Living extremely poor for a week with Bonnie – Live Below The Line

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Living poor for a week with Bonnie wasn’t the week of starvation and fading away I thought; no money, little food and a $2 challenge brought us even closer together.

The decision to Live Below The Line with Bonnie wasn’t just because I was broke; even though that was a good reason. Bonnie wanted to do it and since she just moved in it was the more supportive option than eating Ben and Jerry’s in front of her to make her mouth drench. I liked the idea too; living cheaply on just $2 a day for five days, half the value of a take-away coffee.

For a little while I thought about how I could still have the same luxuries I was used to. Mostly I thought about the foreman who the resort owner in Basuanga had employed these past seven years to build his resort earning the geographically respectable 400 pesos, or $10 AUS per day. In the seven years he had earned a third of what I’ve made this year and yet tragically I’m always broke.

Pooling our money was the best way to go. You can pick up a surprisingly large amount of produce at the market when the last boxes of throw-aways are put out for a gold coin. That helped. Free food is a no-no, and even though the exchange would mean I knew I would get more for the $2 equivalent of 70 pesos in the Philippines, Bonnie reminded me that it was more about us suffering rather than figuring out the best way to cheat the system.

Shopping list: 2L milk, 12 eggs, 1kg sweet potato, 1k potato, 1k basmati rice (Bonnie’s favourite), 200g of tofu, 400g tuna, 200g rocket, 50g cheese, 3 onions, 3 bananas salvaged from the six rotten ones we picked up, 50g granola and a miscellaneous collection of sauces, butter, salt, pepper and whatever herbs were lying around that we ‘bought’ from the pantry for a shady $1.20; all spaced across five daily dinner plates with a dinner menu which would spill into lunch the next day. When you say no to ‘anything’ the temptations are less imposing, and ‘anything’ was everything outside the strict regimented menu. We even had a fridge full of emergency food ready for the weekend or if we got desperate in our charitable attempt of living cheaply, but it wasn’t temptation that would spoil us. Rather there was a much greater problem…

In the end I would need more food than her–a truth made even more lucid by the fact that before Wednesday I was eating breakfast and lunch by ten leaving a very empty stomach long before dinner. Leftovers were getting thinner and while my stomach grumbled back at me in our trivial discourse I remember looking at the remaining ration of rice in the fridge and realised if I ate that rice I would be eating our rice, as if taking it out of her mouth and putting it into mine. The Lord Of The Flies moment was beginning, I thought to myself staring intimately at the unflavoured bowl of frosted heaven trying desperately to seduce me.

Living below the line we lasted four out of the five days, mainly because there was no food left in the stash. We could have purchased a potato for a peso to starve out the last day, but I felt like we did well. Living cheaply isn’t as easy as you would think, and while my energy levels were progressively low, I felt somehow more energised than I had in the previous weeks, which led me to think maybe the trash we smash our faces with isn’t as healthy as the stock ingredients in a $2 budget. Granted when you love tomato sauce as much as Bonnie expect a few shady trades.
There was a little fight in the end, on the Thursday night. Not so much a fight but a coming together of minds; spurred by malnourished exhaustion; and us each still being slightly afraid to be together. Nine and a half months in and I wouldn’t change it for the world. But one thing I knew, I would live happy and poor for my entire lifetime if I could spend it with her.

You can read Bonnie’s experience about her stomach rumbling adventure here.

Xxx Clyde

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