CityBeat’s Living Out Loud – Cincinnati Blog

{October 16, 2006}   Living Paycheck to Paycheck

money_block.jpgdiner.jpgI work and live in The Hood – you know, O-T-R but we don’t call it that here.

I work in a diner, get up early and I’m on my feet until about three o’clock most days waiting on tables. Sometimes I change shifts with another girl.

We both don’t get paid until Friday, get paid biweekly. That kind of sucks when you work for very little money plus tips.

I have dreams, would like to be a real writer someday, go back to college, earn real money and live in a place that has heat in the winter and also hot water. I don’t get much of that where I am.

What I get is living paycheck to paycheck.

I won’t smoke much this week – can’t afford to buy another pack. Ramen Noodle Soup will be my dinner most nights. No diet pop for me, water will have to do.

I don’t want to complain. I gotta job, a lot of people around me don’t including my two sisters who I can’t help much, because I can hardly help myself.

Living paycheck to paycheck makes it hard to have those dreams but sometimes I think those dreams are the only thing I’m holding on to.

Karen @ The Hood


kathy says:

thanks for the post, karen. I usually view myself as one paycheck away from being homeless. I can relate.

Jim says:

Keeping waiting on those tables and hold on to your dreams. You sound like you’re young, Karen. I know things will get better for you. Hang in there!

Polly says:

There isn’t a person I know who isn’t living paycheck to paycheck including myself. I guess that’s kind of sad, but at least you’re not alone.

Sister says:

I’m with ya, know what you’re talking about. I’m in the same boat and it’s full of holes.

Biscuit says:

Paycheck to paycheck definately sucks.

Not to mention the fear of losing your job. Walking on eggshells when your boss is in a bad mood because he decides if you pay rent or not.
The plus side to that is you don’t drink sodas and you lessen or quit the smoking and you cancel the cable.

I was always amazed at the folks who were also paycheck to paycheck with cable TV, bags of junkfood, and cigarettes. Seems like a waste of money when you are just getting by.

Jack says:

With Bush has president, I think we’ll continue living paycheck to paycheck. He doesn’t care about the working people or the middle class.

Jill says:

Yep, sucks out loud, never enough money.

betty says:

We’re on the same page, sweetheart 🙂

Clare says:


When I find out a way to get ahead, I’ll share that info with you. I hope you’ll do the same for me.

Jack says:

Misery loves company I guess. I’m always a day late and a dollar short!

Marilyn says:

Aw damn, the working poor. I’ve been there, I may be there again. My disability income people are going to force me off the “dole” soon (see, I haven’t lost enough of my leg to qualify for permanent disability)…

I remember walking through a Kroger superstore with $7, trying to decide what food I could buy that would last til payday. I decided on generic soups and saltines. This was for my daughter and I.

But still… being poor and happy was infinitely better than “making it” and being unhappy.

We are losing the middle class. Soon there will only be the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. This is some serious scary stuff.

Marilyn says:

PS, Karen. Thanks for writing this.

Heather says:

I guess I’m better off now than I’ve been in the past, but I’m still living paycheck to paycheck and getting behind on bills. I feel like I’m clawing my way upward, but I have yet to free myself from the quicksand.

For one thing, the more money we make, the more taxes we pay. When my husband has a really good week at work, almost half of his check will be gone for taxes. Almost half! But Bush gives tons of tax cuts to rich people and to corporations. We are supposed to believe that these rich people reinvest these lost tax dollars into the economy, but we all know that they reinvest the money into their own pockets. Not to mention all the scams they pull to get out of paying taxes whenever they can.

Then people have the nerve to gripe about welfare, but no one even realizes that the government spends more money bailing corporations out of bankruptcy than helping needy families. People worry that poor people will learn to depend on welfare, but no one worries that corporations will learn to depend on corporate welfare.

I don’t mind paying taxes for roads, schools, or to help out struggling families, but I do mind when half of my husband’s check is gone, I can’t pay the rent, and corporations are paying fewer taxes than ever before.

Did you know that when income tax first started in this country, it was ONLY a tax for the RICH? What the hell happened?

Greg says:

Bush and the so called goverment don’t care about needy families and we got two more years of this jackass.

Biscuit says:

Gosh I wonder what LOL girl and Jeff think about this topic.

Heather says:

LOL girl would say, “I file my taxes naked.”

and Jeff would say, “You can file my taxes anytime!”

Heather says:

Actually, I think that formula would work with any topic:

LOL Girl says: “_____.”

Jef says: “You can _____ my _____ anytime!”

Marilyn says:

*snark* Heather, that’s kinda funny!

C.A. MacConnell says:

Karen. You already are a real writer. absolutely. A post from the gut. Get it. Christine.

Karen @ the hood says:

Thanks, CA, you always cheer me up.

And to all, thanks for your comments. I know I’m not LOL Girl, but I appreciate your taking the time to write.

Denise says:

I know what Karen is talking about. I’ve been in the same job for five years, keep getting more duties put on me so I’m working for less money.

I keep hearing how good the economy is but that can’t be the case here in Cincinnati. I’ve been working for another job for the past six months and can’t find anything.

Rick says:

“I know I’m not LOL Girl,”


A lot of us are so glad you’re not.

Heather says:


They say the economy is good, and throw some numbers at us to prove it, but it’s all tricky math.

For instance, they say unemployment is down, but the fact is that once a person is unemployed for a certain amount of time, they no longer count that person in the total. Also, if someone has a degree in engineering, and is unemployed because there are no engineering jobs, that person also is not counted in the “unemployed” category because they could be employed, but they refuse to work at McDonald’s, which makes their predicament “voluntary.”

Fuzzy-wuzzy math didn’t start with Bush. Who was it that said, “There are 3 kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.”?

Anyway, if what they tell you doesn’t feel right in your gut, always trust your gut!

Denise says:

Thanks Heather. I didn’t know any of this.

Marilyn says:

Heather and all: They talk about more people being employed. What they don’t tell you is the jobs that are newly created are minimum wage jobs that offers a below poverty standard of living.

My daughter is a prime example. She works washing dishes. They give her just under 40 hours (no benefits need be paid, see). She works hard. Whenever I stop in to see her, her boss grabs me to tell me what a great worker my daughter is. All lovely and stuff, except that SHE CAN’T LIVE ON HER WAGES ALONE!

Daughter’s boyfriend has a similar paying job — he works in an auto parts store. He, too, is just under 40 hours (again, no health benefits or 401-K).

Argh, you guys got me started on this rant! Damned if I have any answers. This is why I wrote earlier that the middle class that I grew up with (as a baby boomer) is waning. Soon, there will only remain the working poor and the stinking rich.

Sad and it pisses me off.

Matt says:

I’ve been “getting by” for like ten years now. I’m never gonna be a fatcat with lots of money. Know what? That suits me just fine. At least I can sleep at night.

Sister says:

WHAT YOU SAID, Marilyn, dead on right. I’m pissed off too and 2 more years of Bush ain’t gonna help anything. Mr. big oil man can kiss my ass.

Jim Stanton says:


Your post was so heart – felt. Like CA says, You are already a writer. Maybe you just don’t know it.

Heather says:

Yes Karen, but the bad news is that being a writer doesn’t pay well!

Marilyn says:

Matt, I agree… I’ll never be rich, probably never even “comfortable”. But at least I’ll go to my grave knowing I didn’t screw anyone over to “get ahead”.

Sister, what can we do?! I’m a flaming anti-Bush-ite… and that goes for his father and his political party…

VOTE in November. It could make a difference. Especially if we all get out there and make ourselves heard.

Heather and Karen: Yes, Karen @ the Hood, you are a writer. Keep doing it. Make yourself heard. Feel your life as you go through it. And write what you feel.

Damn, some might think I’m full of wisdom tonite — maybe I’m just full of shit. I’m just old and I’ve seen a lot.

Karen says:


I just always LOVE what you have to say. I wish you would write another post 🙂

Marilyn says:

Karen, sincere thanks for the kudos! I’m kicking around a couple of ideas, and Larry is pretty generous to give us this outlet (ain’t he sweet? Shut up Numb!).

I’ll look forward to your next offering.

I’m not good with fiction (I sure wish I were!), but I’ve been through a lot of personal epiphanies and these things move me to write.

Heart felt stuff. I guess I can say I know the story from both sides now. Knowledge is scary. Life is hard. I’m afraid to say I’m not check to check anymore, but I’m not. It’s not wages that pulled me out of it. It’s putting it together. Partly family help, partly work (and lots of education) and partly disability. I’ve seen some real low places. I’ve given up smokes and drinks. I remember check to check once a month when foodstamps, subsidized housing, and welfare with a real good meaningful volunteer job were a serious step up from the sanitarium. The system is strange. My sense is I’ve suffered and learned. But, hell, writing and teaching writing are hard paths to stick to. I write about the madness I’ve experienced and of those around me. There is so much hardship. Larry’s efforts to share the voices of this group of bloggers and other Cincinnati writers is a blessing. I know sometimes for a moment I forget where I’ve been. It’s hard to push students when they don’t work hard. I remember learning that a job is a privilege in this society. Not an easy lesson. What angers me most about Bush and the Republican position is the lack of compassion, the interest in putting people with less in harm’s way, and the frightening arrogance about what is called “freedom.”

I’ve been writing for a long time. And what a writer wants most is readers. The real fear is censorship in its many forms. Having a bit of financial stability is helpful. It’s real helpful in keeping fears away. But, I’ve also been locked up tight when I had plenty of money and credit cards, too. I believe in this group of bloggers. Most of my scars are hidden inside. I have a lot to say. Man, do I believe that the state should give more to the poor, working, and artsy. (Is that wrong?) I think many artists do more for peace and social justice than the politicians ever could. Poets speak out and the people hear voices of hope. Give voice to those who struggle. God yes.

Heather says:

Right on, Steven.

Once, when Larry was getting all Thoreau on me for wanting to make money writing, I told him that if I were ever homeless, I would be scratching poems into the the sidewalk with a rock.

Writing is a higher calling, and it moves inside of you no matter what is going on outside. Still, I’m trying to find a way to make a living at it, because it’s the only thing I want to do.

And yes, it’s very important to society. Hell, it IS society. Our words outlive us when we write them down.

That’s the one thing Socrates had wrong; he was no fan of the written word. Fortunately, Plato understood the importance of writing, or else we would never have known either of them.

William says:

I can definitely relate. I know the feeling of having to stretch the paycheck to buy food, pay rent, the phone(which I hate) and other needs.

On the surface, people think I make great money where I work, but I am the lowest paid on the totem pole, and some times I wish I could spin the wheel, solve the puzzle, and use my winnings to pay off some bills and get the hell out of Hamilton County!

Dreams are what sustain us, Karen. God has something else for you, just hold on my “hood sista” Each table you wait on is one more step towards becoming the Karen you have always envisioned. All the best…

Well, now I’m probably going to piss someone off, but I have to say it.

I, personally, do not think it’s wise to wait for God to make your dreams comes true. The only person who can make your dreams come true is you, and the only way to get what you want is to go get it.

Life is too short as it is. Dreams and hope aren’t things to hold on to, they’re things to chase down and catch. When you fall on your face, get up and start over. In the end, no matter where you end up, at least you went somewhere and had some adventures along the way.

Marilyn says:

Well said, Steven.

Heather, I get what you are saying. While I believe there is something “beyond”, I don’t think that God is looking in on us or even helping us through this life.

It IS up to each of us to learn the lessons we are here to learn. Where we’ll take them ultimately? Who knows. I just know that I’m going to try and do the best I can in each moment and hope it is all good — or at least doing no harm.

And that was my moment of Zen. (Apologies to Jon Stewart!)

Karen @ the hood says:


Thank you so much. As to Heather, I am trying!

numb says:

listen to heather, karen. let her make you feel like shit. or not.

Heather says:

Why would what I said make Karen feel bad?

Karen is writing! She’s not waiting around for a god to magically fix her problems. Waiting on tables, yes, but we all have to do what we can to get by.

My words were meant to be encouragement, not a put down. I was contradicting William’s advice, which was well-intentioned, but in my opinion, not correct.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

et cetera
%d bloggers like this: