Living on $46k - where the money goes

The median income for an American household is $46,242, according to the Census Bureau. Here's how five couples from different walks of life are managing now.

Susan Slingland
"I'm lucky," says Slingland, seated.
Boone, North Carolina
Susan Slingland
Susan: Piano accompanist

Income: $46,000

Susan considers herself fortunate. Being a collaborative pianist at Appalachian State University in North Carolina is a steady job in a line of work that offers too few such positions.

"Appalachian State is one of the few schools that has a full-time (with benefits) position for a musician like me - most schools hire a handful of pianists as adjunct faculty with part-time pay and no benefits and then use them like workhorses."

Slingland lives in a converted garage apartment that costs $675 a month. Her utilities, with the exception of heating oil, are covered in her rent. Susan gets her healthcare as a state employee and it costs $50 a month.

She drives a Dodge Neon and lives close to town. Gas for the compact costs about only $30 a month. She has no school loans and says she has no particular financial stresses or strains.

"I'm lucky," Susan said. "I know many people who went for 3 degrees of music [like she has] and are still trying to get jobs to pay them off. I was lucky enough through scholarships or assistanceships to always be able to pay my bills so I never had to take out student loans."

She says that's in contrast to most people in music school. "I've got a good friend, a tenured professor. He and his partner have so much to pay in student loans they'll be lucky if they can get out ahead."
The Ogles The Ogles' spending The Thibaults The Thibaults' spending Andrew and Ozgul Leone The Leones' spending The Wheats The Wheat's spending Slingland Slingland's spending