How I Give on Less than $30,000 a Year (Part 2)

How I Give on Less than $30,000 a Year (Part 2)

This is the second installment of a three-part series about finding ways to give no matter how much you earn.

In my last post, I discussed what I did when I was first setting up a plan to give while living on less than $30,000. In today’s post, I talk about some lifestyle decisions I’ve made that allow me to meet my giving pledge each year.

Part II: A Lifestyle of Giving

My long-term goal is to be able to give a portion of my earnings every year, so long as I’m lucky to have a source of income. I’ve given much thought to how this goal will affect my current and future life choices. Fortunately, I’ve found that the lifestyle changes that I’ve made to help me achieve this goal don’t have to be difficult or taxing. Here are a few things that I decided to do for myself so that I could have more money to give:

Bike or take public transit. My partner and I don’t own a car and live within a 20-minute walk to a public transit line. Last year I spent a bit over $400 on public transit fares. The average mid-range car—including upkeep, insurance, and monthly payments—costs over $9,000 a year to own. Biking and taking public transit has allowed me save thousands of dollars a year that I would have otherwise have spent on a car.

Commute by bike? You could save up to $9000 a year on car expenses.

Select a lower-cost location. I work and teach in a city with an astonishingly high cost of living—it costs as much as $1,900 a month to rent some studio apartments. I chose to live in an adjacent city with a lower cost of living and either walk the 40 minutes or bike 15 minutes to work. Across the city line, I pay around $500 less each month in rent for our one-bedroom apartment than I would have paid for some studio apartments in the city where I work. Could I have lived even further away in an even lower-cost location? Yes, but then I might have had to buy a car to get to work. I found the right balance for me. By choosing to live in a lower-cost city, I not only get in my daily dose of exercise on my commute to work. At the end of the year, this means I have more to give too.

Cook your own low-cost meals. Many of my colleagues eat out for nearly every weekday lunch—and on long work days, sometimes breakfast and dinner too. Eating even a relatively simple and cheap lunch out will run you at least $8-9 a meal where I work. Eating out just one meal every day on work days costs nearly $300 a month—and more if you eat at fancier joints, eat out more than one meal a day, or get your caffeine fix from cafes. To save money, I bring my own tea bags to the office and pack my own lunches the night before. This can be as simple as putting leftovers into a container for tomorrow’s lunch, or fixing up a quick and delicious hummus sandwich. A bit of meal planning on weekends and not more than 15 minutes of prep time on weeknights could save you a few hundred bucks a month.

What's in your brown bag? Pack your own lunches and save hundreds of dollars a month.

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About the author:

Rhema Hokama

Rhema Hokama is former Director of Communications for The Life You Can Save and holds a PhD from Harvard.

The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.