matt | April 7, 2016
So, I may be a little late to the party on this, but a few weeks ago I learned about this $17/day challenge legislators had been doing in order to drum up support for raising the minimum wage. Here is a link to the longest article on it I could find. It states:
The $17 figure was calculated based on what a full-time minimum wage worker could expect to have left on a daily basis after basic living expenses
What do they mean by basic living expenses? This other article says:
That figure represents what a minimum wage worker has after the costs of taxes, childcare and housing are deducted from an $8.05-an-hour paycheck.
Okay, so, I make a lot more than $8.05 an hour. However, here is what I actually ate today, with costs. This is retail, no coupons. I don’t have a grocery receipt handy, so I’m using the prices from Price Chopper’s shopper service. Also, I work in an office, but the only thing I’m using there is their hot water, microwave and toaster oven. No free coffee (I fudged that a little, because I do drink it, but I don’t know how much it costs, so I replaced coffee with bags of tea).
- 2 packets of oatmeal (Quaker) @ $0.30 = $0.60
- Thai Kitchen Pad Thai Noodle bowl = $3.69
- Snickers bar (luxury!) – $1.25 from the vending machine.
- Tea (PG Tips. Price chopper doesn’t sell this, so this is an amazon price) = $10 for 80, so $.125 each.. Say, 8 cups of tea in a day? What can I say, I like tea… $1.
- Assuming your car gets 25MPG (mine gets 40, but I paid extra for the diesel) and you have a 50 mile round trip (mine is 54) and gas is $2.50/gal (diesel is $2.25), that’s $5 in fuel.
- Subtotal = $11.54
- So, I have $5.46 left for dinner and other necessities, and that’s without even trying!
Now, what if I was actually poor.
- No vending machine food, saves $1.25
- Generic oatmeal, that’s $0.19 each, so saves me $0.20
- Ramen noodles for lunch, and those are $0.22 each if you buy a 12 pack @ $2.69.
- Don’t want Ramen? Store brand ready to serve soup is $1.59 each. We’ll assume that.
- Oatmeal – 2 @ $0.19 = $0.38
- Store brand soup – $1.59
- Fuel – $5
- Subtotal = $6.97
So, you’ve got $10 left for dinner and other necessities. How about this for dinner:
- Bag of stir-fry vegetables = $1.69
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts, 1lb = $3.69
- Long grain rice (white or brown), 2lb = $1.99
- Subtotal = $7.37
- And it easily makes enough for 2, so you can have it for lunch the next day for no cost.
- And that’s way more chicken than you need for that amount of vegetables.
- And that amount of rice will last for several meals.
- So, realistically, we’ll say the amount of money is actually half of the above – $3.69
- Which means our total is $10.66, including dinner, which is less than my 2 meal total of how I actually live.
Anyway, I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic to the plight of the poor, and will concede that if you had kids it would be way more difficult (but, if you did, you could get food stamps, etc. Heck, you can get food stamps as a single person on minimum wage, can’t you?). And, realistically, the way to make more money is:
- Live as described above.
- Learn more skills / gain more experience.
- Get a better job.
- Make more money.
I’m going to let people in on a little secret – the reason you make minimum wage is because you are doing a minimum-wage job. There are two conceivable reasons you are doing a minimum-wage job:
- You want to even though you’re over qualified.
- I know people who are well over qualified for being a clerk at a shop making minimum wage, but they’re typically working as supplemental income when their primary, seasonal employer isn’t open (think school aides, etc.)
- You don’t have the job skills to get a better job.
- In this case, you need to get those skills, as described above.