Living Paycheck to Paycheck

United States
October 19, 2007 3:56pm CST
I just read this article from AOL finance and Associated Press about how more people are trying to live paycheck to paycheck and how it is getting harder to do. Do you live paycheck to paycheck and if so, do you think it is getting harder to do and why?Here is the article if you want to read it. Living Paycheck to Paycheck Gets Harder AP Posted: 2007-10-19 15:21:01 NEW YORK (Oct. 19) - The calculus of living paycheck to paycheck in America is getting harder. What used to last four days might last half that long now. Pay the gas bill, but skip breakfast. Eat less for lunch so the kids can have a healthy dinner. Across the nation, Americans are increasingly unable to stretch their dollars to the next payday as they juggle higher rent, food and energy bills. It's starting to affect middle-income working families as well as the poor, and has reached the point of affecting day-to-day calculations of merchants like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 7-Eleven Inc. and Family Dollar Stores Inc. Food pantries, which distribute foodstuffs to the needy, are reporting severe shortages and reduced government funding at the very time that they are seeing a surge of new people seeking their help. While economists debate whether the country is headed for a recession, some say the financial stress is already the worst since the last downturn at the start of this decade. From Family Dollar to Wal-Mart, merchants have adjusted their product mix and pricing accordingly. Sales data show a marked and more prolonged drop in spending in the days before shoppers get their paychecks, when they buy only the barest essentials before splurging around payday. "It's pretty pronounced," said Kiley Rawlins, a spokeswoman at Family Dollar. "It seems like to us, customers are running out of food products, paper towels sooner in the month." Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, said the imbalance in spending before and after payday in July was the biggest it has ever seen, though the drop-off wasn't as steep in August. And 7-Eleven says its grocery sales have jumped 12-13 percent over the past year, compared with only slight increases for non-necessities like gloves and toys. Shoppers can't afford to load up at the supermarket and are going to the most convenient places to buy emergency food items like milk and eggs. "It even costs more to get the basics like soap and laundry detergent," said Michelle Grassia, who lives with her husband and three teenage children in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, N.Y. Her husband's check from his job at a grocery store used to last four days. "Now, it lasts only two," she said. To make up the difference, Grassia buys one gallon of milk a week instead of three. She sometimes skips breakfast and lunch to make sure there's enough food for her children. She cooks with a hot plate because gas is too expensive. And she depends more than ever on the bags of free vegetables and powdered milk from a local food pantry. Grassia's story is neither new nor unique. With the fastest-rising food and energy prices since the 1980s, low-income consumers are stretching their budgets by eating cheap foods like peanut butter and pasta. Industry analysts and some economists fear the strain will get worse as people are hit with higher home heating bills this winter and mortgage rates go up. It's bad enough already for 85-year-old Dominica Hoffman. She gets $1,400 a month in pension and Social Security from her days in the garment industry. After paying $500 in rent on an apartment in Pennsauken, N.J., and shelling out money for food, gas and other expenses, she's broke by the end of the month. She's had to cut fruits and vegetables from her grocery order - and that's even with financial help from her children. "Everything is up," she said. Many consumers, particularly those making less than $30,000 a year, are cutting spending on nutritious food like milk and vegetables, and analysts fear they're further skimping on basic medical care and other critical services. Coupon-clipping just isn't enough. "The reality of hunger is right here," said the Rev. Melony Samuels, director of The BedStuy Campaign against Hunger, a church-affiliated food pantry in Brooklyn. The pantry scrambled to feed 5,000 new families over the past 12 months, up almost 70 percent from 3,000 the year before. "I am shocked to see such numbers," Samuels said, "and I am really concerned that this is just the beginning of what we are going to see." In the past three months, Samuels has seen more clients in higher-paying jobs - the $35,000 range - line up for food as the fallout of the subprime mortgage woes takes hold. The Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, which covers 23 counties in New York State, cited a 30 percent rise in visitors in the first nine months of this year, compared with 2006. Maureen Schnellmann, senior director of food and nutrition programs at the American Red Cross Food Pantry in Boston, reported a 30 percent increase from January through August over last year. Until a few months ago, Dellria Seales, a home care assistant, was just getting by living with her daughter, a hairdresser, and two grandchildren in a one-bedroom apartment for $750 a month. But a knee injury in January forced her to quit her job, leaving her at the mercy of Samuels' pantry because most of her daughter's $1,200 a month income goes to rent, energy and food costs. "I need it. Without it, we wouldn't survive," Seales said as she picked up carrots and bananas. John Vogel, a professor at Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business, worries that the squeeze will lead to a less nutritious diet and inadequate medical or child care. In the meantime, rising costs show no signs of abating. Gas prices hit a record nationwide average of $3.23 per gallon in late May before receding a little, though prices are expected to soar again later this year. Food costs have increased 4.5 percent over the past 12 months, partly because of higher fuel costs. Egg prices were 44 percent higher, while milk was up 21.3 percent over the past 12 months to nearly $4 a gallon, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average family of four is spending anywhere from $7 to $10 extra a week - $40 more a month - on groceries alone, compared to a year ago, according to retail consultant Burt Flickinger III. And while overall wage growth is a solid 4.1 percent over the past 12 months, economists say the increases are mostly for the top earners. Retailers started noticing the strain in late spring and early summer as they were monitoring the spending around the paycheck cycle. Wal-Mart and Family Dollar key on the first week of the month, when government checks like Social Security and public assistance generally hit consumers' mailboxes. 7-Eleven, whose customers are more diverse, looks at paycheck cycles in specific markets dominated by a major employer, such as General Motors in Detroit, to discern trends in shopping. To economize, shoppers are going for less expensive food. "They're buying more peanut butter and pasta. And they're going for hamburger meat," Flickinger, the retail consultant, said. "They're trying to outsmart the store by looking for deep discounts at the end of the month." He said the last time he saw this was 2000-2001, when the dot-com bubble burst and the economy went into a recession after massive layoffs. For now, low-price retailers are readjusting their merchandising and pricing. Wal-Mart is becoming more aggressive on discounting. It announced Thursday it is expanding price cuts to 15,000 items, ranging from Motts apple juice and Progresso soups to women's fleece tops, heading into the holidays. Family Dollar, whose food offerings were limited to candy and snacks until two years ago, has expanded its mix of groceries like fruit cups, cereal and such refrigerated items as milk and ice cream while cutting back on shoes. This summer the chain began accepting food stamps. Food pantries are also getting creative. Samuels said her church, Full Gospel Tabernacle of Faith, just started offering free cooking classes to teach clients who are diabetic or have other health conditions how to prepare vegetables like squash. It's also offering free exercise classes. "We are trying to make them health conscious," Samuels said. "It's not right to give them just anything. Our mantra is eat well and live well." Associated Press Writers Geoff Mulvihill in Mount Laurel, N.J., and Terry Tang in Phoenix, Ariz., contributed to this report.
4 people like this
13 responses
• United States
17 May 11
My family is living pay-check to pay-check and it is good to know that there are places out there that help people when they need it. I just went to a food pantry today to get some food for my family and I was really grateful for them and the help they gave me.
• United States
17 May 11
I have had to do this too. It is very helpful to have those places to go to in a time of need.
1 person likes this
• United States
3 Feb 08
this is so very true. we live pay check to paycheck and by the end of the 2 weeks we are counting pennies for gas to get to work for teh paycheck. its is bad. use to we had gas all week and milk in the house etc. now i have to tell the kids 1 glass of milk each a day. no we cant go to the libarry cause i dont have the gas. the shoes you are wearing have a hole in them but i cant get you a new pair so here wear mine i will wear yours. sorry kids it is butter noodles with can veggies for dinner again. hubby please go fishing or hunting so we can have some meat in the house. yes we are at that point. i work 40 hours a week. i make 8.00 an hour. after taxes i get 521.00 every 2 weeks. ok it cost me 105.00 in gas for that 2 weeks. eletric and this is with telling the kids to put on socks, maybe a robe, and use a blanket when you are watching tv cause the bill is so high is 250.00 a month. water just went up now my bill is 60.00 a month. phone and dail up is 75.00 a month. rent 350.00 a month. dish soap etc 50.00 a month. shampoo etc 25.00 a month. ok that is 1020.00 a month right there. i get 1042.00 a month so that leaves 22.00 a month extra. that has even had food put in. i live in a small town so i have a really good paying job for here. i mean my rent is cheap really. if i moved to a bigger place that had higher paying jobs cool but the rent would go up so what is thepoint. i would still be making just as much cause the cost of living jsut went up. use to the water, eletric, and gas was cheaper so we had money for food and other things. now what???
1 person likes this
• United States
17 May 11
I know what you mean. It has gotten to the point that we do not have cable. It is tough on us getting food and all the extras like shampoo, soap, etc. Gas is beginning to effect everyone and I think that it is going to be even worse this summer.
@maddysmommy (16232)
• United States
24 Oct 07
Wow very interesting article. We live paycheck to paycheck and have a little left over after paying the bills and things for some family fun. My husband just got a promotion and payrise yesterday so we are rapt at the moment. We won't see it until next pay or thereafter but its nice to know there is a little more coming in that we can surely use.
• United States
28 Oct 07
I am sure that will help. Although, you can bet something will rise in price to take that little bit away. My husband and I make decent money but it seems as though we still live from paycheck to paycheck. We do have some nice things but neither of us drive a new car or anything like that. We bought some property recently but we got an excellent deal and we are buying on contract or we couldn't have done it.
• India
20 Oct 07
Very good discussion.I like this.
1 person likes this
• United States
21 Oct 07
Thank you. It is important to know that someone is finally beginning to understand that the working class is struggling and it is not that we are wasting our money it is that we just don't make enough to meet the high cost of living.
• United States
20 Oct 07
i KNOW how it is. I live that way. check to check. I worked at a job for 4yrs. no raise on benefits. I am looking to better my life. I feel god will help in this matter.
• United States
21 Oct 07
I know also and that is one of the reasons that I posted this. It is nice to see that someone else has started to take notice that our society is suffering these days with the high costs of everything. Maybe someone with the power to do something about it will see this and realize that working class people need a break!!
@ssh123 (31086)
• India
20 Oct 07
Tell me why you post such a long discussion topic with a cut and paste? Honestly speaking I do not read such long, tiresome paragraphs. However the message is clear. When I was a salaried person, I used to live from check to check. Now for the last 10 yars, I am doing business and I earn enough money and have reserve fund for next 12 months.
1 person likes this
• United States
21 Oct 07
First of all, I thought that the discussion was a very good one and I thought that the article had a lot of important information in it. If you didn't want to read it, then you did not have to. Many Americans are facing this issue now and I am sure that they are glad to see that someone has taken notice that you can not make it from paycheck to paycheck and that if one small thing arises in that time frame out of the norm,it can cause you to lose everything. I am glad to see that you have a reserve that would last a while. Take advantage of it and use it wisely as most people aren't that fortunate. It is sad to say that most people would suffer if they missed a day of work much less a week or a month.
@thyst07 (2091)
• United States
20 Oct 07
I firmly believe that a country is only as rich as its poorest inhabitants. While America does have a disproportionate amount of the wealth compared to other nations, that wealth is in the hands of a few; most of us don't receive the benefit of America's "richness." In answer to your question, yes, I do live paycheck to paycheck, and yes, it is getting harder. I'm a health-conscious person and I like to eat things that are good for me- but lately I and my partner have found ourselves resorting to ramen noodles and canned soup more often. Rather than turning our heat on in the evenings, we wear sweaters and pile on extra blankets when we sleep. Anything to save a dime- and we still struggle most months to meet all of our expenses. It's not an incredibly enjoyable lifestyle most of the time. Still, I try to count my blessings. Having limited resources gives me the opportunity to be more creative with what I do have.
1 person likes this
• United States
21 Oct 07
I believe that you are in the majority of people right now. I know that I have cut back on several expenses and I am still trying to find ways to save more. The heating bills and electricity alone are enough to make one struggle and then the price of food and gas will cause a normal person to crumble.
@mari_skye (1638)
• Philippines
20 Oct 07
Wow! And considering that the US is a rich country. There are a lot of people, and I mean a lot of my countrymen who are doing everything in their power just to be able to go to the US thinking that their lives will get better once they are there. And now, reading what you have posted, I can see that poverty is all around us and even the rich countries are not spared.
1 person likes this
• United States
21 Oct 07
People assume that the US is a rich country when in reality we are just like every other country. The people running the country are financially stable but everyone else is struggling. Life won't always be better for those who come here.
@cre952 (2)
• United States
20 Oct 07
If you consider that so many things have increased gas we use to pay average 1 car 480 yr now 2400 year 1920 more.now everything is shipped here and there alot food items have increased your electric. now have you ever notice how much taxes you pay everything is taxed your paycheck, food, phone, cell phone, clothes electric,insurance car tags state tax property add all that add up per person now thats alot of money now tell me why we have so many problems with people with out.why are we struggling and all of these politicians getting paid car service great health insurance i think every one in office should take a pay cut to what a teacher makes. then they should set up a program to where they can implement part of your big appliances are on solar power. there is alternative to gas that corn oil why is it in brazil not as advance in america its very common over there and the best part is we have our american brand cars that take that fuel. we are so out of balance here when you have billion dollar companies getting all these tax advantages when the little guy doesnt have really that much it looks like to me that us little people are who is paying for every thing when you add up all we pay with all these taxesdoes anybody else see the big picture.
1 person likes this
• United States
21 Oct 07
You are exactly right about this one. The only people who live comfortably paycheck to paycheck are the politicians and that is because they are the only ones benefiting from anything. The taxes are absolutely out of control and I do think that before long someone is going to have to do something to cut part of them or it is only going to get worse.
@KrauseHome (36689)
• United States
24 May 11
Well the more that time goes on, it can be harder to make ends meet and to be able to save anything. There are many times I would say my husband and I are living paycheck to paycheck and even having to wish time would only hurry up. When you have to have gas to get back and forth to work, and then the higher cost of groceries, it makes it even harder and you are lucky if there is anything ever left over.
• United States
24 May 11
I agree with you. I would not have gas money if it wasn't for the online work that I do.
@twoey68 (13651)
• United States
3 Feb 08
I think alot of ppl live paycheck to paycheck mostly b/c of the high cost of living. I'm sure there are those that simply can't or won't manage their money but for the most part I believe it's just that with the cost of living constantly going up that the money just doesn't go as far. **AT PEACE WITHIN** ~~STAND STRONG IN YOUR BELIEFS~~
• United States
17 May 11
I believe that you are right in this. The cost of living goes up but paychecks never seem to increase.
• Kuwait
28 Oct 07
That is the hardest thing that will happen to me, So help me God. We are still Lucky not to live like this. We are still earning the real money with respect and dignity though life is taught. paycheck to paycheck that is one big trouble.
• United States
28 Oct 07
Well, I am glad that you haven't had to live like this as it isn't any fun. However, I think most people can relate to this as it is the way life is for most people.
@suspenseful (40312)
• Canada
28 Oct 07
Next time give us a link to the article. The person who wrote on Associate Content gets paid for page views, and you have just prevented her from making more money and getting page views. It might be that you may copy an article from some other site and they might sue myLot for copyright violation. Now to respond to the subject. The good paying jobs have disappeared because of outsourcing, so many people in the States have to work two part time jobs instead of one, and they do not get the health benefits and medical insurance. There were a few who were able to start online businesses or invest it products, but most of the population did not have the cash reserves behind them and they needed every cent they made.
• United States
28 Oct 07
Sorry about the article problem. I don't know how to post a link on here for something like that. Also, I don't see that they can sue Mylot as I made sure that I noted where it was and that it was there article. I didn't copy it from associated Content. It was written by someone at the Associated Press and I don't believe that they would get paid by page views. anyway, it is a problem with jobs being taken out of the US. However, that is only part of the problem. The high cost of items that we use daily is a lot of the problem.