If you could increase your income overnight, how much would you choose? While purchasing power has become a central theme of the presidential campaign, we met three families belonging respectively to the working classes, middle classes and wealthy (according to the Observatory of inequalities). Hawthorn, 1 340 euros of income with a child, belongs to the working class and lives below the poverty line. With 2 800 euros and two children, Vanessa is part of the middle class. And with 7 000 euros, Claire and Louis *, two children, are part of the wealthy class. We asked these three families chow they manage their budget. But also how they relate to the rest of the population.
Hawthorn: 1,340 euros in income
With a salary of 1,040 euros, 300 euros from CAF and a 7-year-old son she is raising alone, Aubépine lives below the poverty line, according to INSEE data. However, this 40-year-old Parisian, accompanying students with disabilities (AESH), does not consider herself a poor person: “I have a roof over my head and people around me who, from time to time, give me a hand.”
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During the first confinement, in March 2020, Aubépine lost her job as a waitress in a restaurant. She had to borrow money from relatives and appeal for solidarity: “From time to time, we had a basket of fresh fruit and vegetables in front of the door. The neighbors had set up a system with a plastic bin in the hall of the building with ‘take who wants, give who can’. And then the Restos du Coeur, it’s not a shame, it’s like that, you have to go there.”
“When I really need, I’m not ashamed to ask.”
For a year and a half, this single mother has found work, a 31-hour contract in a Parisian college. After having paid the rent for his apartment (650 euros), paid for the internet, the telephone package, the canteen, the shopping and his “dette due au Covid”, Hawthorn lives “discovered”. When asked about the increase in prices in recent months, she answers “system D”: “I freeze the fresh products on sale and I go to a store where the food is close to expiry”.
Hobbies ? The holidays are limited to visiting family in Seine-et-Marne and Haute-Marne, which she already considers “like luck”. “Big outings, the Jardin d’Acclimatation, stuff like that, it’s no.” So that her 7-year-old son can go see a movie, Aubépine asks for “girlfriends who, with their Works Council, have five-euro cards. We manage. We go to the cinema but we take the popcorn in the backpack”, she said with a smile.
This lover of reading and library afternoons does not feel deprived. “I was an epicurean and I remain positive”, which does not prevent him from being worried: “There is at least one week a month when I’m really not well because I know that… It’s complicated. It happened to me not to pay the canteen by saying to myself: well, well too bad . I am indebted to the school fund”.
“Sometimes I say to myself: in fact, I can’t buy a croissant. But I don’t forbid myself to do it, even if I know that the following month, I will be in a bit of a mess.”Aubépine, 40, single mother
What would be the necessary bonus for tranquility? Hawthorn thinks for a few seconds: “If only 250 euros, I think already, I would consider things differently. I don’t aspire to earn a lot of money, I don’t need a lot of money, just to breathe, not to be distressed by that. Indeed, I just think that with 250 euros more, I would breathe better”.
Vanessa: 2,800 euros in income
“It’s not nothing anyway, it’s a hell of a sum, says Vanessa about her 2,800 euro income. But despite everything, it does not allow me to live comfortably”. To raise her two sons aged 5 and 9, of whom she has primary custody, this math teacher, who is not taxable, has a salary of 2,300 euros, alimony of 375 euros and 132 euros paid by CAF. She is financially in the middle class, between the poorest 30% of French people and the richest 20%.
“I have enough to meet my basic needs, without having to scrape the bottoms of the drawer too much, even if you still have to be careful.”Vanessa, 39, mother of two
Since last spring, Vanessa has left the suburbs of a big city to move into a house she had built on the outskirts of a small town in Seine-Maritime. “A choice of living environment for children” which represents more than 30% of its budget. Then come electricity, heating, telephone, food and fuel, the price of which has soared: “It’s the 20th of the month, I have 300 euros left. This morning, I dropped 150 euros for the races, I’m going to have to put in 60, 70 euros for my fill-up. Well, well, he doesn’t I don’t have much left for the unexpected!”
The young woman can still count on “a little nest egg aside”. A savings account of 20,000 euros created by her grandparents but which she wishes “never touch, except in case of a big problem”. On a daily basis, she favors the “magasins discount”, allows himself “a restaurant every two months”. “For the holidays, I go with my sister, like that, we share the expenses”, she explains. No stay planned in February, Vanessa prefers to wait this summer and “to please yourself”.
If she could increase her income with a wave of a magic wand? “400 euros more per month, to reach 3,000… I tell myself that maybe already, I would be more serene”. As a teacher, she feels she has been “preserved” during the crisis when so many others “suffered from wage cuts”.“We have a roof that is not a hovel, we have a pleasant living environment, we eat our fill, she insists. But despite everything, it’s a life a little without extras.”
Claire and Louis: 7,000 euros in income
Claire and Louis*, both 35, are certainly not “spendthrifts” but they say it bluntly, with 7,000 euros in monthly income (9,000 euros in wages minus taxes), the couple and their two little girls do not have to tighten their belts. “We don’t limit ourselves too much on food”, explains the father of the family. “Nor on leisure, adds his wife, We are both registered in a tennis club and we go on cultural outings, we go on vacation once or twice a year.”
The two thirty-somethings, who exercise “liberal professions”, spend more than a third of their budget on the repayment of their mortgage. A year ago, these ex-Parisians bought a large building dating from the 18th century in a medium-sized town in the Eure. Because of this investment, they stopped putting money aside but keep “a little savings that would allow you to face an unforeseen expense, like buying a vehicle”, says Claire.
Despite “un certain standing”, as Louis describes it, money remains a daily concern. They have in mind the work of the house with costs “badly estimated” but also and mostly “Taxation” : “It’s very good to be able to pay taxes because it means that you earn a good living, Judge Louis. But it’s quite scary because you never know how much you’re going to pay,” he says about tax credits.
“A Frenchman who earns the Smic will say to himself: it’s a problem for the rich, and it’s true. But the fact is that we really ask ourselves the question: do we work even more to earn more? ? I find that the game is not worth the candle.”Louis, 35, married, two children
When asked what their ideal income would be, Claire replies that they don’t have “need more”. “We wanted a standard of living that we knew with our parents, Louis adds. I do not aspire to elevate myself higher.” The couple is well aware of being part of the wealthiest 20% of French people but does not consider themselves to be rich. “We have no income other than our salary, we have no pension”, Bertille’s arguments.
And Louis to conclude: “We are always afraid to say to ourselves: and if I had a big loss of income, what would I do? We have this pressure to always be on top to maintain this lifestyle. We are not among the rich in the sense that today, if we stop working, everything collapses.”
*Names have been changed