Home / General / The McDonald’s Guide to Living On Its Wages

The McDonald’s Guide to Living On Its Wages


That McDonald’s. It’s such a sweet New Gilded Age corporation, helping its employees learn how to live on its minimum wage salaries. Here’s the sample budget journal:

As Robyn Pennacchia notes, that $1105–that’s assuming a 40-hour workweek. So McDonald’s is telling you to work another job, adding up to a mere 62 hour workweek if they live in Illinois, that land of moochers and takers. 74 hours if they are on the national minimum wage. Very Gilded Age. And when you work those 62 or 74 hours, you know what you don’t get? Heat.

Where the $20 a month health insurance comes from, unless we are talking Gilded Age solutions of buying a bottle of whiskey to kill pain, I don’t know.

Monthly spending money includes food, gas, and any basic necessities of life. Including heat I guess.

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  • Manny Kant

    One person living on $2000/month net pay isn’t crazy, but it’s outrageous that they expect someone working full time for them to be holding down another job.

    • Cpt. Jack Harkness

      But it gets pretty ridiculous when old white men want to control womens’ bodies and force them to have babies they can’t take care of. Ultimately, this is pretty ridiculous, but you have to be open-minded enough to apply it to the real issues in America.
      No person should have to hold down two jobs. The ultimate slap in the face is to have earned a degree yet have to put up with a budget like this.
      Nvm the fact that McDonald’s allows a credit organization to steal your hard-earned money.

      • Origami Isopod

        It’s not ridiculous. It’s a feature, not a bug. The poorer people are, the more desperate they are, the less time they have to protest, the more money the corpocrats can extract from them.

        • To a point. I am certain that a lot of money is wasted on repair of damage caused by pissed off employees.

          • Antonius

            Business expense.

        • dweb

          ….and the poorer people are, the more they are forced to shop at Walmart. It’s a system, but it bloody well works.

          BTW, Walmart is now proudly touting how much you can save on food with them if you eat Hotpockets for every meal.

          Hey…..it coulda been Ramen!!!

    • Grapost


      Burger Patty depending on size – 18 cents, 48 cents, and 68 cents
      Grilled Chicken Patty – 66 cents
      Crispy Chicken Patty – 67 cents
      Sausage Patty – 13 cents
      1 McNugget – 6 cents
      1 Egg – 9 cents
      Filet O Fish Patty – 35 cents
      Candian Bacon Slice – 14 cents
      Hot Cakes – 8.3 cents
      French Fries – 3.44 a huge bag for multiple servings
      Yogart Mix – 4.14 a large bag for multiple servings
      Slice Of Cheese – 6 cents
      Hamburger Bun – 8 cents
      Bacon – 16 cents
      Tomatoes – 16 cents
      McNugget Sauce – 6 cents
      Paper Napkins – .001 cents
      Plastic Straw – 5 cents
      Ketchup Packet – 1 cent
      Biscuits – 10 cents
      Muffins – 10 cents
      12 oz Soft drink no ice – 26 cents for Coke – 16 cents for others

      Info Link: http://imgur.com/R8OyA

      McDonalds profits are 20.4% or their revenue, which is double and triple
      that of some other busineses.

      Link: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune500/2012/snapshots/2262.html

      By comparison, Supermarket industry operates on a 1 to 2 percent profit margin

      Link: http://yourbusiness.azcentral.com/profit-margin-supermarket-17711.html

  • Joshua

    Yea, but people who work 62 hours a week are just lazy freeloaders, so they deserve it.

    • JKTHs

      Especially if they don’t pay federal income taxes.

      • Linnaeus

        Lucky duckies.

      • fledermaus

        They don’t buy food either if that list is anything to go by. And no $100 a month in “other” isn’t cutting it.

        • Warren Terra

          Food and clothing are part of the “spending money”. Because eating and clothing yourself are basically things you do on impulse, and should be considered an afterthought.

          • JKTHs

            What are you complaining about? $800 per month is plenty for T-bone steaks and hoodies.

            • Warren Terra

              $800/month is actually plenty for food and clothing (some of the other numbers seem off, though). But most people I know plan to eat on a regular basis, and so if they were putting a monthly budget together they wouldn’t shunt that into “spending money”; they’d have line items for groceries and for eating out. They might even consider toiletries and household needs separately from food, and from clothing.

              All of this of course ignores the two main things: the notion someone can hold 1.5 low-paid jobs in this economy and without schedule conflicts; and the question of household size. Because $800 is ample to feed and clothe one person, but throw in a couple of kids …

              • JKTHs

                Plus holding two jobs and taking care of kids. It’d be nearly impossible to pull off.

                • Next step: Eradicate child labor laws, fire the parents, employ the kids!

                • Patricia Lil

                  Especially when there is no money in the budget for child care.

              • Adjuncts

              • Verline

                You guys are so negative. Look at the plus side – if you’re working 60+ hours a week, you won’t really have time to eat. Problem solved. I doubt you get any dinner breaks, anyway.

  • MPAVictoria

    Truly we are in a new golden age!

  • c u n d gulag

    I think the term, “Gilded Age,” is past it’s sell-by date.
    And so, too, the “The New Gilded Age.”

    May I suggest “The Platinumed Age.”

    • LeftWingFox

      The Electroplated Age.

      • Lee Rudolph

        And we all know who’s supposed to be the sacrificial anode!

        • guthrie

          Have an internet!

    • Hogan

      The Ziebart Age.

      (The point of “gilded” was that it looks valuable, but it isn’t; it just has a shiny surface.)

      • zombie rotten mcdonald

        The Spackled Age?

        • Davis X. Machina

          Mondo Bondo.

        • The whited spelchure age. Rotten to the core.

          • jake the snake


            I had several responses.

            So much evil, so few guillotines.

            Walmart richsplains it all.

            Noblesse Oblige, Lord Grantham would be proud.

            • jake the snake

              oops, Ronald McDonald richsplains it all.

      • sparks

        I was thinking Zirconian Era, then again I can’t figure why diamonds are valuable to begin with.

        • Linnaeus

          then again I can’t figure why diamonds are valuable to begin with.

          Heh. It’s for the same reason a lot of things are valuable – humans decided that they were.

          • zombie rotten mcdonald


  • ruviana

    For medical I assumed they were allowed one prescription co-pay a month (yes, I know they prolly don’t have health insurance but that’s what I thought).

    • Joshua

      Or they tap into their emergency fund when they have a big health expense?

      Barring that, maybe their 401(k) or IRA.

      • JKTHs

        And the chances of them having decent amount of money in one of those is…

        Any big health expenses would go uncompensated or otherwise drain any assets they have, at least until next year when presumably they’d have a more generous health insurance plan.

        • Republican health care

          emergency rooms!!!

      • Hogan

        That’s what the $100 a month savings is for.

        From later in the presentation:

        You can have almost anything you want as long as you plan ahead and save for it.

        So don’t get hit by that bus until you’re ready.

        • Liam

          People can work for an infinite number of years during their life, right?

          • Hogan

            I certainly have been.

            • timb


          • BigHank53

            Working at McDonald’s can start to seem infinite by the end of your third day.

        • MAJeff

          That savings could also make up for the $0 budgeted for heat.

        • catclub

          Who knew that McDonalds was Alice’s Restaurant?

          • rea

            You can get anything you want
            At McDonald’s Restaurant
            (Exceptin’ Ronald)

      • delurking

        They just ask their parents for a few thousand dollars. You know, like Mitt Romney advised.

      • Ann Romney

        Surely there’s some stock they could sell, isn’t there?

    • Pour some ‘Tussin on it.

  • Hogan

    The McDonald’s Guide to Living On Its Wages

    Rule #1: Never eat at McDonald’s.

    • firefall

      Never pay for eating at McDonald’s

      • I was wondering about McD’s food policy. Once upon a time one of the perks of working food service (some places) was the food. I’ve worked places where you could eat what you wanted on the premises and take food home.

        I suspect these days employees get a discount on one meal.

        • Anonymous

          I worked a few restaurant jobs in high school and it varied. Sometimes you’d get a different discount based on whether you were on the clock or off the clock, sometimes you’d get the same discount regardless. I never worked at a restaurant where employes got free food.

          • Sherm

            My first job back in high school in the 1980s was at a McDonalds, and we got a free meal every shift, with meal options dependent upon the length of the shift. I have no clue whether that is still the company’s policy, but I tend to doubt it.

            • Barry

              My brother managed some Domino’s Pizza places. They made one pizza for the crew each shift. Sometimes it’d magically transform into McDonald’s food. He told me that those were inexplicably on the same days when the McDonald’s crew was eating pizza.

              • TribalistMeathead

                Yeah, one of my managers would trade free meals with the manager of the movie theater across the street for free passes. Unfortunately, the first and only time I went to see a free movie, it was The Trigger Effect.

          • delurking

            I closed at McD’s when I was a kid (late teens). We got to eat the leftover food at the end of the shift. Sometimes the guys on the grill would “accidentally” cook too much to be sure we got a decent meal, there at two in the morning when we were cleaning the place up and shutting it down.

            Well. You know. A *large* meal, anyway.

          • TribalistMeathead

            Above was me, and this was in the mid 90s. I have no doubt that meal policies for employees were much more generous before then.

          • I should have said these were not chains. And looking back the eat whatever policy meant I didn’t insist on breaks. It wasn’t like I hadn’t just eaten or had something to drink. Don’t know how it worked for my co-workers.

        • joe from Lowell

          I worked at McDonald’s when I was a kid. You got a meal whose value was based on a how long your shift was.

          Four hours = hamburger or cheeseburger, small fries, small drink

          Six to eight hours = Fillet or Chicken, med fries, med drink

          Eight+ = large sandwich (QP, Big Mac), med fries, med drink. Maybe large.

          I can’t believe I still remember that.

          • Sherm

            This is 100% correct. Great memory!

          • Warren Terra

            Wow. I’m actually surprised they were dickering over things like this. What can the difference in cost to McDonalds possibly be for a small drink versus a medium one, or a small fries versus a medium one? A nickel? A dime? They were literally nickel-and-diming you, and as it wasn’t so much about the money it had to be about the power.

            • If it’s up to a nickel I’d be surprised.

              I share your shock. I guess I shouldn’t underestimate the pettiness. But I would have thought that delaying even a bit of turnover would pay for the “deluxe” 8+ hour meal. (And you max out with a medium fries and drink?!)

              • Jon C

                Pettiness? Or looking out for the well-being of their employees?

            • Ronan

              It’s an incentive! Why else work a longer shift?

            • Sherm

              This is correct. The fuckers would fire a worker for eating a burger that they were going to throw away as too old to sell.

        • Cody

          When I worked there (6 years ago or so) we got a free meal for every shift 4 hours or longer.

          I’m not sure how much of a difference it makes for each franchise, since who knows who owns which?

          Also got a discount when not working. Also, sometimes my friends accidentally made a sandwich incorrectly (OH NO, no extra lettuce on this burger…) and it would have to be thrown away unless someone ate it.

        • Origami Isopod

          I briefly worked at a “Friendly’s” back in the ’80s. You got half-off on their shitty food during your shift.

        • Katya

          I worked at McDs in high school and I think we got 50 percent off, or we could eat the food that was too old to serve for free. My manager once forgot to give me my mandated lunch break, and when she realized it, gave me a free meal of whatever I wanted.

          • Green Caboose

            I, too, worked at MickeyDs. I learned then that the policy varied depending on whether it was a company-owned store or a franchisee – that is, the owners set the policy. This probably explains the differences in what is reported.

            Our policy was a free meal for a full shift – I can’t remember if you got anything free with a partial shift as I never worked those. But as we worked nights and the big boss man worked days there was a lot of flexibility if you got along with the shift manager.

            Earlier I’d worked at Long John Silver’s and the company policy was half-priced food, no carry-out. Most of us didn’t eat much of it.

            Worked one summer with two jobs at a college food service (for summer conferences) and a local pizza place. The college food service was crappy hours – basically you got 2 hour shifts at meal times and your schedule wasn’t set until just before each conference – but at the end of each shift you could eat the free meal that you’d set aside earlier. The pizza place was all-you-can-eat. As I was living on my own I didn’t have parent’s free room-and-board so the savings in groceries was substantial.

  • LeeEsq

    Are they going to hire goons to enforce this like Pullman and Ford did?

    • The Wrath of Oliver Kahn

      Hired goons?

      • FourTen

        I like the personal touch you can only get from Hired Goons.

      • LeeEsq

        Ford had his infamous Sociological Department. These were basically thugs and goons who made sure that his workers were living Ford’s idea of the proper life. Pullman did the same thing with his company to earlier. I’m wondering if McDonalds is going to continue the tradition of using goons to enforce their ideas about proper living on their employees.

  • glorious bourgeoisie

    Working men have to work feverishly.

    And save.

    Then will they get a good credit line and be able to leverage themselves into comfortable bourgeois living style.

    Until interest rates rise abruptly, lol.

  • Timurid

    Now this is how you troll.

  • PeakVT

    I think we should all thank McDonalds for proving the minimum wage is too low.

  • SamR

    Actually, unless my math is off, the income for job #1 can’t be for a 40-hour week. Assuming 4 weeks in a month, that would put the hourly wage at $6.91 ($6.50 for an assumption of 4.25 weeks) below the federal minimum wage.

    So McDonalds is also telling their employees they need to accept that they’ll never work 40 hours a week at their first job, instead it’ll be more like 32, but make sure you’re available to come in whenever we call you or we’ll fire you.

    • SamR

      Nevermind, I suppose its after-tax calculation.

      • No. It’s not. It’s not even close.

        • Icarus Wright

          Handy conversions:
          40 hrs/wk = 173.333 hrs/mo = 2080 hrs/yr
          52 wks/yr = 4.333 wks/mo

          Assuming fed income tax rate of 25%
          Job1 = $1105/mo (net) / 0.75 = $1473/mo (gross) = $8.50/hr
          Job2 = $955/mo (net) / 0.75 = $1273/mo (gross) = $7.35/hr

          Total annual gross = (1473+1273)x12 = $32960.

          What’s interesting about this is how precisely the hourly wage works out…assuming 40 hrs/wk for both jobs. Probably not by chance.

  • Heating – $0.

    Because you can stay warm burning Big Mac boxes, moocher!

  • Mike G

    Heating? Nah, it’s not like it ever gets cold in Illinois.

    WTF kind of health insurance do you get for $20 a month?

    • Davis X. Machina

      Scratch tickets.

    • Katya

      That was my question. Health insurance for $20/month? Maybe catastrophic coverage, but even then it seems low. And no heat–awesome.

      • sparks

        My guess is under their breath McDonalds is saying “Medicaid” without wishing to spell it out. I paid over double that for insurance monthly – me only – in the 1980s.

      • STH

        My catastrophic coverage–high deductible, no prescription coverage–is $320 a month. Would be a cheaper rate for somebody in their 20s, but still nowhere near $20. I pay more than that for prescriptions, even with getting birth control free.

    • Warren Terra

      Tylenol. Well, not Tylenol. Store-brand acetaminophen.

      • ‘Tussin!

        • cure alls

          The Tussin is a poor substitute for cod liver oil and bag balm.

          • Malaclypse

            Back in my day, we knew that laudanum was good for whatever ails you.

            • Hogan

              And we could buy it at the corner store. For only five bees.

      • anthrofred

        Aspirin if you need birth control.

        • Warren Terra

          Well played.

        • Lee Rudolph

          “You can’t have the aspirin tonight, dear, I have a headache.”

        • Old, old, old joke. Is it still around? Or will the young ‘uns miss it entirely?

          • Warren Terra

            During the Republican primaries last year, Newt Gingrich’s deep-pocketed backer Foster Friess made that joke, amidst iirc an eruption of the Republicans claiming that health insurance covering birth control was an anti-Christian plot. A lot of politically aware people learned the joke then.

  • glorious bougeoisie

    Working men should develop family solidarity : bundle savings together, and invest in capitalist endeavours.

    • Davis X. Machina

      We could all chip in and share the cost of a tumbrel.

      • Warren Terra

        Is that under “Savings” or “Spending money”?

        If there were instead a lynching, you could budget it under “Cable”, which gets a line item (unlike, say, food).

    • zombie rotten mcdonald

      Sounds like socialism.

  • OlderThanDirt

    You honestly believe that ALL people who were living in America in the 40’s & 50’s had the same access to work, home buying, and banking? It wasn’t racism or sexism that kept them from jobs that would allow savings and home purchase, but just being stupid? REALLY?

    • OlderThanDirt

      This now makes no sense since the troll is gone, but just realize I’m not talking to Erik.

      • It still makes sense, and the absence of the troll makes it delightfully DADA.

  • Lee Brimmicombe-Wood

    What I find interesting is that despite a hundred years of time and motion study indicating that workers become a lot less productive when working more than 40 hours a week over a sustained period of time, our masters expect us to work more than 40 hours a week. Its almost as if they WANT an inefficient workforce!

    • Origami Isopod

      Your assumption there is that our masters make rational decisions, rather than take advantage of their power to indulge their sadism. Or, at the very least, that they’re intelligent enough to investigate what will actually make us most productive.

      • Lee Brimmicombe-Wood

        You may be right. But I recall it was that well-known pinko Henry Ford who actually reduced his workforce’s hours and got a huge increase in productivity. I seems that Capital will have to relearn the lessons of their forebears.

        • Sherm

          I worked 12-hour night shifts (8:00 PM to 8:00 AM) at a union factory one summer in college. We got three breaks during the twelve hour shift. There were three different managers who rotated into the night shifts. One was a hardass who made certain that every worker took no more break time than allotted and followed the workers around like children to make certain that no extra time was taken, and another who allowed every worker to take three one-hour breaks each night, which was much more than permitted, and never checked to see if anyone was abusing his unwritten rule. Guess which manager had the best productivity numbers each and every month?

          • Warren Terra

            Wait, what about the third manager? I can’t guess until you describe the third manager.

            • catclub

              Had the password to the system computer and adjusted his shift production accordingly.

            • Sherm

              lol. The third manager was in the middle.

              But that summer really taught me a lot about managing people and worker productivity, especially later in the summer when they put two recent college grads on the factory floor as part-time managers as part of their training for corporate/office positions. One of them looked down his nose at everyone except for the handful of college kids working summer jobs, and us college kids repaid him with a little sabotage which basically shut the entire factory down for the night on his watch. I vividly recall the thumbs up the shop steward gave me from behind the guy while I was giving him a bullshit story how the machine got jammed. I also got a lot of free sodas in the break room over the rest of the summer.

              • Mike G

                I love stories like this.

              • Jeremiah Meyer-O’Day

                Wonderful! We all need more of that sort of thing, at least, those of us who actually do the work.

    • Trollhattan

      It’s perhaps even worse than just inefficiency. The project manager I most respect has a saying, “Tired people make mistakes.” which he pulls out when the inevitable project crunchtime comes and the typical management response is to increase everybody’s hours. In construction and other types of fieldwork, this can get people hurt and even killed. Even a place like McDonalds offers an array of ways for folks to be injured (will speculate burn hazards are foremost).

      • Lee Brimmicombe-Wood

        You are not wrong, Trollhattan. You can easily end up in ”negative productivity’ where errors and accidents and carelessness actively hinder the project or cause accidents.

        The crazy thing is that this is knowledge that goes back to the nineteen-teens, the twenties and thirties. The deals on working hours made by management and unions were based on the mutually beneficial agreement that you get peak productivity out of folks who work no more than 40 hours. (Yeah, I’m sure some Stakhanovite individuals can do more, but they are exceptions to the rule.) The notion that labour must work 175% of the norm is completely backward and ultimately hurtful to everyone’s interests, bosses incuded.

        • Green Caboose

          The crazy thing is that this is knowledge that goes back to …

          This is SOOO true about everything in this age. All the lessons learned from the past have been thrown out.

          Consider office space. In the 1970s there were numerous studies showing that white collar worker productivity (and accuracy) was greatly influenced by the work environment. Open floorplans were the worst. Best were isolated offices where people had room to spread out, wall space to be used for work planning, and walls to keep other noise out. One widely-cited study used MIS (old term – Management Information Systems – we now lump those folks under the generic IT umbrella) projects, putting teams in different work environments on a series of identical projects and determined that even at Manhattan office space rates the improvement in efficiency and accuracy paid for the extra office costs many times over.

          Today white collar people are shrunk down to 6×8 cubes with low walls. When you question this you are told they pack even more people into the same space in India (which, of course, partly explains the crap software that results).

          Like the Emperor’s New Clothes no one dares point out how idiotic this is – because if they do they’ll be on the next RIF list.

      • Green Caboose

        For cooks burns are a given plus some cuts. The worst burns usually are not from the grill but from the oil vats – someone in a hurry drops a back of frozen something (fries, chicken etc) in too fast and you can get splashed with hot oil.

        At a place like Long John Silvers, which makes all of its food in very large fry vats, you can tell how long cooks have worked there by the burn marks on their arms. There were times during friday night rush when the extra cooks would get their signals crossed and one would accidentially splash the other causing 2nd degree burns. But with the rush going all you did was wash off the hot oil in the sink and keep going until the crowd died down.

        I absolutely guarantee that if someone shows up tired from their other job and is cooking in that environment there will be a lot more mistakes and a lot more injuries.

      • Or if you can only care about the money: Tired people create conditions which can have a negative impact on the bottom line.

        Hospitals have a really hard time accepting that requiring nurses to work 20 hour shifts is a bad idea even when patients croak as a result. But once there’s a lawsuit or accreditation is threatened, then they’ll grudgingly pay attention.

    • mpowell

      I think they’re just clueless. Part of the problem is that if you’re a manager and go to lots of meetings, I’m not sure if you’re maximum productivity is actually limited at 40 hrs/week. In a lot of meetings, half the staff present only need to be attentive for a small portion of the meeting. So their personal experience is misleading. Plus, it’s just really hard to convince people that they actually get less done when they work too much.

      • JohnTh

        I think there is a lot of truth in this. Also, many senior managers are in that small group of well-motivated people who have a predisposition to be able to work longer hours pretty effectively. Unfortunately the same people are often short of the emotional intelligence to realise that both they and their circumstances are unusual.

        • jake the snake

          Worked for one of those people. Excellent engineer,
          and would have been a great manager if he had any concept of how to treat people.
          It eventually cost him his job due to numerous complaints to HR.

    • guthrie

      An exhausted workforce is more susceptible to the blandishments of mass entertainment and other methods for keeping them docile, so as not to notice who is running off with all the profits.

      Working conditions in the 19th century were of course frequently horrendous, but over time the workers noticed who was making all the money and worked out that they could improve their lot. That potential is being retarded at the moment by all the propaganda and other forces at work.

    • Mike G

      The “lazy soshulist” French have higher per-hour productivity than the US. Their total productivity is almost at US levels even though they work significantly less hours.

      The longer I work the more I think that a lot of American management practice is less to do with productivity and more bullshit justifications for class snobbery, spite and bullies who love to wield power and make others eat shit for its own sake.

  • But if you dare to suggest that the execs don’t need the annual 6 digit bonus you are worse than a zillion 50′ Stalins with lasers on their heads.

    Because you see there are certain people, let’s call them Pooh people, who don’t have the same needs as normal people. In fact the Poohs’ sturdier build combined with their lower mental capacity means that they need constant employment and the fatigue it brings to keep them happy and out of mischief!

    • Origami Isopod

      you are worse than a zillion 50′ Stalins with lasers on their heads.

      I want to see this movie. What’s next on del Toro’s plate?

      • Slaughterhouse Five.

      • zombie rotten mcdonald

        Soylent Green.

        • Sharks on a plane.

          • Sharks in a TimeCube.

            • zombie rotten mcdonald


              • Trolls versus C.H.U.D.

                No matter who wins, we lose.

    • zombie rotten mcdonald

      a zillion 50′ Stalins with lasers on their heads.

      Get Guillermo Del Toro on the phone!

      • zombie rotten mcdonald

        DAMMIT ISOPOD!!!

        • Anna in PDX

          Well THAT was synchronicity in action.

          • And now I have BOTH songs stuck in my head. A pox on the lot of you.

        • Origami Isopod

          /tips hat

          • jake the snake

            My favorite experience is corporate management eliminating bonuses for production employees, because
            incentives are not shown to improve productivity and job performance.
            Of course, that rule did not apply to them.
            I just thought it was because they were to lazy to work hard unless they got more money.

  • Peter

    There is plenty to complain about here ($20/mo health insurance?), but they probably aren’t really suggesting their employees should just go without heat in the winter. They’re probably assuming for this example that the employee has electric heat, so it’s included in the electric bill.

    • Cody

      I was thinking $90 a month is a bit expensive for electric. Then again, if it’s 110 out in the summer and -10 in the winter (welcome to the midwest!), it may be about right.

    • delurking

      Then why an extra budget slot for heat?

      Your theory doesn’t really hold up.

      I’m thinking they’re writing this with an “Assume it’s summer” thesis in the back of their heads.

      Which is fine for the four or five months of the year (depending on where you live) when you don’t actually need heat. But what then?

      • delurking

        I have gas heat, btw, and my electric bill usually runs about fifty dollars. So $90 is out of line, but not by much.

        (“Assume a window AC…”)

        • nixnutz

          Do you rent though? Because every place I’ve lived the heat came with the building. I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a place with a thermostat, I’ve know I’ve never had AC.

          • Origami Isopod

            I don’t think I’ve ever rented a place where heat or electricity were included in the rent.

            • CaptBackslap

              I did in college, but the place was a horrible hotel-cum-rooming-house built in like 1937, and said heat was from an old accordion-style hot water radiator. And that was one of the more attractive features of the place, although mycologists would have found the communal bathrooms fascinating.

              They tore it down less than six months after I moved out.

            • NYC law: heat must be included. It can be a shitty, loud radiator, but it has to be there.

            • JL

              Same here. I’ve never even viewed a place in the Boston area where heat and electricity were included in the rent.

              My apartment is generally pretty decent, but the insulation absolutely blows, so during the winter we end up needing to pay for so much heat that we might as well just heat ourselves by setting our money on fire instead.

              • nixnutz

                I guess the New York law explains my experience. I did have a place in Brookline where utilities were included but the landlady was a friend’s mom, we were paying above the rent control price and it was conditional on our not having AC.

          • delurking

            I do rent. Here in Arkansas, typically your landlord pays nothing. And I mean nothing. Renters are responsible for gas, water, electric, maintaining the yard, and doing all pest control.

            This means that though our rents are fairly low (I pay $750 for a three bedroom house) you can really add another four or five hundred dollars right on top of the rent, realistically.

            (Water: $110/month here; gas: $50 in the summer, a couple hundred in the winter; electric: $50 in the winter, a couple hundred to three hundred in the summer, depending on the weather; lawn maintenance & pest control: another $40-100, depending on the season.)

            • delurking

              It would be a bit cheaper if we lived in an apartment, since we wouldn’t have to pay for the yard then; but we’d still be on the hook for everything else.

              • delurking

                Plus, you don’t want to live in Arkansas without some sort of AC. Window units are a lot cheaper than the central air we have; but they’re cheaper for a reason.

      • CWALTZ

        The whole budget is jacked up and looks like it was created by someone who didn’t really feel comfortable configuring a budget. As someone pointed out, there isn’t even an area of the budget for food. Heck for YEARS the food budget was a major portion of a household budget, enough so that it was a major component to determining poverty level. But hey let’s totally leave eating out of a budget!

      • Peter


        Then why an extra budget slot for heat?

        You expect them to offer two versions of the budget worksheet: one for those with electric heat and another for those with gas heat?

    • Origami Isopod

      The heat doesn’t always come with the apartment. Nor does electricity. And if you have electric heat and your landlord doesn’t include it in the cost of the rent and you live in a cold climate, you’re fucked.

      • nixnutz

        I was actually dodging a bit because in San Francisco none of my places had central heat, they had either electric baseboard heaters or gas burners retrofit in the fireplaces, hence no thermostat. But that’s not a cold climate, in the places I’ve lived in the Northeast I’ve had radiators supplied by a common furnace, I don’t know how you would meter heat per apartment.

        Obviously in many regions people mostly rent houses and I imagine they pay for utilities much as a homeowner would.

    • Ragout

      I actually think that McDonald’s is betraying an upper-class bias by including a line for “heat.” I’ve always had heat included in my gas or electricity bill, but these bills always covered more than just heat. I looked it up, and about 90% of Americans get their heat from electricity or piped natural gas. It’s probably only people in low-density wealthy suburbs or rural areas who get a separate fuel, such as oil, especially for heat.

    • Slocum

      They’re assuming you burn the dead bodies of your children as they perish from malnutrition is what they’re assuming.

  • Liam

    Monthly spending money includes food, gas, and any basic necessities of life. Including heat I guess.

    And clothing. Don’t forget clothing. Although maybe you could do without if you can spend $0 on heat. Do McDonald’s workers have to buy their own work uniforms, I wonder?

    • TribalistMeathead

      Suddenly I’m reminded of the first ep of Saxondale, when Tommy tells Raymond he can wear the company shirt when he’s off the clock if he wants.

    • Origami Isopod

      Are there no dumpsters full of rags?

    • Green Caboose

      In the old days uniforms were given to you but you had to buy shoes – which had to conform to their appearance standards and were useless for anything else due to grease.

      • CWALTZ

        Nowadays they give you a shirt. You’re expected to buy khakis or black pants to go with your uniform shirt in addition to those shoes.

  • Bruce Leroy

    Either someone edited that sample to change the heating cost from 50 to 0, or McDonald’s has already edited their materials after seeing that people noticed this. My money is on McD’s.

    • Hogan

      No, it was definitely 0 before. And the daily spending limit is now down to $25. No cheese on the mac tonight.

      • Anonymous

        Even better, the English version (now) allows $50 for heating, while the Spanish version only has $30.

        • sibusisodan

          I’m not sure why I’m anonymous all of a sudden. Ho hum.

        • Lee Rudolph

          Spanish blood runs hot, you know.

          • rea

            I thought the lyric was “cold English blood runs hot”

  • Wait, why do these lucky duckies have cable television (in color, no doubt) and the new “cellular” phones?

  • That’s not minimum wage. They forgot to factor in Social Security and Medicare taxes. The actual monthly income is $1,902.41

    • L2P

      Don’t forget the EITC!

    • JL

      Yeah I was wondering about this too.

  • penpen

    You guys this budget still has plenty for wingnuts to nitpick and whine about.

    “Car payment? If you can’t afford a new car don’t buy one!”
    “Cable/phone? Cable is a luxury! What CBS isn’t good enough for you??? Buy a magicjack!”
    “$100 on “other”??? I think we all know what means, ILLEGAL DRUGS STOP SMOKING CRACK MAYBE THEN YOULL WONT BE SO POOR”

    etc etc, exeunt, pursued by a bear

    • etc etc, exeunt, pursued by a bear

      If only.

  • ChrisTS

    I’ve reread the sample budget several times now, and I still cannot see a line item for food.

    So sorry I missed the troll.

    • Hogan

      That comes out of your daily spending goal.

      • sparks

        It’s a goal to have proper nutrition? I guess on a McDonalds salary, that makes sense.

      • delurking

        Yes, or dumpster dive.

        Rush tells us this is a perfectly acceptable way for the poor among us to feed themselves.

      • Cody

        I thought it came from savings. You can invest your savings in whatever you want, but McDonald’s is a strong supporter of investing in yourself. So you should probably use your $100 to eat.

        • Brenda

          “Aha! Once again the conservative, sandwich-heavy portfolio pays of for the hungry investor!”

          Worked out for Zoidberg.

  • What are the odds that your magical second job will fit into your randomized McD shifts?


  • VCarlson

    So, even counting on that magic $100/month “other” to cover food, gas, parking, clothing, and whatever else the person who came up with that form forgot to include (not to mention the somewhat … unrealistic costs for the items they did remember), MickeyD’s is admitting that a 40 hour a week job at their payscale is $155/month less than one needs to survive? As someone remarked upthread, thanks to them for admitting the minimum wage isn’t enough. I’m sure we’ll see their lobbyists fighting for an increase (and tied to the CPI in future) Real Soon Now. /snark

    • Gone2Ground

      Yeah, I wondered where they came up with the magical second job that pays almost as much as the first one. Probably the marketing group sat down with the original figure and said, “holy crap! – there isn’t enough money here to take care of a hamster, much less an adult! Better make sure whoever reads this has at least enough to eke out a very meagre living, plus we’ll put $800 a month in “spending money” so it will look like they’re raking in the dough.”

  • sam

    to be slightly (only slightly) fair to McD’s on the heating front, a lot of older housing/apartment stock in urban areas has heat included with rent. Basically because the buildings are old enough that they have centralized boiler/steam heat systems that can’t be metered to be billed separately. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone in NYC who actually pays for heat (including my folks on central park west and my brother who lived in various apartments in Harlem). I own my apartment and still don’t pay for heat. (I do pay for gas for my stove though – somewhat unlikely that a building old enough to have steam heat would have electric stovetops).

    That being said, when I got laid off from my job a few years ago and had to go on COBRA, my health insurance for just my healthy 30-something self cost over $600/month. So whoever put this together is clearly smoking crack.

    • zombie rotten mcdonald

      Right, but the building owners usually have the ability to pro-rate the cost to run the boiler and adjust the rent occasionally; so the cost of heating becomes part of the rent, and $600 really doesn’t cover it, realistically.

    • Joshua

      I’ve lived in a place with steam heat, but I’ve also lived in a place with electric heat that killed our bills in the winter.

      There are McDonald’s in suburban areas, after all.

    • Do you know anyone in NYC who pays $600 for rent?

      • LeeEsq

        Yes but they live with many other people and split the rent. Some of them even live in circumstances remarkably similar to Jacob Riis’ How the Other Half Lives. I know nobody who lives alone and pays $600 a month.

      • nixnutz

        I know some people who pay slightly more, for rooms, and I know people who pay far less. Section 8, like Medicaid, is at least as much a subsidy for exploitative corporations as it is a safety net for poor folks.

      • Sam

        I actually do, but some of them are sharing rooms in friingier neighborhoods and some are beneficiaries of the rent control system.

        My brother lived in Harlem for several years (2008-2010, so not decades ago) and he paid under $800/month with certain utilities included.

  • Proculus

    I’m wondering where this $20 a month health insurance comes from. The cheapest policy available on the individual market in my state cost $50 a month for a non-smoking 19 year old male with a student discount. It covers 4 GP visits a year (with $40 copay), no prescription coverage (except generics with a $20 deductible), and doesn’t cover anything else until you’ve paid 12k out of pocket.

    • Cody

      This… is better than my engineering job’s insurance. Though it’s only $15 a month, but it doesn’t cover ANYTHING until $12k.

      • Davis X. Machina

        You’re the New Model American. Skin in the game, baby. Cost-conscious health consumer.

  • montag2

    Fer chrissakes, if you have to depend on a MickeyD’s meal every day to survive, you’re gonna need a lot more than twenty bucks a month for health care.

    And, $1105 a month, given an hourly rate of $8.25, minus payroll taxes, is 33.4 hours a week, meaning you’re not full-time, and probably won’t get any benefits. By the same formula, that second job requires 29 hours a week, so without commuting time, you’re flailing away at the American Dream for over 62 hours a week, your diet sucks, you’re wearing eight shirts and four pair of pants inside in the winter, you’re cooking everything in the microwave (if you can afford one) because the gas has been shut off, your rent is actually more like a thousand bucks a month, your car’s broken down more often than it runs because you could only afford $150 a month in payments and had to buy a junker with no money down, your electric bill is actually $120 a month because you’re trying heat your miserable fucking apartment with a 1000W space heater so the pipes don’t freeze, your mother’s sick so you have to pay a babysitter, and that’s eating up every spare nickel you have and you can’t afford clothes even at Goodwill or St. Vinny’s. Entertainment? Listening to your coworkers complain is fun. And there’s the radio in the car, when it runs.

    Oh, just fuck off, Ronald.

  • JSC_ltd

    I went to Burger King one time to grab a quick lunch. While I was in line, a woman in a McDonald’s uniform came running in the door and behind the counter. She welcomed me to Burger King and took my order before the manager came over and told her she was in the wrong uniform.

    • Trollhattan

      Possibly the saddest thing I’ve read today. Was she also wearing her flair? How many pieces, the minimum fifteen or a more ambitious sum?

      Things have really improved after Barbara Ehrenreich’s books, haven’t they?

  • guthrie

    So, no food each month.
    And yet you are forking out 1200 dollars a year for house and car insurance? Insurance varies a lot, but here in the UK, if you’re driving an old car and are over 25 with decent no claims, you shouldn’t be spending much more than 6 or 700 on car and house insurance. I mean this is a sample budget for a low wage slave, so they haven’t much to insure, have they?

    And 1200 a year for cable and phone? What a rubbish market you guys have, here in the socialist republic of the UK you can get freeview and cheap internet, total cost of maybe 360 a year, with pay as you go mobile, that’s another 50 pounds, or if you want a cheap package, make it all round up to 500£ or so, which is maybe 7 or 800 dollars.

    I’m thinking that whoever put this together or approved it isn’t thinking like a poor person, or else everything is more expensive in the USA than I thought.

    No, wait, the problem is that your media pushes the notion that none of you are poor people and you’re all rich.

    • sibusisodan

      I’m thinking that whoever put this together or approved it isn’t thinking like a poor person, or else everything is more expensive in the USA than I thought.

      The cost differentials between the UK and US are weird, in my experience. I don’t think those insurance numbers or cable numbers are off the charts for the US (the healthcare number is crazy, but only because it’s so low!). But on the flip side, petrol is cheaper than the US in most places in the UK (I filled up today for equivalent to $10/gal…), sales tax/VAT is much lower too, and food is (generally) cheaper.

      So overall cost of living I think is pretty much even between US/UK.

    • pseudonymous in nc

      While you can get a very decent mobile PAYG deal in the UK for £10-15/mo, you’d be lucky to pay for a dumbphone in the US for that amount. (Many prepaid plans have daily minimums or expiry dates for credit.) You definitely can’t get the equivalent of a Freeview box, and if you’re in an apartment, you might have trouble getting OTA television because it’s all wired for cable.

      Wonders of the free market. But, y’know, Obamaphones etc.

    • BigHank53

      Insurance costs can vary wildly by state. At one point I was carless, and since I lived in New Hampshire, a state where insurance wasn’t mandatory (this is important later) I cancelled the policy. A bit over a year later, I had moved to Maryland, scrounged up another car, and consulted a local insurance agency. Since I wasn’t currently covered by an existing policy, I fell into their high risk pool: $3000/year for liability only. Identical coverage back in NH was $400/year. So I kept my legal address back in NH, and registered and insured the car there.

      Insurance companies in New Jersey are infamous for ‘losing’ payments, resulting in policies being cancelled, so that customers get involuntarily shunted into the high-risk policies.

      • CWALTZ

        My under 25 year old son has to pay $500 every 3 months for full coverage(and you’d have to pay full if you still are making payments on said vehicle.) That’s almost twice what they have figured for car insurance.

  • Ragout

    Why does everyone assume that the same person is working both the first and second jobs? As I understand it, lower-income people sometimes marry or cohabit, just like other Americans. Presumably this budget is for a couple who both work.

    I understand that most people intend to mock McDonald’s and not lower income people, but this is in fact a reasonable budget for a lower-income household, not something to make fun of. Yes, lower-income people (in fact, the vast majority of Americans) don’t get a separate bill for “heat.” They get bills for gas and electricity, one of which covers heat and probably several other things. Yes, $800 a month has to cover food, clothing, gas and lots of other things if you earn $24,000 a year. Why is that funny? No, you can’t afford much more than $20/month for health care with an income of $24,000 a year. That’s not enough to afford health insurance, but that’s a reality, not something to mock.

    • John Revolta

      Ah, I see…………..27 dollars a day for food, gas and clothing for TWO people. And one car to do it with.
      Makes sense, now.

      • Ragout

        It may come as a surprise to you, but there are many tens of millions of poor people in this country. About 40 million, as I recall. Of course, 24,000 is well above the poverty line for a 2-person family — it’s actually the poverty line for a 4-person family. So, yes, there are a whole lot of people who live on $24,000 a year or less.

        Maybe you’re claiming that families earning $24,000 spend more than $27 a day on food, clothing, and gas? I think the budget makes an excellent case that you’re wrong.

        • Slocum

          You’re right, goddamn it. America has the best poor people ever!

          • Hogan

            But they all have refrigerators, so it’s not like they’re really poor.

    • CWALTZ

      It’s something to mock because if they weren’t going to make a realistic budget then they shouldn’t have bothered at all.

      For the record the BLS actually has statistics on who earns the minimum wage and their is 4 times a chance that the individual working for minimum wage is unmarried just as there is a greater likelihood they are under 25. They are more likely to be female and the majority of these jobs are part time service sector. McDonalds doesn’t bother to say any of that though. Instead they put up a budget without any explanation and lead people reading it to guess why they chose the categories and numbers they chose. Do they mean get a second job or do they mean find a roomie? Do they assume heating is part of utilities? If so why place it in a separate category? Do they expect their employees to be eligible for their parents plan and is the $20 supposed to be a rolling item that would cover costs as needed? If so what about workers who have parents who can’t cover them(the new law only requires employees to cover a plan for them, not families)?
      For the record, I couldn’t find a single two bedroom(for your roomie) for $600 in my area (sw Virginia) which is somewhat rural and I expect it’d be way harder in urban areas. They’d have been smarter to have configured the budget in a way that allots percentages for budgetary needs. Of course, if they’d done that they’d have made it even clearer that you can’t survive on a budget that essentially pays less than $300 a week for a 40 hour work week(full time pay.)

      It’d have been so nice if the places that pay minimum really wanted a dialogue on how much you need to survive and how much you need to move beyond an entry level. Instead you get imaginary budgets that either tell you to find someone to bunk with for less than the average cost of housing in US(numbeo pegs a 1 bedroom at $700 for a non urban area and $900 for one in city on average) or pretend that there aren’t people out there who need to save more than $20 a month for health care costs because they don’t have access to a parents plan.

      • Ragout

        You’re simply denying the existence of poor people in America. In fact, there about 40 million poor people in this country, and, by definition, none of them live with higher-income parents. The $24,000 budget McDonald’s analyzes is in fact about the poverty line for a family of 4 and well above the poverty line for 1 or 2 people. Similarly, $20/month won’t pay for health insurance, but many tens of millions of people don’t have health insurance.

        So, yes, McDonald’s has shown a perfectly realistic budget for a near-poor family.

        • CWALTZ

          Uh no I’m not denying the existence of poor people at all. I’m denying that McDonalds has any idea what a real budget actually looks like. People that work with budgets would tell you that they are meant to be blueprints so they are supposed to realistic. If you don’t make them realistic then you won’t be able to live within the parameters of them and then THEY WON”T WORK. And that alone is enough reason to say that if you are going to make one then make it correctly.

          And again the average person working a minimum wage job is UNMARRIED, UNDER 25, and works part time at their McDonalds job. So if they were going to make a budget then they should have at the least tailored it to people who work there, not created a fictional family with a fictional second job. Oh and the $20 is particularly ignorant when the new health care law makes it clear that “families” that don’t have health insurance will face a fine of 2% of their income. So they should have made the cost of health care for a fictional “family” making 24,000 a year at least $40 ($20 only covers HALF that.)

          • Ragout

            You keep talking about the “average person” and the “average cost of housing” but a family making $24,000 a year isn’t average — they’re somewhere in the bottom 15 – 25%.

            You also keep repeating the right-wing talking point that most people making the minimum wage are teenagers living with their parents. And while it’s true that many are, it’s also true that many are not. For example, 25% of minimum wage workers have kids and 34% are married.

        • Slocum

          “McDonald’s has shown a perfectly realistic budget for a near-poor family”

          And, in honor of your excellent ability to miss the point, I declare you King Dickhead of Shit Mountain.

          • Ragout

            I see the point very clearly. A bunch of so-called “progressives” are displaying their ignorance about poverty and their prejudices against poor people. Millions of minimum wage workers are married and live in families where both spouses work. Amazingly, not one commentator considered this common possibility.

            • Slocum

              Yes, poor people get by and raise children. This is so fucking obvious that it does not even need to be mentioned. The problem is that companies like McDonald’s do not pay adequate wages to eliminate the socio-economic category, “working poor.” Are progressives supposed to be focused on the ability of people to scrape by on two minimum wage incomes? Or on the political and economic conditions that allow them to hone that ability?

              Anyway, thanks for making sure we all remember that there are poor people who get by, are decent people, and raise children. You’re the true progressive!

              • Ragout

                Loomis assumes that the 2 jobs must be held by one person, and doesn’t give any hint that he’s considered the “obvious” possibility that this is a budget for a married couple.

                When progressives see a budget for a near-poor family, I think they should say “wow, that must suck!” and they should note how common this situation is. They shouldn’t deny that the existence of poor people is possible. And progressives should propose reforming the system, for example with national health care or a higher EITC. They shouldn’t say that McDonald’s is mean and leave it at that. So, yes, I think I’m a lot more progressive than Loomis.

  • BC57

    I’ve worked 7×12 hour days for up to three months at a time. It will drain the life out of you. Working it at one job is bad enough, but to work 8 at one and drag up to go to another has to be brutal. If you’ve got kids there’s not enough hours in the day. And I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but those people at McDonals work their asses off. Not many breaks, and a lot of hours on their feet. They aren’t all kids either.

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