I've had over a good week to soak in the end of Project Minimum Wage along with a fantastic Shockers road win in Omaha accompanied by three good friends as we sat in the CenturyLink Center watching thousands of fans exit the arena with many minutes left on the clock.
But a reflection on the Shockers total beat down of the Bluejays is not what's at hand, it's Project Minimum Wage.
When I last left you guys, I had $22 left for an entire Friday. After Friday and a buddy's "surprise" birthday party, I was down to zero. It was expected. I kind of knew that was going to happen. Ideally and in a perfect world, I would have liked to have a little left to save. Let's be honest though, would I have even been in this position if Lady Luck didn't come knocking on my door with bingo winnings?
I'll be the first to admit, Project Minimum Wage wasn't the closest to a real life replica of what one person goes through. With so many factors in my life, I couldn't have done it. Along with the regular bills one goes through as a homeowner, car bills, medical bills, social life, etc, no way I could have done Project Minimum Wage.
After a whole month of doing Project Minimum Wage, the first thing that came to mind was "Thank God that's over." Many things I took for granted, I realized during January such as going out and buying a new shirt, taking someone to go see a late night showing of a movie instead of a matinee, a nice dinner at a restaurant, road trips, etc. I was also fortunate not to incur any unexpected costs one may have in a month such as a doctor's visit or car issues. Oddly enough, one of my tires blew out a few days after Project Minimum Wage was over. That would have been an unexpected cost that could have set me back.
All in all, I can't live on Minimum Wage. Don't think there's any way I could do it unless FORCED to. I had free dinners and drinks offered my way during the month; I'm not going to lie. Sometimes I accepted, sometimes I didn't. I turned down the free dinners more so than the free drinks. :)
I think through January, the people I feel more for are the families that struggle not just on minimum wage but also ones making barely above that. Take for instance the families that work on a Wal-Mart salary with a couple kids at home. Some of those kids don't have the luxuries many of us take for granted. I'm not trying to come off as "high and might" and "holier than thou" but sometimes I guess it's good to sit back and think about stuff like that. Yes, those families sometimes receive assistance from the government, church and charities but it's still a struggle for them.
Outside of all those social issues, I learned many other things such as "where a kitchen is at in a house." Sometimes one of the common things a person points out is how clean my kitchen is. Well that's because I never use it. Eating out was one of the bigger expenses I would have monthly, literally eating out multiple times a day, never bringing my lunch to work. The entire month of January and even up until this day, I have not spent a single dollar eating out for lunch. It's been stuff from home or last night's dinner that has been my lunch for the day. Through all the decades I've spent in my life eating, it never occurred to me just how easy some of the meals are to make outside of ramen noodles and mac and cheese. It's starting to make me wonder if my mom and aunt really "slaved away" in the kitchen for hours cooking the meals for me growing up. (Note: they probably did!).
Also Aldi's, what a different experience that was! Since that fateful day, I'm now the owner of a few shopping bags. One of the coolest things about Aldi's is how they charge for shopping bags. Literally all places in Wichita should do this. When I was in D.C., the Walgreen's charged 7-8 cents a bag. Loved that practice along with the shopping carts and the quarter. People should put their carts away and the quarter may help that. I've had my car scratched by a random shopping cart before; it's not fun.
I also think I'm a spending addict. There were days on Minimum Wage, I would find myself wanting to go to Wal-Mart just to look around. Is anybody else like that? During Project Minimum Wage, I've been more price conscious about what I'm spending money on. Since then, I've lowered my cable bill, cell phone bill, and working on insurance rates. Retailmenot.com is a great website for shoppers too. It shows coupons for all sorts of places. If I'm going to Best Buy, I'll check that website to see what coupons are currently available to use.
Many of my friends got onto my case about doing Project Minimum Wage but in the end, I'm glad I did. I truly learned a lot from it and hope to carry it on not just in February but further down through....well..... my entire life. Everybody should at least try something similar to it at least once. Maybe not the scaled down version of minimum wage but budget yourself at 60-70% of what you usually spend a month and see if you can do it from there.
With that said, thanks for reading along this past month and a half. I promise you Dining by the Alphabet returns soon.
And lastly, congrats to two of my friends (as well as former Guest Diner) on their newest addition to their family last week. You guys know who you are.