A $500 a Month Retirement Budget

Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme recently posted an example $500 a month retirement budget.  It is displayed below.

  • Rent $200-250
  • Health insurance $75 (get the cheapest possible and stay healthy!)
  • Food $50-75
  • Transport $0-$75
  • Utilities $25-100

I found this very interesting because I’ve been making over $500 a month in alternative income lately.  If I could get my budget down to $500 a month I could “retire” and live off my alternative income.   Here is one possible budget.

  • Rent $250
  • Health Insurance $70
  • Food $75
  • Transportation $25
  • Utilities $80

It is possible to rent an apartment for $250 in some areas.  I think there are even some place in KC that rent that cheap but I wouldn’t want to live there.  A better alternative is to move to a small town or live with a roommate. The health insurance is what I actually pay now.  The food budget would require a little more self-discipline on my part.  I used to spend about $100 a month on food and if I were to cut out fast food I could get that down to $75 or lower.  The transportation cost is for an occassional bus or giving a friend gas money for a ride.  Ideally I would live somewhere I could walk to most places I needed to go.  The utilities expense of $80 would include a phone.  This amount would vary somewhat but an average of $80 seems easily achievable.

An alternative would be to live in Guatemala (or any low-cost country) for part of the year.  Or to spend several months hiking.  Both would allow me to live on about $300 a month.  A possible budget would be.

  • Rent $100 (if hiking would be for hostels, hotels, showers, etc.)
  • Food $75 (would probably be more while hiking)
  • Health Insurance $70 (this would be the same although I could consider going without in Guatemala since health care is so cheap there.  I wouldn’t want to take the chance of being uninsurable upon a return to the U.S. though.)
  • Miscellaneous $55 (entertainment, postage, gear replacement, transportation, etc.)

The $300 budget would allow me to spend a little extra when visiting the U.S. or not hiking.  Some of the difference would have to go airfare to get to Guatemala or transportation to and from the trailheads but the savings would more than make up for this amount. These budgets might seem a little extreme but based on my experiences living in Guatemala and hiking long distances I’m confident that they are feasible.  I’m planning on doing a $200 a month hike for several months next year.

For now though these budgets are just musings but after I get out of law school they could very well become reality.

October Income- $709.64

Here is a breakdown of my income for October.

Online Income $475.59
Bonuses $200
Interest $20.95
Surveys/Cashback $13.10
Total $709.64

My income was pretty good considering I didn’t work.  This is all alternative income. I’m going to have a tough time matching this in November.  I count my income when it is paid rather than when it is earned so I know that this month’s Adsense payment will be considerably less.  It is also unlikely that I’ll make anywhere near $200 in bonuses. I hope to make up some of that elsewhere but it will be difficult.  I’m going to have to come up with some new income ideas or put more work into the existing ideas.

October Expenses- $1157.51

Here is a breakdown of my expenses for October.

Household $418.29
Transportation $131.61
Food $73.85
Entertainment $152.87


Utilities $64.97
Health Insurance $200.92
Total $1157.51

My overall expense level was reasonable. I didn’t meet my goal of $1000 a month in expenses. That goal would have been met though if I didn’t have my quarterly health insurance payment of $200. I did spend way too much on food. I ate out almost every day which not only cost me money but caused me to gain weight and wasted a lot of time. I’ll have to do better on that this month. My entertainment expenses were a little high this month but I’m not concerned about that. My other expenses should remain about the same this month. One possible exception is if I do some Christmas shopping this month that will be reflected in my household expenses.

September Expenses- $756.50

Here is a breakdown of my expenses for September.











Student Loan Debt/Education




I was quite happy with how low my expenses were last month.  I was lucky in that none of my irregular expenses were due and no unusual expenses popped up.  I won’t be able to repeat such a low amount this month because my $200 quarterly health insurance payment is due.  Most other expenses should remain roughly the same.  This is the first month I won’t be paying rent on my own apartment but rather contributing a similar amount to my GF as my contribution towards our household expenses.  This shouldn’t make much difference in my finances but we’ll see what happens.

September Income- $887.81

Here is a breakdown of my income for September.

Online Income $657.02
Bonuses $210
Interest $11.25
Surveys/Ebay/Cashback $9.54
Total $887.81

My income was decent considering I didn’t have any job related income. I won’t likely be able to repeat the amount of online income this month though. My income was higher than my expenses for September but it still needs to be higher for me to continue not having a job.