“I Feel Like I’m Really Not Living Life”

A minimum wage story.

With Bernard Ellouk By Bo Johnson April 2, 2015

I graduated from UW, but I live in Shoreline now, with my original roommates: my parents. I moved back after graduation. It takes me 50 minutes to get to work by bus. It’s harder coming home, where there are really only two bus options, just one of which requires less than two bus fares.  The worst part though, is going in the winter or anytime it rains, since I’m walking nearly half an hour to and from the bus.

I’ve had a lot of different minimum wage jobs. I worked at Target. I worked as a tutor, where I made over the minimum wage, but less than the new minimum wage. Now I bus tables, though I do get tips. I think people should be able to make a livable wage if they are willing to dedicate 40 hours a week to a company.  

It can be difficult to be in a minimum wage situation and try to better yourself in order to make more money. It’s too expensive to do that on your own. I couldn’t do it. I had an Adobe subscription and wanted to learn and get better at it. But it was $70 per month to rent, and that’s too expensive for me. Given how much money I make, a splurge to me is something I deem very necessary. My last spurge was a car, which took me nine months to save for, working 40 to 60 hours a week while living at home. It’s a $4,000, 1999 Toyota Camry. I needed something cheap and dependable.

I pay $220 on health insurance and about $300 a month for rent to my parents, along with food, gas, and other bills. And I feel like I’m really not living life right now because I have a hard time turning down work. But when I think about how expensive it is to live in Seattle, I realize this is the last time I really have a chance to save substantially. Because even with a job that pays $15 an hour, if you want to live in a central part of Seattle and you’re going to pay for your own health insurance and have a car, pay for gas, et cetera, you’re going to come out with just a couple hundred dollars left each month. And that’s if you’re very frugal. The moment I move out I won’t be able to save anything.

If I wasn’t single and didn’t have my parents’ help, it would feel like there is no way to live other than just working forever. I’ve come to realize that living frugally is no longer a romantic, youthful ideal. It’s an everyday reality.

As told to Bernard Ellouk

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