Preparation: Minimum Wage Challenge

be prepared

Apparently I am already cheating on the minimum wage challenge even though I haven’t even started it. At least, this is the argument my sister has decided to make. I recently sent out a “Christmas wish list” to friends and family for what I would like this Christmas. My sister didn’t like my choices of 1) pizza gift cards or 2) beer, wine or any other assorted types of alcohol.

Her first argument is that those are things that I will use during the challenge to circumvent the spirit of the minimum wage challenge allowing me to have (beer wine and alcohol) or buy things (pizza) that I wouldn’t normally be able to afford. She feels that I should go in with nothing (because it’s her job to make this as difficult and miserable an experience as possible on me) and that by doing any type of preparation, I’m bending the rules.

I, on the other hand, feel that if you know things are going to be tight, you should leverage all events to your benefit as much as possible. Yes, I could ask for a salt gun fly killer which I probably would have asked for had I’d not known I was going to be attempting this challenge. While I think it would be a lot of fun, the upcoming challenge has changed my perspective a bit. I don’t think that I would enjoy it nearly as much as the other gifts I requested knowing that I won’t be able to buy them anytime I want next year. In fact, I think that the better I’m able to leverage these events, the more likely it will be that I can succeed at this challenge. When times are tough and money limited, there is no shame (in my opinion) in getting things that would be useful for your current conditions rather than things that would not.

My sister’s second argument is that these aren’t really “gifts” but simply things that will help me get around the minimum wage challenge. I disagree. While there is no doubt that I like pizza and alcohol and would never turn them down, the fact is that I doubt that I will be buying much of either during the challenge simple because I know I can get a better value for my money purchasing other things. I view both more like a treat — something that is really nice to have, but something I can live without if it isn’t there.

All of which brings to the forefront a very good questions about preparation. If you know that you have the possibility of losing your job or that a pay decrease is coming, you would make preparations for the inevitable decrease in income. To that extent, what do you think it’s allowable for me to do in preparation and what would be off-limits? For example, I think that going to the grocery store and buying a bunch of food at full price just so I had it when the New Year began would be cheating at this point. On the other hand, I don’t believe that if I saw a great deal at the grocery store and bought a bunch of that food at that great price I would be cheating since that is something I would do that anyway.

If you were in the position of previously not living on a minimum wage budget, but know that this reality was coming, what things would you do to prepare? What are some of the steps that I should be taking in these last few days before I begin the challenge that you feel are acceptable preparations that don’t go against the spirit of the challenge? And lastly, do you agree with me or my sister when it comes to my Christmas gift request from family and friends?

And as a side note, for all of you that haven’t purchased gifts for those you know, I would suggest getting them a gift that saves money as this ends up being a win-win for all involved.

Next entry: Frequently Asked Questions

(Photo courtesy of Calsidyrose)

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14 Responses to Preparation: Minimum Wage Challenge

  1. Francine S says:

    I’m pretty sure that people on minimum wage sometimes receive gifts. I try to give gifts to people I know they want/like. Seems fair that you should be able to get what you want.

  2. Kelly says:

    I feel that asking for something that you want in the next year but cannot afford is absolutely not cheating; it is exactly what anyone living on a budget would do when asked what they wanted as a gift. My husband and I live on a budget as my husband is currently seeking work after graduate school, and the last few years have been tight due to said schooling. When Christmas and birthdays roll around and relatives ask what we would like, the gift requests we have made recently have been things such as car seats for our daughter, a gift certificate to buy shoes, and an eye exam an eyeglasses when I needed new glasses.

  3. Joan.of.the.Arch says:

    Not cheating, unless part of the challenge is also to pretend you have no friends or family who care about you.

  4. Alexandria says:

    Agreed with Joan – LOL.

    It is a sound strategy in our household to ask for “needs” for Christmas so we can stretch our dollars further. We have some relatives who are big on “wish lists” and don’t like to do gift cards. SO, I just keep a running list for the year of stuff we want or need around the house. The spouse and kids generally have more material “wants” than I do – but they also ask for these at Christmas. Which also saves me a lot of money in the long run.

    If someone wants to stretch their dollars further they are going to do all sorts of things to “cheat.” We also have income streams from several non-traditional sources, so that we don’t have to use my salary for several of our wants.

  5. Jenna says:

    Your sister sounds stupid. I’d stop talking to her.

  6. Double N says:

    I’m looking forward to your challenge, Jeffrey. I was thinking of your food challenge a couple of days ago when I saw some windfall fruit. Thanks for taking it on!

  7. Chris says:

    So, the challenge is to live on minimum wage in California? For a whole year?

    Such a person would be eligible for at least some type of government program, which (I assume) you won’t be able to tap into. If you were able to (like you were doing this for real), would your sister think you were “cheating”?

    If not, then your sister gets to shut up. Again.

  8. LuckyRobin says:

    I don’t think it is cheating. My SIL is on minimum wage and she asked for gift cards for Christmas according to her needs or wants. It is pretty normal.

  9. creditcardfree says:

    I too don’t think your requests are cheating. Your requests may be different because of the challenge, but that doesn’t mean you are cheating. You win. Your sister loses on this one!

  10. Diane says:

    I disagree with your sister on this one~ If you were already living on minimum wage you would still be getting Christmas gifts, and asking for things to stretch your budget would be a reasonable thing do to! Gift cards are a great option to be able to enjoy something you couldn’t otherwise afford. If you were low on socks & underwear and asked for those so you didn’t have to budget for them, would that be cheating?? Of course not!

  11. daytime says:

    All this talk about minimum wage drives me crazy. One person can hardly live on the minimum wage. Henry ford had it right whats the point of paying your workers so little that they cannot afford your product.

  12. Fe2o3ez says:

    Looking forward to this! Good luck.

    I can see both sides of the arguement, but frankly, if I knew that a drastic change in income was coming, I dont think you went far enough. (I agree with Chris about the government prgrams.) Here’s what I might have asked for in that situation:

    * Visa/Walmart gift cards – why worry about the luxury items when you can’t pay for necessities
    * canned goods
    * Gas cards
    * bus/subway tokens, if convenient for you

    if you prefer to go the route of more ‘luxurious’ items
    * a new bike – cheaper and healthier than a car
    * movie tickets – usually good for matinee shows, and may make up for not being able to afford cable
    * connections to a resume-writing service – usually garners better paying jobs
    * pre-paid phone – for job search and emergency calls (not many pay phones around anymore)

  13. Gpaxton says:

    When we were going to take a 40% pay cut, I did a grocery stockup with his last bonus he got. I bought 1 year of grocery products and 2 years of HBA, non perishable items. So yes a stockup would be in order if you are treating it like this type of event. I realize I’m coming in late to the conversation but a true minimum wage challenge would/should incorporate everything a person living on minimum wage would do to stretch their money.

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