Keeping your expenses as low as possible was best illustrated to be with some simple math, and once I got out of debt and had some REAL savings, I started calculating my expenses to get an idea of how much I needed in my emergency fund.
The exercise started with what I was currently spending, and then went to what I felt could be the bare minimum of expenses (no matter how unrealistic).
Savings = $5000
Spend: $2500/month = 2 months of savings
Spend: $1000/month = 5 months of savings
Spend: $500/month = 10 months of savings
Once I saw this (stupidly) simple basic math jump out at me, I started changing my habits as much as possible to accommodate the third option (although I am not there, nor do I ever think I will be able to reach that, and not have to give up certain modern comforts, like cutting back on food or giving up buying the pill).
So I took just my fixed expenses & made a comfortable, but not extravagant estimate for m variable expenses.
Average Basic Monthly Expenses:
Note: This is my budget if I am in crisis mode while still being slightly comfortable, although I’d probably cut back even more if I was truly out of money.
- $400 = Rent (almost all utilities included)
- $6 = Utilities (only electricity)
- $8 = Laundry (we air dry in the apartment on a clothesline)
- $30 = Cellphone & Internet (Costs are split)
- $150 = Groceries
- $36 = Household
- $150 = Other (Medical, Dentist, Insurance, Gas)
TOTAL = $780
(or $1560 for 2 people)
Laundry = It’s $2 for a wash, $2 for a dry. We wash weekly & air dry instead.
Utilities = We only have to pay electricity bi-monthly.
It’s around $24 in total for 2 months because we use the lights sparingly, we live in a studio and our actual usage is a surprising $7 a month in total (or $3.50 each). The extra $10 comes just from the FEE to have an account and use the electricity.
Apartment Insurance: $90/year, split in half, is $45 each, or $3.75 a month
Car Insurance: $300/year (for my car only) or $25/month.
Other Car Fees: License plate & Driver’s License is around $40/month, but I pay yearly.
Other: Gas when I am not working is $3 a month or less. Sometimes I just walk to get food.
Medical: Inhaler & Pills are $25 a month, but I pay the whole amount.
Dentist: Around $100 per visit, once a year.
I wouldn’t be spending ~$800 each and every month, but my bare basics are more than covered by that amount. Travel not included.
With that amount, I decided that assuming $1000 a month was a good estimate, and it would be more than sufficient, giving me lots of room to breathe just in case I needed it while in crisis mode.
It was the simplest math I’d ever done (except for basic budgeting), and it absolutely changed everything.
I saw money differently, and I saw watching & reducing my expenses as being another step towards financial independence & freedom, rather than feeling like stepping towards a financial prison.
Bottom line: If you spend less, you can save more money and your savings will last even longer.
… but you already knew that