‘We only spend 20 euros a month on food’

Krap bij Kas, Frederik Foto: Tara van den Broek
Alma and Frederik. Photo: Tara van den Broek

Alma and Frederik live in an apartment in the neighbourhood of Kanaleneiland. They are not a couple but they do have the same group of friends. Alma is 23 years old, comes from Sweden, and is a Bachelor's student in the Global Sustainability Science programme. As for Frederik, he is a 22-year-old from Germany who studies Psychology. Their rent — one of the few expenses they really can’t escape — costs 580 euros per person. Internet costs them about 15 euros per person each month, while the electricity bill amounts to 15 euros a month. Both relatively cheap. “Last year, the energy provider refunded us 230 euros,” says Frederik. “Since then, they have reduced our advance electricity payment. I think we consume little because we don’t have a TV or a dryer. We also have LED lamps and we are diligent about turning them off when we are in another room or asleep.”

Their gas bill, however, increased significantly last year. Normally, their gas bill costs 39 euros per person monthly. “But, last year, all of a sudden we had to pay 870 euros on top of that,” says Alma, who knows all their expenses by heart. “Fortunately, we received 1,300 euros in energy subsidies from the government and another 180 euros from Eneco.” Since then, they hardly ever turn on their heating, which caused a huge mould outbreak in the winter. The mould didn’t just grow on the walls and ceiling but also inside their piano. “We’re fighting it with mould spray but it’s far from over,” Alma sighs. “Hopefully it will be gone by summer. “

Krap bij Kas, Frederik Foto: Tara van den Broek

Gift shop
They were not cold in the winter because they got warm clothes for free. Alma and Frederik don't spend any money on clothes – everything they own is from the gift shop Weggeefwinkel Utrecht, where people can donate items they no longer want and take things for free as well. “The gift shop is not just for poor people,” says Frederik. “People who want to do more than shop in second-hand stores go there too. You give away surplus items of clothing and you only take what you need. It is a statement against consumer society. We look like tramps sometimes but that’s our style and we’re proud of it. “

Just like vagrants, Alma and Frederik also look for food in the trash skips of restaurants and supermarkets. "Companies sometimes have to throw away products in order to guarantee quality. For example, when something is past the expiration date or when a single apple is rotten in a bag,” says Frederik. “But that food is usually still okay to eat. We’ll gladly eat the apples that haven’t gone off.” By doing this, they only spend 20 euros per person on food each month — mostly on peanut butter and oat milk, two products that have a long shelf life and almost never end up in the trash. But Alma and Frederik don't do this just for the free food. Their group of friends enjoys spending the evening dumpster diving together. “It’s so much fun. It’s like a treasure hunt and it makes us bond with each other, it creates a sense of community. Everyone shares the food without whining or sending each other Tikkies (online payment requests, Ed.). After all, it’s all free.”

That sense of community means a great deal to Alma and Frederik. They always invite people over to eat and party together. “It can get pretty wild sometimes,” Alma tells us with a laugh. “You really don’t need to go to an expensive club to have a wild party.” According to Frederik, he spends about 20 euros a month on going out. He never buys beers when he does go to clubs and only drinks alcohol while "warming up" for a night out. “Besides, I actually like house parties a lot more. There are also raves in the alternative scene that you do not have to pay for.”

Krap bij Kas, Frederik Foto: Tara van den Broek

Travel is a considerable expense. Sometimes, they buy Flixbus tickets to cities like London. Last year, they bought an Interrail pass that allowed them to travel for two months for 280 euros. This ticket had a 50-percent discount because it was Interrail's 50-year anniversary. They crashed with friends and acquaintances and camped in the wilderness just outside the city of Zagreb, Croatia. “It was a great, cheap adventure,” recollects Frederik. Counting travel, their monthly costs amount to 100 euros per person, approximately.

Frederik doesn’t have a job. He gets about 860 euros a month from his parents and he can make ends meet with that. Alma works at a bar in Utrecht, where she earns about 400 euros a month, and she receives 300 euros in student financing. In addition, she has been relying on her savings for almost three years. “I’m a bit scared of spending money,” Alma admits. “But what Frederik and I want to clarify is that it is really not a chore to live frugally. You get used to it.”


Expenses per month per person

Rent: 580 euros
Internet: 5 euros
Electricity:  19 euros
Gas: 39 euros
Clothing: 0 euros
Food: 40 euros
Going out: 20 euros
Travel: 40 euros

Income per month per person
Study financing: 300
Side job: 400

Monthly allowance from parents: 860