A couple of weeks back I created a post about the cheapest places to live in America. As a result of that post I received a fair few comments but one of them in particular stuck out. A very nice lady called Lori Kite Smith left a comment asking where she could live for $840 a month. Here are some excerpts of her comment:
“Got any ideas where a 50 year old can live on her ss disabiliy check at approx $840.00 per month?”;
“I own my car, a bunch of personal stuff, but no real furniture”;
“I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I do have a cat”.
So I thought it would be interesting and do a little research to see how possible this actually was.
Now I have to disclaim and say that without actually living in a place, I can’t confirm that my findings are correct. So feedback and comments would be much appreciated.
I actually currently live in Montreal so don’t have a huge knowledge of the USA living situation so I turned to a couple of blogging buddies to ask their opinions and it seemed that the Mid West was universally agreed to be the most affordable part of the States.
JK Swoopes of Im With Joe lives in Kansas, a Mid West place I know is cheap from my last batch of research. so I probed him with questions and decided to look into living for $840 a month in the town of Topeka.
First a little about Topeka…
Topeka is the capital city of Kansas and has a population of 122,377 (in the 2000 census). It sits on the Kansas River and the biggest employer is local gvernment. Aparently 1 in 5 people work for the governmet!
Topeka gets it’s name from a Kansas tribal name meaning “a good place to grow potatoes”. This refers to prairie potato, a perennial herb that was a major food source for indigenous tribes.
For more info check out the Topeka Wikipedia article.
Starting Balance – $840
Renting a place: $315 ($525 left)
I had a little look around and on Ebay’s Rent.com site and managed to find a fairly decent looking studio apartment for $315 a month including air conditioning, basic cable, dishwasher, garbage disposal and a fridge. The apartments are named Prospect Hills and are based just out of town…. they are even cat friendly.
I am sure looking for a private rental or even a room in a large shared house that you could push this cost down even more!
Shopping for food: – Est $100 per month ($425 left)
This is a hard thing to judge but I know that I can feed myself here in Montreal for $25 a week. I also have experienced lower prices in the parts of the States that I have been to.
The average price for a loaf of bread in the Mid West was $0.896 in 2000 (Source: https://www.aibonline.org/resources/statistics/whitebread.html). Even with the rising food prices, talking to Joe it seems that you can get a loaf for around $1.
Here is a sample shop from an online natural food and supplement store Akins.com… i know it’s not complete or totally healthy but it shows that even in a natural store you can get quite a lot of food for under $20.
Woodstock Farms Organic Diced Bsl&Grl Tomatoes 14.5 OZ x3 $5.37
DeBoles Arti Spaghetti 8 oz x1 $2.39
Organic Valley Shelf Stable Whole Milk 33.8 oz x1 $3.49
Tree of Life Wheat Bran Org 12 OZ x1 $1.99
Bavarian Bakery Organic Flaxseed Bread 17.6 OZ x1 $4.49
If you find a cheaper store to shop at and go crazy with couponing you will definitely be able to bring your food costs down very low.
Feeding and keeping a Kittie: $26 ($399 left)
Looking at a Kansas City online pet store, KCPetFood.com I found these reasonable prices:
Cat Tails Reg Litter 25# Price: $5.99
Iams Adult Cat Foodlamb & Rice 8# Price: $19.99
Gas: $53 ($346 left)
KansasGasPrices.com currently reports gas at around $3.50 a gallon in Topeka, my figure of $53 a month is based on a car averaging 30 miles a gallon. And a travel distance of approx 15 miles a day.
Car Insurance: $65 ($281 left)
According to Insurance USA the 2003 car insurance average for Kansas was $777. I assume this average is was made higher by young drivers and large engined gas guzzlers so I think it’s safe to say it will still cost you around that amount for a small car.
Other Bills est $150 ($131 left)
Again this is another area which is hard to judge. You seem to be able to get broadband for around $20 and my JK advised me that electricities should come under $100 so I have settled on a round $150.
What to do with the leftover $131
There is no doubt to be other living expenses. I have just outlined some of the main ones. All of which could be cut, I think, if desperate. Being Frugal is hard but can be worthwhile and is at times very necessary.
However you may have the need and wish to have some fun at times in your life so it’s also good to know what you can do in the way of entertainment in your local area. Here are some frugal things I managed to find in Topeka.
Keeping yourself Frugally Entertained
Topeka isn’t a huge city but it does seem to have a fairly high density of restaurants, bars, movie theatres and various other things that cost money. Obviously if done right you can enjoy the benefits of having all thsi around. You can visit a bar at happy hour for a quiet pint or a restaurant for the mid week lunch specials.
There are also a bunch of museums and historical societies. Becoming a member, getting a small job or just helping out may be a great way to join in these activities for free. There is also plenty of history around Topeka to catch up on. A quick search on the web unearths plenty of building to visit and you could easily create your own walking tour.
Museums include: The Kansas Museum of History, The Combat Air Museum and the Mulvane Art Museum.
The surrounding country side and parks are idyllic and provide great places to relax, exercise and picnic.
The official Topeka website offer more things to do and detailed information about the city.
Thanks for reading. If you see any mistakes or if I have missed anything major please let me know. This case study has been produced mainly for interest so please don’t rely on it for accurate information. I have never lived in Topeka and my info came from searching the web.