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The U.S. unemployment rate is falling and more Americans are going back to work; that's the good news.
Unfortunately, the new reality of the U.S. job market means that many of those workers are now struggling to get by on reduced or limited incomes. Ever try to make ends meet on minimum wage? We reached out to those Yahoo! Contributor Network members who are living on their state's minimum wage to find out just what daily life is like on about $15,000 a year. Their stories are below.
Learning to Thrive on Minimum Wage
Hometown: Burlington, Wash.
Occupation: Lab Technician
"For a while after college, I taught English in Taiwan and was making a substantial income. After returning home to be with my husband, I found that a number of the job opportunities in the area had dried up. The job I was able to find involved a standard 40-hour work week and minimum wage pay. My husband is a full-time student, so getting a job quickly was a necessity for our family.
"Luckily for me, the minimum wage in my state is one of the nation's highest. At $9.04 an hour, Washingtonians make a significant amount more than the national minimum wage. Unfortunately for us, the state also has a much higher cost of living than average as well. After taxes, my monthly take home pay is about $1,272 a month.
"At minimum wage, budgeting is not just a great idea -- it is a necessity. Every month I pay $200 toward my student loans and spend an additional $100 on food. To get the most out of my grocery budget, I buy potatoes at a dollar a pound from a nearby farm and we've gotten used to spaghetti nights.
"For a while, my husband and I tried to make ends meet by living in our own apartment....