Kid and I are dramatically better off now than we were a year ago, 2 years ago, 5 years ago. But that doesn't mean we've joined the ranks of the middling middles. This is what the budget of a super thrifty, lucky small family looks like.
I make almost 200% of the 2012 poverty guidelines before taxes, etc. Of course Seattle is a bit more expensive than some small town in a red state. I do not make what is considered to be a living wage in Washington state.
My largest monthly expense is rent. I live in what would be called a rent stabilized building, so I actually pay about what is calculated in that chart for a 2 bedroom apartment. I've been doing some searching for a friend who is looking for a place and I am seeing rents nearly double what I pay for a 2 bedroom. Rooms in shared housing go for what I pay in rent. The trade off is that we have tiny tiny bedrooms and my laundry gets swiped out of the laundry room pretty frequently. I pay about 38% of my income in housing.
The next biggest expense I have is healthcare. I have awesome healthcare. It covers damn near everything. But it ain't cheap. My employer pays the entire premium cost for me (about $1200 per month) but I pay to have the Kid on the plan. ($440 per month). Then there's prescriptions, co-pays, deductibles, co-insurance, etc. All in all I pay about $650 a month, or about 27% of my income.
That's 65% of my total gross income.
The next biggest expense is food. I have a teenage boy. In my best budgeting months, I spend about $500 on groceries. When I am less careful and we eat takeout, I spend more. But we'll pretend I am a perfect human being who never screws up the budget by ordering takeout 3 nights in a row. So let's call food 20% of the budget.
Taxes are another 10%.
Transportation is about 4%. So is my cell phone. Kid's cell phone and home internet are about 3%.
It is only possible for us to live IF I get child support. That's where the extra 6% plus clothes, entertainment, etc. comes from. And in the months that we don't get child support, the tiny savings account I funded with my tax return gets hit. It's only June and I've already blown through 3/4s of it.
But I'm lucky. I have a full time job with benefits. I live in affordable housing. I have a cheap, short commute on public transportation so I don't need a car. I have a boyfriend who doesn't mind that I pay what I can when we go out (which isn't much. Our last trip to Canada cost me $30) so I am not devoid of joy and fun.
But I'll never be able to retire, or move, or help the Kid pay for college. Or get him the braces he desperately needs, or fix my own teeth.
I live in fear of premium increases, rent increases, cost of food going up, unemployment, loss of health insurance, working until I die at my desk.
If my wages kept up with productivity, I'd be making over 50k. If I got a living wage, I wouldn't have to blow through my savings when child support didn't come. I might even be able to increase my savings account balance. If there was a living wage law and I got paid at the same percentage above minimum wage that I get now, I'd make $52,000 a year. That's retirement/braces/savings account/ college/ etc.
That's where it all goes, and that what is missing.