Morgan Spurlock’s 30 Days – Living on Minimum Wage

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If you caught the premier episode of Morgan Spurlock’s, of Super Size Me fame (you can check out his blog here), 30 days on the FX Channel then you saw the plight of your average, minimum-wage, hard-working but barely scrape by Joe Schmoe. The episode was amazing as it happened to hit upon a lot of the major issues minimum wage earners tackle: keeping up with rent, dealing with health issues without insurance, among other issues. It was shown at 10pm but then had an encore presentation at 11pm. I don’t know if it’ll be shown again but it’s a show you definitely should find time to watch.

The story begins with Morgan and his girlfriend locking up all of their savings, credit cards, etc. in a lockbox and starting the 30 days with only one week of minimum wage ($5.15/hr) savings, it amounted to something like under $150 each. With that, they moved to Columbus, Ohio because it represented mainstream America to him. I didn’t know this but Ohio has 4 of the 25 poorest cities in all of America (how they calculate that, I’m not sure).

Renting An Apartment
Since most places required proof of employment, Morgan was forced to look in shadier parts of town. They settled on a $325 a month renovated crack den (literally) that allowed them to pay the deposit over a few months. With only $300 in savings, this was their best option. Their thermostat had two settings: On and Off.

Getting a Job
He started by getting a job through a temp agency at $7 and then moved into construction, which paid better. Now, it’s better than the bare minimum but not much. She snatched up a dishwashing job, which I think was under the table. The downside of construction was that he then hurt his wrist and had to decide between health care and food.

Health Problems
Here is when things get interesting… Morgan hurt his wrist but kept working, making it worse, and avoided going to the emergency room because of the cost. He tried the free clinic but it only took twenty people and he was number thirty five. Then, the next day, his girlfriend had a urinary tract infection that required a 6am trip to the ER, $20 in antibiotics from CVS across town, and then a day or two of not working. They didn’t have insurance. Later on, Morgan had to make a trip to the ER where he basically got a $40 ACE bandage. The total bill for both trips amounted to like a thousand bucks – or three months worth of salary.

One of Morgan’s coworkers had FOUR kids, whereas he had none, and he was supporting them on the same minimum wage. So he borrowed some kids from relatives! They went to like the dollar store in order to get them gifts and a box of candy each… and they fought a little about it.

Public Transportation
In the beginning, they bought one bus pass and tried to use public transportation whenever possible. Sometimes the bus times would change on them or a line would be shut down for the night and they were screwed. They had to get a taxi and spend $15 of their hard earned money to get home.

Handling Bad Luck
The episode really just shows that when you’re barely scraping by (and I don’t mean Michael Jackson style where you’re spending a couple million more than what you’re taking in, I mean really barely scraping by), it’s very very hard to handle bad luck. Having the bus flake out on you costs $15 and having an injury or illness costs you far more – it’s those bad luck scenarios that dig folks in a deeper and deeper hole if everything else is going right.

At the end of thirty days…
They were $1000 in debt but at least they still had electricity, water, and a roof over their heads… right?

Working minimum wage is very very hard. It’s very hard to make ends meet and I think a lot of people take it for granted the things they have. It’s hard trying to support children making only $50 a day. If you have health insurance and you don’t have to decide between food and getting your wrist checked out, thank your lucky stars… I know I do.

Also, the episode really showed you how critical health insurance is and how perhaps countries that have universal health care probably are doing things right. Sure, if you have a good job with benefits, you don’t want to pay a little extra in taxes to fund universal health care… but what about the millions of Americans without health care? What if you just paid a few more percentage points of wages to ensure everyone had health care coverage? I think I’d be willing to chip in more so we don’t have people having to make these kinds of decisions.

Finally, the best part about this show was that it dispels a lot of misconceptions people have (called the fundamental attribution error). Some folks have the misconception that people who can only work minimum wage jobs are uneducated, inarticulate, drug-using lowlifes who couldn’t do any better. Well, Spurlock and his girlfriend are educated, articulate, drug-free vegans who just couldn’t do any better.

Did you catch the show? What did you think of it?

{ 46 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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46 Responses to “Morgan Spurlock’s 30 Days – Living on Minimum Wage”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Re.: Morgan Spurlock’s Thirty Days on Minimum Wage: To Jim Bunning, Wall Streeters, et al: Welcome to my world! Think they could make it on minimum wage? I know they couldn’t, in fact, I dare them all to try! Any takers? I thought not…”Entitled” cowards, all, who have NO RIGHT! I dare a reply! From anyone!

    • yourmother says:

      Ignorant twat lololol. (I like dares)

      Also, your response sounded like you were some sad 30 year old that plays World Of Warcraft or something. On a semi-serious note, have someone peer edit those next time, my god. Using “Welcome to my world” as an opening opinion statement or whatever you may want to call it was a childish and immature approach, making just about everyone who cared to read it NOT take you seriously. And did you plan for “I dare them all to try” and “I dare a reply” to rhyme? If so, you really need something to do with yourself in your spare time. I’m in a pissy mood, srry bby hope you feel better ;*

    • Bixby Snyder says:

      Believe it or not, the number one resource that helped me out of this type of lifestyle is the public library. I had NOTHING, yet I was able to educate myself without going to college. I probably knew 10x more than my peers who were graduating 4 years after high school. Not having that diploma or degree behind your name does make it harder to find a good job, but throw in a few low cost professional designations (CFA), and you’ve got everything you need to work on Wall Street.

      My advice to you is to get some sort of coaching that will help you out of tough times. I got a friend to download some Tony Robbins materials and give them to me. It sounds corny, but his techniques for self-improvement worked. Better yet, I was happy even when I was still poor, because I knew with absolute certainty that I was going to have a great lifestyle for my family in a few short years. I hope this helps man.

  2. Anonymous says:

    By the way, is Mr.Spurlock aware his interests are possibly being misrepresented here? This is not his blog site, as was implied, nor is he aware, I am sure, of the lead that gives the impression it is. If I am not mistaken, I believe a legal line may have been crossed here. Rebuttal?

  3. Anonymous says:


    thats bout all i have to say.

    ok not quite…i think its awesome… i have two jobs both minimum wage… but i am also only 17.

    so yeah thats interusting.

  4. sissy says:

    well just living with this amount of money $50.00 a day what do you think i did all those years then had my own bussines well that went belly up now bank problems its not easy..

  5. MJ says:

    Sure it would be very hard to make it on only minimum wage. However, you are not SUPPOSED to make it on minimum wage. Minimum wage is designed to get people a head start on life and work ethic, not to make a career out of. This country was founded on the concept of if you work for it, you can do anything. That may not make everyone millionaires, but I know countless people who started with nothing and worked their butts off for what they aspired. What this show proved to me was how easy it is for people to find work who actually want it. Spurlock and his girl found jobs in what, a day? And then were able to get free furniture through the gracious actions of helpful people. With a couple of better medical decisions, these people would have made it through the month fine after starting with absolutely nothing.

  6. sissy says:

    Here I disagree but yes I agree with the hadup method not the hand out but if lets say your a person wwho was homless trying to get back in the swing of things again. I would be so hard to find a apartment and thank god for food banks for them if not then they would be totally in trouble thatsd why maybe some of the stealing when the econeymie is rotten no jobs then the drugs come so on so fouth minamin wage is a joke to a point spiecal if there is no medical a person 40 years old is going to find it alittle harder to find a job even if they got schooling or recent train for that job who is the employer going to higher its the younger one not the 40 year old then we hgave to settle for anyjob we can get so minamin wage a hand up thing no if its for the young ones then I say yes higher for minamen wage But when you have a HUSBAND WHO HAS CANCER FROM A BRAIN TOMER THEN GOT TO SETTLE FOR MINWAGE what a fat joke this econey. is in Im that 40 year old my sister just got back on her feet but medically she got denide everyjob dr. forced her to retire now husband has cancer and sister who was homeless lives with my parents who is by standard not fit to work so to live on this minaminewage no .

    • sanjosemike says:

      sissy, I understand how difficult it is for you to manage. The advice I suggest is not given in arrogance or unkindness.

      Your English skills are very poor. Almost nobody will hire you beyond minimum wage until you can improve them.

      Your inability to write in sentences will condemn you to a life of poverty. You can start by going to the library and taking out some books on writing and spelling skills. The time you spend there will reward you well beyond anything you have ever done before.

      You can also enroll into a night school English class. Many local classes are free. Don’t be embarrassed by your lack of skills. You should rather be PROUD that you are doing something about it!

      Good luck…and may the force of “education” be with you.


  7. sanjosemike says:

    The decisions we make between the age of 18 and 26 affect our lives severely and permanently. Unfortunately, many of us are too young and immature to understand the importance of those years. It’s so easy to throw it all away…children without any job or planning, early marriage to an idiot or abuser, no education, inability to communicate in English well or write decently, innumeracy (many still cannot make change), etc.

    All of those years can be wasted, or they can mean something. Parents must understand and DIRECT their children to the fact of earning their OWN living. In Hispanic cultures, that means very hard work learning a skill that runs through the family…(constuction, concrete, painting, gardening, etc.)

    Even a basic amount of training in a skill can erupt a person well beyond minimum wage, quickly. How many registered plumbers or car-repair experts live on minimum wage? An experienced wait-person working at a top-scale restaurant can make 40-50,000 year (with benefits).

    None of these advantages come without planning, a marketable skill and the patience to put off having children.

    Spurlock wants to blame us all for the problems of the poor and working poor. But is that really OUR fault?


  8. John says:

    Very disappointed in Morgan Spurlock and his girlfriend. It was painfully obvious that both of them haven’t a clue what real hard work entails….Going to the ER for a UTI and a sore arm??? What a JOKE! Perhaps if she actually ate something more healthy and substantial, she wouldn’t of had an infection- if he wasn’t such a puss…he could have dealt with his “owieee”. He and his uber-leftist girlfriend are completely out of touch when it comes to the “working poor.”

    • Kathar says:

      Don’t be so hard on Spurlock, I just found myself having the same arm injury he had, and I am searching the net trying to find out what it was exactly (I too lack health insurance, age 28). And it is painful, it doesn’t keep me from work, but it does cut my productivity time in half, making me a not very good employee. And I am not a puss, this is one of those annoying injuries that everytime you move your hand a sharp pain shoots up your arm, and having to work an 8 hr. day = 8 hrs. of sharp pain. When I first saw this I too thought Spurlock was a wimp, but now I know better. (but I will not go to the ER for a bandage, thanks for the heads up “30 days.”)

  9. Karen says:

    We watched this program in my “Working with Youth” social work class as it relates to poverty. I was not shocked in the least bit, because I bear witness to this everyday, living in the inner city of Atlanta, GA. I watch youth of today try and live on $7.25 per hour and are not getting ahead. Shame on our government for allowing people to suffer and be taken advantage of by employers that are getting tax breaks and making profits at the same time.
    We can do better! Write your congress person today.

  10. john says:

    do a 30 day with a mexican illegal immigrant living in oceanside with his wife and 2 kids, working in encinitas. He gets 14 an hour under the table and his wife gets a 300 dollar food card, kids free school, wife also cleans houses, they had their children here in our hospitals at no cost, and neither pays taxes. Not so bad. Huh.

  11. Laura says:

    It’s really cool to read these comments back from almost 7 years ago. I’m 17 years old, I was 11 when this episode happened, I watched it in my english class last week and now I’m old enough to really understand everything in depth. I’m terrified when I’ll need to start college and support myself. Any advice?

  12. me says:

    work hard and keep your priorities strait

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