How cheap can you live?

Consensus on finance blogs is that if your passive income is greater than your expenses then you can retire from the 9-5 grind. It got me thinking about just how far I could reduce my expenses to get as close to 0 expenditure as possible. The next few paragraphs will suggest some extreme cost cutting methods. I’m not suggesting everyone go try them, this is more of a thought exercise to see what I could come up with.

Starting with some of the easiest first:

Travel – 0

As long as I don’t move to the countryside I should be within walking distance of all needed amenities: Supermarket, hospital, train station, gym. If I was happy to spend time walking, biking and wasn’t put off by rainy days then It seems very straight forward to cut all travel expenses to 0. The only time I may need to pay for a train ticket would be visiting family. Most of them do live close enough that if I wanted to I could hike/jog there (it might just be a bit impractical carrying xmas presents, but its possible.)

Clothes – 50

Charity shops are overflowing with clothes donations. They throw away a lot of imperfect items because they have so much brand new-never worn stuff. If you’re happy with hippy-chic fashion and ad-hoc colour schemes I can’t imagine you’d need to spend more than 50 a year on clothes.

Food – 365

If you were willing to dumpster-dive, got to food banks and knew what you were doing with foraging It’s possible to drop this to £0.

This next bit might get a lot of opposition, but I believe it’s possible in England to feed yourself in a healthy way for under £1 a day. I’m not talking about buying a big bag of white rice and eating nothing else. It would involve some staples such as homemade bread, porridge oats, Plenty of fruit and veg. Discounted meat and some foraging from the countryside for fruit. No dumpster diving or charity needed. The hardest part of doing it might be the lack of variety. I currently spend 200-300 on food a month as I love cooking and exploring different foods so I’m aware it wouldn’t be easy. (I will write a post later about the specific details of how to get all the required calories to stay healthy on this budget.)

Exercise – 1500

I spend around £1500 a year on exercise related costs. This is a mixture of gym entries, running race costs. Travel to climbing gyms and exercise equipment and a few yoga lessons. These are all the fun things I do with my spare time. I’m glad that they have secondary effects such as increasing health and keeping me fit but the main reason is that doing them makes me happy. Getting my costs low to be able to retire is pointless if retiring means being unhappy and not being able to spend my time doing what I love. So I’m leaving this number at £1500. For those thinking that I could climb outdoors for free (I live in the flattest county in the UK) or that running is free. It’s not: “Is Running Free?”

Rent – 1000

This is going to be the hardest cost to cut. For young single folk there are various methods for getting costs low. Sharing a house with lots of others or looking after angel properties. Even buying a caravan and travelling around is a vague option. But for people looking to stay settled with a family the cheapest long term plan would be to buy a cheap house and get rid of the mortgage. The problem with owning a house is that things break. I estimate if I bought the current flat I live in with insurance and repair costs such as replacing broken furniture/white goods it’ll cost about £1000

Bills – 600

There are 2 certainties in life, death and taxes”. If you own a house there are only a fixed amount of frugal money saving techniques you can do to lower your water/heating/council taxes. On the extreme end these could be got down to £1200(£600 when split between 2 people) (Remember I only bought the house because I’m planning on a family)

Health – 0

One of the best health systems in the world is the NHS in England. Reading through the horror stories of health care being not available in remote parts of the world or immensely overpriced due to shifty business tactics in America I’m very grateful for the NHS. I hope it never disappears. It improves the quality of life for so many people and makes the entire country a better place to live.


The total for this is £3715, which even to me seems extremely low.  And it includes the large 1500 for sports. There are always going to be miscellaneous expenses that you can’t plan for so maybe there should be another £500-1k on top of this.

It reminds me of when I was in university and I figured that all my expenses (rent included) came to £4500 a year, So whilst the thoughts above do seem extreme It has reminded me that I actually did it for 3 years (and was perfectly happy doing so.)

The next question is that if I only need £4000 a year to live, where is all my money going?