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.

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.

Life | Electricity

Last week an electrician finally showed up to fix the things we’ve been asking the landlady to deal with since Spring. Withholding rent got her attention. His comment about one of the issues: “Thank god we fixed this now. That was a fire waiting to happen”.
This is what I had been saying, my huge concern. I felt vindicated by his ominous remark. Do all landlords poo-poo tenant’s complaints as over reaction? I felt that way.

One of the fixed issues was dead outlets in the kitchen. The fridge was plugged into one of the dead outlets, obviously a major pain in the ass. We had it plugged into a power strip stretching from an outlet that would work. Not ideal so it was nice to have that fixed. For a whole week or so,anyway. This morning I woke up and the fridge was warm, kitchen outlets dead once again.
My porch is a makeshift fridge today until husbeast comes home from work and helps me move the fridge to plug it in to that power strip again. Lucky it’s a cold day. We’ve had  unseasonal temp all month.

I wonder how many more months it will be before the landlady decides to send the electrician back to figure out what the hell is up with the wiring? Can’t wait to find out.
We put that apartment search on hold since it seemed things were getting resolved but maybe the hunt is back on.

Of course we just finally sorted out HEAP and had 175 gallons of fuel delivered. It would suck to lose that. We almost didn’t get it. I don’t know how more people don’t freeze. $660 for minimum delivery and that won’t last the entire winter at all. HEAP has a one time per season allowance and limited funds. We had problems getting it because our SNAP worker sent all our info to the HEAP unit but they didn’t have it and we had to start a whole new applications, submit documents,etc. One worker told us it was too late to apply and we didn’t meet the deadline. Another worker approved it. Let’s sprinkle blessings on that approving worker.

[this post brought to you by the happy chaos of having all my adult offspring home for the hollerdaze and The Cornell Elves program]

Was reading this kind of a bummer? I have a sanity saving art intensive Facebook page that helps: Witchcrafts
There’s a blog,too! The Lucky Fish

Other places to find me:

If you like the work I do here at Poor as Folk, please considering being a supporter through Patreon. Your support will help keep the lights on and the content flowing, as well as help me develop printed publications such as cookbooks and zines designed to help low income folks. Even if you can only pledge $1 or $3 per month, that is SO appreciated! If even half the readers of this blog pledged that small amount, it would be significant enough to bring change and growth in my own life.

I also sell things online and you can support me in that way,too.


This post is brought to you by running water,central heating, and clean laundry done in my own washing machine! And that smells like clean laundry and not wood smoke.


A screenshot of a vid I posted on IG since wordpress says I’m not endowed with those privileges. Hmmph.

The past month has been devoted to moving, being sick, and unpacking.
Home is now a 1978 14 x 70 mobile home in a trailer park. I’m learning to embrace minimalism as we squeeze our 1600 sq ft living situation into a 880 sq ft space.

That’s a lie. I’m not really embracing it. I’m tolerating it. This may be the title of my eventual book that will probably mostly be devoted to my love-hate feelings about kondomari and hygge and all the funny words for organizing: Tolerating Minimalism.

The trailer park is actually pretty nice with most of our neighbors being retirees or international grad students and their families. There’s a “lake” (it’s a big pond) stocked with fish.
The buses are better. It’s closer to husbeast’s work. The kids were able to stay in the same schools. Rent is $350 less. Electricity is less. We’re feeling a weird sense of stability, something we haven’t felt in quite awhile. I wouldn’t say we’re doing well but we’re certainly doing better.

I’m breathing easier at least.

AND WE HAVE RUNNING WATER. Heat is nice,too. This morning it was 8 degrees but nice and toasty inside. I’m thrilled.




This Chili-Mac Stuff was the bomb (cyclone)

I know that the weather event known as the bomb cyclone, or cyclogenesis, was ages (two weeks. Same thing) ago but I’m still dealing with the fallout. That fallout is also why I didn’t blog this recipe when I made it 2 weeks ago instead of now. Bomb cyclone fallout is time consuming.

But I’m not telling you about all that yet. First I’m telling you the cooking stuff. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my one daughter who likes to cook, ALWAYS put your story after the recipe. If you don’t, someone searching the internet for a recipe will end up at your blog and stand in their kitchen  muttering while they scroll through your story, “Ok, I get it. Your kid is smart, your dog is cute. Blah Blah. I don’t care about your life just let me see the damn recipe!”.

I don’t know if what I post here are recipe. I wing it. You should,too. Mostly it’s just instructions for what to do with cheap ingredients particularly those found at food pantries.
Also, I recognize that as I’m compiling these non-recipes into a book ,I need to have better names other than Chili Mac Stuff. I’m working on it.

Ok, on to the thing I made.
These are the ingredients I used minus herbs and spices.
These were 100% picked up from the food pantry.  There’s very rarely name brand or even store brand from the food pantry but usually  there is no notable difference in quality.

The USDA packaged meat can take a bit to get used to,cooking with, all varieties from ground beef to chicken,turkey, and pork. It’s ground finer and therefore …mushier? Smoother? I don’t have an adjective to describe it. It has a different texture.

When cooking with this meat, seasoning is the big thing. I know – it should be anyway but really it makes the most difference with this.
For this meal, I sauteed it in a cast iron pan with a little oil, salt,pepper, onion flakes and garlic powder. I prefer to use fresh onions & garlic but I didn’t have any. The dried will work just as well.

In a pot, I essentially opened cans of tomatoes,sauce,and beans and tossed them in. I rinse the beans first in a colander.  I tossed the meat in and added more herbs and spices. For this pot, I was cooking for non-spicy eaters so I used cumin,oregano,more garlic, and a little bit of a chipotle pepper mix.  I cooked all if this together for 10 minutes then added dry macaroni and enough water to add volume and help the pasta cook without losing thickness from the base. Cook about 7 minutes longer until the macaroni is done.
Spicy lovers added their nonsense to their own bowls and topped with some shredded cheese. No sour cream on hand,unfortunately.

This dish hit the spot as a hearty,warming comfort food while we were enduring the “bomb cyclone” and -25 temps.

[end food bit]
The day before this bomb cyclone thing was supposed to hit us, we managed to find a mobile food pantry we could go to. We never get to go to them because they’re either during inconvenient hours or too far to drive. They usually have a lot more perishable foods and produce then what’s available at our usual food pantry.
It’s always held outside and we froze but it was worth it. That food helped us get through the week until food stamps came through and then some. The security of that helped me deal much better with events that came out of the storm.

The days during the winter storm in our drafty cold house were miserable and not surprisingly, the pipes froze. The pipes have never frozen while we’ve lived here but it was a pretty common problem that weekend. I worked for hours trying to get them thawed before I finally called the property manager. As I expected, they were swamped with similar calls from tenants. They couldn’t send anyone out that day. This was Sunday  (Jan 7th) in the afternoon. Monday morning, the maintenance manager called to see if we were still frozen. Yep. He said someone would be out. That was Monday. No one showed. (Pro tip: Don’t rent from a large property management company. They rarely can meet the needs of all their tenants during a weather event)
I called Monday late afternoon to get an ETA. “Tuesday mid-morning”

If you’re at all experienced with frozen pipes, you know that it’s really important to deal with it proactively. ASAP. You wait and see if they thaw on their own, they will probably burst. And that’s exactly what happened Monday night. 3:30 a.m. I’m running through a maze of water showers in the basement to reach the pump to shut it off. Because where is the water shutoff? No one knows.  Great stuff.
Tuesday mid-morning comes and goes without seeing anyone. I notify them that the pipes had burst  . Tuesday around pm someone shows up. To see what they need to fix it. They’ll be back on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, we’re getting water from the town pump. I’m melting snow in a big pot on the wood stove and then filtering it through a colander to get the pinecones and sticks out for toilet flushing. When the toilet stopped flushing I assumed one of those buggers got past me and clogged it. Oh,no. That wasn’t it. The septic drain line turned out to be frozen solid as well. Most things in this house are set up wrongly and that was no exception. Part of the drain line is exposed outside to the elements, not buried correctly, so of course it would freeze. This is also the drain line for sinks so everything was backed up.

In all this time, the property management never once asked if we needed anything or offered to provide at least drinking water. I called the office at one point to get an update on repairs. They sounded annoyed and I said, “Listen, I just need to know if I need to go get more drinking water and water to wash up with.” The woman acted surprised. “Oh!” Like it was the 1st time she realized that frozen pipes mean the people living there don’t even have water to brush their teeth with. Ugh.

By Wednesday the house was disgusting. I won’t even go into all of that. The plumber fixed some of the pipes, just the ones going to the bathroom. “We’ll be back tomorrow”. Okie dokie.
The roto-rooter guy showed up finally to thaw the drain so we could have a fancy toilet that flushes. He’s the hero of this story, truly. He did have to cut a hole in the line to thaw it. Yes, this means we have potentially open septic line in our backyard. In that dude’s opinion though, there was no other way to handle it and it should have never been exposed like that in the 1st place.
Wednesday night we had a working toilet and could take showers! Hallelujah.

Thursday . No plumber showed up to finish the rest if the pipes. I called to see what’s up. The topic of our one month back rent came up, even though we’ve been in constant  touch with them and they were agreeable to waiting for payment when we got our tax return. I have that in writing.
They made a decision with the landlord to NOT fix the rest of the pipes. The toilet flushes. They made sure there’s running water in the bathroom. All done. Don’t need to do anything else.

One week later I’m washing dishes in the bathtub and my kitchen is in shambles. It’s mostly because after that long stretch without water, the dishes piled up and I’m still not caught up. We’re using paper plates and plastic cups as much as possible.
And I will have to take out a small loan to get laundry done at the laundromat.

Tell me how this decision to not make sure the whole house functions makes any sense? I would think they’d want it properly maintained and such?
We’re at a standoff, I suppose.  All of this is one more thing to document and notify proper people of. Tomorrow is payday and we’re going to attempt to buy needed materials and fix it ourselves with help from plumber-type friends.  Wish us luck.

Taxmas is around the corner. We’ll be looking for a new place to live once funds hit our bank account. I’m just done with these people.

November financial picture

November Basic Bills

Rent- Oct + Nov $2,250
Electric- $209 (regular bill plus monthly payment agreement from past balance)
Car Insurance- $79
Phone/Internet – $129

Other Things We Really Need 
Gas for the car
toilet paper, dish detergent,laundry detergent,etc

November Income
Main Job- $1680
Patreon- $149
My Undetermined Odd Jobs…..???

Husbeast’s work schedule this week has been 4pm-midnight and might stay that way this month. This is why I can’t get a consistent part time job in the evenings. His schedule changes too quickly.

I also had to close my main online shop because I couldn’t even afford the flat $30 a month fee.

SNAP- $210 – available on Nov 9th

We’ve spent $83 so far this month on groceries that couldn’t wait until SNAP came through.

We probably won’t be getting HEAP this year because they will not apply payments to electric bills unless the main heating is permanent electric and not portable space heaters. HEAP will pay a wood vendor but we honestly don’t need wood and every wood vendor who takes HEAP says orders needed to be placed months ago.
(Refresher: We heat mainly with a woodstove but there are rooms that it won’t heat so we have to use space heaters in those rooms.)

We already missed one food pantry this month. Ours is only twice a month. We missed it because husbeast was working that evening and there was no way for me to get there.


october 3rd, 2017

Some things to wade through today

mental wellness: “Don’t not set yourself on fire to keep others warm”– a thread on balancing social responsibility and exhaustion

podcast: Radiolab’s More Perfect- “Who’s Gerry and Why Is He So Bad At Drawing Maps?”

The Supreme Court is about to hear a case on how legislative districts are drawn to favor one political party over another.Good episode that breaks it all down, including the mathy stuff like The Efficiency Gap equation.

community building: “When you get a front door, remember to leave it open” – urban grassroots orgs for low income people to support each other around food, markets, and other events.

environmental justice: Underwater and Rising-The Housing Situation in Florida is About To Get Much Worse – there are so many layers to this. It’s a mess and it impacts poor and non-white communities more than anyone else

Jobs & Welfare: Elizabeth Warren Introduced A Bill To Ban “Right to Work” Laws – Good for her. I was a single,teen mom between jobs when The Clintons (yes, both of them) introduced right to work laws. That one “welfare reform” alone hurt so many people and continues to do so. It also impacts bigger things like unfair, low wages and crappy labor laws that hurt workers.

Racism Gap: The American Economy Isn’t Getting Any Less Racist – anti-Black hiring prejudices are just as prevalent as they were 30 years ago, deepening income inequality for Black people.

Activism: Host Teach-Ins About Bail and Pre-Trial Detentions – a guide with resources to help organize a teach-in event

Thoughts: An Open Letter To Privileged People Who Play Devil’s Advocate – I always say, “May I play Devil’s Advocate?” is the cousin of “I’m not racist BUT…”
Just don’t do it.

Perfect World:
No automatic alt text available.

Art by the brilliant Ben Montero who always makes me have feelings


current anthem:

Was reading these links kind of a bummer? I do these nearly-daily link roundups at my other blog,too, and those are a lot happier and prettier.

Other places to find me:

If you like the work I do here at Poor as Folk, please considering being a supporter through Patreon. Your support will help keep the lights on and the content flowing, as well as help me develop printed publications such as cookbooks and zines designed to help low income folks. Even if you can only pledge $1 or $3 per month, that is SO appreciated! If even half the readers of this blog pledged that small amount, it would be significant enough to bring change and growth in my own life.