It Doesn’t Pay To Live In Lake Charles
We’ve covered this ground before, but living in Lake Charles just isn’t worth it for most of the people trying to scrape by here. But don’t take our word for it. Let’s break it down by the numbers.
The director of the housing authority, Ben Taylor, blames the lack of affordable housing for the increase in people applying for Section 8.
Taylor recently told the American Press that, "There are people making just slightly above our income limits, working at full-time jobs, but having trouble paying high rents...”
He's not wrong.
For the average single adult living and working in in the city, the math just doesn’t add up.
The median per capita income here is $26,712/year, which breaks down to $2,226/month, or $12.84/hour). That’s well above the minimum wage, which is $7.25/hour. At more than $5 over that, we should be doing pretty good, right?
First, let’s look at rent. The median rent in Lake Charles is $1,200/month, but let’s use the lowest practical cost out there. As of July 2017, average rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $645. However, with just 3 one-bedroom properties available according to Trulia.com, we can’t really use that figure. There are 33 two-bedroom properties available with an average rent of $900, but the majority of available rental properties are three-bedroom apartments, at an average cost of $1,200.
However, since we're trying to stay on the cheap here, let's go with the middle cost: an average, two-bedroom apartment in Lake Charles, at $900/month.
Subtracting $900 for rent from our monthly income of $2,226 leaves us with $1,326 to play with. So let’s play.
If you're going to work in the city, you'll need a car, which you’ll probably have to finance if you’re only making $2,226 a month. According to Edmunds.com, the average monthly car payment is $483. When we subtract that from the $1,326 we’re playing with, we’re left with $843 for the rest of the month.
Of course, you’re also going to need car insurance. It’s the law. That works out to an average cost of $150/month according to Insure.com, but if you want your car to do anything other than sit in the parking lot looking pretty, you’ll need to buy gas. Let’s say you only drive to and from work and maybe the grocery store, which would probably work out to somewhere around $100 worth of gas each month.
Now we’re at $593.
You'll probably want to eat, though. Humans kinda need to do that, which is a bummer, but that’s life. According to the USDA, a single adult male between the ages of 19-50 can live off a “Thrifty Plan” by spending just $187.60 each month on groceries. Their “Low Cost” plan goes up to $241.80, with the “Moderate” (and most realistic) cost being $303.30 per month. The highest cost, the "Liberal Plan", goes all the way up to $372.80, but we’re being thrifty here, so let’s assume you’re clipping coupons and buying generic canned goods with suspicious labels like “Beef In Juices” stamped on the side of otherwise blank tin cans, and go with the lowest cost of $187.60.
We now have $406 left. Not too bad!
Hang on there, pilgrim. Unless you want to live in the dark with no power running to luxury items like that second-hand refrigerator you picked up from your cousin Jed’s yard sale, you’ll also need to dish out at least $200 a month for basic utilities, like electricity and water.
Which leaves us with $206.
Of course, it’s 2017, and every boss expects you to have a cell phone on you at all times so he get you to cover Meredith’s shift when she inevitably calls in sick yet again because she’s awful and refuses to get her life together. (Come on, Meredith!)
You’ll also need internet access if you want to apply for better jobs, or use things like email and coupon websites to help keep your grocery bill affordable, so let's just bundle the phone and internet together for an easy $100.
That leaves the average single adult living and working in Lake Charles with just $106 left over at the end of the month. Let’s assume $6 goes toward something not on the list, like maybe when the boss makes you chip in for Amanda over in Accounting’s birthday lunch or whatever, which leaves our monthly surplus at an even $100.
If you somehow manage to save every bit of that so you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps someday, you’ll only manage to squirrel away $1,200 each year. Just hope you never need to do things like buy new tires for your car, or perform routine maintenance to keep it running, or get a cavity in your back molar because that dollar store toothpaste just ain’t cutting it, because that’ll eat through your $1,200 nest egg real quick.
In fact, you might’ve noticed that I’ve left healthcare off the list of expenses because, honestly, nobody knows what’s going on with that. For our purposes, let's just assume the single adult we're talking about is getting full coverage and doesn't have to pay for it, because they couldn’t afford it if they had to. Not on $100 a month.
Let’s also hope this single adult we’re talking about isn’t also a single mom, because do you have any idea how much daycare costs? Hint: It’s a lot. (You'll be paying at least $100 a week, which is $300 a month more than then average single mother working in Lake Charles can afford.)
Keep in mind, all of this is also assuming the absolute lowest cost on everything. It also assumes no unexpected financial hardships like when your car breaks down, or your boss cuts your hours. Most of the data for expenses is even based on cheaper, national averages that don't factor in the fact that Lake Charles has one of the highest sales taxes in the nation, which drives up the cost of nearly every expense on this list by a substantial amount, but we wanted to go with the lowest possible numbers to account for things like pinching pennies and maybe skipping a meal here or there. This is the absolute cheapest way to live in the city, and it's all based on an average, full-time income that's well above minimum wage, even though the most available jobs in Lake Charles are part-time, minimum wage positions.
And it’s still a nightmare.
But yeah, Lake Charles is doing fine. We're expanding. Job growth is steady. Living the dream. Economic boom and all that, right? That's what they keep telling us, anyway.