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Living on a Dollar a Day: Another Day, Another Dollar

living on a dollar a day

Shooting this documentary was to begin our journey as travel bloggers and vloggers. At the time, we didn’t exactly know what our focus was, but we wanted to start off with the first idea we had, run with it, and see where it takes us. We have since then narrowed down our focus from “travel blogging,” to our focus now, which is budget travel while doing out of the ordinary things in out of the way places.

We filmed from July 17th-August 17th, 2015.

Another Day, Another Dollar documentary was intended not as much as a look into life on a dollar a day, as much as a showcase on how to be content on less, and how life is like for us and others in Nepal.

The documentary helped us to get some press interest from back in Canada and Nepal too. We tried to start our work in travel blogging with a bang. It was more like a putt putt, or a cough, but it’s helped our momentum as we learn what we are doing as video creators and travel vloggers.

The documentary was originally divided in 4 parts, uploaded in November 2015, with a total time of about 45 minutes.

The Rules

So we came from the angle of already living here, not starting fresh. Locals living on very little already have a home, basic resources, maybe a bicycle or a motorbike for the family.

Before we embarked on this challenge, we had to set some ground rules, and we will make things as transparent as possible for you.

First up, keep in mind this does not include our visa costs, internet, or rent. Our visa is an expense locals don’t have but we need to pay as foreigners. And we were forced to get Internet ever since YouTube started refusing the submission of VHS tapes for video uploads. Not impressed YouTube.

Secondly, we chose a high exchange rate to use for the Nepali rupee against the American dollar, so we will be working with 107rps each/day as an average, although for simplicities sake, you can think of 100 rupees as one dollar or 100 cents. We will do it for a whole month with no breaks, meaning our budget as a couple is $60 for the month, or 6420 rps.

This is around 20% less than one person earning minimum wage would make.Over 30 per cent of Nepalese live on less than US$14 per person, per month, according to the national living standards survey conducted in 2010-2011.The average daily income in Nepal is closer to $2 a day. Having said that, if we were to spend the average income during this challenge, we would have no problem paying for our rent as well. Keep in mind, though, many local families already own the family home and don’t have to pay rent.

Our living on a dollar is not only our food. No, that would be too easy. It includes cosmetics, shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, vehicle repairs, and any medicine we might need. We are also using cooking gas, which costs about 8cents a day. Many people especially in the rurals don’t use cooking gas, but use wood fires instead for cooking, which if we were to do also would make it a lot easier to keep in budget. But easy is for losers. Just kidding… Since the documentary, we have been forced to cook on wood, and it is not “easy,” but time consuming. It does save about $4/month doing it that way though. But I’d rather pay for the gas in most cases.

To make it easier to calculate our expenses, we put away lots of our stuff that we bought already to start fresh for the month and not get confused or tempted into using something we already bought before.

As we considered what we need to spend on non-food items, we came to realise that this was more of a challenge than anticipated. Blah.

Nathan’s Thoughts

To keep a positive outlook, those who always have this budget have to find a balance in treating themselves to something nice occasionally, breaking the monogamy. We try to do the same. I mean if we have a strong desire for certain things like unagi sushi or bacon wrapped prawns, we can just curl up and cry until the craving goes away, cuz there’s no finding that here. But say we have a craving for ice cream. Well ice cream is kind of expensive, but there are other options. A sweet milk stick will do the trick, for around 10 cents a pop. That’s shown in Part 2.

I also love to have jari/jalebi once in a while-5 rupees.

We also had to do without hot water, but as it was monsoon/hot season, it wasn’t too hard.

Danica’s Thoughts

It’s a lot easier to keep things low budget when you’re a guy. Girls have to worry about cosmetics and other things. My contact lenses can also put another strain on the budget.

It’s more of a barter culture here, so you don’t have to take the given price as the final price. When living on a dollar, saving 5 or 10 cents makes a big difference, so we can’t shy from bartering for the best price.

An advantage to having a varied diet while staying on a budget is that seasonal fruit and vegetables are constantly changing. To keep in budget, we buy what’s being harvested now which will be cheaper than things imported from another region in India. When buying fruit we also keep in mind that not all fruits can you eat the whole thing, therefore some of the weight you are paying for is not going to be consumed. For instance, while you can eat a whole apple, pips and all, if you buy lychee that has leaves to take off, an outside skin to peel, and a large pit in the middle, leaving only a little bit of flesh you can actually eat.

Although the most common dish in Nepal is daal-bat or rice with lentils, roti- more common in India, is more budget friendly, generally half price per kilo of roti flour compared to regular grade rice. A curried dish of vegetables with some roti is a common dinner of ours and costs around 15 cents a person. So on days that we’ve spent a little more on our lunch, we can enjoy roti and vegetables for dinner which is low cost and we rarely get tired of. If we don’t have much time to prepare it, roti with achar goes down great too. When I first had achar or Indian pickle, I thought it tasted awful, but I have grown to crave the strong flavours.

Our Budget

Here’s a chart that shows what we spent our money on for 30 days. Not only did we stay in budget, but in 30 days we spent an average of $0.85 per day. As we were going according to the Nepali calendar of 32 days for that month of Saun, though, the money we saved allowed us to treat ourselves to a trip and nice meal for the last 2 days when we went to Sauraha, and Chitwan National Park.

budget living on a dollar a day

We thank everybody for their support in making this documentary and helping us get things going as “YouTubers” or “travel vloggers!”

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3 Comments

  1. Header lopes
    5 January, 2016 at 4:46 am Reply

    Hi guys! Love your videos! Why don’t you two start a patreon for your channel and website, it could generate a nice little income to help you’d with your travels and productions. I would your first 🙂 Thanks for the great videos and keep up the good work!

    • Nathan & Danica
      9 January, 2016 at 9:11 pm Reply

      Hey thanks so much, glad you like it, it really encourages us! Thanks for the great suggestion, Patreon is a great tool that we think would benefit us too. We have a Patreon page technically, we just haven’t put any videos on it or got our rewards totally together so we didn’t want to advertise it yet. You’re giving us the motivation to get it together! It would be an honor if you would be our first Patron! You can find our Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/thetickettotravel. Thanks so much for your support!!

  2. Cesar
    10 January, 2017 at 7:59 am Reply

    Love your videos.Greetings from California.:)

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