"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 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.
Car Payment, Ins, Gas
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.