1. That when you say you’re broke you really are. They always think you must have some money. I find my middle class friends and family will always assume I can come out for a meal or to socialise when I tell them I’m out of cash. I guess middle class people always have some savings and aren’t checking the back of the sofa for loose change.
2. That not everyone is poor because they’re lazy or stupid or just didn’t try hard enough. There’s this deeply embedded belief in our country that poor people somehow deserve to be poor, and it’s amazing to me how blindly people believe this.
My parents have worked my entire life, often more than one job at a time. When I was in high school both my parents had two jobs, and we could still barely afford stuff. And it’s not because they’re lazy, that’s for damn sure. It’s not because they’re dumb, either. It’s because shit fucking happens sometimes, man. It’s been nearly the same for me.
My husband and I are much better off financially than we were a few years ago, thanks to a lot of hard work, but we’re still not even middle class, just living paycheck to paycheck and some months, having to sell something to buy groceries. My husband had a second job delivering pizzas for a while, just to make ends meet. I’ve seen for myself how insanely difficult it is to get out of debt and get ahead.
Literally every time I’ve managed to get a little money in the bank, something happens like a car breaking down or someone having to go to the hospital, and wipes it all out. Shit’s hard and being poor sucks. I’m never going to be rich; the best I can hope for is to eventually be comfortable. And it’s not because I’m fucking lazy.
As much as everyone dearly loves the whole “hard work will make you rich!” line, I’m sorry, it’s not really true. Yes, hard work is a huge component, BUT, so is luck, and a million other things you have no control over. Christ, just look at how many people got fucked over during the economic recession. That had nothing to do with how hard they did or didn’t work.
3. Knowing that falling sick and losing a weeks’ pay would cause financial burden that would take weeks, if not months to recover from.
That is fear.
4. I showed up at work once with walking pneumonia because I couldn’t afford to be off a single day, and couldn’t afford the insurance my company offered. My boss asked me why in hell I came to work, and I told him honestly — I can’t afford to not be here.
He made me go home, but paid me for the day. Problem is, I lost my OT that week because sick/vacation time doesn’t count the same. 36 hours + 8 hours sick time = 44 hours of straight pay. I ate two packs of ramen a day for two weeks because of that.
5. The feeling of the check engine light coming on and knowing that the repairs will likely cost more than you have to your name.
6. I got paid today. Checked my balance just like I do every morning, all good. I stop to get gas on my way to work, splurge and buy a Pepsi. I swipe my card, enter my PIN, and stare at it with this sinking feeling that it won’t go through. When it does I feel an incredible sense of relief that, today at least, I don’t have to feel like a piece of crap.
People who have never had this issue don’t understand that, when you’ve lived with no money, even when you do get some, you still expect it to not be there.
7. That the system is heavily geared against people who do not have money. Not having money costs significantly more than having money, making it even harder to get by.
You and I could have the exact same life expenses, but if my income or life circumstances have not allowed me to build up savings and I am living paycheck to paycheck (or worse), it is costing me significantly more in the form of NSF fees ($100 a pop in most cases), re-connection charges, gas/bus fare/time to make several small trips to the grocery store instead of one or two big ones, interest (got lots of money? have a car at 0%; have no money? 29%), bank fees (banks charge monthly fees to those of us who don’t have a bunch of money in savings with them, then add more fees on top of that for services people with money get free), and so on.
Want to avoid one of these? It will cost you more money. Payday loan charges that cost more than the NSF fee you’re avoiding so you can cover a utility bill because if you miss one more payment you’ll have to pay off your bill completely before getting reconnected, plus a $200 re-connection charge, plus a $1000 security deposit.
To top it all off, being in this situation is stressful – extremely so if you have a family – leading a majority into starting or increasing drinking and/or smoking and/or drugs, which costs even MORE money, or depression, which causes a host of other problems including possibly losing their job.
It is a vicious cycle to break, possible only by extreme self-sacrifice (I know of a mother of 4 who lived in a tiny trailer far out of town with no car, everybody in one bedroom, 10km walk to school, 20km walk to store, no electricity, no heat – sleeping in winter jackets and gloves when it is -20C outside [and inside], etc.), a huge infusion of cash to pay things off and break the cycle (plus help to keep from falling back into it), or bankruptcy (which, as the ultimate FUCK YOU joke, many people in serious debt CANNOT AFFORD TO DO, since bankruptcy requires a minimum monthly payment, and if you include things like utility bills then you have to pay massive deposits to get service again).
8. If you slip even once, you might as well be starting over with nothing. Even with a large influx of cash, it costs more to get out of debt than the amount that got you in debt in the first place, which a lot of people don’t understand.
How can you owe someone $900 when your original bill was $400? Well, because they can slap on a few late fees and then charge interest on the increased amount. People want debtors to remain in debt. They make far more money when people can’t pay their bills, ironically.
9. That having the “right” attitude can only take you so far and that being poor becomes so incredibly complicated when you’re dealing with mental health issues and personal issues brought on by finances.
It feels like my family and I will never get to feel true safety in a good neighborhood and just what it feels like to have fun doing carefree activities like traveling, going out to eat somewhere, casually deciding to see a movie. We’re all just frozen in time trying to catch up and it’s taken a toll on everyone’s happiness.
10. My family immigrated to Canada more than three decades ago. We were political refugees and my parents had nothing beside what they were wearing. It took more than a decade of sacrifices before they could save enough money to start a small business.
They had to take a huge loan from the bank. The first two years were incredibly difficult. For example, my parents had to work on average 16 hours everyday including the weekends and the holidays. Eventually, it paid off but the risk taken was extremely high. We had relatives and friends who started similar businesses and some of them had to file for bankruptcy only after three to four years.
Breaking the cycle of poverty can be a daunting task. Even if you try your best, it might not even work. This is one of the reasons why I am disappointed when one of my coworkers or classmates (none of them had to grow up in poverty) belittle and judge poor people without knowing their personal background.
11. My coworker (who works because she wants to) says the upper classes shouldn’t have to pay more tax because they worked hard to get where they are so they shouldn’t be penalized for the lazy lower class people. I said the lazy lower class people like me that work three jobs to make ends meet? I should pay more taxes so you can spend more time in Europe each year?
12. A day off work to most people is a fun day to relax. To a poor person it’s the difference between having money to pay all of this weeks expenses and having to forgo one, then you’re a month behind on one bill and have to find the overtime somewhere to cover it or else shuffle other bills around the next month. Then the cycle continues. Several days off work could lead to a loss of a car, or your home.
I’ve been there, it’s horrible. I lost count of the number of times I went to work running a fever and feeling horrible just because I knew if I didn’t my family would not eat.
13. Human problems don’t necessarily equate to character problems. That person with a spot on his or her record, or a substance abuse issue, or depression, or a lot of sheer frustration, may never have gotten to that point if they’d had the same opportunities, contacts, safety nets etc. that you may have had. Most likely, they’re expending more energy than you imagine just to stay afloat.
14. Trying to save money is the worst. I am not anywhere near being homeless, my bills are paid there is food in the fridge and a roof over my head but after that’s all said and done I’m generally broke. My car recently blew its head gasket which means I need to replace the engine/fix it/ or get a new car…Getting a new car isn’t an option since I still owe in this one so it is a new engine or bust.
Trying to save for this is almost impossible right now as I still need 1000 bucks essentially to cover it. My fiance and I have been sharing her car (which is probably growing tiresome for her since she is sacrificing some of her freedom during the day) which means I go to work when she does and I pick her up when she is done. This is losing me a few hours if pay a week as I can’t skip my lunch break to make up time so I’m sucking up every minute on the clock I can before I have to pick her up. I’m thoroughly grateful that sharing a car is even an option but it’ll be alot better when I can get my car back up and running.
15. I cannot just “save” money. I do not have anything left at the end of the month. No, I don’t eat out. No, I don’t buy frivolous things. I pay bills and buy bread. So, no, I can’t save up.
So many people who are well off always tell me “It’s so important to save up. Make sure you have a few thousand saved for emergencies!”
Yeah, I’d love to, but I literally cannot. I would have to go without food or gas or a home in order to save. No, I cannot even save a dollar. I have to use it. No, I’m not trying to be difficult, I’m being serious.
It seems to be SO hard for people who don’t struggle to understand.
16. I’m middle class now, but I still function with a poor/working class mindset — I think at a certain point it’s just burned in. If you’ve never had to literally rummage through your entire home to find enough change to get on the subway/bus/give someone a few bucks for gas, then you’ll probably never quite understand what, “I don’t have any money means.” Saying that and then hearing “Dude it’s only 10 bucks!” means they can’t comprehend it. (and I’m sensitive to the fact that we’re talking about American ‘poor’ — not insinuating that somehow that’s the global standard of poverty)
17. Things that are necessary, that you pay extra money for? They pay for those things in time. You paid extra for a car to drive to work. It takes you say, 20 mins to get there, 20 mins back. They pay 5 bucks a day to take the bus, which takes them an hour to travel the same distance, and an hour back. Not counting the time they spend just waiting for the bus.
So, every month, assuming they are lucky enough to work full time, they spend $100 and lose 40 hours to transportation alone. That is an entire extra week of work per month to just get to work.
18. My work shoes are a pair of black trainers I got at a thrift store. They are falling apart. They leak. They give me blisters. I work 16+ hour shifts on my feet. But I can’t afford better, comfy shoes that will last because they require a lump sum of money up front. So instead I end up buying cheap shoes every couple of months I walk through them.
Quality costs money, and poor people don’t have money, so in order to survive we just consume shit and make do until it breaks and then get the cheapest deal we can because new trainers are a luxury even at a fiver. We feel guilt for buying it even though it’s essential.
19. Telling someone to work hard, doesn’t mean they can escape their situation. There are cleaners on minimum wage that work harder, and longer, than 99% of the population, but they’re still on minimum wage, so can barely cover the rent.