Living on $2 a day food challenge

It was by chance that I stumbled upon this after I embarked on my $2 a day savings challenge. The REAL Two Dollar Challenge is actually a food challenge packaged as a “personal journey that will confront and challenge the person who takes it up with a few of the many constraints faced by those who live on less that $2 a day”. There are three different levels of participation: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.

Japanese woman retires at 34 after living on $2 a day for 16 years

Who would have forgotten the story of a Japanese woman who spent no more than 153 yen ($2) a day for the past 16 years and saved enough to acquire three houses costing a total of 55 million yen ($716,974) in under two decades? She is currently retired before 35, living on a monthly rent income of 300,000 yen ($3,911).  

Basic Standard of Living by Singaporeans

A “basic standard of living” refers to access to education, employment and work-life balance, and healthcare. A team of researchers from the local public universities made the following discovery after some local focus-group discussions conducted from a 100+ size sample, covering various ethnic groups, housing types and educational levels. 9 in 10 (89 per cent) were aged > 55.

A Singaporean senior citizen aged > 65 living alone needs about $1,379 a month. Those aged between 55 and 64 needed $1,721. Couples aged > 65 needed $2,351.

The Department of Statistics published a 2016 newsletter that found out that an average monthly expenditure of $3,590 was incurred by households with a senior citizen aged > 60 . The average household size was 2.9 in the same year, which meant that each household member was spending on average $1,240 monthly.

Low Income earners in Singapore

Low income earners are a reality. With the 20th percentile in 2018 earning $2340 (including Employer CPF contribution), one can only imagine how low people below 20th percentile earns. No food at the end of the month is also a harsh reality for some low income families.

The Two Dollar Challenge

So the Two Dollar Challenge is an experiment whose main goals are not just to appreciate the value of money, but to experience first hand and raise awareness on the constraints of the many who could only live by $2 a day. There were similar experiments in the past, including one which was a school project turned Singapore Poverty Awareness Campaign.

How did I fare for a day?

Firstly, the only drink I “could afford” was water all day long. I was lucky that the office water cooler had both hot and iced water. A single banana ($0.20) was my breakfast for the day. Lunch was a single 7Days Crossiant with filling ($0.80). Naan with curry ($1.00) Tekka Food Centre make up my dinner.

The challenge was done. But it was pretty stressful for a day. You are constantly budgeting and evaluating each choice. Do note however, that the above had not included transportation cost. The Two Dollar challenge also raised a good point: “You just cannot afford to fall sick.”

There is another lifestyle called Freeganism (limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources, particularly through recovering wasted goods like food), but we will come to that another time.

Learning Points

  • Anyone can save crazily – it is a matter of putting your heart and mind to cutting down expenses.
  • A minimum sum of money is required for your Basic Standard of Living. It defers from one individual to another. Work out your own.
  • Good health is imperative. Even a bout of sickness could eat into your savings.

Would you like to try taking up this $2 food challenge, even for a day?

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