These economic times for more and more people are without precedent in their lives. Many of the middle class are loosing their homes due to mortgage foreclosures, layoffs and jobs moving overseas. As far fetched as it might sound, for a single person without dependents, it is not impossible to live a reasonably good life for 12k a year. What this “Voluntary Simplicity” will require is obviously, an income of that amount and a cost of living that enables one to live on that, and perhaps, the hardest — a revaluation of one’s needs, wants and priorities.
Earning a Net Income Of 12,000 A Year
All it would take to earn 12k a year is a simple, entry level job that pays $8.00 an hour for a fulltime 40 hour workweek. When you look at a national map of minimum wage rates in the USA from state to state, you see that some of the better places to live actually have the highest rates at $8.00. Massachusetts, Illinois, California have an $8.00 minimum wage, Oregon has $8.40, and Washington, $8.55. Some of the best cities to live in USA are in these states: Portland, Seattle, Boston, or cool places like the Silver Lake or West L.A. districts of Los Angeles for example. If you have no ties and are able to move to a state where the wages are higher, and have a bigger urban area where there are likely to be more jobs and growth, you should be good to go, even in these harsh times.
How To Live on 12,000 a Year?
The single biggest thing that eats away at our earnings is the amount we have to pay to keep a simple roof over our heads. You can minimize that by learning to downsize your living arrangements and renting a large room or small bachelor. The good thing is that market values for room rents and small bachelor apartments is fairly static across the nation. A comparative search of rents on Craigslist can affirm this. It might seem like a challenge, but one can get used to anything. Plus it is such a liberating thing to kiss property taxes, utilities etc goodbye and live a minimalist lifestyle. One can find a suitable room for rent for $500 a month fairly easily that comes with the utilities included.
Learning to spend less is key to living a good life with less. Learning to cook is vital, as this is the way to cut your food costs drastically and at the same time improve your health. I eat a diet based on oatmeal, grits, lentils, beans, TVP, rice, olive oil, cheap and in-season produce, eggs, tuna, and cheap cuts of meat for under $300 dollars a month — at 3-4 meals a day! There is no shortage of websites on the Net that show you how easy it is to eat a healthy diet for under $300. Combine the cost of groceries at $300 a month and rent of $500 and you are already living under $10,000 a year!
Revaluating Your Needs, Wants And Priorities
- Voluntary Simplicity is all about learning to spend less is the key to living a frugal lifestyle, and that depends on making a list of the things that are important to you. How much do we really need to spend on entertainment? Do we really need cable TV? Do we really need a car? We really do not need credit cards, restaurant meals, bottled water, and a car. The sad fact is that for many people, their possessions have become part of their self-identity. What you really essentially need aside from a cheap, safe place to live and good diet, is free entertainment, cheap transportation, cheap personal communications and inexpensive recreation.
- Watch TV for free. Most people would agree that cable television rates are a rip-off. There are ways to watch all the shows and films you could ever want to — for free! Your community library likely has DVD and VHS films to borrow and membership is free. There are many ways to watch television for free, ranging from viewing major TV networks on the Internet to watching films and televison shows for free, for free, to watching “over-the-air programming” channels with a multi-bay antenna.
- Get rid of your car. It is an easy thing to do for a single person to replace a car with a bicycle. By far the best transportation is a bicycle, and one can get one for under $100 that is reliable and easy to replace if stolen. The cost in maintenance is hardly anything, particularly when you learn all about DIY bicycle repair.
- Get a cheap means of staying in touch with friends, family and employers. Skype is one of the easiest ways of making cheap calls. Calls to others with Skype are free, while calls to other land lines are still less than most phone companies. There are also numerous pay-as-you-go mobile phone plans and calling cards that would enable you to have a cell phone for under $30 a month.
- Don’t pay for Internet. Free Internet is as easy as finding unsecured hotspots or free WiFi zones, which can be found very easily in any strange town using the search application at JiWire. With a cheap laptop, you don’t even need to pay for software or an operating system ever again. Ubuntu is as easy to learn as Windows, and is far more user friendly when compared to Windows Vista and far, far more secure. Say goodbye to the lingering virus threats for good!
- Work out for next to nothing! For next to nothing there is a way of getting a very cheap gym membership. Most big cities have a YMCA. It is part of their mission statement that no-one be refused due to economic hardship, and are thus entitled to “sponsored memberships“. If you are on benefits, or low-income, you can apply for a subsidized membership. I have several friends who do this and pay $20 dollars a month. For that, they get use of a swimming pool, free weights, cardio, fitness classes, yoga classes, etc. Another option is to join some free classes often listed on KiJiJi or Craigslist. There are a large range of activities from karate classes to yoga.
- There are also no shortage of places to get free furniture and cheap clothes, such as thrift stores, and websites that promote sharing and bartering in your community. For those who really want it, it is very inexpensive to make cheap wine, beer or spirits, without giving a nickel to large corporations or government taxes. And it doesn’t have to be nasty.
- With cheap rent, a healthy diet full of loads of cheap food, free TV, free Internet, free or cheap personal communication, free or dirt cheap gym memberships, plus free transportation, it is totally possible to live a frugal but healthy and enjoyable life for under $12,000 a year! The more you can minimize the cost of rent, it is possible to live on even less.