McDonald’s Sample Budget Makes Sense

For McDonald’s that is.

So McDonald’s, in an effort to help its employees, has built a website where you can plan your monthly budget. Here’s the mock budget they present:


You can stop laughing now. As Ryan Chittum notes, no McDonald’s line employee will come close to this:

Note that the theoretical McDonald’s employee has two jobs. The first job nets her $1,105 and the second nets her $955. If she makes $8 an hour at both, she’d be working 70 hours a week. If she makes $9 an hour, she’d be working 62 hours. If she’s unfortunate enough to make $7.25 an hour, she’d be working 77 hours a week.

That’s how you make ends meet on a McJob—but only if you have extraordinarily low expenses.

As ThinkProgress’s Annie-Rose Strasser points out, McDonald’s assumes that its theoretical worker pays just $20 a month for health insurance and nothing for heat. It also assumes a rent payment of $600 a month. You can find that in the hinterlands, but the average apartment nationally goes for about $1,050. And good luck if you’re in a big city.

Given the callousness of this sample, Chittum asks:

It’s hard to imagine how this made it past the flacks at McDonald’s. Then again, maybe it’s not. These numbers are so tiny to the office drones making five or ten times them that amount that they’re almost unreal.

As practical advice, it’s worthless, as well as insulting. As propaganda, it’s very useful. It allows them to present faux concern for their employees. But for the employees, it allows them to make the employees feel like their economic difficulties are their own fault–another part of the website declares “You can have almost anything you want as long as you plan ahead and save for it.” There’s a more subtle approach here too. By saying something so ludicrous, McDonald’s is evincing utter disdain for its employees, thereby demoralizing them (especially in this economy, where jobs are scarce). It’s the psychological equivalent of keeping the boot on the neck. Or perhaps the pimpsmack school of personnel management.

So the chart does make sense. Just not for the workers.

There’s a lot of that going around.

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8 Responses to McDonald’s Sample Budget Makes Sense

  1. David says:

    That budget doesn’t seem to include food, or clothing.

    • Cathy W says:

      Presumably food and clothing (and gas for that $150/month car) are in that $750/month “daily spending money” zone. (When I originally saw the picture, it was $800, and $0 entered for heat.) But really, who considers clothing a “daily expense”? Quarterly, maybe… unless they’re assuming that their workers tend to buy clothing only on impulse?

  2. anthrosciguy says:

    I think the key here is that the numbers ARE unreal to the people ordering up this chart and even to the people actually creating it. So they just play with them, like a kid with toys. I also suspect they tried to do it without the second job at first and found the results was a negative number.

  3. Amber says:

    I work in the food industry, and I have two jobs. Unless you have incredibly understanding managers, having a second job is tough. Many corporate places I’ve worked had you submit an availability, but the end of your shift was a variable. So, in order to have a second job, they’d need probably whole days blocked off just to work it, but most food job shifts are anywhere from 4-8 hours, sometimes more. Many managers want you to have a wide availability spread over as many days as possible, otherwise you may not even get enough hours to earn that $1065 or wev.. What I’m saying is, you work at one job till they don’t need you, as many days as possible, which could make it incredibly difficult to make it to your second job that same day. And often, schedules vary widely week-to-week. And that’s even supposing working two jobs is a realistic expectation.

  4. J Paul says:

    This “budget” example really says a lot about the state of our economy. I work a decent job I love at 40 hours/week, and $2000/month is not much lower than my net pay after tax, health insurance and retirement plan withholdings. As others here have noted, there are expenses that are not included. In addition to daily expenses like gas for the very cheap car and food, there is no consideration for long term larger expenses, e.g. furnishings for the apartment, kitchen and bathroom supplies, car repairs/maintenance, and student loans/tuition (so one does not need to spend an entire lifetime with a crappy job and negative monthly budget). It would be very difficult to add in children into this budget. I’m sure I could come up with more life expenses if I really thought about it. Life in this country is becoming increasingly financially difficult for millions of people, and not just those at the margins.

  5. albanaeon says:

    I find the admission that McJob isn’t going to cover even their optimistic expenses telling. Pretty much that we screw over our low wage workers and its up to them to make due.

  6. Rob says:

    There’s also nothing in the “budget” for income taxes.

  7. Eric riley says:

    “… the office drones making five or ten times them that amount that they’re almost unreal.”

    Speaking as an office drone – I do not make 5-10 times that ($120K – $240K per year). One the other hand, if my boss (who does) tells me to fiddle with those numbers to make a budget with a non-negative bottom line, I’ll change them to whatever he wants – and laugh at how happy he is about such an idiotic exercise. That makes up in some small part for my loss of pay and benefits.

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