First Person: I’m Sharing the McDonald’s Budget With My Kids

Laura Quinn

I don't understand why everyone is so up in arms about the McDonald's budget, a guide for employees who are trying to make it on just minimum wage. I personally think the McDonald's corporation should be lauded for trying to help employees understand how to balance their income with their monthly expenses. Everyone, no matter how little they make, should know how much money they have to spend for the month as well as their "daily spending money goal." In fact, I'm using the McDonald's sample monthly budget to teach my children about budgeting. I expecting our conversations will motivate them to strive for higher-paying jobs.

Shacking up with friends

According to a recent article by Forbes, the McDonald's budget is showing everyone why it's impossible to live on minimum wage. I don't share that perspective. I think the budget shows why people earning minimum wage need to "shack up" with other relatives or friends. I think there is a reason for the growing trend in "multi-generational" housing. People who share homes or apartments save money on rent/mortgage, utilities and cable.

Working two jobs

I don't think there is any shame in working two jobs. The McDonald's sample budget assumes a first job making $1,105 and a second job making $955. People who work at minimum-wage jobs have a better chance at changing their economic situation by working two or three jobs until they can afford investments. Wealthy people invest in real estate, themselves through higher education and in stocks. A lot of wealthy people started out working minimum-wage jobs. I make six-figures now, but started out scooping ice cream at Friendly's Ice Cream store.

Raising minimum wage

Some critics are pointing to the sample McDonald's budget as proof that we need to raise minimum wage. They say jobs at McDonald's are no longer "stepping stone" jobs, but lifetime jobs for some people. I totally agree that minimum wage is too low. It's hard for kids to work their way through college on minimum wage. Minimum wage can barely supplement an elderly baby boomer's social security payments. At the same time, an increase in the minimum wage will barely be felt by workers who will probably have to pay higher prices. Most companies will squeeze out a profit margin no matter what.

If people want to make real change, they have to stop being mindless consumers. If a person doesn't like how much a company pays its workers, he or she can dine or shop somewhere else. It doesn't cost a lot to make PB&J sandwiches at home, even for someone living on minimum wage.

As for me, I spent a lot of time going over a budget with my teenage son when he was in college, earning minimum wage. He saw the necessity of having roommates until he could increase his earning potential. Having a budget helped him to set financial goals for his future. While raising minimum wage is important, it's just as important to help people transition from lower to higher paying jobs. Maybe then, fast-food restaurants can experience that high employee turnover that used to be standard in the industry. It's not fair to say, "If you they can't afford a Big Mac Meal, let them eat a Happy Meal." Although, at least they get a free toy.

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