Thanks, Vaske. I really appreciate the specific info--specifics are always helpful!
3timesamom, in answer to your question about how much we've cut back, we have no TV, no cable. We bought a used car that had no payments left and DH takes that to work while I take the train. We strategically plan at DD's birthday and Christmas for what playthings/clothes she will need over the year, and we don't buy anything for her at other times unless she needs a clothing item we didn't anticipate or something (which we get used). We CD so no diaper costs. DH and I don't buy clothes unless we really need them, maybe ten items a year between us. I have a job with a professional dress code so I cycle through the same 5 outfits every week. I don't really wear makeup and the only beauty products I use are shampoo, conditioner, face wash, and dry-skin lotion. I make my own vinegar cleaners. No paper towels, only rags. We bought our house through a low-income program that allowed us to pay half of what we payed when renting.
The only luxuries we allow are date nights for DH and I a couple of times a month.
We still spend a lot on food because I buy a wide variety of all-natural, organic foods. Our products like sunscreen and lotion get pricey because I buy all-natural. So those are the only cutbacks I can envision, and they are ones I am really reluctant to make, because I see them as health issues for my family.
Sorry for the loooooong response, I just wanted to make it clear how hard we have worked to cut back as much as we can. I'm not sure why there is such a discrepancy between my budget and yours; the only thing I can think of is that the cost of living outside Boston is really, really high. But that's where the good editing jobs are, so here we have stayed.
Thanks for sharing your family's story with me, and I'm sorry you have to deal with it. It sounds like it SUCKS. You're a good daughter to help your mom out despite how you probably feel about the whole thing.