The Everyday Dollar Diaries Reveal the High Cost of Living

If there’s one thing I love, it’s when people meticulously track and share every dollar they spend.

So I was super excited to learn about the Everyday Dollar Diaries, a new series by Mr. Everyday Dollar (who, like the similarly-named Mr. Money Mustache, blogs about saving, spending, and early retirement).

A recent Everyday Dollar Diaries entry tracks a 31-year-old Australian freelancer who makes $80,000/year. “Her biggest expenses are $939 a month for rent, $550 a year for renters insurance, $950 for annual health insurance, and quarterly $750 tax payments.”

She tracks her spending for a week, and it’s a week in which both her rent and an estimated tax payment comes due, but besides that her spending is mostly on the business of life: food, deodorant, a bus pass, cough syrup. (Also a ticket to see Fast and Furious 7, “a rare treat.”)

As you read these Everyday Dollar Diaries, it becomes obvious just how much it costs to keep living: eating, keeping yourself clean, getting from one place to another. In addition to the freelancer, Mr. Everyday Dollar also recently profiled a musician, a student, and a single mom. None of these people were spending money on what you might call “stuff;” the only person who seemed to be making a lot of discretionary purchases was the mom, and piano lessons and summer camp registration for her children ride the line between “discretionary” and “necessity.”

You’ll also notice that everybody spent at least some money at restaurants, and while the penny-pinchers will say “they could have eaten at home!” that cuts out a big chunk of being social, especially for the single people profiled. We need to be social just as much as kids need music lessons, which is to say going to restaurants with friends also rides the line between “discretionary” and “necessity.”

I read all of the Everyday Dollar Diaries, and here’s what I learned:

— It costs a lot to keep yourself fed, clothed, washed, housed, and transported.

— The subjects separated out toiletries and grocery costs, and the toiletries are way more expensive than the groceries.

— Nearly everyone bought some kind of food every day, including going to the grocery store more than once in a week.

— No one appeared to be profligate or overly impulsive with their spending.

And yet. The Australian freelancer is worried she’ll never be able to afford a house. The single mom earns $70K/year and “finds herself in a continuous cycle” of debt. For the musician, “this is the first year he hasn’t worried about money.”

Take a look at the Everyday Dollar Diaries and let us know what you think. Is the basic cost of living just too high compared to what people earn, and is that why people constantly worry about money? Or do you think we should be even more careful about what we spend?

Photo credit: Alamo’s Basement

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