Can A Person Really Survive On Minimum Wage?
Can a person really live off minimum wage? In order to live, in a clean healthy environment, they are certain things a person must have; like a house, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, clothing, and occasional trips to the doctor, among other things. Is eight dollars an hour enough to support all these needs?
A full time job consists of a 40 hour work week, with $8 an hour as your pay, you would get $320 a week. Of course, you wouldn't be getting the full $320, because taxes have to be taken out before you get your paycheck. Working on minimum wage, a person can expect to get about $1,000 a month. It might sound like a good amount now, but with the expenses of living, it might not be so great after all.
First, we can examine the most important factor, having a roof over our heads. Apartments are cheaper than houses, so, to make do with the limited amount of money a person has coming in, they will have to settle for an apartment unless they can find prior arrangements. While the cheaper, older home on the market might lay somewhere around $800 or $900 a month, an apartment would cost a person around $650 a month (that is for one bedroom, for multiple bedrooms the cost naturally goes up). So let's say you get an apartment for $650 a month; out of your $1,000 a month, you would have $350 left over. Now let's look at your other costs.
To go with a house, you will need furniture. The bare minimum of furniture would be a mattress on the floor, and possibly a table and chairs set. But, for a moment, let's pretend the person working on minimum wage has higher standards than that and wants to get more furniture. Now, you're probably thinking, "But I already have a bed, I'll just take that with me". That might be so, and if so, you can rule out that cost. But you still need to buy silverware, plates, bowls, glasses, and other kitchen ware, as well as a dresser to hold your clothes, an entertainment stand (if you want one) and, most people want, a television (but remember, with television comes the cost of at least cable). Now for those of you who don't have a bed to take with you, mattress themselves start at around $200 and go up. With $350 left a month to work with, buying big items like this might be hard to do.
Most people, even if they eat out (which is more expensive), will buy the basics for around home. These things would include, milk, soda, bread, cereal, butter and lunch meat. One gallon of 2% milk costs $4.39 (plus tax of course!), an 18 pack of Pepsi is around $5.99 (if you bargain shop), cereal, no matter what kind is normally $4 a box, and bread is around $4 a loaf, though you can get it as cheap as a dollar if you buy off brands. These few things alone would cost a person close to $20, and that's not counting in lunch meat, which now sells for around $9- $10 a pound, depending on the type of meat. This ends up coming to around $30, which will need to be bought at least once a week, if you want to keep them in your home, which comes at a price tag of $90 a month. Don't forget, that's just the bare minimum and won't feed you for the month.
Men and woman, obviously, have different needs when it comes to hygiene products. Men don't need the monthly supply of womanly products required for a woman's period, makeup, or a bra. Just the same, woman don't need shaving creams and the like. There lies a small difference in spending costs. Toothpaste, deodorant, soap, razors, shampoo and condition are all costs that, more than likely, will need to be bought at least once a month. For these things, the cost is roughly around $33. Now a person has $227 to work with. And, if you're a woman, makeup is an addition cost of $32.96 (plus tax) for foundation, eye liner, mascara, eyeshadow and a tube of lip stick (leaving you with roughly $194 left to work with). Those are hygiene products for you, now let's talk about your house. Dish soap, floor cleaner, toilet cleaner, shower cleaner comet, clorox, fantastic, windex, laundry soap... All of these things to keep a clean and healthy household require money. These things also need to be bought about once a month or so (if the house if regularly cleaned) and add up to about $24 (plus tax). Now a person has $170 to work with, and we haven't even gotten to bills yet!
Clothing prices also vary between gender, and of course, where you shop. Naturally, Walmart is cheaper than Khol's, JC Penny, or Fashion Bug (to name a few examples), and if you are working on a budget, Walmart is probably your best choice. Most jeans (at Walmart) range around $20 each, and tops range from $2 to 12, depending on the quality and look you want. Shoes range in price from $10 to $30, and don't forget to throw in socks and underwear! Different seasons require different clothing needs, in winter coats, in summer, tank tops are mostly worn, but of course it naturally depends on your region. Clothing isn't a monthly cost, obviously, but it is needed, and is a cost once in a while, when things need to be replaced.
You might think you're doing good, that you can live off of minimum wage working with the numbers I have researched and put out here. Wrong. We haven't talked about bills yet. The garbage bill alone is $90, which does, thankfully, cover 3 months of garbage pickup, but nevertheless, is a nice big chuck of cash coming out of your pocket. Don't forget your water, electric, and phone bill. Oh yeah, and you need to pay for health insurance, and car insurance if you have a car, in which case you need to pay for gas and yearly tags for it as well. I cannot give you accurate prices on health insurance, car insurance, or the other bills (besides garbage) listed for good reasons.
Everyone differs. Your health insurance will differ depending on, if your a woman, if you use birth control, on what type of medicines you take (blood pressure, etc.), and on what kind of condition your body is in, among other things. Your car insurance will differ depending on what kind of car you drive. If your car is older, the price will be less; if your car is newer, you will have to pay more. It also depends on what kind of driver you are, if you are a good driver (with no citations) you will have a lower bill. Either way, do you think you can pay that number of bills (and gas for your car if you have one) with $170?
I'm going to say no, that you can't. Maybe it's not impossible, but it would be a hard thing to do. Keep in mind the prices and numbers I have listed are for California, USA (where I am) and that prices, and minimum wage differ in different areas. But either way, you will have the same number of bills, and minimum wage, is well, the minimum.