Thursday, March 29, 2012

$5 a day til the apocalypse

It was getting a bit cold last night ( relative for spring, anyway.  I’m still loving the better weather- I put in a good bit of pit digging and brush clearing last weekend, the first decent weekend we’ve had ) so I wore a shirt to bed and pulled up all the blankets ( I sleep in my birthday suit.  I think your skin needs a rest from constrictive clothes.  But I do have to wear a shirt in the winter.  Even a loose fitting one helps keep me a lot warmer ).  Well, the clouds rolled in after that and it stopped dropping in temperature.  Instead of waking up to a low in the thirties at five AM, I woke up from sweating, then getting chilled as I tossed aside the covers in my sleep.  At a bit after four o’clock.  Usually I just go back to sleep after emptying my bladder but this time it didn’t work.  So all morning I’m feeling groggy and out of sorts.  Hence, today’s article is just a weak attempt at a subject.  Living frugal on five bucks a day.  Not HOW to live cheap, but a way to look at your expenses.  I think how most folks look at their budget is how governments look at theirs.  Once the numbers get big enough, the outrageous spending doesn’t register.  For instance, you hear “800 billion” or you hear “1.5 trillion”, and it doesn’t really sink in how much friggin money that is.  But if you look at it as “$3 billion deficient each day”, then you kind of get an idea.  So here is my attempt, however poorly, at putting your budget in perspective.  I spend $5 a day on basic, bare bones items ( that includes cigarettes and booze for the wife- in an emergency I might be able to halve that again.  In reality my bare bones has a lot of frugal luxuries ).  Okay, that’s per person.  I spend $10 a day for the two of us.  But as your family unit numbers are different I think a per person figure is a good comparison.

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Let’s call the average family wage $50k.  I’m assuming one person works a professional gig and the other is either part time or a lower wage for basic semi-skilled.  A $35k wage and a $15k one.  Call it $4k a month gross income.  If you live in a state that is generous and lets you keep more of your own money than most, you bring home $3k.  Figure four people per family and you are spending $25 a day, per person.  And that is most likely for a bare bones budget.  Bare bones middle class, anyway.  Now, don’t let that figure fool you.  That is per person, every single day of the month.  If you are making, on averaging out between the two of you, ten bucks an hour, then you need to work two and a half hours a day to support each person.  I’m working three quarters of an hour per person, and my job is a lot less stressful than yours.  Your spouse must work, whereas mine doesn’t.  This is the difference between living on junk land and living in town paying rent/mortgage.  Now, look at it in another light.  If you must cut back on hours, or one of you loses a job, you still need to work ten hours a day to support everyone.  And that is just take home pay.  Probable future tax increases not included.  If the economy is guaranteed to get worse, can you count on finding work at your current pay or higher, for ten hours a day?  Just food for thought.
I’ve always had the goal of reducing my needs to just food and fuel.  I’ve achieved that and am working towards cutting back on the fuel part.  The food part, needing a source of income to be able to buy groceries is indeed a dangerous dependency.  But no worse than being dependent on an income to pay the mortgage on the farm.  Food storage does in some part compensate.  Nothing is perfect, but it is nice to keep chipping away at the dependency on our banker controlled economy.  It might be illuminating to figure out what each part of your dependency cost in terms of hourly wages.  In the above example, a “normal” mortgage of $1500 is half your bills.  Half your daily toil.  Perhaps by looking at it that way you might start to think about alternatives.  Just remember, the past investment was not an investment.  It was a bill.  Continuing to pay isn’t always a smart move.  Sometimes it is a better financial pay off to just walk away and start over. 
Seriously, I am mentally short circuiting today.  I’m just stopping here.  My apologies and we should be back to normal tomorrow, and back to regular length.
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  1. What are you, in some kind of a time warp where you think it's still 2003?

    The New Normal living wage is $10 a day. You're couch-surfing or living in a homeless encampment, or doing odd jobs. Work as such may disappear for months at a time (generally the cold ones) so you have to save, bury a cash stash in the ground somewhere, preferably a few places.

    Food Stamps will pay about $5 a day but you have to sell your soul to get 'em so for me they're out.

    $10 a day is a lot of money to make, but if you set your mind to it, you can do it. Collect cans, do odd jobs no one else wants to (even the minimum-wage peons in stores etc will pay you a few bucks to clean the bathroom, mop the floor, etc. so they don't have to). Or pick up cans and bottles and recycle them. A caution though is that, for instance, collecting cans and bottles, you can use up so much energy and thus need more food, that you're losing money.

    You have to step *out* of the money economy as much as possible. Gather, hunt, scrounge food. Learn how to find all kinds of stuff being thrown out, etc.

    You, Mr. Comfortable Middle-Class reader with a wife and 2.5 kids, this will be good advice when YOU lose everything. Start learning from homeless, bums, and hobos now. It's not a matter of If, just When, you'll be lucky to have the shirt on your back.

  2. Just wanted to jump in and remind you I have a big ole mouth full of government nipple. I clear 4k a month and I am retired! Enjoying all my entitlements/benefits whatever while they last. Wake up everyday and don't worry about a damn thing.

    pollyanna rat

  3. Once your basics are covered, you don't need much money to live.

    The trick is not to have debt and then live below your means.

    If you can't do it now, how are you going to do it when things get worse?