Author Topic: Stories from the poor  (Read 4182 times)

lhamo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #50 on: April 09, 2017, 07:29:39 PM »
I have a former student who I've kept in touch with for years. She moved back to the area after college and is now living with several roommates working as an intern journalist at an awesome independent news website for Honolulu.

I'm so proud of this girl; we had her over for dinner a few weeks ago and it was a treat to talk to her. The conversation turned to "adulting"--she's 22 and living on her own for the first time. She started asking questions about frugal skills like cooking for yourself and keeping a grocery bill low, and I realized that the start-up costs to frugality can actually be high. I recommended getting a crockpot from craigslist and investing in a set of basic knives and spices.

People in roommate living situations  who don't have a car to get to Costco and don't have a big freezer to store things and don't have quality pots and pans or a set of spices or good kitchen knives or room to store bulk goods have to deal with less optimized spending.

I remember back when I was in that place--living with roommates, no freezer, etc.--and how it just seemed easier and even cheaper to get takeout all the time. It's funny how frugality actually takes some money, and I think that fact is why it can be really hard to scratch one's way out of poverty.

In no place, in no time, did I ever think that take out was "even cheaper" even when I didn't eat especially well. I do remember buying low end cheap frozen dinners, but take out, no way.

In places like NYC and Honolulu, where groceries are comparatively expensive, I can see how some types of takeout can be cheaper than buying groceries.   
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jooniflorisploo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #51 on: April 09, 2017, 07:32:23 PM »
Yes, in many situations takeout has been cheaper for me than groceries. I currently buy groceries because I can afford the luxury of prioritizing health, but it's definitely not cheaper for me :)

englishteacheralex

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #52 on: April 09, 2017, 08:23:18 PM »
Yeah, I'm in Honolulu, and because of various thrifty living situations, there was a ten year period in which I didn't have access to a freezer. So I didn't have the option of frozen pizza or freezing leftovers. I actually would keep frozen meals in my friends' freezers and come over and eat my food at their places, which in hindsight I realize was really nice of them.

It's funny how much stuff I have that enables frugality and how it took years for me to acquire this stuff and learn to put it to good use. Financial gurus always tout the need for personal finance education in high school, but I think a good home-ec class is just as important. Which appliances are really necessary? Which recipes are thriftiest and fastest to make? How do you make a quick sewing repair to make clothes last longer? All very important skills that actually don't come that easy or cheap.

Poundwise

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #53 on: April 11, 2017, 06:56:41 AM »
If you were ever curious about how SNAP (food stamps in the US) works, here's a very readable Q&A:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/04/04/what-many-americans-get-wrong-about-food-stamps-according-to-an-economist

Also, this was amusing to me.  I didn't grow up poor, but my parents did. As a result, my mother, despite her middle class pretensions, would buy us name brand shoes two sizes too big.
http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-unexpected-side-effects-being-poor/
http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-5-stupidest-habits-you-develop-growing-up-poor/
« Last Edit: April 11, 2017, 07:13:08 AM by Poundwise »

Tasty Pinecones

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #54 on: April 11, 2017, 08:41:46 AM »
It's very sad when a society has no compassion or understanding, and shies aways from putting their money where their mouth is.

How much better the world would be if everyone was able to help their neighbour.

What drives me crazy is how our gov't in the USA spends money so friggin' freely on certain things but won't spend money on people's needs. Trump spent ~$60M on missiles plus Navy ship gas money last week that shutdown a Syrian military airport for 24 hours? He and his spends ~$5M every weekend to fly to FL where some more money is spent for him to "relax".

How about the gov't buy fewer bombs and bullets and take care of Americans?

Tasty Pinecones

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #55 on: April 11, 2017, 08:46:05 AM »
^ Yesterday I listened to a podcast on CBC radio called School Saved My Life. It was an adult's story of post-secondary, but same idea. His circumstances sucked to an extreme, and he tells of the same benefits, madgeylou.

For me, school was so awful -the place I was bullied even more, etc, just with no avenue of escape. But I can appreciate that any given option may be good for one person and sucky for another, depending on the details.

For me, salvation was nature and my dog. If I could be left alone to those, I was okay :)

You just described my childhood too. No financial woes within our family. I was just an awkward kid for reasons I think I understand better now as an adult. Give me the freedom to wander with the family dog alone - and I was good. Send me to school - and I wasn't happy at all. Mix in a pair of parents who loved their high school experiences and thought high school grades defined your entire future - and there wasn't much relief except for wandering around with my dog.

jengod

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #56 on: April 11, 2017, 11:57:24 AM »
https://longform.org/posts/the-longform-guide-to-debt--3

This is about debt, not poverty per se, but some informative pieces nonetheless.

Several years earlier, one of my sons played on a mainly Hispanic soccer team in Bell Gardens, a working class Hispanic suburb of Los Angeles. I got to know one of the fathers quite well. He was from Guatemala City.

“What’s Guatemala City like?” I asked him one day.

“The days are very long in Guatemala City,” he said.

That was all he said about his life there. And that would probably be the best description of life as a homeless person. The days are very long.
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shelivesthedream

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #57 on: April 17, 2017, 05:48:16 AM »
I've been thinking lately about how at school, we tell all poor children that we think are remotely able to go to university because it will be their golden ticket to a better life. As the tenure-track professor in the link in the first post shows, academia does not make you rich. However, we never tell rich children to consider becoming a plumber or a bricklayer. Why is it that a genuinely wide range of career options are only pushed for bright poor children, whereas rich children (bright or not) only have the option of going to university and aiming for a professional job?

I grew up (upper) middle class, and I have friends who grew up surrounded by maids and nannies and cleaners. You don't do chores when you live like that because you don't need to, so you don't learn - so of course you dig yourself into debt as an adult. Because life skills are only for poor children. But then Mummy and Daddy can bail them out as many times as they need.

I don't mean to be all "woe is me, I grew up too rich" about this, but what I'm getting at is that in a society obsessed with upward social mobility, we are forgetting that some people will move down too, and they need to be prepared for that. But when will Eton and Harrow start offering cooking, cleaning and budgeting classes? When hell freezes over.

Zamboni

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #58 on: April 17, 2017, 06:27:14 AM »
From the first article:
Quote
When I was an undergraduate contemplating going to graduate school, my favorite professor encouraged me by saying, “If there’s anything worth going big-time in debt for, it’s education.” I never questioned her.

At this time I just want to shout a big "thank you!" to my former boss, Larry. When I was finished up undergrad, and working part time for Larry, he asked me about graduate school and I explained that I had a small stipend but that I was eligible to take out loans, so that was how I would float my living expenses. He looked at me for a moment, then said "Just remember, you will have to pay that money back. It sucks!"

And so for the duration of graduate school I resisted loans as much as I could and worked a part time job at night. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Larry!

That first piece still really resonated with me. There are fewer and fewer "normal" jobs in academia. The Lords and Ladies who have those few coveted "normal" academic jobs by and large treat everyone else like shit, although they will never admit this. At my current place of employment, an extremely wealthy institution, I ended up initially taking a job teaching (in STEM) for $30K . . . It was 2009, and there were simply no other jobs. After the first year, they told me they were laying me off. And then, a few months later, they changed their mind and gave me a big raise instead. They needed someone to do the actual work, it turned out, and I was still their cheapest and best option.

I will never forget how my employer treated me. How they grossly underpaid me because "they could get away with it" due to the economy at the time. How disposable I am to them despite what I am repeatedly now told is my spectacular performance. It was what led me to this site.

I am acutely aware of how easy it would have been to fall into poverty.

jooniflorisploo

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #59 on: April 17, 2017, 06:43:38 AM »
^ I'm likewise eternally grateful to the school/academic counsellors who suggested school/graduation was not necessary, and pointed me to unschooling waaaaaaaaaay back before that had become common; the employment training program that urged me to get out and become self-employed (and then sent me all their overflow clients); and the employment counsellor that urged me not to spend my time working at entry level jobs like McDonald's.

How I got all these groovy people, who saw how vulnerable I was to everything yucky, I don't know! One after another actively and explicitly taught and encouraged me to ninja this fucked up system built to keep certain people down.

Awesome!! I remember each of those people, including two by name, and am forever grateful.

Prairie Stash

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #60 on: April 20, 2017, 12:14:43 PM »
I've been thinking lately about how at school, we tell all poor children that we think are remotely able to go to university because it will be their golden ticket to a better life. As the tenure-track professor in the link in the first post shows, academia does not make you rich. However, we never tell rich children to consider becoming a plumber or a bricklayer. Why is it that a genuinely wide range of career options are only pushed for bright poor children, whereas rich children (bright or not) only have the option of going to university and aiming for a professional job?

I grew up (upper) middle class, and I have friends who grew up surrounded by maids and nannies and cleaners. You don't do chores when you live like that because you don't need to, so you don't learn - so of course you dig yourself into debt as an adult. Because life skills are only for poor children. But then Mummy and Daddy can bail them out as many times as they need.

I don't mean to be all "woe is me, I grew up too rich" about this, but what I'm getting at is that in a society obsessed with upward social mobility, we are forgetting that some people will move down too, and they need to be prepared for that. But when will Eton and Harrow start offering cooking, cleaning and budgeting classes? When hell freezes over.
If their parents want them to learn cooking or cleaning couldn't they job shadow the cook or maid?

Downward mobility is a lot easier than upwards. The problem is that when people move down they refuse to adjust; regardless of what they know. How often do you hear about someone getting laid off and keeping cable, maid service, dining out and car payments? Knowledge isn't the problem so much as the willingness to accept the situation.

SomedayStache

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #61 on: April 20, 2017, 12:31:51 PM »
Moving up or down in social class you may find yourself out of your element.

I grew up solidly middle class and took for granted health insurance  and doctor visits whenever needed.  When I got out on my own and didn't have such things I didn't know how to navigate the world.  I lived for 4 years in a small town never seeing the doctor until an emergency situation forced me to go in - and then we were referred to the free medical clinic.  Ha!  I could have used that medical clinic for years if I had known such things existed.  (Question 17 below)

Here's an interesting link (I can check off all the middle class boxes but practically none of the poverty or upper class items).
http://www.asanet.org/sites/default/files/savvy/introtosociology/Documents/Hidden%20Rules%20of%20Social%20Class.htm

Surviving in Poverty

_____1. I know which churches and sections of town have the best rummage sales.
_____2. I know where the nearest food bank is and when it is open.
_____3. I know which grocery stores garbage bins can be accessed for thrown-away food.
_____4. I know how to get someone out of jail.
_____5. I know how to physically fight and can defend myself if necessary.
_____6. I know how a person can get a gun even if they have a police record.
_____7. I know how to keep my clothes from being stolen at the Laundromat.
_____8. I know what problems to look for in a used car.
_____9. I know how to live without a checking account.
_____10. I know how to get by without electricity and without a phone.
_____11. I know how to use a knife as scissors.
_____12. I can entertain a group of friends with my personality and my stories.
_____13. I know what to do when I don't have the money to pay my bills.
_____14. I know how to move my residence in less than a day.
_____15. I know how to feed 8 people for 5 days on $100.
_____16. I know how to get and use food stamps.
_____17. I know where the free medical clinics are and when they are open.
_____18. I am very good at trading and bartering.
_____19. I know how to get around without a car.
_____20. I know what day of the month welfare and social security checks arrive.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2017, 12:33:23 PM by SomedayStache »

Poundwise

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Re: Stories from the poor
« Reply #62 on: April 21, 2017, 12:34:26 PM »
Interesting TED Talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/j_d_vance_america_s_forgotten_working_class/transcript?language=en

Quote
it's sometimes hard to even know what those choices are when you grow up in a community like I did. I didn't know, for example, that you had to go to law school to be a lawyer. I didn't know that elite universities, as research consistently tells us, are cheaper for low-income kids because these universities have bigger endowments, can offer more generous financial aid. I remember I learned this when I got the financial aid letter from Yale for myself, tens of thousands of dollars in need-based aid, which is a term I had never heard before. But I turned to my aunt when I got that letter and said, "You know, I think this just means that for the first time in my life, being poor has paid really well."

So I didn't have access to that information because the social networks around me didn't have access to that information. I learned from my community how to shoot a gun, how to shoot it well. I learned how to make a damn good biscuit recipe. The trick, by the way, is frozen butter, not warm butter. But I didn't learn how to get ahead.