How to Afford Miami on $30,000 a Year

Barret at the Women's March in Washington, D.C.
Barret at the Women's March in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of June Barret
click to enlarge Barret at the Women's March in Washington, D.C. - COURTESY OF JUNE BARRET
Barret at the Women's March in Washington, D.C.
Courtesy of June Barret
With rents and housing prices soaring ever higher across Miami-Dade County, how do locals afford to live here? New Times set out to find out by talking to Miamians with varying income levels about how they make life in South Florida work for them. This is the second story in a series.

June Barret, 54
Job: Domestic worker
Salary: $30,000 a year

What brought you to Miami, and what makes you want to stay?

In my undocumented years [from Jamaica], I was living up north in Bridgeport, Connecticut. And at that time, I came after 9/11, it was very difficult... So my sister, who was also undocumented, told me that at the time, Miami was a city where... you don't have to worry about being deported. So I took the long ride from Bridgeport, Connecticut, in March of 2003 and I came to Florida. It's not that I really want to stay in Miami. I have no choice.

Which neighborhood do you live in? Do you rent or own?
I live in the Kendall area. I rent. Between the both of us, we're paying $1,650. It's a two-bedroom... I take an Uber to work, and I get a ride back to my house because I work at nights. There's one bus that goes to Pinecrest [where I work], and it doesn't go there often. If I get that bus that will take me in, I will be too early and I can't go into the house. So I'll be sitting in the streets for over an hour. It's better for me to take an Uber to work.

What are you saving for right now?
My funeral, I guess. And that's not a joke. What is there to save up for? I'm 54 years old, I'm a low-income worker and sometimes no income. If my patients die tomorrow, I don't know if I'll be able to get a job. So there's the fear of 'What if I get a house or an apartment and I couldn't pay my mortgage anymore?' The fear of homelessness is real... As a domestic worker, I have accumulated nothing.

What is the biggest financial stress in your life?
Besides my rent, it's making sure that I'm affording health care. The biggest thing is making sure I can afford my medicine and I can afford to pay for my doctor's visits and a bunch of medications that I have to take. If I can't pay for that, then there's no health.

Do you think you make enough money?
I'd like to make some more money so I could save more. You could have a little bit to take you farther as you age.

Is Miami an expensive city?
It is an expensive city when it comes to affordable housing. I think one of the biggest problems right now for the low-income people and what my co-workers and I have been talking about is affordable housing. I think I'm paying too much for rent.

What's something you hate spending money on?
I pay the money out for my taxes, so that's put away. And then with what's left, you have to put some in for the rent. And then I have my credit card bills — that's a lot. And then I have to take out for food, and food is expensive. I'm a diabetic, so naturally my food bill is more than the average person in my house.

What's something you wish you had more money to spend on?
I would go back to school maybe. I would still work. I love working. But maybe I would do like a course in which I could learn more or do more about the field I'm in.

What's something you consistently spend money on even though you know you shouldn't?
I'm diabetic. I shouldn't be eating ice cream, but I still get ice cream... I like to help people by giving money to people who are in need even though I know I'm not in a position to do it. Sometimes I do it and I fall short on my budget, and that's not good. But I don't like to hear someone call and say I'm hungry or I don't have money to do this.
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