Saturday, March 31, 2012

Living cheap as hell

Welcome to Cheap-Ass-Living. This is the very first post of what I hope to be many, many more to come so feel free to stop back often and gage the progress.

Living Cheap

The economy is improving according to the nightly news but everywhere I look I see none at all. Gas prices at $4.00 a gallon, and inflation the worse it’s been since the nineteen seventies, so with no real end in sight to the “great recession” I decided to just say screw it to the whole ball of wax and leave the rat race behind. I created this site to chronicle my adventures in doing just that. The goal here is to learn how to survive on as little as $300 a month! I don’t want to just “scrape-by” either. My hope is to create a standard of living that is comfortable and satisfying, and one that will ensure I am not “ruffing it”, a standard of living that doesn’t force me to live under a bridge or in a homeless shelter. My objective is to fix the problems of my most basic wants and needs so that they stay fixed and then slowly but steadily increase my quality of life to a level that is beyond the bare minimum.

So what am I planning to do? After all everybody has to live somewhere and if i don’t want to live in a homeless shelter or under a bridge then I’ll probably have to pay rent, rent, and more rent just to have some place to hang my hat. I don’t want to do this because having a recurring bill month after month for shelter is something I can’t really afford to do. Not if I’m going to survive on $300 a month!

The first thing I did was buy a small piece of land for $400 and park a “junk” trailer on it; therefore my shelter dilemma is solved. It’s not exactly Buckingham Palace but it’s still a castle to me and will ensure I always have someplace warm and dry to lay my head for the night. At least it will be when I get around to fixing the leaky roof. But I no longer have to worry about eviction if I have trouble paying the rent, so I can’t begin to tell you what a relief that is! It’s a huge step in the right direction so stay tuned for future post on how I did this so cheap.

The next problem I’ll have to overcome is food and water. With all the inflation the last several years food has risen to prices so ridiculously high that even a poor bastard with a full time job has trouble putting grub on the table. There are no easy and automatic answers for this as it is an ongoing issue that must be constantly worked at. At least it is if I want to eat a healthy, nutritious diet at the lowest possible cost and not have to resort to eating Ramon noodle soups three times a day. I plan to eventually grow much of my own food however which will cut cost significantly. In the mean time I plan to use a variety of options and techniques like eating a “mostly” vegetarian diet. Lots of beans-n-rice and potatoes bought in bulk. I will use Freebie food programs for a while if need be and even do a bit of dumpster diving! I won’t starve. Expect plenty of articles and post about eating cheap, and I mean cheap because this ain’t no “coupon clipping” site. This blog is dedicated to hard core frugality.

Transportation is another critical area that can take up a huge amount of a persons income. With gasoline at $4.00 a gallon it’s just not possible to live on the small amount of money that I’m planning in my budget. Certainly not when you factor in auto insurance, maintenance and repair, and car payments for anything decent. You would need a full time job just to be able to get from point A to Point B. Screw that!

The most attractive idea in this area would be to buy a good used diesel powered car or truck (for cash) and convert it to run on (WVO) waste vegetable oil. Used fryer grease can be had for nothing at restaurants and fast food joints and would be the perfect fuel to use for anyone trying to live on very little money. I hope to do this in the future but right now I don’t have the money that a good used diesel vehicle cost, nor do I have the technical know-how just yet to make the conversion.

A much cheaper alternative for transportation would be to purchase a good mountain bike to pedal my ass everywhere I need to go. No fuel to worry about, no insurance needed, and the health benefits alone would almost warrant this rout. My place is too distant from the nearest town however so riding a bicycle that far and back would just take too long.

The solution to the transportation problem that seems most viable right now is to buy a small motorcycle or scooter. I have found a lot of cheap scooters on craigslist that will do 60+ mph and get as much as 80 mpg! One model that I really like sells for just $650 brand new out the door with a two year warranty! With tax, title, and license the end price will still be under $850. I think that I can spend $10 a week or less on gas and get everywhere I need to go. Insurance is around $10 a month so $50 or less per month should cover the total cost of my transportation needs after the initial purchase price. Stay tuned for updates.

Lots of other bills eat up a persons income every month as well like power, water, phone bill, garbage pickup, cable TV. Internet and a host of other services that people feel are essential. There are ways around most of these obstacles as well so expect post and links to other sites about how I deal with these issues. Water for example is something everyone has to have so I plan on just hauling my supply of H20 in the beginning. Eventually I will build my own rainwater catchment system and expand it until it meets all of my water needs. I just don’t want to pay for the stuff when it falls from the sky for free. Let’s go ahead and take a look at my proposed monthly budget so you can see where my three hundred bucks is going to go, shall we.

Cell phone/Internet…$37.00

As you can see my proposed budget comes out to just $200 a month and not the $300 I mentioned at the beginning of the article. I hope to be able to put $100 back every month for savings in case of emergencies and to use towards a small alternative power system in the future. You’ll notice that I am budgeting only $10.00 right now for electricity. That’s because I am going to be completely off-grid from the start. The $10.00 in the budget is for batteries to power my Coleman L.E.D lanterns and a portable radio/boom box for music. I also plan to purchase a solar power charger for my cell phone until I can get a proper solar array set up to power my basic needs.

Remember this is “only” a proposed budget and this blog is a chronicle of an ongoing experiment to see how really cheap I can live and still maintain a comfortable standard of living. I expect my budget will change slightly as I make adjustments but hopefully it doesn’t increase by much. Time will tell.

If you have any good ideas or links to sites related to cheap ass living then by all means send them my way, and again please come back often to check on my progress.


  1. Christopher de VidalJuly 16, 2012 at 8:34 PM

    Love your plan. I think you'll find though that you spend much more than $200/mo with miscellaneous costs (medical, unexpected trips, etc.) But don't let that stop you, there are oodles of ways to save otherwise:

    A helpful book to get via inter-library-loan (if not in your local lib) is "The Complete Tightwad Gazette." It's like a blog in paper form, giving not only ideas (100 ways to re-use milk jugs) but also principles (how to think frugally). I'm pretty frugal but I learned many things.

    When getting tarps for various projects, look into used billboard tarps. Cheap and durable.
    Insulate your mobile home on the outside by building a straw bale, cob, adobe, earth bag, etc "carport" around it. Insulation means cooler summers and warmer winters for no ongoing costs, using cheap or free scrounged materials.

  2. Christopher de VidalJuly 16, 2012 at 8:37 PM

    With 22 inches of rain you'll not only want to capture on your roof, which you said you'll be doing, but also in the ground with swales ala permaculture. That way every drop is used. Google "greening the desert" it's amazing.

    That's some brilliant gardening by the way. Perfect for maximizing your 1/10th acre. Plenty of free videos online. Even an entire 40 hour college class at

    Invest in some quality wild foraging books to search out free food and medicine. Take the hardy seeds home and grow "weeds" that the ignorant won't be able to identify/steal. Unfortunately there isn't much good info online for this subject so I commend an investment of $200 into several top-rated field guides, so you can find more and not get sick. Might be able to inter-library loan those, though I imagine you'd want them around for longer than a few weeks.

    Also get some good books -- there are also good free ebooks -- of herbalism and first aid. Be your own doc and save a ton. Download and print "where there is no doctor" and "where there is no dentist." Also ship captain's medical guide. Lots of free goodies out there.

  3. Christopher de VidalJuly 16, 2012 at 8:39 PM

    Plenty of free plans online for turning old junk (potato chip bags) into solar ovens. No fuel costs, hard to over-heat and can leave it alone all day while it cooks. Doesn't heat up the house. Win-win-win.

    Also free plans for a "haybox" which is like a power-free slow cooker.

    Purify your water for free with SODIS (discarded old Gatoraide bottles) or a solar still built with discarded parts (window, wood, paint, etc). I don't believe SODIS can remove toxins so the still is a better idea.

    Also plenty of free plans online for taking junk parts to make hot water heaters.

    Free plans for water cisterns made of tarps if you want to do that. Capture thousands of gallons underground with a cistern built from old billboard tarps. Pump out using a scrap-built water pump.

    Greywater waters your garden. Composted humanure feilizes non-edible nurse plants (which support the edible ones for less work on your part). Free book for humanure online.

    Free plans online to build digesters which produce methane for cooking. Used by millions in India. The "waste" is compostable.

  4. Also compost food scraps for the edible plants. Collect grass clippings and leaves from neighbors to build your soil. Hugelkultur is a brilliant way to use rotting wood of any kind to water your plants for weeks at a time. Free plans online.

    Free plans online for rocket stoves which minimize fuel and maximize heat, built out of mud and rocks. For cooking or home heating, or even hot water.

    Traps can be built from scrap parts to hunt for you 24-7. Free plans online. Search SurvivalBlog for a brilliant, easy-to-build "den" type trap. Deer eating your garden? Snares equal tons of free venison jerky. MIGHT be illegal.... (Hippies!)

    Solar dehydrators can be built from free plans out of cardboard to reduce/eliminate your refrigerator usage. Borrow some drying books from the library.

    Borrow some books on programming languages from the library (I recommend Python) and/or making money on blogs (you already have one), then get a solar panel to charge your laptop during the day. Satellite internet at $60/mo and a cell phone at $40/mo, maybe a remote server where you have full root access at $10/mo and you're set. Working from home!! Program on oDesk and make money that way. You'd compete w/ Russian programmers at almost minimum wage BUT you have the advantage of speaking English so you should be able to command a bit more. Anyways you don't need much because most everything is paid for. Take on some free projects to build a portfolio/experience and then go for it.

    Not only can you save tons of money but you can be more self-sufficient at the same time. These are all things I intend on doing as soon as I heal from chronic fatigue. It's getting better, praise God.

    If you want URLs for any of these please ask: CBdeVidal (DOT) jk1 (AT) Gmail.

  5. I think if I were living cheap there'd be a few small luxuries I'd still want. A fan. A well-built energy-efficient washing machine. Like a Fisher and Paykel, an upright which uses ordinary soap but is as efficient as a horizontal loader. Ours has lasted more than three years.

    For refrigeration it doesn't get much more efficient than a small tabletop ice maker into a super-insulated "5-day" cooler. Reason being: you're cooling water, not air. Was discussed this week on The Survival Podcast. With one of those you could might be able to get away with a 100W solar panel (I don't know).

    This chest freezer-to-refrigerator conversion kit reportedly uses only 100W per hour:

    For non-Texas climes you could instead trap ice in the winter in an underground ice house, which has been reported to keep until mid-summer. Also some locations can use root cellars (not here in Florida or parts of Texas). Less-humid locations can use simple clay pot evaporation refrigerators.

    I'd want some power tools for some projects but could be content with hand tools for most projects. Especially hand drills and saws. I have a 48" hand chainsaw, the best rated, which is outstanding for small limbs. For the rest you could tap your solar or wind power. Or pedal power:

    But see also this:

    A chinese-style wheelbarrow can carry three-to-six times what the typical European-style barrow can carry, and would be good to craft by hand if possible:

    Lots more low-tech goodness at that website.

  6. Looks like some cheap power tools built by hand here:

    All this is possible with knowledge and some effort. I love solutions where you do your work up front and the rest is gravy :-)

  7. Also more goodies at

    I've been compiling a list of all sorts of survival and homestead free and legal downloads. More than you could possibly read in your lifetime:

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  10. As promised, here are links to some of the items discussed above.

    Used billboard tarps for cheap:

    Natural building methods (usually cheap) for insulation around your RV:

    Once you decide on a particular method, google it and read all you can. There are many sites out there which can probably give you what you need without buying a book. Or you can inter-library-loan what you need from a distant library.

    The "Greening the Desert" videos:,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=d24b5f4b76fc9d9b&biw=1575&bih=997

    Free 40 hour course on permaculture:

    See also that website for other free goodies.

    The very best wild foraging books, worth an investment so you don't die:

    Free herbalist books:

    Free first aid books:

    Free solar oven plans:
    Search Google: Haybox


    Solar stills:

    Solar water heaters:

    See also that website for other free goodies.

    Cistern plans, search "cistern," "tank," "rainwater," "RWH" and "DRWH":

    Free water pump plans, search "pump":

    More as I get time...

  11. Sorry, the last two links on should have been this:

    More on greywater at that site plus here:

    Methane digester: Search "digest" or "methane" or "biogas" on these sites:

    More as I get time...