July 24th marks 5 years since the last federal minimum wage increase. To call attention to this fact, CAP/CAP Action have taken a leading role in organizing a coalition of about 70 groups across the country to participate in the Live The Wage Challenge.
The Live the Wage Challenge asks elected officials, community leaders, advocates, and everyday citizens to walk in the shoes of a person who earns minimum wage by living on a minimum wage budget—$77—for one week. That includes all of your spending for meals, transportation, and recreation. It does NOT include long-term and inflexible expenses like loan, car, mortgage, or rent payments, child care, health care, etc.
LIVING ON MINIMUM WAGE INSTRUCTIONS
Thank you for taking the Live the Wage Challenge and joining elected leaders, community leaders, faith
leaders, advocates, and workers in support of raising the minimum wage!
Here is everything you need to know to make the Challenge a success.
STEP 1: REVIEW YOUR BUDGET
Your budget for the week is $77. This represents the weekly wages of a full-time worker making the
federal minimum wage, minus average taxes and average housing expenses. In the days leading up to
July 24th, think about how much money you can afford to spend on each type of expense.
Here are the items that count toward your budget:
Meals: Please subtract all meal costs from your minimum wage budget. Try not to eat free
meals at other people’s houses to skirt the budget. Given the low budget, you’ll probably need
to make most meals at home using the groceries you buy for the week. Any cleaning supplies,
toiletries, etc. should be included. Also, make sure to use coupons to save money!
Transportation: Gas is expensive. Public transportation may be your best bet for making it
through the week on your low-wage budget. Or, save the environment and bike to work.
Whatever works best and keeps you in the black.
Recreation/Entertainment: Remember that you have very limited funds and your normal
routine will need to be altered. You probably won’t be able to afford lattes, eating out, or a trip
to the movies. Even free activities typically incur transportation costs. You should make sure
that you are accounting for all costs related to any recreational activities you participate in
While we want the Challenge to be as realistic as possible, we don’t want to cause you or your family
financial hardship. So please do not count the following expenses toward your budget:
Loan, car, and mortgage payments. We do not expect you to default on any of your ongoing
payment obligations during the week of the Challenge.
Spending on kids. Please continue to pay for daycare, children’s meals, and normal activities out
of your traditional budget. The exception should be going out to eat and leisure activities.
Spending that falls into the future. Please exempt purchases that affect the future and not just
this week, including expenses for future events or recurring bills.
Required work travel. Feel free to exclude transportation and housing expenses related to
required work-funded trips. This is work travel that is separate from daily commuting expenses.
Either before the Challenge starts or early on the first day (July 24), make a trip to the store to buy your
groceries for the week. Keep in mind that your $77 budget also covers transportation and recreation, so
don’t spend all your money at the store.
When you make meals during the week, only use groceries that you bought during this shopping trip –
not other items you may already have had on hand. This will mirror the reality for low-wage families.
STEP 3: START THE CHALLENGE!
From the moment you wake up on July 24th, you are taking the Challenge! Keep track of all your
spending and subtract it from your budget. (If you’ve already done your grocery shopping for the week,
your grocery bill should already have been subtracted from your initial $77 budget.)
Remember that the Challenge is not easy, and it’s not supposed to be. Workers who make the
minimum wage of $7.25 an hour have little, if any, leeway in how they spend their money each
month. You may simply run out of money and be forced to exceed your budget before the end of the
week. That’s OK – hopefully you will have gained an awareness of just how low the federal minimum
wage is, and how important it is to raise it.
STEP 4: SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES!
The more participants share their experiences with others, the bigger the impact we’ll have on the
national conversation around the minimum wage.
Here are sample posts to help you catalogue your experience on Facebook, Twitter and through other
I’m taking the #LiveTheWage challenge. My food, transportation and entertainment budget for the week is $77
Just spent $X.XX on groceries. I learned you can’t afford to buy milk or vegetables on a minimum
Daily update: With 5 days to go, I only have $X.XX left in my budget. #LiveTheWage
I’m now over my #LiveTheWage budget by $X.XX and I still have X days to go.
I’m taking the #LiveTheWage challenge. Sen./Rep. XXX, will you take it with me?
Here are other ways you can draw attention to your actions:
Ask your elected representatives to join you in living the wage and report back at #LiveTheWage
Start a conversation with neighbors and friends about what it’s like to live on the minimum wage
Visit a small business that supports raising the minimum wage
Spend a day with a minimum wage worker
Picture by www.npr.org
Write an op-ed, letter to the editor or blog post about your experience