How to live on $15/hour in Austin

When University of Texas student Ben Patterson graduates this spring, he will join the large but (hopefully) shrinking group of Austinites making $15 an hour at their main job.

Once the “livable” salary thousands fought for across the country pay the national minimum wageLiving on $15 an hour is a nearly insurmountable task in many urban metro areas today, including Austin’s booming tech hub, where the The median house price rose to over $600,000 March.

Charles Mitchell, the owner capital budgeting strategiesShe knows all too well the dangers of recent college graduates. He’s worked with clients as little as $67 and says living alone is doable — if you’re willing to sacrifice some luxury or time.

Here’s the key to budgeting that $15/hour Austin income, according to Mitchell:

Find your hidden living gem

Aside from paying off debt early, avoiding high-interest borrowing like payday loans and not having some luxuries in life, Mitchell told Austria the key is finding cheap housing.

Affordable housing may seem like an element of the old Austin legend, and it would be difficult to find housing within Mitchell’s ideal range — housing that costs less than 28% of your monthly budget. For a full-time employee earning $15 an hour, that income works out to $2,217 per month.

That means $620 rent per month. Choices may be few – only two complexes in Austin offer four-bedroom apartments in this area– but with enough roommates, certain specials and the help of apartment seekers, it is still very nearly possible within the city.

The more likely scenario, like Patterson’s, might be to find other budget areas to cut. Mitchell recommends forgoing luxuries like paying for nicer cars and forgoing savings when needed.

“I’ll be more or less able to prioritize paying X amounts of rent each month,” Patterson said. “I try to be careful not to just overspend or be impulsive with spending habits… just knowing that I’ll have to spend an extra $1,000 every month for the next few months just to live.”

But $15 an hour may not even be enough for Austin homeowners anymore. Fae, an Amazon and Whole Foods employee who uses a pseudonym because she opposes the Company media policyShe’s owned a home in Pflugerville for 20 years, at the time it was worth half what it is today.

But like virtually everyone else she knows, Fae has taken on multiple part-time jobs to make a living in her town.

Get a side hustle

Fae recently had a bittersweet celebration when her hourly wage increased to $15.25 — an increase of 25 cents after three years with the company. Wages like theirs give Austin Amazon workers an average wage of just over $31,000 — less than half the average wage at Google, Meta, and Apple.

“Even full-time employees don’t matter, they can’t rely on Amazon as a living job,” Fae told Austria. “Everyone I know has a part-time job.”

Before he even starts his own business, Patterson is preparing to work extra hours for a second income that will combine with his hours at his current job at Austin FC’s Q2 Stadium without draining his energy into the ground.

A side job can be important for paying off loans early and saving for retirement (Mitchell recommends a high-yield IRA), but it doesn’t have to be too taxing: Mitchell said everything from picking up food delivery shifts to going to a flea market could revitalize your budget .

Find a sustainable employer

Patterson didn’t take his current job for the money – instead he’s hoping his current showing at the stadium could lead to his breakthrough in the sports industry.

Accepting a job with clear upward mobility is key, Mitchell says, and bonuses like matching 401(k) plans or other perks are a big plus. If your job doesn’t offer either and still underpays, it may be time to move to a more sustainable job.

Mitchell said many people are not being taught the basic financial skills they need to make a living in Austin and many others are never made aware of the job opportunities available. While Austin hasn’t received much praise for its affordability in recent months, it does boast a growing job market created more than 58,000 additional jobs from February 2020 to February 2022.

If your debt is low and you have extra time, it’s always a good idea to invest in a marketable skill online or at a local community college. And while it may not be as desirable, some restaurants and entry-level positions, including McDonald’s, have done so increased starting salary to over $15 an hour for some positions.

stay or go

Despite these tips, both Fae and Patterson agree that their current salary in Austin is barely feasible.

“The way rents and housing are getting more and more expensive… I don’t think that’s sustainable,” Patterson said. “Even today, it’s more of a peripheral area with people still making ends meet.” Patterson says he wonders if he made the right decision to stay in the capital at what looks like the most expensive time yet .

“Probably not a week goes by that I don’t doubt whether I made the right decision,” Patterson said. “But I’m also pretty confident, just knowing myself as a person, that I’ll be able to … work it out and find a way to make things work.”

Fae plans to stay too, although other Austinites she knows could be displaced as she collects workplace horror stories — and unaffordable wages — at Amazon before launching her homemade skincare product line.

“Anyone who’s originally from Austin can’t even afford to live in Austin (anymore), and they’re just moving out,” Fae said. “My question is, how are you getting away with this?”

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