We Lived on Less Than $8,000 a Year...

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We Lived on Less Than $8,000 a Year...

Is it possible to live on less than $8,000 dollars a year? No. No one would expect you to live on that type of wage let alone a family of three, but we did. We actually lived on that wage for over four years and here is what that looks like:

The year was 2012 and my husband worked at Burger King for $7.35 an hour. Now quick math would tell you that is $14,112 dollars a year, still below the poverty line, if he received 40 hours a week. However, Burger King at the time cut hours because after a certain amount of weekly hours they had to offer employees heath care. I can't tell you if it was the general managers decision or the companies decision but that meant nothing over about 32 hours. My husband couldn't even get that because we live in a college town and job openings just weren't there. I even had to double check W-2's because even I'm shocked by the number today, but he only made $7,506 that year. So here are some numbers for you:

Our 2012 Income: $7,506
                            - $5,400 (Rent $450 month utilities included)

Already we're down to $2,106 for food, health insurance, medical expenses, medicine, laundry (because we did not have a washer and dryer), gas, car insurance, and the list goes on. So let's talk bottom dollar estimates.

                                 -$240 (laundry at $5 week).
                              -$2,400 ($50 week for food for 3 people).
                                 -$480 ($40 month for car insurance).
                              -$1,040 ($20 a week on gas - think of someone who drives 30 mins to work!)
                              -$4,320 (Health insurance at $120 a month per person which covers zilch).

Now we're at -$6,374 which would have been almost as much income as we had coming in and that is with the lowest estimates possible. So what did we do? We got help from the state. We went on food stamps and our daughter had state health insurance, we were not eligible so we went without health insurance for over 4 years. For several years I did our laundry in the tub because our water was included in the rent and then I hung them to dry in the shower.

I also went to college and so did my husband but it didn't help in the way you might think. We were eligible for federal loans which also includes a student refund to pay for your housing, books, etc. So my student refunds covered our rent while his covered things like car insurance, doctors visits etc. Had I not been going to school full time I would have been required to have a job which would have put us over the eligibility line for benefits, even with child care expenses and I would have only made around $4.35 an hour. So we were stuck between a rock and a hard place.

While my husband got his B.S. in Physics, no one was hiring for that degree and he continued to work at Burger King until a local plant began hiring a few years ago. Getting that degree vastly undercut the amount of hours he worked when he was allowed to work them. When he finally got the degree it didn't help. The argument that a person is in their position in life because they didn't work hard enough, lack an education, or are bad with money is an insult to those who struggle because the good jobs aren't available, they can't afford childcare, they couldn't afford the healthcare to buy the birth control to prevent the children, or the companies who hire them are allowed to keep them below 30 hours to prevent them from receiving benefits.

We didn't live a life of luxury on food stamps, and the majority of people do not. Yes, there are people who abuse the system but they are not the norm and should not dictate how the rest are treated. I pawned my engagement ring, a ring given to me by my mother, any valuable I could get a hold of to buy diapers, clothes, medicine, etc. When it was time for me to get my IUD I could not afford the $250 because I did not have health insurance and I was very lucky that my grandmother paid for it. No amount of hard work changed our circumstances, an we were very lucky that a job opened up and that my husband got it.  So its very disappointing when I hear people equate poverty with laziness and a mismanagement of money because that was me.


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