Ask the Readers: Can You Live Well on $40,000 or Less?

This will be a little different post for me but thought it is shows why so many people are in financial trouble right now.  My wife, Tracy, is a former teacher and now stay-at-home mom to our two young daughters – Ava, age 7, and Ella, 4.  The highest annual salary I have earned as a teacher is a little over $41,000.  Despite this, Tracy has been a full-time stay-at-home mom 6 out of the last 7 school years (she worked part-time one of those years).  Even though we don’t make a large salary, we have no debt except our mortgage, have an emergency fund in place, invest each month for our retirement and our daughters’ future college expenses and basically live a wealthy live on a moderate income.

Live Well on $40,000Due to this success, Tracy and I were recently interviewed for a story on titled “How To Live Well on $40,000 or Less.”  This story’s author interviewed another couple as well and was trying to help others and give them real-life examples of people that are doing well financially despite not making a lot of money.  Well, from the comments this story received, you would have thought this was an offensive and mean-spirited article.  Here is a sampling of some of these comments:

40k is not much money!  They must be on welfare. Why work, became a Taker, sit on your rear watching Oprah and make the equivalent of 70 k. Goodbye

No, no, no.  These people are not living like anyone I grew up with.  They are dumpster divers who are raising their children on other people’s trash.  Living frugally is very do-able, but NOT at $40K for four people.

I’m going to guess that the Kofkes and Magais also rely on the government for their healthcare – aka: our tax dollars.  They also must rely on hardship monies for their children’s school fees which are intended for families who are in true need, not those who choose to live off the generosity of others.  And then they have the audacity to buy a 50″ HDTV and use 10% of their net income to pay for cable?!

What are you saving 100 bucks a month for your kids education for? To learn how to make Ketchup?  I thought the American dream was to provide a “better” life for ones kids? What you are doing is indoctrinating them into a life of glorified poverty and teaching them to “enjoy” it. Nope, teachers along with everyone else don’t need a pension, SS and medicare benefits when they retire. All they need is a page out of your play book. Sounds great, more money for me!  Please pass the ketchup!

I agree with Steve…there’s a lot of holes in these budgets.  Apparently these idiots are driving around uninsured.

This is crazy. The article was “How to Live Well on $40,000.” I know that everyone’s perspective is different but making your own food and ketchup is not my idea of living well. And date night is a sub from the grocery store? That would get old in a long term marriage.

It seems that some of these readers know more about me and my family than I do!  I did not realize that I am on welfare, I sit on my rear and watch Oprah, I am a dumpster diver living on someone else’s trash, I rely on government alone to pay for my healthcare, I am indoctrinating my children into a life of glorified poverty and teaching them to enjoy it and am an idiot driving around uninsured.

The sad thing is I cannot say I was too surprised at some of these comments.  It seems like many people would rather bring others down than learn something and better themselves.  I know that my family’s situation is different than others but this article was meant to give various tips that could hopefully help those that are struggling.  We can all come up with reasons on why we cannot do something.  Until we start trying to learn from our mistakes and change our behavior I am afraid many will experience tough times for years to come.

Visit to read the article:  How To Live Well on $40,000 or Less.   Perhaps you have a positive story similar to Danny’s or you’re facing challenges of getting by on less income.   Danny’s story is an inspiration in that you don’t have to make a lot of money to be wealthy or accomplish financial goals such as saving and investing.  Do you have a success story or questions for Danny?  If so, please share them in the comments section.  We’re looking for positive comments and questions, unlike some of the discussion on :(.  As a policy, we don’t care for negative comments here.

About Danny Kofke

Danny Kofke is currently a special education teacher and author of “How To Survive (and perhaps thrive) On A Teacher’s Salary.” His frugality has enabled him to pursue a job he is passionate about and, at the same time, support a family of four on his salary alone.

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  • Machelle

    Great job to these two families! And, Wow, I can’t believe the audacity of some people to criticize others. I feel sorry for these people who made rude comments, as it all comes down to priorities. I wonder if they know what is truly important in their life.

    I married 17 years ago and we (along with our daughter) have lived on one off-the-farm income (at the highest, $32,000) for 11 of those years. We purchased an acreage 15 years ago and started out with 2 beef cows, 2 vehicles, a little savings and lots of dreams.

    Today we are very proud of what we have accomplished. Our 110+ cow herd that we own outright (we never used a bank loan to build our herd-all cattle income was put back into the cattle operation). Our daughter’s college fund is fully funded for a four year degree. We have a sizable retirement nest egg. Our mortgage has been paid off for several years and we are completely debt free.

    Believe me, there were some very trying times. Nine years ago my husband severely injured his back and was off of work for three months. We survived on our food in the pantry/freezer and the small check we received from an old disability policy he had. Six months later I had to have major surgery. Our insurance was less than ideal, so we had large medical bills to pay. I remember making a $50 payment to one doctor’s office – $48 actually went to the interest, while only $2 went towards reducing the bill. I learned to search for 0% credit card offers and transferred all of our medical bills to credit cards. It took a couple years, but we paid off every single dime of the medical bills.

    Today we still cut firewood and use a woodstove to heat our house. As I don’t own a dryer (nor do I want one), all our laundry is line dried. We have plenty to eat from the garden, butcher our own meat and get eggs from our hens. We are not totally “off the grid”  as we love our cell phones, computers and the internet! Our daughter, who will be starting high school in a few weeks, is a very outgoing, intelligent girl who knows the meaning of hard work, the value of a dollar, but most of all, how to enjoy life!

    Everyone should challenge themselves to do more than “survive” – one should “THRIVE”. I have often thought I should write our story down, as a family history. This fall I will have time to do that, as I recently lost my job of five years, due to budget cuts. And no, I will NOT be collecting unemployment. I plan on staying on the farm to get caught up on some tasks and prepare for the next adventure. “Gratitude…turns what we have into enough.”

  • Andrea @SoOverDebt

    Well, I guess I’m right there in the dumpster with you. I’m on track to make about $40k this year, which is actually more than the $36k I made last year. And while I don’t live luxuriously by any means, I feel like I’m doing okay.

    My bills are paid, I’m saving, and my son and I both have health coverage that ISN’T funded by taxpayers. We have everything we need and much of what we want. I may not have all the “stuff” that society says I’m supposed to have, but I’m fine with that.

    I grew up in a family of four where my dad made $31k a year. I don’t remember ever realizing that we were “poor” – we had a darn nice home, clothes and food, and plenty of toys. Because my parents made awesome financial decisions.

    How infuriating for people to make those kinds of comments! I’d be very interested to know what they make and how they choose to spend it.

  • krantcents

    Although I do not live on $40K a year, I live a low profile lifestyle. A long time ago, I realized what was important and it wasn’t spending a great deal of money. We downsized 14 years ago to a townhouse since our children graduated from college and moved out. We have old cars (16 & 14 yrs. old) that are in good condition. The only debt I have is a small mortgage. Savings is a priority and we live on what is left.

  • MommaStar

    First off thank you for sharing your story.

    For those with nasty comments I would take it as jealousy because if need be they would not be able to get by with 40k a year and that fact probably scares them to death. Continue to do as you are because you are doing great! People just needs to stop pointing and judging and start helping each other in these tough times. I take your story as an inspiration to live on less so thank you for letting people out there know it is possible if you would just try.

  • Bill at FamZoo

    Kudos to you and your family. Your fiscal discipline and positive life outlook are an inspiration!

  • Jason

    Those comments are just jealousy.

    Last year my wife and I earned just over $40K. We have 5 kids and Do not have debt other than a mortgage for the 16 acres we bought that we have an (roughly) acre garden on while also raising a herd of 13 beef cattle, a flock of 50 chickens and two hogs. We have low grocery bills because of this and the surpluses are sold for extra income.

    I feel that those people are just to proud to admit that they are ignorant in being able to properly manage money.

  • Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey

    This is quite the interesting story! Congrats on making it by on so little! I’d actually be very interested in reading your details! Can you share a link describing this?

    In my experiences, I’ve also found that people would rather condescend and try to be negative rather than trying to learn from your techniques and possibly applying it to your life.

  • Josh

    Those commenters really need to check themselves before they criticize. They end up looking foolish because, in the end, all they are commenting on is their own jealousy.

    Congrats on frugally living and placing yourself in a spot where you may be able to inspire others.

  • Greg

    Good job. Yes you can live on $40,000 a year. In fact I save over $60 a month on cable by using online tv. By the way: is the best.

  • Eric

    My parents were both special education teachers, so growing up I never was “rich”. I was alright. Sure I struggled with my father when he was trying to complete his bachelors, we used to clean car dealerships and vet clinics.

    I never did go to college, instead I work in the wind industry and make $40,000 a year. The salary is boosted nicely every year.

    Being 20 years old and living in oklahoma, my bills are low. It costs me $1600 a month to live. I drive a 05 ford freestyle that gets 22-28 mpg’s. This leaves me $900 a month for savings.

    I eat okra, rice, beans, cheap meats, potato soup, vegetables, and have lowered my intake of soda pop and sweets. My entertainment is a $8 /mo netflix subscription with a $10 /mo xbox live subscription.

    In 2 years I plan to have a 2011 4WD trd toyota tacoma, $10-15k in savings, and hopefully enough work experience to move back home to Colorado to continue my career there. I miss skiing, mountain biking, and hiking. I don’t like the lifestyle I have now, but, it’s what I do.