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.

two weeks worth of things

Marceline loves the wood pile


We survived Stella. Yesterday morning our snow total was 25 inches but it snowed the entire day so I don’t know what we ended up with. IMG_1238School was closed for two days with a two hour delay today.
My 11 year old has been sick the entire week with a horrible cough & cold, including during the Snow Days. Between the Snow Days & a sick kiddo, I’ve gotten zero work done this week and now I think the kiddo has generously shared his germs with me and I’m coming down with it.

The snow storm was also an economical bummer for my daughter who is home from college this week on break. She had lined up a babysitting job while she was home and ended up never working because  of the weather. She’s moving into a shared house off campus so she was looking forward to having the extra cash.


food stuff

A woman hit a deer in front of our house. Law enforcement let us keep it and salvage what we could. There wasn’t a lot that could be rescued but we have at least the front quarters in our freezer now.

I had to take a turkey out of the freezer to make room for the venison, so we had a nice turkey dinner and subsequent leftovers this week.

Last week, my husbeast picked up a roast beef , which I cooked at the beginning of the week  in the crockpot and stretched into several meals throughout. I’ve probably mentioned before that meat is not my favorite and I could do without but this worked out well without me feeling like I never want to eat beef again. The key for me is definitely to put it in  dishes without making it the dominant thing.

The last food pantry also had a lot to offer, including the biggest cabbage I’ve ever seen.  I’m aiming to get at least 4 meals out of it. Will update.

I had one day last week where I was feeling under the weather. The husbeast picked up soup for me at a local restaurant – sweet potato curry. He was sure I would love it because it certainly sounds like something I would like but alas, it was not my favorite. It had great flavor but it was just too much as a soup. The next day I threw it in the crockpot with chicken we had gotten from the food pantry and it was sooo good.

I found this pic of the soup and raw chicken on my ipod .IMG_0225 I’m pretty sure I had intended to show the after pic of the cooked chicken over rice. ADHD fail right there.

I have several soups in the freezer that we have gotten from the food pantry over the past few months that we didn’t like. There’s one tomato soup that was like eating chunky pasta sauce. I’ll do a re-do with that.

On a splurgy note, last week was my birthday. We went out to dinner, just the man and me. Que milagro. We went to a pricey local joint but you know, even when I’m basking in the glow of Taxmas, I can’t let myself not be thrifty. We went on a night that they have a special 3 course meal that’s basically the cost of one entree usually. Appetizer,entree,dessert. The food was divine, as was the quiet,uninterrupted dinner.

taxmas expenditures

Things we spent money on during the past 2 weeks:

  • fixing the car – $1500
  • rental while car was in the shop- $260 (uhaul pick-up)
  • spayed one cat, neutered another. Plus vaccinations.-$380
  • firewood-$150

I still need new glasses & I’d like to get started on some of my dental work.

this week’s simple pleasure

Library books. Always central in my life but this week especially, a pile of books was a source of great comfort ,both for intellectual and entertainment value.


song of the day: “Bambi” by Jidenna
I loved this song since the 1st time I heard it a bit ago and this week I’ve found myself humming it to myself.


a little update on life stuff

It’s beginning to look a lot like Taxmas. My favorite holiday.  We filed our income taxes and should get our moolah back around the end of the month. This is a huge relief and again, we wouldn’t have made it through this month without the help of donations. It still irks me that a utility company and landlord can’t wait 3 weeks for their money. It’s just three weeks. Come on.

I’m currently making the list of things to throw money at (the car right now is #1) and formulating a strategy to make the most of all the monies , preferably in such a way that lends to some resemblance of economic stability. I’ll let you know how that turns out. Meh.

My husband is having a hard time managing his diabetes lately. He had to go to diabetic counseling this week and lemme tell you, I am not at all pleased with anything  he came out of that appointment with. He handed me all the literature because as the person who cooks the meals, this is now my responsibility.”Give this to your wife”
I remember this well from when my Grandpa had diabetes and it fell on my Grandma to be the person in charge of his illness.  One detail diabetic counselors and doctors seem to miss here is that I can plan and cook our meals right but that doesn’t mean he’ll exercise self-control over portion sizes or follow advice on exercise or not basically sneak food when he’s not home.
Are female diabetic patients told to hand over all their dietary instructions to their husbands?

When he was diagnosed years ago, I took it upon myself to research the way he should be eating. I adjusted how we eat accordingly. When things are good financially, I’m able to buy better food. When the grocery budget is scarce, I still do ok but not great  as far as making sure it fits what he should eat. He has problems no matter how I cook because *see above last paragraph*

And also,also,also….they suggested not just specific food but products/brands that he should eat. They’re really expensive. Surprise! No, not at all a surprise. Nope.

Healthcare reform should allow food to be covered by your insurance plan, ok? Write that in the replacement.

Other than THAT, everything else is ok. I mean, I still hate winter but besides that.

A few people asked about this picture of forsythia I posted on Instagram last week. Here’s how I did it:
1. Cut forsythia branches.
2. Brought them inside and stuck them in water.

That’s it. Originally when I learned to do this eons ago, I was taught to hammer the ends of the branches before putting them in water but I really don’t know why. This is the third time I’ve “forced” them without hammering  and they’ve still bloomed fine.

I think I might go wade through the snow to get some lilac branches this weekend. The touch of Spring does help me deal with the winter blahs a little bit.


Whenever I say I “forced them to bloom” , my husband cracks a 50 Shades of Greener joke. He’s hilarious.

Oh,hey…the Song of the Day

“Blossom” by Nick Drake. I can’t think of any other music other than Nick Drake’s that has the unique ability to fit gray, gloomy, melancholy days while also being blue mood lifting.


podcast: Bad With Money with Gaby Dunn

Bad With Money With Gaby Dunn

Here’s the thing about being poor: it isn’t that you’re “bad with money”. It’s that you don’t have money. But the longer you’re poor , the weirder you get when you do have money, even if you’re “good with money”usually. Money decisions are hard. Then when you add the way you were raised into the mix, whether you were raised poor or rich or middle class or whatever…. that all effects how you are with money. There’s emotions and psychological stuff all wrapped up in there. Toss in class anxieties,marginalization,dealing with stigmas, assigning capatalistic values to self worth,not being educated about money and financial stuff….ugh. Money is huge and we don’t talk enough about how and why it is and what it does to our lives. Not openly,anyway.

So, here’s Gaby Dunn with a podcast that talks about all of these things and then some.
Is this podcast going to help you to not have money problems? Hell,no. For me, it’s helping  to gain insight into how I deal with my shitty economic existence and it’s always comforting to hear others talk about money issues you can relate to.

Some podcasts you can just pick up with the most current episode and be good but this one, go back to episode 1 and listen from the very beginning. Gaby’s personal background is essential and it’s one of those podcasts you get an evolved personal story with each episode.

Link→ Bad with Money

Money as a social construction


via Sociological Images – Money as a social construction.

We all know that, on some basic level, money is purely symbolic.  It only works because everyone collectively agrees to participate in the fantasy that a dollar bill is worth a dollar, whatever that is.  Moreover, most of our money these days is purely electronic, represented by ones and zeros and real only in the most abstract sense possible.

Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post offered another way of thinking about money as a social construction: how much it costs to make it.  None of our coins are actually worth what they cost, and pennies and nickels are worth quite a bit less.

The excess cost of producing pennies and nickels means a budget deficit for the Treasury. In 2013, producing the coins cost the government $105 million dollars above and beyond the coins’ value.

Interestingly, moves to eliminate pennies have been successfully opposed by the zinc industry for years, illustrating another sociological phenomenon: the power of corporations to shape government decisions.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

For more relevant discussion about the worth of our money, watch the documentary The End of the Road. (available streaming online or at the local library, if your library rocks like mine does).


Stupid tips on how to save money…

via Cynical As Hell, ambienne

I had this discussion awhile back with a few people when I mentioned I was running out of actual tips for how to be poor. The “frugal tips that will save you money!” lists are often really not applicable to low income people. Nothing wrong with trying to live within a budget to help keep your financial situation sustainable and stable  but there’s quite a difference between that and being poor.

This coffee tip is on nearly every single list you see about saving money. “Save money by making your coffee at home!”
Yeah, we know this. And some of us don’t even have enough to buy coffee to make at home (or a coffeepot) ,so there’s that.

What are your favorite really not helpful “tips” for how to be poor?


#NoKXL #RejectandProtect #CowboyIndianAlliance

photo by Jenna Pope.

Watch a live stream here of the protest and tipi gifting here….


Yesterday, a round dance stopped traffic in Georgetown.
Media preview

via Dallas Goldtooth

Video here with Chief Rueben George speaking…

via Idle No More
keystone xl protest

The banner says: “Standing in the water could get me arrested. TransCanada (Corp.) pollutes drinking water and nothing happens.”

via here

Today ,Lakota rapper Frank Waln will be one of the artists performing in on the National Mall in DC as part of the protest.  Frank said the other day on his Facebook, “Two years ago, I was inspired by people back home protesting the KeystoneXL by stopping trucks that were carrying pieces of the pipeline from crossing our rez. I was sitting in my dorm room in downtown Chicago all homesick, wishing I could be there. I did the only thing I knew how to do. I made a song. I called it “Oil 4 Blood”. It was just my way of expressing my solidarity. A small contribution from a rez kid rapper. Two years later, it’s inspiring to see us organizing on a national scale and taking that message to the Capitol Hill.

Tomorrow, I’m flying out to Washington DC to join my relatives in the Reject and Protect protest against the KeystoneXL pipeline. I’m performing on SATURDAY at 1:30pm at the Tipi camp on the National Mall. I’m going to rock this song as hard as I can for my ancestors, for my family and for our Mother Earth “

I think it’s incredible that a song written as an expression of solidarity is now an integral small part of this national protest. Way to go, Frank.




bitches gotta have teeth

One of my favorite blogger/writers Samantha Irby has been talking about her dental issues lately and because the Internet is awesome, there’s now a gofundme because yeah…bitches gotta have teeth  .

Reading Sam’s post today [ bitches gotta eat. – this is what’s up with my teeth.] …oh, I am so hoping the beautiful people of the Internet raise the money she needs. Sincerely crossing fingers.

Her post about what’s up with her teeth? That’s pretty much where I am right now.Except that I don’t have the extra complication of Crohn’s. I also didn’t grow up poor. I was raised in a trailer park, surrounded by a lot of poor people but my own family wasn’t poor. People assume I was poor because of where I lived but that’s another story…
I literally was never made to brush my teeth. I went to the dentist ONCE before I turned 18. The dentist told my mom I needed braces and that was that. We’re never going back to THAT place again. I mean, I figured a lot  out myself…thanks to Dental Health Month and everything but I think it’s probably common sense that someone who brushes their teeth but can’t go to a dentist is probably going to still end up with issues. As an adult, I had some pretty crappy dentists who did more harm than good. And then I had 2 separate accidents that caused me to break my front teeth. I’m a major klutz. It’s also been pointed out that my periods of food scarcity & poor nutrition haven’t exactly helped.

I also have not gotten an official quote from the dentist. I don’t even have a dentist right now. I just got dental coverage through my new married-lady insurance . I’m also pretty scared. I know they’re going to demand my last born child as payment. I know – usually they demand first born but he just turned 24. I don’t know what they’d want with him.

Well, I don’t know what they’d want with my 3 year old,either.

Ok, forget them demanding children as payment because I’m sure this is sounding way weirder than I intended.

Money. They’re going to want a lot of money. That’s what I meant.

The only perk I can find right now in this teeth situation is that I’ve lost weight on my new soup & banana diet. I really did need to lose weight. I’m glad I spent years studying herbal medicine because that’s coming in super handy right now for fighting infection and keeping pain to a minimum.

Everyone remember that one woman who wrote a thing about being poor on the Huffington Post that went viral? Linda Something. (I’m not linking to it. Feel free to use the Google).

I was not a huge gushing fan of that article. I was actually a little furious. In the essay-thing , she mentioned that her bad teeth were the reason she couldn’t get a decent job.  I can completely attest to this being a legit reason someone could not get a decent job. THAT’S ME. I’m educated, great resume, I have all sorts of crazy skills that people used to pay me for but really,the teeth keep people from hiring me now. It’s that bad. So, I wasn’t mad that this Linda chick said that about her teeth. I was mad that she went on Huff Post live to talk about her viral article and guess what?

Her teeth were fine.

Refresher for anyone who might remember that whole article: The Internet came together and raised at least $60,000 for this woman who they thought had a mouth full of rotten teeth and was  living in poverty deeper than anyone could imagine.

I don’t know why I’m rehashing all this because really…. let it go . I just think about that from time to time, especially when someone requests an interview with me and I feel that I have to decline. I am beyond self-conscious of my mouth and every time I talk, I’m pretty sure none of my words matter at all .It’s all undone by the dental nightmare that my mouth is. Well, interviews and job opportunities.  I’ve lost out on some good opportunities because of this. This isn’t just me being insecure. It’s a totally honest truth. It’s been a forthright comment about why I wasn’t hired. People judge people by their teeth . A lot. It sucks because the state of my teeth have nothing to do with how much I care about myself . It’s a pure reflection of poverty.

I am also uber sensitive to jokes about stupid people without teeth now. That shit is not ok.

Someday soon, I will get a quote from a dentist and find out how much money it’s going to take to make me a person again, a career employable woman people take seriously because the words coming out of her mouth are just words and there’s no crappy teeth getting in the way. A friend who doesn’t live in the U.S. says I made a HUGE mistake marrying my husband. I shoulda married someone from a country with excellent dental health care.  I have never understood why dental insurance is seen as an entirely separate thing than Health Care and I’m pretty sure that my insurance will cover like 0.000012% of that I need done.
Um, yeah…. heart disease, sepsis, diabetes,respiratory infections (I have one now) ,and …crap…Alzheimer’s,even. Nah, dental health isn’t important at all!

Excellent. The last sentence has now made me have a panic attack. Tomorrow morning, I think I need to make that appointment. Anyone want to hold my hand when I go? In spirit, even. That’d be cool.

What’s the haps…

Ugh, sorry. Most of this is awful and not positive stuff.


Politician determines food stamp fraud based on appearance – Rep Markwayne Mullin from Oooooooook-LA-hooooma (sorry…can’t say Oklahoma. Have to sing it) wants all safety net and aid programs just eliminated with because he says he’s seen fraud firsthand. There was this one time he saw physically fit people wearing spandex and Nike using an EBT card to buy their food. So, that right there is fraud!  Clearly.
C’mon ,physically fit poor people….f you had Nike’s and work-out clothes before you needed aid, you should sell them and buy some Target knockoffs . Heaven forbid, if you find nice things second hand, don’t buy them! You need to look poor. Quit working out! Join us fat slobs on the couch. Do not shop at “nice stores”. You are committing fraud if you do this.

Yeah, this guy doesn’t seem to know that 40% of people on food stamps WORK, and their physically fitness doesn’t mean they earn a higher wage. Der.

Pennsylvania parents face financial stress with cuts to Kindergarten program – for years in my area, we had only half day kindergarten. It was a tremendous relief to many parents when the school district switched to full day because of the daycare issue.

Occupy Money Cooperative – a faction of the Occupy movement is working on establishing a money cooperative with a debit card line.

Texas Food Bank responds to Fox News special segment on The Great Food Stamp Binge – Oh, that Faux News channel. They had a special investigative reporting thingy about SNAP they called The Great Food Stamp Binge. To summarize:  people on SNAP are lazy losers who eat too much. Celia Cole from Texas Food Bank used some factivism to refute some of the bad non-investigative journalism going on.

“If you watched Fox News this weekend, you may have seen an inflammatory & misleading hour of journalism examining the recent growth of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps).

“This exercise in muckraking likely led many viewers to form false notions about this important federal program. Among the worst of these was the suggestion that those who Fox selected for interviews represent the millions of vulnerable Americans who legitimately receive food aid.

“When I see someone parked illegally in a handicapped spot, I think badly of that person as an individual. But it doesn’t make me think what we should cut back on accommodations for people with disabilities, or think badly of all people with disabilities. Too often, when we see abuse in programs for the poor the opposite reaction occurs: we blast the program as a whole and assume that everyone on it is out to beat the system. And only because they are poor.

“The truth is that 1 in 7 Americans do receive SNAP because 1 in 7 Americans live at or below the poverty level, and therefore struggle to afford food and meet other basic needs. Recent studies from both Harvard University and Mathematica conclude that our weak economy is responsible for the vast majority of recent program growth.

“What do we actually know about these families? We know that 76% include children, elderly or someone who is disabled. We know that nearly 50% survive on incomes that are less than half of the federal poverty line. We know that 96% of recipients are U.S. citizens (the rest are here legally), and that participation rates are comparable in urban and rural America. SNAP is also one of the most efficient and effective government programs with program error and fraud at historic lows. Less than 4% of benefits are issued in error.

“What outlets like Fox fail to mention is that SNAP not only satisfies our moral duty to feed the hungry among us, it also improves lives and strengthens our economy. Study after study associates SNAP with higher food security, better dietary health and even self-sufficiency later in life.

“Congressional economists predict that SNAP participation will fall by 12 million people, and annual program costs will fall by nearly $10 Billion over the next decade as our economy recovers – just as it is designed to do. Our question to Fox News is, why bash a program that does so much good for so many?”


Kalamazoo, Michigan Mayor and City Commish participating in SNAP Challenge – I’ll see if I can find their updates on participation. A lot of times there will be a press release saying that city officials or politicians are participating and then there’s no follow-up on how they did w/ the challenge.

A Bit of Success in Obesity Fight – while there is still the debate about whether or not SNAP recipients should be able to use EBT for soda and junk food, Marsha Mercer says we need to look at the success of the WIC program and use it to restructure SNAP for better nutrition nationwide.

Food Stamp benefits begin decreasing in November – I may have mentioned this already but it’s worth mentioning again.There’s a lot of confusion about this as only some local news stations and papers are reporting on it. It makes it seem like these cuts will be happening in just a few states but it’s happening on a National level. The amount cut will be about $10 per person per month.