you don’t eat your bread in a restaurant it can’t be served again. That being said, in my opinion, both mini soaps and salt packets contribute so little to to the overhead of the business that if I am genuinely going to use the product, I have no problem walking out with a reasonable amount of extras. (Plus I know I’ll recycle the plastic bottles; I’m not sure about the hotel.)

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Fred Cash June 12, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Wow, that is a great test. I have to say that you almost thought of everything and I think I’m going to try something similar and see how much I can live on. I know there are times when I’m spending more, but there are some weeks where I think I might be close your amount. Over the past two months my wife and I have been cutting back on going out and trying to save money. We are trying to save enough for a house, and have saved thousands over the past two months by eating at home more, cutting coupons, and trying to not to do any extra activities. It’s been quite boring, but we are almost at our goal so it’s worth it.

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Tzingca June 19, 2011 at 9:21 am

It doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, we entertained ourselves by thinking of ingenious ways to entertain ourselves. For instance, we each took turns hosting our “date night” and the challenge of doing something special for free or on our maximum budget of $5 per week kept us thoroughly occupied.

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Jodie October 13, 2013 at 4:31 am

How awesome! Unfortunately, lack of money has come between my husband and me. When I bring up that it’s Date Night, he says, “We don’t have any money.” It KILLS me, because to me, Date Night can be spent in our bedroom — totally free!
But with just a bit of research, finding out what’s going on downtown or what have you — maybe an art show, etc. — I bet we could have something really sweet.

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Patricia June 30, 2009 at 5:35 pm

I find it interesting that you did this experiment at a time when you were alone. I know I could live very frugally by myself, but with two–and sometimes three–near-adult daughters and a husband, I find it really difficult to cut back on things like food. The mom instinct to provide a healthy variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, for example, is hard to ignore (and fairly pricey.). I also notice you had the benefit of eating food your wife had prepared ahead for you. How would you do if you really had to do it all yourself?

I’m not trying to put you down. I love your blog and I think this was a great experiment. I guess I’m just jealous because I know I could save so much money if I were living on my own.

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MoneyNing June 30, 2009 at 5:43 pm

There’s absolutely no need to be jealous. Yes, money is important to all of us but I’m sure you will agree that family is much more important than money, and that money is a vehicle to meet our goals and not the goal in itself.

Sure, I can be more frugal when I’m alone but without my wife, having money is meaningless. It was a fun experiment, and it would be fun to try it with my wife as well.

Perhaps you can try it with your family and see what happens? Of course, the purpose is to have fun and to actually deprive yourself :) If you do try it though, report back and let us know how you do.

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Dan K September 15, 2009 at 8:54 pm

I live in northern PA and we have snowstorms during the winter. This allows for our electricity to go out at the most opportune times.

A year ago this happened. No showers. No T.V. Only a quiet winter night and the crackle of the wood fire.

I have to admit that I am an addict to t.v. and the internet. I really think t.v. is a terrible use of time and plan on never paying for it (right now it is included in my rent). But that few days was the absolute best. I never felt more at peace. I had a wind up emergency radio, my dog, and family. It was really a peaceful time and made me appreciate everything I had.

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Ryan @ Planting Dollars December 29, 2009 at 5:46 pm

This sounds similar to my current lifestyle, except for a bit higher amount for food.

You’re right, it’s nice because there’s less clutter and you get to enjoy the little things that matter more than filling up your time with stuff.

Thanks for sharing your experiment.

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FrugalLivingAdvice.com January 8, 2010 at 10:20 pm

I have done similar methods like this but it was usually because I lost my job and had nothing to live on.
I survived about three months on a dollar a day. I lived off of three Little Debbie cakes a day. I was thin like a rail and lost some of my teeth from malnutrition.
Ahh…good times.

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Glendon Cameron February 24, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Hmmm this sounds like something I was “forced” to do years ago. I got laid off and I knew things were not going to be easy. So I sold everything I had and moved in with a roommate( I would be getting unemployment) This gave me a $1500.00 and I had one more check coming in.

I was able to live off of 7500.00 for a year. Granted more than your 34.00 per week, it just showed me how you can lived a decent life when you do not have a lot of money. This was like 15 years ago, but one thing I still do is walk for hour a day, getting out really clears the head.

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Yvonne Genise March 4, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Hello again Glendon,
As usual, I’ve got one foot in the present, while my mind is in the future. It’s only March 4th. My goof.

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Yvonne Genise March 4, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Hello Glendon,
Are you still reading this blog on occasion? It’s March 6th & I saw your story about making it on $7500. Wow. That’s impressive.

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Glendon Cameron March 5, 2010 at 6:06 am

Yvonne

I had to do what I had to do. I really did a great deal of soul searching and reading, it prepares you for the other trials and tribulations that may come in life. I just found this blog this year it is very interesting.

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Amy June 26, 2010 at 2:26 am

I’m with Gayle. As a former property manager, stealing water from the gym doesn’t count and is so irritating to the people who provide that convenience. They have to replace what you took for your budget savings from the patrons of the gym who pay for that service. Not cool, man. You have water running out of your faucets. Get a filter and save money that way.

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MoneyNing June 26, 2010 at 11:43 am

Thanks for the concern. I fully agree that it’s just shifting the cost to someone else. It was an experiment, and using public resources for personal gain is not something I would recommend.

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ShamrockRancher January 25, 2014 at 3:29 pm

With an attitude like that, you’ll never make it in Congress.

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Anonymous September 15, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Did you take into consideration phone/tv/internet bills? Those are biggies.

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Amy October 6, 2010 at 9:57 am

First off- Great Job- a little unrealistic as you didn’t add in utilities and rent/mortgage but as far as food and other goes well done. I do want to ask one thing… did you say that you only spend $25 in electricity?.?.?

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MoneyNing October 6, 2010 at 10:12 am

Yeah back when I had an apartment, electricity was only $25 or so a month. Now that we moved to a house, it turned to $100 with the same lifestyle. Go figure….

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Amy October 6, 2010 at 10:29 am

LOL I was wondering ;) I live in a house so if I make it at around 60-70 I’m doing well…. sigh.. and I don’t really use that much.

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G November 11, 2010 at 8:55 am

This is an interestign idea, but I put some thought into this experiment:
1) water – getting it from you gym does not mean it is free. It means you are passing the cost to others at your gym. That’s not being frugal.
2) eating non-nutritious, cheap, mass produced food. Why would you want to do that? It is poisoning oneself for the sake of – money – something that you can always make more.
3) I really enjoyed the comment of the vegetarian, saying you can get by on 20$/week. In fact, even if you are not vegetarian, you can do something like that. If you go to your local fish market, it is amazing the amount of fish that gets thrown away, because some people can only eat the “salmon fillet”. If you get the left over from that operation, you have material for a very nutritious food and delicious as well.
4) electricity, gas – I totally agree. Decreasing your carbon footprint while getting exercise is the thing to do.
5) entertainment. I agree. How about books? How about your library? We pay taxes to keep libraries well stocked, and it is a pleasure to share that with your neighbor, decreasing the amount of paper in the world. That is the type of cost sharing that is easy on nature, and on the pocket.

I thing being frugal is important, but once being frugal to save money becomes the main objective, I disagree completely, because the point is to detach from the material craving, not to save money to fulfill that bottomless need.

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Nicky January 29, 2011 at 3:52 pm

This post made me furious. To people on a low-income, survival on a small amount of money isn’t a fun game. Poverty is not an interesting experiment. Poverty constricts you, tightens around your chest so you feel you can’t breathe. It is a constant whirl in your head, something that controls you, has you in its grip, something it’s near-impossible to escape. You don’t know what it feels like until you experience it for real.

It’s fine for you because you don’t HAVE to live on $34.01 a week. So for you it’s all lighthearted fun, and you think hey, this is easy, anyone can live on this amount of money, what’s the big fuss? But, aside from the way that poverty will grind you down over time until your life is literally just survival and nothing more, what happens if you get a medical bill through, or a vet’s bill, or your washing machine or your car breaks down, or any one of the huge number of things that can blindside you and require an immediate and huge sum of cash? Oh sure, it’s okay for YOU, because to you this was all a game. You have savings, insurance, money stashed away for just such an eventuality. But for the person in real poverty, who is unemployed or on a low wage and living paycheque to paycheque? The person that was stretching out that $34.01 a week to cover the basics of survival, and couldn’t afford to put any away, so has nothing to fall back on? That person is royally screwed.

So articles like this are just insulting. Patronising, middle-class hogwash.

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G January 30, 2011 at 7:56 am

Great reality check. Specially of you look at the photo on the top…. in that perspective, it is hypocritical, because the undertone of this article is to to live frugal, is to scrap for money for the next big material thing. That’s the motivation factor, not the reality that many have to live in, with no choice of drinking water in the fountain at their gym with fancy weight lifting and treadmills….

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oblongcircles June 26, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Okay, why are you furious again? I think the overall point of the article was that if you analize what your true NEEDS for survival are, you csurvive. However, surviving and LIVING life are 2 different things. I grew up in poverty with a few close calls with homelessness. I am not bitter about that situation though, it makes me work harder and strive farther so I will never go though it again. Whining about how bad things are will not change it. You have to be the change as ghandi would say. What are you doing differently today to make it better than yesterday? What will you do today to make tommorow better? Think about it, then do it. Stop griping about it or find a way to get paid for griping. Piss or get off the pot. I am done.

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Ralph February 16, 2011 at 11:29 pm

I lived of Tom Sawyer (cheap hotdogs) for an entire month. I bought two 45 pack when they were on sale, I think the total was about 11 something. 34.01 is a joke. My hair was falling out because of malnourishment but it was worth it. It’s a great story.

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Keith S. February 26, 2011 at 7:35 am

Nicky,
I,too, live from paycheck to paycheck. I understand the frustrations of trying to make the ends meet and the ends rarely ever meet.
Most weeks, I work 40+ hours and despite all the overtime I work, I can just barely cover the basics because the cost of living in my area is so high.
I’ve been searching for different ideas of trying to cut back on the monthly expenses, but I’ve cut things down to the bare bones as it is.
Last year, my wife and I brought home just under $40,000 in combined income. Yet, with the cost of monthly expenses such as the electric bill ( over $500 this month. ), we’re just barely keeping our heads above water.
I would love to see more tips and ideas for those who are living under the poverty level.

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marci357 February 26, 2011 at 9:16 am

$500 for electric???
Mine was $35 – for a whole house.
I’d strongly suggest you either move, if feasible, or close down a part of your house if it is a big one. Smaller homes mean usually smaller electric bills.
Dress warmer, put plastic over the windows if needed, insulate the door spaces, … there’s a lot of little things that can be done…

$40,000 is a LOT of money… You should be living comfortably with money to save. Any chance of getting a less expensive smaller home? Are you renting? Are you willing to give up some luxuries or space?
Are you cooking big meals from scratch and freezing some?

Hard to know where to start as all you gave us was the electric bill.
Good luck. Make some tough decisions for your betterment, and then act upon them :) It doesn’t have to be that way.

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marci357 February 26, 2011 at 9:20 am

PS – I meant all that in a kind way.
Sometimes it is better to move to a lesser paying job if it means you can move to a place with a lower cost of living…. ie, you don’t have to make so much for the bare essentials.
Good luck with all your decision making. and best wishes.

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Keith S. February 26, 2011 at 12:39 pm

No hard feelings here,Marci.
The reason for such a high electric bill is because of the rates we have to pay here, which is 0.14 per Kwh. The local electric company has such a monopoly here that they can keep out any potential competitors for the service.
Our natural gas supplier charges the highest compared to other suppliers in our state. We usually heat the house during the winter with the furnace, but with the high cost of natural gas here, we haven’t been using the furnace.
Just space heaters in strategic locations because our electric bill would actually be cheaper than the gas bill bill during the cold months.

My wife and I live with her mother, who is disabled and living on disability. Because she gets such a high disability check each month, she’s not eligible for any of the social services programs, thus our living with her to help her.
Our state sets the income limits so low that so many families are not eligible for many of the programs. The state uses the Federal dollars for pork projects.
Her Medicare and supplemental insurance is costing her almost $400 a month, which she has to have before she can get her medical supplies each month, i.e. oxygen. Without the insurance, she wouldn’t be able to get anything.
My wife works about 32 hours at week, the minimum to remain in full-time status. She carries our health insurance, but it’s costing her almost $200 every payday. The health insurance where I’m employed would have cost me just over $300 every payday, just for the 2 of us.

Our house has the bare minimum in ways of insulation. Again, because of our income, we are over the state guidelines for eligibilty for weatherization despite being far below the Federal guidelines for the same weatherization program. States set their own income guidelines for Federal programs.

We are trying to set things in motion to move to another state where we have some friends living. They have been showing us how much it costs there as compared to living where I’m currently residing. It would only be about a fourth of what I’m paying now.

Trying not to make this a political thing, but don’t move to Southern Indiana if you is po’ .

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marci357 February 26, 2011 at 2:05 pm

MOVE. lol.
Our electric rate is . 065….. so that is a BIG difference.

Good luck with your decision making process.

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Paula November 20, 2013 at 10:37 am

I was very interested in this post. As I was reading it, I was remembering when I lived in Southern Indiana, before I even saw your line about where you lived!
It’s so true- I now live in a large city and am sick of people back home in Southern Indiana talking about how they can’t believe the rent I pay. Yeah… back there my rent was maybe 200 a month lower than it is here, but here my electric bill is about 30 a month compared to over 100 for the same amount of space in Southern Indiana! My health insurance is 150 a month cheaper for better plan due to the competition. My cell phone bill is seriously 1/3rd of what it was there because none of the cheapo plans are available. Don’t get me started on the price of internet, or that fact that when you do splurge and go out to eat, you pay twice as much for processed junk as I pay for an authentic, delicious meal. When I take my parents grocery shopping on my monthly visits back, I’m shocked at the lack of any nutritious variety and the prices are insane.

Also, this is just personal preference maybe, but not being able to safely walk anywhere (people down there kinda think pedestrians shouldn’t be there and are for target practice) drives me absolutely bonkers. When I lived there, I had an apartment across the road from the grocery. But.. couldnt’ walk. No crossing light and with the hills, no real safe way to make it across four lanes.

Oh, and public transit there? Forget about it…

Overall, my apartment is about 100 square feet smaller, and my “overhead” is so much lower that it is cheaper for me to live in a large city, in honestly, one of the most expensive and desirable neighborhoods here, within walking distance of three trains, numerous busses, and probably more bars and restaurants than I have any business visiting:)

As for the program issues, my elderly dad, a die-hard republican, says “This state just hates poor people and figures if we ignore them, they will go away.”

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Amy Saves April 6, 2011 at 11:11 am

In terms of water, you can always get Brita filters instead of buying bottled water. Saves a ton.

Also, cooking instead of eating out will definitely save a bunch of money, not to mention additional calories. Win win.

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Amy Saves April 6, 2011 at 11:16 am

In terms of water, you can get a Brita filter instead of buying bottled water.

Also, cooking instead of dining out saves a ton of money, not to mention calories. Win win.

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Miss A April 7, 2011 at 6:41 pm

This is great. I have plans to start extreme frugality in August after the remodeling on my home is finish. I plan on saving 70% percent of what I make. I hope I can make it my lifestyle. I really want to retire early and live a simple life.

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Gerard April 12, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Nicky, I take your point. Obviously getting water from the gym only works when you have a gym membership, and the shared showers in your condo don’t exist if you don’t live in a condo. Much of this is middle-class (or richer) folks playing at being short of cash (I feel comfortable taking that position, having lived more than half of my life below the poverty line). Wasn’t it Marie Antoinette who had a stable set up in the palace so that she could play at being a milkmaid?
But I still think there’s value to society as a whole in the middle-class discovery of frugality. If middle-class people take the bus and go to the library, the bus and library will have to improve, because, hey, middle-class people have the power to have their complaints heard. And if middle-class people realize they could live well in 500 square feet, eventually developers will start building decent small homes again. Likewise for cheap healthy food options. At least I can hope.
My personal sense is that those things happen faster with a fairly socialist government, because I was lucky enough to grow up under one. Without that, I would probably still be below the poverty line.

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JB - Tio Admin June 27, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Interesting experiment. Everyone should try doing this every now and then to find out what they really need and can do without. Living frugally can always keep one from getting into credit issues too, which is another plus.

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Shelley October 7, 2011 at 8:19 pm

http://budgetbytes.blogspot.com/ My fav web site for frugal cooking. Beth has lots of ideas so you can create your weekly grocery shopping list from each of her tasty recipes and know ahead of time what you will be paying. My college age daughter and her room mates uses this site with their shared cooking and food budget for the week.

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Tasia February 20, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Thanks Shelley for the website! I do whatever I can to budget and keep expenses to a minimum. My weekly food and hygiene budget is $30, and this has been successfully maintained for years. I don’t feel hungry or deprived. It forces you to prioritize and figure out your wants vs. your needs. People should really consider a frugal lifestyle. It is possible to live comfortably on a tight budget. With the average person spending 150% their annual income… we’ve got big debt trouble unless we start making wiser choices.

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Jodie October 13, 2013 at 6:22 am

Thank you, Shelley. Many months my family is lucky to have $100 for the entire month to eat off of. Surprisingly, we’re all overweight. Not because we overeat, but because carbs are cheaper. We’re working to change this, by going to healthier, cheap foods, like tuna and oatmeal, and I’m learning to can, so that when I do get a great deal on something, I can store it for longer. Ofc, I’m freezing things, too, and even trying some OAMC. I looked at your budgetbytes.blogspot.com site, and it’s awesome! I like $5 dinner mom, as well. I got her book for Christmas, and I still like going to her website.

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Jodie October 13, 2013 at 6:25 am

PS Oh, I also have a Magic Bullet (Christmas gift), and I’m learning fresh ideas on using that, too, for cheap — like you can make fresh salsa and add a few, tiny, cooked shrimp to it for a cheap Shrimp Ceviche (pronounced seh-vee-chay). Really yummy!

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connley landers October 11, 2011 at 7:28 am

Frugality is an education we all could use. Scholarships are free. As a master of minimalism, frugality and simple living, Thoreau said, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

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febrizia adhiambo March 17, 2012 at 2:52 am

this was a great post.i come from an african country where being frugal is amust do.to be frugal i walk home everyday for almost everyday(about one hour ten minutes).we do have buses here but then again why would i want to spend an equivalent of $30 each month when i could just walk and benefit from the exercise?

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s?l???? ?uolqo April 19, 2012 at 8:08 am

Hey tightwads, what are you saving for? A shiny coffin? A bigger tombstone? Money = earn, spend it, live/laugh/learn as much as possible. Simple.
Think of the things that make you truly happy, they probably don’t require much money: love=free, family=free, friends=free, religion=free, nature=free, sex=free, education=free, travel=DAMMIT! Gotta earn some if I’m gonna visit all of the continents beginning with the letter ‘A’).

Oh well, gotta save for some things.

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Kate June 27, 2012 at 3:14 am

My Dad grew up in a very poor family of 12 siblings during the Great Depression, and his angel mother (who died at age 55) could scratch a living on a rock, as they used to say. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” was the motto at home. Saving can be a game. The main thing is to keep a good attitude; don’t indulge in toxic envy and jealousy of people who have much more than you do and don’t spend it as you would spend it. What you have is what you have, and what they have is what they have. The fact that they are well off does not make you poor.

Dad also used to say, “It’s nice to have a yacht, but it’s better to have a friend who has a yacht.” A German friend of mine taught me the practical side of this saying when we went to Balboa Island (California) one Saturday and walked along the Marina looking at the boats. Whenever he saw people sitting at their ease on the fantail, he would call out, “Beautiful boat!” and more than half the time the people would call back, “Like to come aboard?” We were offered tours of the boats and because we were honestly appreciative of their beauty and asked questions, we were invited for cocktails or for dinner and had a lovely time. Eventually we made friends with a couple of gay guys who owned a beauty, and were invited to join them and their friends for a three day cruise from LA to San Diego . Locally our Province makes most of its money in the recessing in liquor, cigarettes and gambling; they run free buses to the state casinos in Niagara Falls, and give you $10 to gamble with when you arrive. You are required to spend a minimum time in the Falls before catching the free bus home (in hopes you will gamble) but after I spend my $10, I exit the indoors and enjoy a day outdoors — pack my own lunch, bring along a couple of books and a blanket, and people-watch, enjoy the beautiful gardens (all free), join walking tours, and take digital photos. I have never won much of anything at a casino, but if you like gambling you can play the penny slots and entertain yourself for quite a while without spending more than a few dollars.

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michelle August 28, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Very clever! Cheap and a wonderful way to spend time.

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Jodie October 13, 2013 at 4:59 am

because saving is a way to have money for other things we need — like to live in a house instead of the streets.

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bjw April 24, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Love the simple photo, and most of the exercises in mindful living (except of course, the water borrowing). But, did you not budget any small portion of your frugality on some charitable sharing? btw

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William Lee - Earn Money From Blog 2.0 May 6, 2012 at 1:18 am

$34.01 per week. Wow, I wish I could achieve that. My car fuel consumption is already around $20.00 per week. How to live with the remanding $14.01?

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Arminius Aurelius August 5, 2012 at 1:50 pm

There are a myriad of ways to save money without sacrifice . When I go to work in the winter months , I turn the thermostat down to 55 degrees . I only turn on the A.C. when absolutely necessary . I find it interesting that here in the U.S. that businesses and homes have their A.C. down to the point of it being much too cold compared to Europe . When driving the car I check out the gas prices at various gas stations and then buy gas where the best price is offered when in the area. All lights in my home are turned off when I am not in that room . When I shower , I wet down , turn the water off , soap up and rinse off . Some people allow the water to run non stop for 15 minutes or so , a total waste of money and resources . When you consider that there are 365 days in a year times 50 years = 17,155 days in a lifetime [ 18 – 65 years old ] until retirement , a lot of money can be saved . Absolutely wash your own car compared to a car wash cost of about $ 10.00 each time. I find the Sunday newspaper [ $ 2.00 ] has many coupons in it for groceries on sale or often Buy 1 – get 1 Free . I load up on the sale items . This more than pays for the newspaper . The day after Christmas , Christmas cards , ribbons , wrapping paper , etc. are half price , I buy for next year . In the spring of the year , winter clothes are on sale and late summer or fall , summer clothes are on sale ……cheap. There is no need to cook every day , cook a roast that is enough for 4 or 5 meals , freeze or refrigerate the rest for another meal or two , heating in the microwave . I refuse be blackmailed by Comcast and pay them extra money for a good movie. First of all they are greedy SLIME who repeat the same sitcoms over and over again , months and years on end . Then to add insult to injury , they shove commercials in your face about 25 minutes out of every hour. I subscribed to Netflix for $ 8.75 a month , no commercials and yet a lot of movies are available . Also bought used videos and DVD’s at Flea Markets and some advertised in the classified in the newspapers . I swap them with friends . You can also borrow DVD’s from the public libraries or rent movies dirt cheap from Supermarkets . Why pay Comcast $ 50.00 + a month for commercials and rehashed trash . When it is time to buy a ” new car ” because my car has about 85,000 or 90,000 miles on it , I always buy a ” new ” low mileage car [ 12,000 to 18,000 miles ] . It is still like new but instead of paying $ 44,000.00 for a NEW 2008 Lincoln , I bought a 2008 in April 2008 with only 12,999 miles on it for $ 23,000.00 tax included . I saved a solid $ 20,000.00 . It was like NEW . By the way I invested the $ 20,000.00 I saved in Gold Bullion in October 2008 when the price dropped from a high of $ 980.00 in July 2008 down to $ 735.00 in October . The price is now about $ 1600.00 . I more than doubled my money saved to $ 44,000.00 . It pays to be frugal .

If you need some new furniture , there are shops around that sell quality used furniture that looks like new for less than half the price .

When investing , as Warren Buffet once said , ” Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful.” In short when the market is irrational such as the Dot Com era in 1999/2000 or the housing market in 2005 to 2007 , GET OUT , nothing goes up forever . A high percentage of the lumpen masses follow the crowd over the cliff and get burned .

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Joanne51-61 August 8, 2012 at 11:39 am

Great comments and very helpful, thank you.
It is amazing when we finally decide frugality is the best way to go. It is all about choice, long term towards retirement, making the right choices as well as a difference. It is never too late in changing bad financial habits as it is all about choice.

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Mike 67 September 4, 2012 at 12:02 am

Ok so you say that you lived on 34.01 for a week. Sorry but I call the BS card. For one you are forgetting breakfast, lunch and dinner. You do not drink any coffee? I am sure you use toothpaste, soap, lotion…. Come On.
I am stuck living on $ 100-200 a month due to child support and other bills. It sucks to watch others go out to eat and all I have the money for is a bag of sun flower seeds and bottled water. I plan every dollar of gas I put in my car so I can make it to work. I am not proud of the way I am stuck living but I cannot seem to find a way to get out of this. Oh and I have a fulltime job that actually pays $ 3400 a month after taxes. Due to me owning a company years ago my child support payments eat over half the paycheck. Then comes the necessary things(rent, phone, power…..) and in the end I live on $100-200 and it sucks so do not glorify some BS that you can live on $34.01 a week. My last vacation was 2004, when did you last take one?

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orfan February 27, 2013 at 11:15 am

He said he ate beef noodles and vegetables, and one scoop of ice cream, and drank water. Granted, while that would get pretty boring pretty quickly, I’ve eaten the same meal several days in a row. I usually don’t eat a big breakfast or typical breakfast foods, so I could see eating noodles for two meals and snacking on veges and water.

As far as toiletries go, shop around, comparison price, use coupons, and buy on sale. There are often coupons in the paper and online for toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, deodorant, etc. Combining those coupons with sales has often gotten me deeply discounted products, and I am by no means an “extreme couponer.”

Buy used. Not just cars, clothes, household items, even the aforementioned toiletries, etc. Thriftshops, garage and rummage sales, Freecycle and Craisglist, even start a trading circle with friends and acquaintances.

Also, not to get green or preachy, but instead of buying sunflower seeds and water for lunch, why not bring a thermos and lunch? If you buy in bulk and plan ahead you can save on food as well.

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Jodie October 13, 2013 at 6:30 am

Toothpaste, soap, etc., is easy to get cheap if you know how. For one, you can go to Dollar Tree. Or you can do Drugstore Game (do a search for it — it’s where you use deals and coupons to get the stuff for next-to-free.)

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Rose November 4, 2012 at 9:41 am

Sounds like you did the best you could during the time period, using all available resources as alternatives, enabling you to focus on the goal and in the end, the unexpected benefit of feeling more energy, and satisfaction of a goal met.

Gotta say, I read everything I can find on long-distance hiking. I would love to hike, but have obligations. Every hiking story also has a tale about surving on only the necessitites. This is not new, folks have done it forever. Same story, different variables, same outcome. Ask any hiker if they would do it again. The only asnwer is Yes!! and many, many have, including Grandma Gatewood.
They were also much more at peace with the world and themselves in the end. the Jones take the short road, those who know how to live and not just survive, take the road less traveled. Enjoy.

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lyn December 12, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Being a mother with 2 kids, we have devised a few habits to help us save $$$. we all stand in a tub to shower, and use the water to flush toilet, when i go out with my kids (in Singapore) I’d order 1 soup with 2 extra rice, and we’d share, the stall owners are more than willing to drown my rice in soup, since both me & my kids would request for less meat, more veggies.

libraries often organise free craft activities, museums open houses are my kids favourite as that meant free ice cream. (although we can afford it, i’m always afraid of spoiling my kids as i notice that most teenagers nowadays takes a lot of things for granted)

invest in a good insulation flast & a 3-tier steamer cum rice cooker. that way, when cooking your soup, U can steam the rice & fish at the same time. saves electricity.

when shopping centres hold free craft / game sessions with minimum spending, i’d request receipts from big spenders at grocery chains/electronic shops, esp those without kids as they tend to throw the receipts away.

my kids (4+6) will look on in glee whenever supermarkets have tasting sessions as that meant something new for FREE too. on the rare occasions when we have aircon on (when its 30degrees), my kids will nag at my husband if he leaves the room door open for more than 2 seconds, as that meant electricity wasted :)

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FrugalKugel January 26, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Obviously it’s more expensive to live in January 2013 than in September 2008 when the blog was written. The author obviously didn’t have to drive ($40+/wk not counting mandatory insurance) or take public transportation ($10/wk for bus or $31/month), and he didn’t include the cost of internet either ($17.50/wk for the high speed my work requires & no competition in my ‘hood). And I hope he took a shower ($7/wk) and did laundry ($7/wk for one with no linens). Food is also much more these days. I can get by on $20/wk for just me with no meat or milk, but if my son is with me it’s a minimum of $60 for some fresh produce, meat, and milk.

Every penny I make is budgeted. I don’t have any room for mistakes, so I am painfully aware of how much things cost. I cut back on electricity and water as much as I can. I buy clothes from the thrift store, do book swaps, grow my own veggies, and sew. But I have to save up for things like new shoes and a trip out of town to see family (gas alone is $50 or more). I make a decent salary, but student loans and mandatory retirement contributions eat up a huge chunk of my paycheck. I don’t know how minimum wage earners keep their heads above water.

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Kate January 27, 2013 at 4:33 am

YOU SPEND $31 PER MONTH FOR PUBLIC TRANSIT???? I spend $128 per month for public transit! 80% of our public transit budget goes for wages and benefits for the unionized employees, and the system continues to jack up the prices and lower the service provided. Recently 8 employees were fired — five of these were earning over $100,000 per year, mind you — for turning in false reports of what they were supposedly doing to earn their paycheques, that there is ample proof they were not on the job at all.

Our electricity is provided through “Smart Meters” which were forced upon us by the government and which charge the highest rates during “prime time” i.e. the time when we are preparing to leave for work or school, and in the evenings when we get home. The government, which does not take its own advice and of course charges its electricity to the taxpayers, suggests we run our washers at midnight and get the kids up for school at 5:00 a.m to prepare for school before the rates go up at 7:00. And our apartments have turned the heat (included in our rent) down to the minimum allowed by law, which forces anybody who wants to actually live comfortably in the Canadian winter to buy space heaters and ratchet up the heat during the times when the prices are highest. We have recently gotten the news that Canada is going to allow Wal-Mart and Target to put up hypermarkets including grocery stores, and not three days after this announcement, our local monopoly grocery store reduced bread from $4.99 per loat to $1.75. Coincidence? You decide!

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Dennis Andrews January 27, 2013 at 6:51 am

I like the post but I was astonished that your electric bill was only $25 per month! How is that possible?

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Doug February 21, 2013 at 11:16 am

Here are a few more frugal tips you missed:

#1 Try homeless living – you can live in your vehicle, but you cant drive your apartment. No more PG&E bills. you can get electricity with an extension cord and plugging into other people’s outdoor sockets (look for a little box on a pipe coming up out of the ground).

#2 Bike everywhere. Dont buy one in a bike shop, just buy a pre-stolen one and pay it forward later.

#3 Get your food from upscale restaurant dumpsters. If you go around to the back door where the cooks and dishwashers hang out, they might give you some scraps. If your ego is too big, say that you have a starving dog at home who would love some left over steak.

#4 Take up stand-up comedy as a backup career.

-kidding ! :-)

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Shakylegs April 23, 2013 at 12:35 am

I live on my Social Security, and I am always looking for frugal living blogs.

Living frugally allows for no waste – which is where a lot of money goes. If you live frugally, then you will have enough money to do what you REALLY want to do.

I am in Mexico right now, no car, no phone – I ride a bike, take buses, and use free WI-FI. The rent for my little casita is $340 a month. My landlord is preparing a small single room for my next visit here at $200 a month.

Food here in Ensenada is cheap. Beef is expensive, but chicken is a good buy at 25 pesos a kilo ($0.94/lb). Ensenada has an excellent fish market downtown and fresh fish fillets are 50 pesos a kilo ($1.89/lb). Fruit is very inexpensive, and strawberries at the farmers’ market are 10 pesos a kilo ($0.38/lb). Oranges are 25 pesos for 3 kilos ($0.31/lb). So you can eat well here on a low budget. And I almost forgot, street food here is delicious, and a deep fried fish taco is only 12 pesos ($1.00).

I like to travel, but when I do, I have no expenses, or ticking money clock, back “home” while I am away. Now I realize that everybody can not do this, but I hope it illustrates what can be done on a frugal budget.

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Jack May 23, 2013 at 7:58 pm

You’re kidding, right? Basically you’re pulling numbers out of the air–asking your wife the cost of dinner, “figuring” the cost of electricity…

To really be frugal, you need to be disciplined and know exact prices. This experiment was nothing but a change in routine for a week.

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pettbear16 June 25, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I retired in 2009. My job gave me an early retirement. A lump sum money came to me. Now it is 2013. I used up a lot of that money and it is almost gone. At 62 I got my social security benefits. The lump sum money was suppose to last to my last day of living. The other day when I discovered that I only have a little money from the lump sum left. I lost it. My blood pressure must have gone up a lot. I have to get a job and learn how to be a full time miser and be frugal. Live my life like they did during the 1930’s. I feel very sad and cry alot. Besides being a miser …now it is time for a job search…

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Jodie October 13, 2013 at 5:10 am

I wrote a big, long comment and then lost it. So here’s just a few things to remember:
1) Eating straight meals can be cheaper than junky, fake food. I spend no more than $2/pound for meat, and $1/pound for produce. Look for deals and use coupons. Search Drugstore Game to learn how to save on personal and household items. Besides the more make-ahead meals you can come up with, the better. I *love* this book called $5 Dinner Mom. She’s online, too.
2) Make your own dishwasher and laundry detergents. The basics behind them are Borax and Arm & Hammer Washing Soda. For about $30, you can make a HUMONGOUS load of powdered laundry soap. If you don’t have $30, just make it with 1 bar Fels Naptha, 2 cups each of Borax and Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, half a container of $1 Dollar Tree “Oxyclean”, and if you can get a deal on Purex Crystals (Walgreens often puts it 2 for $6), the crystals will last for months. Once you’ve bought the containers the first time, just buy Fels Naptha ($1) once/month plus one extra item, you’ll be able to cut down on how much you pay at a time, and still save a fortune. besides, you’ll need 2 cups each of Borax and Washing Soda for dishwasher detergent. Add several packets of Lemonade Kool-Aid (for enough citric acid), about 6, depending on how hard your water is – some people have to use 12, but at 10 cents/package, that isn’t bad.
http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2012/08/make-a-years-worth-of-laundry-soap.html
3) I get the whole debate on water, but he’s only getting a few containers at a time and he did say water fountain, not the spendy spring water they have to pay for. To counteract this, go to one of those purified water machines where you bring your own jugs – only costs about 35 cents/gallon. It can even be used for goldfish water!
4) Ya know how you take home leftover food at the restaurant? Do the same with food left over after a meal. Entrees/sides get frozen and labeled. Leftover scraps of veggies can be frozen to put into a soup. And by the way, if you typically find that you bring home leftovers from the restaurant and end up tossing it, freeze it when you get home instead.

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Darian December 8, 2013 at 11:11 am

Hi!
I’m moving out of my parent’s house in March, with a roomate. The apartment is about 700 (split between us, 350) and near our school so we can walk. Furthermore, it’s very close to the mall and a myriad of gyms and restaurants, so work would be very close (both currently working, but not in that area).
We have both agreed that we don’t need cable, and that we will take short showers and use the AC sparingly. We both agree that internet is important, and that we will be seperately responsible for our own food and cellphones.

I’m not quite sure how to cut down on prices, besides that, though. I’m a vegan, but the cheapest I can see myself getting enough calories is 200$ a
month. I can likely bring it down more, but it would need to be creative. I was thinking of having either a baked or mashed potato with coconut oil for dinner to bring the price down.

I feel like I can make the estimated 600 a month work, but I’d REALLY like to cut the costs down.

Any advice?

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David Ning December 8, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Cell phone usage would be another biggie. Major carriers would be charging you something like $100 a month, which you can totally get for a cheaper price. Depending on how much you want to save, you may even want to cut out the data plan since you already have internet at home, and can use WiFi service whenever it’s available.

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Jack September 29, 2014 at 8:26 am

Heck, I do this virtually every week. I live on approx $8000/year.

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Rena December 11, 2014 at 11:12 am

I have read the ways to save money and have a question which needs an answer. I live alone, use my microwave 1 time a day to heat something. Burn 1 lamp with an energy saving bulb.. ONLY and my bill is $124.00 a month..Keep my heat on 68 in winter and 70 in summer. This seems like a hefty amount..The only thing I keep on is my tv… Any advise..

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Willem - Flipit.com December 17, 2014 at 8:03 am

I am definitly going to try this out. I lived and slept in the mountains for 4 months when hiking last summer and even then I spent $15 a day on food. Even though I write a lot of moneysaving articles and know a lot about it, my own spending habits are pretty lousy. This is going to be fun, thanks for the inspiration David!

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