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McDonald’s Employee Budgeting Website Reveals How it Enslaves People

McDonalds in Downey, California. Photo by Bryan Hong

In McDonald’s attempt to educate its employees for household budgeting, it reveals how out of touch the company is with the modern workforce. Photo: McDonalds in Downey, California by Bryan Hong

In response to the widespread strikes against fast food giants, McDonald’s has partnered with Visa and Wealth Watchers International to set up a practical money skills website, designed to “…help you make financial goals, build budgets and track your spending.” They include an example budget, designed to help their employees manage their money and get ahead in life. They even include an example worksheet to help their employees budget… how helpful!


So, their example has someone working two jobs. Assuming they are working for minimum wage, they would be working Job 1 for approximately 31.5 hours per week and Job 2 for 27 hours per week. They would be working for a total just shy of 60 hours per week. But that’s not all. This person who is working 60 hours per week for minimum wage is also managing to pay $600 per month in rent, $150 per month for a car payment, $100 per month for car/home insurance, $20 per month on health insurance (one wants to know where this miraculously low-costing health insurance can be found), nothing for heating, $100 per month for cable and phone, $90 for electric, and $200 split between savings and any other fixed bill, leaving just over $800/month for any other expense.

Going through the daily chart, it gets even worse: $73/week for groceries, $50 for gas, and some other expenditures like a video rental for $3, prescriptions for $15, and a birthday present (a nice touch, to make it feel more honest… which it is not). While the grocery portion is double what SNAP offers, it still falls far short of what is needed for a healthy lifestyle.

Of course, on this income level there are no SNAP benefits. Just a lack of time. Taking into account commutes between jobs, work, and sleep, this person is, in effect, left with no time during the week to actually do anything. Their life is one occupied by work, eating, and sleeping. Not much of a life; they are a wage slave.

This was clearly created by someone out of touch. Now, in its defense, this is an example only, but does display the kind of hand waving one expects from large corporate interests. The template itself is fine, and the document does a fairly decent job of explaining the process of budgeting. But the process and example given only serve to exemplify how out of touch the companies truly are.

Or, perhaps this represents what they believe a worker should be; someone so on the edge that they are unable to complain. They are one check away from absolute disaster. And this is exactly what corporations want: workers so afraid of losing their jobs they’ll do anything for work, even if it kills them.

For this budget to work, this hypothetical worker of two jobs is living in a roommate situation, likely with four people. They, therefore, can pool their resources in order to live in most areas of the country on this budget. This is the lifestyle of Generation X, but rejected by the Millenials. The Millenials are redefining the system, throwing older models into chaos as a result.

As for McDonald’s, they have, in their budgeting example, have also demonstrated how out of touch they are with their own workers. They do not understand the cost of healthcare, the cost of rent, or even the cost of food, which is highly ironic considering what their business is. They have, in a single document, destroyed their own case for keeping wages low, displaying that the only way their workers can survive is with a second job, living with roommates, and eating like crap. Just the thing for the senior citizens working for McDonald’s to look forward to.

Perhaps, just perhaps, McDonald’s missed the point entirely. Perhaps it’s not that their employees can’t manage a budget, it’s that they lack the income with which to have a budget to manage. Studies have found that being in poverty hurts the decision-making ability of people, which in turn makes poverty ever more difficult to get out of. People who become poor tend to stay there. And no amount of brochures by McDonald’s will resolve that.

Instead, wage-slave companies rely upon government subsidies to support their employees, costing taxpayers billions every year. This creates a dilemma for right-wing think tanks, as they fight against minimum wage increases due to these government benefits. Other people who want to reduce the government instead fight for a higher minimum wage, including one case for a $22 per hour minimum wage. Even true small-government conservative think tanks agree that the minimum wage needs to be raised. This is the clear answer.

Using the provided McDonald’s worksheet, let us readjust it from the minimum wage to $11 per hour. Our prototype employee’s first job would jump to just shy of $1,500 per month, the second would increase as well, to just shy of $1,300 per month. This would increase his income dramatically, if the theoretical worker stayed with the roommates. That is real economic power in a person’s hands. At this point, they could consider dropping one of their jobs, or demanding better treatment, secure in the knowledge that they would not be devastated by an uncaring employer.

This is a nightmare scenario for wage-slave companies and the reason why they fight so hard against any attempt to enable a living wage.