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Respons to DivaJen's post

September 4th, 2006 at 12:38 pm

I was going to make this a comment but decided it was getting too long so I made my own entry. It's in response to her post about the fact that in southern california, a mother with two kids can expect to receive only $753/mo from the state.

When my parents divorced my mom went on welfare. Not right away but after a while when she was having a hard time finding work and my dad wasn't regular with the child support. She worked really hard to be able to get off of it and in the end the state garnished his wages so we had a steady payment every month of $696. For my mom and three kids. She stayed on food stamps, that was the only concession she made to any state help. She did what she could to find a job she could work, child care wasn't an issue since we were older.

Our rent, for a really crappy but large three bedroom two bath apt: $435/mo It was kept low by my mom's refusal to let them put in new carpet to replace the nasty green shag stuff. Well, not like we could have stopped them really but the apartments kept changing hands so stuff like that got forgotten.

I don't know what our other bills ran, but I do know that we never used the AC between 2 pm and 6 pm, the hottest times of the day and the most expensive time to run anything electric. Instead we would go to a store and wander around enjoying the cool air, or go to a fast food restaurant and just drink free refills for an hour or so.

When I was in jr high, I started babysitting so I could pay for my own school clothes and help relieve my mom of the stress of finding the money for it.

We were also supported by a friend of my grandmother who spent a lot of time 'dumpster diving' for clean trash, the stuff on top nothing that had to be dug for. She collected rebates, used her garbage finds to gather UPCs, and certain stores (like Longs Drug) didn't list anything but the price of items and the date purchased so she'd keep an eye out for stuff like that to send in with the rebates. She would give us a few every week to send in, and once they started coming back it was nice to get the small checks every week or so.

That was living in Redding, CA between 1990-95.

When my mom died, I assumed guardianship of my teenage brothers. I graduated college, couldn't find a job, needed to be working to provide for the family so went back to Burger King. Made $800/mo plus child support from my dad (don't recall how much that was) and my brothers got about $93/mo each from social security for survivorship benefits. We made it work. Granted I got snowballed by debt trying to keep them in clothes since they were still going through growth spurts. But we survived.

It's not a lot of money. I've heard that comment over and over again, how can people exist on minimum wage. I know I got lucky with my fast food job, the manager knew the position I was in and did what she could to make me the highest paid non management employee.

Somedays I consider myself a failure. I have so much more coming in than my mom did yet I still live paycheck to paycheck. And my definition of paycheck to paycheck is as soon as I get paid the money gets allocated and there's no breathing room. Yes, I save some. Generally $45/mo between two savings accounts. But the money that goes into my local bank savings account usually ends up getting drained by something every few months. And when that goes usually something else comes up that drains my ING account.

I know I need at least two new tires before the rainy season hits. That's November. It'll cost at least $140 for two tires because the rims I have are specialty. That's just how it was when I bought it from a friend of mine, not something I did. I'm hoping that when the time comes I can get a better price but I'm afraid that when the time comes, they'll tell me I really need four new tires. Which is essentially a planned spending of savings but still it'll put a dent in things.

And I've totally lost my train of thought so I'm ending this post here. I've read it over too many times.

7 Responses to “Respons to DivaJen's post”

  1. LuxLiving Says:

    Wow Amber what a great girl! I bet your mother would be very proud of you. Keep your chin up...somedays it does seem like the proverbial one step forward, six steps back, but eventually you'll overcome these challenges.

    It has to be hard, but you are meeting it head on which is Terrific!

  2. ima saver Says:

    Wow, Amber, you have really had it rough. Are you still supporting your two brothers? Ar they old enough that they could get jobs and help out?

  3. DivaJen Says:

    Yor hard work and that of your mother is commendable. Smile And inspiring.

    Your post made me curious to looks up some data for my county:

    Fair market rent in 2006 for a 1-bedroom apartment in Ventura County is $1084 a month.
    Fair market rent for a 2-bedroom apartment is $1379 a month.
    Fair market rent for a 3-bedroom apartment is $1976 a month.
    Median montly rent in 2000: $892

    I look at numbers like that and try to figure out how one lives on under $800 a month. That's all. It puzzles me.

  4. LdyFaile Says:

    ima saver - Are you still supporting your two brothers? Ar they old enough that they could get jobs and help out?

    A little over three years ago I finally stopped supporting my brothers in a regular fashion. I was their official guardian for two years, and unofficial (in so much as I paid the rent and bought the food) for another five.

    The youngest went into the Army and has since been released. He's been struggling with work (his job in the Army was not one that translates well in the civilian world) so I've been helping him out here and there with rent money.

    The middle brother is married and bought a house. So he's doing just fine on his own. Well ok he could be doing better, he filed for bankruptcy last year and I feel I'm particially to blame because I was in charge of his finances for three years while he was a long haul truck driver and then when his finace took over there were a few bumps in the road because she didn't do things the way I did and things snowballed. I did almost all of his stuff online, she didn't have access to the internet and didn't know she needed to check his PO Box more regularly for bills. Anyway. He's handling things his own way so in that respect he's doing fine.

    DivaJen: I have no idea how people can live on that these days. I don't really know how we did it back then, but for the grace of God.

  5. Broken Arrow Says:

    My god, what a touching story.

    You are NOT a failure. Anybody who tries that hard and still makes it is a success in my book.

  6. Carolina Bound Says:

    I am so impressed by people like your mother -- and you! Sometimes I feel sorry for myself, but over all I was lucky as a single mom. I got regular child support, and I always had a job and a safe place to live. I know what you mean about feeling like a failure; I do, too. I feel like I should be managing so much better. But you're awesome! Pat yourself on the back!

  7. freeme journey Says:

    Oh my you are amazing - this story is incredible. There is no way that this is failure material rather a success from beginning to end.
    You need to acknowledge what YOU have accomplished - not many of us could do what you and your mother did. I admire your perseverence.

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