The “McDonald’s Budget”: Laughably Unrealistic But Also Deeply Tragic

by Michael Snyder

The McDonald's Budget


Can you support a family on $2,000 a month?  Recently, McDonald’s and Visa teamed up to launch a website that is intended to help employees of McDonald’s manage their money.  The aspect of the website that is getting a tremendous amount of national attention is the “McDonald’s Budget” which is a sample monthly budget which is designed to help workers plan their spending.  You can see a copy of it for yourselfright here.  This budget is laughably unrealistic, but it is also deeply tragic, because there are tens of millions of American workers that are actually trying to raise families on this kind of an income.

The first thing that you will notice about the McDonald’s Budget is that it expects workers to have two jobs.  It is an open admission that working at McDonald’s is not enough to survive.  So this budget assumes that the worker will take on a second job which will pay nearly as much as the first one does.  Assuming that both jobs pay about the minimum wage, the budget will require about 70 to 80 hours of work every week.

People can put in those kind of hours for a time, but after a while your body starts to break down.  I have been there, and I have known many others that have been there.

But let’s assume that the hypothetical worker that this budget is for can work that many hours indefinitely.  The budget assumes a yearly income of about $24,000 after taxes, and that would make it a fairly typical budget for a typical working class American.

In the United States today, 47 percent of all U.S. workers make less than $25,000 a year before taxes.  So millions upon millions of U.S. workers are trying to make ends meet each month on very limited incomes.

Does the “McDonald’s Budget” provide any solutions for those workers?

Well, this budget allocates $0 for food, so if you plan on following this budget you might want to anticipate fasting a lot each month.

This budget also allocates $0 for gasoline.  So either you will have to ride a bicycle or walk everywhere you go.

This budget does not allocate any money for clothing either.  If you really need something to wear, perhaps you can take some cash from the “monthly spending money” category and go down to the local thrift store and get something.

In addition, this budget has no money for water, no money for child care and you might as well forget about saving for retirement.  But if you work yourself 70 to 80 hours a week, you probably won’t even make it to retirement age anyway.

So what are some of the things that actually are in the budget?

Well, it allocates $20 a month for health insurance.

Wow – where can I sign up for that health insurance plan?

As the Washington Post noted, nobody is going to be able to get health insurance that cheaply…

Low-income individuals receive assistance from Medicaid, but an after-tax income of $24,720 would put Medicaid out of reach in most states. The same point will likely apply to the subsidies offered by Obamacare: An individual with an income of $17,000 in California will be able to get a basic health insurance plan at no cost, but an individual making $28,000 will have to pay at least $137 per month.

So even a young, healthy person will have to pay $100 or more for an individual health insurance policy in most circumstances. Perhaps McDonalds is tacitly admitting that many low-income workers, including McDonalds employees, can’t afford health insurance and simply make do without it.

The original version of the budget also assumed that the worker would spend zero dollars a month on “heating”.

Perhaps McDonald’s just expects their workers to freeze all winter.

The new version of the budget now allocates $50 a month for heating.  Perhaps that may work for the state of Florida, but anyone that lives in a northern state knows that it takes a whole lot more than that just to heat up your home to a level that is barely livable during the winter.

This budget is absolutely crazy.  But perhaps even more patronizing then the budget itself is the following statement that is made on the website: “You can have almost anything you want as long as you plan ahead and save for it.”

Oh really?

Do they expect anyone to actually fall for that line?

Don’t get me wrong.  Working at McDonald’s is great for some people.  I worked there myself when I was in high school.  But the vast majority of adult Americans need jobs that will enable them to take care of their families.  And those kinds of jobs are rapidly disappearing.

Last month, the U.S. economy lost 240,000 full-time jobs.  We are about 6 million full-time jobs below the all-time record that was set back in 2007.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled: “The Decline Of Breadwinner Jobs Has Resulted In The Longest Bread Lines In American History“.

Today, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.  A lot of very talented people are cutting hair, flipping burgers or working for temp agencies.  Those people should be doing something that takes advantage of their skills and abilities, but the U.S. economy is not producing enough of those kinds of jobs anymore.

Unfortunately, this is only just the beginning.  The next major wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching, and when it strikes unemployment in this country is going to get much worse.

So don’t put all of your faith in the system, because the system is failing.  Even if you do have a good job right now, you could lose it at any moment.

Whatever you can do to become more independent of the system is a good thing.  For example, starting up a side business is a wonderful thing.  It takes a tremendous amount of effort, but nobody can fire you if you are the boss.

So what do you think of the “McDonald’s Budget”?  Please feel free to share your opinion by posting a comment below…



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  • MattS

    $1105 plus $455 equals $2060, huh? And medical insurance for $20/month?

    • Ann

      No, but $1105 plus $955 does (hard to read but as it says in the article “a second job which will pay nearly as much as the first one does” lets you know that it’s a 9 not a 4)

  • Hejunjie

    I had a full-time “professional” job that provided a net income of $1,750 per month, in the south, with one toddler in the apartment and it was not possible to live on, due especially because to rent. It didn’t take long before I was moving on (forced to) despite the potential for professional success the position provided. The solution? Look for work in emerging markets. With the coming Obamacare apocalypse, this scenario will get much worse.

  • Skt

    Sure, the budget is absurd and no one could possibly live off that amount of money, let alone support a family. However, MacDonalds can’t just start tripling wages and giving out benefits to their employes or MacDonalds would cease to exist. Lets face it, it’s a low skill job that commands a low skill wage. Now, if MacDonalds just came out and said that rather than creating fantasy budgets, it would be a lot more respectable. Just like the article says, go out and start your own side job and no one can fire you; isn’t that what founders of MacDonalds did?

  • McSLavery

    Not only are they feeding everyone burgers that might contain 20% meat, the “pink slime” McNuggets, they aren’t going to hire anyone they don’t have to full time, as to avoid complying with Obamacare….. Let’s see, they’re making thoughtful multilingual propaganda, to make it appear as if they “care” and working for them is something a person can do and expect to not have to live in a cardboard box….?

    Well unlike people who have time to watch mainstream media, the rest of us know the economy is not improving at all, and there aren’t many second jobs to be had. While the actual full time employment rate of working aged Amerikans is actually still hovering, for the 3rd. or 4th. year at around 47%…..

    What a crock, civil disobedience is seriously needed in this cuntry.

  • Pamela

    I’m really glad that they put this budget together. Now, we can challenge the executives to live off of it for three months. Give them the benefit of living off of it. Let them keep a journal to see how this type of income works.

  • Big M

    If I made no more money than that, I wouldn’t be stupid enough to start a family. Are these people retarded? By the way, I’m not defending McDogShit’s in any way, but let’s use some common sense, OK?

    Besides, most people making minimum wage generally get a raise within a year or so, as little as it might be. If you believe most of these people whining about the minimum wage (which is flatly illegal, by the way), you’d swear that these people have been making minimum wage for 30 years.

    One more thing. In a country with any guts or sense, instead of bitching and moaning about the state of things, the people responsible for everybody’s jobs being sent overseas, as well as tens of thousands of factories being shut down, would be swinging from the end of a rope, or drawn and quartered and thrown face-up into a hog pen, as an example to anybody else. A country that doesn’t produce what it needs will wind up at the mercy of countries that do.