For all of last week, I worked hard to live on the budget of a minimum wage worker. That meant I had $77 to spend on food, transportation, activities and other personal expenses for the week. I didn’t make it.
Most mornings started with eggs and toast, bought last Sunday during a grocery trip costing more than $15. Lunches were normally leftovers, macaroni and cheese or McDonald’s. There were no big dinners or coffee stops on a whim. But the challenges were beyond food.
Wednesday morning, I had a meeting about a mile from my apartment, but in the opposite direction of my office. I would normally take a cab, but this time, I took off my jacket and walked the mile in 90-degree heat, then walked back almost 2 miles to my office. Walking made me late to my meeting, but a minimum wage budget doesn’t allow for extra transportation costs, making it my only option.
And early in the week when I actually caught a cold, I felt lucky to already have medicine at home that would help with the symptoms. Medicine, along with any other unexpected or additional expenses, often prevents the budget from stretching as far as it needs to stretch. That was a lesson I learned when my budget ran out on Thursday evening.
These are just some of the small realities I have learned about life on the minimum wage.