Lost My Job And Went To Italy – Tips To Live On $19,000 A Year

Efficiency- Michael:


I’m 25 years old, I have 2 engineering degrees including a masters, my wife has a doctorate.

We just got back from a multi-week Trip to Italy.

We have no student loans.

I don’t have a Full-Time Job and I think I’m going to enjoy a few months not working.

Living it up

Sure Engineering Jobs pay well, but have you seen the cost of a masters degree? Or a Doctorate? We paid for both.

The secrets:

  • Hardwork
  • A good job
  • A relentless approach to apply Engineering Efficiency to Life.

The first two are up to you, the last – I collected and analyzed the data, you get the tips.

Efficient Diet

We used the Pareto Principle to look at our biggest expenses. Food stood out immediately.

After calculating the Calories Per Dollar of the foods we ate, I found the biggest inefficiency was eating fast food or at restaurants. Go to some generic chain microwaved food restaurant, get chicken fingers and fries – 10 dollars. Get a drink and leave a tip, that’s 15 dollars a person.

For 1 meal.

Microwaved Chicken Fingers.

If you ate that all year, you could expect to spend 12,000 dollars on food per person.

We now eat for close to 1,000 dollars a year. Not chicken fingers, but rather Fajitas, Alfredo, and Thai Fried Rice.

Sometimes We Cavefish

But what about Sushi? What about going out with friends?

We do both. Enjoying the company of friends at a restaurant is not the same as eating for Calories. Indulging in Sushi is one of my personal pleasures. These are experiences.

98% of meals, we eat delicious food made at home. 2% are favorite restaurants or getting drinks with friends. That’s not just calories, that’s an experience.

6 Quick Tips On Saving Food:

Check out our Calorie Per Dollar List Article or Efficiency Is Everything – In Cooking for absurdly more detail.

  1. Get Protein From: Lentils, Beans, Chicken, Milk, Eggs, Ground Beef in that order.  We mostly make Chicken dishes.
  2. For Calories: Bread, Rice, Noodles. Make sure this isnt some processed Instant Rice box, it’s 7x cheaper to cook your own.
  3. Stay away from canned anything, super expensive. Fresh or Frozen is much better value.
  4. Premade frozen or refrigerated meals are 2-8x more expensive than making yourself.
  5. When desperate- The 5 Dollar Pizza from Little Caesars gives you 420 Calories Per Dollar and 20g Protein Per Dollar. It’s still 2x cheaper to eat at home.

Bonus: Make delicious meals in bulk, and learn the skill of the microwave. 99 seconds is the perfect point to stir/check. Plus its the max time you get with 2 buttons.

Challenge For You:

When you get to the grocery store, think about slightly modifying one recipe with a suggestion from above.  And if you are going to try Lentils, put a Fast Food amount of olive oil and salt on it. Indulge on your first day of Efficiency.

That saves us thousands of dollars per person a year, a half million dollars in our lifetime.

You Should Review Your Health Insuranceslurpee

You should look at your health insurance. Seriously. I find most families spend over 300,000 dollars in their lifetime because they got screwed into an expensive plan. Insurance companies go out of their way to make the language hard to understand. I’ve found most of the time, if you cut off your arm and get cancer in the same year, you would be better off getting the lowest cost plan.

Below are some tips, I do the full breakdown + customer support in Efficiency Is Everything – In Life


  • Look for words like: Max Out Of Pocket or Max Deductible and Premium or Cost Per Paycheck. Everything else serves little purpose other than to confuse.
  • Deeply consider low cost plans
  • Factor in how long it takes for you to make up the cost of the deductible with savings from a low cost premium.
  • Keep an emergency savings

Even if it takes hours to figure it out, you will save thousands of dollars a year. If it takes you 3 hours, it would be the equivalent of getting paid ~1,600$/hour.

Online Shopping – The Magical Black Holeagustus

That automatic potato peeler is going to change your life. I mean, imagine not having to peel potatoes but having mashed potatoes on command. Its only $15 right?

Or that Wrist Watch. Pristine, crisp look, and a decent value for what you are getting.

A non-engineering tip I have for my frequent Amazon sweet tooth.

  1. Find the perfect Tea Infuser, a Starwars Lego set, or neat Kitchen Gadget
  2. Add to wish list
  3. Wait until November
  4. Drink Tequila
  5. Go through list and decide what you still want

Get it for Christmas.

I specifically drink a lot of tequila, go through the list with Mandy, and when Christmas day comes, every present is a surprise.

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