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An Actual $2000 Per Month Budget

I wrote about this McDonald’s budget versus our post-college budget in mid-2013.  Based on the specific feedback, I’ve updated this post to include a general $2000 budget for those with a higher rent too.  I broke the budgeted amounts down to show how it is possible as well.

McDonald’s Budget – Seems to Have Some Holes

Have you seen that McDonald’s and Visa came up with a budget for “their average worker” that brings in $2000 a month?  It’s freaking hilarious.  Here’s a quick summary:

McDonald's/Visa Budget

Two Actual $2000 Budgets!

Okay, so that is obviously not a realistic budget for most people.  It just seems to assume you don’t pay for stuff like health insurance and can roll things like food into a daily amount of leftover money and be just fine. It certainly doesn’t make room for optional stuff like our dental implant insurance.

And, yes, $2000 a month is obviously very little to live on.  BUT, Mr. BFS and I actually lived on that during college and the year after (2004-2006).  So, here it goes, a realistic $2000 budget for two people that has actually worked for two real people…

A Real $2000 Per Month Budget for Two People (and Scroll Down for a Higher Rent Option that is Also $2000 Per Month)

This is the actual budget that I created and used for Mr. BFS and myself right after we graduated and got married from 2005-2006

That $2000 after taxes is about what I was making as a full-time cubicle worker plus what Mr. BFS brought in from working at Gamestop for minimum wage for 20-30 hours a week.  And that rent was for a 500 square foot apartment in the far suburbs of Houston, TX. Speaking of taxes we think we have finally settled on the best way to file taxes next time we have to do that. And if you prefer something on your desktop then we reviewed the best tax filing software too.

Scroll further below for a higher rent $2000 a month budget.

We Made Money on the Side

We threw anything extra that we made from hobby jobs into our savings so we could buy our own house faster.  I worked a shift every Saturday at a bookstore for $7.50 an hour, and Mr. BFS was reffing basketball and football for $60 an evening, 2-3 evenings a week.  Combined, we were throwing in about $1000 extra per month into savings.  (This was before I created this blog and started making $3000+ a month online.)

That extra we saved could also be used as padding when crap happened with our cars or with life in general.  🙂

Also, we could use that entertainment and cash on anything (including tithing if that is close to your heart).  I volunteered with the Houston SPCA through this time of our lives, so we spent the cash and entertainment money on fun stuff like movies and saved it up for inexpensive weekend road trips.

We didn’t have that much free time though.  Hubby’s shifts could be any 3-4 days of the week at Gamestop, plus 3 random evenings of reffing.  I worked Monday-Friday from 8am to 5pm, volunteered 2-3 evenings a week at the HSPCA, and had that Saturday shift at the bookstore.

We fit in fun where we could and watched tv or read a book (borrowed from family or the library) every night before we headed to bed.

BONUS $2000 BUDGET BY DEMAND – Made in 2016!!!

I was looking at the comments on this post and realized that “rent” is where many people just stopped reading.  So here’s yet another $2000 a month budget if your rent is around $700 AND read below to see how to get there:

Yes, a $2000 a month budget is doable! Even if you live in a high cost area...obviously harder choices to make, but still can work! Use this to live on and save all the rest!

Breaking Down the $2000 a Month Budget Above


First let’s look at that rental amount. That is achievable in several ways. In low cost living areas like here in the suburbs of Houston, TX, a small apartment in okay parts of town run $450-$600 a month. Then you have to cover most utilities. Or you can rent a private bedroom and bathroom in someone’s home with bills covered for $400-$600.

If you live in high cost-of-living places, you can achieve $700 or less by getting a roommate. I know it sounds lame to some, but my husband and I have had roommates in 7 of the last 12 years and it has led to making a couple of close friends and having a lot of padding in our savings.  You can also squeeze that number up to $800 a month for rent if you are willing to cut back on your food expenses and eat solely from home.  We can feed ourselves well on $250 a month but splurge and eat out a couple of times a week at least.  You could also look at y’alls combined income and realize that $2500 a month is doable and find a place for $1300 a month.

Or you could look at Airbnb options actually…some of those are only $20-$30 a day for a tiny room in urban places.  The trick is knowing your priorities.

If you have a family and need to hit a low monthly payment, I would highly suggest checking out the buying prices of large trailers in your area. They get a bum rap…really, my mom and I lived in a trailer for several years way back when and I enjoyed it. And it really is inexpensive.


Now let’s look at your health insurance coverage. I got my estimate of $150 by using a private health insurance estimator and entering 1-2 people making a total of $28,000 (figured the $2000 budget would be after income taxes). If you make less than $29,000, you can get health insurance cheaper than most right now…makes sense. BUT, if you smoke, you have to quit. WAY CHEAPER. Also remember to see if you can get even more help through your job.

Car Payment

This is pretty straight forward. If you have a paid off car, start automatically moving $250 from your checking account to a savings account every month. That will cover maintenance issues that pop up or give you cash for a down payment when you need a new-to-you car.

If you need a car, get an affordable vehicle! Look at newer used models for $10,000 or less. If you have bad credit, you can still hunt down a $10,000 car at 8% interest for 5 years and have a $200 a month car payment. If you are currently paying more than $300 a month for a car payment and you are making less than $24,000 take home per year, STOP THAT!!! You can’t afford it. Sorry. Trade it in for a way more affordable option.

On a side note, if you need help selling a paid off car yourself, check out my post about on how to sell your car on Craigslist. I’ve done it 3 times. If you want to buy a cheap but solid used car off of Craigslist or something similar, just make sure to take it to a mechanic first. Also look for the best car insurance you can find and that will definitely bring down those monthly costs.


$350 a month on food is a little more than $11 a day. That is VERY doable. We also have started using the best meal delivery service to eat cheap. I’m going to use higher estimated prices than what I can get in my area. If you are vegetarian/vegan/gluten intolerant/etc, substitute more of the other stuff that you can eat.

Here’s an example of $75 of groceries that should be able to feed you for a week:

  • Eggs (dozen) – $2
  • Milk (gallon) – $2
  • Cereal Bag – $4
  • Bread Loafs (two from the Dollar Tree, we get Nature’s Own Honey Wheat) – $2
  • Peanut Butter – $3
  • Jam – $3
  • Frozen Vegetables for sides or main entrees – $10
  • Fresh Fruit (buy seasonal – apples, peaches, bananas, etc.) – $10
  • Fresh Vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, etc.) – $10
  • Ground Turkey or Beef (2 pounds for different dishes) – $6
  • Chicken thighs (lots) or two pounds of Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts – $6
  • Steaks (specifically a 2 pack of filet mignon from Aldi’s) – $5
  • Dessert mixes or ingredients – $5
  • Extras like salt/pepper/spices/flavorings/whatever you want – $7

That would make you 7+ breakfasts, 7+ lunches, and 7+ dinners for $75. That’s about $300 a month and you can use the other $50 to splurge with – nicer groceries, eating out, etc. If you eat out more, buy less groceries. It’s a budget – you can mix and match as you see fit. Just stick to the total!

Cell Phone

I used to spend $150 on my husband and myself for our two smart phones with unlimited everything with Sprint. Then we switched to Ting.  Feel free to use my free step-by-step guide to Ting Mobile to see if they’d save you money.

Now my husband and I get the exact same service, use as little or as much as we want each month, and pay about $70 on average ($55-$85 depending on the month). I budgeted $50 in the example because I am assuming this budget is for 1 person. It’s just a bonus if two people can stick to $50-$60 too.


I am an upper middle class woman who splurges quite a bit on all sorts of stuff – travel, food, living expenses, etc. And I have everyday clothes, business clothes, and dressy clothes. And I buy nearly everything I wear from thrift stores like the Goodwill near my house and the resale shop near my grocery store. I average about $50 a year on new jeans, tops, and shoes. I spend another $50 a year on undergarments and random items to fill in any blanks. I generally stick with what I have until it wears out or I find something that fits me better. I like feeling pretty.


If any of my other numbers don’t work in your area, then please see what you can cut using my pointers above and make up for it. For example, if your car insurance or utilities are higher than in the budget above, then cut your living expenses elsewhere. Get a roommate, a cheaper car, cut back on your food budget, etc. It’s just a matter of cutting where you can to make up for cuts you can’t make.

Overall, $2000 a month is restrictive. That’s why I’d suggest a different career path or finding a side hustle you love.   BUT, it’s doable. Good luck!

My Take – Possible But Not Fun

The $2000-a-month life is strict.  But the point is to get by on that and then save everything over that.  Really…side hustles can make a ton. Also you can read more about how to make a budget in our other articles. Also read our Personal Capital review if you’re looking for an easier way to track everything.

Even before I started blogging full time, I was bringing in $750-$2000 a month just through this blog and the 20-30 hours a week I put into it mainly at night and on the weekends.

Overall, it is possible to live on very little, but try not to settle for it.

What do you think? 

12 thoughts on “An Actual $2000 Per Month Budget”

  1. Emily @ evolvingPF

    I actually am thinking about writing a little rant about the coverage of this McDonald’s budget debacle because I’ve realized that no one outside the PF world is guaranteed to be able to read a budget! I’ve read articles that state that the budget has no room for food or gas because they failed to notice the $800 allotted for variable expenses! However, I agree that the budget is ridiculous on the income side.

    I have lived on $2k/month per capita since I became an adult. It really not hard depending on where you live. (I actually lived on about $1200/mo net in the DC area and seriously had no idea at the time what an accomplishment that was. It didn’t seem difficult.) I don’t find the McDonald’s budget to be crazy, although the numbers are probably averages – like, perhaps the average person pays $100/mo for insurance, but not everyone owns a home and a car so the people who have them average more, like in your example budget. I think $27/day for food, gas, clothes, etc. is actually quite high for one person.

    I have run up an emergency budget for if one of us has a job loss to live on $2k/month for two people, and it is very tight because we still will meet our giving and savings goals. If we spent the entire $2k/month life would be fine except we couldn’t travel.

  2. Funny about Money

    Health insurance $20? Heating $0? Electric $90? $27 a day to cover all your food, car repairs, clothing, dental bills, gasoline, household goods, shampoo, aspirin, and makeup? Or do they think you’re going to eat on the $100 “other”? What are their PR people smoking?

    That is so offensive. It assumes the person is not going to school and so can manage two no-benefits jobs (many of McDonald’s employees are my students, struggling to pay their way through colleges with ever-more-bloated tuition), and that the person has no children.

    I also have lived on $2,000 a month. But costs were much lower then — that was 20 years ago — and I had a roommate renting space in my house, so I wasn’t REALLY living on two grand because he was paying part of the mortgage. And because I was carrying his payments on my taxes as rent and writing off part of the utilities and every bit of any repairs and maintenance we had to do on the house, I hardly paid any income tax at all.

    Even in 2005, costs were lower than they are today. Inflation has not really gone away. The middle class may have, but inflation hasn’t…

  3. Sheryl

    Living as a single person on $2000 a month isn’t impossible, especially if you have a small space or share with roommates. For me, having a car on $2000 a month wasn’t something I could afford comfortably.

    Living as a family or couple on the other hand? That’s not so possible. And the idea that a fair minimum wage is provides barely enough to scrape by, but not enough to ever put anything towards a future or a break is a sad state of affairs.

  4. SavvyFinancialLatina

    We had a very similar budget of $1,500 to $2,000 in 2011-2012. We just got married, I was starting grad school, he was finishing up school, and we were stressed. Money was extremely tight. And we weren’t really saving since we were living off his part time check and my scholarship stipends. We were bleeding money left and right! Every single charge was analyzed. Stressful. Now we live off $3,000 a month. Life isn’t as stressful anymore, but we are frugal. We don’t really do a lot of expensive entertainment, and we spend most of our money on food. 🙂 We like food. I work full time, and I’m trying to expand my side hustles online. My husband works full time and has a side job (12 hours extra a week). I’m not really sure how families make it. We spend $3,000 a month on the two of us! My parents live in a lower cost of living area. They have a really tiny, old house (My dream is to help them buy a nice, small house). And their budget is around $1500 for them and my little brother. They live off half of what we do. Biggest difference? They pay lower car insurance since they are older. House is paid off. Spend less on gas since they live in a small town. This probably equates to $1,300-$1,500.

  5. Meghan

    It just depends on where you live.

    You can’t find rent that low in some of the most populous areas of the country. When I made less than $2000 a month net, my rent was $600, and that was with a discount and roommate. In DC, if your rent is under $800, either you hit the jackpot or you have the government subsidizing the difference. My room and bathroom cost $1350. The problem is that there is such a cost of living difference in the US. Sure you could say “move somewhere with a lower cost of living” but if you’re in school or have other issues that tie you to an expensive city, you have to deal with it. Hopefully you’ll make more in the future. Rent alone busts a $2000 budget.

  6. Thomas

    I need to find where the people on the McDonalds budget live and move there. 20$ for health insuracne cmon really? Savings $100 but you get to spend $800. Thats crazy.

  7. I guess this budget assumes you will work forever and never retire. Once we pay off all of our debts (only the mortgage left now) we could live on $2K a month, but that is assuming we have quite a bit socked away for emergencies. There is no way we could own a home on that amount of money. One, you’d never get a loan. Two, even if you found a cheap place to buy, you could not afford the taxes, insurance, and maintenance. I do think it’s possible to live on this amount, but you wouldn’t have much, and you’d probably have to go on state aid if you had a big medical expense. There is no health insurance that covers anything for $20/month. Even my six year old is $75/per month for a $10K deductible.

  8. Crystal @ BFS

    @Emily, yeah, at $2k a month, we didn’t travel and were not saving what I would want to be. But everything was at least covered. Plus our extra hobby jobs went directly to our savings goals. That helped a lot.

    @Funny about Money, yep, inflation still exists but I have 2 friends that are living and paying off debt on less than $2000, so it is possible depending on where you live. It’s just not much fun.

    @Sheryl, I just assumed that minimum wage by definition was just enough to scrape by. I’m thinking the general idea of having a set minimum was to at least make it possible to survive with a job. But the overall goal is to make more either through moving up the ladder or switching jobs or having more than one. And yes, I agree that $2000 a month with a kid or more would be freaking insane.

    @SavvyFinancialLatina, yep, stressful. Glad you have a little more breathing room now!

    @Meghan, yeah, I agree that you sometimes can’t move, that is why I mentioned roommates. And for the DC area specifically, you should contact Emily it seems (a commenter above you that lived on very little there). I really think $2000 a month is not a really awesome budget…just that it is doable if necessary.

    @Thomas, don’t forget that Visa was involved too. 🙂

    @Kim, yep. It really does assume that you’ll never want or need to buy your own home.

  9. Heidi

    I am currently in grad school in Baltimore, MD and live off the stipend the school gives us which is about $1640/month (we have to sign a contract that we will not work outside of the university for the duration of our time in school), and the school pays basic health insurance and tuition (but not fees). It is definitely do-able, but you have to be creative. I was working making more than twice my stipend before I went back to grad school, and took a lot of the financial hits (ie buying a car after graduating college since the college car would not make it through grad school, buying furniture/dishes/basics) while I was working or living off the stipend would be much harder. Also, I paid $500/mo for insurance the year after I graduated college, were the university not providing and paying for insurance I think it would be impossible to afford. I have never heard of $20 for insurance- that’s a prescription co-pay at best!

    I grew up in the area and did not even apply to grad schools in DC knowing that DC is a higher cost of living than Baltimore.

  10. Lena @ WhatMommyDoes

    Wow, that McDonald’s budget was deceivingly simple and left out some big “what-ifs.” What happens in a month where you don’t have proper insurance (because you paid $20 per month for it) and had to visit the Dr. twice and also get some medication? Perhaps I could see this working for one person with no kids who is comfortable living a simpler life. Like you said, it would be no picnic. Makes me sad that it automatically includes a second job to make enough income to cover basic expenses. I am big proponent of second jobs to ramp up savings or save up a specific sum, but to have one to make ends meet is not ideal. Realistically, in the U.S. at least, this income level for a family would need to have budgeted lines for government assistance. That would be way more realistic. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Esther

    It’s nice to see the actual numbers being discussed! We have two children and average $2,200 a month as our budget. Pulling our expenses down to under $2,000 a month is completely doable, but right now we allow ourselves a few luxuries like eating out once a month. Most people today have no idea what it’s actually possible to live on if you don’t make choices like buying new vehicles. We are a one income family and feel like we live very comfortably. So much of it is in your perspective!

  12. Crystal @ BFS

    @Heidi, yeah, creativity is the key!

    @Lena, glad to have shared. 🙂

    @Esther, I love the saying “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you have.” – contentment and prioritization are the keys, right?

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