How I Am Living Off $15 An Hour

College is supposed to provide you the training and tools to get a good paying job with benefits. But I ended up living off of $15 dollars an hour… And even $14 an hour!

That was not the case for me. A series of choices and event led me to working for $15 and even $14 an hour in Boston, MA. One of the most expensive cities in America.

Let’s go back in time to when I was graduating college…

I graduated from a small college in Boston with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Business Management and a minor in Fine Arts after chickening out on a scholarship from a Fine Arts school. There were two internships during that time (one paid and one unpaid) that I thought would give me the experience I needed to find a good paying job relatively quickly. I chose to go down the Finance route since I had the mentality of “work hard and then enjoy life”. BOY WAS I WRONG.

After a job in accounts payable that I got through a recruiter (that’s another story), I ended up working a temp to perm job at a big bank doing Fund Accounting. Though the word “fun” is in “Fund Accounting”, it was not fun making $15 an hour. My boss was generous with over time and letting me leave early but when I was paying $775 without ulitities included, money was literally being flushed down the gutters and even dragging with it my credit.

Let’s do the math here:

$15 an hour X 40 hours a week (give or take) = $600 a week or $2,400 a month

Then theres taxes:

When you consider taxes, medicare, social security, and federal taxes it looked more like $530 a week or $2,120 a month.

THEN there’s your liabilities:

Utilities (let’s give the average of my last apartment) $50, Public Transportation $86, Groceries $400 per month (Boston is not a place to go cheap grocery shopping) then you get a grand total of ($2,120 – $536) $1,584. Cannot forget about rent ($1,584 – $775 = $809)But that doesn’t include emergencies, uber trips, clothing, eating out (because in finance you have no time to cook). I was lucky to have $300 in my bank account. But I made it somehow.

But that’s not what I really made:

Most employees who work around the minimum wage zone are hourly, temporary, or part time employees. These employees, myself included do not have any paid time off. When I have a sick down, a death in the family, or need some TLC time off I don’t get paid. Christmas is always a hard time since there’s so many days off, so is Thanksgiving. In actually that $300 was usually a -30 in my bank account.

 

$15 an hour

And then I did it all over again when I wanted to switch my career…

I was working a Hedge Fund Accounting job (paid well but the hours were insane) and decided that my time, family, and love of creativity was more important.

It was not fun or easy. I’m still at my $15 an hour temp job but it will be ending soon. But it gave me some serious incite:

No one with a family could do this.

I could barely survive on $15 an hour, let alone $14 an hour! Imagine having a family and working full time?

Sometimes you have to sacrifice.

I would sometimes have to say to myself: am I going to make sandwiches this week or eat ramen noodles so I can buy a monthly public transportation pass? It was hard and certainly wasn’t easy on my stomach constantly eating ramen noodles and fast food.

Budget, budget, budget.

I made a monthly budget of what I think I was going to make with subtracting for my utilities, rent, groceries and if I had money, fun stuff on the side. A budget helps keep you grounded in terms of cash instead of adding to that credit card debt you haven’t check on in 3 months.

I am scared and excited for my next journey in my career. You can read all about my life updates and the fun things I have planned in the future. I hope this gives some hope to others who are in the same position as me and some incite for those who were never in a dire money situation.

Until next time,

Nicole

 

 

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