Life gets in the way

Dana Loncar, a Coalition Board member and employee at Consensus Communications, provided our final guest blog about the $15 a Day Challenge. She brings up several new issues, including caring for children and meeting unplanned expenses on a limited budget. Dana realized that consistently living on this budget would be hard because, as she put it, sometimes “Life gets in the way…”


Sophia Loncar and one of her birthday cupcakes - something Dana, her mom, wouldn't have been able to afford on $15 a day.

“This challenge has made me so much more aware of what things cost. Even standing in line waiting to order lunch I reviewed the menu and took into account the difference in prices of various items.

Caring for children: “If I was a single person I could probably do this…it’s not easy but it could be done (see consequences below). But as a mother of two young children I cannot imagine providing for them on such a limited budget! It has been in the back of my mind all week. Simple things; for example, Monday was my daughter’s birthday and I did not think twice about ordering cupcakes form Publix for her class. On a limited budget I would not have been able to do this…

Transportation: “I live about 2 miles from my office and rarely drive more than 4-6 miles the entire day. While this worked well with the challenge – it leaves more money for food throughout the day – I do not think it is realistic. Chances are most people cannot afford to live in the urban core and so close to their place of work. Housing is just too expensive. Public transportation is always an option but probably not the most convenient one.
Food: “It is very sad to me that the cheapest food is the least nutritional. I am a big salad eater and I have not been able to eat one all week on this budget (except for a homemade one for dinner one night!). On such a limited budget, your options are limited to things like the McDonald’s Dollar menu, which I ate from Monday.  A chicken sandwich, apple dippers, and small fries were $3.40 but not only are they totally not healthy but I was starving by mid afternoon…I see now how and why our population is so overweight; the reason is that it is much easier to make poor food choices, not only for their convenience, but also because it is the only option some people can afford.

auto-repair-1Unplanned expenses: “Life gets in the way when you are trying to stay on budget. Tuesday my car broke down. Roadside service and repairs definitely put me over (way over!) the $15 a day challenge. I also had birthday invitations to mail for my other daughter’s upcoming first birthday and had to spend $8 for stamps! It was hard to afford to eat after that expenditure! I realized that so many things I do throughout the day, either planned or not, cost money. I have never really stopped to think what it would be like if I just did not have the money I needed. Life would be very different.

Luxuries: “Finally, I have to admit: I could not give up my morning tall non fat chai latte from Starbucks. starbucks_cup1At $3 per day I was determined to fit this item into my budget. I managed to do it, but at the expense of my other meal choices! Some nights for dinner I just had a bowl of cereal because I only had a small amount of money left. Very eye-opening!”

As we wrap up the $15 a Day Challenge, we thought Dana, as a mother with two young children, was an important reminder of the number of families the Coalition serves. We provided services to 548 families last year – so we are certain that many of those parents know all too well the feeling of frustration Dana experienced as she tried to provide for her children on a tight budget.