Constraint Experiment: Live on 2$ per day
For LEARN1 I picked "Innovation comes from constraint" and decided on a little self-experiment: Try living on 2$ a day.
I tried for the last week and would like to share my experiences and thoughts on this kind of experiment.
As 2 USD is roughly 1.5 EUR this was the goal I went for. I decided to focus on "money which goes through my hands" as a first approximation. For me, this roughly means all things I buy in a shop and all things I eat.
Clearly, living of 1.5 EUR wouldn't be possible in general (for the average european), as things like rent, gym membership or university fees far exceed this bound. For me, only my gym membership is already 2 EUR/day.
Let alone all the hidden costs of electricity, water and basically all the things you own. These are also very hard to calculate per day. If I buy a book for 20 EUR and read it in 10 hours it basically costs me 2 EUR/h. If I get the same book from the library, the costs are smaller but still the library (and the book) is payed for by study fees and (in Germany this is the far bigger part) taxes.
A thing that I did not want to sacrifice was eating reasonably healthy. Meaning getting enough and nutritious food every day (not necessarily the nicest food though).
Results: The Good
So the good news: I really did not spend more than 1.5 EUR the day.
- I lend a bike from my family to go to work by bike, which is actually faster than using public transport (which already is 1.7 EUR per ride) and more enjoyable if the weather is good (which it was :)).
- The only thing I bought was food and I prepared it every day for the wh*** day. I only bought Bananas, Apples, Carrots and some diary products. I ate reasonably well as planned.
- I was lucky that I did not have to buy anything else as everything was there (I did not plan this before, so this was real luck). I could postpone buying shower gel or getting a hair cut, all things that would totally ruin my 1.5 EUR finances.
- Not sure if this is good or bad, but I actually had to cut down (meaning almost eliminate) on my usual social contacts, like meeting for having a coffee or tea as this would exceed my budged. Drinking a beer or going to the movies is even more off limits.
Obviously, social habits would adapt if I did that for a longer time, but you can't change this over a week. My friends were a bit confused about what the heck I was doing and why I was doing this. Everyone immediately thought I had financial problems and wanted to buy me food or beers. That I just don't want it was a little hard to communicate.
So did I do it? Not really ...
- I could only spend so little on food as I had tons of noodles, cereals, crushed tomatoes stocked up. I am just that kind of person who doesn't run out of stuff ... ;) I tried to still keep things low (as this is clearly covered by the rules as it "goes through my hands"). I did not terribly exceed the limit, but probably by a little bit (noodles and cereals are cheap).
- I used a train ticket I already had to get back from Bremen to Mannheim, roughly 550km. The only way to make this distance inside the limit would have been by hitchhiking, for probably more than a day (Don't know, I never hitchhiked, but I would imagine you have to change cars some times.).
- I drink A LOT of coffee (most of it for free at work). Coffee is obscenely cheap if you think about it (if you drink cheap stuff probably like 0.1 EUR per cup). Still, my 3-5 cups a day were not counted.
- Organically or locally grown food is A LOT more expensive than the cheapest you can get. I normally prefer the former, because it is more agriculture-friendly, but had to resort to buying the cheap stuff for the sake of at least standing a chance to meet my goal. Example: 10 Eggs are 1.25 EUR the cheapest and 2.59 the organic ones.
Mission (almost) Impossible: Healthy food for one day
So ... is it even possible to eat reasonably healthy for 1.5 EUR/day in Germany?
According to online calorie calculators, my daily consumption should be around 2500 kcal (I do sports and drive 1h on the bike per day). Splitting this up into carbon hydrates, fats and proteins is still done to get the relations right (especially on your favorite cereal box), I won't do this here. Instead, my healthy 1.5 EUR day has two pieces of fruit, some veggies and heigh protein (no meat and fish though as these are expensive) and olive oil for balanced fats.
Breakfast: Cereals. 0.45 EUR, 984 kcal
- Ingredients: 200g Oats (0.1 EUR, 680 kcal), 25g Almonds (0.12 EUR, 150 kcal), 100ml Milk (0.06 EUR, 64 kcal), 1 banana (0.17 EUR, 90 kcal)
Lunch: Pasta with tomato sauce. 0.48 EUR, 1032 kcal
- Ingredients: 250g Noodles (0.2 EUR, 900 kcal), 200ml crushed tomatoes (0.14 EUR, 50 kcal), some spices and garlic and onion (0.1 EUR, 0 kcal), 10ml olive oil extra vergine (0.04 EUR, 82 kcal)
Dinner: Light curd cheese with apple (0.52 EUR, 302 kcal)
- Ingredients: 300g light crud cheese (0.37 EUR, 210 kcal), Apple (0.12 EUR, 60 kcal), 50ml Milk (0.03 EUR, 32 kcal)
In Total: 1.45 EUR and 2318 kcal. Replace the super-light crud cheese with a normal one and we are there (I only had the super-light one at home for the calculation).
(Me with some bills and groceries writing this post)
- There is not a lot of room for variation. It would probably be more healthy to add some more veggies (I had a chick-pea salad in mind first for dinner.) or add some fish (canned tuna is cheap) or meat. However this is already too much.
- Another possibility would be to leave the fruits and replace them with something less healthy and more calories. As I am a certified health-nut this won't do for me.
- You absolutely have to cook everything yourself. All prepped food is off limites price-wise.
OK, so far for my little experiment. I might repeat it some day. It was interesting to feel some constraint, also I am sure its not at all comparable to what people in developing countries are facing.
Until then I am very curious for your suggestions and opinions.