“One of my daughters really needs to go to the dentist for some tooth decay, but we just can’t afford it. It breaks my heart.”
When my husband was in the army, finances were sometimes tight but at least we always knew that we’d have enough food on the table for our four growing children. Now that my husband is retired from that position due to a disability, we can barely make it from one month to the next.
I have an associate’s degree, I’m a certified dental assistant, and I’m licensed in cosmetology. But none of those have been able to provide the wages that we need for our family. When I went to school to get my dental assistant’s certificate, I was told that the average wage for graduates in my area was $11 to $13 per hour, but I could never find a job that paid anywhere near that. So, for now, I work part-time at a beauty salon, where I earn $8 per hour. I am finally in the last quarter of a bachelor’s degree program.
Right now, our income consists of my part-time job, my husband’s retirement pay — and whatever money we can get from his student loans now that he is back in school. With three daughters ages 7, 13, and 14 and a 19-year-old son, that really doesn’t go very far.
Rent is about $2,100 per month, plus another $300-$400 for utilities. When my husband first had to leave the army, we maxed out our credit cards and took out a payday loan, so we have those bills to pay each month, too. The rest of our budget each month goes directly to clothes, food, gas, and school expenses. We have no savings and pray every day that we won’t have any emergencies to finance.
All in all, we can only afford to spend about $300 on food per month. Even then, some months we end up having to visit a food bank to make it through until next payday.
I just wish that I made enough money to let my girls enroll in gymnastics or girl scouts. I would love to be able to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, like the bananas that my family loves so much, but at $0.59 per pound it’s not possible. It may not sound like a lot of money to some, but it adds up when trying to provide enough for six people.
We’re lucky to have health insurance through the military, but unfortunately that doesn’t cover dental. One of my daughters really needs to go to the dentist for some tooth decay, but we just can’t afford it. It breaks my heart.
For now, we scrimp and save as much as we can, buying clothes from Goodwill or yard sales and always looking for sales at the grocery store to get the most for our money. People look at us and don’t necessarily think we’re poor, but that’s because of the hard work I do to stretch our money as far as possible, and the things we sacrifice, like activities for the kids and healthier food. I know that if I worked full-time we’d have more money, but we would end up having to hire someone to take care of them when my husband and son aren’t available, so it doesn’t seem like a worthwhile tradeoff.