Live Frugally on 10000 dollarsLife isn’t cheap – even for those of us who live in the Land of the Free.

However, we often place exuberant amounts of pressure on ourselves to earn (and spend) far more than is necessary. We work long hours to get raises; we stay up late worrying about money; and we daydream about maxing out our credit cards and running away to Thailand.

Why? Because that’s what Americans do. We make money so that we can spend money.

The truth is, you can live on far less than you are now. In fact, I believe that you can live on under $10,000 a year! It just takes a bit of creativity.

Of course, most people will have no interest in following this advice. However, if you’ve found yourself with a pile of student loans, are tired of living paycheck to paycheck, or simply want free time to write your novel, then you may find this list valuable.

Some of these methods for inexpensive living can be implemented in your current town, others will require a move. And they all will require a lifestyle change. Clearly, your profession (or lack there of) will play a significant role in which of these opportunities will work for you. However, if you do a little research, you could easily start making money online and work from anywhere in the world.

So, for you nomads and savers out there, here are six ways you can live on less than $10,000 a year:

1. Live With Family

save money by living with family

There are thousands of college graduates and retirees who implement this strategy every year. It’s not sexy, but it’s practical. In many parts of the world people spend their entire lives living with family. For some reason (and not necessarily a bad one), us Americans like to have our own castle – apart from family.

But, if you can get along with your family, and they are willing to take you in, your cost of living drops to almost zero. Whether you’re living with mom and dad, or with your kids, the odds are, they won’t make you pay much rent (if any) and you’ll have meals, internet, and other essentials taken care of. All you’ll need to take care of is your car, phone bill, and any other “luxuries” you decide to indulge in.

2. Become a Trucker

save money by becoming a trucker and living out of your truck

Life on the road is a dream for some, and a nightmare for others. But, if you want to make decent money, without spending much, trucking is a great way to go. Not only can you easily make over $50,000 a year without the hassle of a 4-year degree, but you can sleep in your truck – and skip out on owning a house all together!

While this is probably not something you want to do long-term, there are many people who take up trucking for a couple of years. I had a dean in the men’s dormitory that took a year out of college to buy a truck and drive it until it was mostly paid off. He then finished his education, owning a truck, and getting paid for the shipments that his employee delivered.

If you’re interested in making a down-payment on a house, writing a novel, or developing a top-notch business plan, find someone to work as your partner. If you truck with a friend or spouse, one of you can drive while the other one works on that great project.

3. Move to Thailand

Save money by moving to Thailand

There are many places that are cheaper to live than America. And Thailand is one of them. It’s possible to find housing for $10/day, eat out at local restaurants for $1.50 a meal, and travel on the cheap. Find a job you can do online, such as writing articles for $50 an hour, and work from Thailand. Not only will the experience be great, but you can pay for all of your expenses with just 4 hours of work a week!

4. Buy a House with Cash

save money by buying an inexpensive home

Most Americans spend their entire lives paying off their house. If you really love your home, and are willing to make those sacrifices, that’s fine – keep paying. However, think about how easy it would be to live on $10,000 a year if you didn’t have a house payment to make every month? How much more discretionary income would you have if your house was completely paid off?

“That’s stupid Rob, the average American can’t afford to pay for their home in cash.”

You’re right. But that’s because the average American want’s a specific home – and one that’s above his current net worth. If you are willing to be flexible, I bet you could find a house in your price range.

In fact, my brother and I went in together and purchased a house for just $10,000! Yes, we had to do a bit of work to it. Yes, it wasn’t in the best part of town. And yes, it was in Michigan. The odds are, you won’t be able to find a similar deal where you live.

The point is, we put ourselves into stressful financial situations because of our own decisions for specific comforts. If you are willing to settle for a smaller home, you could find yourself close to retirement right now.

The site that I always use to search for property is Zillow. Virtually all property ends up on Zillow – whether it is listed by a real estate agent or for sale by owner. Additionally, the ease of searching makes it the perfect tool for exploring the best listings in a specific area.

5. Work on a Cruise Ship

save money by working and living on a cruise ship

For someone who loves to travel and interact with people, working on a cruise ship is another great way to live inexpensively. Of course, you won’t make a lot of money working on a cruise ship, and you’ll be worked very hard, but all of your expenses are covered by the cruise line. With lodging and food taken care of, that lower compensation can still go a long way.

Honestly, if your goal of living on under $10,000 a year is to relax, this isn’t the job for you. However, spending a couple of years on a cruise ship would certainly make for a lot of great experiences and stories.

6. Volunteer – at Home or Abroad

Save money by volunteering

If you are willing to volunteer, you can have all of your living expenses covered in no time at all. However, it will require a bit of work on your part. I spent a year as a volunteer teacher in the Marshall Islands. My lodging was covered and I received a stipend for food. Although I had to work from 8-3, I considered my work a lot of fun and I spent a year on a tropical island for free. How cool is that?

Similarly, the Red Cross covers all expenses when you volunteer with them. My brother and I assisted with the tornado disaster that hit the South a few years ago. Not only did the Red Cross put us up in a Best Western, they gave us a debit card that provided us with $30/day for food. While Red Cross volunteers generally don’t assist for long periods, it is still a great way to make a difference without costing you anything.

Probably the best way to volunteer is through finding a location on This website allows for anyone to request volunteers in exchange for lodging and food. In other words, you can visit nearly any country in the world and work for 10-20 hours a week in exchange for food and lodging. I’ve had several friends use WorkAway, and they loved it. With most positions looking for someone to stick around for several months to a year, this is an easy way to accomplish your goal of living on under $10,000 in a year.


Would You Live on $10,000 a Year?

In all reality, most of us will probably never spend a year living on less than 10 grand. Not because we can’t, but because we don’t want to. We enjoy our cable television, independent living quarters, and plush bathrooms.

And so we toil on.

But, just for the sake of curiosity, I must ask: Would you consider living on less than $10,000 a year? Have you lived on less than this? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Photo credits: here, here, here, here, here, and here.


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