On Being Poor

I just found this article called The 5 Stupidest Habits You Develop Growing Up Poor: http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-5-stupidest-habits-you-develop-growing-up-poor/ and found it quite interesting.  I expected it to be funny… instead I realized that I’m not as far from feeling poor as I pretend to be.

For those readers who have not experienced being poor the article might come across as sarcastic or stupid… for me it was eye opening.  I do every. single. one. of those 5 Stupid Habits!  It is not so much that we grew up poor… it’s that trying to learn how to be a self sufficient adult in the worst economy since the Great Depression is hard.  I frequently feel poor.  I finally found a job that makes enough money that I shouldn’t feel poor, but in the year that I’ve had this job my husband has quit a job, been laid off, and been let go… Now he is having a hard time finding another job that’s not in a call center, and he’s not going back to a call center because that’s what he tried last year and obviously it didn’t work! We have been getting by with a hairpin tight budget and the help of our credit cards, which are there for emergencies after all.

I was quite fortunate when I graduated college not to have any student loans.  I managed that by:

1) Having a scholarship with so many requirements that  it felt like a job but also paid incredibly well and gave me great opportunities.

2) Working one-two jobs the whole time I was in school until my last semester.

3) Going to a State University instead of the far off expensive University that I couldn’t even afford to apply to, let alone attend without a full ride scholarship like I had always dreamed of doing.

What I didn’t manage to do was find a job in CollegeTown after graduation that paid enough for me to stay.  So I tried for five months and accepted the first job that was offered to me… and it was in another city, so I moved into a garage so I could work there.  In one of my earlier posts I mention that the animals I took care of ate better then I did… I wasn’t joking.  They had fresh rotisserie chicken, rice, and gourmet dog food.  I had pot pies, dollar bags of pasta, and ramen.

Like the article explains when you finally begin to crawl your way out of “being poor” you, well I, found that I wasn’t well equipped to live with money.  If I get money for a birthday or a holiday, I use it to buy something “I wouldn’t buy for myself” because I can’t rationalize buying the new clothes/books/games/or fancy dinner when we’re living so close to the edge.  It sucks to buy your groceries on your credit card because you’re afraid you’ll need the cash in your account to make your car payment.

We are trying to get better about budgeting and such but it is quite discouraging how fast credit card debt climbs and how slowly it goes down.  I had a credit card that was over $3000 when I moved to BigCity.  We finally paid it off recently!  We did it with the generous financial contributions of our tax return, holiday money, and a mentality of JUST PAY THE DAMN THING AND EAT RAMEN FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS!  We did it! Woo!  FINALLY! We spent a blissful four days dreaming about how fast we were going to pay off my husband’s car now that we had so much “extra money.”

And then of course life hit and now that same card has crept back up to $1871.46 in less then 6 months.  It’s not that we go out all the time and buy frivolous things… it’s that after years of “not being able to afford to go to the doctor or dentist” we finally went and SURPRISE: I needed 2 root canals and 4 fillings and my husband needed 7 fillings.  I had one root canal and am getting the fillings done next month and my husband is getting his fillings done this month.  Also, his car broke down again.  I hate playing what I call “Car Roulette.”  Car Roulette is when your car breaks and the mechanic spins a giant Repair Wheel before telling you how much it’s going to cost to patch up the car this time.  Bonus points:  routine maintenance that should get done soon.  Add to that the rising cost of electricity now that it’s summer… We’re hoping he gets a job soon!

Bright side:  The dentist I found was EXCELLENT and it was the best root canal I’ve ever had.  (For the record, it was my third root canal.)  It was so not-as-awful-as-I-expected, that I’m not as scared about the next one (which I will have when we can afford it).

Another Bright Side: This too will pass.  We have made it through tougher times together and someday we’ll look back on all this and laugh.

Holiday Highlights

Do I write to remember?  If I write, I will remember.  Do I want to?

Work has been a struggle.  The monotonous reality of bin stocking firmly settled into a draining pallor that clings to my life.

I have a job.  I make $10 an hour.  It is brain rotting, soul crushing, and boring.  I tell myself many things to make it through the 40 hours a week I am required to be at work.  It seriously sucks ass and I officially HATE it!  I haven’t been writing because I had such high hopes and instead I was, in fact, duped.

(Author’s Note:  Finally I realized the truth.  It took me two months to admit it to myself but even longer before I could admit it to anyone else.  The worst part was about two weeks after staring the Inventory job I received a job offer from a big retail chain in CollegeTown and I turned it down because I still believed this job would be like they said in the interview once I was “out of training.”  It wasn’t and I was no longer in training. Wondering about how my life would be different if I had accepted that job and left the garage is one of those pivotal decisions I occasionally wonder about.  Just how different would my life be right now if I had made a different decision at that particular junction?)

Unfortunately, I am grateful to have even this crappy job.  I’m positively affecting the universe in a very direct way…right?  The best part of my job…?  The days off- Thanksgiving, Christmas, AND New Years!  (All AMAZING by the way!  Nice Thanksgiving with the family south of CollegeTown with Aunt.  Dinner itself was a great happy memory.  I’ve chosen to forget BoardingSchoolCousin’s bull on his way to boarding school.  Christmas was also great, if too short.  I was Roommate’s Hero of Christmas because I found Zhu Zhu pets!!! I found $300 worth for her grand kids!  She was too busy to track them down because of her busy flight schedule but I had extra time and found and bought them for her!  I even wrapped them because I’m a spazz and love wrapping presents.  She said I was the hero of Christmas! I was happy to help!  I facilitated my parents gifts to each other with help from Boyfriend: colored XBox controllers!  They were a huge success and surprise.  I spent all the money I had plus $350 for Roommate on credit (that thankfully she just paid me back this morning), to try and facilitate a happy Christmas for as many people as possible.  I feel successful and happy!  This is the first time I haven’t been a student during Christmas and I have a full time job so I could afford to buy gifts for people!

My Mom and I got to go on one of our special shopping trips and we had a great time finding specials and thoughtful and unique gifts at Old World Imports!  It was a great gift and the Babies (dogs) had lots of fun too!  One of my favorite parts of Christmas was actually the week before.  Boyfriend came up and my Dad, Boyfriend, and I all made Christmas cookies.  We made them all- all the delicious recipes from my childhood that have been passed down since my Dad’s family moved to America from Germany!  It was amazing and my parents and Boyfriend got along so well.  It makes my heart sing with joy to remember… I didn’t have to miss anyone because my family was all in one place!

There was a negative incident with the car (’98 Chevy Blaizir with 4WD) on the way to HomeTown though… deadly storms across the state and I drove home anyway.  It was stupid to do.  I was foolishly overconfident and so lucky.  I skidded off the road 100ft into the snow and went backwards up a hill off the left side of the highway from where I had been driving in the right lane.  The tire blew out and it caused me to lose control of the car and the other tire went flat when I went off the road.  I was terrified but uninjured.  The car worked ok.  I was lucky not to roll the car or hit someone else… I was luck the idle arm connecting that tire had been fixed.  I’m lucky I didn’t go off the right side of the road which was a drop off point. I managed to get the car back on the road and drove 20 miles up the mountain and through town towards my parents house.  About two miles from my house the car just felt like it was driving wrong and the tires sounded really bad and I pulled into the parking lot of my old elementary school and called my dad to rescue me.  I got out and saw the damage to the tires and freaked out even more because I hadn’t realized just how bad they were and I’d been driving for so long on them.  There was no where safe for me to pull off and stop before I got into town and by the time I got to town I was so close to being home I might as well have kept going, so I did.  My dad came and met me at the school and changed one of the tires to the spare and added air to the other and I drove it the last few miles hole while he followed me with his hazard lights on.  The next day we took it into one of those tire places to get repared.  My Dad is so great at bargaining!  We got two tires for $67!!!  Yay lifetime warranty!  They initially were only going to pay to replace the tire that blew out.  Then my Dad pointed out that the other tire blew out as a result of going off the road from the blown out tire and they relented and fixed them both!  Boyfriend is buying me the front two tires as a New Year’s present and because he’s awesome!  Now all the tires will be good!

New Year’s was pretty fun.  It was the first time ever that I was not designated driver or with my family.  I got roaring drunk on five whole mixed drinks!  Boyfriend and his Twin and I all went downtown to a new bar in CollegeTown.  I told Boyfriend that we are moving forward in life and I don’t want to bring in the New Year with old “friends” aka people who treat me like crap.  He agreed wholeheartedly and so we celebrated with just us and his Twin, who is awesome!  We get along because we are both fiercely protective of Boyfriend. (I’ve decided life is hard enough without surrounding yourself with jerks and people who don’t believe in you and who always try to bring you down.)  The bar was lots of fun and I know this is going to be our year!  I’m ready!  I’m ready for the great job, the great place with Boyfriend in BigCity.  I’m finally ready to be engaged.  I’m ready to be happy. My New Year’s resolution: Be Happy.  That is my goal!