This is historical material “frozen in time”. The website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.

Search form

What Does $40 Mean to You?

People from all over the country explain how they will be affected by losing $40 each paycheck if Congress fails to extend the payroll tax cut.
President Obama speaks on the payroll tax cut

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the payroll tax cut during a statement in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Dec. 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

House Republicans are refusing to extend the payroll tax cut, which expires on December 31. If it does, taxes will go up for 160 million working Americans. Nearly everyone--from President Obama to Congressional Democrats to Republicans in the Senate--is committed to making sure that doesn't happen, but a faction in the House is dragging their feet.

Ending the payroll tax cut will cost the typical family making $50,000 a year about $1,000 a year, which is a lot of money for struggling families. President Obama explained today:

Our failure to do this could have effects not just on families but on the economy as a whole. It’s not a game for the average family, who doesn’t have an extra 1,000 bucks to lose. It’s not a game for somebody who’s out there looking for work right now, and might lose his house if unemployment insurance doesn’t come through. It’s not a game for the millions of Americans who will take a hit when the entire economy grows more slowly because these proposals aren’t extended.

That $1,000 a year works out to about $40 a paycheck that families won’t have to spend or save. Although opponents of the payroll tax cut might say $40 isn't much, we know that’s not the case. So we’re asking Americans to explain what that tax increase would look like in their house.

What does $40 mean to you? What will you and your family have to cut or go without if Congress refuses to pass the payroll tax cut?

Here are some of the stories we’ve collected so far. Tell us your own story here, or tweet @WhiteHouse with the hashtag #40dollars, to help us add to the list.


I can buy lunch from the cafeteria for almost a whole month for my twins, I can buy food, or pay for gas. I can save it for my daughter’s prescriptions deductibles.  To some people $40 is nothing, but $40 is big money for us.

L.A., Hamden, Connecticut

Forty dollars a paycheck is a lot of money. I am the primary care giver for my 91 year old father who is living with me. Though his estate pays me for his care, the $40 will help with groceries, gasoline and miscellaneous expense for his care. I work a part time job so $40 a paycheck is a lot of money extra in my pocket.

I.O., Arlington Heights, Illinois

After everything that comes out, including my mortgage my take home pay is $150.00 every two weeks. So minus forty would be $110.00. I can barely get by now, that forty bucks is my gas for my car to get to work. Taking forty away from my pay would, just about put me under.

R.T., Charleston, West Virginia

$40 less a paycheck means I will have to pick between my insulin and the water bill. It means never being able to see my doctor - even though I have insurance.

B.T., Roswell, New Mexico

A single mother of two, with no financial support from my children's father, 40 dollars means lunch money for my children at school. It means a tank of gas, and it means covering my weekly visit copays to the doctor.

L.O., Gaithersburg, Maryland

90 days of prescription drugs

P.B., Milledgeville, Georgia

$40.00 a week will provide gas to get to work for the week, or, it will pay our electric bill, or, it will pay a third of our prescription drug bill, or, one third of our grocery bill for the week.

C.W., Glen Alen, Virginia

That buys my gas for a week to drive to work or buys my groceries for a week.  it's hard enough making ends meet and $40 is a lot of money to me.

T.S., Kernersville, North Carolina

$40 dollars equals no car insurance for the month, which is required in the state of Wisconsin. A huge risk to take. Let me ask you this--would you drive without insurance?

H.L, Waukesha, Wisconsin

$40.00 a paycheck takes care of my son's lunch money and transporation to Palm Middle School where he is a 6th grade honor student. My husband and I both work and we have a family of 6.

T.M., Moreno Valley, California

That is almost 1 weeks of groceries for me or how much it costs to fill my gas tank for 1 1/2 weeks or medical copay at the specialist office. Which one am I to go without? This is going to hurt. Please don't let this happen.

C.H, Denton, Texas

Right now, I am unable to pay all my bills every month; forty dollars less would mean my son and I would be going without groceries or another bill would have to wait and be late.

P.B., Liberal, Kansas

The forty dollars means that my kids can continue to wear decent clothes and I can afford to give them them opportunity to participate in school programs that are not funded through the State and Federal funding.

J.R., Brainerd, Minnesota

$40.00 a paycheck will allow me to continue to pay co-pays to doctors for necessary medical treatments needed to control debilitating disease.

J.R., Arlington, Texas

$40 a paycheck for my family helps pay for insulin, syringes, and blood sugar testing strips for my daughter, who was diagnosed with type I diabetes 5 years ago.

N.F., Midwest City, Oklahoma

$40.00 per paycheck means the difference in putting gas in my car or walking to work.  I am the only one working in my family, 30 hrs a week, my husband is on Social Security. We have had to cut all extras' from our budget.

K.H., Kalispell, Montana

$40 means a tank of gas to my husband and me for getting to work for him or for me to run errands and take my father-in-law to his doctors's appointments.  $40 means less groceries we can buy.  $40 means less money to pay our light bill, water bill or other essential bills. 

V.C., Russellville, Tennessee

The $40 I would lose is money I send to help my brother.  He has had a myriad of health problems over the past two years and has only been able to work intermittently. He was recently diagnosed with inoperable cancer and has no health insurance.  Without what some say isn't a lot of money, my brother wouldn't have food in his refrigerator.

S.K., Somerville, Massachusetts

$40 means the difference to me in buying gas or paying my electric bill.  I am disabled so I am on a very extreme tight monthly income.  Food is always an issue for me as well.

L.P., Forest Grove, Oregon

$40 is the tank of gas I need to get to work every two weeks.  $40 is less than what I spend on groceries every week.  $40 could also be the cost of me taking my fiancee out to dinner, or to see a movie.  $40 could be the deciding factor on whether I can afford to buy a new car.  $40 is less than half the cost of my electric bill every month.  $40 might not be a lot to someone who makes more than $500,000 a year, like most of our Senators and Representatives.  But when someone makes less than $30,000 a year, it makes an impact.

C.D., Phoenix, Arizona

$40 can make a huge difference to me. It can pay for my most needed medicine that will allow me to keep working so that I can pay my rent and utility bills. It will keep my kids warm and dry. To those of us that only take home about $40 a day, it is a whole days work!

D.P., San Antonio, Texas

Normally any extra money I have.  I give to the needy.  Salvation Army is my favorite charity. So I wont be giving to charites or buying anything for anyone.

P.C., Lakeville, Minnesota

$40.00 means the world to me  It's the equivilant of 5 hours work or feeding my family for 3 nights.  I am a single income of a family of 3 and I don't even make 50K.

T.K., Gaylord, Michigan

Our cable internet bill is $49 per month.  If we lose this payroll tax cut then we will have to give up either or internet access or possibly our 'Friday Family Pizza' night.  Either way, we will lose something that brings us together as a family. 

K.Z., Frederick, Maryland

Tell us what $40 means to you