Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Belt Tightening Exercises-Fun or Preparedness

This post might make me unpopular among some readers, but it is how I feel. Poor people get a bad wrap.I'm tired of the rhetoric. It must be their choices are bad. They have too many kids they can't afford. They don't work hard enough. If a family needs to utilize public assistance programs, then so many people feel bound to analyze and judge their food purchases, any purchases. Snarky politicians out to slash budgets will tout budget anecdotes as the answer to the problems of the poor. "Look at this family featured on the news," they'll reference. "They feed their family of six for under $300 a month. Food stamps are way too generous and just encourage poor buying habits." Even though research has shown that drug testing for  public assistance benefits costs more than any potential cost savings to disallow a person to receive benefits, weekly I still see the meme pop up on Facebook feeds. I disagree, but understand why people feel entitled to get angry. Life is expensive and feeling like someone else is getting a free ride is unpleasant. True, some people are poor because they perpetually self sabotage, but I do not think that is most.

Neighborhoods or whole communities will rail against affordable housing coming to their town, worried it will bring in all sorts of problems. They worry property values will decrease. I get it. We  bought our house in a new neighborhood that was originally designated as 90% single family, but then a change happened and the amount of duplexes and four-plexes went up by five times. We know it impacted the housing prices in our neighborhood. Still, everyone needs and deserves a safe place to raise a family, come home at night to sleep, and live in retirement.

I do not want to be poor. I have lived on a very low income in the past, but have never truly experienced poverty. In part though, I worry about how my family would cope should the worst hit us financially. How low could our living expenses go? How long would our savings last? Could we sell our house and find a less expensive house, putting some cash back into our account to stretch our savings longer? Would I be able to feed, clean, and clothe my family for a month on an extremely austere budget? I hope I am not coming across as pompous when I write about my various financial challenges. I don't want to look like the snarky folks I mention that  make flippant statements about how easy  it would be to belt tighten. I do these challenges on occasion, and in effort to save more for other goals. I know I am not doing it because there is no money.

 It saddens me to know there are seniors choosing between healthy food and medicine. It scares me to think that as well as we have prepared and with my rather good insurance, if each of had expenses to our max out of pocket, we'd save very little-imagine that when DD2 is in college and we are stretching the budget for tuition or once we are on a fixed income? I have the choice right now to challenge my spending patterns.  While I like the fun of a self imposed target, I also see it as preparedness. Some day, the worst could happen and it might not be a choice.

39 comments:

  1. you've made some very good points,everyone has a story, how they come to be at their station in life, its really scary how quickly a persons life can change,, do the best we can, don't be wasteful, try and be a bit prepared and I think I always believe we shouldn't try to think to much about what might happen, we mustn't borrow worry, we just have to do the best we can, thats all.I worry all the time what would happen if there was a financial collapse, very scary.

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    1. I agree that borrowing worry is not going to do me good, but I still feel very fortunate, and a need to be in cotrol as best I can. I hope I always remember that everyone has a story, and it is not my right to judge how that story played out for soeone else. Thanks you for joining the conversation.

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  2. Yes, those on assistance do get a bad rap. People do deserve to have their basic needs met, and we should never dehumanize those who need assistance doing this. I get angered at the cycle I see which perpetuates poor financial management...whether it's the family happy to take free lunch, but are buying dirt bikes, flat screens and the like, while going from rental to rental. You can talk until you're blue in the face, but this won't change. Apparently, basic needs aren't so basic in this country. On the other hand, I want to weep for the addicts and mentally ill, and that is why I support one (and only this one) food bank in the area, and by proxy, my church, which will outreach to those struggling to cling to the margins of society.

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    1. Sure, some people don't get the difference between wants and needs, but as you said, people deserve their basic needs met, and with dignity. Kowing where my donatios go feels like I am helping my neighborhs and friends so I see your point aobut a specifc place to donate.

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  3. I've lived in poverty in childhood, not of our making. We moved to Canada from the USA when I was six months old. Dad left when I was 4 back to the states. Mom was left in a country with no family, no job and two kids under 12. She got a job, had the neighbor lady(who was poorer than us, 8 kids and widow) take care of us when she went to work, stayed in Canada. I had a deadbeat dad who paid nothing toward my upbringing - Mom made it work. It is not always because people made poor choices. We lost heat a couple times due to inability to pay heating bills, had bare cupboards in towns that had no foodbanks. I remember my Mom crying one time because she had no money to buy groceries(I was 13). We finally figured out she had $15 in a chequing account so we went to the grocery store and bloody well figured out a way to stretch that $15 - spaghetti, bred and potatoes with some fruit. We lived on what she had canned most of that month. People need to be careful to judge - anyone could end up in a similar situation

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    1. Kudos to your mom - what an amazing lady! Anna

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    2. Thak you so much for sharing your families sotry. As Laurie said, we all have one, and some are tragic. Your mo is amazing.

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    3. Agreed, education is key, even if having to incur major debt for it. I get tired of all the complaining about how expensive college is. Yes, it is, but it is still the best method for a shot at a better life. The education will pay off in the end in so many ways, not just monetarily. There are many who argue against this and in my experience it almost always comes from someone who hasn't had any more education after high school (surprise!). They are almost always drowning in debt. I think it's dangerous for people to advocate not going to college or some sort of trade school. They are almost certainly condemning that person to a lifetime of struggle and minimum wage jobs where they will be among the first to be layed off. I think if more people were made aware of the statistics I think it would convince them.

      I was raised along with my 3 siblings by my single-parent illiterate immigrant mother who had less than a high school diploma. Talk about struggle. She worked several jobs, day and night, every day, for decades for our survival. We would go days without food. My siblings and I learned from that and now we are able to return the favor and take care of our mother without much worry about finances. All thanks to higher education... and mom. Mother's are warriors.

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    4. Oops, My comment above was replying to Out My Window's comment!

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    5. I agree learning specific and real skills through additional education and training is a key. Also, though, is having a safety net of support to help pick up pieces when things fall apart. I'm not advocating for a welfare state, but ensuring there is a social safety net in place to help when things are total crap seems like the humane thing for a rich country to be able to provide.

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  4. I agree with your assessment. I lived on social assistance for a year-I was in teacher's college and a single parent. I couldn't work AND attend school at the same time. I will be forever grateful for the help I received.

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    1. why we need to invest in people. Kazi is lucky to have such a determined mom.

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  5. I too have lived in poverty after I was married. I was grateful for the Wick program and energy assistance. It was a way to tide us over to better times. My saving grace was skills and many of the poor don't have these.

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    1. And that is what perpetuates the cycle: Lack of education. You learned these saving skills somewhere along the line, as did I, and we used them to get us through the rough times--and yes, I had lean, lean times. If people want to break this cycle, then I daresay judgement is necessary. Not, that is, to judge who is worthy of assistance, again, we all deserve to have our basic needs met. But judging behavior patterns, to determine which ones are conducive to bettering the situation. Food assistance/daycare while a single mother is in school to earn a degree so she can then support your kids? You bet. Of course, I'd like to have seen a comprehensive life skills class long before anybody got desperate. But, you can bet your bottom dollar that when I see adults crying poor mouth, grifting, and then squandering their resources, I am going to get annoyed, just as I do at my kids. To that end, if my kids blow the I put for the year in their lunch accounts in the first four weeks of school, then refuse to take a lunch, they're going to go hungry at lunch for the rest of the year, and have nobody to blame but themselves. If they don't get up in time to eat breakfast, AND don't take a lunch, AND have depleted their accounts, they're going to be really, really hungry, and it sucks to be them, (and yes, I've said this.) Not my fault--I gave them all the tools, which they either used improperly, or failed to use at all.

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    2. I think you both are making my poits about my seld challenges being more than just a game.I remember an early career job working with een moms. I feel like I know which ones were going to move on-poverty might be only situational as the were learning great skills that kept their famiies just above rock bottom, despite horrible situations. then there were those that living on public assistance was just a given.

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    3. Also perpetuating the cycle is not graduating high school/having job skills and having children w/out the benefit of a stable home(marriage if that's part of your construct)and being financially able to care for another human being.
      43 million in the US are currently in poverty and 15 million of those are children.
      Kids need to have the ideas of finishing school, getting a job and waiting to have kids until you are able to support them drilled into their heads. And by making bad life choices in your teens/20's handicap you so badly for the rest of your life.

      The Brookings Institute came up with 3 simple rules to follow in life to get out of poverty which I think are quite sensible yet seem to be so hard for people to stick to......
      https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/three-simple-rules-poor-teens-should-follow-to-join-the-middle-class/

      Discuss among yourselves....

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    4. True, true, true. I drill in my kids' heads that adults who are not in college do not live with me, nor will I support anybody else's kids but my own. Education is the best route out of poverty. How do so many not know this?

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    5. Unfortunately,humans make bad choices and if there is no support system to help pick them up, what might be a minor blip on a middle class teen can thrust a poor teen into a perpetual life of poverty.Not to be argumentative, but unless it happens within our own family, no one can state unequivocally what would or would not happen. My sister was a teen mom. She had the fortune to live with parents that did not kick her out, had siblings that helped with child care so she could finish work and school, a friend of the family that got her a job in the hospital. Later,through her job she was sent on specialized training, later married and had two more children,living a very successful, if not modest life.

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  6. There is a wonderful card game called The Great Dalmuti that was created as an physical illustration about the cycle of poverty and excessive wealth. We have played it a few times when the entire family is together and begin the game each time with everyone in the same position as they were before. I have been the Peon (lowest position in the game) for about 3 years now. Like poverty, it is virtually impossible to climb out of the position. I would advise every single person I know to play it just to see how privilege and poverty are repeating cycles.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation Anne. I have added it to my wish list for our board game evenings. Anna

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    2. I think I will splurge for the cabin. A good dose of reality-even if only pseudo, is in order for a few family members.

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  7. I have a post coming up post wedding about the fact that I'm privileged to be able to be frugal. I mean I have ten dollars extra to buy pantry stock ups, I never had to work two jobs so I had time to cook from scratch and sew, and I had parents of priveledge both in terms of education and money. I volunteer with working poor families, and none of them are poor, by choice, or by laziness.

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    1. I'll look forward to reading it. My privelege comes from having the choice to work outside the home. Choice is a privelege isn't it?

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  8. I was the youngest of 7 (no contraception in those days) and just a little girl when my dad had the first of many heart attacks. He was unable to work for quite some time. I came home one day and the car had gone and when I asked where it was he said he "didn't like it any more so they sold it". Found out many years later that at that time there was no sick pay so they had to sell the car to put food on the table. They were hard working and eventually got back on their feet but I will never forget that feeling of insecurity.

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    1. I never felt true poverty, but there had to be times growing up where there was little keeping our family afloat-number 9 of 10 kids. This is where my creative meals and cooking stems from i hnd sight. I don't ever recall going to bed hungry due to no food. Maybe my parents or older siblings did though.

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  9. I thought that was a really thought out post. I volunteer at an elementary school and some people don't understand why I buy big boxes of goldfish crackers out of my pocket for the classroom because "their parents should be providing their snack" - yes, they probably should, but is it the child's fault their parent can't or won't send in a snack? All they know is that they are hungry...I will CONTINUE to buy goldfish crackers (wishing it could be much more) but you wouldn't believe the number of people that have snarky comments about it.

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    1. Your thoughtfullness willl be remembered by those kids their whole life. I bet several will do the same for those they see in need-quietly, and depsite finger and tongue wagging from others. I've seen my daughter and friends pool resources on field trip days for the child who forgot/didn't have a lunch, part of why I always pack extras-someone ill be without and I would be devastated to see a child hungry when there probably is food waste from other lunches. The sharing was done quietly and the collaborative spirit just seemed to be the norm. Who knows if money was an issue or just forgetfullness. Either way, helping out another human being is a rich school lesson.

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  10. Oh, and in answer to the title of your post: I think belt tightening is fun, with the added benefit of keeping me prepared/financial stable. My kids might disagree from time to time, but I see signs of common sense in a couple of them. My mother taught me that you should never let anybody tell you how to spend your money, but when you are spending other people's money, you damn well better be ready to give an account.

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    1. I hope my thrifty ways and planning have rubbed off on my kids-I think it mus thave. They have simple wants and understand choices must be made-show choir or a closet of new clothes (when old ones and hand me downs fit and are perfetly fine).

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  11. There are people here, in my country, who would laugh loudly at your worries, your frugality practice, your planning etc... They live, and live well, on state allowances, very generous ones it seems, as these people have everything a modern family has and even more, including cars,e-bycicles, i-phones etc...Of course, this reality is likely to arouse hatred and friction, it also poses a question of the existence of the state in the long run, but till then...

    The kids of these families will be exactly like their parents whether given an education or not. Be careful about charity; there's a lot of corruption involved in this activity.

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    1. The US is a very self sufficient focused state-health care, retirement-all most privately funded if you are fortunate enough tot have job and means to do both. Those without, will do without, despite there being a very loose safety net. Yes, there is some abuse, but I think most use in the hardest of times while trying to get back tot he self sufficiency.

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  12. And, I just published a list of food I chose from a food bank! I really stand out at a food bank since I do bathe, wash my hair, and speak well.

    I faced things no one reading ever faced. Then, while in school was stricken with one condition, then another. It is impossible for me to work, but the brain is still going as well as ever.

    I did not ask for this medical problem and do not buy things beyond my means. A friend bought the computer and I paid him back. So, it appears I have a luxury to anyone that wants to pick apart my existence.

    I told my children when they were little (3 or 4) and on up to get an education first, do things, then get married and have babies. Usually, this mini lecture came up when a child playing with a doll said something about her having a baby. Or, growing up and getting married. "First, get an education." It worked because my daughter went to college, quit, later, much later married and had two children. The son did not marry until he was 37, with a house, and teacher for about ten years. He had two children. The youngest who teaches first grade has never married and probably won't be having children. That's okay. She will not face the pressures the uneducated masses in this town put on their children--"make me a grandmother" is all they want. I am proud they did not sabotage their lives with children too soon or no education.

    I am embarrassed I get $22 worth of food stamps, need help with utilities, and go to the food bank. I present myself differently. You would not immediately assume I am a food bank recipient because of my dress, speech, and attitudes. But, I have found other educated, older, professionals who fit the same mold of not appearing to get aid.

    We were in poverty for a while when I was a child. I did everything right to rise above that, and I did rise. But, circumstances have not helped me stay above poverty.

    I live with books, technology, and trips to the theatre. Theatre tickets were birthday gifts. I don't starve! I am as frugal as ever. I did not have to learn to be frugal since I learned it as a child and even was frugal when I did not have to be.

    I loved my chances to change lives when I taught GED. I knew I was the last chance for some of the teens and adults to rise out of poverty and have a better life and be a better role model for their children. I, too, believe education is the key to success. It may not be a four-year college, but it could be trade school.

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    1. I read your post and think your choices were very good. You will get many nutritious and flavorful meals from your selections.

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  13. What a hot topic! In fact, it is one that I was discussing just the other day with a close friend. What started the conversation was her mentioning how little her adult daughter was getting for food stamps, and that it just didn't go very far. She then went on to tell me her daughter was doing X and buying Z kind of thing. While I agree that basic needs should be met, wouldn't we all like for someone else to fund our grocery needs so we can do X and buy Z? No, I still wouldn't. Unless I were desperate, I still prefer to fend for myself.

    My sister worked her way through college as a cashier at a grocery store. I always remember how mad she would get seeing people use food stamps for expensive cuts of meat, etc. I often think food stamps should work more like the WIC program where only certain items are permitted.

    I feel that society needs to do more than simply give a handout to those in need. Teaching money management should be a requirement to receive assistance. I get that this won't work for every person needing help, but it could be beneficial for many...like the daughter of my friend.

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    1. I think we may be differing on opinion. We talk out one side of our mouth that we don't want to be a nanny state, but then on the other, expect poor people to have to ask permission for any of their choices if they dare to use public assistance. WIC is a great program, designed for specific purposes for specific nutritional needs.Granted, some see a public benefit as free money,and may abuse. but most I would imagine are using as a temporary stop gap while they try and get their families to move forward self sufficiently. I don't hear these same folks screaming about abusing the system by poor people screaming though about rich people manipulating power to further benefit their bank accounts. Apparently getting rich off the rest of us is perfectly wonderful, but don't you dare eat a piece of steak if you accepted public assistance. Sorry-I'm adding to my rant.

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    2. I knew I was going to annoy or push some folks comfort with my, as a former school mate on FB described, my "leftist liberal BS". I'm good with that, and feel we all have a right to our opinion.

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    3. It's all good. We can still be friends. :) I'm all for providing basic needs. I just don't feel that society owes them more than that.

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    4. Of course friends! My blog is for anyone and everyone to weigh in on. I just think it might really suck to be poor and always deny oneself anything nice, and that perpetuates a cycle of feeling less worthy. That feeling is unhealthy, and demoralizing, and adds to the stigma. While some might be fueled to increase their efforts to get out of poverty, for others, it can be a fight just to get through the day when you feel so down trodden.

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