Living on SSI is hard. There is no doubt about that. If you are paying your rent, and bills – then you can feel the full blunt on how much everyday life can do to you. That on top of asset limits which forces you to make hard decisions all around makes things harder. For the sake of this auto-responder, I am going to assume you are receiving $840 per month. This is how much Social Security gives in 2022. You will possibly get some money from the state you live in. I will also assume you qualify for all of the programs I make note of.

First thing to address is the essentials of life. This is food, clothing, and shelter. These are essentials that everyone needs. Without these needs, you are likely not going to survive long. I will address these needs first as they are so important.

As for food, contact your state’s department of welfare. You should be able to qualify for SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program). This is a program that would help cover some of your grocery bill. SNAP is only intended for groceries, so trying to spend it on McDonald’s is probably not a good idea. For food, you should expect to spend $300 for one person. In Pennsylvania, they would typically give you $100 in SNAP benefits, so you would have to come up with $200.

As for clothing, I am sure most people have their clothing as long as they have stable housing. However, I am going to note the bare essentials. Obviously, if you have more – that is fine as well. The minimum is as follows:
1 Winter Coat (if temperature drops below 40F)
1 Pair of Gloves (if temperature drops below 40F)
1 Pair of Boots
2 Hoodies (if temperature drops below 60F)
2 Pairs of Jeans
2 shirts
4 Pairs of underwear
4 Pairs of socks
With this in mind, the idea is you wear your socks and underwear one week (assuming if you need to). You will wear your jeans and shirts two weeks. You will wear your hoodie if the temperature drops below 60F, and the hoodie and coat if temperature is below 40F. Assuming you don’t sweat often, this way of doing things will suit you well. Just make sure you wash your clothes when you are on your last pair of jeans. Obviously with that rule in place, you would eventually want to build up your wardrobe.

As for shelter, at the very least – you should have a Single Room Occupancy. This will give you one room with a few outlets. Most of these places are furnished, so you shouldn’t have to worry about furniture until you move into a legitimate apartment. With that, you would want furniture. You would need to have housing assistance such as HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher (aka: Section-8). Also some low income housing apartments will also support low income housing. I am in such a housing situation, and I pay a percentage of my income for rent that is otherwise – $1200. I however only pay $220 with the government covering the rest. One thing to note, if you are homeless, then consider sending an email to

Now that we addressed the essentials, let’s address the modern essentials. As for utilities, if you have to pay utilities, you might also have to pay a security deposit for that utility. Even if you don’t, a utility bill can get out of hand quickly. Consider asking the company if there is any low income programs you might qualify for. If you are in Comcast’s market, you might qualify for Internet Essentials. This will give you a 50MBPS connection with a 1.2TB cap at $10/month. As for your phone, if you can stay within the limits, look into Lifeline for cellular phone services. If that is not an option, then Mint Mobile ( ) will give you a 4GB plan with unlimited voice and SMS for $180/year + taxes. This is in my opinion the best phone option if you are not a heavy data user. If you are a heavy data user, then Visible might be an option for you. Just note their voicemail system doesn’t work the way I would like it to, but might be an option for you if you are willing to accept that. Otherwise, a 25GB plan with Mint will be $360/year + tax. Below are options for MVNOs on all three networks – two of which are already mentioned.
Cricket Communications ($30) using AT&T’s Network
Mint Mobile ($180/year) using T-Mobile’s Network
Visible ($40 or less) using Verizon’s Network

A budget is essential when living on low income. Here is the reason why, you have very little money. Many people I know on low income will pay their bills, and splurge the rest of their money, and cry that the system is out to get them because they have no money. A budget is a plan on how you are going to spend your money. You obviously address your bills and expenses – but if you have anything left over, you need to decide what to do with that. This is showing you what your net income. It helps you figure out if you can go out to eat once a week, or if you can get your nails done. It helps you decide if you can build an emergency fund.

Along with a budget, you should have at the minimum a checking account. This account will be where your check deposits into, and where your bills are drawn from. If you have a credit card, I will recommend that your bills go through your credit card, and then you pay your card off every two weeks. If you are looking into a new account, look for an account with no fees, and offers support for Zelle. Personally, I use Capital One as my bank for my checking, savings, and credit card.

Now, let’s address those bad habits that many poor people unfortunately indulge in. This will include vices and the inability to tell yourself no. If you are smoking, drinking alcohol, gambling, using illegal drugs, and so on – then you need to quit. These things are doing you no good, and destroying what little money you have. I will not go into the negative impacts on health and well-being, but for your money – it is killing you. Next, is the inability or lack of desire to tell yourself no. If you pay your bills, and then spend all of your money, and then wonder where your money went to – well, you’re not budgeting, and you’re not telling yourself no. If you are incapable of telling yourself no, then you shouldn’t be managing your money. If you won’t tell yourself no, you have only yourself to blame.

Now, let’s address your asset limits, and they are significant. You do not have much room to work with, and your only option to go beyond these limits will be fraudulent. Here are your limits.
$2,000 in bank/stock assets or cash
1 house as your primary residence
1 automobile

You are allowed credit cards, and loans for more than $2,000. This is because these are liability accounts, and not assets. You have to pay that money back in some form or another. What I do, is I have a $1,000 savings. As for my checking, after I pay all of my bills, I reduce my checking account to below $140. This way, when my $860 SSI benefits comes in, it doesn’t go over $2,000. As for the money I take out, I spend it. My single largest annual bill is $205. When that month comes, I obviously pay the $205, and that means I have less money to spend. This works for me, and it might work for you as well. Obviously, a $1,000 savings account won’t go far for a significant emergency, but with access to a credit card, it makes things tolerable even if I have to temporary go into debt.

If you would like to know about how I manage with SSI, then you can go to If you would like to know how I budget, you can go to Consider using a computer for viewing these sites.

Take Care,