First thing’s first, don’t worry mom, I’m not applying for welfare.
I was recently reading an article about a company that is doing a “SNAP Challenge“. As far as I can tell, these people were going to live on the equivalent of food stamps for a week to see what it’s like. This got me thinking about the 5 Days for the Homeless campaign that happens annually across Canada (and right here in Winnipeg).
When I saw the comments at the bottom of the article I started thinking even more about the similarities. Things like, “This isn’t how real people on food stamps live,” and, “This is insulting,” and, “This is a publicity stunt.” It was like a blast from the past, because I’ve heard all of them said about 5 Days, as well.
To set the record straight, all these participants know that this isn’t real-life, but an exercise. I can’t speak for the SNAP Challenge people, but 5 Days only wants to raise money (over $25,000 this past year) and awareness. Excuse me for being blunt, but only a complete moron would think that these participants are claiming to know what it’s like to live the lifestyle which inspired the charitable endeavours.
All of that being said, I started wondering to myself if I could live anything close to my current life on welfare. Then I started doing some digging.
Disclaimer: I didn’t take too long finding this info and I’m sure there are some intricacies. This was just done as a mental exercise for myself (and now you) and I don’t claim to know what it’s like to be on welfare.
I found that the assistance provided in Manitoba is $587 for a single person, so the short answer is right away “no”. Mortgage payments, home-owners insurance and personal insurance eat that up and more. Case closed.
Not wanting to stop right away, I decided to see what it was like if I cut out all of the above and assumed I was an uninsured renter.
I also assumed I could find a place to rent for $350/month and could access a housing allowance for 50% of that cost. My remaining fixed expenses were car insurance, cell phone bill and cable/internet. After the above four things I was left with about $177 per month for everything else. Maybe possible, but not ideal.
Then, again a step further, I decided to cut out the data on my phone plan, cut cable and internet, “sell” my car and get a bus pass instead. Assuming I was still was paying $175/month on subsidized rent my leftover spending money would be $327/month. Let’s work with that number for now.
A rough budget for living on $327 discretionary income per month for me would look like this:
- $200 food ($127 remain)
- $70 utilities (giant leap here, but thought I should put something) ($57 remains)
- $57 everything else
I fought my natural urge to put something in savings, because I just don’t think that’s realistic.
The $200 for food may have some room to be trimmed down, but as it is that’s $6.67/day for meals. If you want to get any sort of protein, ever, it’s going to have to stay where it is. I know there’s people who have blogged about living on a dollar a day for food, but even they have admitted it was very unhealthy.
It may seem silly, but this was actually fairly eye-opening for me. Before taking the time to break it down I didn’t really understand what it meant to be on social assistance. Looking at it this way, you wouldn’t really have choice with your money. After the most basic human needs are met you’re pretty much out of cash for the month and I’m guessing that would really wear on a person.