Tuesday, August 12, 2014

From Poor to Not As Poor

Some of the tips I am giving in this blog might annoy poorer people because the tips are mainly geared towards people who have things like cars, washing machines, dryers, mortgages, student loans and things like that. I remember feeling that way when my husband and I first got married. Most people truly didn't understand what it was like to barely be able to make ends meet. To be honest, I probably don't remember it very well. But I do remember being there. The houses above are the actual houses my husband and I lived in when we first got married. He was 18 and I was 19. We both had high school diplomas. The brown house above? This is the first house my husband and I lived in when we got married. It was this threshold I was carried over. :) The landlord refused to fix a gas leak so we cooked on the grill and a little electric stove my husband borrowed from someone at work because the gas company refused to turn the gas on. We had no honeymoon. We literally cut the "lawn" (up close to the house) with a pair of scissors because we didn't have a lawn mower. And I walked around asking neighbors if I could borrow their vacuum cleaner. I got pregnant 3 months into our marriage and stayed home to take care of the baby, babysitting later on to make a little income. We call those our "chicken thigh and potato" years. We didn't eat very well and things were extremely tight but we climbed out. We lived in an apartment for a little while and then move into the white house. The white one was where we brought our daughter home from the hospital. (This pic was taken in later years, the boat was not ours.) The houses are older now, but I don't remember them looking much better back then. My husband worked as a glazer putting windows and mirrors into people's houses for $7.00 an hour. Minimum wage was $3.35 an hour. Now, it's $7.25. With my husband making close to twice minimum wage, he brought home about the equivalent of $14.50/hour today's money for a family of three. That's about $29,000 a year of today's money. I worked for a while at KMart for minimum wage, part time before the baby was born. With this, I saved money for a car, which we bought with cash. At first, we had one car and owned no furniture, no washing machine, no dryer, no lawn mower, no stove, no refrigerator etc. but slowly acquired those things as we could. The only loan we got from anyone that I can recall was a loan from my husband's grandmother to pay off the hospital bill. We paid her a few dollars every month at 6% interest (by law) for a few years until we paid off the debt for the labor and delivery bill. I did have a student loan debt from my one year in college. We did accept WIC from the state and it was like a huge boon, but we refused applying for food stamps, feeling that, although we probably would have qualified, we wanted to get along without being a burden to anyone. We also paid 10% of our income as a tithe to the church we attended plus gave some money to foreign missions, which I definitely would rethink if I had to do it over. So knowing that no two situations are alike, here are some tips for moving from poor to not as poor.

1. Get out of addictions if you have any. Addictions steal your time, money and energy. It is almost impossible to go from poor to not as poor if you have any type of addiction.

2. Don't fall into the trap of using pay day loans.

3. Generally, I don't have a problem with moderate credit card usage (there are certain rules) but I would not recommend any credit card usage while moving from poor to not as poor. It is too tempting and risky.

4. You could ride a bike everywhere or take the bus until you have enough money saved up for a car if at all possible. I walked to work a mile or 2 while pregnant every day for months (my husband's job was much further so he needed to drive) until I had saved enough cash to buy a car. Cars are expensive to pay for and maintain, but sometimes necessary anyway so this option won't always work. (If you take out a loan as a poor person, you will likely be looked at as a poor risk and they will sock it to you on your interest rate. That isn't fair, but it is how they often operate. You could keep saving until you can buy a car that isn't a total clunker, or you will be spending a lot of money on repairs. If you own the vehicle outright, you may have the option for cheaper insurance as well.) Then, once you own a car, maintain it as well as possible. Learn to change your own oil and keep up the other fluid levels and tires inflated.

5. Housing. If you are single, find the cheapest place you can that is safe. If possible, in the warmer months, to get a leg up and save some money, you could live in a campground in a tent (one that has showers). That way, you could save money and be ready for a place for winter. As a family, this is harder because you can't really live in a tent. But the cheapest, safe housing you can find is the best thing.

6. Try not to use the laundromat if possible. The laundromat is expensive. Wash your clothes in the bathtub and hang to dry. Iron what needs to be worn for work or wash in tub and tumble dry work clothes.

7. Don't eat fast food or convenience store food. It's expensive and makes you feel horrible if you do it on a regular basis. Try to stock up on healthy, cheap food like beans and rice, applesauce, puffed wheat, corn flakes, pasta and tomato sauce. Be creative.

8. Buy clothing at thrift stores or garage sales.

9. Don't believe that you were born poor and just have to settle for that. Remember that every time you buy that Mountain Dew at a convenience store, you are making a choice about your potential to climb out. It really does all add up.

10. Try not to borrow money if possible. Try to always earn your way. Keeping your integrity in all dealings with people is very important.

11. We really need little to survive. In America, we believe we need a lot and we need it now. This is a cultural thought process. We need food, shelter and clothing. Those are the basic necessities of life.

12. Show up for work.

I don't ever want to make light of the difficulty it takes to move from being poor. It is incredibly difficult. There are many pitfalls to overcome along the way. It usually takes years of diligent hard work. But it can be done. :)

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