Working for Negative Income

A friend of mine at work complained that despite getting paid on Friday, she was broke on Monday. She had put aside enough money for the costs of commuting to work and groceries for her family and that was it. She could not spend another penny for two weeks. I laughed and told her that in terms of bring-home money, I brought home less every year due to the increased prices of insurance coverage which she did not have taken out of her check because she was covered under her husband’s insurance.

She told me that AFTER commuting expenses, she was bringing home about a hundred dollars per week to put toward her family’s expenses.

“Really!” I remarked. “That much, hunh? So, tell me, are you factoring in the cost of lunch at work?” School lunch prices have increased, a sore factor for me since I can usually only eat the salad and broccoli, but I keep leaving my lunch in the fridge at home in the mad dash to the door in the morning.

“Oh, CRAP! No, I didn’t even think of that!” She tapped into the calculator function on her phone again. “Okay, thanks for that. I now find that I could work at a McDonald’s closer to home one day a week and bring in the same amount.”

“Ah, the benefits of a business education. Are you counting the extra taxes we have to pay at the end of the year because, when our income is added to our husbands’ incomes, we haven’t had enough taxes taken out?”

“No, I hadn’t thought of that either!” Tap, tap, tap. “Have YOU been counting wear and tear and replacement cost on your vehicle?”

I admitted that buying new tires was the LEAST of my worries at the moment, but I had had to replace my vehicle and get one with even worse gas mileage which was all I could afford. This was a valid point. I had also not been taking everything into consideration, either.

“Are you buying a lot of convenience foods or eating out too much because you are just too exhausted to cook a real meal by the time you get home?” I asked, for she had livestock to care for, too. “How about livestock feed? If you were home, would you have more time to care for pastures and plant forage in a timely manner?”

“YES!” Tap, tap, tap. “GREAT! Now I’m bringing in negative income!”

“Always happy to be of service.” I hadn’t even talked about opportunity costs but, in this economy, maybe there are no other opportunities. OTOH, she could be planting a garden and selling the excess at the farmer’s market, cooking more healthy meals for her family, watching a couple kids per week at her house, and/or learning a new skill through online classes. Those commuting costs are going to continue* to be unbearable for folk that have low-paying jobs.

*Some folks are holding onto hope that Romney, if elected, will allow the U.S. to become energy independent, more refineries to be built, and prices will drop accordingly. We shall see. I was reading a Jesse Stone novel in which Jesse, when asked how he was feeling, said something to the effect of “Better since I’ve given up all hope.” Yep. Kinda my feelings on the matter, too.

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