In the United States the official threshold to be considered living in poverty for a family of one is $10,890. If you have more people in your family the number goes up a little. I’ve placed a table below to give the exact amount your family would need to make to be within the poverty threshold.

Many associate “poverty” with unfortunate people that have caught bad breaks, dependent on government assistance and a daily struggle to make ends meet.

2011 HHS Poverty Guidelines

Persons in family 48 Contiguous
States and D.C
Alaska Hawaii
1 $10,890 $13,600 $12,540
2 14,710 18,380 16,930
3 18,530 23,160 21,320
4 22,350 27,940 25,710
5 26,170 32,720 30,100
6 29,990 37,500 34,490
7 33,810 42,280 38,880
8 37,630 47,060 43,270
For each additional
person, add
3,820 4,780 4,390

SOURCE: Federal Register, Vol. 76, No. 13, January 20, 2011, pp. 3637-3638

If you are in good health and are willing to think ahead with a long-term plan, wouldn’t it be possible to live comfortably while still living “in poverty”? What if you lived intentionally and became self-reliant instead of dependent on assistance from others? Please don’t get me wrong, I believe assisting others in need is one of the most honorable things you can do. The point I’m trying to make is that making less money, whether by circumstance or choice simply requires thinking and planning a little better. Here’s what I mean:

First of all, it’s important to note that for most people their home is their biggest expense. Finding a way to eliminate or reduce this expense is key for those making very little money. Lulu in California built a home with no building experience for herself and daughter from a shipping container for $4,000. As I am writing this a student that owns and lives in an Airstream and is looking for a place to park it just posted to the Tiny House Parking section of the site. There are tons of examples of people who have traded money for freedom and living intentionally. They took a huge step forward by living in a tiny house and eliminating or reducing their biggest expense.

All of us earned zero dollars the day we were born. Along the way we started making a certain amount of money and our lifestyles rose to meet that amount. Living comfortably on less money means drawing a line in the sand and taking steps to reduce your expenses. Buying and living in a tiny house is a big first step.

Do you live comfortably on a very small income? Do you believe you could live comfortably on a very small income?

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  1. robi

    I have a yearly income of 9800. 00. I would be in heaven to have a tiny home but since I have no savings at all my first problem is obtaining property and the home to put it on. So it seems I’m stuck paycheck to paycheck and getting nowhere. Makes me sad. I’m disabled but am willing to live off grid just to have a bit of happiness in my life.

  2. Elaine Backus

    Talk to any retiree that is happy and you may find many ways to live happily on less. Once you have a roof over your head, food on the table, clothes on your back, and some form of medical care if needed along with transportation what more do you need? Unfortunately that can be a great deal! There are ways of cutting down on all of this. Housing, however is one of the most difficult of all. I got it into my head one evening to convert the Chevy Astro Van my husband and I owned into a cheap form of housing so we could travel more. This is how I did it. (Bear in mind my husband was 88 at the time and I was 68)! The one job I hired an RV store repair dept to do was set a support beam for a bed into the side wall-who wants to be level in their bed! Surprisingly that cost us only one hundred dollars. We already owned a very good 4 x 6 mattress in an old tag along camper we owned so I had Home Depot cut us a sheet of 3/4″ plywood into two pieces 2 x 6′. We used a piano hinge to rejoin the two pieces of plywood together so we could fold the bed out of the way allowing us access to the entire area of the van floor (the mattress already folded since it came from a camper sofa that converted to a bed). Next we purchased table legs from a marine supply store and with the necessary hardware attached them to each section of plywood in such a way that they held the base of the bed high enough off the floor at the same height as the original support beam installed at the RV store. Curiously enough we discovered the floor of the van was sloped from the front seats downward toward the rear doors so if water got into the van it would drain out the rear doors. We accommodated for this by adjusting the height of the legs so the bed could be level. The original beam had been placed far enough up the sidewall of the van so we could fit square plastic milk crates under the bed to store food, clothing and other needed supplies. We found we could easily place them three deep from side to side of the van in this fashion. BRAVO!! We now had a bed and storage. Now a Chevy Astro Van we realised would be mighty cramped in bad weather so we purchased something called a Boot Tent which when we parked here and there for a few days would give us an extra 100 sq.ft. of space by pitching the tent and attaching it to the rear doors of the van. If it rained we could exit the van through the rear van doors and enter the tent while keeping dry. Next we added a PORTA POTTI and placed that behind the front passenger side seat. You could sit on it with your feet in the well alongside the side sliding door in the van which helped it be less cramped. Our final purchase was a small refrigerator we placed between the van front seats. The unit ran off the cigarette lighter on the van panel. We were off and running for a very small sum of money and travelled the next summer with Good Sam’s all over New England and New York and spent the winter of 2005 in Florida proceeding back north the following May to Vermont where we ultimately bought a small Homestead Farm. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and I will add we put 247,00 miles on the Chevy before we junked it. Now I’ve drawn plans for a small house of 728 square.ft. Finding land in CT will be difficult, however. I really will keep trying to get this built unless I run out of time trying if you know what I mean since my husband has now passed away and I am almost 80 years old now! Anyway, if you are interested in converting a van email me of you have questions and I will try to answer them. Good Luck!

  3. Andrea

    Believe me…I know this was not your intention in writing the article. I believe you meant to address the mostly white privileged readership, and to engage them in the “less is more” discussion, which is great. But having the money to invest initially, the time to pursue some of the strategies, and a job that can be performed remotely….all these are systemically linked to only a portion of the population.

    Let’s “one up” the conversation. If people could live on less, but still make more…could they devote some time and money to help those who don’t have the similar advantages of education, job security or inheritance? That would be great.

    1. Steven Listing Owner

      Andrea, we can’t “one up” the conversation when you start out your comment with a race-baiting statement. I am white and can tell you, privileged was the last word to be used when describing my upbringing. I would prefer this website and its readership to be inclusive to all as apposed to being exclusive by lamenting about certain demographics fictitiously.

  4. Cat

    Wow , Andrea. Just wow. I’ve been a survivor of racial profiling and bigotry for 5 decades. I have worked two and three non- career type jobs at a time to put food on the table. I built up good gredit by paying my bills on time and living within my means and socking away anything I could. I found a very small house that needed work, ( not a tiny house but no where near a McMansion) and I have worked on it ever since. No one handed me anything.