April Schultz and her husband make about $130,000 a year but barely have money for savings.

April Schultz and her husband struggle financially despite a $130,000 combined income.The couple, once stable with one income, now work four jobs and feel financial strain.They spend $200 a week on groceries for their family of seven and cut most subscriptions.

April Schultz, 40, and her husband Kevin, 45, bring in $130,000 a year in gross income combined between their four jobs and side gigs. Still, Schultz said it shocks her that such an income “feels like poverty.”

“With $100,000, I feel like we should be able to do a little extra with it,” Schultz said. “We should be able to have a little bit more entertainment. We should be able to shop at Costco and not worry about it.”

She said a few years ago, her husband was the sole breadwinner while she stayed home with the kids, and there were few financial worries. However, now they don’t have enough to comfortably pay for a Netflix subscription, which costs $15.49 a month for a standard subscription.

“We shouldn’t have to have four jobs in one family,” Schultz said. “I feel like that’s crazy when, in 2017, we had one income and we were doing just fine.”

Despite making much more than the federal poverty line — which is $47,340 for a family of 7 — Schultz and her husband are considered at the higher end of ALICE — or asset-limited, income-constrained, employed. This population often makes above the income limits to quality for government social benefits like food stamps but not enough to comfortably afford their daily expenses. Many are living paycheck to paycheck and are forced to cut back spending on some essentials to afford others.

“It’s hard to get in data the frustration, the stress, the ongoing day in day out, having to make some really bad choices,” Stephanie Hoopes, national director at United For ALICE, previously told BI. “Are you going to get the medicine for your kid, or are you going to have dinner tonight? Are you going to keep the electricity on? Are you going to go to childcare?”

Simpler, less expensive times

For her first two kids, finances were very tight, and they relied on assistance like Medicaid. After her husband got a government contractor job with the Department of Defense, she said finances were much more stable, even after having three more kids.

For 12 years, she was a stay-at-home mom, and she returned to work after her youngest started school in 2016. She’s held bookkeeping and secretarial jobs for the last six years while the family moved around for her husband’s job to states including California, Arizona, and Minnesota.

“We were able to make those moves on our own dime, and it was really comfortable living,” Schultz said. “We made less than we do now.”

Her husband took a second job at the airport last year, helping load and unload planes a few nights a week. Schultz took a day job at the local school, a coaching role, and she temporarily held a bookkeeping position.

In October 2023, the family sold their home in Idaho and bought a home in Mascoutah, Illinois, a small city about a half hour from St. Louis and near the Scott Air Force Base. Most residents are either in the military or are married to someone who is, she said. Still, she said the topic of affordability is a “constant conversation” in her city, as she’s noticed home prices in her area skyrocket recently.

Her husband makes slightly over $100,000 before taxes between his two jobs, while she makes around $30,000. She said that while there are job opportunities in her area, most don’t pay enough for the area’s cost of living. She’s content with her current role, which allows her to be in closer proximity to her kids.

She said some of the financial burden comes from their decision to live in Illinois instead of Missouri and to have a larger family. They pay $600 a month in property taxes in Illinois, which has the second-highest effective tax rate of any state. Still, she said the last few years have been jarringly more difficult for them.

“We can pay our bills, but there’s never anything extra,” said Schultz, noting that they don’t go out to dinner, see movies in theaters, or travel. “We’ve never been on a vacation with our family.”

Cutting back on extra costs

They cut cable and canceled subscriptions to platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix. Their cars are over 15 years old and have over 200,000 miles. While they don’t have car payments, they’re worried one of them will break down, and they won’t be able to buy another one. Additionally, they purchase clothes and furniture secondhand.

They’re both still paying off student loan debt, and they’ve been forced to use credit cards for everyday purchases, which she said they hate doing. They mostly use an all-cash system to budget every single dollar, to see what they can save for an emergency fund. However, there hasn’t been much left over, especially with rising utilities costs that are controlled by the city.

Schultz said she’s desperately trying to bring food costs for the family down to just $200 a week — less than what the USDA recommends a family of four spend for a thrifty food plan. She shops at Aldi and often watches YouTube recipes for inexpensive meals. They canceled their Costco and Sam’s Club memberships since they calculated that they would spend more there even though they would buy ingredients in bulk.

“Ever since COVID, we just never have been able to get ahead,” Schultz said. “It’s just constantly trying to struggle to get to a place where we can live without always worrying.”

A few years ago, she had a cancer scare that cost $500 to get checked out. She said she shouldn’t have to take a large amount out of her savings to make sure she’s healthy.

She said they will not budge on investing in their kids’ sports, which quickly adds up. They will always buy their kids equipment or clothes for cheerleading or choir to allow them to excel academically. However, she’s told her kids they have to get scholarships to college if they want to attend or figure out a way to pay for it themselves, as they have no way of paying for any college funds.

She’s not too worried about retirement, as her job has a mandatory 401(k), though her employers don’t put in anything beyond their requirements. Her husband will receive retirement benefits from the government, which gives them peace of mind. They both anticipate downsizing once their kids have moved out and relocating to a more rural and cheaper place.

Still, she fears they won’t be able to give their kids much down the line. She’s encouraged her kids to look for ways to make money through odd jobs, as she doesn’t give them an allowance and only buys them gifts for their birthdays and Christmas.

“Trying to think of 20 years down the road when we’ve got kids about to go to college next year, it’s kind of a ‘future us’ problem, unfortunately,” Schultz said.

Are you an ALICE struggling to make ends meet? Are you worried about retirement? Reach out to this reporter at nsheidlower@businessinsider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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