Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
I recently read a news report that said at least 40 percent of the people in the USA are living in poverty. I’m not sure how accurate the report was but that sure is alot of poor people. I believe anyone of those people could tell you about what it’s like living in poverty these days but this is my thoughts.
Poverty is not just about having very little money. Poverty is more than just about a thin drawn line which says anyone earning less than that line is living in poverty. Living in poverty is a life of uncertainty.
Poverty is a life of never knowing just how much money you’re going to have no matter how carefully you budget. Living in poverty is a guessing game. A game where the participants do their very best to predict their own future.
Life in poverty is one unpaid sick day away from not making the rent on time or not having the funds to pay for medications. In the case of a senior on social security it can be one hospitalization away from homeless or one major appliance repair away from eating in a soup kitchen. It can be one costly prescription away from standing in a food bank line. It can be one really cold wintry month away from having the utilities turned off completely for lack of payment.
Living a limited income life is one impossible choice after another. Daily choices between food and medicine. Buying gas to get to work or paying the heating bill to stay warm. Buying shoes for a growing child or fixing a leaking faucet. Choosing which line to stand in today; the line for a work today, paid today job which would give you a few dollars income or to stand in the mobile food bank line for food you will use for your family’s evening meal. Yes, living below the poverty line is lots and lots of daily critical choices. It’s very expensive and very time consuming to live below the poverty line.
Expensive? Yes expensive. For example, if a person who earns $2,000 a week buys $100 groceries that person probably will not really notice the money spent. Buying $100 worth of groceries is a whole lot different for a person barely earning $150 a week. The difference is the “percentage of income” used for those groceries. The person earning only one hundred fifty a week is using 2/3rds of their income just to put food on the table while the person earning a couple of thousand every week is using only 1/20th.
A person with limited income is often the victim of their poverty. Businesses pop up in low income areas offering very high interest loans like payday cash or rent to own or pay on the lot. If a person is desperate to buy much needed medication, and has no money, a payday loan is extremely tempting. At 400% interest. If you are in dire need of a car in order to get a job the pay on the lot junk cars look great. Costing 4 or 5 times the actual value. Most of those junk cars last only a month before needing major repairs.
I’ve spent my whole life living in various degrees of poverty. As a child I didn’t understand “being poor” because there was nothing for me to compare it to. Everyone I knew lived pretty much the same way we did. We lived in a very rural area. In those days people were still reeling from the effects of WW2 with all it’s shortages. I remember we still used ration stamps for some grocery items even into the 50’s. Everyone was just as poor as us. If stuff wasn’t available you couldn’t buy it at any price.
These days I prefer to say I’m “frugal” instead of poor. Living frugally is a lifestyle choice but being poor is an uncontrollable condition. Living frugal is very time consuming. It takes much more time to make a loaf of bread yourself than it does to grab one from a store shelf. It takes more time to cut out and sew your own undies than it does to simply buy them. It takes more time to stand in a food bank line than it does to stand in a grocery line.
I hear the phrase over and over again…. if only I had more money. Life would be so much happier, easier, healthier, and so forth. I’ve found those with money to burn are the most unhappy people.
I’ve seen it written and I’ve heard it said “if only poor people understood nutrition and learned to cook from scratch they could get out of poverty” and I always laugh at it. Why do I laugh? Well because the people who say that really don’t understand poverty. Before a poor person can cook from scratch they must first have a way to cook. There must be a working stove. There must be utilities for cooking. There must be pans to cook in and water to clean those pans. I attended some classes called “Cooking Matters” put on by local ag officials. Those are classes being taught to low income people to teach nutrition. Its sweeping the nation right now. The classes were really nice and they did teach about eating healthy and choosing more vegetables; but not once, not one single time, in any of the classes, did the teachers talk about cooking without utilities or without a working stove.
What I would really love to see happen in poor areas are “home ec centers”. Like there were during and after WW2. Places where the people who stand in line for food bank food can actually cook their food on working stoves with working water. A place where low income people can learn to sew and mend on sewing machines provided and with the help of volunteers who know how to sew and mend. A center where canning or dehydrating could be taught and the canning equipment furnished. Budgeting classes too. Especially how to stay away from payday loan centers.
Well anyway, I’ve gotten way too wordy on this post. Thats my idea of what its like to live below the income line.