Jan 032018

It’s time once again Fritter fans to take a look at how expensive, or inexpensive, a minimalist lifestyle can be, as viewed from a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  A few years ago I did an economic experiment where I endeavored to live in the Florida Keys for under $50 a day.  Said experiment was largely a success but it also gave me a tremendous amount of knowledge about where my money was going.  Since then I have pretty much kept a very close eye on every penny I spend.  Every expenditure, no matter how trivial is recorded and as the months and years add up, I can get a good feel for what kind of lifestyle, along with locations, I can fit into my minimal economic sphere.

Last year was no exception and I was able to get a very accurate idea of what it costs to live here in Hawaii.  Take a look at the numbers for 2017:

Ready to dig in to the details?  Let’s go!

Firstly, I did not spend the entire year in Hawaii.  From mid May until mid Sept. I was in the deep, backward, horrendous country of Pennsylvania staying with family.  During those months rent was non existent, food was down considerably, and overall, expenses were way down.  It was by design to put more money in the bank for my return to the islands and it worked.  But the mental and physical cost was way too great.  Never again.

Anyways, accounting for the lost time in the summer, and subtracting some minor expenses, less the travel and vacation costs, my expenses for living in Hawaii came to about $43 per day.  $43 a day to live on the island of Maui, one of the more expensive places to live in the country, I might add.

Now, I’m not living an extravagant lifestyle by any stretch of the imagination.  This is minimalism at it’s finest.  I have a reasonably decent place to live.  A roof over my head, flushing toilet, internet most of the time, and a place to cook.  I don’t eat fancy but I do eat good.  Transportation is $25 a month for the bus.  There is plenty to do and see out here which costs nothing or next to nothing.  This is a good place to just relax, enjoy the weather and scenery, and do nothing.

The state of Hawaii has been good enough to qualify me for free health insurance, at least for now until the corporate warlords find a way to take said insurance away.  I don’t need things like television, a vehicle, although an old jeep would be fun for getting out to the places the bus don’t go to, nor an elaborate wardrobe.  Shorts, fishing shirts, sandals, are sufficient.  The place where I am living is old, but it will do for now.  It would be nice to have my own place, free of roommates, but for the moment I can deal with what I have.

So, $43 a day can buy you a fairly decent life in the islands so long as you are willing to downsize, stay debt free, embrace minimalism, and quit giving a shit about what the rest of the world is doing.  I’m enjoying it.

Now back to the numbers.

Looking back and forward, there are some things I spent money on this past year hopefully I won’t need to spend on this year.  I did purchase a new iPhone 7 with a battery pack.  Hopefully this phone will last 4 years like the last one so I won’t have to purchase another for awhile.

As for travel, I have no real plans to go anywhere this year.  Normally I do visit family in Pa. around Memorial Day but given how badly last year went, I don’t want to go back, even for a week.  Unless another hip breaks with someone back there or some other health scare, I will remain out here.  I may take a short trip to the Big Island or even Oahu later in the year, but overall, no trips are planned.

In the home improvement category you may notice some cash spent there.  The washing machine here at the house was at the end of it’s economical usefulness.  It was a 20 year old rusted out piece of junk which barely ran.  Neither of the two roommates had the wherewithal to replace it so I did with the expectation I would get reimbursed later on.  Doubt if I will but I factored in the cost of going to a laundromat in town 2 or 3 times a week and if nothing else, the washer will pay for itself by summertime, assuming I am still living here.  And it scored some points with the landladies.

I mention the doubt of remaining here for the simple reason things are always changing.  The owner of the property had all the plumbing in the house completely redone from the city water line to the city sewer.  Everything is all shiny new copper pipe.  And last week an electrician came out and made a bid to rewire the entire house because the current electrical system has not passed code since before Pearl Harbor.  So we may get all new electrical in the place.  It will be nice but all new plumbing and electrical does not come cheap.  No way will the property owner not raise the rent at some point to pay for all this.  As it stands now, the $600 a month I am paying, which I have made my ceiling for rent, covers ½ the entire rent of the house, not including utilities.  Both the roommates/landladies are living hand to mouth and can barely handle the expenses as it is.  So it would not surprise me to see an increase in rent sometime this year.

It’s ok though.  It’s still a more better deal for what I am getting and where said getting is located but if the rent goes up, I will need to move.  As always, I am constantly checking the ads for other places here on Maui, on the Big Island, as well as considering another boat in Florida, or coming up with some sort of mobile rv set up.  I’ll string it out here as long as it’s affordable and I have a positive cash flow every month.  One thing I have learned is nothing ever remains constant so while I will enjoy however long I am here, it’s with the expectation something or someone will come along and force a change.  At least I am now in a good enough financial position to make said changes as necessary.

As for the rest of the numbers in the budget, there will be slight adjustments here and there but overall, my projected expenses for 2018 won’t change much.  If I can keep expenses at or around what I spent in 2017, things will be just fine.  But, no battle plan survives the first shot, so who knows what the year will bring.  Nevertheless, I have financial goals set and should be able to stick to them.  I have no large purchases coming up for the new year.  Maybe replace some bits of clothing, there will be taxes as usual in the Spring, and Darwin knows what else may come.

So, in a nutshell, you have it.  A realistic, minimalist budget for living in Hawaii.  Simple, manageable, and debt free.  For those of you just starting out on a minimalist journey, or looking to get a handle on expenses, I cannot emphasize enough the value of keeping some sort of budgetary record of where your money is coming from and going too.  You would be amazed, and probably shocked by the cost of some things you spend on which you may not have paid any attention to before.  Before I started keeping records I was way overspending on some things, especially food.  Now, I got a more better handle on things and have adjusted my dietary needs accordingly, and still eat pretty good.

Keep a detailed budget, don’t make any purchase if you don’t have too which goes outside your budgetary goals, and keep downsizing.  Always be looking for ways to not spend money.  Eventually you may find out you too can afford to live in Hawaii, or the Florida Keys, or wherever your paradise is.  I did it.  No reason you can’t.

Capt. Fritter