Imagine, for just a second, what it would be like for both you and your partner to be working in a minimum wage job in the state of Georgia. One of you works full-time, then is at home with your two kids at night, while the other one works a full-time day job and a part-time night job. Both of you make Georgia minimum wage. Now keep in mind, I am not a math major and these are estimates based on the current tax brackets in GA.
So that is $5.15 an hour times 40 hours a week= $206 before taxes. For you. Then your partner makes $5.15 x 40= $206, but also makes $5.15 x 24= $123.60, bringing your monthly household gross income to a grand total of: $2,146
$2,146 – $129 (GA State Tax Withheld) = $2,017
$2,017 – $129 (Federal Tax Withheld) = $1,888
Your monthly net household income is $1,888. That is from both you and your partner working full-time and your partner working an extra job. Now, assuming there is no money being taken out for healthcare (as most people who pay minimum wage do not provide healthcare benefits for their employees) you probably have no other money withheld, including 401ks and retirement. Because, uhh, who can plan for the future when you make $5.15 an hour?
Now, still here? Keep following me, it gets worse.
On average you spend ⅓ of your income on your house payment, which means your house payment hovers around the $600 mark. Now, because I have been recently looking at housing a ton, I am aware what $600 a month will get you. And to be fair we are talking about rent here, because again, when you make $5.15 an hour, you are not trying to buy a damn house. It’s not pretty. It’s usually, in most places, a mobile home. Nothing wrong with a mobile home, just saying, don’t expect a lot. It could also be an apartment in the “bad part of town”. Which is likely where you work anyway. People on the “good side” are paying their employees more because they can get employees from a wider net. (Read: The exploitation of the poor is real.)
Okay so, $1,888 – 600 (rent) = $1,288.
Now I am not factoring in a lot here. Like, for example, you can pay less for a home in some areas, though in a big city, not so much. You can also live with your relatives, or have two families working, both living together in a three bedroom home. You can also get government assistance for a home. It’s called Section 8 and it is provided through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but don’t even get me started on how they do things, so let’s just say, for lack of argument, you get no help with your home and you live alone (just the four of you). But you do get help with your child’s healthcare, which is awesome, because kids get sick. But, guess what?! In the state of GA you do not qualify for SNAP (Food Stamps) cause, you guessed it, you make too much money…
Which means you have a weekly grocery budget of, oh a family of four, let’s say $100. So…
$1,288 – $400 = $888
Eek. Good thing the kiddos get free lunch at school.
Electric rates in GA hover around the 11.17¢/kWh which gives you an average electric bill of $160/month. Now you conserve energy when you can. You yell at people for turning lights off, etc, etc, but your rented trailer does not have high-effiency appliances, nor does it have good insulation. It’s a trailer. Also, the windows are old and never really shut right and the furnace, well, it has seen better days. Because of this, in the winter your bill goes up quite a bit. Keeping the chill off the air is expensive. But in the summer you just keep all the doors and windows open, choosing to be super hot and trap bugs and insects as they come in to save on the electric. Having said that, you may or may not be on a “Level Pay” plan. In GA you can choose to do a level pay electric bill, which will factor in the very high deposit most electric companies require of you (because you make so little money) and keeps your electric on and away from the constant fear of always being shut off. But you do pay a premium for this kind of monthly pay. So let’s say your electric bill is $200 a month, level pay.
$888 – $200 = $688.
Okay, okay, we are not doing so bad. Still alive.
I forgot to mention, however, that your youngest is in preschool. Preschool is not all day. After lunch (thank goodness) he gets sent by bus to a daycare, of which you have to pay half of the regular tuition because it is on a sliding scale (I’m being nice here).
Normal annual daycare rate for a four-year-old in GA = $6,500
$6,500/2 = $3,250 (half based on government help)
$3,250/9 = $361/month
$688 – $361 = $327
Now, it is possible that you would qualify for free daycare, or that you live in a county that offers all-day preschool (but unlikely in GA, as you know, “We don’t have money for all-day preschool, we only have money for walls.”) But for now, let’s say, since you are working you can afford it.
Okay, so we are here at $327 left for the month. But as you may notice the daycare was only good for nine months out of the year. Because your second grader and preschooler are both out of school for the summer which means one of four choices: 1. A family member baby-sits them for free 2. You enroll them in some kind of free summer school (unlikely as the state would have to foot that bill) or 3. You pay daycare for two kids all summer (how the hell does that happen?!) or 4. You leave the second grader in charge, and leave your two children at home alone all day in your trailer with the doors and windows open all summer. Seems safe.
Now, what are you going to do with all that money you have left?! $327!
Well, you still need to pay the water bill, unless you are on a well (which probably hasn’t been properly tested for a series of problems). But you know what, I am feeling nice, you are on a well and it is clean, good water. You know this because you took a sample to your local health department (where you got your preschooler vaccinated for free) and had them test the water. Look at you, good decision!
Cable and internet? Wait, you don’t have either? With two kids? That’s brave of you.
Okay, your two cell phone bills.
$327 – $150 = $177
Car payments? You only have one car, because uhh, that’s all you can afford. You bought it used at one of those buy here, pay here lots and it is old and routinely needs repair but you deal with that as it comes up. This month the car God’s are in your favor and you have only the payment and the gas. Luckily, the payment is based off your weekly pay, so you only pay $50 a week, so $200 a month. So that is…
$177 – $200 = -$23
Cool. Cool. Cool.
Now gas money. Your partner takes public transportation to and from their day job, while you take the kids to school before yours. The school is close, but your work is across town. At night you pick everyone up, then turn around and drive your partner to their second job, so that you can have the car in case of emergencies. Then you either go out after the kids are in bed to pick them up, or they catch a ride for a couple of bucks with a friend. So that is a full tank of gas each week. It is a small, compact car that gets good gas milage, so $40/week for gas.
($23) – $40 = -$63
Now imagine all this, but with that extra $2.00 an hour from the Federal Minimum wage. You would be “rich” with that extra $700 a month. Minus of course the childcare you have to pay, since you make too much to get a credit now. $700 – $361 = $339. Minus the cost of the state-sponsored healthcare you have to pay now for the kids (at $80 a kid, still way less cheaper than private healthcare) $339 – $160 = $179. Oh, your partner got sick and had to go to the ER for treatment and missed a week of work. Darn. That’s $179 – $15,000 (ER Trip) – $464 (Week of wages) – $100 (Medication with no healthcare). BUT! It is summer time so they can take care of the kids that week while they are laid up on the couch in pain! Silver lining!
Let’s see, what am I forgetting. Healthcare, check. Food, check. House, check. Electric, check. Transportation, check. Daycare, check. I guess that just leaves extra money to buy those boots that you are supposed to have, so that you can pull yourself up by the straps.