Hi readers! Happy last day of May (for people living in the United States). Today, I’m going to share with you exactly how I went on living off a little over $2 a day in my freshman fall semester of college. I want to say, that while it was painful to have gone through the experience in hindsight (I actually liked going through with it during the experience), achieving this gave me the confidence to think that I could actually do it, if it ever comes a time where I HAVE to live off $2 a day. If I can live off $2 a day, I can do anything!
Why I decided to live on $2 a day
In the month before I started college, I got excited about the fact that I was the only one accountable for my finances. What I save is what I will have and no one will be able to take that away from me. My parents gave me money for food, living expenses, or anything else. It was $5000 that I should be able to last for the entire year of college (a little over $400 a month for food, dental appointments, possible doctor visits, any essential items for the house, etc).
Even though $400 a month isn’t much, I knew this was more than what some of my friends got from their parents. Therefore, I tried to figure out ways in which I could cut costs and any savings went straight to my savings account, which got me absolutely exuberant to save as much money as I possibly can.
Timeframe is still in the month before I started college. In that month, I saw college as finally a differentiator when deciding who gets to be ahead. I graduated as the 4th in my class out of 650+ kids in my high school graduating class, which I thought was a good achievement. However, I didn’t feel differentiated from my peers at all. I thought I was ahead but I still saw my peers getting either the same or better opportunities than I had gotten. Then I thought, “Maybe college will be the decider of who gets to be ahead in my peers!”
Therefore, I started to follow business leaders and what I could learn from them. I stumbled across Mark Cuban’s story (owner of the Dallas Mavericks, shark in Shark Tank, and non-publicized philanthropist) and bought his e-book. Stories of him eating mustard-and-pickle sandwiches really got to me. He literally did whatever he could (that was legal) to make sure that his business became successful.
I do not believe that the mustard-and-pickle sandwiches meal is an exaggeration. I believe he actually ate a sandwich comprised of mustard and pickles. Hold the meat. I thought that if he did this in order to get to where he is today, I could do it in order to reach my goals of never being poor.
What I did
Now to get to the juicy details of how I was able to live on roughly $2 a day (it was a little over $2). Instead of Mark Cuban’s mustard-and-pickle sandwich, I picked up ham-and-cheese sandwiches from a Texas grocery chain, H-E-B.
From the grocery chain, I picked up 1 pack of 16 slices of cheese for $1.97. Picked up 2 packs of 24 oz white bread for $0.88 each. Picked up 2 Oscar Mayer Chopped Ham for $2.82 each. Picked up 1 8.5inch paper plates, 45 count for $2.20 (these would last a month). Picked up 1 Frank’s Red Hot Cayenne Original Pepper Sauce for $0.99.
Picked up 1 1-gallon waters for $1 each. You put the 3 breads, 2 cheeses, and 2 hams together and you get one nice looking sandwich! These savory and mouth watering 3-layered sandwiches would last me a meal a day. The other meal? None other than good ol’ McDonald’s dollar menu, 1 hot-n-spicy McChicken and 1 cheeseburger please!
What about eating out and enjoying your food?
Of course, I did this as well. I joined 3 university organizations and clubs for the free food. Pizza, pasta, Asian cuisine, and more every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday! I was living the life!
Spreadsheet format from above:
I lived on roughly $2.32 on food for an entire semester (roughly 4 months). That’s $70 / month on food when I should be spending $400 / month on food. That’s savings of $330 / month. Over 4 months, I saved roughly $1320! To sum it all up, all I ate were sandwiches for lunch, and 2 1$ burgers from McDonald’s, and free food from any organizations or clubs that were offering free food.
What you need to go through with this
- Discipline – For some odd reason, I never got sick of eating the same thing over and over again (except when they changed the menu at the university clubs) and was so disciplined that I didn’t complain once to anyone that I was doing this
- Want – I was unemployed my first semester with no consistent way to bring in money. My mantra is to do the hard things now and reap the rewards later. After a semester of doing this and getting multiple jobs while in school and during summer days, I’ve been able to accumulate a significant cash balance that I never really worried about money (even as a college student). I wanted to get to this stage and I achieved it by putting in my due time.
- Determination – Seeing my goals and knowing exactly how to get there helped me to be determined to go through such an experience. I knew if that I did exactly what I said above without fail, then my goal of reaching x amount by the time I’m done would be reached. I was determined to will myself through and follow a routine process every day.
Results of my experience
I do not regret going through with this at all. It’s helped me be financially secure throughout college as the savings rolled over to my future semesters and I’ve consistently held down a job. In the coming semesters, I never ever worried about money, mostly because I *usually* (I have spent money on not-so-great things) spent money on things that I needed for my survival.
This isn’t something that I do recommend someone do if that someone could actually afford decent and healthy meal. I knew I could afford to eat out at a fast-casual restaurant maybe a meal every 2 days, but what I didn’t know was if I could sustain that in the future semesters. At the time, I felt that I had a need to accomplish this and I am glad that I went through with it. Thankful for the organizations who took me in and gave me free food!
My goal is to enable your success in personal finance so that you can realize the American dream. The first step is starting today!
Read more about me here.