This year, I decided to take part in the Living Below the Line fundraising campaign. Living Below the Line aims to raise awareness about poverty by challenging people to live off of $1.50(USD) a day (the U.S. equivalent of the extreme poverty line.)

In the start-up world, making do with far too little is a way of life, and that particular challenge is something I enjoy. This seemed to be an interesting way to test my frugal / inventive skills while trying in some way to help a good cause. If you’d like, you can donate to my campaign or donate to the cause in general.

My goal is to not only live on a $1.50 a day, but to try to do it as comfortable as possible. I have one thing going for me, and one thing going against me.

In the for column, I am a vegan, so I am not too fused about living on rice and beans. Everyone goes for rice and beans because it’s the cheapest (which is funny that everyone says eating meat is the cheapest. If you have to actually live it, everyone suddenly figures out fast food is not the cheapest way to live).

In the against column, I am training for a 10k, and I really need to keep my energy level up. I need to try to maintain greater than 2000 calories a day (and hopefully closer to 3000). That’s not so easy to do - I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it.

After some simple math, I’ll figured I need to get somewhere around:

  • 8 pounds of rice @ $0.50 per pound
  • 3 pounds of beans @ $0.90 per pound

That should give me the base caloric intake I need and leave a $2.50 buffer for maybe an onion or tea or something.

I found I could meet these costs, but I would have to buy in bulk. For example this 25 pound bag of rice meets my needs on a per pound level, but is far beyond my base budget.

I read through the rules a few times, and I was unclear if you could buy more that you needed, and then just scoop out $7.50 worth of product. If I really had to live below the line, that would be my main strategy. I decided to play it safe though, and just took $7.50(USD) to the store to see how I could do.

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I was able to get a 5 pound bag of rice and a 2 pound bag of black beans with 4 cents to spare. Ranch 99 Market for the win. This should give me about:

  • 5 cups of rice a day
  • 2.4 cups of beans per day

If all goes well, that should at least get me my base caloric intake:

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Usually, my main source of calories are fruits and vegetables. Without any, I am a worried about not getting any micro nutrients.

To try to offset that, I did some foraging and found some wild edibles that I’ll be using for some tea and for some seasonings (thanks mom). The rules state I need to factor in the cost of growing things in the garden, but I found these in the wild and just used them as is (they are ‘weeds’ according to most people).

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So, as I sit here with my caffeine withdrawal headache, drinking my morning mint-family based tea, eating my bowl of morning rice I think that while I am enjoying this challenge, trying to live like this day to day would be very difficult.

We’re extremely lucky.