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.

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.

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.

It looks like voting might matter

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I texted my adult offspring on Tuesday morning not to make sure they were eating a great breakfast or anything stereotypically motherly but to remind them to go vote in the primary. “Make sure you remind your housemates/boyfriend/girlfriend/co-workers/friends/baristas. Love you!”.

I think a lot of us, especially “millennials”, are disillusioned with Presidential elections, in part because of The Electoral College. It can feel like voting doesn’t matter in the presidential election. It seems like this also discourages some eligible voters to skip state and local elections. Or they just don’t think they’re important. I will always stress that these elections are even more important. These local & state elections decide the people we put in seats to fight for us, for your civil rights, for our infrastructure, our safety net programs, our schools, our environment.
They’ll be the ones who confirm Supreme Court appointees and keep the president from being authoritarian hopefully. Kind of important stuff right now.

When I ask people on social media to call their representatives about certain issues that are pressing, “What’s the point?” is a common response. I live in a district represented by Tom Reed, a Trump cohort. I get this frustration because I know firsthand how exhausting and defeated it feels to repeatedly “express my concerns” to my congressman knowing fully well he’s going to do whatever serves his own and the President’s best interests and not his constituent’s.  And that’s exactly why primaries and mid-terms matter. We need to get the best candidates on the ballot to unseat these (mostly) dudes seeking to put this country back a century and impede social & economic progress for all.

I know anarchists who voted in the primaries so that should tell you how bad it is.

This was the result for my district as of Tuesday night when I went to bed. 26 votes separate Della Pia & Mitrano. This will come down to absentee ballots being counted.  Every vote actually matters. Less than 20% of registered Dems in this district showed up though. We all really need to motivate eligible voters to get to the polls this fall.


kid lit: The Owl Diaries by Rebecca Elliot


My little reluctant reader has discovered The Owl Diaries series and we’ve been reading nothing but lately. They’re cute little chapter books featuring a little owl named Eva and her daily life in the treetops. In book 7 , one of Eva’s classmates has a little sister who can’t fly like the other owlets and needs a “wingchair”. The whole class decides to raise money to buy the wingchair for the little owlet.

I read a lot of diverse kids books with and

pg 16, Owl Diaries #7: The Wildwood Bakery by Rebecca Elliot

to my kidlets but I honestly can’t think of another time I’ve seen this in a children’s book.   Books for young readers that have any representation of characters with disabilities are rare so to find that AND have the major plot point be that the family doesn’t have enough money to buy a wheelchair was pretty refreshing.
Because I know people think that kids shouldn’t have to think or worry about these sorts of socio-economic things but I think it can only help grow empathy and besides, there are kids who have to experience this sort of issue firsthand. Representation matters a lot and so does real life. I appreciate that in this sweet little animal land not everything is so perfect and even owls have to have gofundme to have healthcare and accessibility needs met.

Possible spoiler alert here but the main conflict in the story is that Eva’s classmates make the fundraising a competition and get so wrapped up in who is winning that they forget why and who they’re raising money for. This is something I’ve seen and complained about many times. When one of my older daughters was in elementary school they would have a canned food drive for low income folks every single year and every year it was a competition between the upper grade classrooms. The winner got a pizza party. I hated everything about this fundraising challenge. The recipients of the fundraising bounty weren’t even thought of or talked about and how weird that you get to have pizza (something that a lot of low income people won’t usually get to order out for themselves) as a reward for feeding hungry people. Anyway, I was annoyed. Probably the author has seen this happen before as well and was also annoyed.
(Or I’m overthinking as usual. That wouldn’t be unheard of)

podcast: ” LOLOLoligarchy” , Lovett or Leave It


Listen on your favorite ipod app or at the Crooked Media website:

I think Lovett or Leave It is generally relevant to “us folks’ ” interests here but this latest episode focuses particularly on economic inequality. I’m also going to forever side with Franchesca Ramsey on those Paul Ryan workout pics.

There wasn’t  a single mention of universal basic income. That was disappointing. I know some people feel there isn’t much point in discussing it as a serious way to help bridge inequality because “it’ll never happen” but at this point let’s just throw all the ideas out there because UBI has just as much chance right now of being a thing in our country as truly universal health care but we’re still talking about that a lot.

Sick,bullying, and weekend links

I’m in the middle of that fun cycle where one kid brings home a vile sickness and then another kid brings home another thing two days later. One kid gets over a vile thing only to get the other vile thing and the second kid gets the other vile thing he didn’t have already and then everyone else in the house get both vile things simultaneously and everyone recovers in time to get new vile things.

I think we’re finally seeing our way out of all of this. Let’s hope.

We also had a scary and traumatic event in our family a few weeks ago that has taken a lot out of us. My 13 year old was attacked by another boy in the locker room after gym class. He had a huge contusion on his head, a concussion, a badly bruised but not broken nose with accompanying black eyes, and numerous bruises and sore body parts. He’s healed physically now but he’s still feeling vulnerable, understandably so. At least he isn’t feeling that it’s unsafe to go to school. The days afterward were hard but that anxiety has faded.
The school has dealt with this remarkably and satisfactorily, although this bully has been an issue for my son and others for years. There were also blindspots in supervision. It was noted that this bully in particular looks for opportunities that are unsupervised. Plans were put in place to account for that.
The school really does have excellent anti-bullying strategies in place.  It’s a despairing and sickening feeling to know that sometimes all the right things aren’t going to reach every kid, especially if that bully’s home life countermands everything positive given to them elsewhere.

One thing that left me feeling shook was that other students watched this attack happen and did nothing. I’m not saying one of them should have physically jumped in and helped my son but at least go get a teacher. If you have kiddos, please talk to them about  being active bystanders. This is also something to touch base with your school about. Kids and teens may be inactive bystanders because they’re afraid of retaliation from the bully. Find out what the school does to protect those who intervene after the incident. They should never be afraid of doing the right thing.

And with that, I will leave you with some links. Sorry these aren’t more uplifting than talk of bullying and illnesses.


◊ Paul Ryan fired the House Chaplain for no real good reason except that maybe he was standing up for the poor too much for Paul’s liking

◊ Poor people didn’t vote for Trump. Racist xenophobic nationalists did. (Ok, the article refers to them as people having “status anxiety” but it’s pretty clear that the anxiety they felt was induced by their own prejudices)

◊ Sen Kirsten Gillibrand introduced legislation that would provide a public option for banking and low cost loans available through the post office.

Under Gillibrand’s proposal, Americans could cash paychecks and deposit money in accounts free of charge at each post office location. Deposits would be capped at the larger of two amounts ― $20,000, or the median balance in all American bank accounts.

The postal banks would be able to distribute loans to borrowers of up to $1,000 at an interest rate slightly higher than the yield on one-month Treasury bonds, currently about 2 percent.

A postal banking system would be an alternative to the for-profit payday lending system, in which people routinely pay triple-digit fees to borrow money for bills that come due before their next paycheck. The average payday loan of $375 typically costs a borrower an additional $520 in interest and fees, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

These costs are disproportionately shouldered by the most vulnerable people in the economy: Lower-earning workers who can’t afford fees that commercial banks levy if an account balance falls too low, or simply live in an area that lacks a traditional banking option. The lack of resources typically precludes these Americans from qualifying for a credit card with a reasonable interest rate.

◊ The east side of Washington, DC now has a “maternity care desert” that will hurt low income women the most

◊ I’m so angry that  pregnant women are still uninsured .

◊ Also: Abortion is part of women’s health care and restricting access to abortion is class warfare

◊I think I was a bit out of it and not online for the few days everyone on Twitter yelled at Moby for giving opinions about what people on SNAP should eat. I miss all the fun stuff. I’m glad Twitter filled in for me. It was a predictably myopic and privileged take.

◊ The latest episodes on Earth Eats podcast are about SNAP & the Farm Bill.  I haven’t listened to the latest one but the previous one discussed the beginnings of SNAP. Not surprisingly (to me) , the stigmas surrounding the recipients were there right from the very beginning.

Baltimore is thinking about selling homes for $1 to help revive neighborhoods. The issue is how to help lower income people who would benefit most to do the renovations on the homes. There’s an estimated 16,000 and 46,000 empty homes in Baltimore. That’s a lot of work to be done.

◊ Rochester’s one prestigious Hotel Cadillac has been used in recent years as an emergency homeless shelter but now a development company has bought it, displacing it’s residents.

The eviction rate in Richmond is 11 per 100 renters.
Poor people who can’t pay rent are charged money they don’t have in court fees and the eviction goes on their credit report. It’s expensive to be poor.

Annnnnd of course….

Ben Carson wants to raise the minimum public housing rent from $50 to $150.  That’s tripling the rent for the poorest people in public housing. Carson’s favorite myth is that if you make poor people struggle, it builds character and helps them succeed. Worst person to be the head of HUD ever.
Yes, I will of course mention the $31,000 dining room table.
If the department and the Carson family sees that as a justifiable expense, I’d like to show them how to shop on a budget. I just got a decent table and seating on for a reasonable price. They have coupons and free shopping all the time,too.

[this post brought to you by fancy olive oil someone gave me after cleaning out their cupboard, the reboot of American Idol, and robins chirping outside my window]

I’ve been sick or kids have been sick in between packing & trying to establish our new domicile, so I’ve admittedly been a little out of it but please enjoy these few things I did notice that are relevant to our interests. I know there were more but I just tried to look in my browser history for some of them and wow, what a daunting place.

(Enjoy? Not the right word. Nothing here in exactly enjoyable. )

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found at Revolution News

⇒There’s a new study that says going to a concert every two weeks can add to your life span. Well, I’m someone who would go to concerts all the time if I could afford to so I’m immediately thinking that the underlying reason frequent concert goers have a longer lifespan has something to do with disposable income that allows them to buy concert tickets. If you have lots of concert ticket money in your budget, you’re probably eating ok and have good access to things that keep you alive longer. The rationale behind the study is that “live music increases feelings of self-worth, closeness to others, and, especially, mental stimulation, all of which contribute to one’s sense of well-being. “.
But so does not living in poverty somewhat so I don’t know.

⇒Good question: Why isn’t it the norm for restaurants to donate their excess food?

⇒ Added to my To-Read List: Stand Together or Starve Alone by Mark Winne.  Winne says he wrote the book because “I’ve been in the food movement for 47 years now. I’ve seen two things happening. One, the movement keeps growing and diversifying, and it becomes more of a force in everyday life. But at the same time, I’ve been underwhelmed, unimpressed, and discouraged by the lack of progress in looking at the major indicators of hunger, food insecurity, obesity, diabetes—even the sustainability of the food system itself. We haven’t spent enough time working together and finding ways to collaborate.”

Today’s post is brought to you by the warmest socks on earth (alpaca), baklava for breakfast, and my excitement for new upcoming creative projects

I’m beginning January 2018 with $7 in the bank account, $20 cash, and a $25 Visa gift card. We just paid November rent, making us two months behind on rent now BUT we aren’t behind on anything else at the moment. There’s no urgent needs right now that would require money, except perhaps additional firewood. The deep cold continues and we’re going through wood rapidly but I have a good source for wood if I need more right away.

Our SNAP balance is $0 until the 9th (then it will be $210) but we’re good on food. Much of that is thanks to kindness of others.  We also could not get through without the biweekly food pantry.

In December I was in a cooking rut and we were eating terribly. Lots of Brown Food (chicken nuggets,tater tots,etc). Depression was a big factor but I was also feeling tired of making the same meals over and over again because I just didn’t have a lot to work with and just could not summon the mental ambition to be creative with what I was working with. I was really hating cooking for awhile there.
Once older kids started coming home from college, the extra help around the house  relieved a lot of stress on me and I started making decent meals again. Mostly a lot of my kids fave comfort foods they missed while away at college. Pierogies with spinach and onions, egg rolls, mac and cheese, chili… that stuff I make with cabbage and lentils. They CAN cook for themselves but you know…Mom does it better, I guess.

The food pantry gave out turkeys for Christmas dinners and we were given a lovely holiday food box from Vineyard Church with a ham, potatoes,corn,butter,milk, and treats. We had the ham for New Year’s. The butter was super helpful because my oldest spawn appointed himself as stuffing maker a couple of years ago. He follows Matty Matheson’s recipe. The 1st time he made it, I jokingly asked , “What the hell? Did you use an entire pound of butter or what?” HE DID. He uses less butter since then but lordy…we seem to go through a lot of butter in this house, especially with the big eatin’ days.

The pre-Christmas food pantry was wild. There was a Santa there for some reason. No kids there so adults sat on his lap and Santa was rather saucy. He also sang a song about eating roadkill, which I tried to get on video but all you can hear is an older man standing next to me telling my husband about how he’s afraid old and disabled people are going to be sent to the gas chambers. But you can’t even hear him well enough for me to post that. It was certainly the part that was most worth listening to.
“They keep closing all our programs! They just want to get rid of us”. Later he told me this story about being given an F in school by a teacher who was mad that he talked about gas chambers during the Holocaust. She told the class that didn’t happen. His father put his military uniform on , went down to the school, and told the teacher and the whole class a very non-watered down version of everything he saw as a soldier in WW2.  I’m always amazed when I hear other’s experiences in school being taught about the Holocaust.  When I was in school, it was no holds barred. Graphic, concise, full depiction. Nothing censored. My kids,too. We all feel like we could go our whole life without seeing another documentary about it because what we learned was so thorough and it was intense. A lot at once, which may have been the intended effect because the saturation made a lifelong lasting impression. My husband finds that in his adult life, he’s learned a lot more about it than he did in school but he was still given the important basics.
This past summer when Nazis were marching with tiki torches, I was shocked at the people who were so ignorant about what Nazis did. Jewish people were sharing  stories of what their families went through and the reactions from people was mind boggling. “I can’t believe any of that happened.I never heard about any of this is school.”…from educated adults. It dawned on me that this has to be why more people aren’t seriously alarmed by the rise of  fascism,neo-Nazism and hate groups here. They wrongly think if you laugh at them or ignore them, it will end them.  Mind blown. If not everyone knows the full extent of what that brand of hate leads to, they can’t be alarmed by it and if they aren’t alarmed, they aren’t going to have the inclination to even try to fight it. I’m deeply troubled by this. It’s the same mindset that leads people to believe the government will never take away rights or food/assistance to poor families or medicare from old people. They think anti-poverty activists are overreacting about the future for poor and marginalized  people. I would much rather overreact than be complacent and just let things happen.

I don’t even want to get into people pearl-clutching over whether it’s ok to punch Nazis. I’m not much of a resolution maker but punching Nazis in 2018 sounds like a good one.