Just Make a Budget & Stick To It

via The Eviction Economy

I’ve lived in what amounts to slum apartments for much of my adult life.  Both before I was married, and after.

And, yet, I heard the phrase in my post title every single time I tried to get advice on how to make my budget stretch further.  Not because I was wasting it on fripperies, unless you think paying bills and buying groceries are luxuries.  Like my parents and my grandmother, I did my best to pinch pennies hard enough to make Lincoln scream.  I wore clothes until they fell off of me, or were more hole than fabric.  I wore shoes until they fell apart.  I tried to make my groceries last longer than they were expected to cover.

And the bills just kept piling up.

I kept trying to put something in savings, like many budget planners say to do.  Even if it was only $5.00.  But I would rarely get my savings above $50.00 because every time I got even close to that, yet another unexpected expense would pop up. I rarely went to the doctor, because I couldn’t afford it, or when I did go I was rarely able to keep up payments for everything not covered by the shitty insurance that either my ex’s work or my own job offered.

And yes, every single shit-hole of a place I lived tended to cost more than 3/4 of my budget to just pay the monthly rent.  If an emergency happened, the only place I could take it from was the rent.  Some landlords were sympathetic, most weren’t.

As the article states, living below the poverty line is freaking expensive.  Not only are you most often living from paycheck to paycheck, but often you’ve already used the next two or three paychecks before you even get them.

The closest thing to a reasonable “savings” I was able to do was collect spare change in a jar.  And again, rarely would I be able to put $50.00 together from that – which would usually go into the grocery budget.

And you have to budget for fun too, because growing up in poverty (from about age 10 on) meant that we more often than not had no money for any kind of fun things, or would have to scrimp and save just to have some fun.  More often than not, my fun was books – because the library was free.

Now, I’m living with my sister.  And I’m still living in poverty, because health-wise she’s not much better off than I am.  The bank owns the house, which is also in dire need of renovation.  It might be a 6-bedroom home, but the reality is it’s also a house that was built in 1890 (approximately).  The basement still has stone and mortar walls. She’s also been trying to sell it, which hasn’t been doing very well either.  But she bought it more than a decade ago, when she was actually making a living wage and was somewhat affluent.

I’m not bitching about living in poverty.  You learn to live with it eventually, because you can’t do anything else.

What I AM sick of is the crying and anger that “the poor” are all sucking on the government tit, and we’re all parasites sitting on our asses.

Guess what?  It isn’t just recovering from my ex-husband’s abuse that I have to do.  I’ve lived hard year after year, living constantly on the ragged edge of “is this the week I go homeless?” My health, physically and mentally, is gone.  Even now, almost two years out from my ex, I’m just barely making any progress to get my health back.

And I’m a woman with no children.  I can’t even imagine how much harder a single parent living in poverty has it.  The parent who is working 3 jobs, and is STILL on WIC or food stamps, because they are still making less than enough to cover their bills, and feed their children.

How DARE you tell these people that they are only parasites on the body of our nation.  When a parent dies before their children are grown, simply because their body just wears out from all of the stress of trying to just allow their children to survive….because that’s as far as all of their work takes them.

Oh, they should have gone to school?  That would have made all of the difference in our service economy?  Really, are you sure?

Guess what?  I went back to college to get my bachelor’s degree.  I had gone to college in the 80s, but ended up dropping out because of my first nervous breakdown.  The sum and total of my school loans from the 80s came to just somewhere around 25K-30K.  Just the bachelor’s degree when I went back from 2004-2008 ended up costing me $100K.  Plus two attempts at a Master’s degree now means I have a $250K school loan debt to deal with and no prospects for any kind of decent paying job.

Why no prospects?  Besides the fact that I can barely think through the simple HTML/CSS code to make my posts here look reasonably professional?  Well, let’s see.  I’m older than 45, which is anathema for anyone even tangential to an IT job.  I’m a woman in an industry where women are less than 17% of the professionals, and many places won’t hire a woman – but make sure that they state that the men they hire were simply “more qualified.”  I’m fat, which is just fine in a tech-focused male, but is somehow a negative factor when considering a woman.

The only job I could get after graduating with my degree (and the reason I went on to try for an MBA) was a freelance position, where I was nearly as abused and exploited as I was experiencing from my ex. I figured if I could get an MBA, perhaps I could get a supervisory position, which would have at least paid me enough to try to pay off my loans.

Between that freelance job and the issues with the ex, I’m surprised I didn’t just keel over dead.

So, before you start bitching about how the poor are just parasites, how about you live in those shoes even just for a week (most of the affluent people who have tried to do the living poor for a month have rarely made it past a week).  But, in order to do it, you have to actually live poor, not dig into your finances to cover shortfalls.

  1. Get a job at any of a number of different places that pay minimum wage.
  2. Actually rent an apartment that your salary at the minimum wage job can afford.
  3. Don’t go to your friends and get a rental unit from them, no….find one that also accepts whatever your state does as subsidized housing.
  4. Realize that  most landlords will not allow you to fix things, paint or any other way to make the apartment livable.
  5. Figure out how you’re going to feed yourself, pay your utility bills, your phone and anything else that is considered necessary for life in our modern world.

 

If you can make it past a week, then I challenge you to try living like that for a year.

Pay attention to your neighbors and co-workers.  See if your opinion of them as parasites changes when you have had to live just like them. Of course, that means you have to actually try to be friendly.

Hell, you can live MY life for a week.

 

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