I wrote about this McDonald's budget versus our post-college budget in mid-2013. Based on the specific feedback, I've updated this post to include a general $2000 budget for those with a higher rent too. I broke the budgeted amounts down to show how it is possible as well.
McDonald's Budget – Seems to Have Some Holes
Have you seen that McDonald's and Visa came up with a budget for “their average worker” that brings in $2000 a month? It's freaking hilarious. Here's a quick summary:
Two Actual $2000 Budgets!
Okay, so that is obviously not a realistic budget for most people. It just seems to assume you don't pay for stuff like health insurance and can roll things like food into a daily amount of leftover money and be just fine. It certainly doesn't make room for optional stuff like our dental implant insurance.
And, yes, $2000 a month is obviously very little to live on. BUT, Mr. BFS and I actually lived on that during college and the year after (2004-2006). So, here it goes, a realistic $2000 budget for two people that has actually worked for two real people…
A Real $2000 Per Month Budget for Two People (and Scroll Down for a Higher Rent Option that is Also $2000 Per Month)
That $2000 after taxes is about what I was making as a full-time cubicle worker plus what Mr. BFS brought in from working at Gamestop for minimum wage for 20-30 hours a week. And that rent was for a 500 square foot apartment in the far suburbs of Houston, TX. Speaking of taxes we think we have finally settled on the best way to file taxes next time we have to do that. And if you prefer something on your desktop then we reviewed the best tax filing software too.
Scroll further below for a higher rent $2000 a month budget.
We Made Money on the Side
We threw anything extra that we made from hobby jobs into our savings so we could buy our own house faster. I worked a shift every Saturday at a bookstore for $7.50 an hour, and Mr. BFS was reffing basketball and football for $60 an evening, 2-3 evenings a week. Combined, we were throwing in about $1000 extra per month into savings. (This was before I created this blog and started making $3000+ a month online.)
That extra we saved could also be used as padding when crap happened with our cars or with life in general. 🙂
Also, we could use that entertainment and cash on anything (including tithing if that is close to your heart). I volunteered with the Houston SPCA through this time of our lives, so we spent the cash and entertainment money on fun stuff like movies and saved it up for inexpensive weekend road trips.
We didn't have that much free time though. Hubby's shifts could be any 3-4 days of the week at Gamestop, plus 3 random evenings of reffing. I worked Monday-Friday from 8am to 5pm, volunteered 2-3 evenings a week at the HSPCA, and had that Saturday shift at the bookstore.
We fit in fun where we could and watched tv or read a book (borrowed from family or the library) every night before we headed to bed.
BONUS $2000 BUDGET BY DEMAND – Made in 2016!!!
I was looking at the comments on this post and realized that “rent” is where many people just stopped reading. So here’s yet another $2000 a month budget if your rent is around $700 AND read below to see how to get there:
Breaking Down the $2000 a Month Budget Above
First let’s look at that rental amount. That is achievable in several ways. In low cost living areas like here in the suburbs of Houston, TX, a small apartment in okay parts of town run $450-$600 a month. Then you have to cover most utilities. Or you can rent a private bedroom and bathroom in someone’s home with bills covered for $400-$600.
If you live in high cost-of-living places, you can achieve $700 or less by getting a roommate. I know it sounds lame to some, but my husband and I have had roommates in 7 of the last 12 years and it has led to making a couple of close friends and having a lot of padding in our savings. You can also squeeze that number up to $800 a month for rent if you are willing to cut back on your food expenses and eat solely from home. We can feed ourselves well on $250 a month but splurge and eat out a couple of times a week at least. You could also look at y'alls combined income and realize that $2500 a month is doable and find a place for $1300 a month.
Or you could look at Airbnb options actually…some of those are only $20-$30 a day for a tiny room in urban places. The trick is knowing your priorities.
If you have a family and need to hit a low monthly payment, I would highly suggest checking out the buying prices of large trailers in your area. They get a bum rap…really, my mom and I lived in a trailer for several years way back when and I enjoyed it. And it really is inexpensive.
Now let’s look at your health insurance coverage. I got my estimate of $150 by using a private health insurance estimator and entering 1-2 people making a total of $28,000 (figured the $2000 budget would be after income taxes). If you make less than $29,000, you can get health insurance cheaper than most right now…makes sense. BUT, if you smoke, you have to quit. WAY CHEAPER. Also remember to see if you can get even more help through your job.
This is pretty straight forward. If you have a paid off car, start automatically moving $250 from your checking account to a savings account every month. That will cover maintenance issues that pop up or give you cash for a down payment when you need a new-to-you car.
If you need a car, get an affordable vehicle! Look at newer used models for $10,000 or less. If you have bad credit, you can still hunt down a $10,000 car at 8% interest for 5 years and have a $200 a month car payment. If you are currently paying more than $300 a month for a car payment and you are making less than $24,000 take home per year, STOP THAT!!! You can’t afford it. Sorry. Trade it in for a way more affordable option.
On a side note, if you need help selling a paid off car yourself, check out my post about on how to sell your car on Craigslist. I’ve done it 3 times. If you want to buy a cheap but solid used car off of Craigslist or something similar, just make sure to take it to a mechanic first. Also look for the best car insurance you can find and that will definitely bring down those monthly costs.
$350 a month on food is a little more than $11 a day. That is VERY doable. We also have started using the best meal delivery service to eat cheap. I’m going to use higher estimated prices than what I can get in my area. If you are vegetarian/vegan/gluten intolerant/etc, substitute more of the other stuff that you can eat.
Here’s an example of $75 of groceries that should be able to feed you for a week:
- Eggs (dozen) – $2
- Milk (gallon) – $2
- Cereal Bag – $4
- Bread Loafs (two from the Dollar Tree, we get Nature’s Own Honey Wheat) – $2
- Peanut Butter – $3
- Jam – $3
- Frozen Vegetables for sides or main entrees – $10
- Fresh Fruit (buy seasonal – apples, peaches, bananas, etc.) – $10
- Fresh Vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, etc.) – $10
- Ground Turkey or Beef (2 pounds for different dishes) – $6
- Chicken thighs (lots) or two pounds of Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts – $6
- Steaks (specifically a 2 pack of filet mignon from Aldi’s) – $5
- Dessert mixes or ingredients – $5
- Extras like salt/pepper/spices/flavorings/whatever you want – $7
That would make you 7+ breakfasts, 7+ lunches, and 7+ dinners for $75. That’s about $300 a month and you can use the other $50 to splurge with – nicer groceries, eating out, etc. If you eat out more, buy less groceries. It’s a budget – you can mix and match as you see fit. Just stick to the total!
I used to spend $150 on my husband and myself for our two smart phones with unlimited everything with Sprint. Then we switched to Ting. Feel free to use my free step-by-step guide to Ting Mobile to see if they'd save you money.
Now my husband and I get the exact same service, use as little or as much as we want each month, and pay about $70 on average ($55-$85 depending on the month). I budgeted $50 in the example because I am assuming this budget is for 1 person. It’s just a bonus if two people can stick to $50-$60 too.
I am an upper middle class woman who splurges quite a bit on all sorts of stuff – travel, food, living expenses, etc. And I have everyday clothes, business clothes, and dressy clothes. And I buy nearly everything I wear from thrift stores like the Goodwill near my house and the resale shop near my grocery store. I average about $50 a year on new jeans, tops, and shoes. I spend another $50 a year on undergarments and random items to fill in any blanks. I generally stick with what I have until it wears out or I find something that fits me better. I like feeling pretty.
If any of my other numbers don’t work in your area, then please see what you can cut using my pointers above and make up for it. For example, if your car insurance or utilities are higher than in the budget above, then cut your living expenses elsewhere. Get a roommate, a cheaper car, cut back on your food budget, etc. It’s just a matter of cutting where you can to make up for cuts you can’t make.
Overall, $2000 a month is restrictive. That’s why I’d suggest a different career path or finding a side hustle you love. BUT, it’s doable. Good luck!
My Take – Possible But Not Fun
The $2000-a-month life is strict. But the point is to get by on that and then save everything over that. Really…side hustles can make a ton. Also you can read more about how to make a budget in our other articles. Also read our Personal Capital review if you're looking for an easier way to track everything.
Even before I started blogging full time, I was bringing in $750-$2000 a month just through this blog and the 20-30 hours a week I put into it mainly at night and on the weekends.
Overall, it is possible to live on very little, but try not to settle for it.
What do you think?