Is Living on Minimum Wage Possible?

One Dollar Bill

by Ryan

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

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott Barron March 21, 2010 at 5:15 pm

I also agree it’s possible to live on minimum wage; however I understand why people choose something else.

The additional cost of childcare and healthcare can push ones budget and make minimum wage an unlikely salary. I’ve known people that can make more money on welfare benefits while staying at home with their children with free healthcare, education and housing opportunities. I’ve known people that work in the adult entertainment industry because the salary is much higher than minimum wage. I know some customer service positions offer $1.00 more than minimum wage, if you’re willing to take the abuse. There are restaurant jobs whose hourly pay is less than minimum wage, however tips are included.

Most entry level, no education/experience positions in my area start in the $8.00 – $10.00 range. When minimum wage increases, most entry level positions will start a bit higher. It’s an equal base.

I don’t believe minimum wage was intended for anyone to live on.

Scott Barron
.-= Scott Barron´s last blog ..ONE campaign =-.

Noah Rainey March 21, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Personally living on minimum wage anywhere in the U.S. at this time and day is impossible. Theirs literally no way anyone could live off $1,000 a month (if that) anywhere in the united states. Food alone for one person is on average $250 a week. Plus the fluctuating gas prices these days.
.-= Noah Rainey´s last blog ..Google the Monopoly? =-.

Simple in France March 21, 2010 at 10:17 pm

I think it’s possible, but it’s highly advisable to have some decent savings! My husband and I basically live off minimum wage x2 here in France. We’ve had a couple of little interruptions in our experiment in shoestring living here, but going by our budgets for the first few months at it, I’d say it’s doable.

Your budget works I think, except that you really don’t have extra money for surprises like the car breaking down or . . . you know, surprises. So, I’d say that instead of a $300 disposable income, you’ll probably end up with more like 100 (per individual) Seriously, maybe I’m just bad at budgets, but there always seems to be something. There may be months without $200 in ‘surprises,’ in which case, you can just put that money into the emergency fund for the next big surprise. . .

ilya March 22, 2010 at 12:40 am


good point, it is possible to live on minimum wage yes, the only expenses mentioned are food, drink and place to sleep.

but to get a minimum wage, you need to work; to go to work, you need transportation. I’m from Malta (EU) so i have no idea what transport costs in the US, however here in Malta public transport is unreliable and with certain jobs it is impossible to cope without own car. So with that $750 I would add approx $100 per month for car loan, and lets say another $80 for fuel. (myself I pay $120 monthly per loan and $120 for fuel, but i’m constantly driving so that might not apply to everyone).
another thing, this calculation can only be applied to single persons. people with kids would never manage to cope on a minumum wage…impossible.

mobile phone bills (atleast here in Malta) are super high as well.. i always need to add €100 a month on that……

and another thing :) i hope u guys aren’t planning on ‘renting’ for the rest of your life..someday we will need to get a mortage and buy ourselves our own place. put another $400 per month on that then and start looking for a better job!! :)

Simple in France i agree with you, somehow I always have to pay an extra special surprise of $200 – $400 a month.

i hope i don’t go bald too soon………’almost minimum wage stress’ is making me lose my hair :)

harvestwages March 22, 2010 at 4:11 am

living on minimum wage is possible. Yet, i think it will be very difficult to save up to $300 out of $1000 monthly. I live on a minimum wage rate, but i think it’s easier for me because i’ve got no family with me.

Moon Hussain March 22, 2010 at 4:42 am

Can I live on min. wage? Yes, but I’d be incredibly unhappy. Putting aside what society tells us, I love my car, I love my tv and hbo… call me spoiled if you’d like, but that’s not much to ask for in life.

Whether I have $$ or not, I will always want a nice place, decent car. There are things in life we all just “want”.

P.S. you didn’t compute things like health care plans into that fee or eating out twice a week, etc. ;)
.-= Moon Hussain´s last blog ..Are You Embarrassed Of Saying “Passive Income” Out Loud? =-.

kt March 22, 2010 at 6:02 am

i am currently living in east africa and i have in many cases lived comfortably below the minimum wage of 1dollar, the thing is that here life is very cheap but the lack of employment makes people poor. it is possible to live fairly comfortably with 60 dollars a month(tried and tested by yours sincerely) if you know where to live and eat

Kiesha @ WeBlogBetter March 22, 2010 at 6:12 am

I guess if you’re single and you don’t have children, it’s possible to survive – but in my opinion, living and surviving are two different things. Yes, you can survive by eating out of a garbage can, but is that really living?
I think beyond providing teenagers with extra funds that their parents aren’t going to fork over, minimum wage is a joke.
Yes, I’ve had to survive on minimum wage before and I pray I never have to experience that again.
.-= Kiesha @ WeBlogBetter´s last blog ..Does your husband want you to be like his mother? =-.

Investing Newbie March 22, 2010 at 9:17 am

OOh, there’s going to be a Mrs.Planting Dollars soon! What? I’m an instigator…LOL!

I do think it is possible to survive on minimum wage, but as you mentioned in several comments above, your expenses have to be extremely low and your definition of “living” has to be somewhat tailored. I know people “living” on minimum wage. Some have their priorities screwed so they are behind on a couple of bill payments, while others just stay at home. ALL. THE.TIME.

My monthly budget is about $100 more than the extimated take home payment for those on minimum wage. I definitely could see myself living on that, but I also have the luxury of having a paycheck that is larger than that (if I go over budget, I have extra money) and that I don’t have to pay for rent, phone, car, etc.
.-= Investing Newbie´s last blog ..The Secret [Raise] =-.

Little House March 22, 2010 at 4:19 pm

I notice that in your monthly bills breakdown, you didn’t mention the cost of a car (I’m all for biking everywhere) or utilities. I would also guess that making minimum wage at a job would probably mean that a person wouldn’t be eligible for health benefits, so that would have to budgeted in as well. It seems like living on minimum wage is possible, but difficult.

I did it years ago (a long, long time ago) and was able to make it happen. However, I didn’t have to pay for my health insurance (I was still covered under my parents) and my car was a beater, very low cost for me (minus repairs that I constantly had to make). However, it was difficult. I couldn’t do a lot of extracurricular activities. It can be done, but it’s better to have a bit more of a cushion.
.-= Little House´s last blog ..How credit card debt consolidation can eliminate your anxieties =-.

Search Engine Viking March 22, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Being a freelancer by trade (writing/acting/whatever), my income jumps up and down constantly, so I’ve learned to expect the bottom of the curve and then when I get a spike, I put it away in savings for a rainy day (i.e. a prolonged bottom).

That said, I live comfortably on about $1,000 per month. I have a car, but it’s paid off (Idaho doesn’t have public transportation to speak of, and it’s all spread out so riding a bike doesn’t work so well), I eat pretty cheap, rent a room and don’t spend on anything I don’t absolutely need. For instance, I haven’t bought any new clothes for months…
.-= Search Engine Viking´s last blog ..Anchors Away: What Is Anchor Text? =-.

Kristine March 22, 2010 at 6:45 pm

I think living on minimum wage is doable. We adapt to the situation that best serves our needs.

I recently quit my job as a nurse to stay at home and raise our newborn son. Now, we’re on one income. I feel a small pinch as we don’t eat out or shop as often. But, it’s a small price to pay to watch our son grow up.

Forest March 23, 2010 at 4:42 am

I lived on around $1000 a month in Montreal, Canada for a few years and had a very full life…. Now in Egypt I am living on less and also having a full life too (obviously that is partially related to the difference in cost of living here)… Min wage living is very possible. I recently acquired a copy of The Tightwad Gazette and the way that lady saves money in every aspect of her life is phenomenal…
.-= Forest´s last blog ..FREE DOWNLOAD -Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin =-.

The Simple Machine March 23, 2010 at 4:59 am

From personal experience I can say that I have lived on as little as $500 a month including rent while in university and now I struggle living on a substantial monthly salary.

It is knowing how to live within your means. On a minimum salary you can’t afford the latest gadgets and you are more likely to seek out promotions. While in university when my friends were getting their first iPods, I got a 64mb mp3 player free with a promotion offer (in 2004) and it did exactly what it needed to! Then in 2005 I got a free 512MB iPod shuffle when I switched banks as a promotion.

Now that I am not financially strapped, I have an iPhone and a second hand car and rent a decent apartment and spend money socializing with friends a lot (read eating and drinking out and going out).

The problem is that I went from one end of the spectrum of living on as little as possible to the other end where I am living on as much as possible (luckily I have been smart enough not to go into debt)!

I think the problem is that we start to expand our wants as our resources increase and the salary can never fill the void. So over the past few months I have been cutting out a lot of the excess. I am starting to live a minimalist lifestyle and recently starting to get my personal finances under control. I find that even though I had been at it on and of for months; ever since I started my blog a month ago I have been more focused and determined at cutting the fat.
.-= The Simple Machine´s last blog ..Getting Smart about buying a Car! =-.

Tess The Bold Life March 23, 2010 at 10:06 am

I’m guessing life insurance isn’t included in this. If you aren’t prone to sickness or can live without an accident it may be possible. Also how big would your emergency fund be? Things happen in life…I’d be interested in how to prepare for “stuff” that happens living on minimum wage.
.-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..My Dad and His Tool Shop =-.

Mrs. Accountability March 23, 2010 at 12:31 pm

I have lived at minimum wage plenty of times. The last time was with two adults and two children. It can be done. We didn’t have a car, and public transportation wasn’t that good. People who say it can’t be done are thinking you HAVE to have a car, you HAVE TO have a big house, etc., etc. I actually look back on that period of my life fondly, and wish I could go back to those days when I had so much more time to do the things I wanted to do.

Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey March 23, 2010 at 4:36 pm

I totally agree Ryan that it is possible to live on minimum wage. I just think it depends on the mind-set. If someone has a problem sticking to a set budget, then they may find it often difficult to live on minimum wage because there’s no telling what they may splurge on. But nonetheless, I would agree that it is totally possible!


James March 25, 2010 at 11:50 am

i would agree in some parts of the country it is possible but not everywhere. that being said how many people on minimum wage know how or would take the time to break the numbers down as you did? not many.

its all about budgeting and knowing your limits.

Daniel Johnston March 25, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Luckily, I have, no, never had to live on minimum wage. I’m afraid that will become the norm soon. More and more people are getting educated, which means more people need jobs. I have doubts on whether the economy will ever be able to catch up to offer enough jobs for everyone (or pretty much everyone) to have one. I think a lot of them will end up being employed on minimum wage.

I do think I could live on minimum wage if absolutely necessary. I’ve done some calculations about what I wouldn’t be able to give up and how much those cost, added that to your $750, and I think I could live on around $950 per month. It’s pretty amazing to me, because imagining that life, I think I would actually be pretty happy; maybe even more happy, because there wouldn’t be many distractions, so therefore I could get more done.

However, for the long haul, I really wouldn’t be very happy living on minimum wage. The reason is that I wouldn’t want to live like that when I retire, and saving $100 a month isn’t going to give one much of a retirement fund. If I had to, I would, but it would not at all be the retirement I have envisioned.

The debate about what the minimum wage should be is certainly an interesting one. Currently $7.25 in most states, I think it should be higher. My reasoning is that most people have children, and children are expensive. Anyone who says they and two or three (around the average amount of children) children can live on just over $1,000 is just not being realistic.

If there was a husband and a wife, both bringing in minimum wage, there would still not be enough money.

I think most people would be able to survive on $1,000 per month (most are just not willing to cut back all the way to $750), and let’s say the kids cost $600 a month. That would be total of $3,200 a month. Multiply that by 12 equals $38,400 a year. Divide that by two equals $19,200 a year. So $19,200 a year is what I think the minimum wage should be.

So $19,200 divided by 2,080 equals $9.23. Multiply that by 1.15 (for the 15% tax), and we’ve got $10.62. That’s what I think minimum wage should be.

j. March 26, 2010 at 1:54 am

I think it’s totally possible to live on minimum wage. I’d have to stop paying back student loans and credit cards, but on minimum wage you can get hardship forbearance anyway. It can be as full or as empty a life as you want. But it’s enough to live inside (with roommates), pay (1/3rd) the utilities, and keep gas in the ($600 used) car. Heck, there’d even be some left over for beer.

Best part about minimum wage jobs is that there are a lot of them available during non-daytime hours. You could work a basic fast food job in the evenings, and make art, or start a business, or loaf at the beach all day. I can’t think of much that’d be better than that. Except maybe loafing on beaches I haven’t been to yet, with cold beer and good company.
.-= j.´s last blog ..Day 41- Crazy Ideas =-.

Haystacks March 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm

In California 30 hours a week is considered full time work for a lot of Retailers. Minimum Wage is 9.50. This is $1,140 a month. Take out taxes it is $1,000 a month. Take out the union dues and health care it is $960 a month.

I live in a bad neighborhood and rent out a room with 3 roommates. My rent is $700. My utilities are $175 if you include cell phone. A Fast Pass to take the bus is $60.

This comes to $935.

This leaves me $25 dollars for a month worth of Food, toiletries, toilet paper and home cleaning supplies, paid laundry and student loans.

It also assumes nothing unexpected ever happens that requires money.

AMD March 30, 2010 at 5:09 am

I think you’ve overestimated taxes.

I make a little bit more than minimum wage, live in a state with high (and practically regressive) state income taxes, have no children or additional deductions, and pay less than you’ve estimated for taxes. I think you didn’t take into account the standard deduction, so really only $10k of that $15k will be taxed.

Early Retirement Extreme April 9, 2010 at 9:23 am

Indeed it is. You can even get relatively wealthy on a minimum wage. I wrote a post about it
Of course, anyone sufficiently disciplined and driven to do this will probably make more than minimum wage in short order.
.-= Early Retirement Extreme´s last blog ..Guest post on Monevator about extreme retirement =-.

William K Wallace April 10, 2010 at 11:11 am

Living on the minimum wage is possible here in London, you just have to learn to adapt. Cut down on the booze, nights out, woman with expensive tastes and life becomes a hell of a lot cheaper…!
.-= William K Wallace´s last blog .. =-.

Plant Money online April 23, 2010 at 1:20 am

Money is important and its difficult to survive without it and i think instead of thinking to cut expenses one should think about earning more.
.-= Plant Money online´s last blog ..Spiritual ways to earn money online =-.

Tim April 24, 2010 at 11:41 am

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, etc..
Very relaxing and enjoyable and assuring to know that you don’t need all those things that people think they need to be happy.

bryan May 6, 2010 at 9:05 pm

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’

Kharim May 16, 2010 at 2:53 pm

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 May 29, 2010 at 7:25 am

“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 wonderful new foods this way). But the cost of produce varies from state to state, region to region. Also, not all of us have vegetable gardens or are allowed to have them. (But tomatoes can be grown by the window, and fresh flowers can always be grown inside.)

Coupon. Coupon. Coupon. If you don’t have a printer, invest in one – it will pay itself back very quickly in terms of on-line coupons (those inserts will soon be fading away). Or try trading on Freecycle.

“and your utilities will be about $40-$50.”

Nope. Even if you’re on public assistance, you can’t get gas and electricity for that. What about if you have to pay for your own heat?

“You may also have a small clothing allowance of $20-$30 a month if you thrift.”

I rarely spend on myself anymore (one of the joys of being older and not needing to have a Carrie Bradshaw wardrobe) except for cold-weather gear. But I do spend that amount on my family.

Forget about sewing and knitting. This isn’t our mother’s Simplicity Pattern days. Fabrics and yarns are expensive. Used to be it would be less costly to make your own dress. Those days are long gone.

Thrift shopping? Wash EVERYTHING in hot, soapy water. Otherwise you risk scabies or bedbugs.

“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. ”

Through trial and error I won’t have to buy toiletries (deodorant, shampoo) and cosmetics for the next year or so (again, check freshness dates on cosmetics, or ask at the store). But I otherwise don’t think you can do minimum in the U.S.A., not now.

With all due respect, you failed to mention health insurance co-pay; med co-pay; life insurance if you have a family; supplies and tuition if you’re on your way to a new career or have a serious hobby you hope to turn into a career.

Most free dental clinics no longer do cleanings and other prophylactic work – you’re faced with removing the tooth, or suffering (and possibly getting sick). So you have to budget in emergencies like this.

You are describing a **very** minimal existence, depressing almost. If you can do it, all power to you (library books, videos, etc – these can be cut from the purchasing budget).

I can and do do without a cell phone, but it’s a headache.

I think your thesis may be well-applied to those who enjoy white martyrdom (an ascetic existence). But I for one don’t want to be stranded in the desert with a Bible but without a dentist.

It also works, if it works at all, if you don’t have children at home – why make them suffer, when they had no say in this?

An interesting read, nonetheless. Thank you for posting it.

Deborah San Gabriel May 31, 2010 at 8:11 am

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 in a co-op house. But for those of us who have, by choice or necessity, left that life behind, it’s impossible where I am (Greater Boston area). Our city is truly the model for many who face the very real “medicine or food this month?” Your very fortunate in your rent, I wish our region could be like that. Here, a 2-br even in a crummy little industrial town runs @1,500 (lousy, bedbug infested, etc.) – @2,200/month (small but clean).

So, what if one does not find meaning through an in-demand field? The road is that much harder. But an in-demand field is going to pay more than any federal or state minimum wage. As for other minimum wage jobs – the McJobs – does one really want to live one’s life without meaning? For example, IMNSO, retail jobs are a complete waste of time. Library assistant at a low wage, not a waste of time.

Of course, there’s the rare thing, such as the folklore and mythology MA student (like Comic Book Man on The Simpsons) working at a comic book store! Can he support a family on his own? But, like you wrote, “the article doesn’t present an argument from the assumption of having children.”

Do you know why Edith Wharton, who had established herself as the Martha Stewart of her day, became a novelist? Writing design books, she was tops, but it really didn’t pay in those days. She started writing fiction because she had expensive tastes. Oh, for the day when talented writers could almost be assured a decent income!

I can see your scenario for a single person without many needs, who has mastered the household budgeting process. (And hopefully meds are included in such a person’s health insurance.)

But say this, for example, another case: once you go to a min wage job and say (not you, just in general) you have been receiving gov benefits, your co-pays go way up; you are only allowed to make a certain amount a month, etc.

Anyway, a great little blog, Ryan, and I thank you for being out there.

Tanja Wanderlust July 7, 2010 at 5:41 am

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 July 23, 2010 at 6:30 am

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 barley get by. It sounds like slavery to me. The gap between the owner of a company, compared to the people that make all his money for him is insane!! People need to wake up!! When I work 40 hours a week, I expect more than just being able to squeek by. It would also help the economy. The owner keeps all his millions in the bank doing nothing but gaining interest for him. People like you and me would spend more, there for putting more money into the economy, helping it grow. The minimum wage should be $12 an hour, and when congress gets a pay raise because of cost of living, the minimum wage should raised as well. Until then, were not home of the brave, but home of the SLAVES.

MakingAMillionDollars July 24, 2010 at 1:26 pm

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.
.-= MakingAMillionDollars´s last blog ..My Stock Portfolio – Just Bought 50 Shares of F Ford Motor Co =-.

I wish I made minimum wage September 7, 2010 at 2:24 am

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 in itself. lol….Income…about 700 on a good month…My rent is 600 dollars a month and electric runs about 25 a month. How we survive on 25-75 dollars a month is BEYOND me @ times…but its definitely possible. I see it everyday in other people besides us. And we’ve been living like this on and off (layoff schedules) for the past 4 years. I know people that have a household income of 80,000 dollars a year but have no money to buy their 1 kid clothes and are expecting another child and have no money to buy a crib. They refuse to give up their life style of entertainment. People do and sacrifice to survive.

Jeannine Vassallo September 15, 2010 at 12:29 pm

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

Jacob October 28, 2010 at 11:45 am

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) set me back 260 combined a month. What’s more, my disease is only in a very bad state, not “iron lung” status. It’s enough to negate receiving regular health insurance rates but not enough to get disability. When the COBRA expires I’m told I can be eligible for HIPPA that would be about twice that.

Since, where I live, the gas stations and McDonald’s haven’t responded to me during the course of two and a half years, I found myself in a predicament. I have an interview next week for a job that pays 8.42/hr. Just going in batches of 4 weeks, that’s 1347.20. My tax rate, young and single with no dependents on a standard deduction, is just shy of 20 percent when I made 10/hr. So if I halve that rate I take home 1200 in 4 weeks. I like to cook from home, and batch cook, so my dinners could be 7 dollars but freeze for half the week. Cereal’s relatively inexpensive, as are sandwiches. Say two boxes a week for 5 bucks and 9 dollars a week for sandwich meat and bread. 14+5+9=28 a week for food x 4 = 112. I go through 10/wk in gas, which thanks to shift bidding and living outside of the more expensive city means it’s my only option; fortunately I get better fuel economy and have lower emissions than anyone I know.


That leaves me 363 dollars. A quick look on my local Craigslist reveals one room available at 350 in a place that I called that is soon to be condemned and is offered for the next month only. -Quite a few- places offer split rent of a room. 3/4 of these are within a mile or so from a street that’s famous throughout the -entire- county for being where most of our murders and drug trafficking take place. To be safe here, the cheapest place with basic utilities is going to be 450 shared with someone else.

No emergencies, no toiletries — and I never have been a person to have crap like personal music players or HBO; bare bones — and I’m one hundred dollars in the hole, spending more than I make, despite earning more than minimum wage.

BUT if I didn’t have the loans or the health insurance it does seem like it could be a doable squeeze. =)

Stephen Finders November 2, 2010 at 5:04 pm


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 things of the like, feel free to ask.

javaking November 7, 2010 at 12:19 pm

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.

Dan December 4, 2010 at 3:04 pm

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 needed.

$400-$500 a month is a high estimate for rent. You can pay low as $200 a month w/ utils without too much strain with a roommate in an old appartment. Also, the author failed to mention the possibility of buying a cheap piece of land for $1000- $2000 and building a cheap self sustainable cabin for $3000 and not having any rent if one had everything paid for up front.

A car is not needed, even if you live 15 miles away from your job, only a nice bike is needed. Vehicles are inneficient and expensive, and can be unpredictable. You will also keep yourself healthy with a bike. Bike repairs and tires average me $60 per year.

As far as other groceries are concerned, you can get a bottle of shampoo ($1) to last for 3 months, store brand bars of soap ($2) to last for 2 months, toothpaste ($3) for a month, laundry detergent ($6) for 3 months, Deodorant ($2) 2 months. That would make grocery bills more like $140 per month= $1680 per year.

Health insurance ranges from $600- $1000 per year on average for basic – decent coverage.

So lets say you find a cheap place to rent with a roommate= $200 month= $2400 per year
Then you spend 140 a month on groceries and 60 a year on bike= $1740 per year
Then you have some decent health insurance = $1000 per year

The total of this is $5140
Which could be much much lower if one owned land and lived in a yurt or a small cabin.

Ryan M. Fm September 11, 2011 at 3:14 pm

I live in New Orleans Louisiana and I make $8.00 dollar’s an hour doing screen printing, my rent is $650, power is $100-120, water is $40, phone is $60(witch my girlfriend pays) and it cost me at lest $240 it eat for a month, that’s $1030 and I have a can I need to get to work everyday witch cost me in insurance $100 bucks not to add gas that comes up to $80 dollars a month so add that up and I make just enough to the penny to live. I have no family, just me and I make .75 cent more them the minimum wage. I know I don’t need a $60 dollar cell phone(that I don’t pay) or insurance and gas for my car but I need it for work. Some months I have to ask my girl for help and it makes me feel like a loser. There are just no jobs in this city at this time and it suck. Minimum Wage guys, may God have your back !

Tiago Pereira February 2, 2012 at 5:54 am

Well, I think living on minimum wage it’s perfectly possible… depending on the area and country.

Here in Portugal, our minimum wage is 485 euros a month (637,29$ in US, 402,56£ in UK) and it’s very difficult to live, or even survive, on that kind of amount recieved.

Just for you to have an idea, an apartment rounds no less than about 300 euros. Below that threshold it’s possible, but very very rare. After that, you have costs with food – about 75-125 euros a month, with low brands. That makes 425 euros. But… we have some other things to pay also, like gas (20 euros or so), water (10-15 euros normally), electrity (40 euros, 60 euros, on that threshold)… and all that means a 70 euro minimum cost on that kind of stuff. Total? 495 euros. More 10 than minimum.

And I’m not counting taxes (11-12%, about 437 euros remain), other stuff like paying the administration of the building, like 20 euros, clothing (never less than 20 euros each time we go), mobile phones (normally 12.5 euros a month), internet (minimum 12,89 € monthly…), and so on, and so on.

You don’t live here with the minimum wage, you survive and you survive badly. Plus improving your income could bring disadvantages, because taxes by the yearly income rise quickly… I’m thinking of, when I turn 18, get rid of this country, maybe go to UK or US, at least you have there means to live more “breathly”…

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