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Living on $1,166 per month from disability payments in 2016

As of the middle of 2016, there are about 14.1 million Americans on some form of disability. While this total includes people of all ages (such as children) a disabled worker is, on average, receiving $1,166 per month. These stats are per the Social Security Administration. Find some examples of what we hear from people on how they live on such a small dollar amount and the challenges they are faced with.

Before you continue to see what some people do to try to live on that amount of money, always keep in mind that SSI disability was never intended to pay every single bill or expense that a family is faced with. The federal government Social Security Administration created the benefit to serve as a safety net program. This means that it will only pay out a limited amount of money in a crisis.

The 14.1 million people total enrollees reported above is anyone under the age of 65. This includes children who are receiving their own SSI payments based on the disability that they have. So the expense those kids are faced with are obviously different than adults.

So, back to how does someone pay the bills with only $1,166 per month coming in the door. It is difficult to say the least. Here is some feedback as well as tips that we have received from the general public.

After spending money on food, which the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion says can be about $170 per month on average, this does not leave much money left for the other critical bills, namely housing and utilities. Therefore instead of just shopping at a store for groceries, someone with a disability can use use a food pantry at a charity. Millions of people use these centers. We strongly recommend you use a food bank for some items. This can reduce the grocery bills even more.

After that critical expense, now a person may have about $1050 left on average, assuming they cut back on food costs by using that pantry. Housing is the next critical need. The average monthly rent in the US is $934 per month, so a disabled person can’t live on their own. Utilities run about $210 per month on average.

There is no way $1166 can pay for typical housing. We hear from many people that they live with roomate(s) and or family. Millions of people share their housing costs. We strongly encourage that, otherwise the entire $1166 in SSI could just go towards housing.

So if the rent is split say 4 ways, that brings the cost of housing to $250 – $300 per month. We also think people should try to reduce that even more. Maybe apply for housing for the disabled or other support.

Now what?

So if you add up food and housing, this is about $350 to $400 per month. That leave about $750 left of the $1,166. Now we suggest sticking to the Average Household Budget in the U.S. per the Consumer Expenditure Survey. This means using about 4% of the $1,166 for entertainment, 6% for healthcare expenses (in addition to Medicare), and 3% on apparel. We always tell people to cut back and focus on needs vs. wants. As an example, entertainment is not a need….so cut it out of the budget.

The average American household spends about 14% of transportation. A disabled person should cut way back on this. They can use handicap accessible ride services or share a ride with their (roommates). The feedback from the community is that cutting back on transportation is one of the expenses we have heard people have had much success in controlling.

The fact is SSI disability in itself was never intended to be enough to live off of. This is true during 2016 for the 14 million plus families that live on it and it was the case when the program was first created many years ago. So in order to have a chance, people need to budget, cut back, and live frugally. They can also often get a job to bring in some extra cash. Every hour worked, and the income it brings in, helps.

Maybe the two keys to living on the $1166 is to control food and rental costs, which are often very big household expenditures. And there are many resources that a disabled person can use to get help with those costs, such as using a pantry. So use this blog to learn how to save, budget, and plan.

One thought on “Living on $1,166 per month from disability payments in 2016

  • July 6, 2019 at 8:21 am

    I have no issues with those with true disabilities making more money than $1166. I only have issues with those who are trying to game the system or those who are entitled. The impact upon those of you who are truly in need is that the social security system is clogged with the cases of those who should never have filed and people who deserve payments get less. Since many of those spurious claims get approved, the costs go higher and the resentment builds from the legitimate users and the taxpayer. Legitimate users have max of what you say of $1166 because of those spurious claims. The lawyers and other like disability advocates who help gain the system are big winners of course.


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