• Stephanie Hinds

What I learned living on $30 for a week

After looking through months of my computerized and self-made financial spreadsheets, I was in disgust at how much money I was spending on absolute nonsense.

My food, entertainment, and miscellaneous categories all had one digit too many.

So one Sunday, I thought I would pose the ultimate challenge: to survive on $30 until the coming Friday after I bought my groceries. And to make sure I actually stuck with it, I transferred every last penny, except a measly $30 into a semi-locked up TFSA.

I felt naked. That’s really the only thing I can compare it too. But then I realized that feeling this way made sense. After all, I was stripping away the comfort that money had blanketed me in, unnecessarily.

Here are four things I have to say to you to remind you that you can live on a lot less than you think you can. Actually, that’s the first thing:

You can live on a lot less than you think you can.

Simple as that.

There is always something to eat at home. Always.

Do you ever notice that the people with the most clothes in their closet are the first to complain about not having anything to wear? It’s the same reason fridges full of food never organize themselves into individual meals. There is so much of everything that it’s hard to see any one thing. Open your eyes. Clear out the junk. And the statement pieces (i.e. clothes meat) will start to appear.

Homemade food really is better for you.

They don’t call it fast food for no reason. Any meal that only takes a few minutes to muster up can’t be that good for you. If your problem is not having enough time, more time. In turn, use that time to more meals.

Spend your money wisely.

I set aside $75 for groceries that week. I spent $80. But I was able to get ground turkey, five pieces of chicken breast, two tilapia fillets, sandwich meats, flax and quinoa bread, raisin toast, lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, kiwis, strawberries, bananas, cranberry salad toppings, sunflower seeds cranberry juice.

I’ve easily spent $80 on a restaurant bill for food much worse for my health.

Stop and smell the roses.

In a past post, I noted Arianna Huffington’s reference to her mother always stopping to smell the roses. Living on less, you see that there are metaphorical roses everywhere. The abundance of everything can really deplete our sensitivity to the beauty of simplicity. But when you don’t have much, everything seems to mean more.

Even though this was only supposed to be an experiment, my success with it stood out to me. Each payday, I allocate all my money to my bills first, savings second, and leave just $50 for miscellaneous spending. Everything else pays something off, puts gas in my car or buys groceries.

At the end of it all, we’re all 'overworked and underpaid'. But if that’s the case, why does so much of our money go to nonsense?

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