When I was in high school, I worked for minimum wage ($8.75/hour) for a while. At that time in my life, I thought having some side money was the coolest thing ever. I didn't have to ask my parents for money, I was able to go out to eat all of the time, buy all of the coffee that I wanted and never had to think twice about it.
When I went off to college, I landed a job that was $9.00/hour I thought it was the best thing to happen for an eighteen year old! I thought that I was going to be rolling in money, boy... was I wrong. It was the first time that I had ever lived without my parents, and I didn't realize it was costly. I went from never paying for groceries and necessities to buying all of them on my own. But I have learned that being an "adult" gets very expensive, very quickly. I thought that the whole, ‘college students live off ramen noodles’ was just a joke. Let me tell you, it is 100% true. If I didn't work at a restaurant and received one free meal per shift and have a meal plan at the school cafeteria from Monday to Friday, I would have gone more days than none with out food.
I could have easily hopped on the blue line; went home and begged my mom or dad to cook me a meal, and they would have done it because they love me. But I'm one stubborn son of a gun. I refused to do that because I was an "adult" now. Well... that worked out for a while, until spring break of 2014. The cafeteria at my school was closed the whole week, I ran out of groceries the previous week. You might be thinking, why didn't you just go buy groceries or go to the dollar menu at McDonalds? Well, I had spent rest of my money the week before on a John Lennon poster from The Alley. I was starving, but I was starving with John Lennon at least, right? I didn’t work for three days, so that meant that I didn't eat for three whole days. Thank goodness for my small coffee pot and my mini fridge that only had coconut milk in it. I survived on that for three days and I was miserable, but at least I was miserable with my beloved John Lennon poster.
On the fourth day of not eating, I went into work (thankfully) and begged my manager to let me eat before my shift, and he told me that if that happened again, to just come in and he would feed me. He was one of the sweetest and best managers there. I remember thinking that I wished I knew that beforehand. Looking back, that was extremely stupid of me to go three days without food, but realistically, I’m still as stubborn as I was then, and I would probably do the same thing if the situation presented itself once again.
At twenty years old, I moved back home to go to a community college, and all in the same month, I landed a job that was $9.25 and once again, I thought that I was going to be rolling in money. But then a reality check happened and I realized being an adult was expensive and that $9.25/hour wasn't going to cut it. I tried cutting down on expenses, but the caffeine withdrawal just made me awfully cranky, so I tried looking for a second job.
Who knew that already having a job was going to decrease your chances at getting a second one? Not me. I understand though, the employer wants all of your time, which is fair enough...I guess. I had to start cutting down on going out, which sucked, but hey, my grades improved and I finally passed that one math class I’ve taken five times, so it wasn’t a total loss.
Last week, I just received news that I have gotten a raise! Well, not technically, I’m getting this faux-raise because the mayor of Chicago, (whom I have a love, but mostly dislike relationship with) raised the minimum wage in Chicago. I’m not going to even pretend that I didn’t think, “Yes! The money will be rolling in!” because I definitely did think that, but I now know better...sort of.
I know that this .75 cent raise will make a little bit of a difference, but not that much of a difference that I need to start living like Rihanna and buying $400 shoes, because that would be my whole paycheck. That being said, I created a budget for myself, which I will probably only follow for a couple months, then buy a new pair of Doc Martens, and then get swipe happy and once again diminish my savings, but I’m really optimistic this time.
To all my fellow minimum wage workers, money isn’t everything, but it’s only for the living, so make sure you spend it on what you want, but definitely don’t do what I did.