Living in poverty is complicated and often doesn't make sense to those who are experienced in it.Over the past several years my wife and I have cobbled together an income from 4 different part-time jobs, received a variety of forms of government assistance and particularly worked amongst the through our church garage sale ministry. We have learned a lot.
Lastly, I would say, poor people are really generous and grateful. Working amongst the poor has opened my eyes to how they go out of their way to give and say "Thank you." They love to share and pay it forward.
- Wear clothes and shoes that don't fit because they were free. Cast offs from friends and family or hand me downs are better than buying new stuff.
- Eat food that isn't healthy for them because it's cheap or free. Have you been to your local food pantry lately? Not a lot of fresh fruits, veggies or fish. Plenty of canned fruits in syrup, boxed cereals, carbs and more carbs, snacks, microwaveable meals, sugary drinks and baked goods. Bologna is not good for you but it can be real cheap.
- Learn to live with broken stuff in their house, car, office, yard, etc. Have a broken window? I'll fix that right after I fix spot of the ceiling from when the roof leaked which I'll get to right after I repave the driveway and paint the house and catch the mice.
- Cut there own hair, have their friends cut their hair or don't get haircuts at all.
- Don't go to church, family parties or out much on the weekends. Not enough money for gas.
- Keep everything, even broken stuff. You never know when you are going to need a part of that broken dehumidifier Maybe you can fix that DVD player. They are experts at re-purposing leftover packaging, worn our tools, toys or utensils, etc. It's why their yard is often times full of stuff.
- Volunteer to cook a meal for a friend or a church supper. OK, lots of people do this, both poor and not, but poor people do this more because it is a way they can participate, minister or give to others. They don't have cash but often have an EBT card or a leftover cake mix from their box of food from the food pantry.
- Have a dog when they can't afford one. They can't afford rent for a good neighborhood and can't afford a security system for their home in the bad neighborhood where they live. So a dog makes a nice security system and gives them so joy and companionship.
- All of them are faced with cheating the government aid system, turning down paid work and have to make tough ethical choices. Very few want to cheat to get ahead but when desperate to pay bills and needing cash, it's very tough to take work that will pay less than your unemployment amount or jeopardize your food stamps. Government aid is not proportionate to whatever income you might get. Maybe you get $400 a week in unemployment and a friend gives you a day's work helping them in their business trying to help you out. You make $50 for the day. Unemployment might go down by $100.
- Make questionable decisions. Again, everybody does this. But depression, despair, chronic pain and health issues from poor health care are disproportionately high amongst the poor. And as one theologian said, "When morale is low, so are morals."
God bless you. Keep off of food stamps and Medicaid if you can. It's demoralizing and filling out all their endless paperwork and certifications is like a full-time job by itself. If you can make ends meet another way, please do so. It really is better for you.