Living on minimum wage in South Carolina, in terms you’ll actually understand

Like Beyoncé and Urban Outfitters dresses

A topic currently up for debate in many states is whether or not to raise the minimum wage. Opinions vary from economists to average citizens. As a member of the latter group I decided to look into what living on the South Carolina (and federal) minimum wage look like?

Many college students (myself included) are blessed to not have to fully support ourselves while balancing earning an education. Those of us are lucky to not know what life on $7.25 an hour consists of. Whether this wage should be increased or kept the same is a question for economists and even they can’t seem to reach an agreement. Politics aside, I decided to investigate and understand what minimum wage as a sole income means for one person without dependents.

We’ll call our minimum wage worker Elena.

Income: $15,080

Elena works in the food service industry at a local drive-thru restaurant. She works 40 hours per week, 52 weeks a year at $7.25 per hour. This is a little over the price of a lovely used 2008 Jeep Wrangler being sold by Midlands Mazda Columbia.

After Income Tax: $13,425

She files as single in Columbia, South Carolina because she is not in a relationship and doesn’t have children or any other dependents. She pays no local taxes, $49 to the state, $1,154 in FICA, and $452 in federal taxes. This adds up to $1,655. She now could use the rest of her money to fly round trip to Sydney, Australia 7 times.

After Apartment Rental: $7,965

One of the cheapest apartments for rent Elena could live in would be for $455 a month which is $5,460 a year. Her budget this year is now the price of 21 open-water scuba certification classes at Columbia Scuba.

After Utilities: $6,288

The average monthly utility bill in Columbia, South Carolina is $139. Over a year, Elena will pay $1,668 in utilities. She has the cost of 25 Fitbit Surges leftover.

After Groceries: $4,353

Most Americans spend more money on food than is really necessary (guilty) but the bare minimum cost of groceries for an adult woman for one month is $162 or $1,944 per year. After Elena’s food Lion visits she now has the amount of money that could buy 48 sequined urban outfitter dresses.

After Cell Phone Bills: $3,933

The smallest plan Verizon offers is only $35 a month or $420 a year. Elena’s budget doesn’t take too large of a hit from this and she is now left with enough money to buy 42 of seasons 1-6 of the popular CW show The Vampire Diaries on Blu-ray.

After Internet Costs: $3,453

Elena buys XFinity Internet’s $39.99 per month package and pays $479.88 per year for her wifi. After rounding she could visit Riverbanks Zoo 216 times.

After Gas: $2,413

Let’s say it usually costs Elena about $20 to fill her car with gas. She drives an average distance to and from work every day so she visits a gas station around once a week. Doing this she’ll spend $1,040 of her remaining money and have enough money to buy 7 of the most expensive Beyonce concert tickets.

So after these expenses are taken care of, Elena has $2,413 left to live her life with. This isn’t even counting savings to be put away for retirement or if she wants to eventually start a family. Besides that, there are many unforeseen expenses that an individual has to deal with throughout each year. Elena could get injured or sick and not be able to work for a few days. Her car could break down or a family member could fall ill requiring her to visit them.

Even in a perfect year Elena would want things like a dinner out every now and then, new clothing, or movie tickets. These are small parts of a normal life and although they aren’t necessities, they keep us sane and balanced. Only experts can know the best plans for our economy, but having a conceptualization of what life is like for those who live this every day is important.

University of South Carolina