For the New Year, you probably have a couple of spending goals to reign in your budget. So do I, but for me, it was “in for a penny, in for a pound”, or in this case in for $30. I always knew it was possible to cut corners in my budget and I wanted to see just how far I could take my corner-cutting. Read on to see how I (semi-successfully) lived on $30 a week.
Ok so first of all, I should acknowledge a few cheats. I (obviously) am not including rent and bills in my $30. The $30 essentially covers my discretionary spending for the week, things that I actually have to choose to buy or not. For ease, I can break it down into food, transport, entertainment, fitness.
Food – $24
Unsurprisingly, food used up the majority of my budget. However, this was one of the easiest categories to manage as I just did a Woolworth’s shop at the beginning of the week and stuck to $4 a day. So I didn’t drive myself crazy, I came up with 2 different options for each meal so I could alternate. These were my meals.
- Oats and water with frozen fruit (classic)
- Baked beans on toast (filling and healthy!)
- Fried rice
- Rice, egg, frozen vegetables, soy sauce, oil
- Pasta, pasta sauce, frozen vegetables
- Tortilla, black beans, rice, lettuce
- Koshary (recipe here)
- Rice, macaroni, lentils, onions, pasta sauce, chickpeas
As you can see, my diet was surprisingly varied, enjoyable, and nutritious. I had Asian, Italian, Mexican, and even Egyptian meals. However, there were some drawbacks. An apple is almost $1, so fruit was pretty much out of the question. There were definitely nutritional deficiencies in my diet which was VERY carby. For more protein try and have spinach as your frozen vegetable and have more koshary (for the lentils).
Transport – $6
So transport was meant to be $0. I initially planned to cycle to work (30 minutes) and get everywhere else on foot. Of course, to use this strategy, you need to own a bike in the first place. However, life inevitably intervened and I couldn’t cycle everywhere. For example, at the end of one day at work, I simply didn’t have time to cycle home as I had things to do. In instances where life intervened, I just got the train. The total of all the train trips I made was $6. More than I expected, but I still kept under budget.
Entertainment – $0
Entertainment was a category that I learnt so much about thanks to this challenge. It is shockingly easy to find fun things to do for free. I hadn’t been to a public library since I was a child, but I had so much fun rediscovering them! I didn’t realise you can even rent TV shows and movies there! Who needs Netflix?
Fitness – $0
On your average week, I almost spend more than my total budget of $30 a week on the gym alone. For this week, I suspended my membership and tried to get the most out of free exercise.
One advantage of my transport choices was that I automatically had already completed a lot of cardio before I even turned my mind to fitness. For resistance training, I went to my local park which has outdoor exercise bars. Granted, I had to make a few changes to my routine but on the whole, my routine remained pretty much unchanged!
Living on $30 completely changed my perspective on budgeting. I had no idea how easily I could save a substantial amount of money in a week. Usually, my transport budget is $30, my food budget is $100, my entertainment budget is $30 and my fitness budget is $25. That means my total spending went from $185 to $30. If I were to live like this for a year I would save almost $10,000! Of course, I don’t plan to live like this for a long time, but it taught me how to cut the fat from my spending. I think that after trying this, I’ll be able to get myself down to a sustainable $100 a week of spending. That’s still a substantial saving! I recommend giving this challenge a try so you can see for yourself how to cut down your budget!