Olivia, €768 a month: “I don’t have a fridge at home”

Can we do a thesis without funding? What does everyday life look like when we try to remove ourselves from financial logic as much as possible? These are some of the questions we tackle in Settlement Points!

Talking about money is still taboo in France. However, it’s an interesting topic… and feminist in certain respects! In Calculation of accounts, all kinds of people explore their budgets, talk about financial institutions and their relationships with money as a couple or alone. Today, Olivia agreed to go through her accounts for us.

  • Name: Olivia
  • Age: 24 years
  • Job: PhD in Anthropology
  • Income: €768 per month
  • Residence: 42 m² apartment for rent in a very small town in the Burgundy region.

Olivia’s earnings

Olivia is currently in the second year of her dissertation in anthropology. He receives no funding or awards for this thesis.

“Like about 60% of PhD students in the social sciences, I am not paid for my research. As a result, I distinguish my “objective” financial situation from my experience of my situation. Objectively, I’m clearly insecure because I’m well below the poverty line. »

The poverty line is calculated as a percentage of the average standard of living. According to INSEE, the poverty threshold is determined by convention 60% the average standard of living of the population.

He occasionally teaches courses at the university (as a doctoral student he cannot teach more than 96 hours a year) and, in his opinion, does not bring serious income: “Since I live quite far from the faculties, almost all of my salary is used to cover my transportation and on-site living expenses. Plus, my pay for these hours is annual, not monthly, and can change at different times, sometimes months after I work. »

Most of his income comes from ithelp from parents:

“I am lucky that my parents are behind me, who want to finish my education. Together they give me €600 per month. »

Added to this €168 per month housing allowance. As a whole, his budget is therefore organized 768 € per month.

Olivia’s relationship with money

In recent years, Olivia has a special relationship with money: she tries to be as independent as possible and live with little.

“It seems to me that there are several ways to understand autonomy or freedom; By aiming for a significant financial contribution that allows us to spend without counting, we may feel freer, or believe that financial autonomy is developing a certain independence with money.

I try to build my life in this second perspective: I prefer to reduce my expenses rather than increase my income, a logic that is consistent with my life projects. This is quite a mental task because it requires a real questioning of my representations, the standards and habits that have shaped me. This is one of the reasons why, for example, I settled in the countryside and not in the city, where the relationship with money is everywhere. »

Because she is part of the process of living on less, and because she has a family safety net, Olivia does not consider herself poor despite her income below the poverty line:

“I believe that poverty is both not being able to make ends meet and living in a state of mental distress where you have to impose constant limits on yourself, where you live with the anxiety of not having a safety net. problem event.

It’s not my special thing, because I don’t deprive myself and I don’t miss anything. I live on the strength of my circumstances, but I’m also fortunate to volunteer relatively little money and hope at the same time. financial and moral support from my family. »

He says that this path is unique and he just wants to talk about it.

“I don’t want to be completely lecturing, to give the impression that I manage my budget better than anyone else, or that everyone else is like me. I would just like to show another diagram, another relationship with money and expenses. »

Olivia’s expenses

Olivia’s main expense, which is almost 50% of her income, is her rent.

“I have been renting my 42 m² apartment for about a year and a half. It’s on the second floor of an old building on the busiest street in a town of 2,000 people in the Burgundy region. Around the city, rivers, fields or forests 30 km. »

She also spends a lot of time with her husband, who lives in a cabin in the countryside a few kilometers away.

He explains that there are no collective charges. “You have to pay a monthly fee and take steps to have a trash can. I’ve never done this: I produce very little waste and throw what little there is in store bins. »

His bills cost him approx. 52 € per month for hot water and heating. “I note that I work Lesselectrical equipment is possible. No refrigerator, no internet box, no TV, no kettle, no coffee machine…”.

This operation is linked to his desire to spend as little money as possible, which is accompanied by a very strong awareness of the environmental and social footprint of these objects:

“For me, everything is connected. Ecology has always been important to me and it resonates strongly with every everyday object. I try to live in a way that protects the environment and therefore, because I am part of the environment, there is no difference between the two.

For example, for the refrigerator, I think about the materials it represents, the footprint of its construction, its delivery to my home, its daily use, and what would happen if I throw it away… The human suffering caused by its production. , I have no information about. So what to do I can do without: most things can be stored and stored outside the fridge! In this regard, doing the supermarket bin taught me a lot. »

“I compose a lot freely”

Indeed, given her limited budget, Olivia explains that she has to be very busy with free entry, especially for shopping.

“Seizing the opportunity to live outside the city, my partner and I and a small network of people started vegetable gardens. which feeds us almost 100% during the five or six hottest months of the year and this allows us to exchange our produce among ourselves.

This is the case for fresh and dried fruits that we collect directly from our home, neighbors or the surrounding landscape. We also do a lot of wild harvesting. »

For things that can’t be found around a bush, Olivia buys her supplies from thrift stores:

” We let’s make supermarket bins cheese, yogurt, etc. from my city for

We complete we buy the little things we miss (flour, toilet paper, etc.). I consume a little more than my partner because I like to cook special things, try recipes or buy what I want at the market. For my budget, that works out to about 60 euros per month. »

It also includes monthly fixed expenses 22 € phone plan (also serves as internet access), 4 € bank charges and 14 € for home insurance.

She has few feminine expenses – those that are in the budget of people who are considered to be most feminine: make-up, waxing, hairdressing, skin carebut also menstrual protection or contraception.

“I don’t really have the budget for these expenses. During my periods, I protect myself with the washable sanitary napkins my grandmother made and gave me. Very rarely, I epilate with the epilator my mother gave me a long time ago, I don’t shave. I don’t wear perfume, sometimes I wear mascara or lipstick that is offered to me. »

“I have no desire for money”

Olivia’s last big expense? Payment of registration fee at the university, 480 €. For this he had to dip into his savings. Apart from such expenses, he says that he has no inclination in money matters:

“With this lifestyle, I could reduce my food budget to practically 0 euros per year. But I don’t want that: I appreciate the balance I’m in right now.

He and his wife develop hobbies that fit their lifestyle and have little or no value.

“My husband and I do martial arts with a former soldier who lives next door who trains us for free – which also allows him to not lose his grip and work on his grips. The rest of the time we train together alone.

We hike or bike, sometimes we go on a ten-day hike in the same lifestyle, or on a road trip/weekend hitchhiking or biking, in collective places or just with our family. We make our garden by replacing the seeds of our crops with others, arrange with recycled materials, paint, make great experimental dishes for each other… The only “hobby” that costs me money (and in this case a lot!) is books! »

These books, intended both for leisure and thesis work, cost him on average 30 euros per month.

For his research in the field of anthropology, he has to travel to Paris regularly, which costs him 80 € per month smoothed over the year with train and transport tickets. In the city, he feels very differently about his budget and expenses:

“When I’m at home, I spend almost nothing on recreation. It’s different when I’m in Paris, I spend more money on drinks, outings, sometimes clothes… And it’s harder to be comfortable with my budget in this context, or to not feel poor around my friends who all have salaries and offer restaurants or rides! »

Olivia’s savings

Olivia estimates that she saves on average each month 150 €. He usually leaves them in his checking account and expenses when he has to travel to Paris for research.

In the future, he wants to live permanently with his partner:

“We are starting to look at houses. This will definitely be done after I finish my dissertation, based on my own savings and my partner’s savings while he is working.

Our parents also want to help us a little if needed. We are looking for an affordable house A maximum of 20,000 and 40,000 euros, in order to renew it according to our taste, our temporality and to suit our lifestyle. »

Thanks to Olivia for sharing her account with us!

Settlements is a section that accepts all profiles and all income types. To participate, write to us: [email protected]

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Front cover photo credit: Jake Melara


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