Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

How we survive on 10 GHC per day

with one comment

One of the concerns we originally had was how we would be able to survive on the VSO “allowance” for volunteers in Ghana.  This amount is presently about 10 Ghana Cedis per day (~ 8 Aussie dollars).

At this juncture, we should point out a few things.  One is that most Ghanaians get by on far less than this.  The mandated minimum wage is about 2.5 Ghanaian Cedis per day.  However, as Westerners, we do (fortunately) have access to a great number of goods and services.  A second point is that, as we are both volunteers, we both receive this allowance – AND – it is often cheaper for two people to live, than for two separate volunteers.  So for this purpose, we thought we would itemize roughly where our money goes to on a weekly basis.  Some figures are rough approximations, as we haven’t been here long enough to fully appreciate some of the intrinsic variability.

Living on 20 GHC / day (2 people; 10 GHC / day, 7 days per week, total budget = 140 GHC):

Item Description Amount
Food Groceries in one week 40
Household Items Laundry soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, etc… 5
Eating Out – dinner One dinner / week 25
Eating Out – lunch Typical work week:1 x “home leftovers”2 x “garden café”2 x “chop house”

1 x market lunch

Mar’s daily soft drink fix 7 x 60 peshwas 4.20
Banana / fruit post lunch top up Purchased from fruit sellers near our work 2.50
Internet 30 GHC / month 7
Electricity & Water 10 GHC / month each = 20 / month 5
Transport Shared taxis (1 x work, 1 x social) 5.20
Rubbish collection Not yet functional, but we are hopeful one day 2
   TOTAL  110 (approx)


Other comments:

–        VSO covers the cost of our housing so no rent payable

–        The remaining 30 GHC / week can then cover other “non regular” items such as:

  • Clothing
  • Hair cuts
  • Medical matters
  • Alcoholic / other beverages
  • Household items
  • Additional transport costs (shared taxis, tros, etc…) if we are not using our bicycles


So overall, we think the allowance is pretty fair, to cover our basic day to day requirements.  We do a pretty good job of staying “within budget” and will rely on our personal funds to cover the non-essential items and other (more essential) major household items, and any travel in West Africa (and within Ghana) for personal edification. 

However, the food budget in particular is probably worth a bit more discussion, to put things in context.  One thing is that our weekly “groceries” are pretty basic foodstuffs.  We cannot “afford” certain items here which are prohibitively expensive (for example, dairy products.   The cheese we buy is “laughing cow” long life cheese;  those of you who know what this is will understand the difference).  Yogourt is difficult / impossible to buy, and milk is UHT long life.   For the holiday period, we are “stocking up” on some real treats!  For example, we have bought a tin of Pringles potato crisps and a bottle of “ruby red grapefruit juice”!   This excites us more than you can possibly imagine. 

We note that some volunteers here in Ghana do not have the luxury of additional personal funds to back them up.  So staying within budget is a necessity, rather than a stretch target.  Also, we live in the comparative “metropolis” of Tamale, where there are options like “supermarkets” and “restaurants”;  depending on where volunteers are living, they may not have these luxuries / temptations.


Written by Mar(k)

December 2, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Posted in Life in Ghana

One Response

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  1. It is amazing what one really need, without the frills, to live on. I don’t know much about wine making/beer brewing (apart from mixing the ingredients from Woolworth and following the instructions printed in the cans) but I know how to make rice wine, simple enough even for secondary school kids. I remember kids in rural boarding schools brewing their own rice wine in the jungles outside the school compound. Squirrels, birds, and fish from the school ponds provided the extra protein. A mosquito net not only keeps the mosquitoes out but can be used to catch fish. Millet, cheese, butter, and powder milk were donations from “The People of the United States of America”. A fish not much bigger than a thumb,skewered with a stick and cooked over a small fire was gourmet food to a gang of school kids! We don’t need much to have fun and what ever we had was always delicious.


    December 3, 2009 at 9:39 am

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