Sunday, October 21, 2007

Can Borrowers Eat On $100 A Month?

There's been a running discussion on whether borrowers who claim that they spend almost nothing on month on food (see here, here, and here for recent random examples) are full of it. The credibility threshold seems to be around $100 / person. One of the examples claims $200 for a family of four. Is this doable?

The first thing to consider is that other personal finance bloggers seem to believe it's possible, though not very fun.

So, yes it is possible to eat without spending a fortune. Again, my food budget was radical by necessity, but the principles would still work today. I think $15/wk might not be enough now, but I think $20/wk would work, and I know that $30/wk would be fairly easy for a single person. For reference: $15/wk per person = $65/month for one and $260/month for a family of four. $30/wk per person = $130/month for one and $520/month for a family of four (which is about what my family spends on food now, and we don’t eat anywhere near the way I did back in the ’90s).

I would also add that a few politicians tried living on $3 a day for a week to help get in touch with the foodstamp experience. They didn't find it very much fun either.

What can you eat for $3 a day? Mostly carbohydrates. Oakland Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee's diet consisted primarily of crackers, a loaf of whole-wheat bread, tortillas, and brown rice. Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, filled up on 19-cent banana-and-peanut butter sandwiches. Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., said he would've killed for a candy bar or a cup of coffee. "I've had enough lentils for three years. For us, this is an exercise that ends Tuesday. For millions of people, this is their life," he said.

The budgets used by the Congress-critters and the blogger above work out to $80 - $100 / month. This implies that if someone claims $100 / person or less, scrutinize their listing if you're otherwise interested or just move on. In these cases, I usually question the borrower as to how they've achieved their food budget.

I've only found one good answer in all my questioning, however. Consider this listing. Employees (or owners) of restaurants do get huge breaks on food and may often eat free at their establishments. That's not a free pass, but a mitigating circumstance that makes it plausible to only spend $100 a month.

Some other good links for your own evaluation:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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