Money Matters: How We Live On Just $1000/Month

Posted by Cassie

Some people have asked for more specifics about how we were able to up and move to Puerto Rico and essentially retire before either of us turned 35. Well, let me first start this series with our budget. Your budget is sort of like your diet. It can be healthy or not, but it certainly does reflect what’s important to you. For us, living a bit more wild and free choosing how we wanted to spend our time was far more important than a lot of consumer items we could buy. Obviously not everyone wants to live like we do. But it certainly IS possible. And I would say having more freedom is worth every penny we don’t spend. If you are interested in the cost of living in general in Puerto Rico, check out this post: Cost of Living in PR.

Money Tree
Don’t we all wish we had a money tree?!

We live on only about $1000 a month. This is probably a shockingly low amount for most people, but it’s really just fine for us and it is very close to the amount we spent in Colorado except that we had a mortgage there. Less really is more and we still have a lot of fun and this is a pretty loose budget. If we needed to live on less I could probably get this down to about $700/month or $8,000/year if needed. So how does that $1000/month break down for us?


$500 -Food/alcohol. Approximately $100-$130/week grocery bill equates to about $500/month. While we grow a good 50% of our food it still costs a lot to buy food and alcohol. I value good, nutritious food, so this might be more than someone who just buys cheap junk processed food. Still eating in is by far cheaper (and way healthier) than eating out. This breaks down to less than $3 per meal per person (3 meals a day). If you counted the snacks/beer/coffee that we don’t go out to buy it’s even less!

A banana tree is pretty close!

$100- Vehicle. Travel. Truck gas, marbete and maintenance like tires. We try not to drive too much and this is probably closer to $75/month but also gives some room for long distance travel or a random large mechanical problem.

$75- Going out for food. We don’t eat out much, but just a light lunch for two is about $20. Let alone a dinner. So we only go out to eat about 3 or 4 times a month.

Taco Food
Living in a tourist town can be expensive if you eat like a tourist very often! $8 for a couple of tacos is pretty common

$75 – Partying/hanging out. Hard to admit, but yah, going out once or twice a month to a bar or whatever is expensive when you start buying drinks/rounds! At least we get paid a little when we do it with the band!

$50- Clothing. We don’t buy this monthly but this would probably be an average of about $500-600/year.

$50 -Random household goods/repairs. Kitchen items, Kitty food, makeup, cleaning supplies, small tools, Rx. Stuff like that.

$50- Farm Expenses. Bird food, new plants, plant care, yard tools. Though some of this is capital improvements and/or comes back in the sale of eggs/produce or in that we don’t have to buy as much food at the store.

$50 -Utilities. Water, electricity and internet. Appx $15 each. We don’t have air conditioning or a clothes dryer and although we sometimes water our plants or mix concrete it still doesn’t seem to jump up much. Sharing is caring when it comes to internet and many other things.

$25- Medical. Doctor/Dentist -Rarely needed. Probably not even this much.

$25- Other miscellaneous expenses that inevitably pop up. Also gifts/donations.

What’s missing?
A mortgage/rent. We have no mortgage on this property. Living expenses are generally the largest expense most people have. So to be free from this is incredibly important in being able to live simply/inexpensively.
Other debt. We have no other personal debt. No student loans. No credit card balance. No home equity lines. No car payments. We live simply and don’t like debt unless it earns us money directly above and beyond what it costs to service the debt and even then I don’t really like it.
Costs related to investments in CO. Those go back into the business so aren’t counted as part of living expenses.
Most insurances. We self insure, so I suppose in a way our savings pays for this but it’s not a monthly or yearly expense.
Taxes. We pay very little taxes except sales tax. One big benefit of making less money is not having to pay much in income taxes! Property tax is $40/year or less than $4/month. Counted in other misc.
Costs related to construction. This was saved for prior to the move.
Many utilities. We don’t pay for a cell phone. We don’t have cable or even a TV. We don’t pay heating (there is no need for heating). No one pays for garbage service in PR.
Hair cuts, landscaping, car and house maintenance and other stuff we can do ourselves.
Costs related to children or divorces (like child support/alimony). Keepin’ it simple!
Very many dumb purchases. Sorry to say but some things like cigarettes, lottery tickets or bottled water are just not smart for a variety of reasons including your health, the environment and of course your budget. Alcohol is our one dumb purchase and we limit it to about $50-100/month. If we needed to save more it would be the first thing to go.
Retirement payments. We are already living it!
Most Entertainment. Most of our screen audio/visual entertainment comes from the internet.
Savings. We still save each month, but this budget list is only for expenses that are not recouped.
Travel/Vacations. This is captured under vehicle somewhat, but we can also use savings. Though I haven’t left the island in over two years, so it’s not really an expense currently. Traveling is super expensive in general!

Guajataca tunnel BK CK
Livin’ it up in Puerto Rico!

So that’s it! That’s what we spend our money on. We took a huge pay cut to move to Puerto Rico, but it didn’t really hurt because we lived on this basic budget in Colorado even when we were making a LOT more.  Though a lot of focus is on salary or pay, it doesn’t really matter what you make. It matters much more what you spend. Again to compare a diet, just as you can’t outexercise a bad diet (if you are eating more than you burn), you can’t outearn a bad spending habit (if you are spending more than you earn). You may be making a million dollars a day, but if you are spending two million you’re doing much worse than someone like us who makes maybe $1200/month but only spends $1000.

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7 thoughts on “Money Matters: How We Live On Just $1000/Month

  1. Barbara Schutt

    Wonderful post, Cassie! You guys are certainly doing it right in my opinion and are living simply and the way you want to. We have no debt, either and are looking to eventually, move long term to Rincon area. When we visited for 4 weeks we were buying bottled water but I hated to do that and all the wasteful plastic! Do you guys have a filtration system you use or do you drink the tap water? Thank you, so much for sharing your budget and expenses as it will help many people.

  2. Liz Phan

    I’ll never forget a commercial I saw on some product I can’t even remember anymore (so the commercial failed at that!). it said “want to make more money? spend less”

    you guys are truly inspirational!

  3. Britton

    Here is how the electric and water break down:

    16/03/2016 140 $ 24.45
    16/02/2016 100 $ 20.15
    15/01/2016 100 $ 19.20
    16/12/2015 110 $ 21.45
    17/11/2015 100 $ 23.84
    16/10/2015 110 $ 23.56
    16/09/2015 140 $ 28.45

    15/03/2016 $13.60
    15/02/2016 $13.60
    25/01/2016 $13.60
    28/12/2015 $13.60
    16/11/2015 $13.60
    22/10/2015 $13.60

    1. Cassie Post author

      Just a basic Brita filter. Tap water is fine here except it’s a little over-chlorinated but the chlorine evaporates fully after only about 24 hours. So we just filter some water in the Brita overnight and between the carbon filter and time, plus maybe a lemon wedge it is safe and tastes pretty darn good. We fill up and take a water jug with us any time we leave the house for more than an hour or so. It’s amazing how fast and easily it is to become dehydrated here!

      Oh and that is awesome about you being debt-free! Debt is something I think people just take as a given but it’s like putting handcuffs on you to have to work for a long, long time! Looking forward to seeing you in Rincón some time soon. I don’t think we’ve met officially yet.

  4. Barbara Schutt

    Thank you for the info on the Brita! Yes, it is awesome to be debt free and unshackled to a job. We are both early retired for 3yrs. now at 53 and 56yr. I’m so looking forward to coming back to Rincon as it is becoming our second home but not until next Feb/March. I’d love to officially meet you and Britton and hear you guys with the Rincon Continentals. You guys are so full of life and joy and of like minded as we are. Take care!

  5. knight4444

    hello I’m planning on moving from the mainland USA to Rincon PR in november 2017, I’m on SSD and not getting 1000 a month can i apply for food stamps ? the NAP program i believe, thank you


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