Friday, March 26, 2010

Day 41- Crazy Ideas

Finished the chips for breakfast. Finished the potstickers for lunch. If I want more, I'm going to have to make them the hard way- with the pasta machine and a whoooole lot of time. Oatmeal, with just sugar for dinner.

Lazy, I know.

Crazy Ideas

I admit to having more than my fair share of crazy ideas. Eat on a dollar a day? Sure. Go to Africa by myself when I've only been out of the country twice before, and both times were with family? Sure! Take on 50k+ in student debt so I can live in another country and maybe do something cool for a career? Absolutely, where do I sign.

Some people aren't so interested in crazy ideas. Those people motivate people like me (the crazy ones) to try out our more out there ideas.

Kind of meandering here, but stay with me for a minute, I really do have a point.

One night, driving across West Texas, the only thing that kept me awake and on the road was sining along (loudly- no one to hear...) with Billy Joel and Garth Brooks. Strange mix, I know. But I decided on that trip to try and make Garth Brook's "Standing Outside the Fire" my theme song. Now, I was a jumper before that. I was driving to Wyoming, where the only thing I had in common with most of my fellow students was a pulse. I spent the first couple weeks saying things like "whatt'ya mean this is the first time you've been more than 50 miles from home... there's nothing at all for at least 70 miles from your house!" and "there are *how many* people in your town?"

So, yeah, I jump. I take crazy Ideas and make them my own.

I was reading over at Planting Dollars yesterday. The guy who writes it, Ryan, lives a pretty cool life in Hawaii on not a whole lot of money. A couple of days ago, he posted a question about living on minimum wage, and got a whole lot of people saying they couldn't do it. And some who could. His math is off a bit (single people got something like $9350 in deductions and whatnot last year, and FICA isn't 2k, so his numbers are off by about $100-150 a month), but still- totally unable to stay alive and healthy on $1100 or so a month?

I could stay alive. With paying for my car, paying back my dad, and all my other expenses I'd have almost $300 left over- if I stopped making payments on what I owe. But paying down debt isn't a need. You don't die if you don't do it. Might want to die, but you don't actually become a cold dead body. Just like eating out isn't a need, and a cell phone isn't a need, and this internet connection isn't a need. So I guess (less the eating out), I live a pretty luxe life.

So the point. Don't say "I can't do that". If you spend $36/ day on food like one of the comments, don't say you *can't* spend less. Say you won't. There are always ways to cut back. Some (eating beans and rice and on sale veggies) are a little more honorable than others ("liberating" unused edible landscaping), but you can usually cut somewhere. Just a question of how far you're willing to go.

And I think we already know that I'll go to the rather crazy extreme.


  1. How much have you spent so far? Also, how come you haven't made soup - that is about the cheapest meal you can make. Some lentils, rice and whatever veg's you have - and you have dinner.

  2. Soup thing is a follow through issue. I'll add up my receipts and get back to you on exact total spent so far, but it's around $95.

  3. I'm with you on the 'crazy' aspect of things. Had never seen it like that (the issue that people that don't take crazy chances motivate crazies to do their stuff). You may be onto something, but it's early Friday morning and I need another hour or two before my brain kicks in.

    I really don't think eating out, cell phones or internet CAN'T be deal without. So people that put them in their MUST HAVE list, I think, need to re-evaluate and balance their NEEDS vs. WANTS. $36/day in food... ouch, that's rent money right there! And paying down debt may not be a NEED, but it does free up a lot of time, resources and stress if you can do without it.

    I'm loving the wit on your blog, keep it coming. Best of luck.

  4. I think everyone could benefit from doing something crazy every once and a while. I know I could. I'm usually a play it safe kinda girl. And on the living on little income, I used to be a spend as fast as you make it kinda person but now, thanks to my wonderful hubby, I can actually save money. We own a house now and some weeks are tighter than others but we make it through. Being a "grown up" and having to support yourself is a big change for some people sometimes and I know it hasn't always been easy for me but there is always room to tighten the budget or to save a few dollars here and there and its those few dollars that add up over time. As always thanks for the post. I really enjoyed it.

  5. Sometimes life hands you "you're gonna do something crazy" even when you didn't ask for it. 2 years ago I lost my $70,000 per year job (eliminated position) and then got a job that pays $33,000 per year. With expenses equaling WELL over my new monthly income, let me tell you - a change was gonna come. And crazy it was. I got rid of everything that I possibly could that was a luxury - including my cell phone. I started shopping at budget stores like Aldi, Goodwill and Salvation Army. I started selling unwanted and unused goods on Ebay. I traded in my car so my car payment would be lower, I refinanced my house so my house payment would drop. I didn't get rid of everything - I still have my internet and cable but by prioritizing I was able to make my new 'income' *and I use that term LOOSELY* work. Does it suck? Yeah, sometimes. I have to actually SAVE when I want to buy something new and then I have to actually THINK if I really need it. But I sure appreciate what I have more...and I now COOK all the time instead of eating out. My forced crazy has led me to now want to do something on-my-own crazy. I would love to sell everything and move away someplace warm where I could live off the land and lose touch with the rest of the world except for my neighbors, animals and garden. Someday that WILL be my reality! Crazy, isn't it? :)

  6. You are spot on about the "can't versus won't" thing. Can't is a dirty four-letter word in our house. I don't think your ideas are crazy at all. Or you.

  7. Depending on the debt, paying it off is a need. I don't see my credit card companies appreciating me saying "Sorry, I don't NEED to pay you back, you can wait for the money I owe you. Say 5, 6 years?" Same with school loans. And in a sense, not doing so would kill you, because you'd get your wages or assets garnished and then you'd have no money to feed yourself, either.

    But there are definitely lots of people who are unwilling to cut corners that are really NOT needs.

  8. I'm a college student, so I'm working about 25 hours a week and living on about $800 a month. And I think I live pretty well. No cable, but I splurge on Netflix because I am a huge movie buff. I never eat out anymore. Instead my friends and I take turns cooking for each other, which is cheap and really nice so I don't have to cook every night. I probably only spend about $50 a month on food. I try to carpool to work whenever I can. Some months it is really hard to figure out where the rent money is gonna come from (my ex left me with a 2 bedroom apt and $550 a month in rent), but I always make it work. I don't have to start paying my student loans back until I graduate next year, but I've only got $5000 in loans. And compared to a lot of other students that's not bad at all. So I truly do not understand how someone can say living on $1100 a month is impossible. I think pride might be the problem.

  9. @TJ- It's also possible that I'm just very contrary. My parents are probably very glad they never said "you can't jump off the Brooklyn bridge" and stuck with "if your friends" instead...

    @Kaitlyn- I need to work on planning more. There's only so much "jumping" my credit rating can take. But yeah, a little crazy is good for you. congrats on the budget, too. It's certainly a change, huh?

    @GraceP- wow, I don't think I could have dealt with that much of a drop. I think it's harder when you have more, to figure out where and what to cut. I have it pretty easy there, at least- I don't have much that could go lower, and certainly not 60% lower, not without giving up some things all together. Have you looked at the Corn Islands? I keep planning a trip there, but it's gotta wait until I don't owe anyone anything.

    @Julie- yep, can't is like giving up. And that's just all kinds of lacking on adventure.

    @Kim- paying it off eventually is a need, yes. but on minimum wage federal student loans can be put on hardship deferral, and private ones usually can be put on forbearance. And Credit Card Companies can't garnish your wages. all they can do is call you and send you nasty mail- or sell your debt and then the collection agency calls and sends nasty mail. Not the best choice, but sometimes the only one.

    @CHEWYGRANOLA89- yeah, part of it's pro'ly pride, I mean, if you have a snazzy car you don't want it to get repossessed. No one (outside old-school NY'ers) wants to walk to work. I can't see someone like my dad managing on that kinda budget, though. It's so foreign to him, he just wouldn't know how to manage it. And he's a terrible grocery shopper.

  10. j.

    True, but your credit score is important to keep in mind. I think that one of the biggest problems for people who find themselves in money holes of there own creating is not thinking 'big picture'. From the sound of it, my debt roughtly approximates yours, and while I'm in grad school and able to defer my student loans, I pulled a bone-headed move and virtually lived off my credit cards the past two years. No I have about 20k of credit card debt, just turned 30, and if I want to think about owning a house one day, or say, taking a vacation, I need to get my spending as tight as possible to funnel every possible spare cent into killing that debt.

    Unless I hit the jackpot or marry rich. ;)

    While your experiment is beyond me (won't do it, not can't) since my primary hobby is cooking, you have inspired me to crunch the numbers and see where my food budget is going. I'm currently calculating the cost of every meal I prepare to find out what the most expensive and least expensive things I prepare are. It's slow going since I don't have receipts for all the stuff previously purchased, but I'm getting there.

  11. yeah, i know. But if it came down to living inside and eating or paying debtors, I promised someone I'd kiss my credit rating goodbye. i'm (luckily) not at that point yet. Though "exotic" dancing looks more acceptable by the day.

    RE: marrying rich- I couldn't do it. even if I married some bazillionaire, I'd feel like I had to pay off this debt myself. I think it's a power thing- if I let someone else pay it all off, they have *all* the power in the relationship.

    That's a pretty cool project, too. Much harder than mine- I just have to not buy stuff, you have to do math. Inspiring people tho- that's kinda scary. I've met me, you see, and I don't think I should be inspiring anyone. I'm just a goof with a pile of debt and most of 10lbs of rice. Still pretty nifty.

    Still thinking about $36 a day- that's a lotta falafel.

  12. Haha, I still have luxuries I could give up before I have to move into a cave. Thank goodness.

  13. Hi J! I found you off of MSN as well. I think you've undertaken a great project and I've read every blog entry with interest. Of course the mom in me says you aren't eating enough but most of what you are eating is very healthy! Kudos to you! I think you are awesome.

    Do you mind if I share a few ideas with you?

    1. You can get yeast in two pound bags for not much more than what you paid for that little jar. It's still Fleishmann's but it comes in two pounds bags that are not vacuum packed. The cost is between 6 and 7 dollars. It will keep in the freezer for at least a year. Even if you ended up throwing some of it away you'll still save money over buying those little jars. I get it at our "kroger" type store but I bet you could find it at Sav a lot.

    2. If you are looking for a syrup that you can use on your pancakes, you might look for something called Mapleine. It's actually maple flavoring that comes in a blue and white box. It's around 3.50 for a bottle but I bet a bottle would last you a year. You make a syrup with it by adding two cups of sugar to one cup of boiling water and then adding 1/2 tsp of Mapleine to it. I store mine in a glass canning jar. I have a family of 8 who eats pancakes, french toast, etc two to three times a week and I've still not finished my bottle in over three months. Just an idea. I bet it would be good in oatmeal too. :)

    3. Have you considered making loaves of bread? I imagine that a loaf of bread could last you five-seven days. If you don't have loaf pans, you can make round loaves and use your cookie sheet for baking. Then just slice it when it's done. Then you'd have bread for making sandwiches, french toast using your tofu, or even cinnamon toast which could be breakfast, snack, or dessert.

    4. I notice that you haven't used your lentils yet. I wanted to mention that my husband and I lived off of $15 a week for food when we were in college. I made something called lentil tacos. It was just cooked lentils and cooked rice mixed together with some homemade taco seasoning (chili powder, cumin, salt). 1/2 pound of lentils and 1/2 pound of rice lasted us easily three or four days. And you could make your own tortillas.

    5. If you are needing more green food, you might consider sprouting. You can sprout lentils, other beans, wheat berries, etc and you'd end up with some salad type things that would be cheaper (and seeds store longer) than lettuce.

    Hope you don't mind me sharing ideas. I truly wish you the best. You're an inspiration! :)


  14. I just want to point out that I've been reading your blog since it was featured on and I am one of those people living on minimum wage. I have cable, internet,a car payment, rent, two cats, college with textbooks, an electric bill, groceries and gas to pay every month on my income from two jobs and I still can put money into savings. I live in Omaha, Nebraska so prices are lower than on the coasts, but its possible to live comfortably with little money.

  15. The only thing I will say about $1,100 a month is that it depends heavily on where you live... in Chicago or New York, for example, unless you have roomates and live in a cheap part of the city that is a rough number to swing as opposed to a less-expensive city.

  16. I would agree on the letting the credit rating go if it comes down to shelter and food. You can always make that up later if you have more excess income. And unfortunately sometimes it does come down to that!

    I, like others, found this through MSN and I've been lurking for a couple weeks now. I found it excellent! I wonder, too, how much different your cost of food would be if you weren't a vegan. For those of us carnivores, the price of meat would take up more than half of your monthly budget. Though I have to say that I do not mind a vegetarian diet, everything you have written about I find quite tasty! I just don't deny my inner savage. I'm feeling slowly inspired to see if I can cut back on the food budget as well.

    As a note, Sandra; the lentil tacos sound absolutely delicious!

  17. @Sandra- I looked for a big package of yeast, but couldn't find one when I needed it. I use about 1/4 the recommended amount of yeast, though, so that 4oz jar lasts me a loooong time. i tend to be a bit of a food snob, and while I love mapleine for baking, I can't bring myself to use it to make fake maple syrup. I'm more a savoury food person anyway- I find that the sweet stuff makes me crash really fast. I actually had a bottle before I moved, for maple cupcakes. Bread never lasts me 5-7 days. I'm a lean, mean, bread eating machine, so I try to only make as much as I'm going to use. With the weather heating up I also need to keep an eye on the cooling bill. we're open windows here now, but in two or three weeks it could be AC time.

    Lentil tacos look good. I'll add them to the "will try" list. Along with making tortillas. And I'm working on an idea to get the leafy greens. i'm starting to notice them missing. i was cleaning up while my lunch/ dinner cooked and thought "i could make salad now, but i don't have any".

    @A- yay! I'd imagine Omaha wouldn't be *that* much easier- heavy heating and cooling seasons do nasty things to utility bills, but yep certainly easier in some places.

    @Shana- Tougher in NY or Chicago, but more opportunities, too. The public transit systems actually work (most of the time), so you can get by without a car, and there are more chances for side hustles and odd jobs. But yeah, much more work/ creativity/ thought needed to do it in a big or coastal city.

    @Darwin- If you're not too picky about quality, and you can keep a close eye on portions, you can do meat, and can be close to the same price as beans. Big bags of frozen or "fresh" chicken quarters or legs & thighs can be 50 cents or less a pound. 4 servings a pound, that's 12.5 cents each, not bad. Beef might be a problem, but if you *had to* have red meat, sometimes hunters have extra, you just have to know them. And ask. And probably help butcher.

    Left shift key on my $3 keyboard only works half the time, please excuse random capitalization errors.