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Bawling on a Budget: McDonald’s Suggested Employee Spending Plan Highlights Need for Minimum Wage Boost


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In a delicious turn of terrible-for-us events, a website created by McDonald’s to help its employees create a monthly budget may have just become the prime example of how difficult it is to live off a minimum wage paycheck.

The fast food giant teamed with Visa to create a sample budget that shows the realities of earning $7.25 an hour — the national minimum wage. The budget (pictured) is making its way around the web and is deceptive — at best — because it factors in a second job on top of working full-time at McDonald’s. As Death and Taxes points out, the math “translates to 74 hours a week…almost a whole other full time job.”

To boot, the plan suggests living without heat (talk about “regional bias”) and spending no money on food or gas.

So, let’s say a person can pull this off: Finding two jobs for a total of 74 a week which would earn a person $2,060 a month. According to the McDonald’s budget, that would mean a daily allowance of $27. Twenty-seven American dollars worth of spending money to help pull the economy out of this recession, which in McDonald’s dream world has nothing to do with large corporations paying their workers next to nothing.  

$150 is included in the ledger for a car payment, but that car can’t move without gas, which can get quite expensive for someone shuttling between two full-time jobs. There goes the $100 suggested by Visa for savings and, in reality, probably chips away at the $27 a day spending power a job at McDonald’s (and 34 extra hours at a nameless second employer) provides a person.  

Some of that can be made up from the fictitious $20 health insurance that no worker will ever find. Add in other factors — such as $600 rent that may be a steal depending on the city or an employee with, gasp, childcare expenses — and McDonald’s makes an incredibly strong argument that the minimum wage should be raised and then tied to inflation. Of course, this is not how such an exercise was originally intended, but the rational American can see the writing before them and make this argument without much trepidation.

With recent bills before Congress that look to raise the minimum wage above $10 an hour, the issue has become part of the national conversation on inequality. Support for a change is broad though far right ideologues have suggested ridding the workforce of the minimum wage all together.  

Inadvertently, McDonald’s sample budget is helping the minimum wage raise case. Death and Taxes provides context for just how low the wage currently is:

If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation it would be over $10 an hour. If it had kept up with productivity? It would be $21.72.   


One Comment on “Bawling on a Budget: McDonald’s Suggested Employee Spending Plan Highlights Need for Minimum Wage Boost”

  1. I just checked the actual website ( and it looks like they upped the heating allowance to $50… unless you speak Spanish, in which case you\’re only allowed $30. Bundle up, ese!

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