McDonald’s Budgeting Tips for Employees Show You Can’t Live on a McDonald’s Salary

Emma Foehringer Merchant

In an apparent attempt to instruct its workers in how to live on their meager pay, McDonald’s has teamed with Visa and Wealth Watchers International to publish a bilingual “Practical Money Skills Budget Journal.” The website’s sunny advice for employees to start “taking control of [their] money” unintentionally indicates the ludicrousness of paying one’s bills on a fast-food worker’s salary. Here’s a video walk-through of the site:  According to the budget journal, which assumes employees are working 40 hours a week and taking home slightly more than the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, “It’s as simple as reading the next few pages and keeping a journal for the next month … Knowing where your money goes and how to budget it is the key to your financial freedom.” Unless your budget leaves out gas, transportation and food costs like the McDonald’s budget does. Or adds another $955 from a mysterious second job, like the McDonald’s budget does. Or lists a low-ball $600 a month for rent and $20 a month (!) for independent health insurance like the McDonald’s budget does. The Atlantic cites the average rent in the U.S. as $1,048 at the end of 2012 and the Kaiser Family Foundation cites the average American pays $215 a month for an independent health insurance plan.Another helpful tip from the journal suggests that employees set up direct deposit accounts for their paychecks—a bit of an awkward proposal from the company whose franchises were forcing workers to be paid through debit cards with hidden fees. In a statement to ThinkProgress, McDonald’s said:            “As part of this program, several resources were developed including a sample budgeting guide, an instructional video and a web resource center that had additional tools and information. The samples that are on this site are generic examples and are intended to help provide a general outline of what an individual budget may look like.” Sorry McDonald’s, no one’s budget looks like that—because you have to eat. That’s why fast food workers have walked off the job in several cities across the nation, demanding better pay.When ThinkProgress first published a story on the budget on July 15, the budget’s English example gave $0 for heating costs, but McDonald’s has now changed this number to $50. Probably an honest mistake, right? As an astute ThinkProgress commenter asks, "Maybe McDonalds assumes workers will be living in their cars and thus don’t need to pay a heat bill?" Screen capture taken at 12:26 pm CST on July 16, 2013.

Emma Foehringer Merchant is a summer 2013 editorial intern.
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