30 dollar bill by sellallyourstuff.com

Can You Live in the US on $30 a Day?

Can a couple live in the US on $30 a day? We did! Read on to find out how…

For starters, the best way this “live in the US on $30 a day” budget works is to use cash.  We got used to using cash while living in Panama after years of using debit/credit cards in Canada. As easy as it is to use credit and debit cards, it’s far easier to lose sight of your spending that way.  With cash you can only spend what you have on hand. If we take $80 out with us for the day then we know we won’t spend more than that.

live in the US on $30 a day by sellallyourstuff.comFor the month of March 2016, Al and I were able to live in the US on $30 a day.  We track all of our expenses and break them down into the following categories below, and here’s how things played out:

Food $417.74
Booze $174.23
Restaurant $91.37
Tips $32.89
Entertainment $89.80
Clothing $19.23
Health $91.20
Transportation $15.00
Business Expenses $24.56
TOTAL $956.02


Booze – Let’s discuss booze.  We’ll admit it. We drink. We enjoy a glass of red wine or two after dinner.  That being said if we didn’t drink we could have saved a considerable amount of money over the month and reduced our overall spend to about $25 per day.  Something for us to definitely think about going forward, especially since we are now back in Canada and the cost of alcohol is WAY more expensive than in the US (which is even more expensive than it was in Panama!)

Food – We typically shopped at budget stores (Aldi, Food Lion, Wal-Mart) and purchased their brands which are always cheaper than the name brands.  By shopping at Aldi, we saved almost 50% off our weekly grocery bill than if we had shopped at Harris Teeter, for example.

What Groceries Do We Buy?

Lots of fruits and vegetables. Snacks consist of watermelon, pineapple, apples, oranges, celery, carrots, peppers, and cucumber.

We never buy pre-packaged food (aside from a few cans of corn) or frozen/boxed meats or dinners. Because gross!  We do, however, purchase nacho chips and pretzel snacks – everyone needs a vice.  Oh wait, we already had one with booze, oops!

Each week we also buy a whole chicken and roast it. This usually makes at least one dinner and we use the rest for sandwiches.  Additionally, we boil the chicken carcass to make chicken stock, and also to get those last few tidbits of meat too. By doing this we get 16 cups of chicken stock to make soup or to use for boiling rice.  Our chickens typically cost less than $6 for a 5.5 pound bird.

Over the month we purchased the following meats (in addition to chickies)

1 Ribeye Steak (1 pound fed both of us for one meal)
1 Small ham for Easter, which served:

  • 4 dinners (one as Hawaiian pizza topping…yumsters!)
  • 1 breakfast (ham and eggs…double yumsters!)
  • 1 lunch (ham and cheese sammy’s)

10 Hot sausages (two dinners (Spanish Paella) and four lunches (sausages w’ beans)
1 Beef stir fry
2 Ground meat (tacos and spaghetti sauce)
1 Bag frozen shrimp (3 stir-fry dinners)

One way we save big is we don’t eat dairy – at least not a lot of it. There are huge savings when you cut out milk and yogurt. We do indulge on some good cheese from time to time though, because we need something to go with our wine 🙂

Restaurant – We don’t eat out a lot, but over the month we were able to enjoy four meals out as well as a stop at a well-known coffee shop for a snack – Total $91.37 (food bill only) if we included the tip and alcohol the total was $123.76.

dunkin donuts with sellallyourstuff.com
Al brought these back after his morning run 🙂

Clothing and Health  Since we moved to North Carolina from Panama we needed to invest in some warmer clothing. Tank tops weren’t going to cut it in the near freezing temperatures. Luckily for us all the winter clothing was already on sale so we were able to purchase three items (flannel shirt, hoodie, sweater) for a total of $19.23 – Big Score!  Personal care items are an expense that never seems to go away. This month we needed to stock up on a few items, and one item I specifically needed was allergy medication. With spring in full bloom in North Carolina I needed to combat my hay fever, FAST. And to add insult to injury, once the bloom is done here in NC, we’ll be just in time for the spring bloom in Ontario.  Yuck!

Entertainment – We were able to get some huge deals on massages with Groupon so we indulged a little.  We also threw in a house tour and some mini golf to round out the month. Because of our blog we were able to do some other sponsored events too, which always helps!

Who doesn’t love mini putt! Hurray for warmer weather.

A photo posted by Shelly and Al (@sellallyourstuff) on

Easy ways to save money on road trips
– Over the course of the month we went on four day trips. Instead of stopping for lunch at a fast food restaurant we opted to pack our lunches with some of our favorite road trip / minimalist sandwiches; egg salad!  This way we not only saved money but we ate healthier as well.

I bet you’re wondering; But where are the accommodation costs?” Well, we don’t have any, and here’s the real trick on how to live in the US on $30 a day…or anywhere for that matter…House sitting!

Kayaking House Sitters, or House Sitting Kayakers?

We’re full time house sitters and over the course of the past year (yes, 12 months) we have only paid for accommodations for 36 nights spread out over the year, which includes a one-month rental in Panama City, Panama.

If you’d like to learn more about house sitting (like what house sitting entails and how to get house sits), then grab a copy of our eBook; Sell All Your Stuff and Become a House Sitter. It’s only $2.99 and provides some great house sitting advice, worksheets, checklists, and you don’t even have to sell all your stuff either!


Another beautiful sunset on Lake Norman tonight. I could get used to this. #sunset #northcarolina #charlotte

A photo posted by Shelly and Al (@sellallyourstuff) on

Are we missing out?  We don’t think so at all! Even on a budget there are lots of fun things you can do. We’ve been kayaking, played mini-golf, rode bikes, went hiking, watched sunsets, and took a few day trips to historic (and free) sites.

So how about you, do you think you could live in the US on $30 a day?

Now go sell all your stuff and do more stuff with less stuff!


16 thoughts on “Can You Live in the US on $30 a Day?”

  1. Just as I was curious about your hotel fees you pop out with the House Sitting. What a clever way to travel. ^_^
    You ate pretty well. I think that house sitting helped with your food bill as you had cooking accommodations.
    Sounds like your month was lovely and active – I mean Booze and Donuts…. ^_^
    I probably live on that and less simply because I have no housing expenses right now. Add housing and the daily cost of living shoots up.

  2. Great post, goes to show with planning even in the U.S. you can save. And how damn expensive groceries are in Canada. There are so many options in the U.S.

    1. Funny you mention the groceries Dorene. We thought we were in for sticker shock when we got back to Ontario, but we just got the flyers and the prices aren’t too bad! $3 for 5 avocados…Hello!

  3. This is a pretty brilliant breakdown and analysis. I’m pretty sure that minus mortgage we’re at less than $30 per day for a family of four… oh, but then there is beer with tomato juice and Tapatio. Tapatio is a premium price in our world.

    1. Tapatio! Love that stuff. We (I) got hooked on that stuff after a recent house sit of a Mexican-American in Panama.

  4. Sounds like a plan. Interesting tips and suggestions. Maybe I should figure a similar option here at home to start with and then move out.:D

    1. Kevin, you also have a family of four so it would be a bit harder to go that low with your budget. We didn’t intend to live that cheaply, it just happened and house sitting is a huge help.

  5. I love the photo of you mini golfing- the sign behind that says caution hot- it was referring to you right?:) With a 5 teenage kid household, 2 cats and a dog sadly we are far from the $30 a day usually. I do bring lunch to work most days and I don’t drink coffee and rarely have alcohol so that helps. Now if I could get the teenage girls to stop wanting new clothes I’d be all set!

    1. Ha ha Cathy, I was wondering if anyone was going to mention that about the photo – Of course, it’s referring to me!! Teenage girls and their clothes, I remember that phase well.
      While we realize the $30 a day budget may not be attainable too couples/families who live full time in the US, we wanted to highlight that with our travel lifestyle it can be done.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *