Can You Survive on Half — or a Quarter — of a Typical American Budget?

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How frugal can you be?

Could you get by with half of what a typical American has?

The author at Freedom Is Groovy (known only as “Mr. Groovy”) posed the question and proposed the Half-Normal Challenge… and as Penny Hoarders, we love a good challenge.

So much so, in fact, we wanted to take it even further.

Could you get by on half of half what a typical American has — a Quarter-Normal Challenge?

Let’s look at what that would mean.

The Penny Hoarder Quarter-Normal Challenge

frugal living

How Can You Achieve Quarter-Normal?

We have good news for frugal living folks: All of these expenses vary.

You have a lot of control over how much many of these common purchases will cost. You can make changes to cut costs, or even completely eliminate something from your life.

Save Money on a House

On housing, your family may be able to easily get by in a space smaller than the average. For example, the ranch-style house my family lived in when I was in high school was just about the half-normal size.

If you live alone or with a partner, you might not have trouble getting by in a small, one-bedroom apartment to hit the quarter-normal mark.

If you’re buying a new home, check out these 10 tips to save money on your mortgage — or buy in cash!

Save Money on a Car

There’s an obvious way to cut the cost of your car from the average listed: Buy used.

Even at a quarter-normal price, you can get a pretty decent pre-owned vehicle. To save even more in the long-run, check out our list of the most- and least-expensive cars to maintain.

And if you don’t like haggling, here are five strategies to help you save money on your next car.

Cut the Cost of College

When it comes to paying for higher education, this challenge is a little tricky. Instead of looking for colleges with lower tuition, look for ways you can cut your out-of-pocket costs on high-value colleges.

Because of need-based grants, colleges like Princeton or Harvard might actually be more affordable than you think.

Plus, you’re probably missing out on free money for school — check out our list of 100 college scholarships and 100 weird college scholarships.

Or apply to one of these nine schools that will cover your entire tuition.

But even if you’re stuck with tuition and leave school in debt, you can use these strategies to eliminate your student loans — some without even making a payment!

Save Money on Your Wedding

To start, the average cost of a wedding is up for debate. You shouldn’t feel like you’re skimping if you don’t pony up a year’s salary to celebrate your matrimony.

If you want to ring in your special day on a budget at or below the quarter-normal cost, check out these resources:

Or keep it simple, and match your tiny budget with a “tiny wedding”!

Save Money on Cable and Utilities

Our favorite way to save money on cable is to cut the cord altogether. We even have a trick to help you get Netflix for free, so you don’t have to sacrifice entertainment!

If you’re hanging onto cable because it’s part of your internet service package, try our tips for negotiating your monthly bills so you only pay for what you need.

For other utilities, try these 23 creative ways to slash your utility bills.

We even have four ways to save on your water bill every time you flush the toilet. Or you could try peeing in the shower to squeeze out a few extra dollars in savings.

Get a Cheaper Cell Phone Bill

Think you can cut your cell phone bill to less than $20? It’s quite a challenge!

We know one Penny Hoarder who pays just $30 per month using Google Fi. But you can do better than that.

Buy your phone from FreedomPop, and your monthly plan will be FREE.

Your Turn

Are you up to the challenge? Tell us how you save money on these common expenses.

Find out where you could save even more money to hit the Quarter-Normal costs, and check back in with us when you do!

Good luck, Penny Hoarders!


Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post,, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).