“When you have bought one fine thing you must buy ten more, that your appearance may be all of a piece; but Poor Dick says, ’tis easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow it.” –Benjamin Franklin
I wrote down every penny that I spent this semester. I have never managed my money so meticulously, but I felt that if I wished to avert bankruptcy then I ought to vigorously monitor my expenses. These are my monthly expenses:
Van costs and fees – $71
The van was in exceptionally good shape and I sincerely believe I got a great deal for it ($1,500). I barely drove the thing (apart from a trip down to Charlotte) and didn’t need one repair.
This category does not include the cost of the van (because I know I will get my money back if I ever sell it) but it does include paying someone to watch my seats and someone else to watch the van for the summer among other small fees.
This number may mislead you into thinking my baby has good gas-mileage. It has terrible gas-mileage. Sometimes I could actually see the fuel gauge slowly pivot towards “E.” I made a point to drive it as little as possible to be both economical and eco-friendly. This average would have been even less if the bastard who sold it to me handed it over with more than a drop of gas in the tank.
This category includes stuff I absolutely didn’t need, but wanted such as coffee ($14.75 in total), the fee to join the outdoors club, and costs related to my Appalachian Trail hike. This average was more than I anticipated; I figured that I’d do my best to have no entertainment costs but this changed when I realized that I needed to spend money if I wished to have some semblance of a social life.
This was also much larger than anticipated. The parking permit was exorbitant ($91/semester) and things like the PO Box ($21), propane ($23), and laundry ($23) added up.
Food- $137 ($4.34/day)
I am most proud of this feat. For entire semester I bought just a couple drops of beer and I ate meat rarely. I ate healthily, enjoyed practically every meal, and I was able to sate my enormous appetite at a relatively low cost.
Car Insurance- $46
I at first thought about not getting insurance at all. But that was probably a bad idea. The seller wouldn’t sell me the car without insurance anyway.
Cell phone- $37
I dislike cell phones but knew from experience that having one was borderline necessary in some cases, like finding a job. I got the cheapest deal I could find, short of a pre-paid plan, which, I’ve found, ends up costing more in the long run.
Clothes/ Household appliances/ Random stuff- 0
I really ought to do an entry on my wardrobe. I’m wearing pants from the ninth grade. Yes—I’ll repeat that—the ninth grade. I have never bought a pair of underwear in my life. In fact, apart from a pair of gloves, I can’t even remember the last time I bought an article of clothing of any sort.
Total- $412/ month
Almost any American can make $412 a month. I worked somewhere between 15-20 hours a week, getting paid decently. I had little trouble coming up with the $412 plus my tuition payments and books which amounted to $2,455 for the semester. My tuition is so low because I went into school practically broke, so the financial aid department was kind enough to slash my tuition costs.
Now, for shits and giggles, let’s compare my costs with the average American’s. I have little statistical proof for the following estimates; they are merely my presumptions that I’ve based on personal experience and on what I’ve heard from other people.
Normal Living (per month)
Apartment-$450 Utilities-$100 Vehicle costs/repairs- $100 Gas- $75 Entertainment- $75 Misc- $75 Food- $200 (national average) Car Insurance- $153 (national average) Cell phone- $73 (national average) Clothes/Household appliances/Random stuff- $100
Radical Living (per month)
Apartment-0 Utilities-0 Vehicle costs/repairs-$71 Gas- $23 Entertainment- $33 Misc- $65 Food- $137 Car Insurance- $46 Cell phone- $37 Clothes/Household appliances/Random stuff- 0
Obviously these numbers are subject to vary per person. Fortunately, I didn’t have a health issue, which could have increased my monthly average astronomically, as could have a number of other unpredictable variables. But all in all–I feel I’ve proven to myself that radical living works! And I can attest that I haven’t melted into a depressed puddle of ooze because I did not possess an iPhone, a Wii, or whatever the latest must-have item is these days.
I hope this proves that I’m not crazy, but more than anything, I hope it prompts the question: what are you spending your money on?