Try Walking in the Working Poor’s Shoes

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Minimum-wage workers in 21 states and Washington D.C. will have larger paychecks this year.

But it’s still extremely difficult to eke out a living on the minimum wage, as demonstrated by this video game. The game, “Spent,” was actually the topic of Squared Away’s very first blog in 2011 and is worth featuring again.

The Urban Ministries of Durham in North Carolina designed Spent a few years ago so others could see how it feels to live on about $300 per week – the weekly income of those earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour but at the low-end in many states.  The game conveys the very real, sometimes impossible, financial choices faced by working men and women who use the organization’s food pantry and clothing closet.

The game was updated a few years ago to incorporate both the monthly premiums and more reasonably priced health care offered by the Affordable Care Act.

Employers from Arizona to Maine are being required to increase their 2017 minimum wages to anywhere from $8.90 to $12.50 per hour, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many of the ballot initiatives, legislation, and automatic cost-of-living adjustments driving these wage hikes promise more increases in the future.

Click here to try walking in the shoes of a minimum-wage worker.

Squared Away writer Kim Blanton invites you to follow us on Twitter @SquaredAwayBC. To stay current on our Squared Away blog, please join our free email list. You’ll receive just one email each week – with links to the two new posts for that week – when you sign up here.      


I just took 5 minutes to walk through the virtual game. It was extremely effective and powerful. Thank you for sharing!

Elin Zander

I think we would all benefit from walking in those shoes. Very frightening to not have enough money to buy groceries, housing, heat, and/or transportation.

Wendy Weiss

In the present social and political environment, it is so important to try to understand the financial challenges others face. The new book Evicted brings this point home as well.

Thanks for prompting us to get out of our “bubbles” or echo chambers and think about (here is an old term) our fellow Americans.

Ira Dember

A mid-2016 analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that if the federal minimum wage had kept pace with productivity, it would now stand at $18.85 an hour.

That works out to about $38,000 a year for a full-time worker.

A year earlier, CBS News reported on an EPI study of outgo instead of income. How much money does it take a family of four to barely get by with no vacations and no set-aside for savings? Among major metro areas, it ranges from $61,000 in Houston to $99,000 in New York City.


The game was interesting and challenging. It’s no fun choosing between having the dog put to sleep to get through the month with money left over or going into debt to pay a $400 vet bill for an ailing pet.

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