Sunday, September 26, 2010

Society Lacks Common Sense

There's not really a day I don't consider just sitting down and writing this post, or any hundred other posts. However, I have a toddler at home everyday, all day, and she requires a LOT of attention. Getting lost in a blog post for more than just a handful of minutes, while she's awake, can prove to be disastrous. By the time she goes to bed at night my mind is completely frazzled and I neglect to make the post.

Currently it's 'quiet time' and Disney's The Jungle Book has captivated her attention, hopefully for more than just five minutes.

Anyhow, onto the post of the day...


We are considered 'working poor'. Another term so graciously bestowed upon my family has been 'below poverty level'. Hey, I'm not bitching about it, just stating the facts. Facts based upon such models as this one...if you check out the portion between 81% and 100% we fall in there somewhere, BEFORE taxes are taken out.

This is the level that my family falls in because I am not currently employed and my husband works 40+ hours a week, at $2 MORE than minimum wage per hour.

Again, I'm not bitching. I'll get to why not.

Now, this number could more than double if I was to go back to work. I could earn at least minimum wage and work 40 hours a week, putting us into that 175% range. HUGE jump there, you say, so then why not?

For starters...we have two children. One in school, the other not. This would require child care. Of course we could work opposing shifts, you say. That would be WONDERFUL. Only real problem with that is my husband doesn't have a set shift, some days he's required to be at work at 7:30 in the morning, other days he's required to be there until 9:30pm. Leaving me a shift of having to work from 11pm until 7am, if I get out the door, right at 7am and can be home by 7:15am on the days that my husband has to be at work by 7:30am. It could work, if I didn't also have to sleep...see, on the days he has to be at work at 7:30am, he's often not home from work until after 6pm, leaving me roughly 4 hours to sleep, during the hours that dinner is being prepared, homework is being done, and bedtime routines are going on. I don't care who you are, sleep is a necessity.

So we're left with having to pay for child care. Average of $100 a week for the younger one, about $50 a week for the older one, but only if they're picked up by 5:30pm, it can be more than double that if they're not picked up by then. So goes $150 of my $290 paycheck, at minimum wage, before taxes are even taken out. So $140 a week is left, after child care. That would be awesome, granted the only expense to consider was child care, but it's not.

We then have to add in the cost of medical insurance, co-pays, etc. Currently both the kids are covered 100% by state (socialized) medical. This means that we don't pay a dime for co-pays and everything is covered - dental, vision, prescriptions, ALL included. If I go to work and make more than $50 a week, before taxes, we lose this 'luxury'. My husband has a lovely family plan at work, cost is $200 just for major medical, every two weeks. So $100 a week, for all four of us, that's if we go with the $5,000 deductible. This means, in order for the insurance to really start kicking in we have to spend $5000 in that year, cash out of our pocket. We're also responsible for roughly $30 per visit in co-pays, and no prescription coverage. So to meet this quota, based on our yearly averages, we would be spending, an average, of $250 a week just for 'general' medical expenses. This $250 a week would come out of my left over $140 a week, after child care expenses, of course. Now we owe $110 per week, just because I'm working.

I'm not done there. If I'm also working this means we HAVE to have two well running vehicles. We do currently have two vehicles, one is completely paid off, the other will be completely paid off in February or March. So you say no real expense there, right? Again, you would be wrong. If I was to be working I'll need to make a trip into town and home again on a daily basis, so instead of just two trips or so a week, I'm up to 5, but then I'd also have to do my shopping and other kid trips on my days off, so 6-7 round trips, a week. Right now I spend an average of $20 a week for gas, for my two trips, working puts me up to at least $50 a week just in gas. Because I make so few trips at this time, not working, I can get away with just two oil changes a year, and only because we use the 'better stuff' and my husband does the oil changing. This would increase to about 4 oil changes a year, at least. So $3 a week for the oil changes, over the course of the year. Then there's the wear and tear of the tires. As it stands, I only really have to change my tires every two years. Increasing my mileage would put me up to every year needing tires. If I go with 'cheaper' tires, this is an average of $7 a week for tires. So just basic maintenance I can add $60 a week to go back and forth to work, not adding in anything else that may go wrong. I'm now up to it COSTING us $170 a week, for me to go to work, full time, again, before any taxes are taken out of my check.

Speaking of taxes, lets get that out of the way real quick. The average person pays in about 35% of their paycheck before it's even handed to them. At minimum wage this is about $100. So add that $100 to the $170 I'm already in the hole for, I owe $270, per week, above my paycheck, just so I can work and put us out of the poverty range.

Being out of this poverty range also means we no longer qualify for the $250 a month in food assistance. We're now looking at us having to come up with another $60 a week for groceries out of my paycheck. So now we're owing $330, per week, just so I can work, above what my paycheck would be.

To put it in one clear picture, it costs my modest family of 4 $620 per week for me to go to work. In order for us to 'just break even' I would have to make $15 an hour, and not miss an hour of work, in a 40 hour week - $15 an hour being double minimum wage. This doesn't include much of anything else, at all, this only covers the bare basics of me working - child care, medical, transportation, gr0ceries.

I hate that the numbers crunch this way. Because I hate the way the numbers crunch I've gone back to school. I'm hoping by the time I go back to work, with my degree, that it actually works out to my family's advantage.

At the same time of being grateful that there are such programs as 'socialized' medicine, food stamps, WIC, etc I curse the fact that there are these programs and that the numbers do crunch this way. It makes me look like I'd rather be using the system than working or that some how my quality of life and the quality of my children's lives are so much better because we do get assistance.

It may serve one well to know that yes, we have internet and a phone. No cell phone, and the internet service is only dial-up. Okay, I say no cell phone, we do have A cell phone, its prepaid, only 200 minutes a month, no texting, no web, no bells and whistles. We do not have cable or satellite TV services. We bought a $40 digital antenna that goes to our HD enabled TV, so free TV. We don't go out to the movies more than 3 times a year, and that's only if we're lucky. We go out for food, maybe once a month. The kids get a Happy Meal type of lunch or dinner about once every other month.

We have no credit cards. Everything we buy is paid for with money we have saved for such or we have simply done with out. I can only think of two things we have financed in the last 5 years. One being my husband's very gas efficient car, that we bought about 6 months ago, it'll be paid off completely before we've had it a year. It's a 2004 Ford Taurus. He has to have a gas saving vehicle. The other item we've financed was a gas range. We went through four used/cheap/free ones in the span of about 5 months before we broke down and did a rent to own on it. We had to have a stove with a working oven and that didn't leak propane into the house. Outside of that we've financed nothing and nothing has been put on credit cards.

My kids get regular new shoes, clothes, etc, same for myself and my husband. At the same time I refuse to pay $100 for a piece of clothing that has the same function as an article of clothing that only costs $10. Now, shoes are a bit of a different story, at least where my husband is concerned. He works standing on his ski-size feet for 8-12 hours a day, I can stomach spending $100 on a pair of work shoes for him. Unfortunately we've found out that a $150 pair of Nike shoes doesn't last a third as long as a $20 pair of WalMart shoes. But since finding this out we've been able to pair the $20 Wal-Mart shoes with some $30 or $50 insoles and wouldn't ya know, he's worn the same pair of shoes for almost a year now, instead of just a month. Its doubly awesome that we live in an area now that has a Wal-Mart that carries shoes bigger than an 11 for my husband's size 14 feet.

But the bottom line is this. I don't bitch about being 'working poor' or below poverty level because I know when all the numbers are done being crunched that I don't have far to fall. If my husband was to lose his job there's nothing that says I can't go to work and make enough to keep a roof over our heads. If he was to lose his job there's nothing that says he can't find a new one that pays just as much and we maintain our current standard of living. If we were to lose the benefits we get now things would definitely be a bit tighter, but it wouldn't be the end of the world. We still have room to cut things out of our budget and save ourselves another $2-500 a month.

I don't worry about my rent not being paid or my utilities being cut off - those things are paid first. If we don't have the money for some sort of extra along the way we do without the extra. If the money isn't there or something comes up we find a way around it and are able to come up with the money.

My beef is with persons who make more in a single child support payment than my husband makes in a month, while their spouse brings home an additional paycheck that makes the child support payment look like pocket change, and then they bitch that they don't have the money for groceries or worry how they're going to pay their bills or some other bullshit. And not but a few hours later they're telling you all about that $75 pair of shoes they've been eying for a while, and go ahead and buy them because there's something coming up that they want to wear them to, and then not likely wear them again.

Yes, common sense has died in this society. Common sense says that you live within your means. Common sense says that if you don't have the money for necessities you sure as hell don't have the money for something you want. Society says keep up with the guy that makes twice as much because you can always put it in credit now and file bankruptcy later if the money stops being there.

And people really wonder why the economy has gone to shit!? Its not something that has to be evaluated by overpaid idiots with a piece of paper that says they're smarter than someone else. I'm only a backwoods educated high school graduate, from parents who were C average students and not college educated and I can figure this shit out.

In about 18 months I'll be finished with my associates degree, from there I plan on pursuing a Bachelor's, Master's, and then a Doctorate, as I'm working to help support my family, I pray that its not at the cost of my common sense.

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