5 On Your Side

Family of four in Wake County needs to make $81K per year to make ends meet, study finds

The North Carolina Budget and Tax Center released a report on May 3 about how much people in the state need to earn to make ends meet.

Posted Updated

Keely Arthur
, WRAL consumer reporter

A study released earlier this month by the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center found the family of two adults and two children in Wake County needs to bring in $81,850 per year to meet the living income standard.

The report details how much residents in every North Carolina county need to make ends meet.
The report comes before President Joe Biden on Tuesday blamed the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war with Ukraine for troubling economic news. Biden’s commentary comes as inflation mounts and gas prices increase.

On Wednesday morning, the U.S. Bureau of Labor of Statistics is set to release the Consumer Price Index for April 2022. The CPI increased 1.2% in March on a seasonally-adjusted basis after rising 0.8% in February.

WRAL’s 5 On Your Side spoke with a dual-income family living paycheck to paycheck in Wayne County.

Wayne County resident Emily Cook became a mom less than a year ago.

“It’s much more intense than I thought,” Cook said of motherhood. “It’s worth every second.”

Cook said her son Lucas is worth every penny, but the costs add up quickly.

“He’s only one person, but he is so expensive,” Cook said.

Cook and her husband work hard to bring in $4,000 a month, but that money goes quickly, especially with inflation. Some $800 per month goes toward Lucas’ daycare and $750 per month goes for gas.

“We budget to zero every month,” Cook said.

To cover basic costs like housing, food, transportation, and childcare a family of four in Wayne County needs to make $5,250 a month, or $62,980 per year.

Here’s how much a family of two parents and two children needs to earn to make ends meet, according to the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center’s report:

  • Durham County: $81,510 per year or $6,790 per month
  • Orange County: $84,120 per year or $7,010 per month
  • Wake County: $81,850 per year or $6,820 per month
  • Wayne County: $62,980 per year or $5,250 per month

“Everything is getting more expensive, but our income is not growing,” Cook said.

North Carolina Budget and Tax Center Research Manager Patrick McHugh said families often face a common dilemma.

“Unfortunately, a lot of working families face the bind of either living where it’s more affordable or to where there are more jobs available and that’s just a vicious choice for families, especially when you have to pay for gas,” McHugh said.

It leaves the Cook with more questions.

“How to buy a house?” Cook asked. “How we have more kids if we want to? How do we raise Lucas?”

Better your budget

  1. Stretch your fuel: Make simple changes like rolling down the windows and not using the air conditioning. Also, consider using public transportation, if available.
  2. Get your groceries delivered: This will not only help you with gas, but you will avoid impulse buying. Walmart provides same-day delivery for a monthly fee of $12.95.
  3. See if you qualify for government programs: Other assistance is also available for childcare and families in North Carolina.


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