As I look around, I see people struggling to keep paying their bills while also putting food on the table. It looks the middle-class that once was has disappeared. I have heard families like mine classified as the "working poor," and I could not agree more. That describes just how my husband and I feel about our situation. These are the reasons we consider ourselves the "working poor."
We live with family
Not long ago we were living on our own. We had a small two bedroom apartment and we were happy with how things were going. Once our second son came along, things changed. We moved in with family right after the birth, and gave up our independence. It was not that we couldn't make it, it was that after paying all our bills, we wouldn't have any money left for things like gas or baby items. This is a mutually beneficial situation, but sometimes we miss the days when we had our own space.
We work just to pay for the basics
The cost of everything has gone up over the last decade. Food, gas, and even entertainment venues have had significant price increases. When my husband puts gas in his truck, it feels like he is working to pay for gas. It is costing us roughly $70 to fill up his gas tank, when it only used to cost around $45. That is a $25 increase, which is a lot of money for our family. Groceries were costing us roughly $120 a month, but now we are spending $170. That extra $50 has set us back in other areas of our budget, but we have to eat.
Will lower standards to make extra money
Both my husband and I are lucky because our jobs offer us ample opportunity to make more money if we need it. He will go and do side jobs as a mechanic and only make a few bucks in labor, whereas at the shop the labor rate is $80 an hour. As a freelancer I set my own rate for clients. I have one in particular that pays me half of what I normally make for a longer article. I do the work because it is extra money, and anything that comes in helps us. Two years ago, we didn't have to work around the clock to try and make ends meet.
I believe that not only are we considered the "working poor," but we are on our way to the poverty level. It is sad to see so many other families in similar situations as well. The United States no longer has a middle-class, they just have the extremely rich, and the "working poor."
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More from this contributor:First Person: We Are on the Road to Becoming Financially Fit
- Poverty & Welfare