I'm Going To Live Off £1 A Day For 10 Days

In 2010, the average London household spent £577.80 on living. Can I do it on £1 a day?
Publish date:
November 8, 2012
money, financies, living wage, cost of living in london

Let me start off by saying I’m bad with money. It’s not that I have expensive tastes: at least if I was a shopaholic or a crack addict I’d have a pile or shoes or some delicious looking meth-teeth to show for it, money just seems to fall through my fingers.

For instance, last Friday I decided to stay in to save some cash, so popped to my local Tesco Metro to get some eggs, cat litter and mouthwash (a chilling insight in to my home life right there). Despite not stocking up with wine, magazines or arm-sized bars of Galaxy, I still managed to blow £30. Although not a fortune, that’s 4.5 hours of your life if you’re on minimum wage.

Far from being paved with gold, the streets of London are paved with money potholes; a 2010 government survey found that the average household spent £577.80 per week on London living, including £55 on food, £60 on entertainment and £25 on clothing. Which, if you’re a single woman with an active social life, is a serious underestimation in my book: I could blow that in a weekend.

So, in an attempt to cut back a little, I’ve devised a plan which will hopefully teach me the value of money: I will only spend £1 a day for the next 10 days, adhering to the carefully crafted rules below…

1. My £1 per day has to cover EVERYTHING including food, entertainment, clothing, toiletries, household goods and books and magazines…

2. …However, it does not have to include kitten food/products (the little tyke shouldn’t have to starve for the sake of my experiment), Oyster card travel (sorry guys, I couldn’t come to work today because I’m doing a challenge…), rent and utility and emergencies e.g. bail money.

3. I can use/eat/read anything I already owned prior to Monday November 5.

4. But I can’t cheat and do a massive shop the day before.

5. I have to live my life as normally as possible – which includes, going out four- ish times a week, eating and drinking alcohol.

6. I can save up some days and overspend others, as long as the total remains £10 in 10 days.

7. I can accept food/drinks/meals off other people only in the following circumstances… i. The food is going to be thrown away ii. They are buying me food/drink in return for a service eg. I help them move house, I babysit for an hour, I give them free tickets to an event iii. It’s a situation where they would have normally paid for the food/ drink/meal eg. I am going to their house for dinner, we take it in turns to pay for meals etc.iv. I can spend any money I find on the floor in the street (this experiment is to encourage thrifty behaviour, not to see if I’ll starve)

I think that’s it for now - although my housemate says I’m cheating and should be buying EVERYTHING from scratch with my £1 if I want to be ‘authentic’.

Do you have any tips or tricks for cheap eats or free things to do in London? Should I add anything to these rules?

Day one: Monday November 5.Started day off with fruit and cereal from my cupboard and made myself a packed lunch of tuna and egg salad using ingredients I already had. On a normal day I’d buy a sugary pastry from a shop and get a take-out for lunch: which on this experiment would equally roughly eight days spend.

Not only was I bloody starving all day, I kept falling asleep at my desk due to having to forgo my regular coffee shop fix: instant just doesn’t cut it. Colleagues assumed my evil mood and heavy lids were due to a hangover. I wish!

As today was Bonfire Night I had a quick Google for free fireworks events in London. Luckily, there was a display in Waltham Forest, as well as a funfair and food stalls. Ordinarily, I would have gone for a quick drink first (£8) before heading over and grabbing some food there (£6).

Instead, I bought a packet of sparklers (99p for five) and watched the ‘works before dragging my boyfriend off to our local Tesco at 8.55pm – five minutes before closing time, to peruse the reduced aisle. “Four porkpies for 20p? That’s brilliant! This game is fun, I’m going to play it too,” he said, filling his basket sky-high. “You should do an article about only spending £1 over 10 days.”

Instead of stocking up on stodge, I opted for some sandwich beef (32p), 16 tortilla wraps (£1 because it was BOGOF), sandwich turkey (32p), corned beef (42p) – bringing my total to £2.06. He bought 12 porkpies (60p) and a pack of yogurts (40p). On the way home I found a battered £2 coin in the road. MILLIONAIRE.

When we got back we ate some chilli which had been languishing in my freezer for months with the tortillas, made cups of tea and took our sparklers out in the street. Just as we were starting to feel like dicks, a couple about our age rounded the corner and said they’d been having a really bad day until they’d spied us drinking tea and waving sparklers around like loons. Said it made them happy to see something so simple causing so much fun. Felt like the village idiot.

Weight: 135lbProducts bought: Sparklers (99p), sandwich beef (32p), 16 tortillas (£1), sandwich turkey (32p), corned beef (42p).Money spent: £3.05 - £2 = £1.05Amount of five a day I managed: five #winningMoney I potentially saved: £29 – based on food, drinks and two fairground rides.

Day two: Tuesday November 6Woke up tired and hungry; had to get up extra early to pack my stupid lunch (another tuna/egg salad, this time with added seafood sticks). Had fruit and a cup of tea for breakfast – and felt headchey and miserable all day. When workmates came back from the deli with delicious-smelling coffees, croissants and Marmitey-toast, I had to sit on my hands to stop myself from bludgeoning them to death with a laptop and stealing their supplies.

Had been given four press tickets* to see Scrooge the Musical (which was ace, by the way) so took along three friends in exchange for two drinks and Nandos meal.

Normally, the thought of allowing anyone to buy me food or drinks fills me with horror; spending money on people if my way of showing them affection. Didn’t feel good about accepting their gifts, even when they pointed out that I’d saved them £35 each on tickets, and it made THEM feel good to treat me.

Was momentarily cheered to see an ex Eastenders star at the bar ahead of us asking if his free ticket included a free drink. After being given a polite but firm ‘no’, he asked for a empty glass so that he could ‘fill it up in the toilets’.

Later saw him digging down the back of a sofa for loose change.

Letting friends buy me drinks: was this an abuse of the system? Let me know below.

* I know, I know – not everyone can do this. BUT there’s enough free plays, events and exhibits in London each night that you could easily do something similar.

Weight: 135lbProducts bought: NOTHING. Nothing. Nothing tra-la-la.Money spent: 0Amount of five a day I managed: four – unless coleslaw counts, then five. Money I potentially saved: £8 on lunch and coffee, £3 on another coffee while waiting for friends to arrive, £11 on drinks, £10 on Nandos = £32. If you include the Scrooge the Musical tickets, £67.

TO BE CONTINUED [insert Eastenders' drum beats here...]