Living Paycheck to Paycheck
The thing with living paycheck to paycheck or with being poor is that you don’t have money. Everyone who is reading this is probably scratching their heads because it seems really obvious. And it is very obvious. No money=no money to spend. But there seems to be a subset of the population that doesn’t really understand what that really means.
What do I mean?
Take myself for example, by the current financial calculators I am classified as “low-income”. Not middle class- the one below that;). I, (thank G-d!) do not live below the poverty line but I am, by definition, poor. I do not like being poor so I am working on changing that. I work hard and I am slowly working my way up in my company. As a “side hustle” I decided to start a blog. Now, this is not a woe-is-me post but merely an example. I have not made any money from this blog (yet!) but I hopefully will. But that takes time, and not only time but money. There are hosting fees, for example. Now, I orginally started this blog using one hosting site. But when renewal came around, their prices were too expensive for me. So I decided to switch hosts to save on costs. This procedure requires more technical skill than my own rudimentary skills, and I couldn’t afford to hire someone to do it for me, so I had to rebuild my site. Instead of taking the time (this is all in addition to my full-time job and mothering duties) to build up my site,. Increase my reach, monetize my site etc. I had to spend time recreating the work I had already done. This all took double the amount of time because my computer is very slow and glitchy. This is because I have a very bad laptop. It constantly freezes and opening an internet tab takes approximately ten minutes. You can imagine how long it takes to find photos for my posts! I can’t afford another computer right now, even as an investment.
Which brings me to my point: poor people can’t really invest.
Investment is inherently risky. I can spend money on a new laptop in the hope that it will bring me more money but I really can’t be sure of that. I don’t know if I will make the money back-especially not in the time frame that I would need it. So I struggle with my old, creaky laptop and hopefully will slowly make the money to be able to buy a new one. Even though buying a new after laptop will help me make more money, of that doesn’t happen-the risk is to large for me to swallow. What’s a few hundred dollars, you ask? A lot. It’s a lot. It will literally take me MONTHS to set aside that amount of money.
Buying in Bulk- This is common advice that I see given to help people save money on food. The cost savings can be huge. BUT…. that is assuming that you have the money to lay out for it. Many don’t. Many people can’t lay out a large amount of cash-or blow their entire food budget on one ingredient that will save them money in the future. It’s too risky. They may not have the money to pay it back. The cost-savings may not turn out as great as initially perceived. Things go bad, things drop on the floor. Even if the investment is worth it, the emotional energy it takes to remember to “pay-back” the $5 you saved on rice can be too much for many people.
Why am I writing all this?
This is not a pity post or a sympathy post. This is an explaining post. This is explaining why we (the poor people of the world) are not taking your very good financial advice. Your financial advice is great but we can’t afford to take it. We can’t buy equipment for our side hustle. We can’t buy 3 months of rice in one go even though its cheaper. We can’t buy membership at Costco. We don’t have the money to buy this season for the next. We can’t buy solar panels or invest in large-minimum balance accounts. We want to. Maybe one day we will. It just is going to take us a longer time to get there.
Meanwhile, we are doing the best we can to stay out of debt and maybe build some savings. And maybe, just maybe, buy a new computer one day.
4 thoughts on “What They Don’t Understand….”
Very useful and enlightening post. Great to hear the other side!
Exactly! I’m also wondering how people are buying LOTS of TP, etc. I admire you for working hard, and I’m sure in time your bank account will get to the point you can buy a new computer.
Very informative. I often struggled with conversations at work because all the women I worked with had dual incomes and could afford things I couldn’t as a single income earner. They went on vacation when I couldn’t, they had a house and I made do without the renovations my condo needed because they were too costly. But I still had enough money to do dinners out, or get my nails done. So I was lower than them, but clearly there are others worse off than I was and this post has reminded me of that. Thank you for sharing.
I don’t mean to be rude, but while it isn’t easy, it is possible to buy in bulk when you are poor. When my husband was in grad school and I was juggling 3 part-time jobs, I would go to the grocery with a calculator and knew to the penny what I could spend. When buying in bulk, you have to start really, really, really, small – tiny even. Buying the extra rice might mean not buying cheese that week or having an extra meal without meat. However, it also meant that I wouldn’t have to buy rice as soon.
We didn’t have an extra freezer just the one above the fridge, but when Turkey was on sale for Thanksgiving, each year, I bought the largest one I could afford and froze the leftovers. We had turkey about once a week all winter. It meant we didn’t have some of the other traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dishes, but it was worth it.
I made these kinds of trade offs every week for a few years, but eventually, I could buy a little extra of something on sale – maybe just an extra bag of frozen spinach or a couple cans of beans – without giving up something else.
It took time and organization but eventually, I was able to stockpile non-perishables when they were on sale and then only purchase sale items, produce and dairy most weeks. Thirty years later we are in much better shape financially, but I still shop this way and it has saved us so much money over the years – enough to build and then re-build a reasonable emergency fund. The extra bulk items are also a type of emergency fund. Many years later when our finances took a large unexpected hit, I had enough non-perishable foods and household goods in the house to last our family for nearly 6 weeks. It took 3 years for our finances to recover and to rebuild the system of bulk buying. Another few years to rebuild the emergency fund.
As for the other, larger investments like a new laptop, sometimes we still have to “make do” with what we have far longer than is comfortable. Sometimes things are better and we don’t have to keep making do, but we choose to in order to afford other things we need or want more. I know it is hard but don’t give up. Eventually, life usually does get better.