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What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:22 am
by geerhardusvos
Hey Bogle friends,

I’ve been talking with some of my close friends and family about what their monthly spend is during this situation. So I’ll pose the question to you all: For your budget and standard of living, what is the lowest you can comfortably live on? I say comfortably meaning not cutting out any necessities, so keeping only those things that bring a base value to your life. Right now my family is pretty much spending bare bones as we save/invest money during the current situation (food, rent, utilities, basic home entertainment and necessities, etc). We don’t feel like we are cutting back since we are at home, but travel, eating out, sporting and music events, etc. are the biggest line items cut out.

Please state your general (don’t have to be specific) demographic information if you’re willing. It obviously varies by location and other factors.

Here’s mine:
$60k/year (Or $5000/mo) — West Coast, HCOL area, 30s, married, young kids, renting a 3000 sqft SFH in nice neighborhood, two old cars — We could probably go as low as ~50k if we needed to, but then we would need to rent a different place, cut out Home entertainment, organic foods, etc which is not ideal or comfortable to us. Before the current situation, we were spending roughly $6500/month with a household income of ~$200k/year (income has stayed the same so far)

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:26 am
by stoptothink
We're at $45k/yr for a family of 4 in MCOL area, and that includes 15yr mortgage, childcare for 1, and full-time tuition for wife. All of these costs are going to be gone by the end of the year, so we'll find out. I suspect our '21 household expenses will be significantly <$30k.

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:28 am
by workhardplayhard
geerhardusvos wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:22 am
Here’s mine:
$60k/year (Or $5000/mo) — West Coast, HCOL area, 30s, married, young kids, renting a 3000 sqft SFH in nice neighborhood, two old cars — We could probably go as low as ~50k if we needed to, but then we would need to rent a different place, cut out Home entertainment, organic foods, etc which is not ideal or comfortable to us.
I’m also West Coast, HCOL area, late 30’s, married, 3 kids, also renting in a good area - $120k per year bare bones not including any trips, vacations, etc.

I’m paying per year in rent what you’re spending :)

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:28 am
by Balance
$60k is pretty light. If you are in a HCOL area on the west coast rent can easily be $3000-5000 per month depending on where you live. In the Bay Area you would be on the upper end of that range or even higher. That doesn't leave a lot for food, utilities, and emergency reserves.

What do you pay in rent per month? Everyone's answer is going to vary with housing costs being the biggest variable.

We live in the Bay Area and we have two kids. We own a house with a small mortgage. We probably need about $80-90k per year. Our kids eat a lot and we consume meat, eggs, dairy, fresh fruit and veggies mostly.

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:29 am
by Van
I'm sure it is a lot less than one thinks, but I hope to never have to find out!

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:32 am
by geerhardusvos
Balance wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:28 am $60k is pretty light. If you are in a HCOL area on the west coast rent can easily be $3000-5000 per month depending on where you live. In the Bay Area you would be on the upper end of that range or even higher. That doesn't leave a lot for food, utilities, and emergency reserves.

What do you pay in rent per month? Everyone's answer is going to vary with housing costs being the biggest variable.

We live in the Bay Area and we have two kids. We own a house with a small mortgage. We probably need about $80-90k per year. Our kids eat a lot and we consume meat, eggs, dairy, fresh fruit and veggies mostly.
We pay $3200 a month in rent

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:33 am
by TomatoTomahto
Van wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:29 am I'm sure it is a lot less than one thinks, but I hope to never have to find out!
Yup.

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:35 am
by geerhardusvos
workhardplayhard wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:28 am
geerhardusvos wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:22 am
Here’s mine:
$60k/year (Or $5000/mo) — West Coast, HCOL area, 30s, married, young kids, renting a 3000 sqft SFH in nice neighborhood, two old cars — We could probably go as low as ~50k if we needed to, but then we would need to rent a different place, cut out Home entertainment, organic foods, etc which is not ideal or comfortable to us.
I’m also West Coast, HCOL area, late 30’s, married, 3 kids, also renting in a good area - $120k per year bare bones not including any trips, vacations, etc.

I’m paying per year in rent what you’re spending :)
Yowza! I would be interested to see a bit more breakdown on what is you above six figures with no travel

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:41 am
by Balance
geerhardusvos wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:32 am
Balance wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:28 am $60k is pretty light. If you are in a HCOL area on the west coast rent can easily be $3000-5000 per month depending on where you live. In the Bay Area you would be on the upper end of that range or even higher. That doesn't leave a lot for food, utilities, and emergency reserves.

What do you pay in rent per month? Everyone's answer is going to vary with housing costs being the biggest variable.

We live in the Bay Area and we have two kids. We own a house with a small mortgage. We probably need about $80-90k per year. Our kids eat a lot and we consume meat, eggs, dairy, fresh fruit and veggies mostly.
We pay $3200 a month in rent
Thanks. That is $38,400 in yearly rent with $22k left for food and other essentials which isn't a lot but could be done. We spend about $1500 per month on food (since we are cooking all meals at home). Before Covid we spent $800-1000 per month on grocery shopping.

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:43 am
by livesoft
Current comfortable annual expenses:
$0 Mortgage
$2,100 Utilities (gas, electric, water)
$1,500 phones, internet
$5,000 Health insurance (hard to know)
$5,000 health care expenses (high deductible plan)
$7,000 property taxes
$5,000 home and auto insurance (I suppose these could be cut)
$0 Income taxes
$6,000 food, toilet paper
$1,000 auto expenses (gasoline, inspection, registration, tires, battery, fluids)

so about $33K without selling the house and moving into an apartment.

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:44 am
by BrownEyedGirl_27
75k annual income (combined income), MCOL area in Idaho, Renting 1000 sq feet apartment. Last year’s expenses were $35k but we are likely going to have lower expenses this year due to Coronavirus / job uncertainty. Per month we can live on $2,400 comfortably but this doesn’t include any money for saving or investing. Expenses beyond rent, utilities and food include Netflix, Spotify, one time eating out inexpensively and for a little bit of fun spending. We might cut Netflix next month to read books instead. Today I bought a pair of simple black flats for job interviews once normal businesses can resume operations-one example of a small but non-elaborate need.

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:45 am
by workhardplayhard
geerhardusvos wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:35 am
workhardplayhard wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:28 am
geerhardusvos wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:22 am
Here’s mine:
$60k/year (Or $5000/mo) — West Coast, HCOL area, 30s, married, young kids, renting a 3000 sqft SFH in nice neighborhood, two old cars — We could probably go as low as ~50k if we needed to, but then we would need to rent a different place, cut out Home entertainment, organic foods, etc which is not ideal or comfortable to us.
I’m also West Coast, HCOL area, late 30’s, married, 3 kids, also renting in a good area - $120k per year bare bones not including any trips, vacations, etc.

I’m paying per year in rent what you’re spending :)
Yowza! I would be interested to see a bit more breakdown on what is you above six figures with no travel
Something along these lines.

$55,000 for rent
Car payment + insurance + bills - $15,000
After school day care + activities - $12,000
Food / alcohol - $15,000
Restaurants / birthdays / concerts - $10,000
Other misc expenses - $13,000

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:47 am
by runner3081
Family of 3 (late 30’s with grade schooler) we live on less than 25k per year, Phoenix area.

House was paid off a couple of years ago, so that helps.

Extremely comfortable, but there isn’t much to cut.

Housing/Utilities - $6k
Non-Auto Insurance (Homewners, Life, Umbrella, etc) - $1.8K
Services (Cell/Internet) - $840
Automotive (Gas, insurance, etc) - $4.6k
All other (Gifts, clothing, food, discretionary) - $11.4k

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:47 am
by geerhardusvos
Balance wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:41 am
geerhardusvos wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:32 am
Balance wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:28 am $60k is pretty light. If you are in a HCOL area on the west coast rent can easily be $3000-5000 per month depending on where you live. In the Bay Area you would be on the upper end of that range or even higher. That doesn't leave a lot for food, utilities, and emergency reserves.

What do you pay in rent per month? Everyone's answer is going to vary with housing costs being the biggest variable.

We live in the Bay Area and we have two kids. We own a house with a small mortgage. We probably need about $80-90k per year. Our kids eat a lot and we consume meat, eggs, dairy, fresh fruit and veggies mostly.
We pay $3200 a month in rent
Thanks. That is $38,400 in yearly rent with $22k left for food and other essentials which isn't a lot but could be done. We spend about $1500 per month on food (since we are cooking all meals at home). Before Covid we spent $800-1000 per month on grocery shopping.
Yeah, as said in the edited OP, we usually spend ~$6-6.5k/mo including travel and medical expenses. Our grocery bill has slightly increased, but since we mostly ate at home it's not too different. Kids are still young enough that they aren't food vacuums yet :)

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:49 am
by geerhardusvos
workhardplayhard wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:45 am
geerhardusvos wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:35 am
workhardplayhard wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:28 am
geerhardusvos wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:22 am
Here’s mine:
$60k/year (Or $5000/mo) — West Coast, HCOL area, 30s, married, young kids, renting a 3000 sqft SFH in nice neighborhood, two old cars — We could probably go as low as ~50k if we needed to, but then we would need to rent a different place, cut out Home entertainment, organic foods, etc which is not ideal or comfortable to us.
I’m also West Coast, HCOL area, late 30’s, married, 3 kids, also renting in a good area - $120k per year bare bones not including any trips, vacations, etc.

I’m paying per year in rent what you’re spending :)
Yowza! I would be interested to see a bit more breakdown on what is you above six figures with no travel
Something along these lines.

$55,000 for rent
Car payment + insurance + bills - $15,000
After school day care + activities - $12,000
Food / alcohol - $15,000
Restaurants / birthdays / concerts - $10,000
Other misc expenses - $13,000
gotcha, thanks! car payment and day / kids care -- that's what I was guessing. makes sense. still seems a bit high for my taste, but hey!

we cut out buying any new wine and whiskey which has been tough! brown drink is low folks

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:50 am
by stoptothink
workhardplayhard wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:45 am
geerhardusvos wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:35 am
workhardplayhard wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:28 am
geerhardusvos wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:22 am
Here’s mine:
$60k/year (Or $5000/mo) — West Coast, HCOL area, 30s, married, young kids, renting a 3000 sqft SFH in nice neighborhood, two old cars — We could probably go as low as ~50k if we needed to, but then we would need to rent a different place, cut out Home entertainment, organic foods, etc which is not ideal or comfortable to us.
I’m also West Coast, HCOL area, late 30’s, married, 3 kids, also renting in a good area - $120k per year bare bones not including any trips, vacations, etc.

I’m paying per year in rent what you’re spending :)
Yowza! I would be interested to see a bit more breakdown on what is you above six figures with no travel
Something along these lines.

$55,000 for rent
Car payment + insurance + bills - $15,000
After school day care + activities - $12,000
Food / alcohol - $15,000
Restaurants / birthdays / concerts - $10,000
Other misc expenses - $13,000
:shock: "Comfortably" is definitely subjective.

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:50 am
by geerhardusvos
runner3081 wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:47 am Family of 3 (late 30’s with grade schooler) we live on less than 30k per year, Phoenix area.

House was paid off a couple of years ago, so that helps.

Extremely comfortable, but there isn’t much to cut.
wow, nice work! you can retire with $1M! :beer

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:52 am
by bloom2708
I would say $3,500 to $4,000 per month in a Low to Medium cost of living area.

Divide into Essential and Discretionary.

Some essential expenses have a discretionary component.

You need a house or apartment. Do you need that particular house/apt?

You need a cell phone. Do you need that phone or that specific plan? Likely not.

You need internet. Do you need that specific speed or is there a lower cost alternative?

"Stay at home" is allowing us to somewhat test leaner discretionary budgets. We haven't spent much beyond large grocery shopping trips every other week. Still paying electric, gas, insurance, water of course.

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:52 am
by quisp65
I'm in San Diego with no mortgate or rent and 2 of us live on $1,200 every 2 weeks and that's enough for occasionally eating out. So $31,200 and about $4,500 for property tax and another $5K in emergency expenses. So around $35K-40K. Our normal expenses in only about $65K. California is not that expensive if you are low income and your house is paid off.

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:53 am
by runner3081
geerhardusvos wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:50 am
runner3081 wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:47 am Family of 3 (late 30’s with grade schooler) we live on less than 30k per year, Phoenix area.

House was paid off a couple of years ago, so that helps.

Extremely comfortable, but there isn’t much to cut.
wow, nice work! you can retire with $1M! :beer
Not exactly. Goal is $2 million at the age of 50. Will account for unknown healthcare (and other) costs.

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:56 am
by Dottie57
Single.

Due to high cost of health insurance(16k yr) , I *need* about 50k. When that goes down with Medicare, bare bones is 40k. Comfortable will be 45-55k.

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:56 am
by geerhardusvos
bloom2708 wrote: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:52 am I would say $3,500 to $4,000 per month in a Low to Medium cost of living area.

Divide into Essential and Discretionary.

Some essential expenses have a discretionary component.

You need a house or apartment. Do you need that particular house/apt?

You need a cell phone. Do you need that phone or that specific plan? Likely not.

You need internet. Do you need that specific speed or is there a lower cost alternative?

"Stay at home" is allowing us to somewhat test leaner discretionary budgets. We haven't spent much beyond large grocery shopping trips every other week. Still paying electric, gas, insurance, water of course.
agree, staying home has been an interesting test of the budget, and hopefully an accelerator for us in terms of our investing. but it's a long game...

fargo is one of my favorite movies, btw :D

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:57 am
by mega317
Does retirement savings count in your calculation? I could live comfortably for ~30 years with much less income if I stopped saving for retirement, but then what?

By far our largest expenses are income tax, mortgage, retirement savings, daycare. We have to eat and we would be uncomfortable without cell phones, gas and electricity. Slightly less comfortable without the peace of mind of life/disability insurance. Got to get to work and we have two middle age paid off cars. So short of moving or ditching the dog, any changes would really be on the fringes.

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:57 am
by TheTimeLord
Not sure but I think our combined FRA Social Security benefit should cover it.

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:58 am
by HomerJ
We put $6000 a month into the joint account every month, and it covers all our expenses (except new cars).

But we also have a paid off house

We could easily cut back to $4500/month if we never traveled anywhere without any other change in lifestyle

Mid-west, MCOL suburb of Kansas City.

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 12:00 pm
by 7eight9
I posted this in a previous thread titled Anyone want to share their monthly budget? Here's ours
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=239182&start=100

2018 annual figures. 2 adults - MCOL city. No mortgage or car payments.

$7.0K - International travel
$5.3K - HOA / Property taxes / insurance (1500 sq ft condo in good neighborhood)
$4.0K - Car insurance / registration / repair / gasoline (2 Toyotas)
$3.3K - Food (groceries, beverages, eating out)
$2.6K - Household (everything from dish soap to a new bed)
$2.0K - Electric / natural gas / internet / home phone / cellular phones (2)
$0.5K - Gifts
$0.4K - Clothing

Approximately $18.1K for day to day living ($1,500/month).

Income tax exceeds our annual requisite spend (excluding international travel which I view as discretionary).

We spent pretty close to the poverty line for two people of $16,460 in 2018.

Re: What’s the lowest you can comfortably live on?

Posted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 12:05 pm
by Alex Frakt
From the forum policies: "This subforum is for all questions about your (or your friend's or family's) actual investments or investment planning."

For more information, see A reminder that non-investing general comment threads are OT.