Could You Afford to Live on Minimum Wage?

A New York Times interactive minimum wage calculator offers users a small glimpse into the realities of surviving on America’s lowest legal pay.

Think you could live on minimum wage? Now you can find out with an interactive minimum wage calculator from The New York Times.

The Times’ calculator shows the harsh realities of living on our country’s lowest legal pay (with the exception of the $2.13 federal minimum wage for restaurant waitstaff).

It allows you to pick your state and then input expenses for basics like housing, food, health care and transportation to see how far your income from a minimum wage job would stretch before you run out of money to pay your bills. (The minimum wage in some states is higher than the $7.25 federal minimum wage and the calculator reflects that.)

It’s a bleak look at how little the 4.8 million minimum-wage workers have to spend on basic necessities. It reminds us of that budget planning site for McDonald’s employees that estimated you’d need not one, but two fast-food jobs to pay all of your basic bills. Meanwhile, studies have shown that the low pay for fast-food workers and bank tellers creates an additional burden for taxpayers in the form of food stamps, health care and other government programs for the poor.

The NYT interactive calculator also allows users to see how their budget would change under a Democratic proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10.

President Obama signed an executive order on Wednesday requiring that federal contract workers be paid a minimum of $10.10 an hour. The executive order will be implemented for new federal contracts beginning in 2015. According to CBS News:

“I’m going to do what I can; Congress should do what it needs to do,” [Obama] said from the East Room of the White House, flanked by workers who will benefit from the order. “I will not give up on this fight no matter how long it takes. America deserves a raise. Working families deserve to know some more economic security in their own lives.”

Click here to access the Times’ minimum wage calculator. What do you think of your results? Could you survive on minimum wage? Tell us below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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  • Y2KJillian

    Fun and fascinating calculator…We could do it…but only because WA min. wage is already close to $10, and we already own our house (in good repair) and are quite frugal. Plus you can get “free” ACA coverage if you’re poor enough–I included enough for medications and whatnot. And it would be pretty bare-bones, living with $0 extra money. Still, there’s always TV! (Bread and circuses!)

  • Tahnya Kristina

    I don’t think I could afford to live on minimum wage. We tried living on half of our income once and it’s do-able but it’s not fun. I save enough for my retirement projections and I like to enjoy the rest of my money on travel.

  • nitemare2

    Moneytalks does it again. minimum wage was never meant to be or is it expected to be a “living” wage. It is and always has been an entry level wage for first time or part time employees. Do people go to MickyD’s with the mind set of oh boy I have a career in flipping burgers and dropping fries? How stupid you liberal/progressive whiners are. What you need to protest is the Democrats and the President insistently harping on this without doing anything to create an environment for job growth, all you can think is higher taxes more regulations and govt or union jobs. The NRLB is in the unions pocket trying to close or force companies to only be union. EPA is a Obama puppet creating regulations that close or stifle the opening of plants and creation of jobs. Take Ca. they are in a draught but have plenty of water up state if they would just open the dams, but because of a smelt fish the EPA refuses and studies have shown they cause more damage to that fish by dumping millions of gallons of water into the sea from these dams. How stupid can you get, they also won’t because they are trying to repopulate an area for salmon which hasn’t been a salmon in over 100 years. How many jobs would supplying water create or better yet how many jobs and farms will be gone because of not doing it. How many jobs have been lost in the coal industry because of the EPA regs. Really Stacy and Krystal The amount of those who stay on minimum wage is less then 1% of the workforce and the libes make it sound like it’s the majority of those employed. Maybe we should throw another couple billion at those “shovel ready” jobs the President promised in 2009, or more money at the infrastructure that had $27.5 billion earmarked for bridges and highways in the his stimulus. Where did the money go, why is he using the same sad rhetoric looking for more? You cry and whine about congress not passing any of his job bills, look at his history and the money that was already passed but no one knows where it went. Stacey show me the results of any raise in minimum wages, show me where his stimulus created any jobs and don’t use the Obama voodoo math.

    • voice_reason

      Minimum wage jobs are no longer entry level for teens and the unskilled, increasingly they are the only jobs available for former middle managers and college grads. Most economic studies have proven time and again that raising minimum wage raises everyone since all the increased wages go towards purchasing basic necessities. But you will continue to believe what you will in spite of the facts….by the way, it has been discovered recently that the earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa.

      • nitemare2

        And your point shows exactly my point the Obama and liberal policies are more worried about raising the minimum wage then creating jobs. Libs keep preaching about money for bridges and hwys where is the $27.5 billion they got already. Instead they now according to Chuckles Schumer want the IRS to target more conservatives. Obama and the Dems want everything except jobs. ACA, immigration, voter ID, wealth redistribution, equal pay, gun control and where does job creation come in? He just blames it on the Tea Party, GOP, ATM’s or the color of the sky. Hell Reid and the Dem majority didn’t even vote for Obamas job bills. So what you are saying the economy today should be the new normal? I don’t agree jobs should be the top priority, then minimum wage would again be what it is supposed to be.

        • John Hughes

          The GOP is always harping on cutting spending. Well !!! If the republicans would allow a higher minimum wage then the financial help the government gives out would be reduced. THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK!

          • nitemare2

            If I were you I would research before you speak. raising minimum wage has never gotten anyone off welfare or food stamps, just like all studies show extending unemployment doesn’t get people any jobs. Check out the study about unemployment from Denmark. It’s always the fault of the GOP and that is not only a false statement it’s ludicrous. The economy collapsed because of bad laws passed by both parties under Carter and Clinton, Obama instead of getting the economy going decided his agenda was more important, the healthcare fiasco has done nothing to help the economy it cost jobs and the new normal is part-time jobs. His handouts of over $90 billion to green energy has resulted in just over 2,642 net jobs since the president took office in 2009 according to the Washington Post. How many jobs were lost so far by the coal industry 3500 directly from the EPA regulations according to CNN as of 2012 and another 17000-30000 expected as more EPA regulations that he couldn’t get passed in the CAP and TAX laws so he “used his pen” and made regulations. I gave you my facts now what have you got any

          • voice_reason

            nonsense that the dems do not want to create jobs; exactly what have republicans suggested…a pipeline that wil creat about 3200 construction jobs then nothing else afterwards. Why not have the repubs come up with a new public works program like was done during the depression, it is not like we don’t have enough infrastructure that needs rebuilding? they would rather privatize that and have it end up costing billions more than it should. Green energy has created many more than the number you’ve suggested, and even more from spin offs that are now coming on line. Coal industry jobs were lost due to cheaper prices of natural gas as a result of fracking coming on line, not regulations

          • nitemare2

            Do you even read what someone posted or just go off on a
            rant? Your infrastructure was funded to the tune of $27.5 billion and no one in
            the Obama administration can say where it was spent. And where is more money to
            disappear down the rabbit hole going to come from, what or who do you tax now
            and how much? “The GOP wants to Privatize it”, who do you think does the construction now? One of the big points that were made when he signed the stimulus bill was the order that all contracts would be given only to union companies. Roads and bridges are built by private companies
            and maintained by the states. There was a report today about the Ivanpah Solar
            Electric Generating System which cost $2.2 billion to build the U.S. Energy
            Information Administration data said the cost of generating a megawatt-hour of
            power in a traditional coal plant is around $100, while it’s around $261 for
            solar thermal power at this plant, it won’t be running at night, also on cold
            mornings and cloudy days it requires natural gas fired steam boilers to heat up
            stuff to run the turbines which could increase the cost per megawatt hour to
            about $400. We build a dam, put up a windmill, or install solar panels: then
            for the next 25 to 50 years they produce energy for us. We have to do a little
            light maintenance occasionally but it’s nothing at all like the continual
            effort we’ve got to do to keep mining coal, or drilling for oil/gas for
            example. The Ivanpah Solar plant will create about 70 full time employees now
            that construction is done. So net jobs created by the $2.2 billion 70. There’s
            more money in being an environmentalist than an industrialists. The
            environmental lobby is MASSIVE! As if crafting fiscal policies that stifle
            economic growth and discourage job growth weren’t enough, they feel it is
            necessary to actively protest one of the few sectors of the economy that is
            actually growing: low paid unskilled, retail and service jobs. According to the
            August Jobs report Full Time positions were actually created! And in what
            sectors were these elusive full time positions created, in the “lowest paid”
            sectors, in other words: At Wal-Mart, McDonalds, etc. But the liberals and
            unions did what, criticized them and called for walkouts and boycotts.

    • You must either led a sheltered life or been duped by the GOP. Regardless of its intent, minimum wage is a fact of life for millions of workers regardless of the longevity on the job or the worker’s qualifications.

      • Jim Wiggins

        I tell this to people where I work now and the five places where I worked during the past 20 years: You are worth much more than minimum wage. The task you perform is only worth minimum wage. Qualify, by training or education, for a more demanding task and you will be paid what that task pays.

      • nitemare2

        Yes according to the Pew research center it’ 3.5 million or less then 2.8% of all workers. And it’s mostly made up of tipped employees, full-time students, retired and other part-time workers about 70% of the total number of 3.5 million which leaves about 1.1 million so you are looking through liberal glasses and believe everything Maddcow tells you. The President signed his order that all Federal employees who make minimum wage be increased to $10.10 do you know how many that is? They say only about 100k make $12 or less in fed jobs and contracts and those making less then $10.10 is only a fraction of that. So it could be less than 10k.

  • LA

    This has been years in the making. Lack of factory jobs and other similar related industries that were the backbone of our society have caused a huge gap in our job market. Also when you have people my (20’s) and my parents age (40/50’s)working 2nd/3rd jobs or employment they are way over qualified for, or underemployed—- without wages remotely following inflation of goods/services— it leads to stagnation and/or collapse of that sector/town/etc. Yell all you like about the current administration, but they are one of many that caused/didn’t stop this domino effect, so I suggest you read on what lead to this instead of talking smack about things you don’t know. I have learned that I will have to work harder and smarter —not necessarily follow what my elders have done—count on nothing from certain programs like it was before the World Wars when all of these “safety nets” didn’t exist…..Expect the best but prepare for the worst.

    I have dealt with joblessness, near homelessness, family strife, etc since the economic downturn happened, but I am not blaming anyone since I have to be accountable for what I can do and there are only so many hours in the day to do this in. Life happens and its not always fair.

    But over all you cannot make it on $7.25 an hour with how much the basics cost, so some thought needs to be put in on all ends of the picture….

    • Please read my post and comment on it. Thanks.

  • gh79

    Isn’t the point of minimum wage that you should be desperate to move away from the minimum wage job. Why do we want people to be able to survive on minimum wage especially reproduce if all they are capable of is minimum wage jobs?

    • audrey

      Its not that people want minimum wage its all that some people can get me included despite going to college/trade school trying to get a career in a entry level position at 24 yrs old it hasn’t happen yet. So i feel im in that area of “well it cant happen for everybody” so food stamps wic, tanf, here i am and i don’t want it but what else can i do. besides keep trying while i work 60hrs a week at 8$ in a 560 a month one bedroom apt for me and my daughter

  • The raise to at least $10.10 would be a win/win/win case.
    Employer Win: Before I retired in 12/2012, I had a small business with an average of 40 employees – none earned less than $15.00 per hour. I found by doing this, I retained the best of the best (we are not talking college graduates but HS and GED). Because my competition paid minimum wage of $7.50 per hour, they were eager to keep their jobs. I even offered health benefits (before ACA). Their excellent work allowed me to retain competitive pricing.
    Government Win: Before they came to work for my firm, a number of these employees had to have food stamps, etc plus their minimum wage jobs. When they came to work for us, they did not use these government programs. Also, they paid taxes.
    Employee Win: The increase in the quality of life is obvious – better housing, more spending, etc.
    What is the GOP worrying about?

  • I live in South Texas which according to many experts is one of the lowest cost places in the USA to live. My son spent months trying to find a 1-bedroom apt and the lowest priced was $550 per month with utilities extra. Where do you leave?

  • nitemare2

    Did I say I was in favor of any subsidies? I think all companies should use private money not taxpayer money. And really you want to now regulate other countries private industries? You don’t like where a company gets it’s product don’t spent your money there. How many companies have been sold to owners from other countries and are still right here in the US? You are ranting. Benghazi? What the hell has that got to do with this discussion? Do you even know what happened there or who did nothing before or during the attack on our ambassador and then lied after. Nope not management and never was drove a truck all over the US for 36 years before retiring gone 2-3 weeks and home 4 days before leaving again. Both Union and Non union, best company I ever worked for was non union, better equipment, same benefits and same pay as union, had a problem talked face to face with the management not some union lackey who took my money each month so he could have a job.

  • Jake

    I have lived on the minimum wage (before it was $7/hr), and although it was tougher than my salary now, it was not that hard. I had electricity, a car (old and beat up, but it ran), a place to live (I had roommates), a cell phone, and I never went hungry. Except in a very few cases, we don’t have true poverty in the US. Compare someone working for minimum wage in the US to the average world income, or the average income in poorer countries. If you don’t like your current lot in life, quit whining and change it.

  • disqus_xflWm02tm9

    I am not sure that raising minimum wage will really help anyone. Minimum wage jobs are for unskilled workers who are still learning to show up for work everyday on time. There are skilled trade jobs crying out for workers but the work is tough, mentally, and physically demanding. You need to know specialized skills, such as blueprint reading, that are not normally taught in high school. We might be better served allowing non-academic kids to learn and work at a trade starting at age 15. Maybe even serving an apprenticeship. At least when they got out of high school they would have a trade or specialized skill that would allow them to earn a living wage. They can always go back to college part-time like I did. Kids going to college should focus on science, medical, and technology degrees that will are looking for employees and pay a decent wage. They should just buckle down and learn math. It’s not that hard. Just a different way of thinking. They can always take fluff off classes for a minor. While they are in college they should work part-time to prove that they know how to work to potential employers. Ideally they should try to find a part-time entry level job in their field. As a country we still seem to have the industrial age, someone will take care of mindset. Unfortunately this is the information age where we have global competition, companies are fighting to survive, and no one is going take care of us. We have to go back to our country’s roots and become a nation of entrepreneurs.

  • Paul Reeves

    It is sad that in the richest country in the world, there are companies and people that have way more than they will ever need, who want to deprive another human being of medical care, and the ways and means to support themselves and their family and have a decent life.

  • Paul Reeves

    We can give 146 Billion to Afghanistan, spend 4.2 trillion in Iraq, but will not take care of the handicapped, aged, unemployed, or less fortunate. We borrow money that we do not have(so we will pay interest) to give to people other than the citizens of this country. Do you see a problem with this policy?

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