How I lived for One Month on $376.16

As the title of this post suggest, my first month of my $2,500 challenge was successful. In fact I came in under budget! I’m allowed $416.67 a month, which means I was about $40 light. Damn, that’s awesome!

It really wasn’t that hard though. I put myself in a situation where it would have been difficult to fail.

The Rural Life

If you’ve been keeping up with my posts you know that I spent two weeks on a commune in Ukraine. I don’t even know if commune is the right word for it, but it’s the closest word that I think of.

Everyday I worked about five hours, carrying water and working in the garden. In exchange I slept for free, and enjoyed three delicious traditional Ukrainian meals a day (probably my favorite part of being there).

The closest store was a fifteen minute bike ride away.

I estimate that in the fifteen days I was there I spent about $7. I bought some ice cream cones, some cookies for the kids, some Tarhun, and a couple of muffins. Obviously that complete lack of expenditure is a big reason why I came in under budget (not to mention not buying alcohol).

The Kiev Party

It’s a good thing I didn’t spend any money for those two weeks, because I overspent the rest of the time.

When I first arrived in Kiev it was the beginning of my vacation, after working eight months as an English teacher. I was so thrilled to be done teaching that I went a little nuts. Lots of restaurants, lot’s of bars and lots of overpriced morning coffees at the local cafe.

I also paid a decent chunk of change to help fund an awesome adventure.

A local Ukrainian guy me and my friend Zhena knew took use to a movie theater, where we rented out an entire room to ourselves. We drank wine and made fun of Mel Gibson, it was a riot!

However, as the average monthly salary for a Ukrainian is about as much as I paid for my hiker’s backpack, I picked up Max’s share of our movie theater adventure, and wrote it off as a brilliantly fun night.

The Budget Continues

I’m working with this challenge month by month, and July is taken care of. I’m volunteering at a hostel near the city center of Kiev. In exchange for a couple of hours a work a day I have a free place to stay. That means my only expenses are food and alcohol.

With $13.87 a day to spend, this is easily doable. I’m sure that there are million of Ukrainian out there who do it on half this amount.

You can go to any bar around here and buy a beer for $1. Food is also inexpensive. Yesterday I went slightly over budget, spending $15.23. However, for that money, let’s take a look at what I got.

A bottle of Wine from Chile, a block of Swiss cheese, a package of pre-sliced salami, two-hundred grams of vegetable salad with feta, two slices of cake, a bottle of Kefir, five small cucumbers, a bar of chocolate, eight sausages, and two cans of summer edition RedBull.

Pretty awesome huh!

If you’re converting Dollars or Euros to the local currency (Grivna) you benefit from a wonderful exchange rate. A couple of years ago you could only buy half as many Grivna as you can today. Add to that that most things here are cheap to begin with and you get a winning formula.

It’s not wonder that I’m going to come back to Kiev next summer and rent an apartment.

Why Aren’t You Here?

All of this begs the question, if there is a place you can buy a back pack full of food for $15, and a beer at a downtown bar for $1, why wouldn’t you come?

The war in Ukraine is invisible here. I feel safer in Kiev than I did in New York. The people are fantastic, and nearly without exception, every person I’ve met has said how much they love Kiev.

What are you waiting for?

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