Can a Family of 4 Survive on $2200 a Month?

Filed Under (Life) by on 04-02-2009

Empty WalletThe state of California seems to think so…I’m going to be kind of open here, more open than I usually am about these kinds of things, but I simply need to vent. As many of you know Misty and I have had some hardships over the past few years, some in our relationship and even more financially. We’ve gotten about as much assistance as we can from family, and we finally decided that we were going to see what kind of assistance was available to us from the government. The idea was to get some aid until Misty could get a job or we were back in a place where we were financially ok.

As a family of four that lives paycheck to paycheck and struggles we assumed that there must be some sort of aid available. Misty went down to apply a couple weeks ago and they scheduled an appointment for us to come back today as a couple to fill out more paperwork, answer some questions, and provide some additional information. We did so willingly in hopes of getting at least some aid. Instead I lost an hour and a half of pay, nearly the same in time wasted, and left empty handed. No food stamps, no CalWORKS, and probably not MediCal.

So why am I upset? Well for starters the woman at the department of social services told us that the first thing needed in order for someone to qualify was to make under $2200 a month. I make more than that, which she could have seen from the paystubs Misty had taken previously. So instead of just calling it a day last time, they drag me out of work and cut into my income and make me sit through this ridiculous charade that was blown out of the water from the start.

I’m also upset because while the state of California requires drivers to have car insurance they don’t recognize it as an expense when it comes time to file for aid. That is a big chunk of change for a family with two cars and yet they don’t use it as an expense.

Finally, I’m upset because the system makes no sense. I don’t know any family of 4 in California that could live on $2200 a month comfortably. Yet I know a family that is getting substantial support by the state just because they got custody of their grandson. The husband has a very hefty annual salary, the family is very well off, and they get money handed to them to aid in the expenses of housing their grandson even though they needed absolutely no assistance prior to them legally gaining custody.

Quality of Living

I make a few hundred more than the $2200 cutoff set by the government. With that said, I’ll admit that my wife and I probably don’t live the lifestyle we should. With a single income we probably shouldn’t have things like internet and cable or each have a car, we probably live in areas that are too expensive for our means, but the truth is I find these things, short of cable TV a necessity.

I’m a search marketer. If I didn’t have the internet at home, how serious would other search marketers, prospective clients, and the company I work for take me? Yeah I have the internet…at work. It just wouldn’t make sense. I need the internet for my profession and we are only paying for the basic connection so I don’t feel we are in any way enjoying luxurious internet service.

Like most Californians I commute to work. Because of this my wife needs a car to take babies to appointments, run errands, etc. On a good day I could be home in 20 minutes, but in California a good day is against traffic on a holiday. My wife is a stay at home mom with twins. If something were to happen where she had to rush one of the babies to the doctor, or emergency room she would be stranded for at least 20 minutes until I could get to them. It just doesn’t make sense not to have a second car when it comes to families working and living in California.

I don’t want to live in the ghetto. I’m sorry I just can’t bring myself to do it. Before Misty and I moved to our current apartment I considered it, but the truth is I care too much about the safety and health of my family to throw them into that kind of environment. Not to mention I get enough hard stares without living in the ghetto, the last thing I need is to increase my risks of being killed. I don’t live in some luxurious uppity area; I live comfortably in an apartment in what I would consider a middle class neighborhood.

Am I Asking Too Much?

I often wonder if I am living outside of my means. Maybe my thoughts on needing the items mentioned above for my perceived quality of life are absurd. Maybe I don’t deserve those things. Maybe I deserve nothing more than a single car, basic utilities like water and electricity, maybe I should live in a one bedroom gang and roach infested hell hole. Maybe my wife shouldn’t have the right to stay home and raise our children the way she wants to because in California that’s just not how it works. A daycare, a television, a relative, that’s what should raise my kids because that’s how everyone else does it…

Fortunately Misty has been blessed with a chance to do some work from home and will hopefully be starting in the coming weeks. This will allow her to continue being a stay at home mom and raise our children, while still contributing to the family income. While I am happy about this and very thankful for the generosity of a close friend that offered her the opportunity, I really don’t think it should have come to that.

I believe there is something wrong with the system and capitalism as a whole when I make twice that of minimum wage and I can’t afford to live a simple lifestyle. I find it even harder to accept the fact that the government thinks a California resident could house, clothe, and feed a family of four with $2200 each month.

What are your thoughts? Am I jaded and totally wrong for thinking I should be able to live this lifestyle? I’d honestly love your opinion, good or bad, and welcome your comments.

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