Could you live on $1000/month?

Photo by The Consumerist

Fabulously Broke in the City revisited this question with a resounding, “Yes I can!”

Then she asked the real question: Can you?

Honestly, I don’t know. Would that be just me? Me and Tim? Or me and Tim averaged out.

Here’s what we have on budget for the month. (Sorry for the lack of formatting. Blogger did NOT want to import the Excel table for some reason.)

Item Me Tim


Food $100 $100
$200 $100

Insurance $0 $502

$502 $251

Meds $20 $15

$35 $18

Rent $350 $350

$700 $350

Laundry $20 $20

$40 $20

Therapy $160 $100

$260 $130

Quarterly taxes $187 $0

$187 $94

IRA $100 $0

$100 $50

Light Therapy $0 $224

$224 $112

Student Loans $0 $51

$51 $26

Energy meds $111 $0

$111 $56

Eat out/Delivery $70 $70

$140 $70

Dr Visits $0 $38

$38 $19

Cigarettes $0 $61

$61 $31

Dish $30 $30

$60 $30

Phone $9 $0

$9 $4.50

Misc $50 $50

$100 $50

Total $1,208 $1,611

$2,819 $1,375

So…. What’s the breakdown?

Well, if you’re just looking at me (assuming Tim is still living here, paying part of the rent), I have to cut $208. Not bad. All it takes is cutting:

  • My IRA contribution ($100)
  • Cut my therapy to 2x per month ($80)
  • Use half the miscellaneous expenses ($25)

Okay, that’s only $205, but assume I’d find the $3 in savings from food. And, of course, I could take out Dish rather than cut my whole IRA contribution.

Tim, though, needs to cut $611. Not really feasible. He could cut:

  • Light therapy, which we may cut anyway – lack of results ($224)
  • Cigarettes ($61)
  • Eating out/delivery ($70)
  • Miscellaneous ($50)
  • Therapy ($100)

That’s still only $505. And it’s not realistic, because he would still need to get lotions for his skin. He could potentially find cheaper hemp-based lotions, but it would still be a significant cost. Really, his insurance is what kills the deal.

Now, on average, we each spend $1375. So to cut down to $1,000 per person, we’d have to cut a total of $750:

  • Light therapy ($224)
  • Cigarettes ($61)
  • Eating out ($140)
  • IRA contributions ($100)
  • Fewer misc. expenses ($50)
  • Therapy only 2x per month ($130)
  • Nix the Dish ($50)


But together? There’s no way. Just rent ($700) and Tim’s insurance ($502), we’re over the limit.

What about you? Could you pare it down to $1,000?


  1. Meg says

    Currently? No way. Our mortgage is almost $1000 a month when you include taxes & insurance. And though we've rented out our spare bedroom before for as much as $450, we have no intention of doing that again in the near future.

    We also have a lot of debt, as you know. The payments on that eat up a lot of what is a relatively good income. We're making good progress, but it'll be a while before it's all gone.

    Could we if we didn't have ANY debt (including our mortgage)? Maybe. I wouldn't WANT to, but I think we could as we have drastically lowered our regular expenses and we don't buy nearly as much as we used to. We'd still have to cut our spending, though, especially on groceries. I'd probably have to really start gardening & we'd both have to consider changing our diets a bit — maybe not for the better. We'd sign up for things like Angel Food Ministries (open to any income).

    But, if we lost our health insurance (through Charles's job), or if we had to start paying his cell phone bill (also currently covered by work), or if we had any REAL emergencies (even kitty cat emergencies) — then no, we couldn't.

    And, as our past experience has shown us, *starting out* on a low wage is A LOT harder than downsizing to one later. We are able to live cheaper than we did when we made less because we had the money to invest in long term cost savers. And downsizing to $12k a year would be a lot easier, too, if we still had an emergency fund just in case — or better yet, were still making a large income (that we were saving a large part of) so that we could decide to spend a bit more upfront on certain things.

  2. Naturally Frugal says

    I definitely think I could. I spend $300 on rent, $150 on food, $35 on transportation, $5 on Rx, and maybe $100 on other bills and $200 towards retirement, but I don't count that because it's already taken out of my paycheck. I try and save $1000/month so if I don't eat out or have any fun at all (and what fun is that?) I'm pretty sure I could do it. Maybe I'll give it a try one month…

    The boyfriend? No way. He probably spends at least $1000/month on medical bills and medications but he's doing a lot better with managing money since living with me!

  3. J. Money says

    Nope here either, but i wish! our mortgages alone go over $2k 😉 really cool idea though, enjoyed this!

  4. Shevy says

    No way, Jose! Not unless I get a time machine and dial back to 1977 when I made between $9K and $10K the first year I worked and lived on my own. The cost of living was *so* much cheaper! Yes, wages were less too, but it was still a lot easier to manage back then on very little money.

  5. Abby says

    Well, I think pretty much anyone with a mortgage is pretty much automatically disqualified from something like. Unless you live in a VERY cheap housing area.

    Even so, it's interesting to go over your expenses and see what, really, you would have to cut out.

  6. Anonymous says

    Whatever you do, don't cut the IRA contribution! Sure, you'll save money now, but you'll "pay" for it when you're older.
    Has anyone else noticed the cost of health care in our monthly budgets?! Seems to me if we had a better system in the US, individuals and families would be a lot better off–even after paying more in taxes.

  7. Revanche says

    Nope! I've pared it down and we have no debt, but I'm the sole breadwinner so that means there's no way to divide the cost up. If everyone paid their fair share, I could get under that $1000 easily, but our rent alone is $1360.

  8. kistu says


    487.50 for rent
    75 for car insurance
    80 for student loans
    60 for cable/internet/phone
    20 bi monthly for power
    20 for credit card ((yeah, i pay minimum))
    75 for cell w/unlimited texts ((its nice))


    182.5 remaining for food and etc. Not too bad considering I barely scrape the 817.5 for the other stuff. On top of gas and such every so often.

    Hooray for mooching for food and the like.

  9. Forex says

    OK, these are really normal expenses, but what about the social life specially when you are in relationship. Those $140 for eating out I think that will not cover all. But In a matter of fact I think it's possible with some privations.

  10. monogamoney says

    Jeez, just laundry costs us $60 a month? This is an impressive budget. Where do you live?

    How do you keep your phone bill to $9/month?
    What about utilities?
    Do you pay for Internet access?

    I'm quite curious … We each pay $820 just on rent so this is not feasible for us.

  11. Abby says


    I wouldn't really cut the IRA contributions unless it were a dire situation. They would be last to go. It was just an example of what I'd have to cut to meet such a ridiculous goal.


    You're welcome to come mooch off our snacks any day. Next time, we might even have some candy that we bought less than 6 months ago. Sorry bout that Oh, and my mom got us more of those creepy Pop-Tarts so you're welcome to 'em!


    Well, things get a little dicey when you're talking about a social life. With my chronic fatigue, honestly, I don't get out much. That helps keep our "social life" costs down. And my friends understand the budget constraints we're under. So when I do see them, it's often to take a walk and chat. Or we'll wander the mall and chat, stopping for a pretzel or something. Or I'll meet up with them if one of us has to do some shopping anyway. For example, one of my friends lives very close to a Nordy's Rack so when I was looking for some cute but not-pricey walking shoes, I got her to tag along to their shoe dept.


    Sorry I should have linked back to the post where I cut down my phone bill. Because I'm disabled/low-income, we get help on the phone bill. Also, we have: a phone line. Nothing else. No caller ID, no call waiting. Our old phone had an answering machine, and personally I just don't get the whole voice mail thing when most machines are nowadays remotely accessible.

    Anyway, so a basic line, with the City kicking in a discount, is $9. It was closer to $15-18 but I noticed what the long-distance charge was and just had it blocked from our line. Tim and I both have a cell phone on my mom's family plan. (She's a resident manager, so she has to have a line for business.) We don't use the phones much, but they're a good convenience for $10/month.

    As for utilities, we have a crazy credit on our electricity bill right now, because we're on the low-income plan and we don't use the heat much. So despite being home all day, using two computers and watching an obscene amount of TV, apparently we come in so far under usage that we actually have a credit to our bill.

    Cable modem is currently $29.99 a month, but it and our cell phones costs are currently being traded in a deal with aforementioned mom. At least once a month, she can call a day off and we'll take over for her. (We all live in the same building. Long story.) Once the cable modem stops being on its current deal, which is pretty soon, we're going to switch the modem into Tim's name so we can go back to $19.99 a month for 6 months. Then we'll call, claim to want to cancel and we'll get another 6 months at $29.99. Kind of evil, but there you have it.

    The saving grace with transportation is that my mom lets me use her car all the time. Tim spends $4/week to get to and from therapy by bus. Otherwise, we drive to grocery stores and the occasional movie. We come off as really dull, I'm noticing. Oh well…

    Hope that answers your questions.

    As for laundry costing us so much, my husband has a severe skin condition, which also makes him get MRSA with abandon. So he can't rewear clothes or reuse towels. We do a LOT of laundry for that reason.

    We're in Seattle, where rent is relatively affordable. Certainly, $700 is becoming the low-end for a 1 BR. I am NOT happy about that. If we ever move, I'll be pretty unhappy because rents for anyplace halfway decent are starting to climb toward $800. Poo. But still nothing like some cities, obviously.

  12. Karen says

    I’m divorced 51 empty nester, I am living on $1000 a month, I work 21 hours a week out of home (3-7 hour shifts) this is money I live on with $73 dollars to set aside, I also have a small sewing business this goes part to retirement, part emergency money. My breakdown rent (small one bedroom apt. $575 insurance $90, utilities $30, gas/maintenance of car, $150 food, $25 miscellaneous, $15 laundry, $25 set aside for gifts/cards. What isn’t spent that month goes into savings. I don’t eat out, I grow veggies in friends garden, I love to barter (this is how I get my cell phone), I cut out all cable and unnecessary items that take take $ from my goals. For me less is more as I no longer work 60+ hours a week, I now enjoy life not watch it pass me by. Wasn’t easy at first but well worth it! My best to all!

  13. candas says

    yes we do live on 1000 a month. We don have cable. We only have one car note. My blazer is paid for. We have 2 children. We shop at thrift stores and at discount grocery stores. We don't eat out much at all. Our budget is very tight but we do enjoy good food, good cloths and camping. Also if you have children you can find a lot of free stuff to do. Free movies, free water days at our local park.

  14. Karen says

    Yep . . . rent with utilities included, car insurance, Boost phone, food stamps, food pantries, AND (most of all) FRIENDS!!!

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