This article has been updated to cover the U.S. federal poverty line income levels for 2022 and 2023. I keep a close watch on all of my expenses and take a bit of pride in how low I’ve been able to drive them. Our (wife and I) average expenses over the last few months has been around $2,000 ($24,000 per year). If I subtract the cash back credit card rewards I am getting (I average about 3%), the average drops to $1,940 per month, or $23,280 per year. This is consistent with my annual average over the last few years. Getting down to this level made me curious as to whether my expenses were actually below the U.S. Federal Poverty Level guidelines.
Why? Well, I have no intention of applying for any of the federal benefits one is eligible for when their income is below (or even at exceeding multiples of) the poverty line, such as the National School Lunch Program, Food Stamps, Home Energy Assistance Program, Affordable Connectivity Program internet subsidy, etc.
Rather, I wanted to see how close I was from a cost of living expense standpoint to the poverty income guidelines. What does the U.S. government view as “poverty” or “poor” (or, at least poor enough to be eligible for federal assistance). Am I living below that income level (assuming zero taxes)? Could I live below that level?
So, what is the federal poverty line? Let’s start there…
2023 U.S. Poverty Guidelines (Federal Poverty Level)
The numbers adjust every year. Here are the 2023 federal poverty guidelines for eligibility for related government programs:
|Family Size:||48 Contiguous States & D.C.:||Alaska:||Hawaii:|
|each additional person, add:||$5,140||$6,430||$5,910|
As you can see, the level changes with the number of household members. Alaska and Hawaii have different federal poverty levels than the 48 contiguous states and District of Columbia, due to elevated cost of living in those states. Each year, the poverty guidelines are increased/decreased due to changes in the CPI (a measure of inflation). In most cases, these numbers go up annually.
2022 U.S. Poverty Guidelines (Federal Poverty Level)
If you’re looking for the 2022 federal poverty guidelines, they are as follows:
|Family Size:||48 Contiguous States & D.C.:||Alaska:||Hawaii:|
|each additional person, add:||$4,720||$5,900||$5,430|
What Percentage of Americans Live in Poverty?
According to the U.S. Census, 12.8% of Americans live in poverty, or with incomes that are below the federal poverty levels highlighted above.
How is the “Poverty” Definition Determined? Is it Taxable Income? Gross Income? Adjusted Gross Income? Etc.
The U.S. Census, who measures and reports on poverty, states:
If a family’s pre-tax income is less than the dollar value of their threshold, that family and every member are considered to be in poverty.
So, in the eyes of the Census, “poverty” is pre-tax income (before any tax credits, deductions, etc.). However, some federal benefits programs have different definitions than this. Click the U.S. Federal Poverty Level Guidelines link at the top of this article for more details.
Are Our Expenses Below the Income Poverty Line?
At $23,280 in annual expenses, compared to $19,720 in income (current federal poverty line for a 2-person household), we’re not quite there, but we’re close. Could we get there? Yes. We’d have to cut about $4,280 annually, just under $356 monthly, out of our expenses.
Yes, I know that I am comparing apples (income) to oranges (expenses) – but that is the point. Our incomes are quite a bit higher than the federal poverty guidelines, yet we’ve managed to keep our expenses close to them. Our lifestyle does not come close to matching our income level.
As it is, I feel like our quality of life is pretty rich, even at these expense levels. We cook up great organic vegetarian meals, enjoy an occasional bottle of wine or homebrew, have a solid humble home in a good community, we have multiple mobile devices, high-speed internet, fancy bikes, clothing, TV, computers, car, backpacking gear, and even take nice cheap vacations. In our view, we are not living deprived. And we certainly don’t feel impoverished in any way.
The sacrifices it would take to cut $356 per month out of our expenses would not be overly painful. It would probably come from a mix of cutting some entertainment, changing our diet slightly to accommodate a shift to more bulk food purchases, reducing our HVAC energy consumption, re-evaluating our insurance levels, and maybe even appealing my property taxes with city hall. These are all things that are on my to-do list.
This thought experiment is not to compare to or diminish the pain that can be felt while living in poverty. There is effectively a poor tax that is very real. Also, it’s not even a fair comparison. I live in a lower cost of living state. I’ve spent well over a decade optimizing my finances. And I have savings to pad any emergency or big ticket items.
However, there are plenty of opportunities for Americans to drive expenses lower without sacrificing quality of life. The median household income in the U.S. is $70,784 – yet almost 100% of it is spent per year (the personal savings rate in the U.S. is close to zero)! That’s the point here. Americans typically spend more than what they need to in order to live a comfortable lifestyle and far more than what they would need to if they were “living in poverty”. When cutting your expenses to low levels, it’s possible to become more immune to economic factors that are out of your control, which can often impact your income levels. And you might even have a little fun in the process and give back to those more in need.
Could you Live Below the Poverty Level?
Regardless of your income levels,
- Are your annual expenses below poverty line or near it? If so, do you feel poor or deprived?
- If your expenses are above the poverty line, could you get there with effort? How would you do it?
With a family of 3 living in California I don’t think we could pull this off. However a few years ago when I was single, I think I could’ve easily done it and I saved lots of money to boot even w/ a low salary compared to most of my peers and colleagues.
Not a Facebook or Google+ user, so I’ll leave my question here. I’ve been following your blog for a long time and I love (most of) your articles and thought processes. You mention homebrewing every-so-often. Have you been able to financially justify homebrewing? If so, can you break it down for me?
My father and I brew our own. For his birthday, I brough him the ingredients for a Froach Heather Ale. Altogether, the ingredients cost $50. So in material alone, I’m ready above my $1 / bottle threshold (5 gal batches) that I use to determine if the beer is a deal.
Looking forward to that blog entry!!!
I cover it in this post, which is a bit old, and I should probably re-vive: https://20somethingfinance.com/how-to-homebrew/
It does make sense financially. 5 gallons should equal between 8-9 six packs (of very high quality bottled beer, not Piss or Piss Light). Ingredients usually cost me $35-45. High quality six packs cost $8-9 + tax (let’s say $85-$90 on average for 8-9 packs). Tastes better too. And it’s fun. And it makes you more interesting. Win!
“BEER BREWING” Maybe you can justify brewing your own beer by a “cost benefit ratio” but you cannot use “six packs” as a valid method to compare/contrast method. If you are as financially astute as you sound, you know that six packs are a horrible investment. If you brew beer in bulk,you would use minimum of 12 packs as a method of comparison. Really you would want to go a high as you could i.e. 30 packs. Which would create a much different outcome.
Locally produced beer is only sold in six packs. There are very few great beers sold in 12 packs and anything sold in a 30 pack is imho gross.
Ok 30 packs was a far stretch but there’s definitely some solid beer sold in 12 packs. Or a 15pk in this case. http://www.totalwine.com/ale/ipa-india-pale-ale-/american-ipa/founders-all-day-ipa/p/138614131-2?glia=true&s=921&pid=cpc:Shopping+US+FLOR+ENG+SPART:::google:&gclid=CjwKCAjw3cPYBRB7EiwAsrc-uZwqH0ZwrW_mHe_vWIu0zCE0pimEYX_Ax8Z73tDaLiHXq6GVD-BJ6xoCwY4QAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
I believe the poverty level is too low. The state has a guideline as to how much food, housing, or other resources a family need according to size and income. The cost of living has increased drastically. Housing, food, medical the basics to sustain a decent living should be afforded to all Americans.
I think this is a pretty awesome way to look at things. Our expenses (2 of us) for what we are consuming are right above this mark at $17,880 even in the fairly expensive city of Austin. The key to this for us has been to say no to a mortgage. We were able to buy a house in cash after working our tails off through college to stay out of debt, and going even crazier for a few years afterwards.
Here’s our quickie budget (note, this doesn’t include gifts to our church):
$500 – Food & entertainment
$300 – Property Taxes (This one hurts the most because I can’t do anything about it)
$140 – Utilities (this drops big time in the winter)
$250 – Gasoline/Vehicle Maintenance
$75 – Gifts. Some for Christmas, and then birthdays, etc
$125 – Misc expenses (home repairs, postage, medical, etc)
The awesome thing is we lived dirt poor for a few years and told ourselves it was so we could have a mansion, never work again, etc, etc. Now, we can easily do it, but found that we can do everything we want to on this amount. The budget above even includes gas for our boat to go water skiing 1-2 times a week. Now we can just parlay all of our savings into investments and real estate.
I notice you don’t list paying for health insurance and auto insurance. I live in Austin as well.
In addition, if you rent, you will not qualify for any place unless your monthly gross at least three times the monthly rent.
So true. I was thinking the same thing. Did not list rent/mtg, health and car insurance. Auto maintenance. He sure skipped alot!
He did mention buying a house outright so no rent or mortgage, just property taxes. And he did mention auto maintenance. BUT, he didn’t mention health, auto or homeowners insurance. All of which cannot be avoided!
Your expenses seem to lack a few fore example
1. do you pay for health insurance, life insurance .
my wife and I both are retired and pay $460 a month for
medicare and supplemental health insurance
2. how about homeowners insurance. We pay $100/month.
3. do you have expenses for telephone and cable/internet.
4. how often do you buy a car, which would require car payments unless you pay cash.
5. do you pay for car insurance
GE – what is the breakdown of your $19,560? Does that include a mortgage pmt each month? Or was that excluded because it’s equity?
My expenses average about $20k per year…and that’s only for one person. I am surprised (and impressed) your average is so low, GE, for TWO people.
My top three “spend” categories are 1) rent, 2) travel, and 3) Auto. Close followers are food, “dining out”, and clothes. I really think of myself as a ‘saver’, but apparently I am not as frugal as I thought! I have a new goal to work towards, though I know I couldn’t get down to $11,150 without downgrading significantly in where i live (both from a safety and a location stand point). I currently only pay $650 for rent (w/ 1 roommate) and bills are included. Compared to my peers, that is pretty low (I live in the north texas area about 10 miles from the downtown area of the city).
I guess it’s time I re-evaluate my budget and figure out more areas where I can save. Challenge accepted :)
GE Miller I do appreciate your ability to live on a small budget. While I might appreciate your dedication to living frugal I also think it is obvious that your lucky or Bless with good health, a good education and a partner who is also of the same thinking. You seem a bit proud as you might compare your circumstances with the general populous. I have lived on a budget all most all of my life I am now retired and we are doing well. I am no longer concerned about saving or the future. I will not go into my long story of life. But, I will add I over came many obstetrical, but I was blessed with some things I have discovered many do not possess. First is a determination a drive and a unwillingness to NOT be a victim. Second was intelligence I do not mean school education, (I did not have much school education). But I did get an education from many form. I have met many people with a great deal of Schooling but can not think independently.
As for planing and saving that only go’s so far. There are so many things in life that can happen the you have no control of that will change your life it seem over nite.
Be great full for everything you have and try to teach people how to live within their means and how to save. So many get bad advice or do not know how to budget. You have a platform that can get info out so you should feel obligated to teach the less fortunate. I have never read you column before, so if I misjudge you, I apologize. Thank you
This definitely is a good way to look at things, but it also puts things into sort of a sad perspective. A lot of people have to live on that amount of money or less– I have not seen too many posted comments about having a low quality of life. You do, of course, offer good tips for maintaining good quality of life while spending less.
I admire that you are not using government assistance because our family is a family of 6 with 2 dogs, and we use government assistance, even though the programs do not really provide enough assistance. Right now, I may am receiving Social Security benefits, but Im currently without a health insurance. My children and my husband are covered, and that s only thing matters to me because anything can happen to my children. I am not that worried about me because Im relatively healthy as I rarely go to doctors and emergency room departments.
We are still struggling to flourish in this economy, and my husband is struggling to find a job due to his disability. I was a working “student” mom until I decided to stay at home to be here more often. Im currently studying pre-pharmacy, and hopefully, I can achieve this as to become a pharmacist to be able to provide for my family.
We may have basic necessities and “luxuries” such as cell phones, cable, and so on, but I dont think my family are happy as they want more out of this life like with bigger house and fancier stuff. I believe it is due to the society in US that many people feel deprived due to the standards of being “wealthy.” I believe I will be more comfortable with being humble without those “fancier” stuff to fit in the society, but it is hard to teach the new generations of children how to live simple.
Anyway, I just want to tell you that I truly admire you for taking care of your family well without using any of government assistances. You are an excellent mother and a wife. :)
I live way under the poverty line but I’m not under any illusion that since I can do it everyone else can too. All it takes is one disaster when one lives on the edge to change one’s life from comfortable to misery. Whether that means a blown furnace (that happened to me) or a random serious health ailment.
I personally think that the poverty line is way too low. The big deciding factor is health insurance. Unless you get it cheap through your employer or qualify for government assistance it does’t take much to wrack up a bill large enough to eat up an entire savings. Also the poverty line does not take into account how much it cost to get to work. In my case I have to go 40 miles one way for a part time job. There is just nothing closer. Half of my income goes to just getting to work.
When the government came up with the idea of the poverty line in the first place health care was much cheaper and commuting more than 10 miles to work was unheard of. Also housing was much cheaper then.
The poverty level changes each year. When it was created everything was much cheaper. I think a young healthy single person or couple would be able to live comfortably most places at the poverty level, but when you start adding children it becomes very difficult. The poverty level seems only to take into account food, but housing gets harder to find when you need more bedrooms and a safe place to live. Then clothing, entertainment, education, all much more difficult. All is based on affordable health care and having a suitable job, of course.
If you moved back home the entire family income is counted.
Okay well I make 400 dollars more than the poverty line. I move out of my condo in April and I can’t live on my own without some assistance. But I can’t qualify for assistance because I make to much! I’m A single mother and work 7 days a week averaging 60 hour weeks! I have no debt and just the basics no tv. No internet just my cell phone and a 10 year old car and no medical insurance. I live in Colorado..Even a 500 sq ft studio is 650….and its be and my 4 year old son
For most single parents and some couples with children you must factor in daycare costs which can quickly eat up a budget. Most single parents did not happily choose to raise children on their own. Many single parents do not receive any support from the sometimes completely absent parent.
I feel your pain, my husband and I live in western Colorado, and it is ridiculous what rents they want, even for a crappy place. Since my husband had a stroke in January and lost his truck driving job we have been living on the edge. If it weren’t for my SS, we’d be in worse shape. We have debt, from a time when he ran his own business, and although we could pay on it, once the truck driving went away, now we have creditors hounding us. My husband could not find work here locally except for a minimum wage job stocking shelves, this barely covers rent, much less utilities. When we went to apply for public assistance, they said he made too much money at his previous job and was disqualified. How asinine is that! Once unemployment ran out (what a joke that is) we were forced to sell off household goods, furniture, computers etc, just to pay rent. Our savings was eaten up in medical bills. We finally got SNAP, but because he missed a meeting of Work First, they cut the food assistance in half. I’m 66 and he’s 54, and I never thought when I got to this age I’d be worried about being homeless but every night I lie awake worrying, I can’t imagine what this would be like for those who have children….
Unemployment insurance is a joke. I got a couple of checks, my former employer wanted out of the responsibility and took me to court to claw back the $5o0 I had received. Hiring a lawyer for this would be prohibitive, so I lost my case and have to pay back. I’ve only been able to find a part time job at this point, so the $500 was critical to me.
I too am a single mother. I have two kids and am renting in Colorado. We have health insurance thanks to assistance but that is the only help we get. I was fortunate enough to find a place where I can actually afford but after rent, insurance, utilities, phone bill, and groceries there is nothing left. I find it laughable a lot of people think they could live under the poverty level. They must NOT have children. Money for entertainment and homebrewing???? Seriously??? If you have money to homebrew you are not hurting for cash and can’t really understand how those living paycheck to paycheck are. I’m fortunate to get nice shampoo for myself. Sheeeesh reading this whole article really just made me feel like some people are out of touch. No shit you can live comfortably above or at the poverty line your buying organic food and homebrewing beer while others are ridden with anxiety wondering how they’ll be able to pay rent even after working a full week
Feeling your pain. This is why we need Medicare for all and free public education up to 16 yrs instead of the current 12 yrs. No one in this society can enjoy a decent standard of living without a college or tech school education. ….and free childcare.
Health insurance at full premium through a group plan at work: $550/mo (I am considered uninsurable on all private plans)
Cost of medications and medical supplies with insurance: 250/mo
Cost of doctor visits: $30/month
Cost of hospital bill repayments: $70/month
Monthly income: $931
Monthly health costs: $900
I couldn’t live on $31/month. I would die. I am glad that I do not live under the poverty line.
If you were spending that much money to keep anything else running, you would have rid yourself of it long ago. It doesn’t sound like you have much quality of life with if so much of your income is spent just keeping you alive.
I’m all about modern medicine, but on the other hand, there is something to be said for natural selection…
Holy moly, are you literally telling this person that she doesn’t deserve to live?
That’s cold, and what makes you such a great specimen?
As someone who is the parent of a (very) medically complex child, this comment is untrue. Often, children born with my son’s condition grow up to be kind, intelligent, and vibrant people who live life to the fullest, and have a very high quality of life (since they know how precious it is). Chelsea, I’m glad you can afford your care. You are worth it! Stay strong! 💪🏻
Fine “human being” you are!
Omg I can’t believe u jus said that, what a horrible way of thinking! That is not a way of helping someone by sharing ur experiences or advice on what to do to make the situation improve, boy u r not so intelligent! Where is your compassion? Maybe spend some of your income on therapy, sensitivity therapy!
Obviously, Mr. Miller has never had a water heater explode in the middle of the night, a blown headgasket on an automobile while about 500 miles from home, gutters ripped off from the facia due to an excessive ice storm, a prescription that costs $120 a month that an affordable healthcare plan doesn’t cover, or any number of life’s little surprises that take a huge bite out of a family’s monthly budget. Oh, and the affordable healthcare plan; $600 a month for a family of two. We dropped cable, downsized to just one cellphone, eliminated the house phone, eliminated one car, gave the dog away, share an internet connection with a neighbor and stay awake at night thinking of more ways to reduce our monthly outlay of cash. Does anyone else have more ideas as to what we can eliminate or reduce so that we can live on the published poverty level of $15,140 for a family of two? That’s about $1262 a month… my utilities, housepayment, health, auto, home and life insurances erase that figure immediately. I have been entertaining the thought of selling the house and renting, but rent and renters insurance are as much if not more than my current housepayment. Anyway, it is silly to try and convince people that it is possible to live at or below the poverty line for any length of time. Life happens. All it takes is one hospital stay that the health insurer refuses to pay for that can push a person to bankruptcy. Good luck to all of you trying to survive in this economy.
Absolutely agree! Just ask my mother whose heart nearly stopped beating and the insurance company won’t cover the costs. Her medical bills would be literally ten times the poverty line for her THREE days in the hospital.
I live in the Philippines now which is the only place I can afford to live.I have no luxuries. No cellphone or cable or tv.Just myself and my wife trying to get along on $753.Per month SS. I’m not in good health and am 78 years old.Life here is not easy but it’s all I can afford.
Do you have a garage? You could fix it up sparingly and rent it out as a bedroom or studio….?
You are wise and correct,you have slashed all u possibly can. Poverty level is a joke absolutely impossible amount to live on without assistance. I am recently divorced i have 25,000 to live on yearly . I dont travel or spend except for basic living,heck i eat out i time monthly cheaply,have a 2008 vehicle,live in a mobile home and am constantly trying to be frugal.like u said something breaks or you get sick and need meds it can put you in debt fast ! I try to eat healthy and take in the simple pleasures of life for entertainment and hobbies,
( kayaking,parks,beach,gardening,cleaning home,grilling meals,being outdoors etc.) BUT…THINGS HAPPEN……you are at the bottom of the barrel with your expenses already but i do hope you enjoy life and have love because thats what is rich in life. Good luck !
I relate w/U; My only health care is VA – hardship – + medicaid for an ER trip if it comes up; And medicaid dental – which took 2 yrs to get on – for just the basics (77 yo). So, I decided, at my age, to use my credit card to join the health club/gym and swim in the big 50 mtr pool three times a wk. (comes to $36/mo) I shower there, too. (+hot tub and steam room). Brush w/iodine waterpik and now, BP, glucose down; old back and knee surgeries healed, no dental probs any more. Lost 25 lbs. 24 laps (1 1/2 mi) three times a week. Meds thru VA w/copay; No cell, or cable – just the little box and rabbit ears. Take free emeritus art classes, yoga. AND read good spiritual books. If just the ISP would come down. My computer bill is killing me. It’s a racket. (Oh yes, Low-income senior housing. (HUD). Apply NOW and save the rush. It reminds me of the 60s in the barn. (Was an engineer – until reagan took it all away: career, 3br house, cars, life-long pension, health, . . .) Feel better than in 30 yrs! Dylan: “If ya ain’t got nuthin, ya go nuthin to lose” is becoming my motto. Read Stephen Levine : “Who Dies”.
New York and other expensive cities have their own aid programs. For example one of my uncles recieves SSI because he is disabled. When he moved out of New York to Louisiana to be closer to family his SSI was reduced because he didn’t get the extra money New York gave him.
I’m sure it was reduced because it is much cheaper to live here in Louisiana than New York. My son and I live $1030 below the poverty line and we do fine. But, we also get assistance. Not much, but it helps. If my lazy, selfish ex would pay the child support he was ordered, we’d be doing better and I would not constantly be worried about the next emergency that may make us homeless.
Living paycheck to paycheck at the poverty line is doable, yes. You can cover your daily expenses. You can even do it fairly comfortably if you’re lucky or if you live somewhere with a low cost of living. What this article fails to quantify is the STRESS of living that way. What happens when you get those unexpected expenses? What if your car goes? What if you get sick and can’t work. Can you afford health insurance? Can you afford the things health insurance won’t cover?
I understand that the point is to live simply and save the rest for these expenses, but I think this article trivializes the plight of that 15% of people who doesn’t find living inexpensively a game.
This article is not geared to those living at a poverty level income, and is not meant to trivialize the challenges of doing so. The point is that you can fairly comfortably live at a poverty level expense, and if earn above, it presents significant savings opportunity.
Social commentary on the plight and stress of poverty is far beyond what this post was intended to discuss.
The point is you can not live comfortably on a low income in the US. Do you ever buy clothes, go to the doctor, pay health insurance or pay rent of 600 per month? Do you need an auto to make this amount of money and do you buy gas and maintain the auto?
The real point is why do intelligent people posting on this website live on such pitiful wages. Why are profits going up and wages going down, what happened to the middle class?
I do not really get what you mean by poverty level expense.
Just to pay the mortgage and property taxes, very low mortgage a lot less than rent is $850 pcm. Family of three, two seniors and one disabled son. Medicare premiums and copays gobble up $500 pcm not counting copays and deductibles. Utilities and insurance for car and house $350 our car is sixteen. So there is $22,000 a year. We eat mostly vegetables, never eat out, buy clothes from thrift stores. All our furniture is second hand. We have not even bought food yet please note. We get extra help with presciptions and $200 a year towards winter fuel. We do not drink smoke or have cell phones, jut a small track phone that cost ten bucks. Worked hard our whole lives. Husband has TBI son is learning disabled. With family help we get $24,000 a year which prevents us from getting any help other than prescriptions. My One luxury is the internet and an ipad that was given to me. Just ask what it is like splirging two grand a year for all our food, clothes, repairs and all else. I think you are just not counting it all in on your own expense list.
Heck my health insurance alone is 12k a year(self Employed, single dad to 3 boys). I currently live far about the poverty line, but have less free time and disposable income then many who live closer.
As I read these things, I realize I am working far too hard for too little.
I was browsing the web about poverty level income and came across the article you wrote.
Just wanted to say thanks I appreciate your incites.
I manage to keep my family of 7 going on $2100 a month. It is super tight and we don’t get to go do a ton of activities, but I can certainly say is interesting and educational. We eat organic and gluten due to horrible food allergies and we homeschool too. We certainly love paycheck to paycheck. My husband works two jobs, but I couldn’t work if I wanted because we wouldn’t be able to afford daycare. When we bought our house 4 years ago my husband made 4 times his current income at one job and I worked full time. He was laid off and had to take whatever he could get and my job became obsolete (I used to be able to work from home and watch the kids.). All in all, we went from about $150, 000 a year down to $25, 000 without a reduction in house payment. We couldn’t afford the option we had for both control (due to my health issues) and the result is a large living family on next to no income. Our energy bill (on budget billing) is about $325 a month.
Couldn’t afford a condom or spermicide seriously?! “Love living paycheck to paycheck…” WTF?! I hope that’s a joke because I’ve experienced nothing more depressing & stressful than having to live like this especially once a child was added. When rent alone takes your monthly income leaving a choice between eating or having electricity shits not “fun” or “living” it’s misery!
The guidelines are a lie & unrealistic they’re based on gross income which means shit because we pay these things called taxes. Some people take home right under the line, but are told they don’t “qualify” for help this doesn’t mean they can live on these bullshit guidelines.
I’m thinking it”s a typo “loving paycheck to paycheck” since the ‘i’ and the ‘o’ are next to each other, probably she meant “living paycheck to paycheck’
Everyone still needs to pay for medicare and SS tax. I made about 15k this year and I still had to pay 10% in taxes.
We are retired- living on my Husbands SSDI. I am 61 & not eligible for SS ) After foreclosure & bankruptcy in 2008 ( GM closed plant) which relieved us of our home& cars ( also removing our ability to look for employment) we are surviving (?)
All our $ goes to bills : rent/utilities /insurance/ medical. Netfix & TracFone only and we now drive a 1997 jeep. We have Grandchildren in FL/ IL/& AZ that we will never see. Reverse travel for them is not in the picture either.
It certainly would not be easy, but I couldn’t imagine not seeing the grandchildren! IF it were me & IF I didn’t have strong ties to area where u live, I would consider finding a place midway between the grands, or near 1 of them at least. Even S. Missouri, Springfield/Branson or other; not too far from IL, could drive to FL or AZ from there, maybe few times a yr, if retired. (Or ck for states with positive healthcare & housing & benefits for seniors). Personally, I like warmer states, either Texas, AZ, or upper Florida to try to avoid hurricanes.
Or, I’d get a used travel trailer & just go.
Good luck to you!
I began working and saving money when I was fifteen, and at 19 I was able to buy my own home, living below the poverty level. Now, two years and a promotion later, I make around $12,000 a year, and still live comfortably in my own home. I can afford to go out and even take the occasional vaccation/trip on that income. Of course, I have the benefit of free meals from my employer, so my grocery bill is about $30/month, and I drive a fully paid ’02. But I don’t feel deprived in any way. I have been extremely blessed.
You mention “hubby had heart attacks”. How were they treated? You do or don’t have insurance? Did he not go to the hospital? I’m confused. You paid cash for the hospitals and Rx’s if any?
Now try to manage no income period. Ever wonder about the “No one left behind” comment? You did’nt build that! Example: The 99ers and beyond. Stress? Long term unemployed in some instances, more than two years or even three! I’m also referring to people who did not give up looking for work and continue. Some applied to over 200 jobs and still no results. Health ins.? Whats that? Something needs to change with the elimination of real jobs being exported out of the U.S. Where’s Congress? What’s really going on? At least I don’t have a mortgage or rent payment since I own. I’m going on two years unemployed and over 100 jobs applied for. Echoing the debate on gun control; we need real change! Happy job hunting! P.S. Unemployment insurance is poverty level. Thanks for the statistic. Something to think about. Gday,no worries mates!
What kind of jobs are you applying for? I just don’t believe after applying for over 100 jobs you didn’t get one. Unless, you don’t apply for jobs you think you are to good for, or to qualified for, or are beneath you. That is what the main problem is for most of the people complaining that there are no jobs. They simply will not even think of applying for something they feel is beneath them. Boo Hoo.
Try this out Sara, in western Colorado when the gas fields closed down 300 truck drivers were out of work. Many left, but 200 stayed…Now locally there may be a dozen jobs suitable for these people to do, so every time you went to apply for a job, you were competing with 200 to possibly 300 people with the same job skills and length of time in a previous job all applying for the job you want, or the only jobs available…and don’t say ‘why don’t you move to a place that has more jobs’, because if you’re not working you have no income and moving requires income, first, last and security to rent a place, ability to go somewhere to rent it before you move, moving costs, having a job when you get there, all require ‘money’ and if you have none you’re stuck looking for work where you are..it’s not always a matter if a job being beneath you, or you’re not qualified for, when you are out of work and living on practically nothing, ANY job, is better than none..
You forget that some employers don’t even think about hiring someone who is over qualified.
I hear you. My husband has been unable to find a decent job in four years. Went from $60,000 a year to $0.00. Where I live, if you are over 45, and have a college degree, you are not employable. Now, if you just have a high school diploma and are willing to work for minimum wage, there are jobs. But, once they see you have a degree, you are considered overqualified and a flight risk. I work part-time, been trying to find a full-time job, but have been told that I have been part-time too long (that’s all that is out there, unless I take a several thousand dollar pay cut that I can’t afford!) and I am told that I am a job hopper- been at my current position 8 years, but I am 49 years old.
“Could you Live Below Poverty Level?”
You need to replace the word ‘live’ with the word ‘survive’.
When you’re forced to forgo a cup of coffee at a shop with friends because you’ll need that 1.50 for the bus in the morning that will get you too work but won’t bring you back home because you don’t have another 1.50…then you’re not living…you’re just surviving.
This is how those of us in poverty really live. It’s not some freakin’ game of ‘oh I’m all set up with my house and car and SO who also works so we’ve got a nice bank account and a 401K so LET’S SEE HOW MUCH WE CAN SAVE!!! YIPPEE!!!!…’ kind of game, people.
This is real life for some of us…not some banal choice.
It depends on your definintion. At least there is a bus. Poverty levels in the US are still higher than the average cost of living for the majority of the world.
As for the specific example of the bus, I haven’t had a car for 10 years. Do I walk a lot? Yeah, in fact I walked 8 miles yesterday; but I don’t have a choice. Do I let it bother me? NO. I am capbable of doing it, so I do… and I don’t feel like I’m just “surviving.” I don’t go without food or basic bathroom ammenties. I just don’t have a car, cable, etc. And so what? I don’t need a car, cable, etc to survive. I still breath, ambulate, sweat, and bleed without those things. :)
And $1.50 for coffee? That’s expensive. If you make it at home, it’s pennies on the dollar…
I make min wage 7.25 and a few tips wich is less than 10,000 a yr with three children to raise only on this income i do get food asstance I have to to eat. I did go to school and have a license to work where i do and make $300 every 2 weeks . and u just have no life when u work to be in poverty
oh yeah and i would rather make it then save it cause i hear save save all the time on talk radio and im in the car just screaming u cant save when u dont have anything to save not even enough to live
no u can not live on this amount noone can
7.25 an hour, without counting your tips, is 290 a week before taxes, no way you bring home only 300 in two weeks. You are doing something wrong, or you are working part time.
Hey, she said: in addition to her $290 per week she also attends school and has been approved to make up to $300 every two weeks. Or $600 per month. In addition. Either way, it is not a sustainable life for long. Yes, you can work through it and raise those three kids (more power to you) but this lady is the definition of working poor. That’s sad USA.
Most people at min wage unfortunately don’t get full time. I know from experience
who is not paying taxes?????????? or are u saying they are not paying in at the end of thr yr???
you are so right i aagree i was trying to say the same thing
Just a few words from across the pond,here in the U.K. we havethe same discussions with roughly the same outcom. our basic national wage is gbp 6.35 which is about 8-9 usd, it is as hard here asit seems to be in the USA, we have two main things that do differ , one good and one bad . petrol(gas) in the UK is now 7gbp, about 10 dollars a gallon. it fluctuates weekly but never seems to go down. and has a great bearing if you have to travel to, or look for work. the good is the National health service, all medicine is free, you may have to pay a charge for your prescription , currently 8gbp , but everything else , operations etc is free, it seems hard for most of us.
A note on the UK: A number of years back, I was living in Germany and paying health insurance. On a trip to Spain, I had a minor injury. I got it treated at no cost. On a trip to England, I had chest pains and went to a government facility on a non-emergency basis. I was charged for all services rendered 9i don’t remember exactly what they were, but they were mostly just tests). All three countries were EU members at the time. Later, when I was no longer living in an EU country, i had dental discomfort while on a visit to England. I was able to get into the clinic my relatives’ use within a day or two. I was treated and charged less than in Germany or ROK where i had health insurance.
When I was in community college, I attended with almost exclusively middle class students who drove while I took the bus. One difficulty I encountered was being in that environment was difficult to try to explain your problems. I was taking a karate class and I could only afford one Gi, which was about 45 dollars. I would take it home and wash it once a week or so, but not everyday. One day the instructor spoke to the whole class about how gross it was to not wash your Gi everyday..but I knew he was thinking/talking about me. That is when I realized my trouble and I felt it was too hard to explain so I didn’t. Most of the other students went home to middle class homes with washers and dryers and could wash their Gi’ everyday. But every-time I washed something it cost 5.00. You can’t hand-wash a GI and have it be dry the next day. It is a huge thick canvas heavy thing. I was the only one there who couldn’t afford not to be “gross”. I was the only one without a cell phone. I had to stay at school all day because the bus took two hours (though I only lived 1/2 hour away by car). I didn’t have any friends at all. I made people uncomfortable. It’s better when I am in my own neighborhood then I am not such a freak.
Catherine, I’m sure you are a precious person and you should not feel bad or ashamed at all.
Took a judo class in college, I don’t think I ever washed that GI thing, you must have been working out a lot harder than me.
Can you expand on your expenses?
Did you and your wife pay for health insurance or did you go without it or did you get covered at a job?
Did you pay rent or did you have a mortgage?
And your income:
Did you both work?
Not really. You need to pay social security and FICA. That will reduce your net by about 10%.
I’m a single Mom of a 2 yr. old. I make 22,000 a yr. & about $6,000 in child support.. When contemplating on whether I should stay with my then boyfriend to go at it alone I looked up the poverty line for 2 living on the East coast & said Ok, I make a couple thousand more than that a year Sure! I can leave him because now that I was pregnant he suddenly stopped being loving much less considerate.. I soon realized that when doing the poverty level numbers for 2 they must’ve went on 2 adults who could easily make sacrifices & in a loving environment your entertainment as well as moral support can come from your adult partner.. But when you have a child with no support system relying on daycare from professional yet complete strangers you won’t even be able to get to work without paying them first!! There aren’t many necesities you can say no to with a who keeps growing & the more they grow the more they need.. as an adult I’ve basically stopped growing my weight & feet have been the same since my teen years so all the sacrificing I do goes straight to my sons needs.. I’d love to have $3000 at the end of the year I will absolutely try harder.. Oh’ & for the people who said that those of low income don’t pay taxes, We may get a tax break but for the past couple of years I’ve used my tax credit to pay bills from the previous year, And that’s without credit card debt for wants.
You don’t pay taxes. Paying off bills is NOT paying taxes.
Hi, I am a 60 year old female that has been looking for work for over 2 years now. I do have an income because my mother died and left me her home. Out of that income comes property taxes and should also have insurance on the which I can not afford. My husband was the money maker and wanted me to be a stay at home mom, but when he left he left me with a run down house that I had to refinance to give him his equity. In the area I live in most of the rentals go for over what I pay for my house-payment so it would not not be advisable to move. I do not qualify for food stamps because I am a home owner. I do not qualify for medical help because I am a home owner. If I sold my house I would have to do a short sale as the value of the house was a lot more 11 years ago when he moved out. I have no working heater or air conditioner. My tenants have just informed me their air is out so if I had any money it would be going into that house. If I sell that house it would not cover what I owe on my mortgage and I would have absolutely no income. But I would still be a home owner and not qualify for any help. I don’t flush my toilets every time to save water. I do not water my lawn. I’m lucky if I have $3 a day for food so that usually consists of oatmeal for breakfast, usually no lunch and maybe a can of tuna on crackers for dinner. Please enlighten me where I can cut any more corners. My father was born in 1907 and I was raised not to waist a penny. We were served milk even if it had soured. We were served cereal even if it weavels in it. My dad would just say consider it free protein. So I am not a picky eater nor do I waist any food. So again please if you have any ideas I would appreciate hearing them.
Sew a seed if only $1 dollar into the kingdom of God
You seem to honestly want ideas. I’m not judging you for being in the situation you are in, I admire you for cutting back where you can. Here are some ideas, none of them are easy:
1. Try to Create More Income:
A. Get another tenant. “What? I already have tenants.” Sleep on the couch and rent out your bedroom, rent the couch (yes people actually rent couches), clean out the garage and rent it, etc.
B. Create a job.
a) Are you able to walk well? Walk people’s dogs.
b) Do babysitting.
c) Have a neighbor that doesn’t speak English well? Ask them for $20/mo to help them with their paperwork: write a resume, cover letter, fill out an application, apply for welfare, apply for lower electric rate, balance their checkbook, read their prescription information, fill out their immigration application, write a letter to their landlord, read a report card, etc.
d) Teach the neighbor in ‘c’ above to read english, or tutor his kids.
e) Give lessons. Your experience is valuable. Do you know how to cook something, can veggies, make jam, sew, crochet, play piano, etc? Advertise on Craigslist, and NextDoor, put up a notice(s) in the local library, etc. (Ask them to come to your house, so you don’t have to pay for gas.)
f) Do you have a lawnmower? Cut the neighbors’ lawns. Who says a 60 yo woman can’t cut lawns. Better yet, organize a lawn service and pay the neighborhood boys to do it.
C. Get a lawyer and get more alimony from your ex.
D. Make stuff.
a) Keep chickens in your backyard and sell their eggs. No money for supplies? Partner with a local teenager and pay him back from the profits. Watch freecycle for used wood and chicken wire.
b) Plant tomatoes, sell them.
c) Sew something for someone.
d) If your arthritis isn’t too bad, offer custom tailoring.
e) Make a batch of your best cookies, cutting them up for samples. Go to one neighborhood and sign people up for a Monthly Cookie Club. Charge a monthly fee and deliver one dozen (two dozen?) homemade cookies to their door. You might need to have a car for this one. Branch out and do meals.
E. Do you have an attic? Sell storage space. (Investigate adding insurance.)
F. Hold a garage sale. Offer to sell other people’s stuff at your garage sale for a commission. You will need help. Watch out for thieves.
Watch freecycle for good free stuff you can sell. If you don’t have a car, figure out if it’s worth the cost of an Uber.
G. Add Skills. The computer software that processes job applications looks for key words. Turn off the television and Youtube cat videos and take an Online class. There are bunches of free ones out there. You can beef up your resume by improving your skill set and making yourself more sellable. And they are interesting too! A piece of advice: after you finish a class, keep practicing your new skills a little here and there, so you don’t get rusty.
2. Saving Money:
A. Coupons. Did you know you can use more than one coupon at some stores? You’ll have to do some research, but you can get some things cheap.
B. Swap hair cuts. You do your neighbor’s one month, the next month they do yours. Who needs nice looking hair anyway?
C. Barter All that stuff in 1.B. above? Trade it for something. Do you know how to do taxes? Trade doing your neighbor’s taxes for a ride to the grocery store once a week, for three months. Talk your other neighbor into going with you and charge them $2 for the trip. Win win.
Make some bread (or a plate of cookies) and trade it for four cans of tuna. etc.
a) Eggs! They are about $0.21 each. Make a frittata for dinner.
b) Soup is cheap when you make it yourself. Watch for sales.
c) Make beans, using dried beans. My mom used to make Boston style beans for church potlucks. They are super cheap and people liked them (no one knew we didn’t have much money). Even after she had gotten a better job and had more money; people still asked her to make her beans.
d) Cook in bulk. I used to have a friend that lived in an apartment building with several single moms. She got angry when she found out how much they were spending on processed food for meals or eating out at fast food places. She took it upon herself to teach them how to cook bulk meals: stews, soups, casseroles, etc. Buy in bulk, make several at once, and then freeze them. The girls were very grateful, and they had fun doing it together.
e) Make hamburger stew. My mom used to make a pot of Hamburger Stew on Sunday and with a couple cans of tomatoes, a can of green beans, carrots, and potatoes, stretch it to Wednesday and sometimes Thursday. We loved it. It was warm and filled our bellies. About once a month when she didn’t have enough for dinner, she would make rice pudding. For us it was a special treat, we didn’t know any better. We thought we were getting dessert for dinner.
3. Other Ideas:
You don’t have little ones, but other moms could swap babysitting. It’s called a babysitting co-op, and is considered ‘entrepreneurial’. You could even put it on your resume. ; -)
So those are some thoughts. The main theme is to get creative. There are a lot of ideas you can come up with.
Just don’t give up,
Hi there, I own out right my house, and everything else I have. Because I bought only what I could afford in the fist place. I have also been a single mom for the last 15 years. We can easily live at poverty level for 2, we have in the past, because I do not have a house payment, car payment etc. That is the secret, I guess.
You are correct and I applaud the get rid of payments orientation. Most house holds would be able to survive if this was practiced. The variable is: is it a loss of job, or an injury that cannot be recovered from, to addiction, onto the best for last divorce. There are so many reasons why, just no answers to end the problem.
I was struck by lightning in 1998 and it did a lot of damage. I only have two benefits: 1. SSDI because I am not hire-able without being a liability due to medications and I take falls. This after health insurance is $690 a month. 2. I do receive food benefits or my children would starve during my visitations. If we were to just count me that puts me at -$3210 on the line, adding my girls puts me at -$11,250 of the poverty line. It is time America realize our streets are not paved with gold and even in the nicest of communities people with their children are living starving and homeless.
Interesting article, and interesting comments too, from everyone.
I think this article is more about voluntary frugality; that is, those who choose to live a simple, frugal life. It’s a lot easier to live with little money and still enjoy the quality of life if one does it as a choice, instead of a necessity.
Some people can derive a lot of pleasure from choosing to live at the poverty level and save/invest the rest of their income. But for someone who has to live at the poverty level, it’s much harder.
BTW, I was curious about the poverty level in the US for 2014, and my search led me to this site. Thanks for your article!
I am confused, our expenses have nothing to do with the poverty level. The poverty level is the set of guidelines for a person to meet a specific standard as defined by the Census Bureau as the level require to sustain that standard. You are under the poverty level if you earn less than that much per year.
Regardless of your expenses as long as your combined income is more than that defined for your level (in the case of 2 people $15,730/year) you are not in poverty. Both people working an earning $7.25 an hour have to only work a combined total of 41.7 hours a week total to be at the poverty line (That is just 21 hours for each to work to meet the minimum per week at the base of $7.25). If you spend more than you make, you are not below the poverty line. Most people interpret poverty as their income deficit which has nothing to do with being able to meet the minimum standards as defined to be at poverty.
For each person after the first you add just over $4000 becuase things like housing cost are figured into the first persons as each person takes advantage of it, thus they have less need. So the trick to get above the poverty line is to have more people in the house who don’t work (thus the impact of kids, even though child support in most states only figure about $1500 to cover a childs monthly expense, what gives there is odd as I rarely spend more than $200-500 average per month per child to care for their needs including clothing, and food and that tells me the Census values are suspect to begin with).
The reality is a family of 4 which is the average listed needs to earn $23,850 to be at the poverty line. At $7.25 an hour with both parents working, they only need to work 63.26 hours per week to meet that minimum to get about the poverty line. That is 32 hours a week per person. The reason many people are below the poverty line is not because they cannot get above it at minimum wage, they choose that both parents will not work and the one cannot get enough overtime to reach the level (16 hours extra in a job that pays 1.5 on overtime). And those numbers are based on opportunity which is why Alaska and Hawaii have different values.
Another factor for some folks being counted below the poverty line is tips wages, they are paid a $2.13/hour base wage and there are a lot of people who work in tipped professions who don’t report their tips accurately. So another loophole for being under the poverty level and not actually being so if they could properly capture the amounts.
Another point is that people on welfare do not have their welfare bennefits included in their income and it is not used in factoring if they are under the poverty line or not. I am sorry but this is an income mount that offsets their out go and thus IMHO should be used to factor if a person is or is not under the line. A huge amount of the percentage would not be if that was included.
Reality as most people are not in poverty, they just feel that way becuase they over extend themselves for wants and not needs. Even a stay at home mom is a want and not a need to the calculation. Additionally once the child is in school those parents can get part-time jobs to meet and even exceed being under the poverty line.
To me, more data needs to be evaluated and that the poverty line to correctly capture who is truly suffering in this country.
That is the minimum needed to sustain. But how long could your family of four do it? What if a parent or both get sick? Child needs to go to the doctor? No books in that house…That’s also after taxes not before. It’s not
This is a crock. You cannot pay all your bills, eat healthy, or do co-pays for prescriptions at this level.
Yeah the poverty level a joke. What if your in my situation. Your wife works. But her work is 20 miles away. She makes 26k a year. And that might sound a lot to a lot of people. But she works past the buses running so she needs a car. And she got a car payment of 350 a month plus insurance of 100 a month. And u got food of 250 a month and a phone around 60 a month and rent 555 a month and 90 electric. And washing clothes is 60 a month. And gas is 160 a month. And she needs Tylenol. Plus toilet paper 20 a month. And items like laundry soap and shampoo and cleaning bathroom 40 a month. And I been off work 10 months and been getting disability check. So we making it for now. And my cobra health plan is 890 a month. But in two months it goes to 1600 a month for cobra after a year on disability from work. And I applied for ssdi. Because I can’t work right now. Because of my severe ibs and gastropresis. And severe ocd and severe anxiety and depression. And if I am not able to make it back to work in there time frame. Got no medical. And I need pills for anxiety and ocd and depression. To have a shot at getting back to work. And pills for gastropresis. And right now they can’t find a medication that works good enough for my ocd anxiety and depression. To get me back to work. I have pains all day long in my abdominal are. Because of these conditions. No medical I couldn’t go to doctor to get pills. And would have more pains. Need medical to prove to ssdi I can’t work. If they don’t find a pill that works for me. So when they consider poverty. I guess they expect everyone not need pills and go to doctor. And that the biggest problem in America is healthcare. And america got more advertisement for pills than any other country. To drive up medication cost. So I think government should help Americans depending on there situation. And health care the biggest part of help. Instead of taking care of the illegals. Take care of the american people first.
I am 50 years old.
So not young nor am I old.
The poverty levels I see represented here are misleading as to true poverty.
A person in true poverty usually does not own their own home. An if they have a vehicle usually it is between 10 to 20 years old either bought from a private person or from some dealership who does not particularly care about your credit rating and will let you pay 125 a month over 3 years to pay for it.
I live on roughly 1644 a month this is combined disability and foodstamps.
my rent is 545 a month for 1 bedroom 900 square foot house
I have cable/ internet and phone at about 200 a month
electricity about 150 a month
Natural gas 20 a month
Car payment of 225 a month
and insurance for auto 65 a month
payment for a bed of 104 a month
So that is just about 1309 a month for a family of 3 before food costs and basic necessities like clothing, shoes, medical costs or anything else.
Could I cut out some expenses?
sure could give the automobile back and not pay 225 a month for that and so that would cut out auto insurance
that would same me 290 a month.
I could send the bed back that would be another 104 save.
So now we up to 394 saved.
I could cut out our cable/ phone and internet and that would save another 200 a month.
So that’s 490 I could cut out.
But when we get down to the nitty gritty is it reasonable?
Not it is not reasonable.
Because the reality is for everyone I cut out I cut a need or I cut an opportunity.
I cut cable that cuts phone/ internet and those are both work opportunities and ability to be available for work.
I cut out car payment. I got no way to work. Last job I had to travel 50 miles each way.
So we need to define what is truly poverty.
under 25 thousand a year is poverty for a family of 3 not this BS number of 19,790. If you based your numbers off of gross income. This how the government bases all it’s numbers is off gross income before taxes or any deductions.
I we broke it down to net income and not gross net income. The poverty number becomes a lot higher.
For those saying those at or below poverty do not pay taxes. I am truly sorry for your lack of education. For all who are working do have taxes ( FICA, SSI ) Deducted out of every paycheck. The government retains and draws interest off that money. We file returns and based on the current ratios get back our money. When you are at poverty that tax return money goes to paying off bills or back child support and you may get lucky if everything went exceptional well and you had not debt to pay off. You can take a weekend and go out with the family and have a little money left to tuck away for the next unexpected bill to come along or medical expense the Medicaid in my case ( Molina ) will not pay for or decide due to your age you do not need to have.
So when we discuss we need to discuss true poverty and living with real poverty. WE need to include the actual basics of rent or purchasing a home in the very real every day costs. If you own a home your over all costs per month are cheaper than my rent and that is taking into account maintenance and property taxes. Their average are about is usually 60% less than those who are paying rent. when all said and done the average home owner paying water/ garbage and sewer and a percentage of property taxes average in cost about 451 or a bit less per month combined. In my state most would be closer to about 325 a month. Which is far less than even the average rent on a studio apartment.
I think your calculations are a bit askew.
The FPL is gross income. NOT expenditures.
Take taxes/medical insurance out of the FPL and that’s what they have left over to spend on life expenses.
I’m sure the numbers in the chart would be MUCH lower after calculating the above.That’s why I feel the AGI is more accurate as it takes into acct medical ins/taxes paid out.
Comparing your expenses to the FPL is not comparing apples to apples.
So what is the number (salary) when you see 400% below poverty level?
For one person,please see my above question
Julie, In would love to live in New York City, even Queens, but how does one find a “rent-controlled” apartment?
Well said…living in a one horse town is cheaper than living in a metropolitan city. I live in Los Angeles. The cost of living is higher.
I’ve read a vast majority of all of these comments.
I grew up in the upper middle class (I am aged 31 now.) Both of my parents were successful. We lived in a house that they paid off and we always had running vehicles. We never went without.
I am disabled. I receive disability and food stamps along with Medicare/Medicaid. I am engaged. My fiance works full time and our income (combined my SSDI, foodstamps and his earnings) we net less than $20,000 a year. He is not insured as we can not afford it. The insurance I get is not great, I’m not complaining too much because I am not paying for it.
We have one car that we own, we rent our home. We both have cell phones (his is a smart, mine is not. Neither are government phones.)
Our rent is $600 plus utilities that vary greatly. We have internet, no tv service.
We try and save money, but our savings have been drained due to normal life things happening. His car was totaled in an accident and we were able to get another from the insurance money and I had saved up enough to buy another after mine blew up, but I ended up selling it because it was breaking down. Our current car needs repairs that we can not afford right now. I estimate our car will die within six months. Despite having Medicare/Medicaid, I still have medical bills because they won’t cover many things. On top of that my fiance has to take off work to bring me to appointments occasionally and I get very sick often. Its come down to him almost losing his job because for a couple of months I was extremely sick and his job threatened him because he missed a bit of work.
We don’t eat great, but it’s not bad either.
We live above the poverty income, but we are still very much in poverty. We aren’t miserable, but we aren’t happy either.
The house we rent is essentially a studio, in a poor neighborhood. I had to rent a PO box because our mail was getting stolen and people have tried to break into our house. Earlier this year some one syphoned the gas out of our gas tank.
We are one disaster away from being homeless. Our car breaks down before we save enough, he loses his job. I get sick and he takes off of work, he loses his job. He gets sick, he loses his job. I’ve tried working but no employer is willing to work with me. Now that we are down to one car, me having a job would be impossible because no employer wants me because I can only work around my fiance’s schedule. There is no public transportation in the town I live, and I live outside of city limits because we can not afford the rent in town.
Living at the poverty line is possible, but it’s not living it’s surviving. The stress is killing us. We sit and ponder ways to cut back on everything. We don’t go out often because that uses gas and costs money. I’ve tried to cut back our cell phone bills as much as possible, when our contract is up we are going to prepaid because it will save us $30 a month. We worry and wonder what we will do if something catastrophic happens.
This article and many comments talk about saving money. Its hard to save money when you have none to save. We have $45 in our savings account right now.
I find this article and comments very interesting. It seems to me that IF your monthly healthcare expenses are manageable the rest of it is about choice. Where you choose to live, where you choose to shop, what you choose to need in life to make you happy. I have known a family with 10 kids and a $50,000 a year income very happy, with savings and their own home. I have also heard of a Dr. (On Dave Ramsey’s radio show) making $250,000 a year, with a wife and 4 kids, ready to file bankruptcy and clueless as to how to cut his budget. I think most of us would find the Doctor’s income extravagant. My point isn’t to condemn the Dr, but to point out that these 2 families have made very different choices. At the end of the day, most excuses are just an unwillingness to make different choices. We don’t want to move to a less expensive community, drive a cheaper car, or give up whatever. I also think that’s ok as long as we are taking care of ourselves (with or without legitimate government assistance.) The secret seems to be in our attitude.
I live 9k below the poverty line for 2 people. We suffer greatly at times and cant afford healthy food. If my vehicle of 14 yrs breaks or something were to happen i wont be able to replace it. I manage my low monthly budget disability income and it’s not too bad. It’s the emergency situations or other unpredictable needs that pose trouble. of course there is no funds for habitual products, movies, vacations or trips, no entertainment at all. its pretty depressing even free things to do cost money in gas which is very limited in the budget. I utilize food banks etc… its very hard and takes real discipline.
My. People…you should be more grateful. For you surely have “quite low rent or rent payments in quote expensive cities like Austin or Denver.”
I live on a yearly total income of 11,000. I live in the 2nd most expensive rental pricing and 2-3% Vacancy rates which have not changed since. 2011. I live in The East Hollywood community of Los Angeles-a neighborhood which is in much transition and where Caucasians are now targets of seemingly justified racial hate crimes and damages because they “I” am gentrifying THEIR Neighboehoods. Well it is no more there neighborhood then it was 30 years ago when it was Russian and ukrainians and Armenians in this area before it became Rundown and became a mostly Hispanic neighborhood but prior to that it was never ‘s Latino neighborhood Only” I’m eastern european …my grandparents came here legally thru Ellis and the NYC Ports. So I despise when they see youngish blue eyed Caucasian*(it’s Caucasian not White) btw. And think I have more money than them. Screw that. The one thing I learned is that discrimination here in Los Angeles is primitive permitted against the Caucasian people but it’s so so unlawful end absolutely demonized if anyone were to criticize a quote racial minority which by the way I am a minority in my apartment complex seeing as I am the only Caucasian person in a 70 unit building. I choose to live here because I can’t afford it because I am lucky enough to have section 8 cover part of my housing however with people that have limited education income from farming backgrounds or rural ethic back countries it’s just natural for me to want to be around more of people who are educated and know what manners and not wishing they could see you suffer rather than be excited for you when you get something new that you work hard for and I was told this by a neighbor who is Hispanic and that they have a major Envy complex and they may say something nice but in their hearts they wish the person I’ll. O thought that was so sadly Repulsive!! But yes it’s been a good place for three yrs, but, never ECER THINKING I’d say this – LA has changed me realizing everyone is prejudice to a degree and I’ve be one so more now as i say… Yes it would be nice to see other WHITE — I mean CAUCASIAN PEOPLE Around. Im a minority being a gay male esp in this machismo latin area. But let’s face it — 10 -13 years ago Los Angeles was only able to have a few were people would feel safe and could actually live Safeway butt it’s always the games and eventually The Young white yuppie couples who want that cute house the gay guy’s had the balls to move into when it was still a crime.drug.gang infested neighborhood. L.A. has changed SO INTENSELY ONLY for the better – so why do the Latinos want to keep it unsafe and crime drug murder rate city it was just a decade ago??? No thx. Thank the gays they’re Always ALWAYS the first ones in to come fix up neighborhoods where the great LAPD – ugh wont even go in. Thats right.
I make less than 50% of the poverty line. I get by, I do feel kind of poor since I can not always afford food.
The only way things are going to change, is people have to unite, and make a stand together. United we stand, divided we fall. The rich are laughing at all of us. The reason it is this way, is no one has come forward to unite a real movement, and make the rich take notice. A handful of people who want a change, will never make a change, unless we are united, and show them we are serious. A new political party, that represents all of us, and we vote them into office is what it is going to take. We all are responsible for what is happening. Otherwise they will continue to use us, make us pay entirely too much, and abuse their power in government, that by the way, is our fault, for not voting for the right people who can make a difference. I do believe that some people do go into politics trying to make a change, and are bombarded with corruption that entices them with a better life for themselves, and then forget about the rest of us. The greatest evil that exists is a good person standing by while knowingly doing nothing to change it.
“As an affluent person, can you live comfortably on $____” is a good question to talk about and thinking about ways to simplify our lives and combat consumerism is a positive. But the fact remains that you still have financial security.
Poverty isn’t about ‘spending less,’ it’s about living paycheck-to-paycheck working an awful job with no benefits and absolutely no safety net. If you catch the flu and you don’t have health insurance or paid sick days? You have to wait for it to pass (which can take a long time without medicine and can become life-threatening) which means you miss work for a week and you have to decide between making rent and getting enough to eat.
Or if you are in a car accident and get hurt? You can’t afford to go to the ER, you can’t afford the car repairs. What if your job involves manual labor which you can no longer do? What if you are left permanently disabled and SSI benefits take 6-8 months to be processed and approved?
Finding ways to live on less: awesome.
Knowing that you are one hiccup away from you and your loved ones being homeless: terrifying.
Poverty is not about ‘spending less.’
Thanks for hitting the nail on the head!
I have lived my entire life below the PL making a little less than 11K a year between mom and myself. House burned down March 20th and just last week i got Tonsillitis (For the first time) as well to dump on a crappy year. No insurance for a tonsillectomy which is actually pretty expensive when i looked it up. Like about 6 thousand more Dollars than i can afford. I live in a half burned down house (It took our living and dining room) which was cold from the start, foundation was falling on the back side of the house its great. All i got for you rich people is:
You’ll never feel more alive then when you can’t afford to live.
I could not agree more, but all you Richie rich types are in for a shock. As a 48 yr old woman with 4 debilitating diseases, I try to exist on 1000.00 a month. Of course 1 co pay on one medication is 1400.00 a month after Medicare. 5 yr wait for “affordable housing ” and 14food stamps, but never fear Trump is taking away food stamps. Affordable housing, disability payments phased out. Soon you will be able to even probably hunt disabled people as a sport.
At least you get that a month. Try doing that if you were put on that quarterly.
Someone Said It Starts Getting Difficult/Hard At $4,000 Above The Federal U.S. Poverty Guideline. I Can Tell You At $2,000 To $4,000 Below That Poverty Guideline & Living In A 71 Cost Of Living Index (29 Below The U.S. Average) Surviving Is Very Difficult.
I agree with you, Phil. The figures are WAY low with the heightened expenses these days. I am single and only live on $750.00 extra a MONTH. That is after all of my bills are paid….not much huh?? It is difficult sometimes when anything extra comes up ie. medication for illness / Dr. bills (20% of fees). I want VERY bad to contact the owner of this firm and say ‘can you live on this small amount monthly & why are we not getting salary increases’ but I am sure the answers would be – ‘like it or leave it’ basically.
I am rated at 90% Service-Connected Disability from the military and I raise my 6-member family on my disability alone which comes to about $26K per year. I can’t work a “normal” job due to my particular issues from my time in the military. I was living in California and unable to afford to live at all but I moved to somewhere far cheaper to live (very small town in the middle of nowhere) where I was able to buy a sufficient house for my family for $52K and have been able to scrape enough together to own and operate a small store and a food truck in my town (neither of which have been able to actually turn a profit yet or put a penny in my pocket). I don’t have much, but I am grateful for what I have and I’m fighting to make things better. If you’re below the poverty line, it may not be possible to live wherever you want and make it work out, but if you’re willing to work hard, take some calculated risks, and make some personal sacrifices, there certainly is a way forward. Oh, and as if I wasn’t already busy enough, my wife and I homeschool our kids too. I think that helping run our fledgling businesses is a great education for our kids to be getting.
I also can’t see how these people think they can live at poverty level, where are they living at for so cheap.I live in N. Idaho, (right to work state) which that alone should be outlawed. Rent/Mortgage, Electric, water, garbage, (880.00), Insurance, (House, life, Medical, Auto, & Pet). 450.00. Now, (Phone, Internet, Food, & gas/oil), 450.00. These are all essential, at least I have to have. there is no entertainment no presents for family/grandchildren or clothes & any cost for up keep & repairs. the total 1,780.00. You can easily add 200.00 more for the things not listed including TV, I forgot above for I gave it up. I get 825.00 SSDI & 60.00 food stamps, total 885.00. As far as Pet Ins. I am blind, live alone & live on 60.00 a month food. Try that one. Internet lowers cost, with freebies, coupons, surveys etc., but by very little. I have gave up Life Ins,up keep & repairs, gas/oil for I don’t drive, have to find a ride from neighbors or sister, for family lives in different area. So a 1 person,household, poverty level is 12,140.00 or approx 1012.00 per month. After rent & utilities you have , a 132.00 left to pay for the rest. A bit short, wouldn’t you say.? Where do they get, you can live on 1,012.00 per month??
I became ill at age 18. Very sick. I am now 47 going on 48 and have Sjogrens, Lupus, Common Variable Immune Deficiency and thyroid cancer. For years my mother helped me out. She passed away last fall and my family does not believe in any of my illnesses. They are toxic people and I have nothing to do with them. I can’t say I am living in poverty currently, but I will be. It is beyond weird how to navigate through the waters of future poverty. The only reason I am not currently living in poverty is because I was left an inheritance. I have been on SSDI since age 24. My rent is $1200, almost as much as my SSDI. Rent goes up year after year in an urban location. I hate it here. Gross urban. It’s so expensive for what? I stay here because medicare is taken by all doctors in my location. I have contemplated moving down south, but Medicare is not taken everywhere and I would miss my best friend who is the only real lifeline who gets me by. I also had/have a part time job that helps me out. Like I said, without my inheritance, I would live on $1200 a month, but then medical is $300 for a Medigap and then prescription coverage is $66 and that does not include my brand name medications that are over $100. The “STRESS” of the situation and the worry of it makes me sick. I mean, it makes my illness so much worse. There is no joy in my life. I am young and most of my family has died. 3 immediate family members have died of cancer. I constantly pray that I will die soon so I can avoid poverty. I am alone, no family and no spouse. I need to say, before I was sick, I was in high school. I was voted most likely to succeed. I was a varsity tennis player, a class officer and an A student. I had scholarships to college and went to college. I never finished due to becoming ill. I have an associates degree. If you saw me, you would think, “What a beautiful girl.” I do not look sick. I am so sick. I spent last summer in a wheelchair due to peripheral neuropathy. The depression from illness and the worry of finances has caused both my therapist and doctor to get me on antidepressants as of today. I am so unhappy. Like many on here, I grew up upper middle class. My parents had money and we wanted for nothing. They were frugal people, too. I have shopped consignment stores for years because of my parents teaching me to do so.. I have never had a silver spoon in my mouth. What is my point? It’s one thing to live in poverty if you are well. You can do it. Sure. Try being sick. You can’t afford the very things you need to get better. That is disgusting. My medical when I really add it up, is just as much as my social security checks. The whole thing is one big joke. It’s a joke. This country, the United States needs to help out the sick. People who have health issues should not have to pay for medication. Our medication should be free. My antidepressant is $117 a month. My Plaquenil (is name brand because I am allergic to the generic) is $137. I mean, seriously? I have Celiac disease which means I am gluten free. Expensive food only. I cancelled cable today. To be honest, I am too depressed to watch TV. I used to be full of life. I had this will to live. I don’t care anymore. When you are sick, in pain and will be broke, you really don’t give a shit anymore. Plus, you have friends that just desert you because you are sick, broke, depressed, whatever. It’s an awful situation. People look down at you and especially because I grew up with money so people are shocked that I am not “doing well.” Having said that, I know it could be worse and will be. The United States is the richest county in the nation and yet there are so many poor people. And why if you are well would you ever want to live not making money and saving and how much can you actually save on such little income G.E Miller? What are you putting away? I guess in your 20’s you can do this, but not for long, or most importantly why would you want to? If I was well, I would be that girl that was voted most likely to succeed. I would be making money and saving it and yes, living the American dream. Nothing fancy, but just a nicer life and less worry. I wouldn’t be squandering $20-$100 a month. I would actually be putting real money away because I would be really working like a responsible human being. The thing I want to say to the writer is don’t be thrilled with yourself for only working part time or whatever it is you are doing and making little income. I am not impressed. Someone who is well, or two people who are well, go get two jobs and make some money because things are not always going to be like this. You will fall on hard times and think, why wasn’t I more responsible and working? Even if it’s $40,000 a year between two people, do it. I’d give anything to work and be making money. I am not impressed with people who are impressed that they live in poverty or near it and like it. You only like it now because you are well. You can’t be sick and liking poverty and poverty will eventually suck because something “will” go wrong. You’ll find out soon enough.
Very interesting post.
I am retired and single, lived and worked in Austin. When I retied I moved to San Antonio and paid cash for a small house. Paid cash for a Toyota pickup. Bought a small pop up trailer.
Income is about 2100/mo.
My bills are exactly this:
1. I was disabled when I bought this place and froze my taxes. Now I pay 128/mo. taxes. That was 12 years ago.
2. No home owners insurance, I self insure.
3. Car insurance 42 dollars a month.
4. Good internet connection 53 dollars a month.
5. No cable, Although i am thinking of changing that. Not sure.
6. Elect and trash pickup, about 125/mo. average
7. Water 40 average, I like a nice yard.
6. I do all my own truck maintenance so far. So in 12 years I averaged around 600 dollars. I use synthetic oil and change it every 15-20k Miles. So about 50/mo.
7. Love tinkering with my home when I am here, about 300/mo. tinkering expense.
8. 200/mo. gas.
9. Insurance 200/mo.
10. Phone 20/mo. I dropped internet and only use it as a phone and texting. T-mobile. Also I buy an unlocked phone and pay cash for it.
11. Food for me and my dogs, 150/mo. That is a good healthy vegetarian diet. So expensive but worth it for me.
12. That leaves about 500/mo. for what ever.
Grand total is 2050/mo.
I was an A/C tech. before I went back to college and moved to Austin at 35. I always loved mechanic work and have the tools to work on my home. I also love to work on my truck and keep it in mint condition.
I have tracked that for years with out a hick-up. Also I have put aside enough for a new car if I need one. Without touching my savings. But, I love my old Toyota. So?
I love travel and spend about 6-8 months a year in third world countries exploring and traveling cheap. When I travel I turn in my internet modem, shut off my phone, and let a friend come and live here when they want. As well as letting the neighbors park in my drive way.
I have been doing this for 9 years now. And have more money in my account than when I retired, so no negative cash flo so far. Although this will change in the future. I will start paying my self a few hundred dollars extra each month to spend down savings.
A few things I have learned is, planning is the key,
Also after traveling for the last few years I am thinking of selling my home in America and retiring overseas. There are some wonderful places to retire cheap and wonderful people.
If my health would not have gone south on me I would be in much better shape. But, if you are working make sure you put aside a few bucks no matter how hard it is. It saved me from a world of abstract poverty. And 2100 is a real stretch for me.
All the best
I ment 150/wk for food not 150/mo.. But, I included that in my monthly expenses. So typo.
I admit that I did not read every post. I came across this site while looking for something else. But so many do not come close to understanding the poverty level. A single adult income of less than $800 a month. Is impossible to live on. If you think $2 a meal is possible, look at it this way. That is $180 a month. This leaves $620. The national average for an efficiency apartment (that means no bedroom) is $600 a month. $20 for other things, like getting to work. I hope I can get there to earn my $800. OK, there are government assistance programs. I have only a very limited knowledge of what is available. As an aside, there is something with the Social Security program that makes me so mad. Why is it that anyone that earns over $180 thousand a year does not have to pay into the system.
Sorry, that should be $129 thousand ceiling for paying into Social Security.
Sorry. There is a $129 thousand ceiling to have to pay into the program.
Let me try this one more time. They say the third time is the charm. After someone earns over $128,700 they no longer have to pay the 6.2% tax or any tax that goes into the Social Security program. So the cost of social security is paid for by lower income people and their employers. So the people that need the benefit the most are funding the system.
this leaves out rent, which is a huge expense for most poor people, and often is NOT WITHIN THEIR CONTROL. if you are poor there are often many reasons that you cannot move somewhere cheaper. this is especially true if you live somewhere with high cost of living or you have kids. it seems bizarre to talk about whether your expenses (WITHOUT RENT) are below the poverty line. meaningless and kind of offensive really.
try allocating 10,000 a year of that amount to rent, and see if you can still cover your expenses. this was such a bizarre and out of touch post. ugh.
I am living in an “expensive” modern city in a developing country working full-time and earning about $10,000 a year. Since I work a lot, I don’t have many expenses: occasional doctor visits (usually under $10 each), health club ($40/month), rare massage ($15/hr.), food (about $10-$120 per month), toiletries, shoe repair, clothes, sewing items (about $5/month?), batteries about $2/month, transportation (bus fare about 20 cents? per ride) $1.00?/month. I don’t have to pay rent etc., which would be about $150-$300/month, presents and postage in local currency cost about $75/year, local holidays and vacations run about $100/yr. I have no telephone, television, or car.
In addition, I get social security of about $1100/month, from which I pay life insurance ($540/yr.), , Medicare ($120?/month), presents ($2000/yr.), vacations ($100-$500/yr.), medications and supplements ($15?/yr.), transportation in U.S. ($20-$100/yr.), education and professional expenses (~$2000/yr.). I get free medical care.
I do not feel financially strained at all, but when i am in the States on my annual vacation, I am struck by the way things are now, with some prices (especially for services) terribly high, others (e.g., for some consumer goods) lower than they are where I am living, but also by the “expectations” that ads build. Medications are one of the shocking areas. A few of years ago, I had an eye irritation and went to a doctor. He diagnosed it and said it would probably go away by itself if i waited long enough (I think it was about a week), but he wrote me a prescription so I could have the healing sped up. I went to a drugstore and was told the cost would be something like “one fifty.” I naively thought it was $1.50, since these simple generic eye-drops “obviously” would cost more than a few dollars. When I was corrected and told that the cost was $150, I demurred. Two or three days later, the irritation was all gone thanks to Mother Nature.
Food should be $110-$120 (not $10-$120.
I am likely in the wrong place. The distribution of wealth in the USA and worldwide is extremely out of balance. There is an abundance of resources, know how, and energy.
I did not find, perhaps I missed it, the 20 to 30 percent of income going to investments to build ‘net worth’.
I do not like to bring up issues without offering possible solutions. This is an exception. A solution is beyond my skill and knowledge.
I’m not seeking utopia, how about shelter and food for everyone?
(Even the lazy and ungrateful)
In the next 6 years 32% of the work is going to shift, with 20% not being reabsorbed by other opportunities. (Yearly the loses will be 2% to 4% to 8% to 16% to 32%).
Sure we can pitch a tent and eat beans, while the few mega-cheaters control 70% of everything.
I am very grateful to have the freedom to type this comment.
Since you talk about paying property taxes and you do not mention rent or a mortgage. I am assuming you own you own home. Have you ever researched or looked at figures on housing and how much individuals pay in rent? Rent should never be more than 30% of your income which when you break down your 19,560 which is the amount you say you are going off of after you cash back credit card and property taxes. So you would figure amount for rent or a mortgage would be $489.00. In Wisconsin you cannot even find an efficiency for that. If you do you are going to be living with unwanted visitors (bedbugs, roaches) or sharing kitchens or bathrooms is not both with complete strangers. This is not including your utilities, car insurance or health insurance. There are ways to live in a budget like that. You have a better chance if you have no expenses, no children. Google can you live on minimum wage or go to National Coalition of Homelessness. It breaks down state to state and county even city or town what a family needs to make in order to just pull ahead. What is really scary is people are not planning for a rainy day. In rural America there is very little is any public transportation. I am glad that you and your wife make on little. I also hope you never have unexpected expenses.
The way you phrased this is misleading. There is a maximum/cap on the amount of income that is taxed. For 2018 it was $128,400. For 2019 it will be $132,900. It does not mean that if you make over that amount you do not pay any Social Security tax.
Sometimes four times is the charm.
Living below the National Poverty Level for a retired couple of two is Wonderful! Its not possible to pay all the medical bills, buy food,keep gas in the car and have it insured and still keep a roof over out heads! The State allows me to have $15. per moth food stamps
because they say we make too much money..but we still live 138% under the national poverty level..and there is no other help in site..! I guess uncle sam just expects us to just up and die