Is the Living Wage Realistic?

I recently found an interesting calculator (Via Lifehacker, via MIT), called the Living Wage Calculator.  The smart folks over at MIT put it together to”provide a minimum estimate of the cost of living for low wage families.” Normally, when I see one of these calculators, I try it once, scoff lightly, then move on to something far more useful with my day.  This calculator is a bit different from some other ones I’ve seen in that it actually gets pretty localized.  Others tend to use a generalization like “urban” or “suburban” and leave it at that.  The fault there is that the living wage in an urban setting like Los Angeles is going to be very different from a living wage in the urban setting of a city like Fargo.

The MIT living wage calculator gets localized down to the county you live in, and then goes a bit further and can go right down to the city that you live in in some cases.  I gave it a run based on my county, and then based on my city.  Not surprisingly, I got the same number in both cases.  The city I live in is both the county seat, and the largest city in the county.  I suppose it’s possible that the numbers could vary a bit at the two levels, but I don’t think it would be too much in any case.

A Living Wage: Example locations.

Living WageTo compare how the results fare based on your actual location, I ran it for a few different locales.  First, using the example above, for Los Angeles city.  In all cases, I used the 2 adult, 3 children number.  For Los Angeles, the calculator returned an hourly wage of $27.97 which translates to just a hair under $58,200.  (using $/hr * 2080)  For Fargo, the calculator returned an hourly wage of $20.56 which translates to about $42,800 a year.  To be honest, I was a little surprised by the small difference between the two.  Not that almost $16,000 is a small amount, but considering the difference in the size of the two cities, I really expected the living wage to much more significantly different.

For a second example, I compared Fargo against the city that I live in.  The numbers for Fargo are above.  For my city, the calculator returned an hourly wage of $19.20 which translates to about $40,000.  This difference was a bit more expected.  The two cities are only a couple of hours away, and their economic differences are pretty minimal.  I also got curious and looked up what it would spit out for a living wage for New York City (Queens County).  There, it estimates the living wage at $26.12 an hour, or about $54,300 a year.

I found it somewhat interesting to dig into how they were calculating the living wage.  They’ve estimated some of the expenses for an average family of a certain number of adults and possible children.  Based on our own expenses, I think it’s safe to say that some of them are a little low.  They’ve also assumed that any 2 adult family with children is a one-income family with no childcare expenses.  In fact, I’m not so sure that they aren’t saying that a 2 adult household with no children would be a one-income family.

Given all of that, it was a bit reassuring to know that our family makes more than what they’re assuming is a living wage for our area.  However, that’s with two incomes.    Which also means that we’re spending plenty of extra on child care.  If I use their numbers for expenses for 2 children and childcare, then add it to their 2 adult, 2 children number the resulting number is not that far from what we’re really making.  There’s still a bit left over above that amount, but it’s a bit of a reality check too.  Time to find some ways to increase income!

A Living Wage: Is it Realistic?

All the playing around brings a question to mind.  Is the living wage realistic?  It’s important, I think, to realize that the living wage is meant as an indicator of the amount of income that is necessary to assure that a family can pay for the bare necessities of “living”. Keeping that in mine, it might be realistic.  But, one of the key things I don’t see in the expenses categories is a line for any sort of debt servicing.  Which means they’re assuming that you’re renting a house or apartment, and that you don’t have any other debts.  And we all know how realistic that assumption is.  Or not.  I think, for this to be truly realistic, it’s got to assume that the family will be dual-income.  It’s also got to assume that at least one of the two adults will have some student loan debt.  More likely, both.  And it’s got to assume that there’s going to be some other debts that will need servicing.  Then it might border on a true living wage.  Otherwise, it’s just another way of saying poverty line.

Go and give the calculator a spin.  How close to the number are you?  Are you so far from it that it’s scoff worthy?  Or is it time for you to find a way to increase your income too? Do you think that the living wage is realistic?

Win $500 With MyKindaHoops Contest

It’s March.  And, besides making a whole lot of green food dye makers solvent for another year, it’s also the month that kicks off a certain basketball tournament.  You’ve probably heard of it.  ;)  Everyone has their favorites, and some like to create several brackets to try and catch all the early upsets and maybe win some bragging rights in an office pool or a pool of friends.  But, this year, you can also win a chance at $500 in prizes.  If you win, you’ll get to pick from an Apple iPad Mini with Retina, a Samsung Galaxy Note 8, or $500 cash.

Ok, so enough hype.  Let’s get the run down on how you can win.  Hint: you don’t even have to fill out a bracket!

Straight from the horses mouth (so to speak):

The earlier in the tournament you predict the winning team, the more entries you will get in the draw:

  • A pick made before the Thursday tip off of Round 1 (March 20th) gets you 20 entries into the drawMyKindaHoops
  • A pick made before the tip off of Round 2 (March 22) gets you 16 entries into the draw
  • A pick made before the tip off of the Sweet Sixteen (March 27th) gets you 11 entries into the draw
  • A pick made before the tip off of the Elite 8 (March 29th) gets you 4 entries into the draw
  • A pick made before the tip off of the Final 4 (April 5th) gets you 2 entries into the draw
  • A pick made before the tip off of the Championship Game (April 7th) gets you 1 entry into the draw

So, you just pick who you think is going to be the winner of the whole shebang, enter it, and see how you do.  Note: if you’re chosen winner turns out to be a loser, you get the opportunity to pick another team.  (That’s for all the NDSU fans out there. Go Bison!)  Once the tournament is over, if you’ve picked the winner, all the winning team picking entrants will get their entries thrown into a drawing and the winner will be announced on April 11th.  So, pick your winner, then go over and enter at the main MyKindaHoops Contest page.

If you want to get down to the nitty gritty details on this, you can also read the blog post with the full details over at the LowestRates blog.

With the tiered entry system they’ve got, you’ll want to get your entry in as soon as possible.  The tournament starts on March 20th, so anytime before then gets you those first 20 entries.

Time to Plan Your Garden

Spring is finally here.  The sun is shining a little brighter (and warmer too), and the ground is starting to warm up.  And with all of that, those of us who garden are beginning to get a little antsy to start putting seeds and plants in the ground and begin growing them.  In many parts of the states, it’s still much too early to start planting though.  So, what is a anticipatory gardener to do?  It’s a great time to begin planning the garden and preparing for the planting season.

Maintenance and Clean-up of your Garden

I like to start with the maintenance and clean-up of the garden area as soon as I’m able.  I get to go outside and, while I can’t plant anything, I can begin to prepare for doing so.  There’s always some leaves that fall after I rake for the last time in the fall that can be collected.  We do most of our growing in containers, so it’s a good time to make sure the dead plants from last year are removed (fall quickly became winter last year and I didn’t get a chance to remove them) from the containers.  If you’ve got any gardening structures, like lattices, nets, etc, you can give them a quick once over to make sure that they’re all still in usable condition and don’t need any repairs.

Plan Your Garden

What Will You Grow?

For several years, we’ve been playing with and experimenting in our garden.  We’ve been planting some new varieties of plants that we haven’t before (last year we had Eggplant and Brussels Sprouts) and planting some things in different locations than we have before.  This year, we might do the opposite and refine what we grow a little bit.  There are a few staples that we’ve grown every year that we’ll grow again, like Tomatoes, Potatoes, Green Beans, and Cucumbers.  We added some Snow Peas to the garden last year and they did really well, so we’ll be planting more of those this year as well.  A couple of crops that we have grown in the past, but all depend on space are Carrots and Onions.  We’ve never had a whole lot of success with them, so they might get scrapped to leave more room for more of the other plants.  We’ve also got a few smaller containers that we’ve discovered are a little small for most of the stuff we’d like to grow, so we might throw  some herbs in those and see what we end up with.

Start Your Seeds Indoors

This is one thing that I’ve really struggled with over the years.  For whatever reason, I always end up with most of my seedlings dying before I can transplant them, or with them dying shortly after transplanting.  It is much cheaper to buy seeds and then start them indoors for transplanting, than it is to go and buy plants at the nursery, though, so I keep trying.  I’ll do so again this year, and we’ll likely supplement with a few plants from the nursery just to be sure we get some strong plants.  The growing season (outdoors) here doesn’t really start until late May or early June, so I generally try and hold myself back from planting seeds indoors any sooner than mid to late April.  Even that is probably pushing it, and probably should be pushed out to early May.

I find that giving some thought to the garden before you get to the planting stage acts a little like a budget.  If you’ve got a plan for what you want to plant, and when, you have something to stick to and keep yourself from going overboard with plants you won’t have room for, or that won’t do well in your garden.  It saves you money, and work.

What do you do to begin the gardening season?