Wednesday, July 14, 2010
A Kopeck Saved is a Kopeck Earned
Even though it's a bit of a vulgar subject to talk about in polite company, I'm going to talk about money. I was lucky enough to receive a travel fellowship from the University of Virginia to pay for this trip. After paying for the program costs, the plane ticket, the visa processing fee and all of the other little fees that come along with trying to get to Russia, it doesn't leave me very much to live on while here.
So I decided to turn this into a challenge. My goal is to live on $10 a day, which is just about 300 rubles.*
The Thrifty Challenge, I'm sad to report, has not actually been that much of a challenge. I already have a surplus of $23! As an American living in Vladimir, I'm able to live fairly cheaply. This is a sharp contrast against when I studied in Moscow and St. Petersburg where I practically bled green because everything was so expensive. To give you an idea of the lifestyle difference between here & Moscow, my roommate went to Moscow a few weeks ago to visit friends. They wanted to go out to a new club & called to reserve a table. It was $2,000 (yes, American dollars) per person to get a table there. On Sunday when we wanted to reserve a table at the local place to watch the World Cup it was 500 rubles per person ($16.67), but we still went somewhere else that was free.
I guess I should first start out by saying that I'm able to cheat a little bit because my program fees cover two meals a day prepared by my host mom. My host mom feels I'm too skinny (or as she put it "You look like a French girl, you need fat on your hips.") so she feeds me such a large breakfast that there's no way I can even think about eating a big lunch. Then comes an even bigger dinner, but I'll write more about Russian food later. It would certainly be a little bit harder to stick to $10 a day if I had to buy lunch or dinner for myself every day.
So how do I spend my money? Here have been a few of my purchases over the past six days:
Bottle of carbonated water: 19 rubles ( 63 cents)
Daily bus ticket to class & home: 10 rubles each way ( 33 cents)
Notebook for class: 18 rubles (60 cents)
Half Liter of Efis Beer during World Cup: 100 rubles ($3.33) x 2
Full liter of mead purchased in Suzdal b/c they're famous for mead: 200 rubles ($6)
Pickle purchased on the street in Suzdal: 7 rubles (23 cents)
Movie ticket: 190 rubles ($6.33)
Taxi anywhere in Vladimir to the apartment: 100 rubles, but split between me & roommate when we go out since the buses stop running at 10pm
So my daily expenses are pretty close to nil. Some days when I have a lot of reading to do for class & cannot go out at night, my only expense is my roundtrip on the bus. I haven't gone to any museums or exhibitions yet so that'll take away some of my funds, but museums here are just a few rubles for students as well.
I realize that once I get to Moscow for my week there everything I've saved up will quickly be depleted, but I'm enjoying the thriftiness for now.
*the $10 doesn't include all the books I'm going to buy in Moscow & presents for other people. As a dedicated book nerd, I've put aside money especially for that.