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How to Live on $10 a Day

Think you could live with just ten dollars of disposable income per day? It sounds scary if you’re used to enjoying life, but it is not only possible, the ten dollar a day rule is practical, too.

You have heard the argument before, but it’s the little things that we purchase every day that add up and have potentially crippling long-term effects on our finances. That means the coffee, soda, candy, and cigarettes need to go. Some estimates argue that by giving up your daily coffee (or simply by making it at home) and investing $2 – $3 a day you can retire with an additional $25,000. Not too bad! But your caffiene fix is only the first place you can cut back.

Watch What You Eat

For most people eating out is the single biggest drain on disposabe income. And it’s not just fine dining that drains your wallet; daily pastries and sandwhiches can be a culprit. Aim for packing your breakfast and lunch and cooking at home as much as possible. When you do splurge on a nice meal, skip the appetizers and desert, limit your drinks, and get a doggie bag for the leftovers. Make both cooking and frugal dining a habit and you could save a couple thousand each year.

Spend Nothing Days

We take it for granted that because we have money in our pockets and because there are so many things for sale that spending money should just be a part of our daily lives, no questions asked. But little could be farther from the truth. Aside from weekly or monthly errands to get groceries, fill your gas tank, or replenish your medicine cabinet, why do you need to spend money? With a little planning it can be easy to designate one or more days of the week as “no spend days” and get in the habit of not parting with a single cent. If you set a daily spending limit (like ten dollars a day), no spend days are a necessity if you want to make larger purchases on the weekend, say.

Cool Off

Hanging onto your money is not easy. In fact, there are millions of people spending millions of dollars every day to persuade you to part with your money. Frightening, isn’t it? So the next time you are tempted to buy something that you know you don’t “need”, force yourself to wait three days and then come back. While you are waiting to buy, ask yourself three questions: 1. Can I afford this purchase now, without sacrificing more important needs and without paying interest? 2. What long term value will this item deliver? 3. Have I done my homework (ie, am I getting the best product of its kind at the best available value?

Published or updated on May 30, 2006

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


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  1. John says:

    I cook up a meal around 1000 AM and it’s for the day. Say boiled potatoes, a piece of meat and some corn etc. I eat this at lunch, dinner and finish off any I have left before bed. These three meals cost me on average $2.50. Twice a week I have oatmeal days $1.00 for three servings, some hone or a free sugar packet I pick up at my coupon place. Sat I eat at where ever has a special like a coupon at Arby’s 2 for one. I eat one for lunch and one for dinner I snag 4 or 5 packs of sugar, salt and pepper for the next week. I also sweep up two 7-11’s parking lots for free old hot dogs and cokes. For food I spend around $125.00 a month.

  2. Ryan says:

    I must say I did this for quite sometime. Very good tips and you are right on when it comes to eating food. When I first sat down to budget my money I found out I was spending between 19% and 23% of my income a month on just food. Now I have it down between 10% to 16%. Not the best, but a lot better than spending a quarter of my income on just food. Great article.

  3. Money Under 30 » Blog Archive » Eating For (Much) Less says:

    […] As I mentioned in my living on $10 a day post, how much you spend on food can vary dramatically. Here are some of the ways I save on food without turning to ramen, beans and water, etc. […]

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