Listen up, Tumblr. There are some cold hard facts about being poor that you need to know before you try to talk to me or my family or any other poor person about anything involving money, food, jobs, housing or healthcare.
- Being poor is expensive as fuck. Living paycheck-to-paycheck means you can’t shell out lots of money at once for a reliable car, so you have to buy a used car that might break down more often. Or maybe you can’t pay monthly insurance costs so you end up with a $2000 emergency room bill. Renting costs more in the long run than owning. And so on.
- Asking for money doesn’t fucking hurt anybody. As long as you ask in a way that is not abusive or coercive, you should not feel ashamed if you sometimes have to ask for money. ESPECIALLY if you do it via crowdsourcing or some other method that doesn’t put pressure on any one person. Don’t you dare shame a poor person for asking for help taking care of themselves or their family.
- Sometimes poor people have nice things. Yeah, I fucking said it. I have a nice TV and some game consoles that I bought when money was less tight. In fact, anytime a poor person gets an unexpected sum of money, like a birthday gift or a tax return, it often goes to something like that. Know why? Because we know we might never get another chance to buy the thing. And being resourceful people, we also know that if we have a chance to buy a nice thing now it will cost less in the long run than buying a neverending series of things that break after a month. We also get really fucking tired of always looking like poor people to everyone else. It sucks always being the house nobody wants to visit because somebody else can afford an XBOX 360 and you can’t. Finally, you don’t fucking know where that nice thing a poor person has came from. Maybe it was a gift, or somebody gave them a Best Buy gift card and they bought a laptop. Maybe a rich person was giving it away on Craigslist. Maybe the person wasn’t always poor but shit got hard recently. Maybe they actually saved up pennies for a year to buy it. You don’t know, and it’s not actually your business anyway.
- Healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food. I’m not going to even argue this point, I’m just going to fucking shout it. HEALTHY FOOD IS MORE EXPENSIVE THAN UNHEALTHY FOOD.
- It’s none of your business why someone is poor. Maybe they have a disability, maybe unemployment is high in their field, maybe they are part of a group that has been socioeconomically oppressed for generations and you don’t just fucking pull your bootstraps up out of that. I’ve never met anybody who was poor just for the hell of it. But you know what? Some people are poor because they made irresponsible decisions or they’re addicted to drugs or gambling. Those people are still people and they still deserve food and shelter.
- You can’t always get what you need at a thrift store or garage sale, and if you can, it still costs money. Some people have never actually set foot in a thrift store, so let me tell you what they’re like. There are rows and rows of clothes that are ugly or have holes in them or don’t fit you. And by ugly, I mean ugly-sweater-party ugly, like if I wore that to work I’d get fired ugly. If you’re REALLY lucky you might find ONE OR TWO things that fit and won’t fall apart after one washing. If you’re fat, trans or having other specific clothing needs it’s even worse. These are clothes that people rejected, and most of the time it was for a reason. Then there’s a lot of sketchy appliances from 1973 that somebody cleaned out of their mom’s garage after she died, toys for children 3 and under but fuck you if you have a ten-year-old, etc. They can be surprisingly good places to find books and Disney VHS tapes, but that’s about it.
- For similar reasons, things like Freecycle are spotty as hell. I live in a major metropolitan area. Currently, the things that are available on my local Freecycle list include an automatic pet water dish, various non-essential baby supplies, a “microwave splatter cover”, and a couple of office chairs. This is pretty representative of what is generally offered. It’s not a great place to get things you specifically need.
- There is no such thing as the welfare queen. This could be an entire post by itself, but let me give you a quick run-down of what ‘welfare’ usually consists of. This varies by state, but the aid available in Massachusetts includes food stamps ($200 a month max, doesn’t buy things like toilet paper, diapers or pet food), Emergency Aid for Elders, Disabled and Children ($300/month max if you qualify, you obviously have to be elderly, disabled or have children, and have to have almost nothing in your bank account), MassHealth insurance (actually pretty good but the application process can be long, and the state penalizes you by withholding some of your tax return if you go too long without insurance), and Section 8 housing vouchers, for which there is a waiting list of a year or more. If you manage to qualify for EVERYTHING, and you don’t have any kids, you might manage to scrape together enough to live off of. But barely. And MA is one of the better states for stuff like this.
There is probably a lot more shit I could tell you about what it’s like to be poor, but I’m tired and achy and so done with this shit, so I’m gonna stop here.
i agree with this completely and i’d like to add:
- just because someone has a job doesn’t mean they can afford the costs of living. i work full time at walmart, which is, if you didn’t know, the #1 employer in the united states. full time in my area means i get roughly 33 hours a week, and i make 50 cents above minimum wage. everyone i work with over the age of 30 has more than two jobs. one woman is in her 60s and has five jobs, two of which are technically considered full time, and she STILL lives in an apartment with her husband(who also works). if something happened and i had to fend for myself tomorrow, i would be looking for homeless shelters.
- unemployment doesn’t equal laziness. this is something that i can’t stress enough. some people are injured or have disabilities, some have multiple children that are too young for school, and some just can’t find a job (which is perfectly reasonable as unemployment is the highest its ever been). my grandmother lived off her health insurance, due to her frequent cancer relapses, and if she got a job she wouldn’t receive benefits from her insurance provider. my mom is a highly qualified accountant and it took her two years to find a job after getting laid off. if you have a job, you are very lucky, and don’t forget that.