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Discussion Starter #1
Lately, I've been fascinated with minimalism and different ways to live life as cheaply as possible. I'm wondering how much it really cost to live with only the necessities: clothing, shelter, food.

I'm also getting a lot of pressure from my parents to get a job (I've tried and failed) and pick a successful major in college to ensure a good job in the future, etc, etc. My dad loves to stress how expensive life is but I see people waste so much of their money on just stupid stuff and I don't believe I will ever live as expensively as them.

Anyway, my question is: How much money (yearly income) do you think you could get by on if you were to live just with the necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter)?
 

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depends on the state/nation.
 

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15 - 20 grand? Depends on what we are calling "essential". I buy high quality food and that can get expensive. I need a reasonably sized living space. I have lived in a 500 sq ft. apartment and that gets crowded REALLY fast. (The bigger your living space, the more expensive.) One needs a few little luxuries, some novelty, to make life interesting and fun, however. I consider a certain level of novelty to be an essential.

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I have to constantly remind myself that most people live beyond their means and that's how they manage to acquire new gadgets and cars and so on every few months. I don't understand the concept of designer bags = status symbol. I can't see myself ever buying a house. I buy a lot of things used or they're given to me as hand-me-downs. If I want to buy something that costs more than $50, I put it on layaway. I don't EVER want to be in debt if I can help it. I'm not perfectly minimalistic, though. I try to make sure that if I'm going to invest a good chunk of money, that I'm spending it on something that is going to last several years.
 

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MOTM Dec 2011
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Well, I basically can only cover rent & food right now. So based on my current expenses (which are quite low): $400 for rent/utilities (I have a studio apartment in a rural area of CA & that's considered very cheap, even for this area) & $200 for food a month. I am not currently in need of new clothing (but $50 a month would be plenty to replace just necessities). My car is paid off, but realistically, living in a rural area with no public transport, I need to maintain it & have gas money. So that's easily $400 a month.

That comes to $12,600 a year. That doesn't include any health care (or savings for emergencies at least), personal products (ie. deoderant, tooth paste), or "modern necessities" (ie. internet & cell phone). $15,000 is likely more realistic. I've been living on less the past year (unemployed). All of my entertainment is paid for by friends, family & my boyfriend when they want my company. Everything beyond rent/food is also at the mercy of those who care about me....
 

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Well bums live don't they? (at least for a while.) And they don't have any money, thus the answer is none. I am hilarious.
 
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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for all the answers. I've always figured $15 to $20 thousand a year would probably be the minimum income to lead a comfortable life with all the necessities and some modern conveniences and luxuries. I'm mainly thinking about all this because I'm deathly afraid of getting stuck in a job that I hate but that pays the bills. I want a job that I love, but most of the ones I've researched have low salaries. But I don't spend a lot, so...I am wondering how low is too low when it comes to yearly income.
 

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It's always a good idea to think about saving for retirement. Personally, I don't plan to ever FULLY retire unless my health declines so badly that I can't work. But, I want to feel comfortable enough not to work full-time when I get older.

The jobs I can see myself doing for a good length of time are all pretty low-income as well. I tend to get bored really easily, so I've decided that I need a job that allows me to put my hat in several different rings, so-to-speak. The only job I can think of that will allow me that flexibility is nursing. I've been flip-flopping for days about this... anyway, enough about me.

What kind of jobs have you researched?
 

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If you don't mind it, being nomadic might be a good option for a minimalist. A lot of people live happy lives that way, get to experience interesting adventures, and meet all kinds of new people. All you will have to spend money on would be the initial supplies to get started, such as a decent backpack with a frame, a sturdy pair of shoes, good socks, something for keeping dry, something for keeping warm, and maybe a lightweight musical instrument to make getting spare change easier. (Street performers have better luck than the bums with signs unless the sign is especially clever.) My first recommendation when doing this for the first time is to find someone who is already living this way, befriend that person, and get as much information as you can about the lifestyle. If you trust him/her, and if s/he trusts you enough to allow it, travel with that person instead of going alone. Your adventure will involve a lot of walking and possibly some hitchhiking, unless you intend to stay in one area for a while, so make sure your shoes are practical. I can't stress this enough.

Food:
Dumpster diving for food is free, and sometimes businesses throw away perfectly good expired stuff if you can find a place that doesn't put a lock on their trash. When I was in Portland, some bakeries even left their extra bread in bags by the door, and I had fancy olive bread whenever I wanted it without spending anything on food. Also, the people at Food Not Bombs had vegan feeds in the park on certain days, and sometimes brought the things they would find in dumpsters if there was extra. We usually got expired Odwalla juice, lots of slightly bruised produce, and packs of seasoned tofu, as well as interesting breakfast wraps and other foods that I think might have been made by the Hare Krishnas, who were also really nice and liked to invite strangers over to eat with them. There are also normal charities to feed homeless people if you end up unable to find anything on your own. When I was living in Portland, I almost never had to spend any money at all on food.



Shelter:
As long as the weather is nice, It is possible to sleep in parks if you can avoid being seen and can find one without a sprinkler system that comes on at night (I had that happen to me once while sleeping under a tree. lol), or to camp out unnoticed in wooded areas alongside roads. You might want to team up with other squatters in the area who already know what they are doing. They might be able to suggest more resources. If you are living somewhere that gets cold, make sure you are somewhere warm or have shelter by winter, of course.

CouchSurfing - Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch At A Time <---- I plan to try it this way someday, and to wander on foot from town to town sleeping at people's houses, doing chores for them along the way. It would freak out my parents, though, because of the dangers involved. I've done a little hitchhiking, but haven't ever lived as freely as I want to.
 

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god knows how little you can survive on - technically nothing if you're prepared to find things or steal. I do recall going through a very tough period financially years ago where my money was always running out after the first week of the month...and then having to survive the rest of the month until payday on just coined money - I was living food wise on pasta, toast, baked beans and OXO. Luckily I had my place and the 'essential' mod cons so the harship was just really on food.

I agree that its amazing what gets thrown out - seeing food go to waste is one of the biggest crimes imho
 

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If you don't mind it, being nomadic might be a good option for a minimalist. A lot of people live happy lives that way, get to experience interesting adventures, and meet all kinds of new people. All you will have to spend money on would be the initial supplies to get started, such as a decent backpack with a frame, a sturdy pair of shoes, good socks, something for keeping dry, something for keeping warm, and maybe a lightweight musical instrument to make getting spare change easier. (Street performers have better luck than the bums with signs unless the sign is especially clever.) My first recommendation when doing this for the first time is to find someone who is already living this way, befriend that person, and get as much information as you can about the lifestyle. If you trust him/her, and if s/he trusts you enough to allow it, travel with that person instead of going alone. Your adventure will involve a lot of walking and possibly some hitchhiking, unless you intend to stay in one area for a while, so make sure your shoes are practical. I can't stress this enough.

Food:
Dumpster diving for food is free, and sometimes businesses throw away perfectly good expired stuff if you can find a place that doesn't put a lock on their trash. When I was in Portland, some bakeries even left their extra bread in bags by the door, and I had fancy olive bread whenever I wanted it without spending anything on food. Also, the people at Food Not Bombs had vegan feeds in the park on certain days, and sometimes brought the things they would find in dumpsters if there was extra. We usually got expired Odwalla juice, lots of slightly bruised produce, and packs of seasoned tofu, as well as interesting breakfast wraps and other foods that I think might have been made by the Hare Krishnas, who were also really nice and liked to invite strangers over to eat with them. There are also normal charities to feed homeless people if you end up unable to find anything on your own. When I was living in Portland, I almost never had to spend any money at all on food.



Shelter:
As long as the weather is nice, It is possible to sleep in parks if you can avoid being seen and can find one without a sprinkler system that comes on at night (I had that happen to me once while sleeping under a tree. lol), or to camp out unnoticed in wooded areas alongside roads. You might want to team up with other squatters in the area who already know what they are doing. They might be able to suggest more resources. If you are living somewhere that gets cold, make sure you are somewhere warm or have shelter by winter, of course.

CouchSurfing - Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch At A Time <---- I plan to try it this way someday, and to wander on foot from town to town sleeping at people's houses, doing chores for them along the way. It would freak out my parents, though, because of the dangers involved. I've done a little hitchhiking, but haven't ever lived as freely as I want to.
I have wanted to try couch surfing!! Also, several years ago I lost a lot of my possessions when I left a bad marriage I realized at that point how worthless things were in terms of my overall happiness. In the months to come I decided to live a minimilistic life(i did pack and take all of my books) with just my books. I didn't have a bed so I slept on an air mattress I didn't have a chest of drawers anymore so my clothes were in suitcases. I decided to have 1 each plate, bowl, spoon, etc. ok, well that didn't really end up lasting very long(ive since accumulated a lot of junk again) but had I stayed single I could have made it work. we are a weird bunch, aren't we? I find the nomadic lifestyle really appealing. I would love to just travel around and camp at different places with a tent--at some point in my life I totally want to do that.
 

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MOTM Dec 2011
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Thanks for all the answers. I've always figured $15 to $20 thousand a year would probably be the minimum income to lead a comfortable life with all the necessities and some modern conveniences and luxuries. I'm mainly thinking about all this because I'm deathly afraid of getting stuck in a job that I hate but that pays the bills. I want a job that I love, but most of the ones I've researched have low salaries. But I don't spend a lot, so...I am wondering how low is too low when it comes to yearly income.
If you're talking modern conveniences & a few small luxuries (eating out sometimes, maybe traveling once a year), then I can tell you that I lived very comfortably on about $38,000 ($19/hour) a year in Southern CA (which is not cheap in the US; you could probably get by with less somewhere else), and that included a car payment, rent for a 1 bd/ba apartment in a downtown area of a small city (not a prime locale, but better than totally suburban), frequent new clothes/books/music, whatever food I wanted, paying my own health insurance fully, a decent savings for emergency & travel, etc. I didn't have lavish taste, but I didn't shop at cheap stores either.

I think I could have easily survived on $30,000 ($15/hour) if I shopped less, ate out less, didn't have the goal to travel, & had a roommate. I never worked more than 40 hours a week & I worked in a casual, easy-going atmosphere. My design job was dull, but at least it was design. Materially speaking, I was content then, but I'm happier now because I have better relationships (no correlation though; just coincidence, as far as I can tell).

So it's possible, but this economy is making it harder, IMO. I can't find a similar job now at that pay, even though cost of living has certainly not gone down.... If you live in a cheaper state, then 20k is probably doable.
 
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I was paid just above apprentice wages in the last job I was at, which worked out as about £120 per week, so that'd work out as approximately £5800/year ($9263.52 according to current exchange rates). With this I was able to pay utilities, internet, grocery shopping, my portion of the rent (the other part being covered by my mother) and I still had enough to be able to spend on occasional meals out and other indulgences such as games and clothing while still pocketing a fair portion each week. To be honest, even a minimum wage job would be more than enough for me. Bearing in mind that I live in northern England, which is cheaper than the south. I'm also not one for wanton spending, I deliberately abstain from owning my own vehicle, I don't drink, smoke, etc. It gives me a lot of overhead to play with.
 

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That and where I am.

If I'm in the middle of the wilderness I think that I won't be needing too much money.

"Mr. Bear? Mr. Bear! Do you know which birch tree the ATM is in?" :tongue:
If you plan to survive in the woods without any money, it is just about essential to have other people with you, to come prepared with all of the equipment it takes to survive, to study wilderness survival extensively, to practice beforehand, and to have advanced knowledge about which local plants are edible and medicinal. It is risky, and not really as minimalistic as it sounds when one considers all of the supplies it takes. I have tried something like this, lived in a tent for a month or so, and eventually moved onto someone's property to live in a trailer. I had a friend there who lived in a tent year-round, even in the snow, but he was very caveman-like, wasn't a vegetarian, was built for that kind of lifestyle, and still had to buy gas for his truck and his chainsaw. I would only recommend it for certain kinds of people.
 

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I don't know because my health insurance is outrageous. Probably 25k without the insurance.
 

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I don't know because my health insurance is outrageous. Probably 25k without the insurance.
I just can't fathom why you guys don't have universal health care..
 

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That's exactly what I plan to do! Not for my whole life of course but once I come out of university/college and I have trouble deciding what I want to do, I am going to backpack around Europe for a few years and have already checked out the whole couch surfing website. I find it really cool, but of course I would never tell my parents what I was really doing. And I have already started to learn guitar. I think I would save up a few thousand dollars just in case of emergencies, but I would try to never spend the money unless I absolutely needed it. The only problem I have now is finding someone who is crazy enough to go with me!
 

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Discussion Starter #19
If you're talking modern conveniences & a few small luxuries (eating out sometimes, maybe traveling once a year), then I can tell you that I lived very comfortably on about $38,000 ($19/hour) a year in Southern CA (which is not cheap in the US; you could probably get by with less somewhere else), and that included a car payment, rent for a 1 bd/ba apartment in a downtown area of a small city (not a prime locale, but better than totally suburban), frequent new clothes/books/music, whatever food I wanted, paying my own health insurance fully, a decent savings for emergency & travel, etc. I didn't have lavish taste, but I didn't shop at cheap stores either.

I think I could have easily survived on $30,000 ($15/hour) if I shopped less, ate out less, didn't have the goal to travel, & had a roommate. I never worked more than 40 hours a week & I worked in a casual, easy-going atmosphere. My design job was dull, but at least it was design. Materially speaking, I was content then, but I'm happier now because I have better relationships (no correlation though; just coincidence, as far as I can tell).

So it's possible, but this economy is making it harder, IMO. I can't find a similar job now at that pay, even though cost of living has certainly not gone down.... If you live in a cheaper state, then 20k is probably doable.
That's nice to hear because I've always wanted to move to California (I've visited there and its by far my favorite place I've ever been). I'm also thinking about being a teacher and their average salary is, according to bureau of labor statistics: $47,100 to $51,180. That sounds really good for what I'm planning to live on. Far higher than the $30k that you said you thought you could live on. I've always heard that California is soooo expensive a state to live in and that teachers get paid soooo little, but maybe those are just generalizations.
 
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