Whether you’re an economist or a single parent, you know that a job paying $22 an hour doesn’t yield significant spending power. In fact, the average McDonald’s worker makes roughly half that much: $11.29, according to Payscale.
So perhaps it’s understandable that the leader of that fast-food giant blasted a California proposal to pay workers a $22 wage. It’s a big jump. But was McDonald’s president Joe Erlinger tone deaf to the point of ridiculousness?
Erlinger, who called the proposal “costly and job-destroying,” pulled down $7.4 million in 2022. To put that in perspective, a worker earning $22 an hour, 40 hours a week, would need to grind it out for 162 years to make that yearly salary.
If you make more than the average McDonald’s worker, good for you. But no matter the size of your salary, maximizing your paycheck is a smart move — especially in these days when the cost of just about everything is going up. (That includes a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin, which cost 22 cents more in 2022 over 2021).
How then to supersize your salary? Read on.
Make a budget (and stick to it)
Savvy spenders make a budget and commit to it. When you spend less than you make, you avoid the pitfalls of high interest credit card debt and open the door to saving and investing.
If you’re not sure where to start, there are tools designed to help. Start simple: List your income and expenses, including rent or mortgage, utilities, food, transportation and entertainment. Don’t forget items like tuition, car payments, taxes (if you’re an independent contractor) and insurance. Then, prioritize so that you can take care of the essentials first.
Finally, don’t forget to set aside money each month for unexpected expenses, like car repairs or medical bills.
Shop grocery sales and delay gratification
If you love to eat out, you’ve no doubt noticed that prices are going up, up, up — often at a rate surpassing inflation. And guess what? If the bill is bigger, that percentage tip will be as well. If you’re not ready to cut out dining out entirely, look for ways to save on this budget item elsewhere.
Those who grew up in tough economic times or in a struggling family will likely have learned the wisdom of buying what’s on sale at the grocery store. You may not want to give up your favorite brand of yogurt. But if an equally good brand is on sale, why not go for it? Multiply this strategy over many food shopping decisions and you’ll notice a difference at the checkout.
Make a grocery list before you head out; avoid impulse purchases; buy store-brand items.
Plan your meals, too: Dining out frequently is the enemy of every food budget. Take advantage of coupons, or sign up for discount and cash-back programs like Ibotta or Checkout 51.
You may also want to try preparing meals in bulk, so your food is ready ahead of time and you’re less tempted to eat out.
Read more: Here’s the average salary each generation says they need to feel ‘financially healthy.’ Gen Z requires a whopping $171K/year — but how do your own expectations compare?
Automate your savings
Automation makes saving and investing effortless — and it’s the effort that keeps many of us from getting started.
Direct deposit your paycheck into a savings account, or a vanilla money market account that you can tap after a few months. There are also incremental investment apps out there that you can use to round your purchases to the nearest dollar and withdraw that difference from your bank account painlessly.
Putting it all together: Stretch but don’t strain
By following these tips, you’ll discover how a stretched paycheck makes your money go farther. But don’t forget to strike a balance between saving money and enjoying life. If you’re too strict with your budget, you may find yourself feeling deprived and unhappy.
So have fun and treat yourself every now and then.
Or to quote that 1970s McDonald’s jingle, “You deserve a break today.”
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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.