Stacey Carroll - Contributing writer
Living on minimum wage or close to it is nearly impossible. It’s a horrible situation and worse than living paycheck to paycheck because you have to decide whether to eat or pay rent or other utility bills. I know because I lived it, and I am still living it.
At one point in my life, I had a job where I was working 40 hours a week at $8.10 an hour. I was bringing home $998 a month after taxes. That's $12,000 a year or $1,500 a year more than the poverty line for one person. No matter what the government says, I was living in poverty. My rent was $630 a month. My electricity was $120 a month. My cell phone bill was $75 a month, and my internet was $45 a month. That left me with $128 to buy food, essentials, and gas for the month or $32 a week.
Since I lived a mile from work, I put $10 in gas in my car every week for a monthly total of $40. That was enough to get me to and from work. It was not enough to take me anywhere else, so I did all my shopping at work since I worked in a large retail store.
With $20 left for the week, I had to budget for all my essentials. The number one thing I needed for the month was toilet paper, and I spent $6.98 a month on toilet paper. I spent .74 a bottle on shampoo and conditioner, and I needed two bottles of each a month for a total of $2.96. I bought 3-packs of ivory hand soap for .97 cents, and one bottle of dish soap for $1. Both of those items lasted the entire month for a total of $1.97. I bought one tube of toothpaste for the month at $1. I didn't buy laundry soap. I used dish soap to wash dishes and clothes. The total monthly cost of all my essentials was $12.91 or $3.23 a week.
After buying my essentials, I had $16 a week leftover for food. I'd buy a bag of rice for 82 cents, four packages of smoked sausage for $5.56, four cans of pork and beans for $2.60, and six $1 frozen pizzas. I'd eat a pizza for breakfast, skip lunch, and eat either beans and rice for dinner or beans and smoked sausage. It was a total weekly cost of $14.98. I did not buy bread, milk, eggs or cereal. All of those items were too expensive for my budget.
After taxes, my total weekly expenses were $30.63
The Other $2
My budget at the top says that I had $32 a week to spend. Yet, I only spent $30. The other $2 I regularly lent out to my coworkers who had to drive farther or couldn't afford lunch. Two dollars was three quarters of a gallon of gas at the time, and could mean the difference between getting to work on Friday and not getting to work. For others, $2 meant being able to afford lunch. Even though I was struggling to feed myself and get to work, some of my coworkers were worse off.
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