Friday, October 16, 2009

How low can you go?

How much is it possible to live on? And live comfortably?

I'm not asking anyone to live on a bulk rice and tapwater diet. But I do think we need to understand the difference between a need and a luxury.

How does this life sound for a single person:

Efficiency apartment in Champaign, Illinois. This is a small college town of about 210,000 people (including some adjacent, contiguous towns). By big-city standards that's tiny, but by my standards that's huge (I grew up in tiny farm towns with four-digit populations). Especially because it's a college town, there's plenty to do.

Cost: $250/month

Basic utilities: $100/month (I'm probably going a bit high here)

Landline phone: $50/month

Food: $200/month. (This one always trips people up. Trust me, you can eat *better* cooking at home with cheap, simple ingredients than eating that nasty fast-food garbage. It's cheaper and healthier).

Let's say you already have a bicycle for transportation and a laptop for entertainment (there's plenty of free wi-fi in a college town). You've now got a very decent life going for $600/month. You could be making twice that and saving the difference on minimum wage alone. Add a second person to the equation and a one-bedroom apartment, and you add maybe $400 to the cost and a minimum of $1200 in earnings potential.

That's the basic. Start from there. Add whatever luxuries you can afford until you get to your life. But only add what you can truly afford.

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