Living on $10 a day sounds crazy. How can you possibly spend so little and survive? Even if you don't believe it, it is doable.

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 caffeine fix is only the first place you can cut back.

How to budget for just $10 a day

How To Live On $10 A Day - How to budget for just $10 a day

Although living on $10 a day to cover your discretionary expenses is absolutely possible, it will likely be a challenge. Without a strong sense of willpower and a plan, it can be even more difficult. 

But luckily, there is a solution to help you stay on track: budgeting apps. For example, PocketSmith acts like your personal financial assistant. Through the app, you can stay on stay of your expenses and track your spending. You can log in at any time to check out a complete financial dashboard of your life. Plus, there is a free version of the app which won’t cut into your spending goals. 

How to live off $10 a day

The idea of living off of $10 per day might sound like a major undertaking. I won’t lie – this can be a real challenge. It is possible in some situations. But it will require careful planning and gritty determination. 

Depending on where you are starting from, you might run into challenges with your cutbacks on discretionary spending. But, before you dive into the weeds of your spending habits, it is important to consider your money mindset

If you have a typical consumer relationship with money, you might be very used to simply spending money when the mood strikes. You might find a good sale or simply enjoy the process of shopping to spend money. However, these habits may lead to a dark financial place. 

The good news is that you are considering shifting your habits to spending just $10 per day. As you make this shift, consider why you are making the change. With a goal or a reason behind the decision, you are more likely to stick to your goal. Once you have your reason, you can look back when you are tempted to slip beyond the bounds of your $10 per day budget.

How to eat for $10 a day

Food spending has a way of adding up quickly. The most obvious strategy is to spend less on meals outside of the house. That means less take out and more cooking

But you’ll need to be strategic about which meals you decide to cook. Otherwise, you may not save enough by making your own dinner. Seek out recipes that you love with affordable ingredients. It is even better if you are able to buy these ingredients in bulk to cut costs even further. 

If you miss the convenience of take out, then consider making your own version of your favorite meals. You can cook in bulk to save on energy costs and freeze portions to be easily defrosted when you are ready to eat. 

How to gas up your car for $10 a day

Depending on your daily commute, it can be tricky to cut down your transportation costs. With that, it is important to get creative. Ask around your office to see if anyone is interested in carpooling with you to work. When you start splitting gas with a coworker, your fuel costs will drop instantly. 

Beyond carpooling, you may need to consider ways to simply use your car less. If it is possible to bike or walk to work, that is another opportunity to save on fuel costs. 

How to entertain yourself for $10 a day

Entertaining yourself on $10 a day may be more fun than you expect. There are already many free and frugal ways to entertain yourself. Take a few minutes to search the internet for free things to do in your area. You might be surprised by the sheer number of options. Of course, not every opportunity for free fun will pique your interest, but you will likely find something free or affordable to do in your downtime. 

A few ideas include volunteering for a cause you care about, taking advantage of free library resources, and taking a walk around your own neighborhood. 

Where to live if you can only spend $10 a day

An affordable place to live is a major piece of the puzzle when you are trying to live on $10 a day. As you search for living situations, try to stay in a creative frame of mind. You might need to make some concessions to your dream apartment if you want to stay close to your budget. 

Here are a few ways to dramatically cut your housing costs:

  • Find a roommate. A quick way to cut the rent in half is to find a roommate. Although not everyone wants to share space with another person, it could be a great opportunity to save money. 
  • Geo arbitrage. Geo arbitrage is the idea of moving to another location in order to save money without sacrificing quality. For example, you could likely find a more affordable apartment if you decided to relocate from the Bay Area to the Midwest. It can be a good way to slash costs. But you’ll need to factor in the jobs available in a given area. Weigh the pros and cons of a new area before moving forward. 
  • House hack. House hacking is the concept of living for free in an unconventional situation. Typically, it involves purchasing a property and renting out the extra space to cover the mortgage. Essentially, you would be able to live for free. But house hacking often requires a substantial down payment upfront which may not be a viable option for you right now. 

As you work to live on $10 a day, think about your budget like a puzzle. You’ll need to fit the moving parts and pieces of your life into this puzzle of money. It might be a challenge, but with a plan in mind, you can make it happen!

Be clear on your priorities

How To Live On $10 A Day - Be clear on your priorities

It will likely be a challenge to stick to your new spending goal. That’s part of the fun! However, getting clear about your priorities before you start spending is critical. Without a grasp on your priorities, it is easy to feel deprived by this new budget. Instead, focus on using the money you have available to fund your priorities. 

For example, let’s say you love gardening. Instead of spending your funds on take out, use the money to pay for your passion for building a blooming garden. Or if you are a foodie that craves dining experiences, then spend your money there. 

With a little bit of thought on your priorities, you can feel more comfortable with your spending choices. 

Tips to help you cut back

It might take some creativity to stick to spending just $10 in disposable income each day. Here are my top tips to get you started: 

Watch what you eat

For most people eating out is the single biggest drain on disposable income. And it’s not just fine dining that drains your wallet; daily pastries and sandwiches 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 dessert, 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?

Find a fee-free bank

If you are sticking to a tight budget, then you cannot afford to have a bank cut into your budget. That can be a lifesaver if you are used to working with big banks that are notorious for nickel and diming your every move. 

Try your hand at DIY

Although it can take more time, the DIY route can often allow you to save in a big way. With the help of YouTube, there is almost no skill that you cannot learn from the internet. You will still need to pay for materials, but taking the time to do a project yourself could lead to big savings. 

Check out the library

Libraries have more than books on hand. In fact, you might be surprised by the sheer number of services and materials offered. A few examples include DVDs of popular movies, magazines, a computer with internet access, seeds for your garden, and community events. 

The library in my area is an amazing resource. Take a few minutes to sign up for a library card and enjoy the free resources at your disposal. 

Take inventory of your subscriptions

In today’s world, there is no shortage of subscription opportunities. But what subscriptions are actually important to you? You might have a number of subscriptions that you simply don’t need in your life. Go through each and decide whether or not you want to keep paying for the service. 

With your new budget in mind, it might be easier than you think to slash through any subscriptions that aren’t bringing enough value to your life. 

Keep an open mind

In order to stick to your spending plan, you’ll need to think a little differently. In many ways, you’ll need to go against the grain of society to make this plan a reality. You might feel the pressure to buy into symbols that showcase your spending power such as an Instagram-worthy trip or luxurious dinners out. Instead, you may need to showcase your willpower!

You may get questions from friends and family that don’t understand why you are trying to live on $10 a day. Some may make you feel like your quest is unrealistic. But try to brush off the critics and continue your mission. 

Can you invest if you live off of only $10 a day?

How To Live On $10 A Day - Can you invest if you live off of only $10 a day?

It is still completely possible to invest if you only live on $10 per day. But you’ll need to take a different approach than a traditional brokerage platform. 

The two best options are Acorns and Stash. Here’s what you need to know about each:

  • AcornsYou can open an investment account with Acorns for as little as $5. As you work to build your portfolio, Acorns will give you a helping hand by rounding up your purchases and investing the change. The idea is that a little bit of capital can take you a long way.  
  • Stash. With Stash, you’ll only need a penny to start your investment portfolio. As you set up your portfolio, you’ll be able to choose investments that reflect your values. However, the monthly fees for this app can be fairly high. So you’ll need to factor that into your budget. 

You may not be able to build your portfolio quickly. But you’ll still have the opportunity to push towards your long term investment goals at a steady pace. 


The challenge of living on $10 per day could be exactly what you need to get your finances on track. With less money spent on discretionary purchases, you can focus on your long term goals. Don’t be afraid to get creative on your quest to live on $10 a day!

Disclaimer - Paid non-client endorsement. See Apple App Store and Google Play reviews. View important disclosures.

Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Investing involves risk.

¹For securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares start at $0.05.

²Debit Account Services provided by Green Dot Bank, Member FDIC and Stash Visa Debit Card issued by Green Dot Bank, Member FDIC. pursuant to a license from VISA U.S.A. Inc. Investment products and services provided by Stash Investments LLC, not Green Dot Bank, and are Not FDIC Insured, Not Bank Guaranteed, and May Lose Value.” because the article mentions the debit card.

³You’ll also bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the ETFs in your account, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash and the custodian.

⁴Other fees apply to the debit account. Please see Deposit Account Agreement for details.

⁵Stock-Back® is not sponsored or endorsed by Green Dot Bank, Green Dot Corporation, Visa U.S.A, or any of their respective affiliates, and none of the foregoing has any responsibility to fulfill any stock rewards earned through this program.

Read more:

Related Tools

About the author

Total Articles: 75
David Weliver is the founder of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues he faced during his first two decades as an adult. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.