Getting By in the Middle Class

I was reading in the comments section about a woman who did many of the things we talk about here. She married a decent, hard-working man, became a stay-at-home Mom, and took up homeschooling her three children. Her husband works in a middle-class sort of occupation, probably in the trades, and makes about $60,000 a year.

This is not much money for a family of five, but it is a common situation for many today. The woman said that she lives in a modest 1600sf house, and barely has a few dollars left at the end of the month.

What would I say to a woman like this?

Obviously, one solution is “make more money,” and maybe she could try a few things, perhaps starting a YouTube channel. I’ve suggested that a nice occupation for homeschoolers is homeschooling other people’s children. But, let’s look instead on the expenditure side.

Houses today tend to cost about $180/sf, so a 1600sf house would probably cost about $288,000. This is way too much for a $60,000 household income. They need to get that way down. The typical guideline is 3x income, so that’s 3x$60,000 or $180,000. But, that is the outer limit, so I would try to get way below that, perhaps around $120,000. At a similar $180/sf, that would mean about 670 square feet. I would look for a decent 670 square foot condo, in a decent neighborhood with decent neighbors. Location, location, location. I chose a location at random: Sarasota, FL, and saw what kind of condo you could get for $120,000. As expected, you can get 650-750 square feet, in a nice sort of place, which typically means one bedroom. Here is a 715 sf 1BR condo for sale at $105,000:

Not too shabby, right?

One bedroom for a family of five is not much; on the other hand, the monthly payments, including a mortgage, all taxes, insurance, HOA condo fees etc., is $813 a month. And, since it is a condo, you don’t have to do any yardwork or building maintenance, also saving time and energy. Utilities costs can be much, much cheaper. Since you would own this condo, you could potentially split the one bedroom into two somehow by adding a wall — probably an easy job for a husband who is a tradesman, even if that is not his specialty.

You can live well in these conditions. Here is a story about a family of four in 660 square feet in Brooklyn, NY — including a Home Office.

In the late 1940s, developer William Levitt produced neighborhoods of identical single-family houses in the suburbs of New York City. Levitt’s houses fit two bedrooms into 720 square feet. They were immensely popular with young families.

Since most people make an average amount of money, and we are promoting the Stay-At-Home Mom here, it is important to create a lifestyle that is sustainable. You are going to need a car too, probably, which means another $600 a month for that.

You can still make more money. In that case, you can just pay down your mortgage, and before too long, you will be free even of that (remember our purchase cost is only $105,000), which means that your expenses will decline too. Thus, you would have both more income and less expenses, which could be pretty pleasant.

Being willing to live like this is an important element of being a Good Wife. The fact of the matter is, not all men make a way-above-average income. You can live comfortably, and well, under these conditions. It is a far better outcome than being perpetually short of cash because you are trying to do the impossible.

Published by proprietor

Happily married, with children.

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