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How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life in Austin? (As a Single)

fire life austin michael discenza unsplash

Photo credit: Michael Discenza on Unsplash

How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life in Austin?

Hello, and welcome to interview #30 in the How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life interview series! Part interview, part spending report, this series will introduce us to FIRE* seekers from all over the world.

They’ll reveal their essential spending and money-saving tips—all to help us learn new ways to save on our own expenses. As a bonus, we’ll also get to discover the unique advantages and challenges of living in different places around the globe.

*FIRE stands for financial independence, retire early. It’s also known as FI—financial independence. For more info, see my FI School series—it’ll teach you everything you need to know about FI (and FIRE).

About the interview series

I created an intro page for this interview series to help explain what it’s about, what’s included (or not) and why. I’ll also link to all the interviews from the intro page—so check back there to see the entire collection.

Jump to the series intro: How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life? (The Interview Series)

Disclosure: These interviews may include affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a commission if you make a purchase through my links—at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

Interview #30: David from Austin, Texas

In today’s interview, we’ll meet David from the Filled With Money blog. David lives in Austin, Texas and is my first interviewee from the Lone Star State! For years, I’ve heard that Texas’ major cities have grown and become increasingly expensive.

I was curious about just how expensive they were and was thrilled when David volunteered to share his essential spending with us. I’ve now learned a little more about Austin and how it’s possible to live affordably—even in a growing, moderately-expensive city.

About Filled With Money

If you’re looking for career advice and tips on developing a healthy, successful mindset, you’ll love Filled With Money. I’m neither working nor seeking a job, but I still find David’s posts engaging and helpful!

He also writes about many other topics, including early retirement, investing, making more money, productivity, and much more. After getting to know David through his interview below, I hope you’ll take some time to check out his excellent blog.

Part 1: Getting to know you

fire life austin david

A photo of the South Korean town that David grew up in

Tell us about yourself

I’m a single 27-year-old guy living in Texas. My family is in South Korea so I get to call them quite often! I graduated with a degree in Finance and have been working in Finance ever since. One day, I have aspirations of owning a lifestyle business after reaching FIRE so that I have something to do after early retirement. I’ve also been toying with the idea of reaching financial independence but work optional. I’ve been loving my job too much lately.

If you want to learn more about me, feel free to visit my About page!

Where are you in your journey to FIRE?

I would say I am only between 30–50% on my way to FIRE. Still trying to make progress every day.

As soon as I graduated college, I hit the ground running and actually applied everything that I’ve been reading about in the FIRE world. I maxed out my 401k on my $52,500 salary and maxed out my HSA as well. All of my investments are running smoothly in the S&P 500 and I have a hands-off approach to my investments.

I’ve grown my income quite well since then and now regularly maxing out my tax-advantaged accounts is that much easier. I thank my younger self for putting in the dues because I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have the kind of money that I built up. Investing in my 20s definitely paid off.

The bear market of 2022 ruined my net worth this year. However, it couldn’t have come at a better time because I’ve been loving my job so much. I wouldn’t mind working for 2–3 more years and then decide if I want to either retire early or be work optional by then. 

I save, at a minimum, 50% of my paychecks and save 100% of my bonus and stock compensation. I hope that turbocharges my net worth trajectory even further.

What type of FIRE are you aiming for? (FIRE, Lean FIRE, or Fat FIRE*)

How Chrissy defines FIRE, Lean FIRE, and Fat FIRE

Some people define Lean FIRE as under $40k in annual spending; FIRE as $40–$100k in annual spending; and Fat FIRE as $100k+ in annual spending.

However, I prefer looser definitions that are not based on hard numbers. That’s because $100k could be Fat FIRE in a small Canadian town but Lean FIRE in San Francisco. That said, here are my definitions:

  • Lean FIRE: The essentials with little or no discretionary spending.
  • FIRE: The essentials plus a comfortable amount of discretionary spending.
  • Fat FIRE: The essentials plus a luxurious amount of discretionary spending.

I used to want to be LeanFIRE. I was sick and tired of the corporate life so much and wanted out as soon as possible, even at the sacrifice of not being able to spend as much as I would like. Now I want to be at least FIRE with the goal of being FatFIRE. 

I just couldn’t believe I landed the current role that I have and consider myself lucky beyond words. I’m lucky as well in the sense that I just don’t spend a lot of money, myself. I spend $20,000–$25,000 per year. With inflation running rampant, that number is probably closer to $30,000. 

However, it is very manageable and I do have ways that I can cut back. It’s a good thing that I don’t have many wants in the world. And I try to keep my essential expenses very low as well.

I’m glad to not have many wants in life. I practice stealth wealth and I highly doubt anyone will ever think that I’m wealthy if someone sees me in real life.

Tell us about your living situation

I am renting an apartment complex that I’m hoping to live in for the next 2–3 years to ride out the ridiculous housing prices that have been happening. Even if housing prices never decline, I’m hoping that I can increase savings faster than the eventual housing price increase that should happen in the coming years. 

There’s one roommate that I’m living with and I’m keeping my expenses super low as a result. I’m paying about $800/month, all-in including utilities and internet. Quite an upgrade in lifestyle from the $1,125/month I was paying before in Houston, TX.

I can walk anywhere. I have a grocery store, post office, and restaurants a 10-minute walk away. I recently discovered I do not like working from home anywhere so I drive to the office every day. It’s about a 15-minute commute each way, so I don’t mind it one bit.  

After working from home for two years, I’ve grown a little tired of the work from home lifestyle. I now work in the office full time and I prefer it that way. It’s been working well so far.

Why did you choose to live in Austin?

I had an amazing job opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. It was with a dream company that I want to work the rest of my life for. There’s no other company I would rather work for.

Plus, the city of Austin is a great city. There’s a ton of stuff to do here and there’s a lot of lively music that you can enjoy. The housing costs may have gone out of control but I’m thinking that it will cool down in the next year or two. 

The three cities that I would consider working and living in are Austin, Dallas, and Houston. I lived the most of my life in Texas and I can’t imagine living in any other state.

Part 2: The expenses

In this section, David shares his essential expenses and best money-saving tips. But before we get started, let’s review some important notes:

Important notes about the numbers

  • Only essential expenses are included.
  • Discretionary expenses (e.g. travel, gifts, etc.) are not included.
  • Expenses are rounded to the nearest dollar. 
  • Expenses are displayed in the interviewee’s home currency.
  • In this interview, the home currency is US dollars.
  • For your convenience, I’ve included a currency converter for each expense.

For detailed explanations about which expenses are included (or not) see my How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life intro post.

1. How much does housing cost in Austin?

townhouses curtis adams
Photo credit: Curtis Adams on Pexels

Rent ($700/month; $8,400/year) 🇺🇸

I split a $1,400/month apartment with one other roommate so my share of the rent is only $700/month.

Property tax ($0) 🇺🇸

No property tax, I am renting.

Strata/HOA fees ($0) 🇺🇸

No HOA fees.

Renter’s insurance ($20/month; $240/year) 🇺🇸

I pay about $20/month for renter’s insurance.

Home maintenance ($30/month; $360/year) 🇺🇸

This category includes: home maintenance, repairs, cleaning, and improvements; household goods and supplies; furniture; and appliances.

Due to me renting, the home maintenance fees are paid for by the landlord. One of the reasons why I don’t think renting is throwing money away! I do clean my home regularly, so if you were to include that, I would estimate it costs about $30/month worth of cleaning supplies to clean my home.

2. How much does transportation cost in Austin?

transportation paris 16 flickr
Paris Shared Bike, Bus and Taxi Lane” by EURIST e.V. is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Vehicle loan ($0) 🇺🇸

There are no vehicle loan payments. I paid about $13.5k, all-in, for my car that I bought outright in April 2022. The used car market is nuts! This is for a 5-year-old car with 80,000 miles. 

Vehicle insurance and registration ($80/month; $960/year) 🇺🇸

I pay about $850/year for car insurance and $85/year for vehicle registration.

Gas ($80/month; $960/year) 🇺🇸

I used to fill up every two months, now I fill up at least twice a month. I pay about $80/month for gas. Here’s to hoping gas prices go down! This was quite a change from the days when I used to only spend $20 every two months. 

Vehicle maintenance ($25/month; $300/year) 🇺🇸

Maybe about $300/year on changing the oil, AC filter, and rotating tires. I maintain my car very well.

Bike maintenance ($0) 🇺🇸

No bikes.

Parking and tolls ($0) 🇺🇸

I generally do not pay parking or toll fees and I haven’t had to, yet. I recently just bought a toll road sticker so we’ll see if that changes.

Transit ($0) 🇺🇸

I haven’t regularly taken the bus in a long time! I rode the bus maybe once in the past year or so.

3. How much does food cost in Austin?

grocery store gemma unsplash
Photo by gemma on Unsplash

Groceries ($100/month; $1,200/year) 🇺🇸

I haven’t cooked in a good 3–4 years or so. I always eat out. However, I do have to spend ~$100/month just on water alone. That also includes sparkling water. I like to stock up on water just in case I need the hydration for emergencies. 

I have some digestion issues that I’m trying to work out which I need to drink water to make me feel better. I’m looking to meet with a GI soon.

Eating out ($350/month; $4,200/year) 🇺🇸

I spend about $300–$350/month on eating out. I have digestion issues so I’m very limited on what I can eat out on. Luckily, I don’t get tired of eating the same thing over and over again. 

4. How much do utilities and bills cost in Austin?

utilities jason richard unsplash
Photo by Jason Richard on Unsplash

Natural gas, water, garbage and recycling ($35/month; $420/year) 🇺🇸

About $70/month split between me and my roommate.

Electricity ($23/month; $270/year) 🇺🇸

About $45/month split between me and my roommate.

Internet ($25/month; $300/year) 🇺🇸

$50/month split between me and my roommate.

Home phone ($0) 🇺🇸

No home phone.

Cell phone ($45/month; $540/year) 🇺🇸

About $45/month for an unlimited plan with T-Mobile.

Streaming entertainment ($0) 🇺🇸

I do not pay for cable TV. Everything I need is on Youtube/Netflix! My friend shared her Netflix password with me so I do not pay anything to stream shows or anything like that. If I want to watch a show from an exclusive streaming company, I typically use their free trial and cancel within the window.

5. How much do other essentials cost in Austin?

clothing polina tankilevitch
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels

Life and disability insurance ($10/month; $120/year) 🇺🇸

I think I pay like $10/month through my company on top of the 2x salary life insurance they give.

Medical insurance ($120/month; $1,440/year) 🇺🇸

I think I pay about $120/month, out of pocket. It’s a pretty good medical insurance program.

Out-of-pocket medical expenses ($84/month; $1,008/year) 🇺🇸

I generally do not have a lot of medical expenses throughout the year, on a normal year. Maybe I spend about $1,000 per year, if that. However, this year might change because I want to see a GI for my digestion issues. It’s something that I’m struggling with.

Clothing and footwear ($0) 🇺🇸

I haven’t bought new clothes and shoes in about 4 years. All of the clothes and shoes I have I think will last me another 5–10 years, as well. 

That’s not to say I only have one article of clothing. My closet is full of clothes because I bought $2,000 worth of clothes in 2018. 

My shoes collection is also a lot with about six pairs of shoes on top of the work shoes that I own. I like how clothes are something you buy once and don’t have to buy again.

Personal care ($35/month; $420/year) 🇺🇸

This category includes: haircuts, toiletries and grooming services and supplies.

Maybe $400 per year, including everything such as haircuts, toilet paper, soap, shampoo. 

Technology ($0) 🇺🇸

This category includes essential technology: software and hardware purchases, upgrades, maintenance, and repairs. Non-essentials (video games and consoles, e-readers, security cameras, etc.) aren’t included. 

I haven’t bought new technology in a while. The latest technology that I bought was an iPhone 10 last year for about $300. I usually keep my phones for 5–10 years before going on the resale market and buying another used phone. 

I bought my computer in 2013 for $1,000 and haven’t gotten a new computer ever since then. 

I try not to spend real money on virtual goods such as software. I always look for a cheaper/free option!

Part 3: Adding it all up

Now that we’ve detailed all of David’s essential expenses, it’s time to add everything up in some nice, organized tables!

Important notes about the numbers

  • Only essential expenses are included.
  • Discretionary expenses (e.g. travel, gifts, etc.) are not included.
  • Expenses are rounded to the nearest dollar. 
  • Expenses are displayed in the interviewee’s home currency.
  • In this interview, the home currency is US dollars.
  • For your convenience, I’ve included a currency converter in each section. I hope you find it useful!

For detailed explanations about which expenses are included (or not) see my How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life intro post.

How much does it cost to live the FIRE life in Austin?

1. Housing

ExpenseMonthly (USD)Annual (USD)
Rent$700$8,400
Property tax$0$0
Strata/HOA fees
$0$0
Renter's insurance$20$240
Maintenance$30$360
TOTAL$750$9,000

2. Transportation

ExpenseMonthly (USD)Annual (USD)
Vehicle loan$0$0
Vehicle insurance$80$960
Gas$80$960
Vehicle maintenance$25$300
Bike maintenance$0$0
Parking and tolls$0$0
Transit$0$0
TOTAL$185$2,220

3. Food

ExpenseMonthly (USD)Annual (USD)
Groceries$100$1,200
Eating out$350$4,200
TOTAL$450$5,400

4. Utilities and bills

ExpenseMonthly (USD)Annual (USD)
Natural gas, water, garbage and recycling$35$420
Electricity$23$270
Internet and cable TV$25$300
Home phone$0$0
Cell phones$45$540
Streaming entertainment$0$0
TOTAL$128$1,530

5. Other essentials

ExpenseMonthly (USD)Annual (USD)
Life and disability insurance$10$120
Medical insurance$120$1,440
Out-of-pocket medical expenses$84$1,008
Clothing and footwear$0$0
Personal care$35$420
Technology$0$0
TOTAL$249$2,988

Grand totals

ExpenseMonthly (USD)Annual (USD)
Housing$750$9,000
Transportation$185$2,220
Food$450$5,400
Utilities and bills$128$1,530
Other essentials$249$2,988
TOTAL$1,762$21,138

Part 4: Other expenses

This is a special section that’s just for fun! It’s the place for my interviewees to mention any expenses that they’ve done a really good job of optimizing and/or just want to share. 

These expenses won’t be included in the totals (just to keep things as standardized as possible). I hope you find this section interesting and informative. Here’s an additional expense that David wanted to share:

Fun budget

I do keep a $500/month fun budget that I’m not allowed to feel guilty on spending any part of. It has gone into some entertaining categories such as a trip to Las Vegas, products from Shark Tank (I recently bought some Oxygen from Boost Oxygen), and on floating down the river! 

Chrissy’s takeaways

Thanks again to David for sharing his expenses. It was so interesting to take a peek into his spending and how much it costs to live in Austin. 

This is my thirtieth How Much Does it Cost to Live the FIRE Life interview, but nerding out on all these numbers never gets old for me! Here are my top three takeaways from David’s interview:

Living frugally in a moderately-expensive city

Austin’s generally not on ‘most expensive city’ lists, but it’s still moderately expensive—somewhere between Miami, FL and Portland, OR. One thing it’s not is cheap, yet David’s managed to live quite frugally there.

One major contributor to his cost savings is having a roommate. (It’s a smart money-saving tactic many of my past interviewees have used). Most of David’s housing expenses are halved by sharing his accommodations! 

If you’re single—or even a couple or a family—sharing your home with others could help to dramatically lower your cost of living. (My family does this by hosting homestay students.)

Related: Wondering how David’s spending compares to other FIRE singles? Check out my one-year of FIRE interviews post for charts with all the numbers!

What, no groceries or home cooking?!

Okay, I’ll be honest—this one was pretty shocking for me! Almost all FIRE seekers try to cook at home as much as possible. That’s why I was so surprised that David doesn’t cook AT ALL! The only groceries he buys is water! 🤯

Even more surprising is how David manages to keep his eating out costs so low, at only $350 USD per month ($447 CAD)! I don’t know how he does it, especially since Austin is a moderately expensive city.

Eating out is very expensive in most cities—even if it’s only an occasional indulgence. And yet, David eats out every single meal! Again, I don’t know how he does it! David, if you’re reading this, you’ll have to share your secrets in the comments. 😉

A slower, happier path to FIRE

David mentions how he initially wanted to reach FIRE as soon as possible. That’s because he wasn’t happy with his work life and wanted out. But he changed his mind once he started his new job (which sounds like a dream position for him).

David decided to slow down his journey and aim for FIRE or Fat FIRE instead of just Lean FIRE. His FIRE date may be farther off now, but he’s much happier! As advocated in the Slow FI movement, David is choosing to live a remarkable life now—while still on the path to FI.

I hope newcomers to FIRE will learn from David and others like him. There are so many benefits to a slower journey to FI or FIRE!

Closing thoughts

For me, this quote from David’s interview sums up his FIRE journey (and that of many others):

“I’m glad to not have many wants in life. I practice stealth wealth, and I highly doubt anyone will ever think that I’m wealthy if someone sees me in real life.”

This is the essence of FIRE and Mustachianism. People like David neither want nor need to flaunt their wealth. They’re content knowing they’re genuinely wealthy, and it matters very little to them if others perceive them as ‘rich’ or not.

How amazing would it be if we all lived as mindfully and practically as David? I would love to see more people getting off the hamster wheel of comparison and over-consumption. That would be my ultimate FIRE dream—for more people to find FIRE and choose to live as David does. 

I hope you enjoyed David’s interview as much as I did and that it inspires you to practice stealth wealth to work towards FIRE (and maybe even Fat FIRE)!

Connect with David

If you’d like to connect with David, you can find him on his blog, Filled With Money or on Twitter.

Share your thoughts

Were you surprised by David’s essential expenses? Are any of them significantly different from where you live? Share your thoughts in the comments, along with your own money-saving tips!

Sayu lives a happy, comfortable life in the Japanese city of Mito, but keeps his expenses shockingly low. (They’re the lowest in the series!) Find out how he does it in his interview!

Visit the intro page to learn more about the what and why behind the series and access the complete list of interviews.

Support this blog

If you liked this article and want more content like this, please support this blog by sharing it! Not only does it help spread the FIRE, but it lets me know what content you find most useful. (Which encourages me to write more of it!) 

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As always, however you show your support for this blog—THANK YOU!

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Amanda
    August 17, 2022 at 10:43 am

    I’d love to know how he eats out every meal on $10/day.

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      August 17, 2022 at 12:05 pm

      Hi Amanda—I’ll ping David and ask him to shed more light on this. (I’m curious as well!)

    • Reply
      David @ Filled With Money
      August 17, 2022 at 6:09 pm

      Amanda,

      Great question! I only eat once a day. Not because I want to save money but because my stomach can really only digest 1 full meal a day (lunch, cannot eat dinner), otherwise, I lose sleep and cannot sleep.

      I’m still in the experimenting stage of what foods / how much food I can eat therefore, I’ve only been eating at around 3 restaurants. One bowl purchase with extra rice and beans is enough to satiate me for the entire day and I am right dab in the middle of the BMI scale so I am not underweight at all.

      I use discounted gift cards to purchase Chipotle, which was already discounted to begin with because I use my credit card to purchase those gift cards so I really pay something closer to $9 or $8 per day, but inflation is running high so it’s increasing by the minute.

      I hope this helps! Feel free to ask follow up questions.

      • Chrissy
        August 17, 2022 at 8:39 pm

        Hi David—thanks for adding all this extra detail! I’m amazed that you’re able to eat only one meal a day and feel satiated.

        I practice intermittent fasting, and skip breakfast. Some days, I can go with 1.5 meals, but I’ve never made it to just one! Maybe I need to eat more beans… perhaps that’s part of the secret?

        When my husband and I both went from eating three meals a day to two, we saw a big drop in our grocery spending. So I can attest to how much can be saved by eating less.

        It sounds like you’re doing a good job managing your health through diet. Hopefully, you’ll resolve your GI issues without the need for specialists. It sounds like a frustrating issue!

  • Reply
    Teresa
    August 22, 2022 at 3:19 pm

    I love Texas and the friendly people we have met on our many RV trips there! David – have you thought of buying a Soda Stream? Our sons bought one for dad because he drinks fizzy water and pretends it is beer so rather than single use cans or bottles, we just fill the soda stream bottles and save a bunch of $$$ as well as recycling! After the initial investment, there is no way you will spend $100/month on water! Have you tried eating 6 small meals a day? I have found that eating till I am full, makes for discomfort so I always eat just enough to take away the hunger – kinda like snacking throughout the day. It keeps my weight down and blood sugar level. Restaurant food is full of “stuff” that is not healthy. After attending a restaurant trade show where I was given potato salad that had a shelf life of 30 days, I decided to limit my restaurant intake. Simple home prepared small meals may be the best way to go. I hope you get to the bottom of the GI issue – good luck! Sorry I forgot to mention that I am truly impressed with your spending and savings!

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      August 22, 2022 at 9:43 pm

      Hi Mom—thanks for sharing all these fantastic tips with David. You are so conscientious, well-informed and mindful about your eating (more so than anyone I know)! Hopefully, David finds the right solution to help him alleviate his GI issues. You’re also right that the SodaStream would be a big area of savings for David (especially if he’s able to ‘hack’ his machine by fitting it with a hose to attach to a refillable CO2 tank)!

  • Reply
    Jean
    September 17, 2022 at 5:23 pm

    For the past 20 yrs., I tend to eat 2 breakfasts…it evolved when I was biking to work. Depending which city and which employer, some of my commutes were quite vigorous ….sufficient distance with a hill. Then I would be hungry…hence 2nd brekkie snack. Then it’s primarily dinner which is prepped at home. (or a big lunch). I do eat out at cafes. So realistically my grocery bill for 1 person, now with noticeable higher cost of food, is almost $400.00CAN / month. That’s not even the food at cafes, eating out. Frankly, it is important to eat in a well-rounded well.. good for overall digestion ,etc. I would discuss also pattern of eating and type of foods with GI doctor specialist .

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      September 20, 2022 at 9:44 pm

      Hi Jean—wow, interesting about eating two breakfasts! It makes sense, though, if you’re expending a lot of energy, that you’d need to consume more food.

      I think it’s much harder to economize on groceries as a single person since bulk buying often doesn’t make sense. (It would be pretty daunting and unenjoyable to be the only one eating up, say, a huge bag of oatmeal!)

      I agree that it would be good for David to discuss his diet with a GI specialist. Hopefully, he’ll find a good one who can help him feel better and healthier.

  • Reply
    Jean
    September 29, 2022 at 7:08 pm

    You are right 1 person finds it a challenge since huge bulk buying doesn’t make sense. As for GI specialist…let’s put it this way for my 88 yrs. old mother (who is Chinese) who now realizes having some plain yogurt for breakfast, can help her GI problems. She never grew up with dairy products in mainland China. Well, she does have a daughter who is a physician…

    • Reply
      Chrissy
      September 29, 2022 at 9:24 pm

      Hi Jean—having been born and raised in Canada, I’ve always found it interesting how dairy isn’t a staple in most Asian diets. I’ve always wondered if that’s a good or bad thing? That’s a great point about consuming yogurt for better gut health. I also love kimchee and sauerkraut for the same purpose!

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