Living On Minimum Wage

living on minimum wage5 Minimum Wage Survival Tips
Mike Bowman   

If you are earning your state's minimum wage you are at or close to what the federal government identifies as the poverty level ($11,490.00 earned per year for one person). You also know that a shortage of resources, that other people take for granted, is a daily struggle at this income level. Your first priority as a person earning minimum wage should be to find a job that pays much more. However, while you are working at finding that higher paying job you still have to support yourself and maybe even a family.

One of the traps of minimum wage is that you have fewer resources available to you that would allow you to move on to higher paying work. For example, reliable transportation and adequate child care are two of the more difficult and expensive challenges many people face that can hold them back. Finding or creating new resources is critical in moving forward. Here are several suggestions to help you cope with living on minimum wage.

1. Your Friends
Perhaps your most important asset as a person earning minimum wage is your friends. Friends are a safety net and can share resources, information and ideas. Good friends, family, and neighborhoods are givers. They can introduce you to their friends who may be able to offer insights that can help you through hardships that are new to you.

The more friends you have the better. They may offer you a ride, give you a reference, give you a job lead, share a meal, babysit, or just listen. How do you make a lot of friends? Be a friend, show your gratitude and appreciation, be a giver and not a taker, and you will gain many friends.

2. Your Job
Not all minimum wage jobs are created equal. If speaking strictly about minimum wage jobs then obviously they all pay the exact same (in your home state). Since this is the case you want to make sure you are as selective as you can be when choosing where to work by looking at other factors such as fringe benefits, commissions and tips, overtime, and likely promotional opportunities. Look for a job that has some additional economic advantages to you in addition to the base pay.

Look for job benefits such as bus passes or transportation compensation, onsite daycare or daycare compensation, free meals/clothing/phone, affordable insurances, free education / college, and even free entertainment. Also a high likelihood of a pay raise or promotion is an attractive perk you want to be looking for. When you're earning minimum wage a $1 per hour pay increase is significant.

3. Dollar Store / Auctions / Goodwill
Regardless if you are living on minimum wage or not, we all have many of the same basic needs for ourselves and our homes. Dollar stores, auctions, and the Goodwill thrift stores offer many extreme bargains on items everyone needs.

Dollar stores are great places to find items for a fraction of the cost you would pay in other retails stores. Examples include: dishes, utensils, tools, cleaning products, personal products, and basic household items. Clothing is one of the most popular items at Goodwill thrift stores, and for a good reason. At these stores you can find work and personal clothing for pennies compared to mall prices. Auctions not only make a great form of free entertainment (auctioneers can be quiet entertaining), they are an excellent place to find outstanding deals on larger items such as appliances, furniture, and even cars.

4. Library
Yes, the public library offers many free career, educational and entertainment resources for those earning minimum wage. Obviously, the library provides books, ebooks, internet and computer access, but its most valuable asset is its staff. Many of the places in your community that can provide you with some variation of economic assistance connect with librarians as they know librarians are in regular, close contact with the public.

The staff at the public library can answer much more than just questions about books. They can often give you direction on things like finding resources in the event of a community or personal emergency, or getting help with taxes, childcare, and transportation, for example.

5. Couponing
Just because you are making minimum wage, doesn't mean you have to eat unhealthy food. Using the right combination of coupons, store incentives, and specialized websites you can create a grocery savings strategy that will allow you to purchase higher quality food and stretch your money much further than you imagined possible at the grocery store.

Use sites such as,, and to both educate yourself and help you find the best deals and coupons each week. By following their grocery purchasing strategies, it is certainly possible to cut your grocery bill by 50% or more and live far beyond the means minimum wage typically provides.

Bonus Ideas
-Barter. If you give great haircuts and your neighbor does oil changes - swap services! No money needs to change hands. In this arrangement both people fill a need.

-Give up cable and TV. Rather, work more hours, job search, or get a second job with promotional opportunities. Read books, newspapers, and magazines at the library. If you must watch TV use a basic Netflix account.

-Too many people earning minimum wage (or more!) get hung up on holiday gift giving. Get over it and give it up. Make or bake gifts. (Holiday baking is also a fantastic second source of income!)

-Share your housing with a roommate. They can pay half of the housing costs.

-Find new ways to stay warm and cool. Use more blankets and sweaters than furnace heat. Spend more time at the air conditioned library.

-Drastically cut transportation costs and needs while living on minimum wage by finding a place to live that is within walking distance of shopping and your job.

-If you have a credit card use it strategically, and pay it off every month. Credit cards give you additional warranties and protections, as well as, powerful representation in the event of a problem with your purchase.

More Reading On Minimum Wage
1. Difficulty of living on minimum wage
2. Can you live on minimum wage?
3. Living wage vs. minimum wage
4. Raise the minimum wage
5. Minimum wage facts
6. Things you didn't know about minimum wage.
7. Minimum wage study.
9. How are people surviving on minimum wage?
10. Arizona study on minimum wage.

History of minimum wage
Oct 24, 1938: $0.25 Oct 24, 1939: $0.30 Oct 24, 1945: $0.40 Jan 25, 1950: $0.75 Mar 1, 1956: $1.00
Sep 3, 1961: $1.15 Sep 3, 1963: $1.25 Feb 1, 1967: $1.40 Feb 1, 1968: $1.60 May 1, 1974: $2.00
Jan. 1, 1975: $2.10 Jan 1, 1976: $2.30 Jan 1, 1978: $2.65 Jan 1, 1979: $2.90 Jan 1, 1980: $3.10
Jan 1, 1981: $3.35 Apr 1, 1994: $3.80 Apr 1, 1991: $4.25 Oct 1, 1996: $4.75 Sep 1, 1997: $5.15
Jul 24, 2007: $5.85 Jul 24, 2008: $6.55 Jul 24, 2009: $7.25 Source  

18 states and D.C. have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage.
23 states and VI have minimum wages the same as the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
4 states and PR have minimum wages below the federal minimum wage (the federal minimum thus applies).
5 states have not established a state minimum wage.

Prevent Financial Falls With A Cash Cushion
Free College Tuition and Assistance For Hardworking People
3 Ways To Completely Beat Out Your Competition For A New Job
5 Ways College Tuition Can Be 100% Free
5 Ways To Make More Money At Work
5 of the worst fees I have ever had waived
Cheap Travel - Pay Less For Adventure
Surviving An Employment Ambush

About Travel Press Releases Privacy Policy Advertising On The Web Job Fairs Contact
The Quarter Roll is published to provide personal insights and opinions on everyday ways of saving and managing money, budgeting, and reducing debt. The Quarter Roll does not give professional accounting, legal, or investing counsel. The ideas, examples, and advice presented on this site are solely the opinion of the authors based on his or her personal experiences. All photos courtesy of The Quarter Roll, iStockphoto, or Dreamstime. All rights reserved.