Pin Me

The Cost of Living for a Family of 4

written by: Nicky LaMarco•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 4/14/2010

The average size American family is four people. Before you move to a new place or even consider expanding your family it’s important to look at the components of what it takes to feed, house, and care for a family of four.

  • slide 1 of 8

    Cost of Living for a Family of 4

    According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the poverty line for a family of 4 is $22,050. This is the poverty line for the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. Alaska is a little higher at $27,570 and Hawaii's poverty line is $25,360. The cost of living for a family of 4 does vary per state. Some fall below while others are a bit higher. According to AskDeb, the state with the highest cost of living is California, and the state with the highest cost of living is Virginia.

  • slide 2 of 8


    photo 13382 20100306 Transportation is a tricky one. This can include the cost of buying a vehicle; its title and registration, insurance, taxes, and typical maintenance. This can also include the price of subway tokens or other public transportation. Living close to where the adults go to work or children attend school can save costs here.

  • slide 3 of 8


    That brings us to the cost of housing. If a family of four lives in a more urban area there are more chances to walk to where they need to go, however the cost of rent or mortgage may be astronomically more than their neighbors outside of the city proper. The size of the home a family lives in is certainly a determination. They may have only a two-bedroom home and have the two children to share a space. The cost of living for a family of 4 ranges depending on where the family lives.

    If you rent a home you may have a tax credit available but certainly if you own a home you may owe a certain amount in taxes. Strangely, the average family of four can pay up to 45% more if both adults work than if only one does — part if this means how much a family pays in taxes and things like childcare.

  • slide 4 of 8


    The size of the home also determines utilities. A larger, more airy home may cost more to heat and cool. If the home is in an urban area where the air pollution and industry is closer this will affect the cost greatly. Families can keep these costs down by unplugging all appliances that are not in use and turning lights off more than they are on.

  • slide 5 of 8


    In fact, childcare would count as a random necessity that doesn’t fall under the umbrella of household or anything else. If there are two children under the age of five, daycare costs can be tremendous. Same with medicine — health care only includes the cost of what is taken out of one’s wages to pay for health insurance and its copays and deductibles, not necessarily anything medical above and beyond. These two necessary expenses bring up the cost of living for a family of 4.

  • slide 6 of 8


    Lastly, food for a family of four is very tricky. This is when knowing how to cook can help you stretch your dollars. It’s best to shop often and locally, planning meals in advance for the week to best utilize the ingredients on hand.

    The cost of a family of four is malleable. However, it doesn’t cost as much as your happiness. It’s just good and prudent for a family to plan for the size of family they wish.

  • slide 7 of 8


    The Digerati Life "Cost of Living and Minimum Budget for a Family of Four":

    Kiplinger "Cost-of-Living Reality Check":

    Bankrate "Cost of Living Comparison Calculator":

    California Budget Project:

    2009 HHS Poverty Guidelines:


  • slide 8 of 8