Living on $7 a Day, The Guy Behind the Videos – An Interview with Darren Terpstra


The first time I heard of Darren Terpstra was the day I saw him in a YouTube video. In the video he was introducing a little girl from Brazil named ‘Ayla.’ He had just sponsored Ayla through Compassion International with money he had saved by living on $7 a day. He also shared in the video that he had made a commitment to live on $7 a day for a year and that at the end of each month he was giving the money he had saved to charity. Sponsoring Ayla was what he was able to do with the money he had saved during his first month.

Check it out the video

How exciting was that?! I was really impressed to think that in only one month of saving he was not only able to sponsor Ayla, but also he had saved enough to sponsor her for 7 years!

After watching Darren’s video I just had to know a little more about the guy behind the video and I had the privilege of doing just that a couple of weeks ago when he so kindly agreed to meet with me.

When we first started talking Darren seemed like he was your average 25-year-old guy, but within just a couple of minutes I realized there is so much more to this guy than just your average 25-year-old guy. I did already know from watching his videos that he had a very strong passion in his heart for helping those in need, but having a conversation with him gave me a much bigger look into just how truly deep that passion really is.

Today I am really excited to share our conversation with you, so that you too can know a little more about Darren Terpstra.

The Basics…

Darren Terpstra is 25 years old. He grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin and went to school in Jackson, Mississippi. He now lives in Colorado Springs where he works as a marketing manager for the publishing company David C. Cook. He is also the founder of KiwiConnect which is still in the making.

The Questions…

What started you on this journey?

Darren shared that God has put three things on his heart that he wants him to do with his life which are:

  • – Build up a business, make it profitable and then use that money to help others through mission and humanitarian causes.
  • – Be an example to the church on how we as Americans can live more sacrificially and more like a light in society. As C.S. Lewis said, “if our spending lifestyles look the same as non-Christians in the same income bracket, we’re probably doing it wrong.”
  • – To show non-Christians that Christianity is about sharing love and not condemning and to be an example to non-Christians should God give him the platform.

“If we’re known for picketing parades and getting angry at Starbucks cups…we’re probably doing it wrong.”

Another thing that started Darren on this journey is when he was in high school he had a friend who was sexually abused at home. He was with her day in and day out and seeing what she was going through was really heart breaking. One day they had a class assignment in which they were asked to bring forth an idea that could help change the world. His friend stood up in front of the class and said that for just $40 you could buy a person out of sexual slavery.

He’s not sure where she got that fact from but said, “when you figure that ISIS is selling girls for between $10 and $40, and that for $3000 you can fund the raid of a brothel, and an arrest is made off of that raid they calculate that 200 girls would be saved in the future. Which comes out to a cost of only $15 per girl.  (I was stunned by that fact)

He told me that statistic is from when he was in high school so he is pretty sure that has changed by now, but whether that amount were $100 or $200, would it really make that much of a difference?

Right after the Haiti earthquake there was this guy who was rallying their college to help who said that for $5* you could feed a family in Haiti for a month.

“To think that for 20 to 25 cents you can provide a meal.”

“With the change in your pocket you can provide immunizations for people in Africa so diseases that we have completely cured over here are not over there. Immunizations are one of those things that you can very easily do to save a life.”

He heard one place that stated boldly – For $200 put into immunizations you can save a life. “I thought that was pretty mind-blowing when you think of our priorities.” (And so do!)

*Just a little side note – Darren has a new video out ‘Day 101‘ according to Samaritan’s purse $35 will feed a family in Africa for a month!

How did you come up with the $7 a day idea?

Initially he had the idea of just not buying anything for a year and then to document his journey. After thinking about it he decided that way might be really difficult to put rules around. So he talked with some friends and came up with the idea of the $7 a day year.

He came up with the amount by figuring out how much he spends per day minus the things he needs such as rent, utilities and insurance. From there he came up with the figure of $7 a day. Anything he makes above the $7 he gives to charity. He plans to spread each month’s savings across several different charities.

As you saw in the video at the beginning of this post, during his first month he saved $3164 which he used to sponsor Ayla through Compassion International for 7 YEARS! WOW!

What does your family think about your 7 dollar Year adventure? 

He has 1 sister and 2 brothers and is what he calls himself an ‘extreme’ middle child. He hasn’t received Christmas Gifts for the past 5 years because he always asks for money and then he donates that money to charities… so all of this was not a real surprise to his family at all.  “One time my mom asked the question… ‘If Darren had to choose between true love and bookoos of money what do you think he would choose?’” his little brother said, “I think he would probably choose bookoos of money and then give it all away.” Darren laughed as he told me this and he said, “I didn’t really know how to take that so I think it was a compliment…so ya, that’s my family and yes, they are very supportive of what I am doing.”

Do you have a girlfriend?

“No one at this point. In the days of Netflix, Starbucks and the American culture the way it is, it’s hard to find someone who has the same values as you.”  He told me his church group goes out to eat on Sundays and sometimes he goes and doesn’t eat. He in no way means to make it sound like he is against something, it’s just when he figures if 20 people go out to a restaurant spending $10 to $20 each that’s roughly $200 each week that we could be doing something else with. He went on to say he is not saying something is wrong, there is freedom in Christ, but at the same time he is just hoping this challenge shows people some sort of conviction about things like that.

“I find it interesting that just because it’s me, because it’s a person in front of you people always want to buy me something. Hey let me pay for your lunch, let me do this for you let me do that for you. After I first started this challenge cereal started appearing on my chair at work,”

He had to let people know he didn’t want donations to himself, “what I want is to point people towards people who can use this money.”

“So…Wrapping all that up no, no girlfriend, so we’ll see what God has in store”

He also said that when people first find out about his $7 year one of the first questions they ask him is, ‘so, how are you going to date?’  he said, “Well dating wasn’t really an issue in the beginning of all of this so I think I can make it a year, we’ll see what happens.”

I noticed in your videos you like to exercise, it looks to me as if you really enjoy it, do you?

Darren says there are 2 types of exercise, the first type is the type he likes… things such as ultimate Frisbee, flag football, most anything active that he can do with his friends. He also does a lot of things with the youth which keeps him young.  He doesn’t like workouts such upper body where you just burn it out at the gym.

I see that you signed up for Ninja Warriors, have you found out if you made it?

No he hasn’t heard anything yet but he doesn’t really think he would win because he doesn’t have the finger strength he needs to win. He says you get finger strength by rock climbing and he doesn’t rock climb because that would bust his budget at a cost of about $12 a session.

What about your roommates do you all share food?

“We all buy our own food and we have 2 fridges with our own section for our own stuff. So no, no skimming of the top of my roommates”  

When you saved $3164  your first month and were able to sponsor Ayla for 7 years did you already have that added up or did that surprise you?

“That really surprised me.” “I had not done the math and so I thought maybe 3 years or maybe 4 years. When the numbers came out and said it went for 7 years I went wait! No! And I typed it in again and I typed it in again and I thought wow that was a lot more than I thought it would be!”  Darren told me that statistic has been pretty powerful to people in the fact that just one month can take a child out of poverty.

I would like to add that Darren also has two other children that he sponsors through Compassion, their names are ‘Rehan’ and ‘Indri’ and they live in Indonesia.

Is there anything you miss a whole lot?

“I lived very frugally before this so it’s not like I was blinded by the light and suddenly went from eating out every day to this. The biggest thing that I miss is not having to take notes on every single dollar that I use. It used to be very easy to say, ‘oh I have a trip in the summer to California’ and know that it was paid for. Now I have to make sure I save a little off of the $7 a day to pay for it.”  For instance, he really wants to go on his yearly surfing trip to a friend’s house in San Diego this summer which will cost $250.

He also misses Redbox.  “I didn’t used to feel bad about getting a Redbox but when you are living on $7 a day even a Redbox can be a splurge.”

Board games have become a popular alternative he now that plays with friends instead of movie nights.

What has surprised you the most in all of this?

“People being more worried about me more than about the message that I am trying to get across. I don’t think I was expecting people at work to start bringing me cereal and me having to make the public statement that I wasn’t excepting donations to Darren’s charity fund.”

He did say that he knows that all of the gifts were left out of a good heart, it just wasn’t necessarily the sort of response he was expecting. What he had been expecting was a response like “hey what’s a good charity to get into?” Which he said there actually has been a lot of that too, which has been really good.

He also said the gifts could maybe mean that people really care about him and maybe he should just stop over thinking it.

What he really wants to do with all of this is to point people towards people who CAN use the money.

Do you think this is something you could continue to do after the year is over?

Yes he thinks he could. Creating the videos and meticulously writing down everything he spends is a small headache, but it’s really not that bad.

What gave you the idea to do the Dubsmash at the end of each video?  He says he looks at it as his reward to people for getting through the video. He thinks the videos can sometimes seem super heavy and though he wants people to be convicted and see the change that they can do, he also doesn’t feel like someone will continue to watch the video series if they feel they are continuously smacked in the face with they aren’t doing enough. He thought it would be a fun and funny way to end things off and also so people could get a better understanding of his personality.

My last question to Darren may seem a little odd but I couldn’t help myself…..What’s wrong with Ramen Noodles????

“I have a couple of PTA friends and my friend’s mom is a nutritionist and so if I started eating really really unhealthy I would get into a lot of trouble!”

Just in case you are wondering why I asked him this question you will have to watch his day 3 video. I will go ahead and tell you that this girl loves Ramen Noodles 😀

Well that’s it for my questions!

I really enjoyed my interview with Darren Terpstra and sure hope you did too. We talked and laughed and I think I may have blabbered just a tiny bit too much myself because I noticed the other day that I have now made my way into one of his videos (Gangs of El Salvador). Thankfully he called me a ‘super nice lady’ which was really sweet and made me day. I think Darren is super nice too.

Anyway…. that is all I have for today. If you would like to follow Darren on his journey you can visit his Facebook page – Darren Terpstra or his YouTube page – 7DollarYear . Darren if you are reading this, thanks for your time spent sharing your journey with me!

Thanks for reading and also be sure to check out the links below.

Terri Siebert

Samaritan’s Purse – Lifesaving Food

Darren’s YouTube Series – 7DollarYear

Darren’s Facebook Page

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