And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~ Kahlil Gibran

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

$$ Thoughts

"I'm above the below and below the upper.
I'm stuck in the middle where money gets tight
But I guess I'm doin' alright."

Jo Dee Messina

I'm Alright

I was looking around on the 'net the other day, just seeing what I could see, and somehow or other I ended up looking at something about the Food Stamp Challenge. I got to thinking about back in the days when I was a dirt poor single mom. I had lots of help from my family then, and I wonder now if I would have made it without them. Just for giggles, I looked up the Federal Poverty Guideline, knowing that you are no longer eligible for assistance (at least in my county) once your income reaches 120% of the poverty guideline.

I did a quick little bit of math, and discovered that a family of 4 is expected to be able to live on $24,780/year. This works out to $2,065/month. I thought "well, that isn't so bad!" Then I realizes this amount was gross income. As in before taxes.

Add it up:
Rent or Mortgage
Homeowner or Renter ins.
Health ins.
Child Care
Car Payment, Ins, Gas
Bus pass

Now in my area, just these things already puts you over the allotted amount. You can use whatever figures are common in your area, but I'm guessing you will find something similar. Notice that nowhere on this list is there cable TV, eating out, going to a movie, or any of the other activities that so many of us take for granted. Neither is there room for savings. Imagine living with this tight of a budget and suddenly your car breaks down. Or a wage-earner loses their job. What about $$ for school field trips for the kids? New clothes? Birthday or Christmas presents?


It really makes me realize that even though my budget is tight, I don't have to worry about feeding my children or being cold on a MN winter night. I really am alright.


Wendy said...

This was inspirational, and I'm where you are right now, feeling lucky that we're alright ;).

Back in the early nineties, when I was a first year teacher, the base pay was just under $18,000. That's what I had to support my family of four. I was probably eligible for foodstamps, but I had worked so hard to get where I was, there was no way I was going to apply.

Deb said...

I totally hear you. A year or so ago we were faced with the situation where we were above the income to qualify for reduced lunches at school, but we could barely make the lunch bill after other expenses. I am fortunate to have a good job, and DH has a good job now, but I often wonder how people make it on any less than what me and DH make, which is way above the median for this county. I mean, you have to have a place to live, you have to have good transportation...and a place to live costs so much these days, even if you're renting. And we insist on organic, local foods whenever we can; shouldn't we have a right to eat what we want instead of poisoning ourselves?

It just breaks my heart that we spend so much time paying for our existence instead of living.

barefoot gardener said...

It really doesn't seem right that wage-earners can work so durned hard and still not make ends meet. Most of us grew up on the idea that if you work hard and do the "right" thing, you will get ahead. That just isn't true anymore. The worst part is that some of the lowest paying jobs are some of the most important: teachers, day-care providers, direct care workers for seniors and the DD population, EMT's, hospital employees. It's just wrong.

That scenario sounds so familiar! It seems we are stuck in the position of making too much for anyone to help, but not making enough to really take care of the basics comfortably. Add in unexpected medical expenses, and it's a recipe for disaster. I'm just glad that we're doing OK now. I just get confused about how everything can cost so MUCH!