Recently an article about saving money was passed around on my social media. It was trashed rather quickly because it, like most articles on this subject, was clearly written by someone that had no clue. It’s another “if you simply save money and pull yourself up by your boot straps you don’t have to be poor anymore” piece. Now I am not going to call the article itself out, I don’t feel it’s my place to do so. But this article represents what many of these do. They are total bs and they essentially boil down to one of two things (or a combination of both).
1. I have no idea what I am talking about because I have no idea what the cost of living in America really is
2. You are poor so you deserve to be unhappy and have no life satisfaction until you stop being poor
So keeping that in mind I want to highlight the points that most people bring up when talking about how poor people can save money and stop being poor. Also I want to point out expenses that a lot of these articles never mention, thus implying that they just don’t think you should have the cost.
It doesn’t matter that moving to a new city is super expensive. It doesn’t matter that you might have friends and family in your current city. It doesn’t matter that many of the cities with low cost of living have high unemployment rates (because people want to live there for the low cost of living). You are poor and you must do everything you can to change that. That includes draining what little savings you might have or even taking out loans to afford over the top moving costs. That includes risking having no job to live in these cheaper cities. And who cares about family and friends, you are poor and don’t deserve to be by your family and friends. Just move. It’s that’s easy. It takes no pre-planning or thinking, just do it.
2: Find a place with cheaper rent
Maybe you already live in low income housing. Go lower. Find even more under developed and dangerous areas. You are poor so really you should just live in a shack if that’s what it takes to save money. Oh you are a single women who doesn’t want to move to a dangerous area? What you think you should be safe? Come on you’re poor. What you let good school districts determine where you live for your kids? Your kids are poor too they don’t deserve a good education.
3: Don’t have a car
Once again you are poor you don’t need a car. Just buy a bike it’s a one time fee. Never mind that upkeep on bikes is in fact something you will have to invest in every year. Better yet just take public transportation. Totally ignore that most cities have horrible public transportation, and you could sit on a bus for upwards of two hours to make it to and from your job. Or just walk. You can use this commute to consider the fact that you are poor and that it sucks to be you and you should really be a better person.
Also never mind the fact that a lot of places won’t hire you if you don’t have a car. Many cities don’t have good public transportation so they consider you unreliable if you have to use it to get to work. Don’t even get me started on how quickly an application would be thrown in the trash if a person just had a bike.
4: Consider not having internet
Never mind that internet is actually needed by a lot of jobs and people. Never mind that access to internet means access to news. You are poor and don’t need to know the news only people of value should have access to that.
5: Destroy your clothing budget
The article that inspired this said that you should only be spending $100 a year on clothing. So that means you should never buy shoes, only buy used clothes, and only have the bare amount of clothes needed. There are seven days in a week you have seven shirts, seven pairs of underwear, seven pairs of socks, two pants and that’s it. Women sorry that you need bras, but really you shouldn’t be spending money on that it’s just support for your body. Work in a job that requires you being on your feet all day? Learn to deal with the pain of bad shoes. And again you are poor so why on Earth would you deserve the esteem that comes from owning some nice clothing. You should look and feel like crap because that’s what you are.
6: Destroy your food budget.
The same article said that you should be spending less than $75 a month on food. Sure that is possible if all you are eating is beans and rice. But then as you can imagine my once again sarcastic reply. You are poor you don’t deserve healthy or good food.
7: Do not pay for any hobby
Don’t buy books, games, movies, or any sort of hobby that costs money. If you are paying for a hobby you don’t deserve it. Your escapism should be free or non existent. In fact the only thing you should be doing with your free time is sitting around thinking about how you stop being poor so you can be a person of value.
8: Having friends is expensive
Usually these articles either don’t consider budgeting for a social life or even act like doing so is a bad thing. Some say that going out is expensive, but these are the same articles that tell you not to have anything at home. So your “social” life should be having people over sitting in your room with no tv, no entertainment, and drinking water. But then you are poor so do you deserve friends? Also don’t buy friends or family gifts around the holidays. Gifts are for people that deserve to be happy.
9: Don’t go to the dentist, doctor, therapist, or take care of your eyes
If you are poor and need glasses, well shit, aren’t you unlucky. None of these wiz budget articles even factor an expense like that in or if they do it’s like $50 a year which is so unrealistic it’s painful. None of them take into account dental insurance or the cost of getting regular cleanings. They will in fact talk about having health insurance, but don’t factor in how much it costs to go to the doctor. And if you are a women it certainly won’t factor in how much it costs to go to the added gynocologist.
Also, and this should surprise no one, the idea of seeing a therapist is not even mentioned with many of these advice givers. They have only told you to basically cut anything from your life that could bring you joy why would that have a strain on mental health?
10: Don’t wash your hair, brush your teeth, use deodorant, use toilet paper, have a period, or spend anything extra
In the article that inspired this nowhere did they budget for grooming and hygiene products. They didn’t budget for make-up, pads, tampons, cleaning supplies for the house, bug spray, batteries, or anything else you need. However, at the end of everything, they had actually come up with a grand total for your entire pay check. That means they wrote an article about saving money that ultimately decided for you that you should have nothing other than food (beans and rice), a bike, minimal health insurance, and some clothes. So if you are poor you should just… what? Let your teeth fall out? Deal with it when you get your period? Not have toilet paper? Never clean your house? Or maybe all this fell under the $75 a month which means hell even beans and rice is a luxury.
“But Megan, you are being too harsh on these people”. Frankly I don’t know that I am. When I read an article that tells you to pick up and move (and leaving friends and family is not a good excuse not to), to budget so little for food, to budget next to nothing for clothing, and to literally budget nothing for a social life it just plain pisses me off. This is not “hey, cut out booze and eating out. Find more affordable things to do with your friends like board games. Maybe cut back on how much you spend on your hobbies”. This is “being miserable for the next few years to spend no money in order to not be poor is the only option”.
Actual advice giving on how to save money and how to learn to budget is important. It’s something we should frankly be teaching in high school so that kids aren’t thrown out into the deep end when they graduate. These articles however just become an attack on the poor. Being poor is your fault because you could just live with next to nothing to save a couple thousand a year to spend in a way that may or may not lead to you getting a better job. You should be unhappy, your kids should be unhappy, you shouldn’t have friends or keep in touch with your family. Your only goal in life should be to stop being poor, and you should cut everything out until you reach that goal.
Then people who write these pieces defend them claiming that if you dare challenge that they’ve left out expenses or budgeted to little that you just want to spend more than you should and that’s why you are poor. No, it’s not that you want to eat healthy and well balanced meals, it’s that you want to spend a ton of money on luxury food. It’s not that you want to have a social life, it’s that you want to go out and drink with your friends. It’s not that logically it’s impossible to keep yourself well clothed and groomed for $100 a year, you just want an excuse to spend on yourself.
It’s an unrealistic approach to the problems facing those having to work on minimum wage, it declares that poor people should just be miserable to save money, and it completely ignores the fact that one of the best things we could do for poor people would be to pay them more. The entire thing takes the responsibility off of the fact that over the years America’s wages have stayed still while the cost of living has sky rocketed. It’s not our job to demand that minimum wage is increased and that we do something to help people in America, it’s their job to take care of themselves.
Why should I read these articles and be anything other than harsh? They are frankly pretty damn insulting.