You know how you are perusing Facebook, and people post articles that you are like, oh, wonder what that is? Well, I clicked on one a minute ago that blew my mind.
I start reading the article, thinking it would show what a tight fit it was for the average person working a minimum wage job, but the first two lines of the ‘budget’ stopped me cold.
They immediately, right off the bat, assume that the McDonald’s employee has 2 jobs. The 1st FULL TIME job is their MONTHLY average income of a regular McDonald’s employee (i.e., not a manager). That is less than I make in 2 weeks. So of course, they cannot live off that, because most of them have families to support. Fast food places are no longer just a job for high school kids who want a few extra bucks…they are a hard reality for adults who have nowhere else to go.
Looking at the rest of the ‘budget’ (I use quotes because I am appalled that this is truly someone’s budget to live on, and equally as saddened), they do not budget for HEAT. Do they assume that the employee lives in a controlled utility apartment, where the landlord doesn’t charge for heat? This is NOT a common thing. They also do not budget for food. So…is it assumed that they dumpster dive when they get off work? What the hell? And where can someone get rent for only $600 these days in major cities? $150/month for a car payment? Sure, if you take 20 years and pay twice the amount in finance charges to pay for it. It also makes me laugh that CABLE is budgeted for $100/mo (yes, including phone, but you can get cheap pre-pay mobiles for 1/5 of that)…what universe do these people live in? No one that is making barely $2000/month is going to budget $100 of that for CABLE. It is highly possible they don’t even have a TV.
Now, I am not what you would consider ‘financially comfortable’ (yet). We don’t have exorbitant spending habits (though we are not cheap with our lives), but we do have bills and debt that has racked up over the years. We operate on a two-income budget, and still just get by. It has gotten loads better over the past few years, but we are not comfortable at this point. I can tell you right now that our monthly spending triples, nearly quadruples, this budget. Maybe we could live on this one, if we made some serious adjustments and dropped pretty much every bill that could be considered a ‘luxury’ (cable, phones, internet, a car that runs, and eating more than ramen noodles every day). But that’s not living. And that is what infuriates me about this so-called ‘budget’.
I admit it, I eat McD’s here and there…not often, but sometimes. I did yesterday, because Monopoly started. It is something I have always done, simply because it can be fun to see what little tickets you pull and win. (Side note: since changing the way I eat, it definitely doesn’t taste as good as it used to, but it’s a bit of a tradition) I see the same people working there, day after day (when I go–now usually for salads with fat-free dressing and grilled chicken, for the record!). They are friendly, and because I used to eat there more often than I should have, they still recognize me when I come through the drive-thru. They smile. They say ‘hi’, with recognition in their eyes. There are many ‘older’ (not teens) ladies that work there, and I know full well that they support their families that way.
I had never thought about what it took for them to work there. To spend likely 40 hours a week, away from their kids, away from their home, only to go to ANOTHER job where they spend 15-20 hours per week, just to bring home less per month than I make in 2 weeks. To put it bluntly, that BLOWS.
I feel this need to go there, and talk to them in 5 word sentences, because they are timed in that drive-thru, making sure to have people ordering, paying, and getting their food within like 90 seconds (I’ve seen the big, digital, red LED timer in the pick-up window area). So I would need to make it quick, and ask questions in snippets (it is always the same couple of people handing the food and taking the payment), and see if any of them want more out of life.
I don’t feel badly about what I have in my life, compared to what they have. What I do feel badly about is that it is likely no one has ever offered them another option. Something they can still do in spare time, if necessary, and build up over time. Something they can involve their families in, and make everyone’s life better.
I talk to so many people because of my business, and I frequently hear people say that they are ‘happy’ with where they currently are in work, life, money, etc. Well, great for you that you are CURRENTLY happy…but what happens if you get laid off? Your spouse does? One of you is injured, can’t work, not pulling disability? Then what? You might become a McDonalds worker that can’t survive off their single income, so McD’s assumes they need a second job. Would you be happy then? Do you realize this is a LEGITIMATE concern? Do you realize you should plan for failure, BEFORE it happens?
If I didn’t already have my backup plan moving along, I would be desperately searching for one after seeing this budget. We don’t realize that this is how the average American lives…if you make more than $30k in a year, you are in the upper 20% of income earners in our country. Sad, huh? I’m glad I have my backup in place, and that I am actively working on making it my FIRST income, instead of something I have to strip my budget down to fit into. Let me know if you want an option to avoid that.
(To read more about the numbers from that budget, and what it all means, be sure to check out Death and Taxes)