Thriving on $35,000/Year

According the the government my household income last year was about $70,000.  Of that I spend on maintaining my lifestyle about half of that or $35,000/year for a family of four.  Which the majority of the spending was on my mortgage (principle and interest) and property taxes for about $15,800.  So that leaves me $400 per person per month to feed, cloth, keep warm, clean, entertain and gas to keep our car running.

Some people would assume this means I’m living a dreadful existence while I’m actually find I’m thriving.  So how did I do it?  Well that is a long answer and you can read this blog for more ideas, but here are some of the biggest things I’ve learned.

  1. Entertainment should be free or nearly free most of the time.  We love to read books and watch movies, both of which are free from our local library.  Actually I’ve worked it out that I haven’t rented a movie for over two years now from a store and I see a movie in on the big screen perhaps three times a year.  Other entertainments include playing with my boys or visiting family and friends.
  2. Stop eating your money.  I’m near constantly amazed on what people spend on food a month.  Eating out is an entertainment and should not be a weekly event (and this includes the daily buying of coffee).  Also start eating what is in season.  Last week was the first time I had bought a grape in over eight months.  Did it kill me to wait? No.  Did I love that grape? YES!  Also cut back on the meat and cheese and discover the wonderful world of beans and lentils.  Start a small garden and for a few bucks in seeds and little time weeding and watering you can get great food from a pot on your balcony or your backyard. Oh, and stop throwing out food and just eat your leftovers already!
  3. Cut back your stupid wasting of resources.  Did leaving a light on when you are not in a room give you joy?  Does running water while brushing your teeth give you inner peace?  Is your health so delicate you need the house at 22C in the middle of summer or the winter?  If your like me and answered NO to all of those questions then you need to stop leaving on lights, running water and a bit more of temperature extremes and save your money.
  4. Drive less.  You know I don’t typically even empty a 45 L tank of gas in a month.  Really most of the time we use about half a tank of month (23L) provided I don’t travel out of town for some special event.  Why?  I get rides with other people to work and we only take the car out when we are going to make more than two errands.   I also just walk more to things close buy.  My seven year old car only has 96,000 km on it and I typically spend less than $1000/year on gas including trips out of town.
  5. Invest in what you do love.  The reason I do all of the above is to save money for things I do love.  I like fixing up my house, so I buy paint, flooring (I just got a deal to get some oak hardwood for $2.50/sq foot), and patio stones. I also love spending time with my family (which is often free).  So spend your money where your passion lies.  If you love art, buy some.  If you love travel, take a great trip.  Make your money give you the most joy it can.

5 thoughts on “Thriving on $35,000/Year”

  1. I especially like that so many aspects of frugal living are also good for the planet.

    Mad about high gas prices? Eat local, don’t drive (or at least drive less).

  2. I live on about 20,000 a year, but that’s my take home pay after all my deductions (I work in gov’t so of course I have benefits, union dues, and all the regular stuff). I’m often surprised that I do get by, especially since my expenses are so high. But it’s not that hard. You can make a lot of choices that make it easier, like you say, using the library. I do wish I didn’t have student loans, but oh well.

  3. Good post, lots of good ideas, all common sense.

    I agree with Cash Canuck. I eat local, grow some of my own vegetables and ride my bike a lot, walk for groceries, etc.

  4. I added up my basic expenses the other day.
    Came out to $875/Month.
    Some extra stuff pops up here and there,but this is
    basically what I survive on.
    I don’t really want for anything,I do have money to buy if I did.
    I guess I’m just a simply man living a simply life.
    I should add that I’m a single guy living in a modest house in a small town,I have no debt.

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