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Cutting expenses

Sammy is struggling to survive off the $2,500 she has after she pays for rent and her car each month.

“In order to live in the United States, I literally just have to starve myself in order to f—— survive,” she says.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) most recent report on food security discovered that 12.8% of American households were food insecure at least some time in 2022, meaning that they didn’t have “enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.”

The percentage has gone up since 2021 and 2020, where food insecure families hovered around 10%.

Some of that food insecurity may be attributed to sky-high prices at the grocery store. Between 2019 and 2023, the price of food has gone up by 25%, according to government data. Stress over stretched budgets has become so commonplace TikTokers have now been doling out grocery hacks, along with ways to stretch your food until your next paycheck.

Starving yourself is neither a sound health strategy or financial decision. If you’re not already working with a budget, make one now. You may find there’s a streaming service or subscription you can trim to free up some cash for food.

But sometimes, there’s nothing to cut because everything is necessary.

“My husband and I bring [in] 102k a year with 3 kids and we’re barely making ends meet,” a commenter writes on Sammy’s video. “There[’]s times bills are unpaid.”

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Moving

Though Sammy may owe $3,000 in taxes — even after her employer took taxes off her paycheck — she currently lives in one of the most tax-efficient states: Florida.

The Sunshine State doesn’t have an individual state income tax, which means Sammy’s only paying tax to the federal government.

Relocating to tax-free states is becoming a more common tactic for Americans who want to hold onto more of their paychecks. Census Bureau data shows that state tax-free places, such as Texas and Florida, saw the highest population growth in 2023. Texas saw an increase of 473,453 people, while Florida, added 365,205 people.

Even rich people are moving from high-tax states to lower-cost ones. Jeff Bezos moved from Washington to Florida, and Mark Wahlberg left California for Nevada, another place without state taxes.

But for some people, a tax-free state isn’t enough. They’re getting out of the U.S. altogether. Some TikTokers even claim that the new American dream is leaving the U.S.

One woman from Houston, Adalia Aborisade, did just that when she quit her teaching job and moved to Mexico in 2020. Though she saw her paycheck cut in half, Aborisade claims she has a better quality of life because she works less and has more free time. And with a lower cost of living, she gets by just fine on less. Perhaps some food for thought for others feeling pressed these days.

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Sabina Wex is a writer and podcast producer in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, CBC and more.

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