Getting By in San Antonio

How far does a typical full-time job get a family in San Antonio? Can a job that pays minimum wage–or even multiple jobs–cover all of a family’s expenses? What does it look like when families work to get ahead through hard work and dedication? These are important questions to unpack when thinking about the financial situations of our neighbors, but they aren’t necessarily simple questions to answer.

We’re exploring the yearly budget of three families that represent typical working families in San Antonio that have incomes below the poverty line. Using data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, we have illustrated the unique dreams, difficulties, and sacrifices that come with having a low income in San Antonio.

United For ALICE also provides resources to understand the difficulties for families earning an income above the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford the basic essentials of a household budget. Its website provides a simulation exercise that takes you through some of the difficult decisions ALICE households make on a monthly basis.

The following families are fictional households representative of real San Antonio families.

Let’s start with Family One, a married couple in their late 20s with two young kids. The mother is the primary caregiver for their two young children, and the father works a full-time job making the average hourly wage for San Antonians, which is $23.81 per hour or about $48,000 per year.

The average expenses for a two adult and two-child household in San Antonio with one working parent are $69,514. With their income, Family One has to decide what they will cut back on to make up for that $21,000 shortfall.

They are forced to make the difficult decision not to purchase health insurance, putting them at serious financial risk if anyone in their family gets sick or injured. They have also decided to sell their car to cut out the maintenance and gas costs. The father is also considering taking on a part-time job in the evenings to make up for the shortfall in income, meaning there is even less time to spend with his family or focus on his wellbeing.

Another married couple with two children, Family Two’s parents are both in their early 30s, and each work two part-time, minimum wage jobs at local businesses around San Antonio. At $7.25 an hour, even with both working 60 hours per week, the parents make about $45,000 per year combined. However, unlike Family One, Family Two also have to pay for childcare, so their annual expenses are about $87,176 before taxes.

The mother would like to go back to school and finish her accounting degree to provide a more stable income for her family. The father would like to start his own business as a restaurant owner to share his culture and passion for food with his community.

This requires the couple to put their dreams on hold and make difficult choices. They decide to move in with family members to lower their housing and childcare costs, struggling to choose which bills to pay each month and which to fall behind on. They also make the difficult decision to repair their car instead of buying textbooks for Mrs. Jackson’s next semester—not having enough money to pay for both.

Finally, meet Family Three. Family Three is a single mother of a teenage daughter. As a bank teller, the mother makes $30 an hour, or about $62,500 a year.

The mother wants to save for her daughter’s college tuition and support her father, who is chronically ill and elderly. However, her basic annual expenses for her and her daughter are $62,069, leaving her with little extra each month after paying for essential bills.

To cover her father’s medical needs, the mother is considering a payday loan, and she’s not sure she can afford to save for her daughter’s tuition.

Families have a wide variety of expenses—from basic necessities like food and housing to everyday essentials like cell phone and internet bills and transportation, and unexpected costs like medical bills and car maintenance. The average income in San Antonio does not cover these essential needs and minimum wage comes nowhere close. This forces families into tough situations to make sure their loved ones have what they need—like turning to credit card debt or quick cash loans to pay for basic needs or avoiding going to the doctor because they can’t afford health insurance and can’t pay out of pocket.

Families deserve the autonomy to make the economic decisions for themselves, but that simply isn’t a possibility for many San Antonio residents. With extra cash on hand, families are able to pay for essentials, build their businesses, pay for college courses, and save for a rainy day, and we trust them to do so.

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