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Your family and finances while living on minimum wage

11:14 AM, Feb 19, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Seven dollars and seventy nine cents an hour. Could you live on that? Could you support yourself your family?

Many First Coast and Florida families are making life work, sometimes desperately, on minimum wage. On Your Side reporter David Williams is changing his life to do it for one week. He introduced us to one family that is fighting and climbing their way out.

Caridad Gato Klar of Jacksonville absolutely loves to cook. It's been in her blood for decades. She works as an executive chef at an area retirement home.

"I don't get to cook as much as I really enjoy," Klar said. "You're more of a teacher."

At home, she teaches her children the value of family and of work.

RELATED: Learn more about how to Rise Above the Wage

"I teach my children, you have to have faith in something or someone," she said. "My faith is in God."

Faith helps the mother of four and grandmother support two children. They are 17 and 15. Her eldest serves in the Navy and has his own family.

"It's very hard," she explained. "It's very, very hard."

Klar's family is not alone.

"You have a lot of families who were previously financially stable or secure, who are now living in a very tight fiscal climate right now," said Jeff Winkler, Director of the United Way's RealSense initiative.

Now, it's Williams' turn to experience what that's like. At $7.79 an hour, working 40 hours this week, will he will earn $311 before taxes. He will take home roughly $256.

"I have to make some drastic changes to truly stay on budget," Williams said. "I'm going without for 1 week. I know it's not close to what many families do every day."

Williams went on to say "I can at least get a sense of the struggle and the challenge."

Williams immediately downsizes. His 50" television goes dark and he turns his thermostat up to a constant 75 degrees, which is up from 68 degrees to save money.

Williams said his last electric bill was $100.

As for other creature comforts, its adios for the week.

"I hate to say it, David, but your Netflix and cable, that's gonna have to go," Winkler said.

Williams' cell phone use gets severely reduced on a normal billing cycle that costs him $75 monthly. Williams can keep his car. But he will be taking the bus at least once.

"You may have to cut back on how much you eat out," Winkler said.

Inside Williams' home, we look inside the refrigerator. One hundred dollars is what he is able to spend on food this week.

He spends all of that to stock up on cheap but healthy meats and vegetables. He said he is going to cook just about everything he prepares.

Back downtown, Winkler said minimum wage is much lower than a sustainable wage.

"For a family of 3, a sustainable wage is $24/hour," he said.

Klar doesn't earn nearly that much.

"I'm going to have to get a part time job just to make ends meet," she said.

To help those ends meet, Winkler said budgeting is key.

"Anywhere from $500 to 3 months salary is what we recommend for an emergency savings account," Winkler explained.

Klar and her family live on similar sacrifices.

"We've had to give up a lot of stuff." One of the things ... TV. I'm sorry, I don't care for TV," she said.

She makes a home menu among other cost cutting.

"Keep the lights off. Don't run the water in a way that the bills go up," she said as she walked through what she does to save money.

What is going up is Klar's will to rise above their circumstances.

"If you want to get out of the ditch, you need someone to pull you up," she said.

First Coast News

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