How I live off of less than 20k a year

some people are always reachin’ for somethings that they don’t need
I’ll tell you now with thoughts like that there will never be enough
some people are always struggling for something that is not
I’ll tell you something now that I’m really just fine lovin’ what I got
~”could you bite the hand?” Wolf’s Rain OST1

Family Living 4 Less got me thinking about this. Including both jobs, I make less than 20k a year. Almost a third of that goes into either savings or my student loan. And yes, I have a student loan, and a car note. The car is fully insured. I don’t have health insurance (because health insurance when you’re a healthy 25 year-old female is fucking expensive, even though I visit the doctor maybe once every three years. I’d rather put that money into an emergency fund.)

I live ridiculously cheap. I live in a very cheap area for cost of living. I found a cheap apartment…it’s old, small, and not that great, but the area is decent. I have a roommate, which makes my rent and utilities so low I couldn’t do better unless I actually owned the apartment.

I cook most of my own food. I used to cook between 85-100% of my own food. It’s less now since I work in food service (I get half off at worst, free at best.) I only eat out once or twice a week and I pick inexpensive places when I do. I look for cheap recipes with ingredients I have on hand already, usually involving fresh veggies and chicken.

I don’t buy anything. Literally. Other than food and kitty supplies, I buy maybe one small thing a month. A seat pad for my bicycle. A book. If I want to treat myself, I get a bottle of Sweet Leaf tea. I rent books and movies from the library.

I don’t pay for TV, internet, or phone service. I take that back…I do pay for phone service. But I do the pay-as-you-go, 1000 minutes for $100. It takes me almost a year to burn through all those minutes, so on average I spend $10 a month on my phone. The cheapest plan is almost fifty bucks. I don’t have TV service and internet is free at my complex.

I do cheap activities. I play Dungeons and Dragons once a week with some friends…one of them owns the books and whatnot, and we all play together. It’s the highlight of my week. One of my eatings out a week is a get-together at a pizza place that offers half price pizza rolls. Occasionally I’ll see a movie (I kept my student ID so I get in at the discount rate…horrible, I know.)

I don’t take many trips. My friends and I all do something together every two months or so. Ren faires, conventions, or just getting together to hang out. Since I don’t buy anything, the most I spend is gas, entrance fees, and food. It gives me something to look forward to.

A lot of people would say that it doesn’t sound very fun. But I have a hard time imagining what I’d spend even my full paycheck on, anyway. I have everything I need, there are a few things I want (my cat spayed, for starters), but the idea of having my student loan paid off seven years early is too damn tempting. I’ll eat homemade chicken fried rice every night for four days straight for that!


2 Responses to “How I live off of less than 20k a year”

  1. flsquared Says:

    my favorite activities in my 20s were hanging out with friends while listening to music, going camping, and playing cards. cheap beer was usually involved in most of the activities now that I think about it, but they were good times. I still feel sorry for people who need the latest fashion or gear to be happy. it’s all to exhausting for me.

    btw, check out some of the local organizations (the humane soc may be able to help) but back when we had a dog, we had her fixed at a mobile vet for $20. There were many options for cats (I remember being jealous!). They also are a great way to get cheap shots and other meds that your pet may need.


  2. Dargon Says:

    It may also be noteworthy that while you were being cheap in college, you still had enough to, at times, keep your even more broke friend from dieing of starvation.

    Really, I don’t have anything to add to this, unless it’s advice on how to survive when after all necessary expenses are paid you have $10 a month left for gas and food.

    That being said, concerning being cheap not being fun, I’d still say that the time in which I was so fucking broke I was eating maybe 1000 calories a week was the happiest time of my life, for reasons other than food of course.

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