“I can barely afford to live,” a statement made by me that is generally dramatic, but also not entirely untrue, especially now that I have moved out on my own and have to pay rent, utilities, a car note and groceries, among other day-to-day things.
I am fortunate enough to have found a place with rent that I can generally afford and have parents that are generous enough to help me out with some expenses when I end up in a tight spot. However, moving out was not the first time that I was confronted with the concept of joining the workforce. I have been working various customer service jobs since I was about 16.
At my first ever job as a cashier, I made $7.25 an hour. At my current retail job, I make $9 an hour as a keyholder. In case you are not the best at doing mental math, that is only a $1.75 difference. While I know that the difference between four years ago and now would most likely be greater if I still worked at that same company, doing that simply was not possible.
I quit my first job because I was in high school and involved in a couple of different extracurriculars. I was working all of my free time but not making very much money, so I switched to a job that had more flexible scheduling and a higher pay, which paid $7.50 an hour.
I then quit that job for another job that offered $8 an hour, but had to quit that because my college classes didn’t work with the schedule my boss needed me to work. This forced me to get a job in Lafayette instead of my hometown, so that I could go straight from class to work.
This brings us to my current job, which thankfully has a flexible schedule. Although I’m getting paid the most I’ve ever been paid, it unfortunately is not much.
While the companies I have worked for have changed, minimum wage has not. In fact, according to the US Department of Labor, the federal minimum wage has not changed in fourteen years, after $7.25 was established in 2009.
Between 2009 and now, inflation has gone up 40.33%, and even though the general consensus is that federal minimum should now be $15, only a few states have made this change. Unfortunately, Louisiana is not one of them.
You are probably wondering, “Why don’t you just find a better job instead of complaining about how much you can’t afford?” First of all, I like complaining, thank you. Second of all, let me tell you why, unfortunately for me, that has not and can not happen.
To start, I am a full time student. I have to take about five classes a semester to graduate on time. I spend a majority of my day just on campus, and even though I do have time in between classes, it’s barely enough time to finish my homework, much less work a shift.
On top of that, I’m president of the creative writing club and work as a writer for The Vermilion. Often times, homework, club duties and The Vermilion things get put on the back burner for classwork and classwork gets put on the back burner for work.
Besides being generally unavailable to work, it’s incredibly hard to find a job that both pays well and is flexible. Trust me, I’ve tried. Multiple times. For many months. Just take my word for it, it’s hard out here. At a certain point, you lose all hope in capitalism and just give up.
While I know my financial issues are due to a multitude of things – availability, age, a general lack of nepotism – I also know that I, along with anyone else in my situation, deserves to afford to be able to live, without living paycheck to paycheck.