Can you live on $50,000 a year?
[filed under: I listened to this so you don’t have to, money]

This is a short segment, only about 5 minutes long. They interviewed five millennial graduates in different cities, who did not live with their parents, who are starting out at jobs paying in the neighborhood of $50K. Based on recent stats, this is what the average grad will make . The burning question here – “Is $50,000 enough to live on?”

The interviewees reported that things are tight but they manage to save and have 401Ks. Some do what’s referred to as “creative” things … like hunting instead of buying red meat.

Half of Americans live on less than $50,000 so it seems like the better question is HOW do people live on less than the average income when $50K is reported as being a little tight?

My household income has averaged around $32K for the past 5 years and we can’t make it without borrowing money (paid back at Taxmas) and assistance from food donation network and occasional donations from actual strangers on the Internet, even being barebones frugal.
We no longer get SNAP because we make just too much for a family of four after my husband’s last 25cent/hour raise last November.
We’re not unique nor doing as poorly as many. People who live on disability or SSI might make $10K a year and that’s not a temporary thing, that’s all they have ever.
$50,000 is used commonly as an indicator in financial advice and money blogs, usually with the statement being that $50K is a modest earning but you can live on it if you know how to budget correctly. It’s frustrating to see this being used as the standard of budgeting when half of America, recent grads and not, are living on less. Below $50K, buy less lattes is the best advice we get.

Action Needed: Rule Revision of Categorical Eligibility in SNAP

Over the summer, the Trump administration proposed a rule change that would end “broad based categorical eligibility”. Categorical eligibility allows each state to opt out of federal rules when enrolling people in SNAP and other assistance programs. For example, under BBCE, states can choose to allow income above the federal limit. This has been important in areas where cost of living is higher. States can also opt out of the rule that disqualifies people for having assets or a savings account (federal rule limits $2,250, or $3,500 for senior citizens). Again, states may choose to ignore this because of cost of living or just common sense circumstances. Like if someone owns a jet ski but it’s the middle of winter and it’s not exactly prime time to sell a jet ski, the case worker probably is not going to count that as an asset. Or more practically, the federal asset rule also applies to vehicles, as in the ones people use to get to work, school, and doctor appointments.  It’s common sense to opt out of this rule especially in rural areas or places public transportation is sparse.

BBCE also enables states to enroll people in SNAP (or other safety net programs)  automatically if they’ve applied for other benefits which eliminates a lot of time & labor fr both recipient and workers.  If the categorical eligibility rule is eliminated, some people will automatically be dropped from receiving SNAP if they were receiving it after applying for another program.

Overall, this change is expected to impact 3.1 million people currently receiving SNAP, including some children being kicked off the free school lunch programs.

Public comments are still open HERE for the next 10 days (closed on 9/23/19) . I don’t know how much faith I have that public comments will be really listened to enough to change this policy but it can’t hurt. Always get after your reps on these issues,too.
Since Trump has been in office, it’s estimated that 6 million people have been dropped from SNAP. This isn’t a reflection of a healthy economy that’s ensuring folks have enough on their own to get by. It’s a direct result of policy shifts already instated such as stricter work requirements that prevent underemployed and under earning, unemployed, and even disabled people to qualify.

Hi. These links are old. But still good.

I started this post way back in … late June? Early July? Not only is life just not cooperating in all sorts of areas but also, MY LAPTOP DIED. Turns out it was just a charger issue but anyway, all that is to say… these links are over a month old. Still important,though! I think especially in this state of *waves arms around* whatever this is right now, a lot of these news things and big thoughts get buried or there’s just so much happening that it’s hard to be aware of everything. It certainly won’t hurt to share here in case y’all missed something.
Also, there are a ton of things that Trump wants to do to food stamps and I have NOT covered any of that here. I will do that separately. It’s a lot.

x Judge rules that St Louis jails can’t hold inmates who can’t pay bail
This is so important and needs to gain traction nationwide.

x In June, transgender woman Layleen Polanco died while in solitary confinement at Riker’s Island. She was there because she couldn’t pay $500 bail.

x “It’s tough to go around without teeth” Texas prisons are using 3D printing to make dentures for inmates. This is really amazing and honestly I’m glad for the inmates.

x Food Stamps helps left rural America out of the Great Recession
“$22,000 in tax dollars spent on food stamps between 2001 to 2014 created about one job. Grocery subsidies, which families usually spend right away, immediately pumped money into rural supermarkets and small businesses (and their employees) at a time when jobs were scarce.”
I never understand when grocery store/Walmart clerks come into my social media comments to demonize SNAP recipients. SNAP is why they have a job.

x Speaking of demonizing people on welfare… this was a good episode about The Welfare Queen stereotype that Reagan and Reaganites fondly used in the 80s that still follows us today. The case of Linda Taylor (the conservative representation used as The Welfare Queen) is fascinating and crosses into true crime you can read more about in Josh Levin’s new book The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind An American Myth

Related reading: The Mothers Who Fought To Radically Reimagine Welfare

x Rep. Rashida Tlaid introduces a plan that’s the closest thing to Universal Basic Income
The best way to help poor people is to give them money and this plan does that. $3,000 per year to individuals, $6,000 for families.

Help me smile. Literally.

I wrote almost exactly five years ago about a trip to the dentist and outlining all my dental woes.
You can read that HERE.
To sum it up, it was a lot of work and expensive. It’s actually more now.

5 years later, my situation is even worse and at a point where it’s critical I get the dental care I need. I spent the month of May and some of June in excruciating pain.
I’ve been on antibiotics twice in the last 2 months to try to get infections under control. At this moment, I’m doing better and relatively pain free but it’s tenuous. What I can eat is limited.
My overall health literally depends on getting this dental work done.

My daughter started a gofundme to fund my dental care. I’ve looked into every imaginable option besides this and have come up with no other solution.
My insurance still has a $1,500/year coverage but will only cover a percentage of some of the individual procedures and the endodontist requires payment up front anyway. The total estimate of all work done is around $9,000. (Seriously. Also, whatever happens with healthcare in America after 2020, please let’s fight to make dental health a part of whole health. This is ridiculous)

I have an easier time asking for help for everyone else and the world in general so it’s hard but I’m putting this link here to the donation page and thanking all of you in advance for your help, no matter how small, and even if it’s just sharing this widely. Every dollar helps and I’m immensely grateful for it.
Thank you all for listening & supporting ❤
If you’re not loving gofundme right now for whatever reason, I also have a Paypal link :

rent rant

I’m two days late paying rent but the landlord hasn’t even cashed my May rent check yet. At the end of April, they cashed both March & April. You know who can hang on to multiple rent checks for over a month? People who don’t need money. They’re adamant that rent be paid that 1st week …but then just hang on to the checks? And try to charge $5/day late fee. More money they don’t need and won’t put back into their rentals to fix basic shit and make it less of a dump.

Minutiae: 3/29-4/1


Had to return teen’s brand new computer because the motherboard croaked. Fortunately, Best Buy let us just exchange it, and as it turned out the new one was less expensive so they refunded some money.
We went to lunch at a place I remembered being great 20 years ago.
It is no longer great.
Charred food and I cracked a tooth on an olive pit. Who puts olives with pits in their salad? Kinda weird. But what’s more dental work at this point,am I right? we just paid the bill and left. My tooth didn’t hurt and I just…I don’t know. The waitress was great and I felt bad for the sad decline of the place but then felt that weird poor people guilt about spending money on eating in a restaurant the rest of the day. Even though it the food was terrible and I cracked a tooth, and it wasn’t even that expensive. Being chronically low income really fucks with your head.

Boys got home from school and we drove to the library to meet someone who had posted a need in the local gift economy group for boys size 7 pants, which my kiddo just grew out of. I got out of the car to pass off the bag of clothes and noticed the car was overheating. Somehow made it to the mechanic near our house. They were just leaving for the weekend, so we parked it and walked home. Had eggs and bacon for dinner because I was just so done with everything and it was easy.


Cracked tooth started hurting and by afternoon my jaw was swollen. Clove oil, salt water rinses, whiskey,all other home remedies employed.
Husbeast had to take the day off because of no car and no buses on the weekend to get him to work on time. He made it downtown to rent a uhaul pickup (cheapest deal) so he wouldn’t miss Sunday (time and a half pay) and Monday , his early shift that no one else can really do but him.


Just really drained from the tooth pain.


The teenager turned 14.All he wanted for his birthday dinner was Arby’s and cheesecake. Fine.Done.

Swelling and pain finally started going away. Made a dental appointment but it won’t be until May. We got a quote on car repairs: $2,030. Like,wtf, Universe? I have some money in savings from Taxmas and you gotta come for it all?

Paid rent: $750
We’re living here without a lease right now. I had asked in February if landlords would be willing to sell us the trailer and they said yes. Back in January, I found out that they moved out of state, and it seems like they really aren’t that into caring about their properties here, so I figured why not? I honestly had figured the amount would be pretty low. Not only due to the repairs needs but also I’ve been looking at mobile homes for sale around the same age and most in the same condition are selling for $5-7K.
They finally got back to me with their asking price: $20K
It’s hilarious. There’s no way that’s happening.

diabetes is beating us

One month of my dearest husbeast’s diabetes meds is $609.14.
His insurance will pay for it entirely once we’ve met our $4,000 deductible but what about until then? We have a flex spending account which is entirely spent now,mostly on meds, a mere three months into the year.
This was a med his insurance didn’t cover at all until recently (it’s Trulicity). His doctor’s office supplied the injection pens via “samples” until it would. I am confident they will help if we can’t afford them next month (and until that deductible is met). I also still have Taxmas money I stashed in savings just in case.
What about people who don’t have that assurance and resources? Our medical expenses are nothing compared to some people struggling with this backwards bananas healthcare crisis. I’m fucking worried, America. We’re not ok. This isn’t ok. None of it.

Also, this week I needed new glasses and our insurance covers nothing eye related. . Not even the eye exam. Hello, insurance companies? My eyes are a part of my body and they need glasses to pretty much do every damn thing necessary to get through the day. $729 for glasses. Lucky me it was my birthday earlier this month and my mom paid for part of the glasses.
[sidenote: I could write another 600 words on how extraordinary it was that my mom gave me money for anything. This has never happened before to my recollection. Like…nearly homeless, no money for groceries,electricity shut off … those times when I could have used some mom-money? Nope. She must really like the idea of me being able to see clearly. I just don’t know]

Yeah, this was an expensive week.

Thoughts| “Don’t feed homemade formula to babies; seek help instead”

Article:“Don’t feed homemade formula to babies; seek help instead”

Money is tight and you’re low on baby formula. Should you try that homemade formula recipe you saw online?
The answer is: No.

The advice is solid here, no questioning that. Homemade formula isn’t a great idea.
However, this article overestimates the help available for parents who may feel it’s necessary to water down formula or go to a homemade variety. If parents are going down that route, it’s most likely because the solutions in place haven’t worked out fully.

When I first read the article, I assumed the homemade baby formula in question was my Grandma’s recipe she handed to me when I became a first time mom almost thirty years ago. It has 3 ingredients: evaporated milk,water,karo syrup.

I looked at the most popular homemade recipes for formula out there and quickly learned that these are not my Grandma’s basic recipes and if those are the ones the author is referring to, I don’t think she has to worry about a parent without money making any of them. The ingredients are expensive (there are also “kits” that run about $180-$200…definitely not within low income budgets). I’m inclined to think those who are making these “natural” formulas are doing so not for penny pinching reasons. They’re probably just anti-formula but aren’t breastfeeding or want to supplement.

That out of the way, let’s focus on suggestions given to parents with the assumption they’re making formula to save money (or because they have no money).

The article suggests that if you can’t afford formula, apply for WIC, SNAP, and TANF.
WIC usually does provide enough formula for babies but some families may find times in their baby’s development where they’re going through more formula than WIC provides. Some states have also made cuts to WIC and may not be providing the same as they were.

While WIC income eligibility guidelines are usually higher than SNAP, recipients are still low income and are likely dealing with the multitude of issues that plague low income folks. Missing a WIC appointment can be disastrous. When we’re talking about a low income parent missing an appointment the reason isn’t easily explained away as “irresponsibility”. Can’t get off work, car broke down,can’t find a ride, no public transportation… not excuses, valid obstacles. In rural areas, rescheduling an appointment may not be a possibility at all. Your WIC clinic is one certain day per month in the basement of a church and if you miss that day, there’s nothing else you can do but wait until next month. Even a weather cancellation could totally screw up a family getting their WIC checks on time.

SNAP? Of course it helps but the average allotment of $3 per day per person isn’t going to get everyone in the family the food they need PLUS formula for a whole month. And TANF is notoriously hard to get approved for. Benefits are low and only temporary. You may even be asked to pay back the amount.

The article also recommends food pantries and yes, of course some will be able to help but small town and rural pantries won’t be able to fill that need always.

Where To Get Formula If WIC & SNAP Doesn’t Meet Your Baby’s Needs

Call Your Pediatrician

Your pediatrician has sample cans on hand that they can give to families in need and should supply you with what your baby needs to make it through to your next payday, WIC check pickup, or SNAP disbursement. They may also be able to refer you to additional community organizations who are specialized in helping low income families with things like formula and diapers.
You may also want to give your local health department a call. They are likely to know of other avenues available.

NOTE: I’m aware that some folks may feel afraid to ask their pediatrician for fear of having child protective services called. Yes, use your best judgement about this and only if you feel safe with your provider.

Check Out Your Local Gift Economy Scene

This one may be tricky. You have to find it first, if it even exists. The idea of a gift economy is simply that if you need something, you ask and if you have something to give, you offer it up. No cash exchanged.
Your gift economy may exist on something like Freecycle or even in the community section of craigslist but more often, you’ll see some thriving local groups on Facebook. They may not be labeled “gift economy”. They may be something like “Moms Helping Moms” or something just as simple as “Free Exchange”.
Local parenting groups with an online group are an important resource and I encourage people to join them, even though they certainly can be a minefield of drama at times if they’re not well moderated.

Pregnancy Centers,Community Centers,Churches

You can use to find a lot of these resources but from my own experience, the list they have may not be complete or it’s outdated. I find that Catholic Charities is usually very helpful (experience may vary on location) and the pregnancy centers that have no religious affiliation are usually the most comfortable to seek help at.
Even if a church doesn’t have a food pantry serving the community, they may still be able to help.

Also recognizing here that asking churches may not be for everyone.