Getting Married and Living on $11 Per Hour

Brass Teapot

When my wife and I first got married, I was working at a real estate office in Miami while she finished her degree in nursing at Florida International University. I hadn’t finished school yet and wasn’t very close to doing so. She was in her last—and toughest—semester. (Try your best to continue reading this before you make your judgments about whether we should have gotten hitched or not. If we get divorced, I’ll let you tell me that you told me so.)

We were a part of a non-profit startup in Hollywood, Florida. From the beginning, we knew that we would be strapped for cash, and not the way that Hillary and Bill were strapped for cash, but the kind of way that George and Lennie were. I was working full-time, contemplating any opportunity to escape poverty and move my way to just being able to afford some apple juice from the grocery store. My wife, Natasha, would come to find out that her last semester would require her to study upwards of eight hours a day, making it impossible for her to look for a job. There were times when I thought about getting a second night job to help pay our fixed expenses. Thankfully, we had old cars and my apartment was only $875 per month, including utilities. Any higher, and I might have had to start swiping pan from the local supermercado.

We were scared, 21-year-olds who didn’t know shit about living in the real world, and we were thrust in the realm of rental leases and laundry duty, but we loved each other and were committed to each other through thick and thin.

A few factors did help us. We were young and college-educated. When we decided to move to Hollywood, we developed a tight-knit group of friends who would eventually become our family members. Our family did things together, we went to parks together, and we made coffee and dinners together. This group made the times when we were able to afford some good liquor and cigars, the sweetest (#communism).

We never spent money on cable nor internet access. I can’t imagine not having those two things now, but back then, we lived like two monks who had walked away from society on our bare feet towards a monastery. Instead, we watched Seinfeld and Everybody Loves Raymond and whatever else was syndicated on your basic channels. Try it.

We had to create a budget! Yes, a budget—a thing that tells you that you shouldn’t spend any more money on a weekly basis; the file on your computer that you created that one time you got excited about saving money. “Think about all the things we can do with that money!” we said. Awww, how cute.

But you know what happened? Nothing—we kept on living. Things worked out. My wife finished her degree and eventually got a job, and I got paid more for what I was doing. We had more money to get internet so that my wife and I could sit side-by-side watching two different screens play Youtube videos.

These weren’t the most awful times we’ve ever had. As a matter of fact, they were some of the greatest times for us as a young newly-married couple. And we’d do it again.


Christopher is a writer based in Miami—for now. He is obsessed with all things sports, culture, politics, and ‘Seinfeld’. He has a B.A. in English from Florida International University and constantly ponders why he took all of those religion and philosophy classes instead of doing something useful, like coding. When he is not writing fiction in between work hours, he longs for days that he can write for a living. His favorite things to do is spend time with his wife watching ‘Mad Men’, reading, and having a good drink.


7 Comments / Post A Comment

I definitely think there is somthing to be said for marrying when you’re both young and struggling, since you pooled your limited resources together right away, and made sacrifices for each other and for your relationship. My bf is established,career-wise, and I am not, which causes issues. So I hope you grow together and are stronger for your earlier struggles.

the_famou_boat (#6,415)

@TrotskyHoldsMyiPod My parents say the same thing! My mom maintains that the period 20+ years ago, when they had just had me and were living on a waitress’ salary and grad school student’s stipend, paved the way for the enduring stability of their marriage

Kate (#1,408)

What the hell is up with the italicized “pan from the local supermercado”? Was this article written by Alex Trebek?

Incredible article Chris

Ah this reminds me so much of when we were first married! Right down to the eight-hundred-something apartment and old cars and watching syndicated reruns on antenna TV! We still have antenna tv, but also internet and hulu and netflix. We were so lucky to have our family and friends that helped us enjoy life even though we couldn’t afford anything extra at all.

Brett (#7,326)

I live in South Florida, and it can be incredibly difficult to create a financially sustainable life here. I’d appreciate more specifics on how one can make it on $11/hour here, besides the sorta obvious solutions of foregoing internet/cable, renting the cheapest residence possible, and driving low end cars. Not that this info isn’t insightful, especially given the consumerist culture that’s rampant in South Florida (though not necessarily apparent in this post), but I’m not sure what my takeaway is, besides empathy.

Christopher (#7,338)

@Brett I hear you. There isn’t any eye-popping creative solutions in this post, but is there ever really? Also, the purpose of the essay wasn’t meant to be a “how-to” but really just a short insight into our experience.

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