Cost of Living Vs. Salary

Updated on August 16, 2012
E.S. asks from Hackettstown, NJ
19 answers

Today I signed up with a temp agency. This was of no surprise, but I was told to lower my hourly rate. I did the math and if I do land a job, I will almost halve my previous salary, which was not high to begin with.

The thing is, I have to land a job, and with this new lower rate, I will probably have to work two to make ends meet!

I've come to the conclusion that no matter how simple one lives, how many coupons ones clips, how many "expert" books one reads, the new reality is lower pay and higher cost of living.

Luckily, we have no major debt and are able to pay our bills, while I search for a job and remain on UE.

So I hope to teach my daughter, that simple living is good living, even if it means no vacations or extravaganzas. It's really not that bad.

Does anyone else feel this way?

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So What Happened?

@Stacy: I come from publishing and I certainly was not overpaid. Believe me!!! I actually don't think the government is solely to blame. I believe employers are taking advantage of the recession by underpaying and understaffing while their CEOs eat off marble floors :-)

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answers from Columbia on

When I got sober, nobody would hire me.

I took a job as a secretary, and I was humbled, honored and very thankful.

I have two graduate degrees.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

On one hand I do, on the other I don't. I look at houses that used to be considered "middle class" and they were small! People had small bathrooms and 1 family shared it... They didn't have 3 tv sets or 3 cars. So sometimes I think everyone has gotten used to thinking of some things as necessities that people years ago didn't. I read somewhere that people used to aspire to be middle class. Then TV shows started showing what's really upper middle class so that's what now everyone thinks is "normal" and necessary. I'm guilty too. I try to remind myself what really is a necessity vs a more upscale "desire."

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from San Francisco on

Here's something you need to know about temp agencies. (I did an internship with one in college - very eye-opening.) They get a set rate from their client. Let's say Joe's Business calls Temp Agency and says, "I need an Administrative Assistant for 3 months." The recruiter at Temp Agency says, "Well, Joe, we take great care of our happy temps, provide them with benefits, etc etc, and so our hourly rate will be $35." And Joe says, "Great, Temp Agency, I need someone here tomorrow morning!"

Meanwhile, Recruiter calls you and says, "ES, your hourly rate of $15 is way too high. You have to work for $10/hour if you hope to get any work!" - Keep in mind that this whole time, he KNOWS he's getting paid $35/hour for the job he's sending you to! His goal is to get you to accept the lowest possible rate in order to maximize his profit. Just because he suggests that you take $10/hr doesn't mean that you have to, or that you should. If $15/hr is your bottom line, stick to it. There's no benefit in accepting a job at well below market value - you devalue your own skills in participating in this "race to the bottom" salary-wise.

The other downside to accepting a temp job at well below the going rate is that if the employer wants to hire you on permanently, guess what your starting rate would be? Yep, the rate he knows you're willing to work for. You're better off sticking to your guns. Resist the temptation to think you won't get the job because you cost $2/hr more than the next person. Employers want the best employee, not necessarily the cheapest one. Hang in there...

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I feel that we should be rioting in the streets to protest this all too common atrocity. Not kidding. CEOs now make 380 times what their average worker makes:

In 1980, CEOs made 42 times what their average worker made.

And, we're just supposed to adjust to "lower pay and higher cost of living" and teach our kids that this is the new normal?? We should be clamoring for livable wages, not minimum wage but livable wages for our work.

And voting, of course.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

The new reality is temp agencies creating a pool of almost slave labor.

I hope that one day we all decide to demand reasonable wages for reasonable hours. Until then, I suspect it will just get worse.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I blame greedy CEOs. Recently, my employer was thisclose to offering an IPO. Of course, they HAD to reveal all of their financials & the peons, like me, were forced to see where most of the payroll was going. It was disgusting, honestly.

I am not saying that CEOs haven't worked hard, or that they don't deserve to be well compensated, but this was ridiculous. When you see that the company has covered PERSONAL expenses & that these people will still receive a paycheck even when they leave the company, it's pretty maddening.

I think that blaming Obama is the easy scapegoat. I am not his biggest fan, but I don't think he's the one that created the mess and there's no way he could've fixed it in 4 years. I think the current state of the economy is a culmination of several factors.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

My husband got laid off just 4 days into January. I swear he put more hours into looking for a new job than he ever had to put into any of his paying jobs. Things he was finding were half, or sometimes even less than he was making at the job he got laid off and would often require us to relocate to the other side of the US on our own dime. He finally found a new job after almost 7 months of unemployment and it was still a 10% pay cut. At least it didn't require us to relocate at all which is good seeing as our house we bought almost 10 years ago is now worth less then we bought it for (so far not worth less then the mortgage at least!).
Thankfully, even with the pay cut, we make enough that we do not have to live off of nothing and I am able to continue to stay home with the children and home school them. I am grateful for that every day! But, no matter what my husband did or how much anyone liked him they still could not pony up the cash and he still ended up with a paycut.
It is sad that minimum wage isn't even enough to survive off of. Companies don't feel like they need to offer a competitive wage because they know that if you don't like it they have 100 others salivating and willing to jump on the job if you pass it up. They know they have the market cornered. Why offer more than they have to? That cuts into their profits and their shareholders can't be inconvienced and loose that money.
Can you tell I'm a little bitter? ;) But I am grateful that it wasn't worse and I wish everyone else still in the situation we were in all the best and hope they find employement soon.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

Hey 8kidsdad - I WISH that butcher was making $30 an hour making boneless chicken breasts. There's that attitude you've rightly identified creeping in.... $30 an hour would mean one person is making a comfortable living wage - something I'll happily support. The reality is the money goes back to the chain grocery store upper management and not the butchers - unless you actually shop at a local butcher (you should). We need to vote with our dollar in this economy and support REAL JOBS and not upper management a$$holes and shareholders. Money is quickly being funneled to the top in this economy. Some people are benefitting off the backs of the middle class. It will only get worse if certain candidates have their way with tax breaks for the wealthy and tax increases for the rest of us.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

My husband is in 100% commission only sales for the same company for the last 13 years. Over the last 4 years since the crappy economy hit, he's down about 50k per year. We have ZERO debt *except* for a huge IRS payment. In trying to even make the payments and keep our businesses running, we have cut back but still live comfortably. My van is an 2001 and my hubs suv is a 2004. So we are sacraficing now to try to get by. Its hard but many more people are worse off than us. I buy used everything, find stuff on clearance and buy only on sale but we are managing. In fact, for dinner tonight the store had lobster cakes on clearance, they were 9.99 marked down to 2.99 so that's what we are having for dinner. I think its a way of life you choose. I'm SO thankful we don't have credit cards and crazy debt hanging over our heads. The taxes are enough but so many people owe so much. We are trying to teach our kids to earn and spend wisely. Its really a sign of the times. Good luck job hunting!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My husband was out of work for 5 months in 2010 and we did go into debt because of it. Unfortunately, but our credit was not hurt so I guess it is what it is. We are digging out still, but we also vacation so that doesn't help with digging out. Next year I need to buckle down.

Anywho, he got a job over 2 hours away making more money, but with the commute and all, it evens out. We had to buy a 3rd vehicle, so that money is really lost. That company lost the contract after a year and he was picked up by the next company, but they gave him a lower salary. His contract is up again next month, and if his company doesn't win, we do expect him to be picked up...BUT it may come with another cut. I didn't get a raise this year either. So it all hurts. I think the Government is very much to blame for this. There is no reason it should take this long to fix the problems that got us here.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Its the law of supply and demand. We have 8+% drawing unemployment in the US. And depending on which economist you listen to there is another 8% to 10% that have just given up and either "retired" or are moved in with someone (parent, grandparent, etc). That's 16% to 18% unemployed or under employed.

Employers have so many applicants for just about any job that they have lowered the wages they are willing to pay. Where they used to have to pay $50 k for any college grad, they now pay $35K for someone with a Masters Degree. Where I work, put out ads for a secretary. In the past we may have had 10 to 15 applicants. This time we had over 200 and the deadline hadn't passed yet.

The worst part of it is that people are now thinking this is the new normal. It affects their mind and attitude. America has had recessions before. But this is the worst managed recession/depression we have had and it may even include the Great Depression. (Thank you Mr Obama!)

Simple living is great! If you can survive the hard times, you can save and have fun during the good times. Grow a garden. Don't buy premade frozen dinners or desserts. We gave up ice cream, sodas, "fancy drinks" and bottled water. You can cook better yourself. I buy chicken breasts when they are on a real good sale and never buy boneless skinless chicken breasts. (You pay a butcher $30+ hr to cut out the bone.) See for easy meals and instructions.

Good luck to you and yours.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Absolutely! In fact, I just had a discussion last week with my GD who was talking about getting a job where she can make a lot of money. I took the opportunity to point out to her that money is necessary, but it's not the most important thing. I told her the most important thing is that she live a good life. That she be kind, and generous, law-abiding, and happy. I told her that these things are more important in the long run than money.

She got quiet after that - I hope she was considering what I had said.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Madison on

Im my husbands contract it specifically say's that the employer does not believe or do "cost of living raises" it's been 3 years and nothing...not expecting anything anytime soon either :(

The economy sucks!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My husband hasn't had a raise in 4 years -- but the cost of everything has continued to rise (including his heath insurance)... but I consider us lucky that he has a job when so many others are suffering through layoffs.

We've managed somehow, but I've always been thrifty (my hubs calls me cheap) by not eating out, combining errands to once a week to save on gas and shopping at thrift stores more often.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

It sucks! It's basic supply and demand. Good for you for living within your means and trying to get off UE--even if it means a lower paying job!! You are a responsible person--I wish more people were like you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

We should have been out of this recession already. I blame Obama and his shady administration. We need a real man with job creating skills in there who won't pander to people who want government in their lives, not a community organizer from Crooked Chicago. Move over government, hello JOBS.

Huffington post 8/8/2012:

Black unemployment rate 15%
Hispanic rate 11%
National average 8.7%
underemployed national average 16.6%

These numbers are from a left wing source, so I bet that the rates are higher.

Living below your means is always a good idea. I grew up very poor, so I have this mindset already. Best of luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Congratulations! You have the secret to a happy life. You choose to have one. Yes, I know that's an oversimplification, but I really think your decision to live within your means, gratefully, is wonderful. We have lived through a layoff (previous recession) and it reinforced our bent to live simply, enjoy the moment, be grateful for the housing, food, family and friends we have.

Times are better now for us, and we live the same simple way, tiny house, tiny needs, save a cushion and donate the rest. We also volunteer to elect folks who work to make good paying jobs available. All my best.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I agree with you 100%. I worked for a company for 12 years, then got downsized in April of 2011. In my field, the current rates are anywhere from $10-$15 per hour. I was making about $25.
My husband has also been laid off due to lack of work so he is also collecting unemployment.
I still haven't found anything yet and my unemployment is running out next month. We are losing our home and have to move in with family in another state. And we are definitely not living out of our means. It's also sad that we do not qualify for any type of assistance.

Good luck in you job search and I hope everything works out for you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I need a little bit more information. I have been a recruiter for agencies and I will say that sometimes people are overpaid to begin with in regards to their education, skill set and experience.

What type of position are you looking for?

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