Is Living on Minimum Wage Possible?


Is minimum wage really that hard to live on? I was at a friend’s house last night for a small party and met a girl there she mentioned that she chose Hawaii because it was a place where you could do a lot of the things you enjoy for free and a lot of people don’t really focus on career paths. She then also mentioned that she would be happy living on minimum wage because it wouldn’t affect her lifestyle much… besides becoming slightly infatuated for the rest of the evening, I realized I had my next blog post set when she said that she could live on minimum wage quite confidently. Even though she said she could, is living on minimum wage possible?

What is minimum wage?

In the U.S. the current minimum wage rate is $7.25 (it may have changed depending on when you’re reading this post so check the post date). Based on that pay rate let’s do a little math.

In a given year full time workers put in approximately 2,080 hours. Multiply that by minimum wage and they’ll be pulling in $15,080 yearly ($1,257 monthly) before taxes. The tax rate for someone in this bracket is 15% for federal, state taxes will vary, we’ll simply use the 15% here to estimate on the low end. That means take home would be $12,818 a year, or $1,068 a month.

What can you buy with that?

How far your money goes will depend on where you’re living of course. In any part of the country you can probably find a decent place to live, most likely with roommates, for about $400-$500 a month. You can also fit in groceries for about $150, and your utilities will be about $40-$50. You may also have a small clothing allowance of $20-$30 a month if you thrift. Using a high estimate you’ll spend about $750 a month on expenses, which will leave you with $300 a month in disposable income. What you do with that will be above and beyond what it necessary to survive so things like eating out or recreation.

So is living on minimum wage possible? Yes, I think living on minimum wage is possible. I even wrote a post about how I do it, a few months ago. However, I think that if you’re even semi-ambitious you’ll move beyond $7.25 an hour in a very short period of time. What you do with your excess funds at that point is up to you, but realize that worse case scenario, you can survive on minimum wage with proper money management.

Have you ever lived on minimum wage? If not, do you think you could?

Do you think minimum wage should be higher, or is it enough to survive on?

Image from Sami73

I agree that it is indeed possible to live on minimum wage. Despite what others may believe, it is not absolutely necessary (unless you have children) to have a large structure to live in. I have lived in Houses, Apartments, in a Garage, Campers, Hotels and Motels, on Ships, in a Semi-Truck, in a Van, and in a car with the passenger and rear seat removed made into a bed with storage back through the trunk. Incredibly, the car is by far the most comfortable and convenient of all. No joke. You can take showers at Truck Stops, Fitness Centers,… Read more »

I’ve lived on minimum wage before. You can, but you have nothing like say, health insurance a lot of times. Any emergency like a sinus infection from a fight with the flu that you couldn’t treat properly, or something like a tooth ache, bankrupts you and threatens either the roof over your head, or the ability to make the money to fund that roof over your head. forget cable t.v. it ain’t happenin’


Well it depends on how much you spend. But it’s really hard to live on minimum wage these days. I live in Jamaica and there is no way you would survive here on minimum wage.
.-= Kharim´s last blog ..I Love My Blog. What About You? =-.

Deborah San Gabriel
“In any part of the country you can probably find a decent place to live, most likely with roommates, for about $400-$500 a month.” Where? Even in the smaller, less desirable cities in the middle of nowhere, you’d be hard-put to find a place for that. What if you have a family? Are you going to go insane with overcrowding? How will the parents find alone-time? Where will the children play? “You can also fit in groceries for about $150,” Less if you stack grocery and manufacturers coupons, and shop the sale items as much as possible (I’ve tried some… Read more »
Deborah San Gabriel
Thanks Ryan for your detained and great response. I would like to reply to this: “Life insurance is a luxury and it’s necessity is debatable … .” I would say no, not if you have children. Anything could happen to either parent, at any time, but life insurance is particularly necessary if one is a single parent with no other parent to fall back upon in the event of the custodial parent’s death. —- So yeah, you might be able to do it in a less-expensive city if you don’t have children and are willing to share with others, like… Read more »
Tanja Wanderlust

Very possible to live on minimum wage. I have always lived below minimum wage myself and i was even able to save some money for travelling.

I have never in my entire life used up all my monthly income. Had never been below zero at the end of a month in my whole life. And seriously, I d´ont understand how people can get to the point where they simply walk around and spend money on useless things.

I´d be happy with that $1,257 a month really…
.-= Tanja Wanderlust ´s last blog ..The Acer adventure =-.

Kevin Isaac
I can’t believe what I’m reading here. Have you people thought of what the owners and managers make. So if I am hearing this correctly, a business owner can make 5 million a year, his manager maybe 75 thousand a year, and you 12 thousand a year. What if the owner made 4.5 million a year, and gave 100 thousand a year to the manager, and gave you 30 thousand a year. The owner would still be filthy rich, but just made a little less so the people on bottom could at least live halfway comfortable, and not have to… Read more »
I think you can do anything you have to, such as living in a tent or small mobile home. There are people that have been foreclosed on in this country right now living in tent cities and making ends meet with a minimum wage job. I truly believe to make ends meet though and to live a somewhat average life most that I know make minimum wage have 2 jobs and just work long hours. That is a much more feasible budget to live on these days if you have no other skills and have to collect minimum wage. .-=… Read more »
I’m facing just that. I’ve done the math, there is no way you can live on minimum wage for any length of time. Especially if you have a chronic health issue. Health insurance alone would cost me $500 a month. Costs 25 each way to ride a cab to work. On minimum wage the cab company gets everything you make and you still have to either pay for the health insurance or go to jail! I’ve not had a job in 2 years, didnt qualify for unemployment then and my life savings is gone. Just put a big hole in… Read more »
I wish I made minimum wage
I wish I made minimum wage
My sisters and I live WAYYY below minimum wage. My sister gets 650 a month in unemployement (we live in a factory town and work picks up around christmas but layoffs go out again) and I babysit but only gets 20 a week when the people CAN pay because jobs are stable. I don’t have a car, cell phones, computers(@ a friends house now), health insurance. I tried going to community and even with the pell grant it didn’t cover my books and other nesscities. So now I owe 3700 for 2 days of classes and a whole other story… Read more »
Jeannine Vassallo

a recent study revealed that on average a Maltese family manages to save 1000 euros a year.

Yeah, the health-problem thing does throw a wrench in there. As does the former student thing. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree a couple years ago and it seemed people were literally afraid to hire. I certainly didn’t hear back from many folks. After 18 months I was provided an opportunity through networking, nailed the interview (entry level but still nice to have!) and after 11 months was laid off for budgetary reasons. I’m also terminally ill. My COBRA is just over 425 dollars, and a federal and private student loan (going to the most affordable school I could find)… Read more »
Stephen Finders
Hello, Let me bring some light into this discussion. I am a married male, 23 years of age. I have a 1 year old daughter and my wife is pregnant. I work for 9.00 per hour. With my wages, we count on one check for Rent and gas, and my other check for Utilities, food, and extras(wants). My wife does not work, she is a stay at home mom/student. We do have some debt, we slowly pay it down, but we manage in these hard times in the United States. If anyone has any questions about making with kids and… Read more »

Amen to that. Proportionate pay is soo lacking in US. I work for a large corporation that requires it’s full-time employees to keep under 39 hours a week. That one hour could pay a utility or provide a little buffer to cover incidentals. Or to actually pay the co-pay portion of a doctor visit since you’re paying those lovely premiums.

It is hard at times but yes I do live off social security check of only $1060.00 a month . Here is my monthly break down of how much I spend. Rent and utilities inbcluding cable and internet $600.00. gas and auto insurance $130.00, food is 150.oo laundry and household supplies about $40.00 and my emergecy fund is $40.00. I do have a part time job as a host in local restaurant for about about 20 hours a week but that money is going to savings so I can take the next 6 monthes to a year off.
As a college kid that has to pay for things, I find these figures high. The author’s figures of $30 per month on clothing is rediculous. I spend $30 per 6 months on clothing. Also, it is very easy to eat a healthy diet on $4 per day: Frozen vegetables are 89 cents, a pound of pasta is a dollar, store brand juice is a dollar 50 cents, bananas are a few dollars for a bundle, potatoes are 2 dollars for 5 pounds, most other fruit and vegetables are cheap as well, beans are under a dollar, meat is not… Read more »