For a Few Dollars More

3.18 news living wage.indd

A few things converged in the past twenty-four hours.  The result is I’m highlighting an article I read, instead of a book.  At lunch yesterday I read “For a Few Dollars More: Durham Launches Living Wage Campaign.” Yesterday evening my daughter and I picked up a prescription at Rite Aid, bought a few books at the bookstore for a birthday present and for my daughter, we purchased food at Whole Foods.  Then, I tried to hold my daughter’s hand as we crossed the parking lot.  She immediately let go.  This morning, she showed her independence by packing her lunch.

As I thought of these milestones, the article I read, and the affluent stores we visited, I realized my daughter is old enough to grasp others’ reality.  During the month of April, I’m doing an experiment to show my daughter and myself concretely how fortunate we are.

Using the chart on page 11 in the March 18, 2015 of the Indy Week, we are going to attempt to live within the means of a single-mom with one child under 5 who makes minimum wage.  It won’t be completely accurate because our house payment and utilities are more than the $377 a person making $7.25 an hour can afford.  To accommodate for this, we will look at our average utilities and search for a place to live where it will cost no more than $377 for rent and utilities.  I’m doubtful, we will be able to find a place.

After taking out the cost of rent and utilities, our projected budget is $1160.  I’m certain my daughter will think that’s a lot of money.  She will see how quickly it goes; and the hard choices people earning minimum wage must make everyday.

There are a few things happening that will cause this not to be an authentic experience.  I purchased plane tickets several months ago to visit family in Georgia in April.  She’s taking ballet and soccer.  We’ll discuss how this would not be a reality if I made minimum wage.

She lives at her dad’s house half the time.  Tonight, he and I are discussing my idea.  My hope is he will not purchase things other the basic necessities for her so she is getting an accurate picture of a single parent supporting a child without help.

First on my to do list, is clearing out our pantry.  I’ll donate all the food.  We’ll start our month like many families do.  With an empty pantry and refrigerator.  My gas tank was on empty this morning.  Instead of filling it up, I put in enough to get me to next week.

This is not going to be an easy thing for me.  I enjoy buying plants this time of year.  I love joining my coworkers for lunch at least once a week.  I need a pair of comfortable work shoes.  I usually purchase more expensive, well made shoes.  I don’t think it will fit in the budget.  Luckily for me, I can hold off a few weeks before buying them.  Anyone making minimum wage does not have the option of putting off a purchase until their budget is larger.  The same amount of money is available every month.

I was going to use the parameters single mom with a child under 5; but it would be impossible for us to live on this without assistance from family, friends, charity, or government assistance.  According to the chart, we would need an extra $329 to meet basic needs.