Save. Spend. Splurge.

Living on $534 a month, not including housing

$534. That’s what the IRS in 2011 thinks you can live on as a single person without including the cost of housing:

Source: Mental Floss, May-Jun issue, Page 15 — A magazine MADE for curious cats, such as myself. I will faithfully subscribe until the end!

With two people, it’s $1068 a month as a budget.


Just for fun, let’s see how up against this budget.

I took the past 5 months (Jan to May 2012) and averaged the amounts:


I spend 2.8 times MORE than their recommended base budget, although I’m pretty proud of the Food budget.

Touché, IRS.. Touché.


That’s not even including the OTHER categories I spend on such as:

  • Eating Out — I don’t consider it food, it’s a treat to not have to buy groceries and cook.
  • Treats — Umm.. this is where candy goes, or other things that are treats for my lifestyle but perhaps not my belly
  • Internet — Kind of required for me, although I don’t pay for cable TV
  • Cellphone — Again, a requirement for my job
  • Transportation — I use public transportation when I can, but that is ~$100/month
  • Electronics — Yeahhhhhh
  • Books & Gifts — Includes magazine subscriptions
  • Travel — LOVE!
  • Website — To run this blog

Although I can see their point.

I’m reviewing everything above (even my 3x spending amounts), and they really are WANTS more than NEEDS.


I’m considering trying this $534 budget out for real.

Just for one month.

The only problem is that we’re building our household equipment (cooking stuff) here, so would I include those pots and pans, or not?

How about my cellphone or transportation? Those are needs for me, I won’t be able to cancel them just for a month…

It may not be feasible, but it would be a great test of my mettle. Maybe I can do a hybrid of this budget.

Anyway, if I never subscribed to mental floss, I’d never have been brought across these stats in the first place.

(Talk about consumer justification, eh?)

I may just do this $534 budget in September to see if it’s possible.

Or sooner, but I’ll mark expenses like pots and pans, as “not included”, as I won’t be buying pots everyday.


  • Lynn Ling

    I thought of doing barebone budget, but I am afraid I will be barebone in every aspect of life after that.

  • Mochi & Macarons

    Wow. Your lifestyle sounds simple and fulfilling.

    You are right to say it can’t be an average. I wonder how they came up with such figures, knowing what it costs to live.

    • EW

      It’s funny that with such a small income I still buy way more than I need to. Even with a small apartment I get the overwhelming urge to fill it. I guess maybe so I don’t “look” poor even though I know I am not poor.

      • Mochi & Macarons

        I think you’re being way too hard on yourself 🙂

        You are already aware of what you’re feeling and why you buy, and that’s half the battle. You also seem extremely fulfilled, even though you say that you feel the urge to fill your space.

        I think it’s human nature to want to surround yourself with beauty. I was contemplating buying art to surround myself with it, but then I just realize that with how often I move, it isn’t a good idea.

  • SWR

    Never heard of Mental Floss.  I’ll have to check that out.  Also- I’d love to try this for September.  I’d love to think that I would come in way under the budget…but it would be really interesting to see just how close I get.

  • jeweliette23

    The pie chart doesn’t include transportation as bare necessities, like gas, car insurance, bus fare or subway card, which can be very necessary in order to get to your job.  Hmm.

  • Mochi & Macarons

    It is hard to go cheap in NYC when so many yummy things are readily available 😉

  • eemusings

    I love Mental Floss online- didn’t realise it was a print mag as well till I popped into a Sydney newsagent yesterday! Couldn’t believe my eyes! It works really well online – perfect for the web, not sure if the mag edition works quite as well.

    Without housing … hmm. So about $250 for groceries. Let’s say another $50 for eating out. Another $100 for bills. And that’s all the must haves. We’re up to $400! I think I could do it.

    • Mochi & Macarons

      I found them as a mag first and was hooked. I like that I can read it on the iPad and it has all the stories at once (the online version talks about some of the stories but I didn’t see all of them in detail).
      You are much more frugal than I am but I knew that already!!

      I wonder what the numbers are for other countries….

  • B. (Below Her Means)

    Funny you mention Mental Floss, I just saw it for the first time at Whole Foods this weekend. Thinking about a subscription.

    • Mochi & Macarons

      I love it on the iPad and I find it very informative and engaging.

      Braintatainment is another one but this one is with info from South Africa.

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