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How I’d Live On A Tight Budget

The Cheapest Way for Me to Live

What if we didn’t work jobs we hated to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like? What if instead, we spent next to nothing and worked much much less? Well, I’m going to explore what the minimum amount I could spend if I really made that a priority. 

What’s the least amount of money I can live on?

This is going to be a very individual thing, but it should give you some insight into what steps I’d take to minimise completely my outgoings. I’ve put everything into Option 1 - which is stripping it back to the absolute minimum. Like you have literally nothing to your name and are completely fucked. 

Option 2 is where you are deciding to spend as little as possible or are being compelled to by circumstances, rather than being actually broke as a joke. 

Housing

Option 1

If I was completely broke then I’d be moving back in with my parents. I get on pretty well with my folks, and as awkward and a bit annoying as it’d be, I think I could handle living back at home for about a year or so. Longer than that and we might actually kill each other… which I guess if I had life insurance on them would solve the problem, or I’d get fed and housed by Her Majesty’s Prison Service… but let’s assume that’s not a route I want to go down. 

I’m lucky in that my folks have space and the good nature to let me stay with them, which I realise not everybody has. But the other option would be to take advantage of my friends’ good nature and couch surf between a bunch of different people. 

I’d not be a complete sponge so I’d offer to help out either with cleaning or dog walking or ferrying people around. Not cooking, cos I’m awful, but something so that they got something out of the deal. I could probably stay for a month or so with a bunch of different people, so that’d give me 6-12 months worth of free or very low-cost accommodation. 

Option 2

Because I’m a singleton, then the other housing arrangement that I’d fall back on is renting a room in a shared house. I’m pretty minimalist anyway, so all I need is a bed and a desk. 

Seeing how I’m Northern anyway, and if I’m screwed then I don’t really need to be anywhere in particular, I would gravitate towards a Northern town (not city), as this is going to be the cheapest option. Quick Rightmove search of back home and I could get a studio flat or a room in a shared house for around £250 per month, if I wanted to be in York City Centre then it would be more like £600 per month. So depends on just how tight I’m being with the budget really. 

Transport

I have a car at the moment that costs me nothing so I’d probably keep it. But to be fair I often think of getting rid of it as I use it so infrequently anyway. I’d be tempted to not bother with a car and spend a bit more money on housing that is close to a well-connected train station. 

If I really did need a car though, I’d give myself a budget of around £100 per month. That’s enough to get a bunch of different small cars;  Dacia Sandero, Skoda Citigo, Toyota Aygo, Hyundai i10, Kia Picanto, Volkswagen Up, Citroen C1, Peugeot 108.

Failing that, I’d always consider a motorbike if I needed some kind of motorised vehicle but didn’t want to buy a car. You can pick up a Honda CB125 for around £65 a month. 

But, I’d much rather just keep my pushbike and live near a station.  

Essentials

Food, it turns out, is a thing we need quite regularly. So being on an uber budget would probably help me lose some weight. I’d have to stop getting all my meals prepped for me, and I’d have to spend quite a while looking up “How to cook on a budget”, as I’ve heard that’s the cheapest way to live - quel fuckin surprise.  

I saw a YouTube video the other day about bulk meal preps for £1.87 per meal for a week. So with a bit of thought and effort, I think you could feed yourself for around £200 a month. That works out at about £2.19 per meal if you eat 3 meals a day.  

Throw in another £10 a week for things like shampoo, toothpaste, washing up liquid, etc. and let’s round it up to £250 a month for the essentials. 

Fun

At this point, we’re on a monthly budget between £250 and £950 depending on what choices you’re making. But even if you’re broke, you probably still want some fun in your life. 

A phone contract is the first thing as that’s going to give you access to pretty much everything entertaining. You can get half-decent contracts with a smartphone for around £10 a month. You’ve now got access to my blog, and frankly, that’s all you need. But if you’re a bit pickier, you can get YouTube, TedTalk, illegal ripped movies, etc. There’s enough entertainment for free on the internet to keep even the most voracious appetites happy for a while. 

The other thing I’d want is a gym membership. I’m up North at this point remember, so a gym membership up here is going to be around the £30 a month level. 

Throw in an extra £10 a month for a couple of coffee shop trips and we’re only spending £50 a month on the fun.  

Future

Now, this might not seem like a realistic thing to have on your list, but even as a broke-ass hobo, I’d still want to be saving for my future to minimise the chances of ending up back here again. At £300 - £1000 per month I’d be aiming for 5% saving, so £15 - £50 a month going towards a savings pot. Not huge sums of money, but at least it’s something. 

After 2 years like that I’ve got a months worth of backup money. Not exactly retirement level, but it’s more about the psychology of knowing your broke situation is a short-term thing and you WILL get out of it, and you’re already planning for securing your future. 

My Choice

Area

Budget

Reason

Housing

£600

Would want the city life and convenience

Transport

£0

I’d pedal everywhere

Essentials

£250

Googling every night “how to boil an egg”

Fun

£100

Cos I’d want weekly coffee shop trips and probably Netflix as well

Future

£50

Cos it rounds it up nicely

TOTAL

£1000


How I’d End The Depressing Budget Life

So, shit has hit the fan. You’ve trimmed your budget back as much as possible. Now what? How do you even afford that budget life, and more importantly how do you get out of it?!

I’m again lucky in that I have a couple of qualifications that I can fall back on and hopefully always be able to leverage to get a job if I need one. 

As a Chartered Building Surveyor and a Mortgage Advisor, I could always get a job using either one of those and earn anywhere from £20,000 up to £50,000 without too much trouble.  

So I’d suck it up and do that. Just because I’ve been self-employed doesn’t mean I can never get a job ever again. If I need the money, and the consistency of an income, then I’ll take orders off someone else for a while. 

At £20k I’d be taking home £1430 a month - so I’d up my future saving to £400 and spend the extra £80 on random fun treats. 

At £40k I’d be on £2560 a month and at that point, I’d up my essentials budget by £150, my future saving budget would go to £1200 a month, and the rest I’d spend on fun treats.  

At that stage I’m living on 43% of my net income, so it’s quite quick and easy to build up a decent level of saving, and for every month I work, I’ve just bought myself another month of living expenses saved up! 

I’d also want to start a side business because I don’t really want to be working for someone else. So I’d look at learning a skill that I could sell to other people. The whole sell shovels to prospectors rather than trying to find gold myself. 

Things that instantly spring to mind are managing social media accounts, processing and editing podcasts, processing and editing YouTube videos, handling customer service queries from Amazon sellers. 

I’d get some training (for free) on YouTube on how to do these things. Then I’d offer to do it for someone for free for a bit while I figured out how it really works. I’d then get them to give me a testimonial and approach a couple of other people and offer to do it at a rock bottom price. Once I had about 3 clients I’d start upping the price until I was at 80% capacity. At that stage, I’d move people up a price level to get rid of the free and low priced clients, and once I had consistently made the £1000 per month I know I need to live off for 6 months, and I had at least 3 months worth of savings tucked away, then I’d quit my full-time job (ideally going down to part-time) and dedicate a bit more time to that side project. 

At the point I had replaced the full income level of my previous full-time job, and I was at or near full capacity with clients, then I’d sack off the job and go all-in on the self-employed work. 

Conclusion 

This is pretty much exactly what I’ll do if I ever find myself in a position where I’ve lost everything and I’m starting from scratch again. It’s very specific to me and my own circumstances, but there are some universal lessons to be learnt here. 

  • If you have to, you can be ridiculously harsh with a budget
  • Save from the very start - no matter how much you can afford
  • Suck it up and do whatever it takes to bring money in
  • Leverage past skills or experience to get money coming in
  • Start working on something independent of your “real job”
  • Never expose yourself to too much risk by not having savings or multiple income sources

I hope none of you end up in this situation, but if you are there right now, or you find yourself there at some point, I hope this very brief guide gives you some ray of hope that if you put your head down and graft for 12-24 months, you can pull yourself out of pretty much any hole and into a much brighter future. 

I believe in you! And if you do it, let me know so I can give you a congratulatory cuddle! xxx

Further Reading