Basic Family Budget Calculator — Introduction, methodology, and data download
The federal poverty line has traditionally been used to measure whether families have incomes high enough to enable them to meet basic needs. Yet most researchers now agree that a “poverty line” income is not sufficient to support most working families. “Basic family budgets,” individualized for communities nationwide and for type of family (e.g., one parent/one child, two parents/two children) offer a realistic measure of the income required to have a safe and decent though basic standard of living.
The Family Budget Calculator lets you determine the income needed for particular types of families to make ends meet. Because costs of goods and services vary across the U.S., the calculator customizes the budgets for every U.S. community—over 600 MSAs in all. Simply select from one of six family types, pick a state, and then select a community to see how much that family is likely to need for housing, food, child care, etc.
It is important to note that a basic family budget is indeed “basic.” It comprises only the amounts a family needs to spend to feed, shelter, and clothe itself, get to work and school, and subsist in 21st century America. Hence, it includes no savings, no restaurant meals, no funds for emergencies—not even renters’ insurance to protect against fire, flood or theft.
These family budgets are for the year 2007. (Revised data posted July 2008.)
For more information about basic family budgets, see the Briefing Paper, What We Need To Get By.
For an explanation of the methodology used, see the Family Budget Technical Documentation.
Download basic family budget spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel format.