If job or income loss hits, it becomes important to prioritize needs vs wants. A fun night out dropping $100 might be great for your happiness, but it’s just not a need. What if we wanted to examine life from the perspective of cutting cost to the bone? Let’s see how that might look.
Let’s look at the bare essentials for survival and how to meet these needs when constrained by cost. So What do people truly need?
- We need food to eat.
- We need a place to sleep and use a bathroom
- We might need medicine or access to medical care.
From a bare survival perspective, this really covers it for an individual.
We Need Food to Eat
This is a problem that occurs several times a day and it’s usually not difficult to solve although it requires spending money the majority of the time with some exceptions like my weekly raid on Costco samples.
Some thoughts on cost related to eating that aren’t absolutely necessary.
- It’s not necessary to have an expensive range stove surrounded by granite countertops to eat.
- You really don’t even need to own a stove or microwave.
- You really can survive without a refrigerator
This is crazy talk, right? Maybe a little bit. But you can feed yourself every day if needed without owning any appliances or access to a kitchen. It might not be the ideal situation long term but you can eat fresh fruit or canned goods. You could eat affordable prepared food. This is going to be harder to find in the US but in other parts of the world, you can get good healthy meals for under $2. In some parts of the world, you could live on a food budget as low as $180 a month without ever having to prepare food.
We Need a Place to Sleep
We have this pesky need to lay down and shut our eyes and go unconscious for about 7 hours every day. Talk about a vulnerable state of existence. And while we’re talking about needing a place to sleep, it typically goes hand in hand that…
We Need a Bathroom
In additional to sleep, we need regular access to a bathroom for showering and a toilet. I’ve heard stories of people losing their home that were able to use a gym membership to get regular access to a shower and bathroom. But it still leaves the issue of a bed. These two needs are usually met together with what’s sometimes affectionately called “a roof over your head and a pot to piss in”.
You’re going to need somewhere safe and preferably comfortable to sleep. You could possibly sleep on the streets, but we’ll aim for a bit safer. For the very short term, most of us probably have a relative that will put us up for a short time that provides an existence at least marginally better than homelessness. Although homeless life in San Franciso might have a leg up.
What are other options? The obvious ones buy a house or rent an apartment but these things can be expensive. Let’s explore a few other creative options.
- Some cities have Korean style saunas like this one. These are usually coed places where you can hit steam room, hot tub, various saunas, cool room, and relaxation rooms. They often have a sort of secret hack is, most of these will allow you to sleep and spend the night. They act as a sort of cheap hotel for the light traveler. This place in the US can go for around $25, but in Asia, some places go for around $10. At that rate, you could have a place to sleep and a bathroom for under $4,000 a year.
- Capsule hotels are another category that is fairly similar to saunas, for a low-cost roof over your head, bed, and bathroom. These are popular in Asia. Here’s a few I’ve hit.
- Apartments in some parts of the world can provide housing for as low as $250 a month or so. Chiang Mai has such living.
We Might Need Medicine or Health Care
This one is tricky. If you’re young and very healthy, you may be able to go a year or more with no need for healthcare. As you get older it’s more important to get physicals and you might need procedures or medicine on an ongoing basis.
This one can be very challenging for Americans as our healthcare system is a bit of a maze laced with pitfalls that can end with bankruptcy or illness left untreated. To do this issue justice would require a book. I’ll just rattle off a few notable things to consider.
- If you’re not working and don’t have income, you might be eligible for Medicaid as an insurance and care plan.
- If you expatriate and visit other places in the world outside the U.S., your cost of medical care drops dramatically. As such traveling insurance cost is usually cheaper than private health insurance in the US.
- If you’re an American who is not eligible for Medicaid and can’t travel, you might be stuck in a very expensive healthcare system that is known for bankrupting many. Good luck and maybe let’s talk about what we could do to try to fix this broken system. Feel free to comment.