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Five Couples Living on $46k, Number 2: The Thibaults

This article was written by in Frugality. 15 comments.

Here is the second couple featured by CNN Money in their series about five couples living on an income of $46,000 a year. Michael Thibault is an insurance claims adjuster and Lisa Thibault works part-time. Together, they may earn about $60,000 this year in Indianapolis, Indiana. That seems to put them at an income significantly higher than the rest in CNN’s series, but this couple has three children.

They had to apply for food assistance for their children. The Thibaults are earning more than the median household in the United States, but still can’t afford to feed their children.

Michael and Lisa Thibault

With a family of three and fluctuations in their employment status, the couple spends about $1,700 per month for full insurance and medical visits.

As Hazzard noted, 42% of their income is spent on health care. To me, this seems high, even for a family with three children, but I have no personal experience. Perhaps this will stabilize as the children get a little older. Their medical issues are not entirely clear from their profile.

Regardless of their struggles, the couple still tithes to their church an undisclosed amount. The article says they have asked for public assistance in order to pay for food; I wonder how much they receive in assistance and how much they give to their church.

CNN Money

Updated September 8, 2011 and originally published April 21, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar dong

$1700 a month does seem awfully high, but I don’t have great frame of reference since I don’t have kids. I think a family insurance policy that isn’t particularly subsidized runs about $700-$1000 a month, but that’s a guess. Then the actual costs per month…

The thing about public assistance, having needed to apply for it when I was young, is that they only look at you income and not where you spend it so the fact they give to their church while making it tougher on them should at least not subsidize their tithe.

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avatar Leroy Brown

Tithing is great, it really is. But does it make sense to donate money to the church when you must ask for a government handout for your children to eat? What if the government was not willing or able to help financially – would their children go hungry so they could donate to the church?

I think at some point you need to decide which is more important… donating money you don’t have or taking care of your children. Doesn’t seem like a difficult decision to me.

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avatar dimes

This couple seems to be spending an insane amount on vehicles, about $800 per month for gasoline, insurance, and car payments. Is that really necessary? If she’s a stay at home mom, does she need to be making a several-hundred-dollar-per-month car payment? Or do they drive SUVs that get 9 miles to the gallon?
Even with food stamps or WIC, they would most certainly be spending some money out of pocket on food. I think this budget is bunk.

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avatar Lee

Spending your money on other things doesn’t necessarily constitute being unable to feed your family. If they’re still trying to live the lifestyle they had when they made more than $60K per year, then of course they have issues.

$60K isn’t a particularly modest income, either, unless you’re living in NYC or LA.

“I thought it would be much easier to be in the middle class” struck me as naive and condescending.

And why are they on this list of 5 couples living on $46K/year if they’re going to make $60K this year?

It sounds like they need to budget better and get rid of expenses they don’t need.

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avatar Jeremy Bettis

$1700 for health care and insurance is crazy. They should drop that full service plan and get a nice HSA insurance plan. I paid $250/month for insurance with a $4000 deductible. Even if I had maxed out the deductible, that would have been less than the $20,400 that they are spending.

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avatar living on less than 20K

I find Lisa Thibault’s remark about “thinking it would be easier to be in the middle class, especially after being in the work force for so long” condescending and insulting. I have worked since I was in high school and as a single mother [that's a TRUE single mother...not a divorced one] who has suffered greatly due to the economic downturn since 9/11, I manage to take care of myself and my son without handouts of free food…from a food pantry, my church or the government. It has been challenging to say the least.

I pay my son’s school tuition every year myself. I buy his school supplies and clothes myself. I pack his school lunch every day with food that I bought myself. I pay all of my rent and utilities each and every month myself…no housing or government handouts. And I do this all on less than $21,000 a year. For a woman who holds a masters degree, she comes across as feeling unbelievably “entitled”.

She also needs to be realistic about her job situation…it isn’t often that we find our dream job. I know thousands of mothers who would give their right arm to be home from work by the time their children arrive home from school. Usually employers aren’t advertising these types of conditions when they are looking for great employees. She would be better off being more flexible herself and not expecting a prospective employer to be doing all of the “giving” in the give and take situation of employment. It takes time and lots of effort to prove oneself to their employer…maybe then they will be more flexible with allowing either flex-time or tele-commuting.

Guess what…life isn’t easy. It takes work. Whining about your situation is rarely productive. Considering this couple is earning more than the median family income in the United States, I’d say that there is something not quite true in their budget. Adjustments could definitely be made in their medical insurance expense…especially in view of Michael’s career as an insurance adjuster…surely he can find a “deal” somewhere. If they live near a dental school, they should consider having their dental work done there at a greatly reduced cost.

I am not suggesting that they discontinue their tithing, but they need to be realistic…are they still contributing as if they were making $82K annually? If so, they need to adjust their tithing to their income as it is now. The Lord doesn’t want us to be dead flat broke. There are other ways to contribute to one’s church besides money. And their church should be helping them if they are in so much need…it is called social justice.

If they have two car payments, they need to consider getting rid of the wife’s vehicle…trading it on a modest and cost efficient used vehicle. As long as all of her children and she can fit in the car it doesn’t need to be a behemoth SUV or minivan that guzzles gas and pollutes the environment. If they have cable or satellite tv, they need to get rid of it. We watch too much tv in this country anyway. If they have internet service at home, call up the provider and negotiate a lower rate for monthly service for being a good and long-time customer. Turn the heat down in the winter and the air conditioning up in the summer. Hang your laundry out on the line to dry. Don’t shop for groceries at the most expensive market in town. Use coupons and rebates combined with sales when buying groceries and you will be surprised at how much money can be saved on a family food bill.

If one is creative in their approach to eking out every possible cent in their budget and not just looking for handouts, you will be surprised at what you can accomplish. Of course I cannot spend money as I did when I when I was gainfully employed full-time in my profession…it is called living within my means. I think this couple needs to try it.

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avatar Marc

Living on less than 20 K ;

I agree with you,,,100% + My wife and I raised 4 children,,never did we collect any benefits from any providers,,,even though we did experiences trying times for a while,,creative efforts to earn a living had to be implemented , we survived ! You are a good person !

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avatar Hamburger Flipper

I’d like to see people earning minimum wage featured – I’d love to see how THOSE budgetswork out!

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avatar Toby

The “tithing while not being able to make ends meet” really bugs me. These folks are taking it to the extreme of applying for government assistance. That’s a pretty round-about way of getting the government to fund organized religion, isn’t it?

The funny thing is that there are many examples of these types of households on Prosper asking for loans, so much so, that the posters in the Lender forums have a name for it: “Tithing Loans”.

You’ll be going along reading a Prosper loan request where the person lays out their situation, budget, etc. Then *BAM* right there is a 10% tithe in their budget. Do you think you could make your monthly obligations if you redirected that tithe for a few months until you were caught up? Did God really want you to go into debt @ 10-18% APR to be able to donate to his church?

I thought God helps those who help themselves…

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avatar Livingalmostlarge

I hate that too. Tithing while not able to make ends meet.

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avatar Jonathan C

First, I applaud their stance of tithing, first and foremost. But on the flipside, the medical costs require some attention. My wife and I have 2 children, with a 3rd on the way, and we have absolutely no problem providing for our medical and insurance needs for less than $300/month. So I suspect there are ongoing medical problems here.

If these are just regular visits and insurance, then they need to get their act together, cut their medical bills, and get off of welfare.

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avatar Chris

What kind of plan costs $300/mo for a family of 3? What kind of deductibles do you have, do you pay out of pocket for everything?

I have many plans available through my employer and not one (even the high deductible “catastrophic only” HSA) is less than $900 for a family of 3.

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avatar jared

i don’t understand why people give their tithe to a church but have to ask someone else for assistance, just to feed their children? Here comes government control.

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avatar Jonathan C


Yeah it is my employers EPO health plan (like an HMO) through Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and has a premium of $131 per month for families of ANY size. Even the PPO premium is only $250 per month, with a $1500 family deductible ($500 individual). Beyond that, the costs we will incur for the birth of our 3rd child will be a single $30 copay, and $300 per day that my wife is in the hospital up to a maximum of $1500. Everything else is covered at 100%, like ultrasound, prenatal visits, doctors and midwives and even epidurals. No deductibles with the EPO/HMO. The only caveat is that there is no coverage out of our network. But just about everyone is in the Blue Cross/Blue Shield network!

But by the sound of your comment, this benefit must vary a *lot* from company-to-company.

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avatar Lisa Thibault

I ran across this website by accident and although I never saw the story on CNN.com, I was very embarrassed to see that the story reported we receive food stamps. We do not and never have. That was a mistake that appeared in the story. We did receive WIC, and that benefit was extremely helpful the several months that my husband and I had ZERO income with a newborn. I didn’t think our family qualified for the story on median incomes, but the reporter and his editor still included us, so there was an editorial decision made – we certainly didn’t “force” our way into this piece. As far as the rest of the comments here are concerned, no one knows our family and how my husband and I grew up or how we live now, so please reserve further judgment.

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