Thursday, September 29, 2011

How The Poor Manage to Survive Month to Month

PlaySpent.org has an excellent website that shows just what kind of decisions that poor people are required to take in order to survive month to month. It uses a game format. You can make decisions about how to find and qualify for a job and then you have to allocate the money you earn in a month so that it lasts for the entire 30 days. Click on the above link to give it a try. If you manage to get through the month despite poverty, in the game or in real life, I'd love to hear what strategies you use(d).

I wasn't totally shocked that I made it through the end of the month, too. The sad thing is that I knew how to do it, because I've lived it and watched those around me do it. Choosing the right combination of foods is hard as hell, though. My mom insisted that we eat whole wheat bread when we were kids. She said that white bread had no nutritional value. It was more expensive than the white bread, though. So, she saved in other parts of the food budget. She bought unsweetened cereal and a bag of sugar (which could be obtained for almost $0.50 since we live in La.). We sweetened our own cereal. She believed that we should all get some kind of after-school snack, so she'd buy the cheap generic sandwich cookies and each of us four kids were allowed to get four--just four--every afternoon until they ran out.

We lived in a city (New Orleans) that had great public transportation, so even when our raggedy cars broke down, she could still get to work and/or go make groceries. Since it is La. and almost every type of fruit and vegetable can be grown here, because of the fertile soil, she was able to start a food garden and grow gigantic eggplants and greens and tomatoes and bell peppers. She didn't have to invest in soil or fertilizers or pesticides or else I doubt that it would have been feasible. It was also very easy to find other folks who grew stuff and we could trade with them for the stuff that we had too much of (first world kids like us felt like we could only eat so much eggplant without starting a riot at the dinner table).

I don't know how in the hell people who are poor and living in "food deserts" or those without yards to cultivate can possibly survive. I honestly don't know. I have a hunch, though, that a lot of the so-called "inner city crime" is probably connected to the fact that there are folks who simply can not bear to sit and watch their children go hungry. I'm not going to pretend that I'm so ethical that I might not resort to crime if I had to look in my beloved daughter's face and tell her that I didn't have the money for food this week.

3 comments:

DaisyDeadhead said...

Wow! Educational indeed. As a kid, we just plain went without.

I learned a lot hanging with the Yippies, who lived on Abbie Hoffman's STEAL THIS BOOK... all about how to get free stuff and "cheat" (legally). I used to recommend it to people, but some of the 'tricks' in the book have since been fixed and you can't get away with them now. For example, taking lots of napkins to use as toilet paper, for instance--now cheap places like Subway often don't leave extra napkins out any more. Etc.

We spent a huge (for us) amount of money on a hotel over the weekend, and I found myself smuggling free muffins from the continental breakfast, to give to my grandkids. Old habits die hard! ;)

Stupid Git said...

Great link and a well thought out post. I forwarded on the Spent "game" to my family Tea Party and conservatives. I only made it 14 days before I ran out... might explain my debt problem.

My own sister used to look down on the poor as lazy and leeches until she went through a lay-off, foreclosure (which she narrowly avoided) and then her husband was laid off. They're making it through but it has humbled her a bit to see that even a hardworking and intelligent person can fall so quickly.

It sad that some people need to personally go through it before they can understand the difficulties so many face.

Hopefully one day humanity will learn to be humane.

Anonymous said...

I am totally delighted with strong your blog greatly that warned me! Thank you “A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” - George Bernard Shaw