Thriving In Poverty

By Jonathan Feldman on February 25, 2017.
Jonathan measures a Hemlock tree before treating the tree for Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) during an AmeriCorps service day in September 2016.

This is my third AmeriCorps term of service and I have finally figured out the science to living in poverty, mostly…

First and foremost, there will always be stressful moments throughout your life when you have little to no financial support from your family or friends.  What if your car blows a tire in Glacier National Park?  What if your dog gets bitten by snake on a hike?  What if you have a family emergency and you need to fly to New York?  There a countless things that can go arise and your measly $250 a week pay check can’t cover emergency expenses.  These are some tips I’ve come up with along the way to help you make sure you can survive and thrive when living on the poverty line.

1.      A good man once told me, “never trust someone who doesn’t take free food, they’ve got something to hide.”

2.      Live in a cheap house.  Get six roommates and cram into a four or five bedroom house.  Look for room shares that aren’t asking for a security deposit.  Always keep an ear to the ground for rentable RV’s, house sitters for cabin owners in Florida, and property owners that will allow you to build a lean-to or set up a spike site.

3.      Always put money away, not matter how much.  Maybe you don’t need to spend the night downtown or buy a new scarf.  Instead you have just saved $10.00 to $20.00.

4.      Find work.  It’s unreasonable to think that you can get by without a second job or doing odd jobs on the side.  A second income will go a long way even if you only work 15 or 20 hours a week.

5.      Pay your bills immediately.  You just got paid?  Great!  Pay your bills.  A late fee will only make your bills more expensive.

6.      You don’t need Wifi or cable.  There’s a good chance your workplace has free Wifi.  Now you can download Netflix programs to watch offline.  Buy a cheap DVD player from a pawnshop and $5 movie bundles from Walmart, Best Buy, or rent some from the library.

7.      If you are considering getting a credit card, use it exclusively for gas and eating at restaurants.  Look for credit companies that allow you to earn cash back (gas and restaurants garnish the most over time) and have promotions like no interest for the six months to a year.

8.      Regularly maintain your car, I cannot stress this enough.  Add Sea Foam to the gas tank, vacuum lines, and crank case every time you get an oil change.  Change your oil every 5,000-7,500 miles; it has been proven that 3,000 miles is excessive and sludge build up won’t occur in your engine until at least 8,000 miles.  Check the air pressure in your tires every single month.  Regular maintenance will improve your gas mileage significantly, increase the longevity of your motor, and help you spot issues before they become a big problem down the road.  Life Pro Tip:  Learning to change your oil will save you A LOT of money in life.  Buying an O-Wrench, car stands & car jack, new oil filter, and 5 liters of 10W-40 full synthetic motor oil can still be cheaper than express oil changes at places like Jiffy Lube and Firestone.

9.      If you pay your own car insurance shop for 6 month policies.  Insurers usually run your driving record every 6 months to look for violations, insurers can charge for at-fault claims sooner after a loss, and insurers can set up a non-renewal sooner when they no longer want to take on a risk.

10.  DO NOT use your education grant all at once to pay back student loans.  You will end up owing taxes to the IRS.

11.  Needless to say, but avoid frivolous spending.  When you are spending money, ask yourself if you need to be spending this money.  If there’s any hesitation wait 24 to 48 hours and think it over.

These guidelines may seem strict, but if you are forced to come up with money in an emergency then you’ll be thanking yourself when you followed these instructions.  Living in poverty has proven to affect mental, emotional, and physical health.  If you can save up money you’re helping yourself more than you know and are providing yourself with a safety net.  You may never even need to spend those emergency funds, but now you have saved up for a vacation, security deposit & first month’s rent for an apartment, or money towards a new hobby.  Plus, you can still probably afford to do the things you love from time to time.