People say so often now that minimum wage is not a living wage, and no one seems to even be willing to debate this. It’s baffling to me, because I remember living on it when it was much lower. I know I could now.
Can you support a family on it? No. Can you support a family on two minimum wages? Well, yes actually. But for now I’m going to focus on the one, the individual.
Minimum wage nets you about 500 biweekly, after taxes that is. That’s $250 a week, $1000 a month.
So let’s run down how that is completely feasible to live on (with savings).
Say you’re paid biweekly, we’ll make a budget from that scenario.
$500 – First Pay Period
-$20 Phone Minutes
-$80 Car insurance, liability only (be careful!)
-$25 Fuel/Getting around money
$500 – Second Pay Period
-$25 Fuel/Getting around money
Now, who’s that life suitable for? Students mostly, and people looking to get a start. Or maybe someone who needs to make ends meet after getting laid off or even fired.
Hell, if you’re living with mom and dad while you work minimum wage it’s basically $1000 a month in your pocket minus gas money. You can save up gobs.
If you’re living alone, it’s still completely feasible to use this very budget to get by without government aid.
There are some simple restrictions however.
1. No car payment (beaters are fun!)
2. No cable/satellite (I’m shocked companies that provide these still exist)
3. No traditional cell provider (though those are going the way of the dodo anyway as prepaid is much much less expensive).
4. Clothes are probably coming from Savers or Goodwill (much more commonplace today than before, doesn’t even have a stigma anymore, Macklemore thinks it’s great.)
5. Can’t eat steak and lobster every night.
6. Can’t go out and do things, pretty much ever. You’re now a homebody.
7. No Internet. Wifi’s probably free wherever you work though.
8. You gotta live close to work.
OH WOE IS ME! THAT’S AWFUL! HOW CAN ANYONE SURVIVE IN SUCH MEAGER CIRCUMSTANCES?
Wait, you have a roof over your head. You have food in your fridge. YOU HAVE A FRIDGE. You have…running water? HEAT? AIR? YOU PUT ASIDE MONEY EVERY MONTH INTO AN ACCOUNT AND JUST DON’T EVEN USE IT?
Holy crap, you’re stinking rich! Well, only when compared to MOST people in the world. Go ask an Indian or African to help you make you protest signs! Try getting past the part where you’re pissed off because you can’t browse Salon at your convenience.
It gets better though. If you have a partner be it a significant other or roommate, you’ve just doubled your renting capacity and grocery budget, halved your bills, as well as made room for a few amenities like more phone minutes, more gas, and maybe some internet access. Maybe even Netflix.
Netflix people. You can afford it on minimum wage.
At that point your quality of life is basically the same as most people in America (certainly the same as mine) and you’re doing it all with no experience, no skills, no trade, and that’s not nothing. You’ll want to keep moving upward from this position, of course. Because some day your car is going to give out. Some day you’re going to want things that a $300 a month rent isn’t providing you with. The solution to this however, isn’t whining until you get paid more for not doing any more, it’s seeking new ventures, new jobs, new positions, doing more work. You should also be very aware that without you being a fairly affordable commodity, you wouldn’t have that opportunity in the first place, and if you’re able to get the minimum wage raised $15 an hour, you might be pricing yourself out of that corporate comfort zone. You might become less affordable at that point than say, a machine.
So be thankful that there is such a low paying job. And be happy that job is paying high enough that you can afford to live independently as well as save some money while you’re at it. Though it does take a certain level of discipline to live such a monkish lifestyle, not going out, controlling your spending to an EXTREME level. I’m not saying I was great at it. But I could do it if need be, and I’m glad that there are jobs out there just waiting for someone to scoop them up. It would be very hard, there’s no doubt about it. But there’s a reason elevators come to a stop right on the floor you’re standing on.
The damn things are just no use if you can’t reach them.