I have a tiny shovel, as in a smaller income, in contrast with many of the other bloggers in the FI/RE community.
So, how was I able to survive on 39% of my graduate student income?
At this point, the only way I could cut anything out of my budget would be to move into a box on the street. So really my option now is to find a way to earn more.
However, how did I manage to cut that much?
1. Cutting subscriptions down
I only pay for two subscriptions, Spotify and Disney Plus. I prefer being able to choose my music and not have ads, I was skirting with canceling it a few months ago, but the amount of ads that were playing between songs was stifling. By the time my commute was over I think I only listened to 3 full songs. The rest of it was ads. Also, as a student I am eligible for the discount at 49 SEK / 5 USD. A small price to pay for my sanity.
I use Disney Plus as a learning tool, putting movies in Swedish so I can learn.
2. Eating less meat
I have never been a big meat eater anyway so this was easy for me to cut back on. However, I love seafood, but I have also lowered my consumption of it. These items: beef, chicken, seafood, etc. are the most expensive portion of your grocery bill. The only time I buy it now is when it is on sale and then I leave it in the freezer until I need it. So, per month, I might eat 3 meals with some form of meat in it, so I get my protein and iron in other ways.
3. Using your legs as a method of transportation
My bike is my main source of transportation 6 months out of the year, mainly the warmer months. Public transport is only used during the winter months when it is snowy and icy. So, I do not have a car nor the expenses that go along with that. I got my bike for free, I just had to get some work done on it, which totaled 349 SEK / 40 USD. Not bad, if you ask me. It isn’t perfect but it gets me places faster than walking. Currently my commute is 6 miles, longer than it was in my old position but you would not have caught me cycling to work then.
4. Cut the gym membership
There are so many free ways to exercise nowadays that paying for a membership is not worth it. Some like to run in the park, others like to do yoga in the comfort of their own home. Unless you have some specialty exercises that can only be done in a gym then perhaps cutting it is right for you. On the bright side, if you cycle everywhere then you can use that as your workout.
5. Downsizing the home
When you look at your home, how many rooms are there and how many do you use regularly. Do you find yourself mostly using 2 rooms? If that is the case then you are essentially paying for a glorified storage space, so it might be time to downsize.
I lived in a decent sized house in the US but when I moved to Sweden, I moved into a 25 sqm space and I later downsized to 19 sqm. However, I found this much too small and I recently moved into 23 sqm space that is just the right size. A one bedroom apartment in Stockholm can cost between 10,000 – 15,000 SEK/ 1,000-1,500 USD, depending on location.
In Sweden, as a student, you are allowed subsidized housing through various student unions. You just have to queue for them and whoever has the most days get them. The subsidizations vary throughout the country, my housing is 50% less than the going rental rate for the area.
6. Making your own food
This goes without saying but the mark-up for food at restaurants is high, and for drinks it is even higher. So, if you are going to eat out, drink water if it is free and available. Anyway, learn how to make your favorite foods, you can find so many recipes online that will teach you to make these dishes. On top of that, cooking is a skill.
Most recently, I have been able to make my own Naan, Paneer, Pupusas, etc. Things I would normally buy at the stores because I thought it was too much work. I have recently learned that these items are not hard to make at all. The only difference is you do have the added preparation time, but if cooking is something you enjoy, might as well.