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.
It should not be happening but seniors are having to work much longer into their golden years just to cover expenses. This means me too. For many of us, at the time when we should be slowing down and enjoying life, its become a financial struggle to survive on a fixed income. Our incomes remain the same while our expenses keep rising.
What matters most, in our financial struggle, is the bottom line. Meaning, how much money we’re about to let go of at any one moment and how much will be left at the end. We have to make our money (and our purchases) last as long as possible. Unexpected costs are more than just inconvenient for us, they are liabilities.
People on fixed incomes (or low wages) wait to buy something until we absolutely need it so we must pay whatever the going price is at that moment. For example; we skip the buy one get one free sale on laundry detergent because we are not completely out of it yet. Or the 12 count packs of toilet tissue are on sale for half price this week, that’s a good bargain, but we can only afford one 4 pack anyway. Perhaps we won’t have any money until next week but that’s when the sale is over so we can’t buy even one. In this way fixed and low income people actually pay more than others for common staple goods. This is why poor people have such difficulty creating a stocked up pantry. No matter how great the bargain if we don’t have the money for even one extra item we can’t stock up.
We eat what we can afford, not what is most nutritious. Every unexpected dollar I spend on electricity or water or a phone or a doctor visit or even the internet is a dollar taken from my food budget. Of course, everyone knows that poor nutrition is a leading cause of many health issues for seniors. (younger people too) We live in a country where filling empty bellies with greasy fast food burgers is cheaper and easier than buying fresh fruits and vegetables.
I’m so very lucky that I’ve been able to buy canning equipment and start stocking my pantry with foods I’ve canned myself. Its not been easy to buy fruits or vegetables from the discount bins with my limited funds. I’ve bought the bruised and outdated items while I sacrificed on other things I really needed but couldn’t afford both. Let me tell ya’ poverty is not a character defect its just a shortage of money.
My thoughts are always on ways to cut expenses. If there is a way to save on utilities or water or food I want to find it. The way I work my budget is a step by step process of saving a few pennies at a time. Going to the food banks is one of the ways I stretch my money. Really I would much rather be giving to the food bank than accepting from it.
I felt very embarrassed when I went for the first time but my neighbors had encouraged me to go with them. After that first visit it was much easier because I knew people there and I realized how going would help me stretch my food dollars. Not spending money for food helped me to put aside a little each month until I had enough to purchase my canning equipment and jars. I started stocking up with home canned food courtesy of the food bank. The food bank is not diabetic friendly but the food does help. I take the fresh veggies and fruit but give the rest to someone else. I don’t eat factory processed food if I can avoid it. Why? Because if food is made in a lab it takes a lab of meds to digest it.
Every time I find a way to save a few pennies on one expense or another I’ve used the savings to fund the next way to cut an expense. I think the financial gurus would call this a snowball of saving? I’m not paying off debt because I don’t have any but the theory is the same. One small amount saved is put toward something else and then the savings of both are put toward something else, etc.
Visiting the food bank and canning (or freezing) as much as I could led to other things such as insulating the house and putting up window quilts. Those led to using individual room heaters and so forth. Several times the higher costs (rate hikes) have erased the savings I had gained but I kept going. When others in my neighborhood are spending on cable tv or smart phones I’m looking at energy saving devices. The tiny fridge is an energy saver.
Getting the tiny fridge was just fate. My big size one had quit working. I couldn’t afford a new one. A quilt customer offered me her under counter fridge to help me get by until I could buy another one. When I started using the tiny fridge I really liked it and I still do. The under counter fridge has now become just one more way I save pennies. The difference in my utility usage is significantly lower with the tiny fridge.
I’ve come to realize I no longer need large family sized appliances. That’s why my tiny fridge works so well for me.
It all comes down to a choice between whether I must work more or find ways of spending less. At my age its becoming much more difficult to work the long hours. So, since I can’t earn more, I’m learning and re-learning ways to spend less. I’m down sizing my life and it feels good. I’m freeing myself of the bigger, better, faster, more, more, more mentality in favor of a slower more meaningful rest of my life. I won’t ever become wealthy but it sure will help stretch my fixed income a little farther.