I have just finished programming a computer program which takes all my known, fixed incomes (sadly only one: welfare) and expenses (rent, food, medicine, basic Internet) for the last three months, divides those by 3, then multiplies by 12 to estimate how much I will have in total left for one year starting today, as well as how much money on average that represents per month.

The depressing output of my program is:

$133 USD per month.
$1,592 USD per year.

That is, this is assuming that all of these values are roughly the same as they have been lately, which seems to have been more or less true for the last several years.

This $133 each month has to pay for literally everything unexpected, and of course account for natural deviations from this average. I haven't bought any computer hardware, such as more backup disks as the ones I have are really aging now, or keyboards/mice as they wear out, not to mention a new monitor since this one isn't exactly in the best shape.

As you know, there are always unexpected one-time costs of all kinds which inevitably pop up. These $133 are definitely not "free spending money" in any way. I really should be saving the whole sum as a minimum buffer as I have no other savings or valuables.

Although it's always hard to compare different countries, or even different places within the USA, would I generally be considered poor? Excluding of course the fact that I'm forced to live on welfare in the first place, which probably technically makes me poor. I'm pretending for the sake of the argument that this "income" is from my own work, and hope to at least be able to make that amount ($988) per month from something that I run/do myself.

With the above in mind, am I considered poor from a purely numeric perspective?

  • Purely from a numeric perspective the only thing you care about is the federal poverty line (or the one in your state). You're also making less than minimum wage (at 40 hours a week).
    – xyious
    Apr 15, 2020 at 14:02

1 Answer 1


I don't think the calculation makes sense.

For example, I live alone in a 105 square meter (1130 square feet) house for which I have to pay rent. Some time ago, I used to live in a 40 square meter apartment.

Now, if I had $133 USD per month only after critical living expenses (which according to this calculation would include the generous 105 square meter house), would I be poor?

The answer is: no! Because I would have $900 USD per month by moving back to a 40 square meter apartment in the same area. This is not poor at all. (And I live in an expensive area; by moving to a cheaper area I would have over $1000 USD per month).

The calculation is flawed because it considers YOUR food expenses and not minimal necessary food expenses. It considers YOUR rent and not minimal necessary rent. It considers YOUR internet plan and not the minimal necessary internet plan.

The calculation only makes sense if you already have minimized all of your expenses and can minimize no more.

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