My name is Natasha Blackwood, and the provincial budget handed down yesterday terrifies me.
I’m 31. I am married, and my husband and I both work full time. We are educated and skilled, and both have “good”, full-time, permanent jobs. We have two children and, and we are expecting a new baby in October. We just bought our first home. It’s not a fancy home but it’s big enough for our family of (soon to be) five, and so purchasing this home has made us “House-Poor”, like most of the homeowners we know. We decided to buy this home as an investment in our future for our kids, and we would just live on a very thin budget until our kids are in school and our $900 a month daycare bill is gone. Yeah that’s right, $900 a month. If I can afford to go back to work after this next baby, our daycare bill will be more like $1,200 a month, assuming that full-day kindergarten goes ahead. $1,600 a month if it doesn’t. On top of regular bills, feeding a family of five, student loan repayments, and a mortgage. So yeah, we’re poor, but we take measures to make sure that our quality of life does not suffer.
We don’t smoke, do drugs, drink excessively, gamble, or party. We don’t shop. We don’t go to concerts, plays, or sports events. We buy our clothes at the thrift store and our household items on Kijiji. The money we save being so frugal means that, despite the crippling costs of child care and housing, we have fruits and vegetables in our fridge. Our kids go to swimming lessons, on the field trip, and to the birthday party. I’m sure we look like any normal middle-class family, but there are cuts that people don’t see. I have holes in my boots. I give our family their hair cuts, and our pizza night comes from a box. While other families are out at the hockey game or at the movies, we are just playing outside. Our “family trip” is going to be probably to a grandparents’ house on the island.
Even with having our children make these sacrifices, I’m still not going to be able to afford my student loan payments, and I honestly don’t know if we can afford this house we just bought, let alone daycare.
We need every penny we have to feed our kids and pay our bills. Especially daycare, and student loan payments. This was all before the budget was announced, and we were fine with it. A wise woman once told me: “If you have a healthy, happy family, you already have everything.” And we agree. Our careers are important to us, and it is worth it for us to scrimp and save to pay for daycare so that we can still work when our children are young. But what is left over after these things are paid and groceries are bought, our girls have shoes that fit and there is gas in the cars? Nothing. Emergencies go on credit cards to pay off bit by bit. Period. There is no saving.
This change in budget could ruin us. With the increases in HST, insurance fees, motor vehicle registration, income tax, along with loss of baby bonus, and others, this is going to cost us between $5,000 – $7,000 this year that we don’t have, and it is our children who will pay for it. No lessons. No birthday party. No more choosing the stir fry over the Kraft Dinner. No field trip. No hayride. No U-Pick. We won’t even afford the gas to get to Nan’s house for a visit. No new shoes for school, and our kids will have holes in their boots just like me. Even with having our children make these sacrifices, I’m still not going to be able to afford my student loan payments, and I honestly don’t know if we can afford this house we just bought, let alone daycare.
We both work full-time. We both have “good” jobs, and we don’t spend. But on this current budget, we simply will not be able to make ends meet. It is impossible.
This budget is an attack on families. We are going to have to sacrifice food and pleasure. We are going to rack up credit card debt for monthly expenses, and pray for a miracle to pay them off. And the rich? Their contribution to this budget is negligible. They won’t even notice. Why is the government squeezing the poor, and letting the rich off the hook? I know that we are not the only ones in this situation, and many will move, or quit their jobs to offset daycare costs. Many will lose their jobs. Many will default on their debt and declare bankruptcy. And THIS is supposed to be the solution to our economic downturn? Bankrupt the poor, and drive away the middle class? WHAT?
I know a lot of people are saying “move away!”
Why is the government squeezing the poor, and letting the rich off the hook?
Well I just signed a 5-year fixed-rate mortgage. We have shared custody of one of our children and we’re not leaving her behind. So we’re not leaving. What are our options? Punish my children for this budget? Default on our debt? Lose our home? Live on hot-dogs and Mr. Noodles? Separate from my husband even though we have a good marriage so that we qualify for subsidies? I honestly want to know what the government expects us to do, to not go bankrupt. None of these seem like reasonable options.
I’m sure there must be other people out there who are feeling this way. Are you out there? Do you hear me? Are you as terrified as I am? Do you feel as if you are being punished for having a family, wanting a career, or choosing to live here? If so, I urge you now to tell your story. Yell out about how you have been an upstanding citizen who pays your taxes and goes to work, takes care of your community and your family, and are struggling to survive. We all work too hard to sit back and let them squeeze us until we starve. We deserve better, and our children deserve better.
Natasha Blackwood / Goulds
If you would like to share your story about how the provincial government’s austerity budget will affect you and/or your family, send your letter to [email protected]
Read The Independent’s ongoing coverage of austerity and the 2016 budget:
- Liberals’ austerity budget will hit most vulnerable hardest (News)
- Budget 2016 provides little hope for the future (Letter)
- Budget 2016 “an attack on families” (Letter)
- Government “definitely does have a choice” in NL Budget 2016: economist (News)
- As the wave breaks: NL budget 2016 (Opinion)
- Is there a democratic alternative to austerity? (Opinion)
- Deficit crisis a chance for change (Opinion)
- Not “Our” Crisis (Opinion)