Updated on 06.04.13

Ten Steps To Financial Success For A Minimum Wage Earner

Trent Hamm

daizy3There’s an individual who comments on The Simple Dollar (and a few other personal finance blogs) who identifies him- or herself as “Minimum Wage.” This person is singularly focused on the issues of low wage earners, and while his/her comments can be frustrating, sometimes Minimum Wage is really effective at pointing out how some advice simply isn’t appropriate for people in that situation. What good is portfolio advice to a minimum wage earner? What good does it do to talk about how to buy a $200K+ house when you’re making $7 an hour? Not much.

I know where Minimum Wage is coming from. I grew up in a household with a far below average income, and while we may have done all right for ourselves, I grew up around people who existed in true poverty. Thankfully, I was able to take advantage of the great opportunities that life offered me – and the great foundation that my parents gave me as a person – and was able to find a better, financially healthy life where I could raise my children without a regular sense of necessity underlying day to day life.

But what can a person do if they’re in Minimum Wage’s situation? Here are the ten things I would do if I found myself only able to earn minimum wage.

1. Go rural.
It is far, far easier to make a living on minimum wage in a rural situation. There are many small towns where you can find a room to rent for $100 a month and a small apartment to rent for $200 a month. Yes, these really exist – I see them fairly regularly when I get out in the more rural areas of Iowa. Even better, these areas often have lots of jobs for minimum wage workers – I see lots of help wanted signs around these towns and notices inside of town halls and gas stations looking for workers.

2. Don’t drive.
A car is a giant money suck. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it, if you’re working minimum wage, your car is killing you. Ditch the car – get whatever cash you can from it. Then choose a place to live where you can get to work by foot or by bicycle. In a small town, it’s pretty easy to reach any other place in the town (and many places in the nearby countryside) on foot or by bicycle, and it’s something that people often do to cut corners.

3. Find the free stuff.
In towns of any size, there are resources available for the impoverished, from free dinners at churches to food giveaways to soup kitchens. The library provides free entertainment in the forms of books, music, and internet access. There are parks, recreational activities, and countless other things even in the smallest of rural towns. Look around for the free stuff and use it – it’s there for everyone to utilize. When you must spend money, be as frugal as possible. Ramen is very cheap, filling, and full of carbs, for example.

4. Don’t be proud.
Pride often keeps people from walking into a soup kitchen. Don’t let it. That kind of pride is an obstacle ground into you by a life in a consumerist society. People who are there to help you want to help you stand on your own two feet – give them that opportunity. Look for every opportunity to help you with your situation, from consulting to WIC to Medicaid to welfare (regardless of my political feelings on it, it’s definitely a resource someone in that position should use). If you don’t know where to start, start off by asking a pastor or a clergyman for help.

5. Minimize your required commitments.
Repaying debts? Call the debtors and explain your situation and ask for an abatement. This won’t get rid of your debt, but it can minimize your requirements for the time being. If you have children that you simply can’t support, look for opportunities to help you with that burden – your family is a great place to start, for example. Don’t saddle yourself with burdens heavier than you can carry or you’ll do nothing but collapse. You don’t become strong by carrying 500 pounds of weight on your back – you become strong by learning how to carry ten pounds, then adding more as you go along.

6. Take every side opportunity you can.
There are all sorts of little opportunities to make more money if you pay attention. Doing things like helping someone shingle a roof for $10 an hour cash is an opportunity you can’t let pass by. Free meals? Take them. Twenty bucks for helping an old man clean out his garage? Do it. Ask around for odd jobs and other small-scale moneymaking opportunities – perhaps even get started on your own “handyman” business.

7. Minimize your possessions.
There are a lot of reasons for doing this. The biggest one is that the more stuff you have, the more money you’ve wasted. Also, fewer possessions mean that you need less room to live. For a while, all of my worldly possessions (clothes included) fit in a single Rubbermaid tub – and that made it extremely easy to actually live in someone’s living room for a while.

8. Make a steely commitment to succeed.
Even after you’ve done all of this, it still takes some serious commitment to make all of this work. You can get yourself in a position where you’re not spending more than you make, but it takes commitment to stay there. Remind yourself every day that you’re not going to waste money and that you’re going to spend less than you earn this week – and this month – and this year. That’s the one way you can get ahead.

9. Save automatically.
So what do you do when you are making more than you’re spending? Take that extra money and put it into a savings account. But just doing that every once in a while won’t cut it. Keep most of your money in a checking account, then go to the library and use the internet access there to set up an online savings account with a big bank, like ING or HSBC. Set up an automatic savings plan there to withdraw $10 a week from your main checking – or maybe even more. Then walk away and forget about it. What will happen? After a year, you’ll have $530 or so in the account. If you’ve put in more weekly, you’ll have even more.

10. Educate yourself.
While you’re putting yourself in a better financial place, spend your spare time educating yourself. Take classes at the nearest community college and work towards some kind of degree. If you need to, transfer to a state university – if you’ve been working on minimum wage for a long time and are actually making strong progress towards a degree, they will help you big time with paying for it. The key is getting started – see what your local community college has to offer.

One final tip: don’t give up the dream.
If you’re working a minimum wage job, either you’re very young, very lazy, or very unlucky. All of these can be overcome, but they take time and commitment and a lot of hard work. It’s very easy to give up the dream of a better life when you’re doing this. Don’t. You can succeed and you will succeed if you spend every day taking steps in the right direction. Surround yourself with people who are also fighting to go in the right direction. Don’t be resentful of people in a better situation than you – instead, use them as inspiration and realize that if you keep on the path, you’ll get there too.

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  1. dong says:

    Great tips. I too get frustrated with “Minimum Wage” because he or she assumes failure before even trying, but some issues he raises are valid.

    I agree with all the tips except maybe the 1st. I’d say move to a small affordable city. A certain amount urban density can beget opportunity…

  2. tambo says:

    My husband and I raised our daughter on 20k a year or less for nearly the entirety of our marriage (19 years this December). We own our home, always had a car, and have excellent credit while many we knew blew more money every month than we brought in. How? Budgeting, mostly, and very few money-sucking habits, like drinking and smoking. We never ate at a soup kitchen, never collected welfare (we did, however, get WIC for a month when our daughter was an infant, but using it embarrassed me so much we stopped), and we never expected anyone to take care of us but ourselves.

    Did we live well? I suppose that depends on your definition. Everything we have we own free and clear – although my husband found a MUCH better paying job that essentially doubled our income we still can’t fathom making payments on a large purchase, like a car. We bought fixer uppers and fixed them. Ourselves. Sweat equity is a great thing and our home is worth about three times what we owe on it. I learned how to cook on the cheap, feeding a family of three on less than $50 every 2-week pay period, and I did it for more than a decade. Two words – Chicken Hindquarters. One of us has always stayed home to be a parent, and that cuts a lot of expenses right there. Homecooked meals and no daycare costs add up fast. When our daughter was little I sewed a lot of her clothes. When friends were down and out, we took them in. I can’t tell you how many folks have slept on our couch and most never gave us a dime.

    It’s all in how you look at it. Can you drive a new car and live in a new house while making $7 or $8 an hour? Maybe vacation on the coast? Probably not. But you can live cheaply, and live well, with less expense. We even have Dish Network and DSL internet. It’s all priorities and budgeting.

    Sorry, Trent, I can’t imagine taking my family to a soup kitchen or going on the dole. Ever. We’d get additional jobs long before it got to that point. Prioritize and Budget. That’s all you have to do.

  3. mgroves says:

    Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile your political beliefs and using an entitlement system you’re against. It took me a long time to mature and to figure out that the problem with the entitlement systems is NOT the people who use it.

  4. vh says:

    Tambo touches on a question that popped into my mind when reading your suggestions: What chance will Minimum Wage have of eventually landing a better job if she or he moves to a rural area?

    Sure, MW may have no problem getting one of those advertised minimum-wage jobs you mention. But she can’t live on nothing forever. She needs opportunities to move into better-paying work. Realistically, what kind of earning opportunities can she expect over the long run?

    Hmmm… Come to think of it, how will MW get TO the rural area? It ain’t cheap to move. It looks a lot to me as though MW will have to first find a job in a cheaper place to live (rural area, small town) and then essentially leave everything behind–yard-sale or abandon ALL the worldly goods–and hop a Greyhound to the new abode.

  5. Emily Manuola says:

    We did just as suggested even though we are makeing “real money”. My only question is how would you get around in a rural area without a car? There are usually no busses or trains in rural communities (such as ours). Don’t kid yourself either because there are many opportunities to got out of the minimum wage rut and neighbor tend to help each other out more here as well. When an opportunity opens up, usually people let others in their immediate area know about it first. I am in agreement with all of the other suggestions too.

  6. guinness416 says:

    Kudos to you for being the first moneyblogger I read to actually engage Minimum Wage’s comments. I still haven’t decided if the comments are a stunt to show that the advice on a lot of these blogs doesn’t apply to a largish section of the population. But you’re right that they’re effective.

  7. Peggy says:

    The problem with Tambo’s comparison is that $20,000 in 1987 is equivalent to about $36,000 a year today, after adjusting for inflation. The average cost of a new home in 1987 was $92,000, compared to $226,000 today. In 1987, the average cost of a new car was $10,300; today, it’s $27,800.

    Anyone with a calculator can figure out that today’s equivalent of $20,000 isn’t going to buy nearly as much as it used to.

  8. JC Carvill says:

    it,s a great tips.minimum wages should be clear for all.all issues are good to declare this.

  9. Sarah says:

    “If you’re working a minimum wage job, either you’re very young, very lazy, or very unlucky.”

    You were doing so well until the end there, Trent. Plenty of people–ordinary people, maybe not superachievers, but ordinary people–end up working minimum wage because that’s what’s available in the area for people of their education. What kind of job do you think a single mom without a college degree who’s trying to take care of her kids can get? What kind of jobs do you think are left behind when the WalMarts cause the local stores to close?

    As tough as my own job is, I’ll tell you I have it easier than the folks who are on their feet ten to twelve hours a day cleaning, moving, restocking, with no health insurance and no respect from their employers or society (who assumes they are “very lazy”), any day of the week. I can’t believe how free people feel to judge other people based solely on their income. I know you’re a religious man, Trent; you’d have to look pretty hard in the Bible to find the Lord calling down his judgment upon poor folk. Now, the rich are another story.

  10. Blessed says:

    Concerning “Minimum Wage” I would say the fact that he only earns minimum wage is probably not his biggest problem. It appears he probably lacks the ability to live within their means. I say that because in one of his posts he complains about not being able to get overdraft protection. While all of us can make an occasional mistake with the check register, my belief is that OD protection is just another means of using credit to supplement income and live above one’s means. Maybe Minimum Wage should focus more on doing things that can increase his value to an employer so he can start moving up the economic ladder. But even more money won’t help if he lacks self-control.

  11. Amanda says:

    What sort of jobs can a single mother get without a college degree? The sort of jobs MY mother got. Secretary, cook, preschool teacher’s aide.

    How about the same kind of jobs *I* got without a college degree? Executive assistant, technical support specialist, systems analyst. All paid over $40k per year.

    The trick is to not think in a self-limiting manner. The reason I get so frustrated with Minimum Wage is that (s)he – as the poster said above – automatically assumes failure. Automatically assumes something can’t be done. Automatically assumes advice doesn’t apply to them. Automatically assumes there are no better jobs and no way out.

    Pick up a book from the library as my mother did and as I did and do something to help yourself.

    I think Trent’s advice was spot-on. Either you’re young, lazy, or unlucky if you’re working for minimum wage in this day and age.

  12. What a great post! I personally have never lived on Minimum Wage, (Except in high school.) but I can tell you from experience – America Truly is the land of opportunity. You can do anything you want to do. Most people simply need to educated and their mind opened up to the possibilities. They are limitless.

    Many of the clients that are referred to us have this type of limited belief. It is our job to give them the tools to see that they can do and be different. They feel nothing will ever change, but that is not the case. Life is too big to live small.


    Matt Sullivan, CEO
    Credit Dusters, Inc.
    The Blog: http://creditdusters.wordpress.com/

  13. Amanda says:

    By the way, I should mention that my mother raised me absolutely alone (no family within 100 miles of us) on a preschool teachers’ aide salary. We NEVER went on the dole. Never ate at a soup kitchen. Never visited a food pantry. That was absolutely out of the question for us. Not accepting government handouts made it harder on both of us – especially my mother – but Welfare is dehumanizing and abhorrent. You can survive without Welfare if you make it a priority.

  14. Money Socket says:

    Great article, I get minimum wage’s comments on my site too, it can be frustrating since its usually the first few comments and sometimes he/she nitpicks at certain things. But he/she does point out some good things like you said Trent.

    If I were in a minimum wage situation, I believe it comes down to desire to get ahead. If your desire is strong enough, you won’t mind going rural, you won’t mind riding a bike, and you won’t mind living on just the basics. For every income level, there is relative frugality. It just depends if one wants it enough.

    I would agree that minimum wage in this day and age comes from young, lazy or unlucky and I will also throw in the mix having a disability, even the slightest mental disabilities that may hold you back. Also, a lack of resources may be the case as well, say if you grew up poor with no formal education, no discipline, poor communication skills, etc that can definitely hold you back. To those who commented on Trent’s view on this, I don’t think Trent meant that every single minimum wage earner is lazy, young or unlucky, I read it as they CAN be lazy, young or unlucky.

    Anyway, I believe that a min wage earner can get ahead, but in the end it depends on the person’s desire and specific situation.

  15. tambo says:

    Fwiw, my husband got the good job last year. 2006. Our income in 2005 was 19,400 BEFORE taxes.

    I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s not impossible either.

  16. Reg Bel says:

    When you are on a low income, you really have to cut corners. Doing your own repairs can really help, as you would normally pay 50% labor on top of the cost of materials. I have put together a web page that can help people to save money and do things themselves.
    Reg Bel

  17. Jasmine says:

    Great post Trent. I like the advice on moving somewhere cheaper, and eliminating the car.

    A great place for people who are making minimum wage to jump into a job with slightly higher pay and benefits is an office/clerical job position. In the SF bay area, they are everywhere. These positions give the opportunity for advancement with experience, not education.

    Also, many successful people have started off at minimum wage and worked there way up to be managers/supervisors, district managers and eventually end up in corporate. Find a company that values experience and performance and stick it out there, this paired with a desire to succeed and advance and really go above and beyond your job description can pay off monetarily in the end. Minimum wage can be a means to a great end, it does not have to be an end itself.

    A weekend job working with mechanic, landscaper or construction company can lend on the job experience and training should one desire.

    Also, check our your local community college and take a couple business/accounting classes at night, beef up your resume. Use your pay as an advantage, as you will likely get financial aid for the class.

    -Prior minimum wage earner

  18. Mulan says:

    I like this post. I agree that its hard but it is very possible. I went to community college part time ( free because of pell grants based on my income) and I went to school 3 times a week and studied while my son slept. I worked as a teachers aide and got very little support. 2 years later, making 6 figures. IT happened, and Im blessed. At 24 years old. My son is now 4 and we are very happy now, without Dad or his help.

  19. SJean says:

    Interesting post. It is great that you really addressed the noter’s concerns with applicable advice.

    Though I do think in a rural area, you can’t get around without a car very well, especially if winter is involved (biking is hard on ice/snow).

  20. Meg says:

    I like this post and totally agree with the idea of moving out of a big expensive city if you’re working on lower wages.

    The fact is that not everybody can or will “move on up” to a higher paying job. Many people–for many reasons–work low paying jobs for their entire working lives. And there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that. The fact of the matter is that you CAN own a home, save for retirement, and live comfortably in America on minimum wage–just maybe not in Manhatten.

    I grew up in rural AL, and most of my friends’ parents worked low paying or blue collar jobs. But everyone I knew owned a home, drove decent cars, and had all the basics such as AC, plenty of food, and even cable TV and internet. We all got new dresses for homecoming and uniforms for cheerleading/football. We all went to the same churches, restaurants, etc. Sure, some of these people were undoubtedly living beyond their means, but the fact is that stuff is CHEAP in AL–and in a lot of other places in this great country. Giant 4 bedroom houses on an acre of land go for less than $50,000. Land sells for hundreds of dollars an acre in many places (and I mean within an hour from big cities like Birmingham). Food costs pennies on the dollar compared to what I pay in Dallas. Property taxes (and cigarette and alcohol taxes) are miniscule. So if you don’t want a professional career, fine. Move to Alabama and live the high life–debt free–on minimum wage.

  21. Rob in Madrid says:

    Jasmine, very very true. 22 years ago my wife was a waitress in a working class restaurant and a high school dropout. Today she’s a senior manager and on the advancement track. Why because she did exactly what you suggested, got her grade 12 and took a job as receptionist in a company that valued hard work over a piece of paper. Was it easy, no, it’s never easy working hard all day and hitting the books at home. Important is having good colleagues who are willing to help you learn the ropes and proboaly most important is a good attitude and sometimes good bosses who see the potential helps as well.

    Today with the help of trent and others we’re plotting our escape for the corporate rat race.

    One important note, Chris has always (except in the first few years) eraned an above average wage and I can tell you earning more means you can get more credit and naturally spend more. I get depressed when I think of how much money we wasted over the years. Being heavily in debt meant we never felt we were earning a great wage.

    If minimum wage was single I’d suggest the following. Get a second job, move in with friends, move back home, get a cheaper apartment. Or go extreme. Eat on a dollar a day for a few months, or as one girl did it, go homeless. Sleep in the car, shower at the health club, eat at the restaurant you work at after work. Not for me but it’s worked for others.

    Very interesting commments from everyone above. I’ve often said you can survie on less money I just never know how. thanks

  22. Brian says:

    What your post fails to take into account is the cyclical nature of working poverty. I have lived through this, and there are any number of factors you are overlooking:

    1) As vh pointed out above, the cost associated with moving. Budgeting is not a magic wand, and it doesn’t make more money appear. If your fixed expenses are running very close to your income, it’s next to impossible to save up enough to have a security deposit on a new place.

    2) Additional jobs are nearly impossible to come by, for a simple reason: scheduling. Most service-sector jobs, even those that pay above minimum wage, have a very irregular schedule. If you’re hoping to get enough hours to earn enough to live, most employers require open availability. If you don’t know what hours you’ll be working at your primary job next week, you can’t schedule your secondary job, etc. Many employers are unwilling to hire someone who already has a job for this reason. (I know this because they’ve told me so themselves.)

    3.) When you change jobs, there is often a delay of 2-4 weeks before you start getting paid, due to pay schedules, paperwork delays, etc. This means you have to be ahead on all your bills before you can even think about finding another job.

    Because of financial aid shortfalls and health problems, I had to withdraw from college and fall back on the just-above-minimum wage job that was paying my rent. Even with minimizing expenses (2 roommates, and doing just about everything you suggested above) I could barely keep up with medical bills and rent. I escaped this cycle because of persistence and luck: my friend’s wealthy parents helped me out, and I registered for classes just long enough to qualify for student loans. My gamble paid off, but it could just as easily turned out badly.

    In retrospect, there were several programs and entitlements that could have helped me, especially with the medical bills. However, these options weren’t made known to me at the time, and jumping through the hoops to get them would have been next to impossible given my irregular work schedule and lack of reliable transportation.

    To say that “If you’re working a minimum wage job, either you’re very young, very lazy, or very unlucky,” is a drastic oversimplification, and is insulting to the people who have lived through this scenario.

    Stick to the investment advice.

  23. Michelle says:

    When my husband and I were first married we lived on about $12,000 a year (we were married in 2003). We were both in college full time, working minimum wage jobs (2 each), and paying for school using whatever means available to us (grants, loans, scholarships, and ROTC). And as a side note, ROTC is a great way to pay for college, they will give you a scholarship, and a monthly stipend, and they only require a four year commitment after graduation, if you really want an education, and don’t know how to pay for it, ROTC is worth looking into. We budgeted every penny we had, even washing clothes in the bathtub to save on having to go to the laundry mat. We both rode bicycles everywhere we needed to go, including to the grocery store (we found a cargo trailer for $10 at a garage sale and used that to haul our groceries back home) and even in the dead of winter when there was snow and ice on the ground (there’s a lot of things you’ll do if you are truly desperate). And we found that a crate of ramen and a carton of eggs goes a long way!

    We had to lose a lot of our pride, we ate the free lunch provided once a week by the Campus ministry, and even got to know the pastor, who started giving us the leftovers to take home. I have no problem with public assistance for people who need it, like we did. We were on Medicaid, because we needed it, and when our daughter was born, we were on WIC and Welfare. Now that my husband has a good job, we aren’t on those programs anymore, but have a lot of compassion for those who need them. There is no shame in taking help when you need it. That being said, we never felt as if we deserved anything from the government. We always viewed it as a temporary situation that would end after we graduated, and it did. We were using it to better ourselves, and that’s the perspective we always had.

  24. Rob in Madrid says:

    AS an afterthought. Minimum wage does have a very valid point. Most PF blogs are written from a solidy middle class backgound and haven’t had to raise a family on salary that approaches the poverty line. So how can they relate to those that do.

    My suggestion is that for you Trent to open up your blog to the occasional guest post. I for one (as a solidly middle class person) would like to know how they do it. I think it would show those who read that earning a good wage isn’t a prerequisite to a middle class life.

    For example I’d like to know how a family can live on anything less than 50,000 a year in Southern Ontario. I don’t think it can be done, not at least if you wish to own a house and raise a family.

  25. Amanda says:

    Rob, that’s not the point of this blog. If the people who make minimum wage are dissatisfied with the advice offered, then why don’t they write their own blog? If it becomes popular, it would act as an alternate source of income for them as well.

    A blogger cannot cater to 100% of the population with every post – or indeed with the entire blog. Nor should they try to.

  26. Jessica says:

    Just some some food for thought-minimum wage is not $7 in each and every state. In many states it is $5.85 or in the case of Wyoming it’s $5.15

    And really, I don’t think it was very necessary to state that a person earning min. wage might be lazy. It might be the truth but it just seemed like you were provoking. It seemed about as appropriate as saying people who go into debt are either “lazy, stupid or unlucky.”

  27. Ryan says:

    If I were making minimum wage, my first priority would be finding a job that paid more than minimum wage. Heck, I had not problem getting a job paying above minimum wage even when I was in high school.

  28. Norman says:

    Whats more important your life or money?
    This is terrible advice you are giving.
    You only get to live once so why not LIVE LIFE.
    I feel really bad for all you pathetic cheapskates!
    All of you are talking about saving money and what not…but at the end of your life you cant take it anywhere so why not enjoy it on yourself if not those you care for.
    Go to college and get a real job like the rest of us or just work for the government/post office you make a lot more than minimum wage.

  29. Minimum Wage says:

    Blessed – For some reason, I did not feel blessed by your comments. I did not “complain” about not being able to get OD protection, I merely mentioned it in response to some post which mentioned it. I’m not even sure I can’t get it – my checking account is “clean” and I have not bounced any checks – but when I asked about it they said they run your credit, and as someone pointed out, I “assume failure”. But I’m not willing to ding my credit further with a credit pull without some assurance I’ll be approved.

    I have a dead-end minimum-wage job where the entire pay range is from min wage to 20 cents above min wage (earned by a few long-timers). Superior performance won’t get you a raise here and mediocre performance won’t get you a pay cut.

    I started out with student loan debt; I didn’t overspend on consumer crap. I’m using an old used PC with no bells and whistles and I have a $10 dial-up connection. I had an extended uninsured illness which trashed my credit.

    I am a boomer with no marketable skills and I can’t afford to go back to school to get some. And even if I were to go get, say, an accounting degree, how employable would I become? How many employers are hiring boomers these days for entry-level accounting positions?

  30. NoRamen says:

    Ramen is a bad idea. When poor, try to absorb as much nutrition as you can; but remember, the less you eat, the longer you live (scientific fact).

  31. Rule10 says:

    Educate yourself is key

    Instead of saving $530 a year, you can save $20000 a year with education — remember to save using gold, not cash. hehe

  32. Amanda says:

    No one can help you, Minimum Wage, because you refuse to help yourself – and you keep refusing the more people try to help you. I hate to be mean, but consider that you yourself and your attitude might be exactly what is keeping you where you are.

  33. trb says:

    Minimum Wage, this is old old news to most of us who visit the pf blogs. You must have a bunch of time on your hands to leave these comments.

    How can you possibly have no marketable skills – what have you been doing for the last 30 years? Get off the blogs and get to work! Volunteer someplace and learn something new, ask your friends for informational interviews and see what they are working at, what their companies are looking for, make connections and ask somebody to take a chance on you. Trent is working three jobs to reach his goals, and he’s going to get there. Why aren’t you willing to step up and do more? Do you know what your goals are?

  34. Louise says:

    Minimum Wage, your comments are illustrating very clearly how you appear to assume something won’t work. I am having a difficult time even imagining a place with that range of wages. What are your student loans from? You have a degree and the best job you can find pays minimum wage (+20 cents)? What other jobs have you found that you are turning down? A fast food joint or a grocery store would have better wage options than that.

    Even if we were to believe that you have no other options than to be paid minimum wage, that is still absolutely no grounds for the gloom and financial despair you seem to be in. It is absolutely possible to get ahead on minimum wage. Perhaps part of the problem is that you spend so much time complaining how personal finance blogs don’t suit you instead of getting out and putting yourself in a better situation.

    I’m sorry if I sound harsh and a little too optimistic about that whole “American Dream” fairytale, but your comments suggest you belong in the lazy category. With the information you’ve shared, I just can’t offer sympathy for your situation.

  35. Louise says:

    It’s frustrating to read Trent’s posts that implore people to put their pride aside and accept community help, and then read so many comments condemning the use of welfare, WIC and soup kitchens. The arrogance reeks. Do you guys realize you are reading a blog about overcoming financial hardship?

  36. Amanda says:

    It is not arrogance on my part – and on my mother’s. It is principle. I do not believe that Welfare is a good or just or reputable program, and so I do not receive benefits – never have and never will. If other people have different principles, let them act on them, as I have acted – and will always act – on mine.

    There is a very big difference between arrogance and principle, and I wish that more people would learn it.

  37. Rick says:

    Reading through the comments, there seems to be a big stigma against using social services like WIC, welfare, soup kitchens, etc. Don’t feel bad about using these services. There are there for a reason, to help folks in need. Use the services. Don’t feel embarrassed. The problem is not using these services, but living off them. You shouldn’t expect to use the soup kitchen for the rest of your life. But if you’re stuck in a rut and need some help, use the soup kitchen.

    Mr. Minimum Wage did make a valid point that in many degrees, nobody wants to hire middle-aged people for entry level positions. It may be age discrimination, but it happens. One of my friends is 28, and just graduated with a degree in accounting. He interviewed with a major nationally-known accounting firm, and he was denied a job; they explicitly told him that he was too old for the job. He would have had bosses younger than him, and the company assumed he would not be fine working for people younger than him. Age discrimination happens.

    That said, there are plenty of opportunities to succeed. Several commenters have offered their stories. For me, I worked at Walmart for awhile. When I started, I was paid $8.20/hour. A year and a half later, I was making $9.85/hour. And if I stayed, I could have been promoted and make even more. Plus, despite what you read in the media, Walmart’s benefits are actually pretty decent, especially for the lower-wage sector. Most low wage jobs will give you worse benefits than Walmart, or no benefits at all.

    Mr. Minimum wage, if you have no opportunity for advancement at your current job, look for a new minimum wage job, but one with advancement opportunities. Look at grocery stores. Look at restaurants. The opportunities are there. You just have to look for them and work to get ahead.

  38. Louise says:

    I agree with Rick’s far more diplomatic comment regarding welfare, soup kitchens &c.

    In response to Amanda’s comment, I am not confusing arrogance with principles. I think the principle of refusing to give or accept help is arrogant, as is condemning others for accepting or offering this help. When people express their disdain for the welfare system, they often also, implicitly or expressly, express disdain for the people who use it. I think it is arrogant for people to condemn a service and the people who use it because they themselves have never felt they needed it. And to clarify, “qualifying for” doesn’t always equate to “needing.”

    Even if you disagree with the way the government, chuch, or next-door neighbors distribute their help, judging the people who need and accept it only makes things worse. Are you doing anything to change things, or just objecting to the way things are now? I am not saying this to attack you, I think it’s a problem with people worldwide, especially Americans. Nobody objects to free speech because it’s just talk. So few people actually do anything.

    Sorry that went off on a tangent, but I am not confusing arrogance with principles.

  39. Amanda says:

    Actually, Louise, you are. If my principles make me arrogant in your eyes, fine. I honestly don’t care. You can’t tell me that we didn’t need it when I was 12 and my mother went without food for 3 days at a time so that I could have something in my stomach that we didn’t “need” Welfare. She went hungry rather than have someone else foot the tab because she hadn’t bothered to finish college. Frankly, I think that’s damned noble – certainly not arrogant. Hard to be arrogant when you can’t sleep because you’re hungry. The point is, she took _personal responsibility_ for her actions – something you seem to be all for when you want Minimum Wage to do it, but sadly this “principle” is lacking when you attack me. :)

    And am I doing something to change things? Absolutely. I’m working to end the entitlements system in this country. As hard as ever I can. If private charities want to step in to help the indigent, let them. I believe that helping the poor should be voluntary, not coerced as it is now. Do I personally give to charity? Yes. Every month. There is a difference between coercion and desire.

  40. dong says:

    While I think at times welfare can be ineffecitve, I wholeheartedly believe it serves a good purpose. Sometime you have to swallow your pride take and recieve help. The problem with welfare is not getting on it, but never leaving it. Welfare and government assistance programs have helped many a family in time of need. My family took welfare assistance when I was young, and it helped my dad learn english and get a job. My family now has collectively given much back in taxes. I think that’s fair. Welfare and other government assistance programs are not so different from helping hand from family. I don’t see accepting help in order to be contributing member of society as a bad thing.

  41. Marsha says:

    Trent, what is the bottle in the photo? Maybe I just didn’t read your post closely enough…

  42. Mariette says:

    Trent, thank you for this post and while I, like many others here, disagree with your last point about why people are stuck in minimum wage jobs, I was relieved that someone finally opened the subject up for serious discussion. It’s great that so many people are taking an interest in personal finance, but it can be difficult for the “working poor” in this country to apply many of the concepts discussed in the PF blogs.

    In response to Minimum Wage’s comments I would like to say that nothing is impossible, even with chronic illness and medical bills. If you give up before you even try, or at the beginning of your efforts then your life never will improve. If that’s what you really want, then keep at it. Otherwise, if you want your life to change then you have to try and you have to open your mind to the possibility that your circumstances can change. And if you have been trying for some time and feel like your banging your head against a brick wall, then try a new tack. Just because your a boomer doesn’t mean it’s hopeless, after all your life isn’t over yet.

  43. Minimum Wage says:

    How can I have no marketable skills? I did data entry for many years and have NO desire to ever go back to it. I’m not aware that it afforded me ANY skills useful for ANY other kind of job.

    I have no money to go back to school, I can’t get dinancial aid, and I have nothing to wear to an interview – whatever would I do if I were actually offered an interview? (My resume, showing a dead-end job history, hasn’t gotten me an interview in many years.) Between student loans and a very aggressive creditor, the giant sucking you hear is almost $300 per month being slurped out of my pocket. That’s why I can’t save a dime, and that’s why I despair.

    I’ve been considering blogging, but I know I am in a small minority – and a small minority which is economically powerless, so the people who might benefit from it would mostly never see it, and I don’t see how under those constraints I could ever make any significant money doing it. I’m looking for something I can do from home to make money.

  44. Louise says:

    Amanda, I think my main problem/confusion with your perspective is that it’s okay to give if you feel like it, but it is never okay to accept help. Even if you haven’t eaten in three days.

  45. mark says:

    Minimum Wage, how about working through b2b (business to business) web sites like Elance.com? It would basically be a freelancing gig but you could earn good money if you dedicated yourself to it. If you don’t have any useful skills to offer, you could always borrow a book or two in the library and learn them. That’s what I did and it payed off. Good luck to you.

  46. Sarah says:

    Amanda, if you actually think a person, any person, much less your own mom, deserves to go three days at a time without eating for the unforgivable sin of not finishing college, I pity you. I really do. I hope you never find yourself in the situation of needing help yourself. It’s closer than you want to think, lurking around the corner for almost all of us. Throwing your hate at those who use the system, pouring your energy into making sure that other people get less, that may help you *feel* like you’re putting more distance between yourself and the shame and suffering of your childhood poverty, but in fact all that venom, all that determination that people who accept help are bad, lazy, totally unlike you, won’t protect you one bit if fate decides to take a swipe at you or you–unthinkable, I know–were to make a few bad decisions in a row.

    (To whoever mentioned it, Wal-Mart has an admitted practice of preventing people from working enough hours to qualify for their benefits package, so I don’t think it’s exactly accurate to refer to it as available to the average worker.)

  47. yp says:

    Coming from another culture (New Zealand) where I don’t see a lot of libertarians it’s interesting to hear Amanda’s viewpoint. I have had govt assistance for quite a while and also then worked and paid taxes. It’s this give and take and working together that has helped a lot of people and makes the world a nicer place to live. I wonder what the world would be like if only the consistently strong survived. Where the elderly, disabled and sick had no recourse.

    I wonder what Amanda’s principle is based on? If she fell to the ground and someone offered her a hand to help her up. Would she take it? Or struggle to her feet herself, perhaps afraid of being indebted to, or relying on anyone else.

  48. Ryan says:

    I don’t know MW, since you have self professed your own doom, you might as well go for suicide.

  49. Johanna says:

    It seems to me that MW is more interested in complaining than in doing anything to solve his problems. But to address one of his concerns: I interviewed for my current job wearing a suit that I got at a thrift store for $30.

  50. Amanda says:

    Actuslly, Sarah, programs like Welfare make sure that _everyone_ gets less – not just the wealthy, whose money is stolen to pay for the programs, but the poor as well. State-sponsored welfare programs restrict charitable giving, as has been proven over and over again. State-sponsored welfare programs are even more prone to abuse than private charities. THAT is why I object to programs like Welfare and would never take (and have never taken) any assistance from them.

    As I keep stating, I’m all for private charitible giving. If people have other principles than mine, there’s no stopping them from reaching out to private charity. I didn’t mention that they were bad and lazy. You seem to be reading more than I wrote down. Hm… wonder why that is.

  51. vh says:

    Minimum Wage shows up on all the PF blogs with the same story and the same response to advice and commentary?

    How funny. Don’t you see it? MW is Bartleby!

    Don’t know what that means? Set aside the self-help books and take a few minutes to read something meaningful, with a timeless message: http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/11231

  52. Cynthia Huntington says:

    There’s a lot of anger on this site today. MW’s comments ARE frustrating because he seems to predict and then enact doom for himself. But I don’t think he’s lazy, stupid, any of the above. MW, have you been checked for clinical depression? This illness traps people into negative spirals while also siphoning away energy for change and hope. There are free services available, and whether the answer is medication, counseling, or whatever, it is worth pursuing.
    The person who commented that Amanda’s “principle” of not accepting help is a defense to distance herself from her painful childhood poverty is right on. There seems to be so much pain in her postings. People are shamed for being poor in this country, and if a child endures both shame and privation, and also absorbs the parent’s shame and despair, there is every reason to try to build a wall against that. But counseling, prayer, genuine self love can move you past that. I don’t condemn her for her views, for they seem to reflect a deep hurt at the center.

  53. Minimum Wage says:

    I have reality-based depression: it’s not all in my head. I don’t think there are any meds for that.

  54. Amanda B. says:

    Ryan, poor form. I may not agree with MW world view, but I can tell that he is in a bad place. Even if you are not a fan, why would you push someone like that? I hope MW dosen’t take your “advise”. I am sure you didn’t really mean it, but casually throwing something like that out can be devistating.

  55. deRuiter says:

    Dear Minimum Wage, “I am a boomer with no marketable skills and I can’t afford to go back to school to get some.” How can you have student loan debt when you have no marketable skills? What did you learn at school? You’re a boomer, which means you’ve been out of school for 30 years AND YOU’RE STILL PAYING OFF STUDENT LOAN DEBT? Is there a chance you’re just a Leftist baiting the hard working, thrifty people who are using Trent’s blog to share ideas to get ahead? I bet you’re a government employed Socialist feeding at the public trough or employed by some “poverty industry foundation” making up a bunch of lies. People are dying in an attempt to sneak into this country for the booming economic opportunity. Mexicans sneak in illegally, and make $10./ hour and more off the books without the ability to speak English. IF YOU’RE A BOOMER MAKING MINIMUM WAGE YOU ARE LAZY. I think you’re a fruad baiting the hardworking people who use thrift and hard work to get ahead.

  56. kingking says:

    I am also one who worked my way out of poverty. To say that no one will help is simply wrong, and insulting to the number of individuals and charities willing to lend a hand to those who need it. May I make a suggestion that Minimum Wage pursue employment at a hospital? As a registered nurse (formerly a secretary/data entry/minimum wage earner), I’ve never seen a hospital that doesn’t offer even the lowest wage earner tuition reimbursement. In fact, in the geographic area where I presently work, the shortage of nurses is so severe that hospitals are paying employees up front to enter nursing school. A two year associate’s degree entitles one to sit for the NCLEX exam, and you’ll definitely make more than minimum wage from the start. I’m not saying it’s easy work, never has been, but I’m well into middle age and continue to get up everyday and go in. That’s reality based.

  57. Ryan says:

    If I were making minimum wage and unskilled with no motivation to become skilled, I’d simply open the classified ads in the paper and look at the hundreds of ads for unskilled labor that pay more than minimum wage. Problem solved. Next issue please.

  58. Minimum Wage says:

    I got a liberal arts degree because I wanted to go to law school and that required a degree. I had a minor in com sci. By the time I graduated, law school had become a lot more expensive and I was seeing people come out of law schools and take menial jobs to pay their student loans, so borrowing up to my eyeballs for law school seemed pretty risky. The emerging PC rendered my mainframe-based IT skills obsolete, and I couldn’t afford to keep my computer skills current. (I didn’t even have a (cheap) PC until the ’90s.)

    So I made student loan paymewts when I was able, and deferred the loans when I couldn’t pay them. But you can do that for only so long, and eventually I bumped into a time limit. Since my lender was unwilling to accept anything less than the scheduled monthly payment, I defaulted. That bundled my accrued interest into the principal, causing the balance to grow even faster, plus there were a bunch of fees added. So now my balance is even greater than the amount I borrowed.

    And no, I’m not a “poverty pimp” or anything like that, plus I’m also pretty sore about illegal immigration. (I’m not so much concerned with illegals taking my job and depressing my wages – not a significant problem in my sector – my problem is that their presence is inflating rents because they’re taking up a lot of space, and I can’t afford any more rent inflation.)

    How am I lazy? I’d love to see you try doing MY job for two weeks. I have to deal daily with a walking gallery of social problems (bums, street people, gangbangers, shoplifters, wackos, crackheads, methheads, drunks, scammers, you name it) and on weekends I also get to do a lot of extra work because the previous shift couldn’t be bothered to lift a finger.

    I see lots and lots of opportunity, but I haven’t figured out how to take advantage of it when I have no money and no available credit. Heck, I went to the Bay Area for a weekend and returned home with two new business ideas. But ideas are worthless without capital.

  59. Minimum Wage says:

    I have lots of motivation to become skilled. Where do I sign up?

  60. Ms. Clear says:

    I enjoy this blog, but it’s naive to think the advice here is written for all people. I think this particular post had some good advice, but also a great deal of wishful thinking.

    For instance, is this hypothetical minimum wage worker supposed to leave any family that they possess or even any friends and take a Greyhound to a rural area, where they will have no one? How are they going to be sure to find apartments near where these low paid jobs are? Things are quite spread out in the rural areas of the country.

    Economic powerlessness is real and it is an integral part of the United States economy. Our system is not designed so that everyone can live a middle class life style. I don’t favor the alternative, as I think that’s even worse. However, I do favor a strong social safety net, so that those who wind up doing the lowest paid work still have basic access to housing, health care, etc.

    There are a great number of people posting on this thread, and in US culture, who have completely bought in to the “bootstraps” myth. I think our society is worse off for not taking a more nuanced approach.

    FTR, I’m not poor and I make quite a bit more than the minimum wage. But I’m not so high and mighty that I think I could never wind up back at the bottom, through no fault of my own.

  61. ravengal says:

    Here in the Rust Belt, my 18yo dd makes $1200 working 16 days per month at a local factory. The work is hard, hot, and fast-paced. Being surrounded by middle-ager who made decisions long-ago to not pursue higher education has sparked in her a newfound appreciation for pursuing a college education.

  62. Mr. Nickle says:

    How did I escape minimum wage with no degree or job skills? I changed crappy jobs regularly until I landed a temp position at a company where my hard work and contributions were recognized and valued. I advanced through there. There were smarter and more skilled people around than me, but I always made it a point to work harder than them, and it paid off. I also looked for opportunities to contribute beyond what my job required of me (from moving heavy boxes to proposing more efficient ways to get aspects of our business done).

    Once I could afford it, I started taking classes and other job training nights and weekends to increase my value to an employer, and moved up from there. I made a case to my employer about what they would get out of me taking the training, and I was able to talk them into letting me adjust my work schedule around it, and later on even getting reimbursed for the expenses.

    I was not a kid at this time, so I don’t think age is a valid excuse. We also had an intern who was middle aged who, because of his hard work and dedication, got hired and promoted multiple times.

    The only reason I can think of why someone would really be as limited as MW would be if they were sick or otherwise had some disability. There are opportunities all around us, and when there aren’t (like if you live in an area like where I grew up), change your situation until there are. Sell all your stuff, get a bus ticket, and get out of there. It may sound extreme, but that’s what I did.

  63. Frugal Goose says:

    Living with your parents always helps. You could even afford a car!

  64. Celeste says:

    I think it’s scary for the mother of a small child to go 3 days without food instead of accepting some kind of assistance. You have a responsibility to stay healthy for your kids when you are in that situation, and to disregard that for pride’s sake does not strike me as noble; it sounds like risky self punishment. There are many instances in which I might not consider assistance necessary, but that’s not one. I am glad things worked out for your family.

  65. Amy K. says:

    I grew up in a smallish town with an economy dependent on tourism revenue. There, it’s easy to get a job making minimum wage at the mall, or a hotel, or a grocery store, or some sort of food service. Finding something above minimum wage is more challenging.

    So, in that situation, what are the best jobs for someone with few marketable skills?

    -The hospital. Very secure, and once you’re in you have access to the better (read: day shift) internal job postings. Downsides: hard to get in, and the external postings tend to be few hours or evening shifts. Looking at the postings right now, starting pay is about $9/hr.

    -Manufacturing. Boring, repetitive, but the pay compensates. In my home town there’s a Sara Lee bakery, and a cardboard box manufacturing site. I believe starting pay is $10/hr

    Barring that, there’s the two-job option. When I was in college, I worked as a bank teller during the day, and in retail sales in the evening and on weekends. The retail job knew they weren’t my primary job, and were more than happy to work around my bank schedule, which changed from week to week but was set far enough in advance. I know MW said there were health problems, and standing for that long used to hurt my feet, and might be untenable, but I wanted to mention the dual job option. I know when Mom managed the loading docks at Marshall Fields, she had many employees who worked for her in the morning (5:30-1pm) and went directly to a second job. Not all employers will work with you to coordinate two jobs, but many will understand.

    For what it’s worth, I would be interested in a blog, if Minimum Wage started one. I had found a blog a while back by a gent who was making a little more than minimum wage, but I have since lost the URL. The last time I read, he had just gotten a new washing machine from a Rent-a-center, was working nights as a security guard, and posted something to the effect that he stops paying the utility bills (gas?) in March, so the heat is turned off in April, and has to pay the bill up to current plus the installation fee to have the heat turned back on in November. As someone who has never had such problems, it was fascinating, but I felt guilty that I was treating it like a documentary about poverty. From the other side of the blogosphere, I could do nothing to change it, and could only watch the problems unfold. And maybe add a tiny bit of revenue via Google ad click-throughs.

  66. Kim says:

    I was kind of surprised that you said “Ramen is very cheap, filling, and full of carbs, for example.”

    While these things are true, Ramen is loaded with sodium (over 850 miligrams per serving!!!), and doesn’t provide a whole lot else nutritionally. So yes, it is cheap and filling, and I suppose when the choice is eat unhealthily or starve, I’d go with the Ramen…but there are healthier options out there as well (such as the community dinners, or even just some simple pasta with chicken, which is super cheap if you buy frozen and in bulk).

  67. Mrs. Micah says:

    So, I don’t feel like getting into the fray here, but a useful bit of info for MW:

    “I have reality-based depression: it’s not all in my head. I don’t think there are any meds for that.”

    I also have had to work with what’s called “reactive” or reality-based depression. Mine was caused by my mother’s being diagnosed with terminal cancer. It spiraled for a while because I refused to get help, I thought that I couldn’t be helped because I had such a good reason to be depressed.

    It did a lot of psychological damage that I’m still undoing, but the meds made a tremendous improvement in my energy, my initiative, my ability to deal with it, etc. There are generics which cost $4 for a month’s supply and a clinic should be able to prescribe them.

    Of course, you also have to want to get through the depression. In my case, even though I had good reasons to be depressed, the meds helped me deal with those reasons much better than I was doing on my own. So look into them if you can, I think they’d help.

  68. plonkee says:

    Benefits/welfare are one of the reasons that I am willing to pay taxes, take everything that you are eligible for because that is why they are there. Going without food for days just because you are too disdainful of accepting help isn’t noble, its dumb.

    I agree with several commenters who pointed out that you require some money to move – you need to be able to get out of your payday to payday existence from where you are. To do that, requires some luck – not getting sick, and not losing your job.

    When you’re near the bottom of the ladder, it doesn’t take much to push you off – you could just be a little unlucky rather than a lot unlucky.

  69. Sense says:

    Young, lazy, or unlucky??

    I don’t think ‘luck’ has anything to do with it. Many people who take perfect care of themselves are afflicted with debilitating illnesses every day–this isn’t ‘luck.’ Sometimes, there is no answer, no way to make it work.

    My sister is bi-polar–for the past 8 years, she has spent 4-6 months each YEAR in a mental hospital. Whatever job she had before the hospitalization is terminated, making her more unlikely to get hired afterwards. Despite all this, she is trying to get her bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, she has only been able to finish half of her semesters of classes. She also is afflicted with ADD and dyslexia, so she can only take a few classes at a time. In addition, her disease actually makes her spend money haphazardly in her manic phase–the credit card companies just keep letting her have access to it. Money management is the least of her worries. Her disease is unpredictable and severe. I know that she is not alone in this predicament. Unlucky doesn’t even begin to cover the half of it. Lots of horrible stuff happens–it is NOT luck or the lack thereof. it just is.

    I would hardly call minimum wage workers ‘lazy,’ either. Most min. wage jobs are physically demanding, tedious bores. I’ve never worked so hard than when I had my early college jobs. It’s very very difficult to imagine applying for a higher wage job or getting an education when you have 3 kids to feed, you are tired to your bones, you’re making your monthly payments only to have them due again as soon as you get your check, and you have 45 other seemingly higher priority tasks shoved in your face every day. It takes tremendous courage and skill to overcome those obstacles and make your life better for yourself.

    I do agree that there are options for Minimum Wage, though, provided your health is intact. You may have to take a job you hate and work extra hours in order to advance. At this point, it doesn’t sound like an internship in your chosen field of study would cut your income, so i’d look into something like that. What about online education courses? As long as you have your health, there are ALWAYS options. You may sleep a little less, but you can figure something out. You’ll do that and change when you are ready…right now you seem defeated and beaten down. At some point you will get fed up, hit your rock bottom, and take some action steps. Otherwise, things will NEVER change. That is your worst fear, right? That you’ll be stuck in the same position when you’re 85? I know it’s hard, but I think you have the wherewithall to improve your situation–your writing is coherent and grammatically correct, you are smart enough to realize your situation is dire, and you read money blogs–you have a lot going for you. i really do think that. Good luck.

    Oh, one more comment: if you exhaust all other resources and STILL resist getting assistance in order to feed your child because of some stubborn view of welfare, this does not make you noble, in my opinion. Your child just went hungry because of your ‘principles’–I look at this as abuse. It is ok to get help sometimes.

  70. Minimum Wage says:

    I’m having difficulty making “Sense” of this…I don’t know how to go back to school, offline or online, since I have no money and cannot get student loans. It seems like it shouldn’t be too hard to get something online started to make money.

  71. Kat says:

    MW- if you have a liberal arts degree, you could teach. You would just have to pass the basic exam. While you are waiting for a teaching job, you can substitue teach. It pays a lot more than min. wage.

    Anyone who won’t take help when they are starving is being a martr. Also the government has these programs to help its citizens. Look at the 1930s. People had to use soup kitchens/government help because they were starving to death and couldn’t find work.

  72. Sir
    Just the president of Tanzania had said jaza jaza kebaba or drop by drop one day you will succeed. But he meant to save.
    This was then in 60s when we got the independence
    But the geed of just those few coins coming in each at a time for no work is just what this article is acted on.
    We are filled with graft and we are with him but for our pockets. It is a great article to read but this just does not work in practice. Say go urban, then your expenses go up, go rural then your expenses goes up anyway because the tax guys are everywhere.
    You just cannot avoid them
    What is more? The mining authorities have the contracts that baffle us the public.
    The 5% or so is on the earth dug. This earth I am talking is filled with iron, steel, silver, gold, diamond, etc. The contract ought to be on what is dug up i.e. the minerals not the earth. So this is a big farce.

    Firozali A.Mulla MBA PhD
    P.O.Box 6044
    East Africa

  73. Minimum Wage says:

    Most states still require teachers to get a teaching certificate which usually requires a year of education courses. And there is very little government help for childless adults working full time for minimum wage. No food stamps, no welfare, and housing help is hard to get because the underclass overburdens what little help exists and it’s a crap shoot – housing help was available for 3K people and 9K applied. A new Section 8 apartment building was built in my neighborhood a couple years ago and the gangbangers moved in and took it over.

  74. dong says:

    I mean as much as I’d like help Minimum Wage, and offer him or her good advice (which has been readily offered here in this thread), I think we need to all accept MW for what he or she is. A Troll.

  75. Kat says:

    Well MW, you can sub while getting that certificate. They don’t cost much.
    Obviously you don’t want to do anything to help yourself. People have given you numerous ideas and you have shot all of them down over small simple things that everyone else does to get ahead in life.

  76. kitty says:

    “I’m not so much concerned with illegals taking my job and depressing my wages – not a significant problem in my sector – my problem is that their presence is inflating rents because they’re taking up a lot of space, and I can’t afford any more rent inflation”
    There is one thing you could probably learn from illegals – how they come to the US with nothing and often don’t even know English, yet manage to make a living, often more than minimum wage, and even have some money left to send back home. In this area we have many illegal live-in nannies. They often earn over $200 a week, and as they get room and board, don’t own a car and don’t need fancy clothes, that’s $200 a week saved money. The same nannies sometimes supplement their income by cleaning houses – around here this is over $15 an hour. Not all of them are young; I’ve seen some who are in their 40s and 50s.

    There are jobs out there that pay more than minimum wage, even unskilled ones like housecleaning. As people said, you could go back to the job you hate and try to advance there, or switch to another minimum wage job but with a chance for advancement like becoming a supervisor.

    I am sorry, but as a first generation immigrant (legal) who came to this country as a refugee from a communist country with nothing yet managed to make good living, I just don’t see how an educated American with no English problems cannot find ways to earn more than the minimum wage.

  77. J.D. says:

    Minimum Wage, I’m working on a piece about minimum wage for GRS. I came over here to see if you’d responded to Trent, and I’m glad to see you have. I wish you’d reply to my e-mails.

    You are obviously intelligent and articulate. You absolutely could start a blog about your situation, and I’ll bet many in the pfblogging community would help boost it at the start. I certainly would. I like to read what you write, and you offer a voice that isn’t available anywhere else that I’ve found.

    And while I sympathize with the fact that you work for just over minimum wage in a convenience store, I do think you give yourself too many excuses. You say that you can’t go back to school because you can’t afford it and because you can’t get loans. Why can’t you get loans? Why can’t you take classes at a Portland Community College? I guarantee you that a few classes at PCC can yield marketable skills that will get you a job above minimum wage.

    E-mail me. I have ideas to help you, but so long as you do not respond, I have trouble taking your complaints seriously.

  78. J.D. says:

    I’ve worked some minimum wage jobs in my life, but those were all when I was younger. I’d love to share stories from those who’ve worked minimum wage in the past but found a way out, or from those who are still mired in minimum wage jobs. What advice do you have to others who work minimum wage? What’s the best way to move up? What didn’t work?

    If you’re willing to share your story, please post it in the GRS forums. (If you need to register, use the VIP code 0325)

  79. Susan says:

    Yes, MW, you are right, there is no hope for a minimum wage middle aged liberal arts degree holder in this world. You are right. You might as well give up all hope. Forget trying to remedy your situation, since it is hopeless. Forget all this useless advice on this thread. Yes, I am humoring you.

  80. MossySF says:

    Unconventional situations call for unconventional tactics. The big problem is the student loans. You can’t get rid of them via bankruptcy. The solution is to simply stop paying them. What can they do? Go after you? You have no assets for them to go after. They can garnish your wages but there are several solutions for that:

    1) Continually switch jobs whenever wage garnishment catches up to you

    2) Work in the underground cash environment.

    3) Sign up with overseas organizations teaching english/building wells/etc in 3rd world countries.

  81. Sharon says:

    I know that several people have mentioned teaching but using the alternate route to get your certification. Your answer is “Most states require…” Yes, most states require classes, but they can be taken during the time you are teaching. Since someone mentioned Portland (Oregon, I assume) I looked it up, because I have more important things to do that I am putting off.
    As near as I can tell, certification “alternate route style” in Oregon requires a BA. (If you can get your transcript with a defaulted loan) and a few tests. Yes, there are some startup costs involved. But you could spread them out over the next year, making it a goal of teaching in 2008-2009. Why can’t you suddenly have a desire to teach? Mid-life crisis. Spouse/family/friends/blogosphere tired of listening to you complain about how you can’t contribute more to society. Etc. Etc.
    During that year, you could be an assistant part-time at $11 an hour, which might work in with your other job and look better on your resume’. Also pay for those exams.
    Next year you would have a license valid for three years. During those three years you have to have a mentor (possibly paid out of your pocket) and get your regular license. Mentor (NJ price) $1000 for on year. Graduate classes at Portland State ..8 credits per year $4000.
    You might protest that the first semester you want to concentrate on teaching and start in January. Unless you have a thousand or so saved from that part-time assisting (additional 8,000). But a chunk of that will be used in clothes for interviews, resume paper, test costs, transportation costs, taxes, some lifestyle inflation. Wage garnishment won’t affect that for a year.
    If you end up teaching for the same school district, wage garnishment may be an issue when you start teaching so you might get a plan in place before then.
    Still, you can double your annual income….

  82. Minimum Wage says:

    J.D. – Thank you for the invite. I have an AOL-type account where you get more than one “screen name” and I hardly ever go check that one; e-mails scroll off after a few weeks so I’ve probably been missing your e-mails entirely. (I remember seeing one awhile back when I was busy with something.)

    Alas, I am one of those evil student loan defaulters Reagan warned you about. (For younger readers who might not have been around at the time, Reagan changed the student loan rules so that borrowers who defaulted became ineligible for additional loans or grants. Sounds like a no-brainer, but some people were abusing the system to borrow more and more money they never paid back. But this hosed borrowers like me who really needed to be able to borrow to advance careers.) I deferred my loans as long as I could and eventually ran intoi a non-negotiable time limit.

    I have been making interest-only payments on my student loans for several years, but I’d have to make larger payments to get the loans out of default. And I have an aggressive creditor sucking $200/mo out of my pocket. THAT is why I can’t even take community college classes.

  83. Susy says:

    I don’t think I would categorize it as earning minimum wage so much as a “Minimum Wage Mentality”. My husbands mother is minimum wage single mom of one that just can’t get ahead. She’s been using this excuse for years. It’s all in her mindset. She can’t afford anything but somehow has the money for cable with movie channels, smoking, frequent trips to the dollar store for crap.

    My family (2 parents, 3 children) made the same amount as husbands mom (one parent, 1 child) . We never had cable, grew most of our own food, and wore our coats around our house in the winter because we kept the house so cold to save money.

    My parents never thought they were poor, so they never were. Mother-in-law has always thought she is poor, so she is. Now my parents have a fully paid off house valued at $250,000 and commercial rental property fully paid off in town, and a lot of money in retirement. My parents never thought they weren’t making enough though, they were always thankful for what they had and even found a way to give at least 10% of their income to less-fortunate people. Mother-in-law doesn’t own her $20,000 house yet (got a 30 yr mortgage on it) and has nothing saved for retirement. All on the same income.

    When we got married we made $23000 per year. My husband was a minister and thus categorized as “self-employed” so we had to pay self-employment tax on that. We also had to pay for our own health care. We had 2 cars, an apartment that cost $500 per month, and we still managed to pay off his $10,000 in full during the first year. It’s all in your mindset.

    My husband often talks about how thankful he is to be free of the minimum wage mentality. He talks about how liberating it is.

  84. Susy says:

    sorry it should be $10,000 school loan.

  85. John Moore says:

    This post hit me harder than anything else I’ve read on the simple dollar. I’m in a position where I’m making only a little more than minimum wage and it seems like a lifetime of poor decisions is coming home to roost. I believe that there is a way out and that’s why I started reading the simple dollar regularly.

    This post inspired me to start a blog about coming back from the bottom. Maybe it will help me to stay on track and help others in the same situation.

  86. ninimum wage says:

    If I apply for a job and don’t get hired, that’s not a mentality, it’s reality. I could even argue that the EMPLOYER has a “mentality” problem. Employers often don’t know quite what to make of a middle-aged college graduate with a menial minimum-wage job (or if they do, it’s not good), so their mental red risk-aversion flag pops up and they don’t want to take any chances on hiring me.

  87. Dawnry says:

    I was a single mother making $6 an hour. I had no car and no savings.

    I found a job training center funded through govt monies. I started to make more money. I decided to go to the local community college to see what kind of aid I could recieve. I got a grant for $1500 a semester. I went to school, I studied and I sacrificed a lot.

    I just graduated from nursing school in June.

    I have a physical disability and a learning disability.

    getting ahead is not supposed to be easy.

  88. Jac says:

    What I can’t understand is how badly people have reacted to the idea of ‘luck’ in this thread.
    Sense: How is your bipolar sister with ADD and dyslexia not unlucky? Did she bring these conditions on herself by skipping church?
    Brian: why wasn’t it unlucky for you to have to drop out of college ‘because of health problems’? Were your health problems caused by you?
    Sarah: How is Walmart replacing all other employment opportunities in your town not unlucky?
    Money Socket: why doesn’t luck cover being born with a disability, or not living in an area with good education?

    Luck is those elements of life you’ve had no control over. People who reject this concept, or try to redefine it away, are usually rejecting the idea that their own success is partly due to their own good luck – You’re not blind/retarded/too disfigured for service jobs/some other disability? You live in a large city with millions of opportunities? Your parents encouraged you to study? Your wealthy friend lent you money for rent once? Luck. Learn the phrase ‘there but for the grace of God go I’.

  89. Johanna says:

    So MW, you’re the victim of age discrimination. We get it. But you know what? Just about everybody’s been the victim of some sort of discrimination. For women and minorities, there’s racism and sexism, either overt or covert. For white men, there are quota-based affirmative action programs. For people with a lot of education in a specific field that they don’t want to work in anymore, there’s the risk of looking overqualified to do anything else. And so forth. Just about everybody has the cards stacked against them in some situations, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other situations where they can succeed.

    And then there’s the fact that sometimes people lose out on job opportunities not because the employers have anything in particular against them, but because there’s somebody else who’s a little bit better. You talk about applying for “a” job and not getting hired, as if that’s some kind of proof that your situation was hopeless. I applied once for a job and didn’t get hired. And then I applied for another job and didn’t get hired. And then I applied for about 20 more jobs and didn’t get hired. And then I applied for a job and got hired, and that was fine. I didn’t need 23 jobs – I only needed one. But by your metric, I guess I’m a failure 22 times over, and I should have given up a long time ago, because hey, who would ever want to hire somebody like me?

  90. KATY says:

    MW – I hear you.

    The advice other people have offered is good. Take what you can use – and leave the rest.
    I am also a member of Debtors Anonymous. Lots of people have been in your/our position. Maybe there is a DA meeting in your area.

    Best of luck and keep posting.


  91. rebecca says:

    not sure where you live, but most states have free continuing ed. through their community college systems and ROP. For free you can learn updated computer skills, office practices, welding, sewing, construction, culinary training, and many other fields.
    These classes are free to anyone who shows up, and while they might not get you a top job in the field, they would get you started and once you got the job you could pursue additional education (if necessary) to advance.

    While age discrimination is a reality in many places, it is also illegal. I would recommend looking at government jobs — they are much more careful not to discriminate — I personally have a friend who is 65 and just got a benefited government job that pays quite a bit more than minimum wage.

  92. Minimum Wage says:

    I have no idea what ROP is and I’m not aware of any available free training. (Unless you’re a druggie or ex-con or have some similar problem getting a job.) I look at job listings all the time and see zillions of jobs I’m not qualified for and can’t get, plus a lot of jobs I can’t get to because I don’t have a car.

  93. Jon says:

    Minimum Wage,

    Becoming a teacher or substitute teacher is the best advice. You have a degree so you can do lateral entry immediately. But if for whatever reason you don’t want to do that…

    Consider stalking your local Barnes and Noble for a job. They have unbelievable benefits (even for part-time workers) and pay a bit above minimum wage to start, with regular raises.

    They do not just hire young people. I know that for a fact. They’re also perfectly fine with you having a second job. Several people who work at my local Barnes are middle/upper-middle aged with low-paying jobs who just want some extra income.

    The best time to apply is the start of school terms since there are always a few students who quit or reduce their hours.

    Oh yeah, and if they say “Yes we always accept new applications” then obviously they’re not hiring. Wait until they actually put a sign out for help.

  94. SusanO says:

    “I have no idea what ROP is”

    See, this is where a person with a different mindset would have responded “What’s ROP and how can I get it to benefit me?” I’m sure Rebecca would have been glad to explain.

    A quick Google shows it stands for Regional Occupational Program. Sounds interesting!

    Dawnry, I’d be very interested in hearing about your disability vis a vis your work. I got a chronic illness about 6 years ago, and I’m struggling with what that means for my financial future and my career future. And yes, I totally believe this was a stroke of bad luck! It sucks! But I’m trying to work around it. But I’ve had good luck too.

    Hm, it might be interesting to have a support group of low wage earners who are struggling with various challenges. I know that sometimes I just need a fresh pair of eyes or a fresh brain to show me an obvious (but not to me) solution to a problem.

  95. Minimum Wage says:

    ROP sounds interesting, seems to be a California thing. Looking around I was reminded of something I’d like to do.

  96. mapgirl says:

    MW – You need treatment for depression. If you make less than 150% of the poverty wage, there is likely a clinic in your area that will treat you for free. (that’s $15K at this time)

    Reading through your remarks, I can tell that you are probably suffering from clinical depression and you might benefit from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. A CBT-trained therapist will help you reprogram yourself from your self-defeating thoughts. Quit shutting the door on the suggestions people are making and get your butt to the library and do some research on what it really takes to get a job and get hired. These days boomers are being welcomed back into the marketplace for their maturity and experience so stop complaining about your age. (Getting a teaching cert is relatively easy if you put in the hours. Many states are giving emergency credentials to get teachers into schools as long as the teacher gets a cert within a fixed timeframe.)

    I highly recommend reading David Burns’ “Feeling Good: The New Mood Handbook”. You can probably find an older edition of it free at your local library. If you want, set up an Amazon wish list and I will buy it for you because I think you could really benefit from it.

    I was going to write up a post slamming you for your bad attitude, but more than anything, I pity you for not seeking more help for finding a job or your mental condition. Surely you know someone who can loan you a suit for a job interview or print resumes? Or try a thrift shop as someone suggested. These days all you need are good shoes, khakis, dress shirt, tie and jacket for an interview. Rarely do people demand a full swanky suit anymore.

    I am distressed by your particular comment that you won’t go back to data entry because I see that statement as a blanket sign of obstinacy that needs to be overcome. Why not do it if it gets the bills paid? You ought to separate a bad job experience from the job itself. If you know how to type efficiently and accurately you could get a job at a temp agency for more than minimum wage.

    I read only three real obstacles for you:
    1) No suit – remedied by borrowing.
    2) No car – difficult but not impossible.
    3) No optimism – fix your brain.

    You are lucky to have a college degree at all. Leverage the fact you have into a job with anybody. Your age isn’t really an issue. There are old people working everywhere. You just have to keep trying.

    Good luck. I am perfectly serious about offering you some help. Email me and I will definitely buy you that book. I got an Amazon gift cert as a prize from another PF blogger and I never used it so it will be my gift to you.

  97. mapgirl says:

    MW – oops. I didn’t mean to call you old. I actually don’t think “boomer” represents an age I really understand. I mean people who are 40 could be baby boomers. Heck, my boyfriend and his brothers are 36-38 and they are in the baby boom generation.

  98. KATY says:

    Debtors Anonymous has groups that address ‘Underearning’. DA is a wonderful support group. Contact them if there isn’t one in your area and they’ll tell you how to start a group.

  99. Minimum Wage says:

    Maybe I’m being too pessimistic, but I’ve been wondering, if I were to somehow shake off my “underearning” personality, wouldn’t age by now be a serious obstacle? I think there is a (chronological) point at which overcoming underearning won’t get you a better job.

  100. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “For instance, is this hypothetical minimum wage worker supposed to leave any family that they possess or even any friends and take a Greyhound to a rural area, where they will have no one?”

    You’re giving this hypothetical person an asset (their family) where I assumed no assets. You painted a rosier situation than I’m discussing. Obviously, if you have assets you can use, use them.

  101. Ozella says:

    Ok, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with getting help from the government every once in a while to get someone on their feet. What I don’t agree with are the lazy bums that are on medical and claim disability when they are fully capable to do something for themselves. There should be a limit to how long a person can receive free healthcare and foodstamps. Minimum wage shouldn’t be raised, that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of. By raising minimum wage it is not only lowering a persons incentive to exceed, it is also forcing some business owners to get rid of employees and cause the ones they still have to do double the work because they can’t afford to pay everyone.

  102. KATY says:

    no good deed goes unpunished. sigh. fine. give up. there’s no hope, right. gotcha.

  103. Zook says:

    I just read 103-comments of support and assistance and at every step Minimum Wage shoots it down.

    I think every blog including this one, along with the posters, should “give up” on Minimum Wage, because he/she/it has given up himself/herself.

    Until this guy/gal gets mental help and lays out the facts of what he/she makes and where he lives [I swear he lives in a rural European town] this is getting NO WHERE, despite all of the good intentions of seemingly THIRTY finance blogs.

    I mean if 500-people on these blogs, that are financially savvy can’t figure out one person’s woes, who can? There are hundreds of millions of Americans and Minimum Wage would like to think he’s alone and has a unique problem. Its becoming a really bad joke.

    I want a full in depth response from Minimum Wage about his expenses and what he actually makes and saves. This attention has reached a head. Minimum Wage simply doesn’t want ideas, doesn’t want help and wants to ruin everyone’s experiences with all of these high-quality, well thought out pf blogs. Enough is enough.

  104. Katy says:

    Zook,you are right. I give up. We offer him advice, ideas and *kindness* and he shoots us down.

    His main problem is his rancid attitude.

    Thanks for your post(s).

  105. Amy K. says:

    Hi Minimum Wage,

    I keep forgetting to respond, you said “It seems like it shouldn’t be too hard to get something online started to make money.”

    My friend sells Avon on eBay – people buy it through the auction, pay her, she orders the items (several auctions worth) and pays for them with the bidder’s money, and ships the products to the bidders when they arrive at her door.

    I think it’s a great model (low startup $$, no inventory in your house, just a need to keep on top of orders and shipping, and shipping materials). It probably won’t double your income, but it can be a nice supplement. Avon might not be your thing, but the model works for other products (Pampered chef, selling local specialty products, magazine subscription resales).

    On the other end of the spectrum is free-after-rebate items, which may not be up your alley – it does take the seed money to buy the items before you need them, which not everyone has. I am a fan of the Walgreen’s Easy Saver deals (you get an extra 10% back if you get the rebate as a gift card, which pays me for the taxes, stamp, and envelope). I do find the free-after-rebate things on eBay too, where sellers disclaim “you are bidding on my time spent gathering these items.” I prefer to keep things for my own use, like the shampoo and toothpaste this month.

  106. Minimum Wage says:

    Actually, a little supplemental income would go a long way – I would be pleasantly surprised but wouldn’t expect to double my income.

    Right now – my work hours have been (involuntarily)

  107. Minimum Wage says:

    (since when does backspace submit a comment?)

    Right now – my work hours have been (involuntarily) cut back a bit – I am netting $900 a month. Off the top of my head, I’ve got $450 for housing, $44 (no principal reduction) for student loans, $100 medical, and $250 to a ravenous creditor (who will execute garnishment on everything in sight if I don’t pay on time every month). Of course, that’s not including things like food, phone, and transportation. I’ve been selling off a modest coin collection, but now I’m out of coins to sell.

  108. Minimum Wage says:

    (okay, i guess i just got enough of the enter key along with the backspace key…but if enter submits a comment, why do you need a submit comment button?)

  109. Minimum Wage says:

    He wanted numbers, I gave hiom numbers. Now where did he go?

  110. Kathy says:

    Minimum, I can totally sympathize with you, the present economy really can be very hard if not impossible to find a new niche in (I’m 54). I won’t go all thru my own personal job problems of the last 8 years, just take my word for it, I do understand what you are saying on many levels.

    There is a lot of advice here to think about, maybe some of them are do-able for you, maybe not.

    Don’t laugh, but when I was scraping the absolute bottom of the barrel, what helped me most, both financially and psychologically, was dumpster diving and curb shopping.

    It is amazing what is considered trash in our great country, and you do not have to actually get inside a dumpster to benefit by it. Get a copy of John Hoffman’s book The Art And Science of Dumpster Diving from the library and give it a read. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. At the very least, you’ll have an afternoon of interesting reading.

    And until things get better for you (AND YES THEY CAN GET BETTER), don’t give up. Hey, even a clock that’s stopped is right twice a day. You’ll get there, promise me you won’t give up.


  111. Kelly says:

    Minimum Wage,

    You might try applying for a job working as a night auditor in a hotel. This involves working the third shift (usually 11 pm to 7 am)as the front desk clerk. You’ll need to learn the computer system specific to the hotel, but they will train you on that. Night auditors typically make a higher salary than daytime front desk personnel. (In my experience, about $1 more per hour.)If you make this your primary job, it would leave you a more flexible schedule for a second part-time job. Plus, once you have hotel experience, it is easier to get another job with other hotels, should you need to change jobs. Many hotels have high turnover on front desk personnel, because it can be a very stressful job (travelers can be very grumpy, especially if you can’t find their reservation.)But if you can persevere, you will definitely make more than minimum wage. Also, many hotels prefer older workers – they are usually more stable and less likely to quit without notice. If you can get a pair of khaki pants and a blue oxford button-down shirt (check out Goodwill) you’ll probably have the uniform.

    If you can’t do it full-time or find a full-time position, a part time position is also possible, as the full time auditors only fill 5 nights a week, leaving the other 2 nights open. Plus it will give you hotel experience to list on a resume to find a full-time position.

    Good Luck!

  112. Kelly says:

    Minimum Wage,

    I know you said you have health problems, but back when I was REALLY broke I sold plasma. You can do it twice a week, usually totaling $50 per week. I don’t know if this an option for you, but if it is possible, you might consider it. They pay cash, and you don’t have to schedule a time – just show up while they are open. It takes usually over an hour, since they return the blood back into you after removing the plasma. If you can handle the needles, it is an easy way to make money.

  113. LC says:

    Minimum Wage –

    “If you’re working a minimum wage job, either you’re very young, very lazy, or very unlucky.”

    Sorry to say it but this is true. If you stay at a job a few years, you will get a raise. There are also lots of jobs that don’t require a degree that pay quite well. Consider factory labor in addition to the other suggestions given here. Save or take a loan for a 2 year associates degree – minimal cost but will affect your earning potential a lot.

    From your comments on this site, it seems like you have an attitude of resignation about your situation. If you work hard and take advantage of opportunities that come your way, you can increase your income and have a better sense of control over your future. Find a job that offers benefits and stay there long enough so that you get raises so you are no longer making minimum wage. Don’t get frustrated and change jobs so often that you never get a pay increase. Look for ways to make money on the side. Do your best and people will notice you and you will get promoted. Work as much overtime as you can.

    Frugality night not ever make you rich, but it’s worth repeating that saving money on little things can add up: If you spend $5 less per day and invest that money in stocks (with 10% rate of return), you will have almost $335,000 after 30 years, which is enough to support a modest retirement for the next 20 years. If you also decided to work an extra shift per week and invest that money, you would have more than double that amount for retirement. I am not trying to trivialize your situation because I’m sure it is tough, but I am trying to stress that frugality does make a difference over the long run and no matter how little you make, you can still save for the future.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the advice Trent has given (although it is difficult to both move to a rural area and get rid of transportation – I would stress moving). People in many small towns can live very easily on $12k a year, even considering that transportation may be more expensive and rental properties more sparse. You can grow a lot of your own food, property is cheap, and people help each other out. Check out Angel Food Ministries to get very affordable healthy groceries. Get to know a farmer and offer to help with the chores in exchange for eggs or milk. There are many people who get by on less than what you earn.

    Most importantly, do not give up. Complaining about your situation will not help anything. Look for little ways to improve your financial situation day by day.

  114. teacher says:

    So many thoughts swimming in my head as I read these posts. But I am only going to respond to one thing: all the people who have been advising Minimum Wage to be a teacher.

    PLEASE, for the sake of the children, do NOT become a teacher.

    Children (and all of us really) need and deserve to be around people who are positive, optimistic, caring, and love their work. The hours are long, the emotional toll is high, and the money you get for your sweat and tears is not worth it. What IS worth it is the joy of following your passion of working with young beings whose lives you can influence for the better and who can remind you of the sheer pleasure of simply being alive.

    MW doesn’t present himself as the kind of person who is filled with much joy. HE may benefit from being around the kids… but I fear he will a do a lot of damage before he gets to that point.

    So please, don’t go into teaching.

    Good luck with your endeavors. I wish you peace.

  115. teacher says:

    The more we focus on the negative things in our lives, the more real they become and the more addicted we become to keeping that cycle going.

    Maybe it’s time the pf blogging community stopped playing the role of enabler and quit feeding the addiction?

  116. TMod says:

    You wrote regarding this Minimum Wage person: “sometimes Minimum Wage is really effective at pointing out how some advice simply isn’t appropriate for people in that situation.”

    That is an excellent point and very true. But it works both ways, the “advice” on personal finance blogs is usually not appropriate or not useful to people making HIGH salaries. I love PF blogs and read many of them, just finding this one and liking it a lot. But I earn a high income in the mid-six figure range and often find that most info on personal finance sites is not relevant to me or sometimes actually wrong for high income earners. If anyone knows of a personal finance blog that focuses on higher income people that don’t focus on things like retirement accounts (because they easily max them out) but focus more on things like specialized investments that may have high minimums I’d be interested in reading these sites.

  117. Lillian says:

    In response to Amanda’s statement: “What sort of jobs can a single mother get without a college degree? The sort of jobs MY mother got. Secretary, cook, preschool teacher’s aide.

    How about the same kind of jobs *I* got without a college degree? Executive assistant, technical support specialist, systems analyst. All paid over $40k per year.”

    It is much harder to get those jobs you listed if you come from an underprivileged background, have had poor high school education, don’t have a consistent work history (raising children/disability preventing work)

    Living in Oregon, where the job market is very tight, almost every posting for secretary, teacher’s aide, and even nannies requires a bachelor’s degree- along with the state-required certifications, which can cost hundreds of dollars in classes.

    Most cook’s job around here pay only slightly over minimum wage starting- rarely or never with benefits.

    I’m also wondering where you live that jobs that don’t require a degree pay 40K. Sounds great to me!

  118. Lorraine says:

    Hi MW

    Why not take all this energy and start a blog about your life, what is working for you and what isn’t. You are obviously an intelligent person who can sling words and ideas together – your comments are proof plenty – so why not grab a FREE blog space and share your thoughts? Cost is zippo but your time and you appear to have enough hours in the day to make comments everywhere else. J.D. has already offered a step up – no doubt others will do the same.

    You talk of there being no pf blogs for people in your position – why not be that pioneer? Who better to help others in your position but YOU? Perhaps in you lurks the Trent or JD for the minimum wage earner.

    Don’t beat them MW – join them. Honestly. I for one would pop by every day just to cheer you on. And fear not the hecklers – a comment is a comment is another visitor!

    I am deadly serious. You already have it – you have a ‘persona’, a mission, a goal, a reputation. So what…it’s going to take a number of months to build up visits, a whole lot more time to start earning a penny – but you’re obviously not doing a lot of money-earning in betweens anyway by the sounds of things and is something you can potter away on any time of the night or day.

    Go. And don’t come back until you have a Blog addy to share.


  119. karen says:

    Hi Minimum Wage, if you are still around, i agree with the dumpster diving at thrift bakeries & grocery stores. If your state has deposit on beer/soda cans, this helps also, esp. on big holidays like 4th of July. I pick up several hundred dollars a year walking to/from work. I get free envelopes from dime store, as they have to return the unsold cards, but not the envelopes. Stock up on a few forever postage stamps as you can, to save postage later. Shop thrift shops for your shoes when they wear out. Save on heating in the winter by living in one room and close off the others anyway you can (i use spring curtain rods and old blankets from dumpster.) Use the rest of the apartment/house when the good weather returns. Every penny helps. If apartment/house is big enough, have a room mate for a while until debt is paid down. Rent out garage if possible. Put a small garden in for vegies. Babysit a night a week if possible for income. Do errands on your day off for elderly, like taking them shopping. And as for age, didn’t the Kentucky Fried Chicken guy start very late and also GrandMa Moses the painter? Don’t ever give up.

  120. Lenore says:

    Interesting that most of the responders saying it’s easy to survive or advance on minimum wage aren’t actually living on it at this time. I suggest you watch Michael Moore’s “Sicko” and try talking to fast food or dollar store employees about their exorbitant lifestyles. Maybe you know a relative or friend at or below the poverty line who you could study instead of helping out. (Maybe it’s called a line because it divides the haves from the have nots so stringently.)

    Instead of assuming minimum wagers aren’t bright or disciplined enough to live within their means, get to know them and their spending habits. Then compare them honestly to your own. Do they squander over a dollar a day on cable TV? How much do you spend at the movies per month? Do they buy a book or DVD instead of trudging to the library? What’s in your library or media collection? Are they ordering pizza or hitting the drive-thru for dinner once or twice a week? Is your refrigerator stocked with things worth eating, and when was the last time you pulled a 70-hour week and cooked every meal at home from scratch?

    I think we get financial amnesia as our standard of living rises, and we think we sacrificed more when we were poor than we actually did. Suffering can be noble and enlightening, I suppose, but why is it expected in a country rich as this? The gulf between the poor and the super-rich keeps widening, and the outcome will be more crime, more drugs, more disease and less education.

    Other nations have social programs, employment regulations and free healthcare to ensure quality of life for everyone. Why do we tolerate hunger and homelessness while barely punishing white collar criminals and building gated communities?

    What I’d really like to know is why it was common until 30 years ago for a family of three or more to thrive on one man’s income. Women joined the workforce to improve their station in life, but instead it’s become essential for both partners to work just to get by. What gives??? Obviously not employers. They must have become very stingey, or the cost of doing business must have soared. Whatever’s behind it, people are working more for less. I believe in living frugally and striving to improve oneself too, but it’s kind of obvious the deck is stacked against workers by companies that pay too little, expect too much and don’t provide basic benefits like healthcare. Elitism and greed will kill this country unless we demand better.

  121. Penny says:

    Wow what an amazing blog. I’m impressed with all of you. The great thing about life is we are not our possessions, and we can’t take anything with us. So the most important thing to me is knowing that, I can’t listen to the unconcious mind chattering,telling me lies about what I have and don’t have and listen to my truth in the very moment it is happening. Looking at the future can be weary for the hard working Americans that have the burden of the harder work with less pay but for them by looking at the moment, present, keeping their minds on the tasks everyone can find the answers if they look hard enough. Sometimes it’s better to have less then you don’t have to do as much to protect them.

  122. Dana says:

    What was amazing to me in reading all of this was watching Minimum Wage patiently explaining what obstacles he was facing, and just about everyone else resolutely ignoring what he had to say and accusing him of whining. None of y’all better ever go into therapeutic counseling. You’ll kill somebody.

    One example–

    MW: I’ve defaulted on my loans.
    Everybody Else: Why don’t you go back to school???

    Jesus, people!

  123. Chris says:

    For all the naysayers out there.
    Go to the library and check out “The pursuit of happyness”. That is what the U.S. is about. If you want it bad enough you can do just about anything you can dream of.
    I am fortunate to live in Europe the last 3 years. You should see how socialism takes the wind out of peoples sails. Most don’t dream. Minimum wage jobs are only a stepping stone and enlisting in the military is always a choice. Free food, free housing, job training, a paycheck, and the GI Bill. So “minimum wage” should quit complaining and quit wanting something for nothing.

  124. Chris says:


    What you demand is socialism. You have obviously never lived in a socialist country. Why don’t you pack up and move to Eastern Europe so that you can experience all the great and wonderful social benefits you speak so highly of, capitalism rewards those who are willing to better themselves and supply a needed service to society in exchange for pay. There is nothing wrong with that.

  125. vicki says:

    I can see understand how Minimumwage feels and how it is all depressing. Being middle aged, having health problems, debts, and no money to finance new ventures are some pretty big obstacles to overcome. Having a degree doesn’t always guarantee a good job during one’s work years. My only advice would to try and really get creative, plan, and network in trying to find a job that pays more so the loans can get paid off quicker. Since minimumwage wanted to be an attorney and already has to deal with dangerous rabble how about applying to work in a bail bond office? Some work that has less standing could allow a second job (if only temporary or seasonal ones) could be done on the side. Added to these, something done from the home along with thrifty money saving ideas could lead to more money to live and pay off debt. I’ve been there and am there now I guess. My husband has been disabled for years, I had to work low paying jobs instead of being a homemaker, got into a licensed profession, almost a degree, then health problems struck. Now, continuing health problems, not working due to raising a small grandchild, older, and will only be able to work part time if at all. I highly doubt that I will be able to find anything that pays very well, and with things going up in price, I’m going to have to do something pretty soon.

  126. small spender says:

    Thanks for the great post! Ive been reading for about half a year now and I love the stuff you go though. Finance is a great subject that people should have an interest in.

    I know what people are going though. When I was looking for jobs, I couldn’t find one! Fresno California has one of the worst job rates in the US. There is competition for minimum wage jobs here! Fresh out of high school, I looked for a job for 1 1/2 year(s) and finally found one by making a niche for myself. I know for a fact that you can have a good life with minimum wage because I see it here. I get $2 above minimum ($8 in Calif.) and still able to:
    1. have an apartment
    2. finance living with me that makes money by going to school
    3. have a very “cheap” car (less than $3000)

    I feel for those without jobs. Craigslist and monster are great. Try both for your area.

  127. small spender says:

    sorry misspelled on *fiance

  128. sokuna says:

    MW, I am a 25 year old IT major. I don’t have wage garnishing and student loans hanging over my head but I have tuition and books just the same. I will be graduating soon, but with in goes my government work study job. I will be living into an economically depressed small town with where I will be fighting tooth and nail with my fellow graduates, in fact the last time a decent position opened was when someone died! I expect I will spend a good deal of time working minimum wage while I wait for an opening, which I feel puts us in a similar position. I refuse to accept that there is nothing to be done but wait for an opening and I am taking steps to improve my position.

    My first step was to improve my marketability. Your old knowledge about mainframes is useless? So is my knowledge of webpage development with HTML and the use of Windows 98. I won’t even have a bachelors, I will have an AS in IT and a A+ Certification for hardware and operating systems if I do nothing else but I’m studying for the Network+ and Security+ exams and studying PHP and MySQL on the side for Web Development. Most of the knowledge is available on the Internet, all it costs you is time.

    Second, there are plenty of no capital opportunities out there. I live in Hawaii so I’m currently working on a business selling macadamia nuts and 100% Kona coffee over the Internet. Prices from other sellers are high enough that I can pull a 30% to 50% profit off each sale BUYING MY STOCK AT RETAIL AT WALMART. My Grandmother who is 78 years old makes $30,000 a year selling flower leis(garlands would be roughly equivalent) to a local supermarket all with arthritis and a permanently bad back. She does it with sweat work, 10 years of experience learning different techniques from making a flower last longer to their arrangement in the flower case to chatting up potential customers while she is hanging them up. I even make a little money ($20-30) off a combination of coupon and rebates buying a case of motor oil from Checkers Auto for my uncle, a mechanic every month. He can only buy one case of oil every month but he easily goes through more then that. He benefits from the coupon price which is lower then even Walmart and I keep the rebate check.

    Third, I registered with a job placement agency. I submitted my information, my availability, and they do the job searching, all it takes is a phone call a week asking if they’ve found anything. It is in their best interest to find me work because they are my employer, if I don’t work they don’t collect a check from the company they place me at. Best of all, they contact you with the job terms and duration and you can take it or leave it with no penalties. You can take a 3 month gig cleaning offices then pass on the next jobs until you feel like working again. You can keep your old job, make money off a second job on the side, and you can stop working the second job when your term is up until you want to work again.

    I feel your situation is escapable because I am doing it RIGHT NOW. So are poor college students all over the US who are right about to graduate into a recession. Not all of us have $50K+ a year jobs lined up for us, for the other half of the graduating class who are okay, but not standouts, we have hurdles to overcome. If you still insist that you can’t do anything about your situation then perhaps you really can’t do anything about it, in which case you receive an equal mixture of my pity and contempt.

  129. C says:

    Using the Regular Military Compensation Calculator

    A Signal Corp (IT Officer) as a brand new 2LT makes (U.S. average) $4,690.49 per month that’s $56,285.88 per year. That is well above minimum wage.

    If you are a healthy 25 year old and willing to take on the responsibility this is a great option. Do four years for the experience in your field and then you will be competitive for a job in your field.

  130. Cheryl says:

    I grew up in a town of about 100 people so I see the job market as very limited based on that. Small town America is full of min wage jobs. No large companies to work for unless they are meat packaging plants. (Or something similar) The only ones that make more than min wage are your postal workers, insurance adjusters, and shop owners. (Maybe a few others….)
    Even if you go to school doesn’t guarantee you a job in that field when your talking a small population and lots of applicants.
    Personally I am an educated person. I went to school…
    and I am making more than min wage. I consider myself fortunate most of the time.

  131. I totally agree with a lot of what you wrote here. When I was young, poor, married to a loser, I had never taken charity. I drove a neighbor to the food bank, and the lady asked me if I qualified, I told her my income, but I said, I don’t need it. (well I did). And she said, sign up, its like voting, how will the government know how many people are struggling to get by if no one votes that they are poor. So I did, I signed up, and I signed up for foodstamps too. It helped me struggle by. Now as soon as I found full time work, even though I still qualified for foodstamps, I found it was too much trouble to stay on them. I had to prove my income every month and every month the food stamp office lost my proof of income unless I took valuable hours off work to go in and make sure my statement was handed directly to my worker.

    I made sure to volunteer at the food banks, so that I felt like I was working for my food and giving something back. Also, I pay it forward now. I used that help to get through college, and get my then husband through college. I do believe that if you don’t have kids and are a US citizen and you are stuck on minimum wage that you must be very young, lazy, or unlucky. My ex has his BA and he works midnight stocking at a store, he is just too lazy to apply himself. I know several women with just a highschool degree who work good office jobs, in fact I know one working as a paralegal making 45K a year. Plenty to support her kids on. She worked hard and didn’t settle for a grocery store. You just have to keep applying to administrative jobs and learn how to type and spell to get ahead in the business world. That is all! Two simple skills and you can get your foot in the door. You can learn these things for free online at the library and in very cheap adult education classes at community colleges.

  132. Rima says:

    MW, I just want to add to my previous comment that you don’t have to know the latest software – reputable staffing agencies often will train you on it inhouse. Just ask or even check on their websites – the largest agencies, like Kelly, Manpower, Robert Half, are the most likely to offer it. As for transcription work, you would have to learn to use a headset and a transcriber with a foot pedal. Big deal, at my first law-office job I was thrown into it, with no prior transcription experience, and did just fine. I met the actor/typist at the job I have now – he covers for me when I’m on leave.

  133. Rob Madrid says:

    We haven’t heard from MW for quite a while what’s happened to him?

  134. Kevie Kev says:

    Hopefully he is giving Plasma like Kelly suggested. $50 a trip twice a week for a month would yield an additional $400 a month. If he was only making $900 like he said, he would have given himself a 44% raise! I wish I could get a 44% raise…. :)

  135. Bharathi says:

    Sir, am from India, and recently came upon your site through ‘life hacker’.You bet, I had been foolish not to save money for my retirement, and now working from paycheck to paycheck in my 60s.Oh, didn’t squander all the frugal I earned,since I am a frugal person, but as is wont in our culture, helped my father bring up my all the three younger brothers.That happened even after I got married and had kids.Somehow, thanks to my wife’s ‘egging on’or nagging, I managed, living in a small town, to build a house, give min. education to 2 kids but with ‘0’ savings..Now kids are settled well, but I go on working, don’t know for how long, for my and my wife’s sustenance.Now the point is, if I continue to live in my own house in that small town,I don’t pay rent,but also don’t get good opportunities for my or my wife.( she has made her passion for painting into a profession, not a roaring one, but brings cash once a while.If I moved to a place of good opportunity for me and her, I have to pay a huge rent, but don’t get that much or no rent at all, for my house at that small town.We are in a soup now, and so it does,nt always helps to go ‘rural’I have decided to work for some more years and resolve to set things right.I am so much enlightened by your articles.

  136. Another Marie says:

    Minimum Wage,
    My uncle,a boomer, was recently hired by the US Government in an accounting job, with no previous accounting experience (albeit a recent degree). I’m sure his resume looked rather strange. His last steady job had been several years prior and in manufacturing.

    For everyone,
    If you need government assistance, then take it. The thought that it might help someone move onto a better life reconciles me to paying taxes. I also donate to charities that put a much higher percentage of money to people who need it. My children were horrified to learn that people used to sell themselves or their children into slavery to feed the rest of the family. I assured them we help people so they don’t need to do that anymore.
    Does a MacDonald’s job still come with all the free food you can eat? They do sell a limited and boring selection of healthy food – salads, grilled chicken, apples, milk. When my father-in-law was growing up he sought out jobs that included food so the (limited) food in the house could go to his mom and little sister.

  137. resa says:

    Keep in mind when remembering the “good old days” of our single mothers raising us on that job, that now there are more strict hiring practices for most of the jobs she once held (for example, receptionists in most major corporations now must have a BA, preschool assistants must have licensing and some education for work with children, etc, etc) and that the cost of living is higher now than it was then.

    My grandfather became the vice president of his engineering firm, ona third-grade education, and managed to feed, clothe, and house five children even before that, while earning minimum wage.

    His house cost him two year’s pay. If you actually knkow of a place in the US where a minimum wage worker can currently purchase a 4-bedroom home on farmland for two year’s pay, I’m all ears.

    Things are more difficult in general now for the poor than they were in years past. That’s not to say it’s impossible to get more financial security, but when you’re advocating things which demean the person (WIC? begging for handywork?ask MIL to pay for the kid’s clothes? would YOU, personally, feel comfortable doing any of these things?) you should be aware that this isn’t empowering for the minimum wage worker.

    I’d tell minmum wage to move to a place where the minimum wage goes further…except that, for example, here in Oregon minimum wage is higher by state standard than it is in Iowa. A waitress in Iowa does not earn as much in pay or tips as one in Iowa, so that strategy actually doesn’t help.

    I do agree that education is the surest way out, though. It’s how I escaped. It took me until I was thirty, and I am still not affluent (not enough to have retirement money, health insurance, or any kind of investment beyond some small savings) but I am no longer struggling paycheck to paycheck, and the road ahead leads up not down.

    Being frugal and getting education any way you can is the surest way out and up.

  138. resa says:

    *as one in Oregon. oops

    and MW you are not alone. In fact I envy you because you have $100 to spare for health care.

  139. Average Wage says:

    Don’t be hard on Minimum Wage. I was there and can relate. Sometimes I felt stuck and even settled for less than minimum wage because I was afraid of losing my job if I didn’t compromise. Growing up with a single welfare mom and not having done well in school, I didn’t expect much. Eventually I got tired of it all, went to school and got a series of degrees. I did get a better job through this experience … but I did my education entirely on loans and find I’m sometimes tighter with my money now than I was back then even though I make a lot more. Sometimes it’s not what you make, but what you do with it. I think that’s the whole point of frugal living… unless you are truly destitute (i.e. no income or support), then no matter what your situation there are things you can do.

    Sometimes the relativity of peoples relationships with money amazes me. I know of a couple with one wage earner who makes about 4 times what I make and they often starve or go without electricity because of bad money choices (Most of their money goes to paying fees and penalties to various financial institutions and collection agencies, much of the rest goes to gambling, alcohol, or drugs). They consider themselves “below poverty” even though they make $120k per year. I also know a teacher who makes $29k a year who is frugal and manages to travel internationally at least 2 or 3 months out of the year and also owns her own home without any debt because she is very resourceful and not afraid to ask for what she wants (she gets a lot second-hand and often swaps favors).

    Oh, and the people who I know who had the most success going from minimum wage to financial solvency did vocational programs at community colleges. I got a master’s degree and make about $15-20k less than most of those individuals with more technical skills in our area (mainly because my programs were too generalist). You can usually do community college with little or no debt load. Just get a focused and marketable technical degree and not a more general academic one.

  140. Steve says:

    My favorite part was to see “Minimum Wage” show up and make a comment – comment# 29! LOL! What a response after that!
    (In a way, this proves that if you hang on tough and stick it out, it works out in the end… it took reading 29 comments, but it happened! I will come back for the rest of the comments later.)

  141. Deos says:

    I once heard a friend of mine say that there was no way someone could live on minimum wage. I disagree wholeheartedly. It takes determination and discipline to overcome and persevere.

    I work 3 jobs, totaling an average of 80 hours a week. I am attending the local community college with 13 credit hours. Depending on the week, I make anywhere between $400-700/wk (take-home). I waste a LOT of money… but that’s because I have a lot of things taken care of for me (health ins, rent, food, school) I’m 21 years old and have a little over 40,000 invested. I know when I finish school, I’ll begin to make sacrifices regarding my lifestyle since it will be MY wallet I’m digging into, but I’ll do it anyways.

    My goal is to have enough invested by age 35 to be able to work for my passion and not for my paycheck.

  142. tiphaine says:

    I work in a non profit. My salary is small, but comes with a big discount on the rent (appreciable in New York City!!!)
    and I get the food pantry benefit.
    I’m not ashame to get that free food and plan meals around it.
    My husband is very proud and gourmet but he’s getting to like it :)
    A smile and some good will makes everything a lot richer :)

  143. Max says:

    How can you move to a cheap rural area (especially here in North Carolina) and get to work, grocery store, etc. without a car? Ridiculous. Better to stay in town and have a house/room mate and be on the bus system at least. There are LOTS of reasons to be on minimum wage. Adult student? Hours compatible with childcare? Don’t be so hasty to judge. Who would work long hours with little pay and probably few benefits if they didn’t have to? PLEASE.

    My husband and I drive old cars we paid cash for. He is handy with tools, but some people aren’t. Give them a break.

    The best advice? Don’t use credit cards!!!!

  144. Lotus says:

    Minimum Wage- if you had a different educational background you could have parroted my Mom’s situation exactly (she has defaulted student loans, etc).

    You guys even say some of the same things- no one will hire you because of your age. You know what? I hire people and I wouldn’t hire her- or you, probably- because of your attitude.

    I had to make up the difference for my Mom when I was a teenager- if you think it’s hard to make cash when you’re 50 something, it’s a lot harder at 13 when people are violating labor laws when they hire you.

    If you don’t have enough money, get off your butt and make it. The people on here have been very nice giving you advice and support. The only one who can change your situation is YOU.

    Offer to clean parking lots on your way to and from work.

    Sign up to work part time with a cleaning company. A lot of them hire part-time extra help.

    You can teach english in Japan of Korea, travel, and save some money at the same time.

    Window cleaning makes good money and takes almost no start up. I cleaned windows through college. If you go crazy with start up you can spend a whopping two hundred dollars- a large porcupine and a medium one, some lint-free cloths and two good squeegees will get you started. You can use a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid in a gallon of water as your solution- it dosen’t terribly matter, scrubbing gets the stuff off and the squeegees clean.

    Go door to door, hand out some post cards (you can get post cards printed up from online printers for $20 or less). Charge 2-5 a window pane, that’s the going rate, depending on where you live. Large chunks of glass take just as long as small pieces of glass. You should make between $60 and $100 an hour. Many small businesses and churches will hire you if you just show up.

    I did all of that in a small town with no car. I just got a ride or walked to rich areas of town and then knocked on every door. If you get good at the windows, you can get someone else to do the door knocking, and vice versa.

    If you need to make money without having any money, put an ad up in your local craigslist and on a few message boards offering to do odd jobs.

    It’s not that you’re trapped in your circumstances. I was raised by parents below the poverty line, everyone I grew up with was on food stamps and making minimum wage. The only difference between those of us that got out and those of us that didn’t was attitude.

    Trash pick. Dumpster dive and sell what you get on eBay. Collect tin cans and turn them in for money. Get another job that HAS some upward potential. Stop wringing your damn hands and complaining that there’s nothing you can do.

    And yes, I say the same thing to my Mom. Stop whining. If you have time to spend online complaining about people who are trying to make their lives better by swearing that it’s impossible, you have the time to take a walk in your area and either try to work up some business or find something to make a little extra cash to help you get out of your predicament.

  145. Liz says:

    After reading through almost all of the comments here, I agree with Kat #75 and Lotus #145. I know a few people (some in my own family) who no matter what you suggest regarding things they can do to help or improve themselves, even when it’s presented gently and respectfully, they immediately reply that they can’t. It can be something as simple as borrowing a book from the library on a subject that interests them, something that doesn’t cost anything, and still they will offer a lame excuse as to why they can’t do it. As the Marines say, “Can’t Means Won’t.”

    It may sound hard-hearted, but frankly, I’ve stopped even listening to them because I honestly feel they don’t really want to do anything for themselves, they just want to complain to everyone within earshot about their problems.

    It’s Minimum Wage’s choice, of course, to have that kind of attitude, but he should also keep in mind that for most people, it’s a major turnoff. No one wants to hear an endless litany of problems from someone who won’t make any effort to help themselves, and that’s true whether it’s the person standing next to you at the bus stop to the person who sits in a corner office. That kind of attitude tends to alienate everyone; the very people, I would add, who might be able to help you – to help you cope, or to share some food, or maybe to find you another job.

    For every person such as Minimum Wage, there are three others who are in the same kind of financial predicament, but because of their drive, attitude and positive outlook (and I don’t mean denying the realities of the situation, I mean facing it with as much optimism as you can muster) have improved their lives tremendously.

    And by the way, ramen noodles are not only loaded with more sodium than anyone needs, they also have a huge fat content. Even regular bargain-basement spaghetti doesn’t have all that salt and calories!

  146. Mia says:

    Interesting post. I clicked on the link because I was hoping to get some helpful hints for myself. While I make more than minimum wage, I am looking for smarter ways to use my income to make it stretch further. I do agree with the first tip to some extent. You don’t necessarily have to live in a pasture to go “rural” :). As someone noted in the comments, you can simply move south. The median home prices are much cheaper. You can easily purchase a decent home in a decent neighborhood for under $100k in the southern states and you don’t have to live in the sticks.

    I do want to point out that sometimes trying to find a better paying job is not the answer. If you truly feel as though you have no marketable skills, or your age is a limitation to having someone hire you, why not start your own business? Earlier in the comments someone presented several good options that could quickly turn into a small business (i.e. cleaning parking lots, washing windows). Many a small business has been started by someone trying to make ends meet with a side-gig. Who knows – if your business takes over now you have an opportunity to offer employment to others who are in your situation.

  147. Jennifer says:

    Minimum Wage-
    (first, sorry if i repeat anything that may have been said already…))

    To me, it sounds like you are still making excuses.
    -First, as was mentioned in the article, you can be put on welfare. If all you make is minimum wage and have no health insurance, you can get SOMETHING.
    -Also, when it comes to relocating, MANY places offer “no deposit” or “first month free” offers. And even if you saved $5 a month, you could save up for a bus ticket pretty quickly.
    -Schooling. Two words: PELL GRANTS. If you go to a community college and make minimum wage or less (because of lack of hours) then you will more than likely have it entirely paid for.
    -I also agree with what was mentioned in the general discussion about just getting a NEW job. There are plenty of places who offer more than minimum wage, for people who have little or no experience. You just have to actually look. You seem to have access to a computer, if you spent an hour here and there looking online for jobs, i guarentee you will find something. I have gotten more than one job just by “trying to apply” online, with NO experience in the field.
    -As a side note, *I* dont drive (i’m unable to) and have always gotten to my jobs one way or another. Walk, ride buses, or simply make friends with someone at the work who is willing to split some gas. Not having that car will save you soooooo much money.

    Excuses dont help anyone, and coming from people-myself included-who HAVE done it, excuses just make you sound silly.

  148. Steph says:

    I have to say, Trent- you’ve got it right. Totally. 100%. I think this article is really positive, and it is definitely nice to know. You’ve actually inspired me to write my own blog, and this blog actually helped land me some freelance writing gigs! So you’re articles have helped me save and even earn money too- thanks a bunch!

  149. Ken says:

    I see help and support and suggestions yet at no point do I see “Minimum Wage” simply layout ALL of the facts: how old? what job? how long? payrate? taxes? rent? expenses? creditor that garnishes wages; I would REALLY like to know who that is! I think this is all yet another futile attempt by well-meaning people to help another vaporous, internet troll. Minimum Wage, you want help? Tell us EVERYTHING about yourself! Education, criminal record, job, skills, pay, expenses, city where you live. You want help? The knowledge here is vast. Either pony-up with the info or grow-up and move along.

  150. Ken says:

    Now — helpful. I work on a university campus and this atmosphere appears ideal for such a person. While there are minimum wage jobs here ( always ), after six months of full-time employment, you can attend school for FREE! You could live in on-campus housing ( includes, all utilities, cable and internet ) for under $600/month. No need for a car — walk to work and educate yourself! A definite thought for those feeling downtrodden.

  151. Chris says:

    Read Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam Shepard


    I think you would be quite surprised at what he did and what he was able to accomplish.

  152. kristine says:

    Just a note: why not use welfare/food stamps if you need it? Your taxes paid for it! There should be no more social stigma to that then collecting social security. Both are paid for entitlements. I have worked at a food kitchen, and the “Christian” thing to do is help, not judge.

    Minimum Wage does seem like he has a huge chip on his shoulder. Truth is, if he were a woman, he’d have more options. He could be a stripper on weekends to meet tuition! I had a friend who put herself through college this way (really- a friend, not me), and you’d be surprised at the number of women who worked to compensate for dead-beat dads and lo-wage jobs. One woman was a teacher, with a special needs child, and for whatever reason have insurance would not cover her son’s needs. I would never judge someone doing whatever they could to care for their child, or rise above.

    There is a story for every person out there, and blanket statements like “lazy, young, or unlucky” are not generous of heart. I guess “unlucky” is the least denigrating, but even so, we live in a capitalist system, which relies upon winners and losers to make the wheels go round. To say everyone can financially thrive if determined, is to say something contrary to the economic system we have chosen. Stockholders have a vested interest in preserving the minimum wage class size.

  153. Sandy L says:

    Wow.. I was just about to comment about how my minimum wage job in high school was one of my best life lessons..I quickly did some math on how many hours I’d have to work to pay for an apartment and car and it was like 80 hours a week.

    But after the minimum wage comments, I must chime in with my other comments:

    -I didn’t make minimum wage for long. I went to a restaurant at 17 and made $80-$100/shift in tips.

    -I worked as many hours as I could to get ahead..Some weeks that was 80 or 90.. I had as many as 3 jobs in college.

    -Financial aid is available to those who need it.

    -My mother came to America at 36 with no language skills or education and worked minimum wage her whole career. She managed to raise me, pay for a house in cash, send me to private school for 12 years and even has a retirement income. I won’t bore you with all we gave up because the list is a mile long. She also worked overtime every chance she could get.

    -Immigrants can teach you a few things, minimum wage.

    They work LOTS of hours.
    They live together to save money and share expenses.
    They do any/all work that is available to them. They don’t get into debt.
    They give generously to their families back in their home countries.
    They don’t whine about lack of opportunities because they have some perspective. They know what a life without any chance of getting ahead is really like…and it’s not a life in the US.

    I’m working with a Ukranian upholsterer right now and the guy has a full time job at a factory and 2 side businesses. I asked my husband, how many hours do you think this guy works? “All of them”. This guy is uneducated, speaks broken English, but he drove up to my house in a brand new Mercedes the other day. Do you think this guy knew anything about making ice cream, extruding plastic parts or even upholstering when he got here. Hell no.

    Minimum wage, I’m really sorry you didn’t have an immigrant upbringing. It would have done you some good.

  154. aaron says:

    “If you’re working a minimum wage job, either you’re very young, very lazy, or very unlucky”

    wow! what a limited world view. and usually I think you make a lot of sense. step outside of your little bubble once and a while. minimum wage earners many times work harder for a living than you and me.

  155. Sane says:

    I feel for Minimum wage, opportunity for the disadvantaged and lower class just doesn’t exist in America.

    Don’t let these Right Wingers get you down.

  156. aj says:

    I live in a rural community…what I see over and over again is that there are a lot of people driving for an hour or more to work in my small town…because we don’t have the work force to fill the positions.

    At the local hospital it seems that they have a hard time finding local people to fill the positions. Lots of times there are even willing to help pay for the educational expenses to get certified for a certain position in exchange for an agreement to stay employed there for a few years.

    This type of situation I am sure exists in many more rural towns across the US and would just take some investigating to find the opportunities available.

    The cost of living is low, and if you can position yourself in the right job/career you can still make a good salary after some hard work.
    The key is seeing what the job demands are for the area.

    Or start your own business! That is what my husband did when he was stuck in the minimum wage jobs in our small town. He started a lawnmowing & general maintenance business and makes more in the 7 months that he is working full time than in a whole year of being miserable working for someone else at a deadend minimum wage job. He worked one summer helping out a friend with his mowing business & saw the big demand for such services. Next season he started his own business & it has grown every year. (I am jealous because he gets the winter off to lounge around, lol!) That was the best move he has ever made.

    Find a need, & fill it…rural or urban that is the key!

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