Saving money isn’t something I normally talk about. Just because I think it’s mostly boring. However, I AM all about teaching people how to cultivate happiness in their lives by making things easier and, honestly, who can be happy walking around worrying about how they’re going to pay for their next meal?
And just to be clear, THAT’S the kind of people I’m speaking to today. If you’ve never had to skip a meal, scrape in your pantry for beans and rice, visit a food pantry, or struggle with the decision for whether or not you should be on government assistance, I ain’t talking to you sweet thang. There’s plenty of articles out there that will give you the advice to stop buying $5 coffee every day, quit going out to the movies, quit going out to eat, etc. But I’m talking to the people who already don’t do all those things, because it was never in the freaking cards for them to begin with.
So here are my top money saving tips for people who are actually scraping the bottom of the peanut butter jar, using paper towels for toilet paper cause you don’t get paid till Friday, letting your rent go through your bank account even though you’re $15 short but you know the late fee for the bank is cheaper than the one for your apartment complex, selling your hair dryer on a buy/sell group on Facebook, broke, as a joke, POOR!
- SHOULD you be on government assistance?
Some of the best advice I ever got when my husband and I were really struggling trying to buy his books for school while also getting caught up on the medical bills from my recent hospital birth, was this: “Sandi, why are you too proud to get on some government assistance? Do you think you’re better than it? Is it worth your sanity to refuse help at every turn?”
What a smack in the face that was for me. I was too proud. I had a chip on my shoulder. I heard all the crap people said about people on government assistance being “freeloaders” and I bought it. I was even willing to sacrifice my mental health to uphold that ridiculous ideal that those on government assistance are LAZY. Have you bought into the lie too?
Listen, I could spend the whole article just talking about this point in particular, but I can’t. So let me just say, suck up your pride, swallow your preconceived notions about SNAP, WIC, Medicaid, or the Pell Grant, and start your applications TODAY!
Some people will be mad at me for even suggesting this, but they can be mad!
- What are your car payments like?
I have straight sat in a car dealership for six hours sending them back over my car payment price. First it was $380 a month, then $340, then $320, then $290, and then finally the magic number, $220. Baby, believe me, there’s ALWAYS a better deal. Do your time, shop around, have a magic number in your head you can afford comfortably, and DO NOT COMPROMISE.
Also, my husband and I have always had one good car, and one junk car. The good car has a reasonable payment, the second car has no payment along with no air conditioning. The junk car squeaks (aliens in space can hear it coming), has cosmetic damage, neutral means reverse, and gear two mean drive, but, baby, it gets us from point A to point B! Or should I say my husband? ‘Cause God knows I don’t like to sweat. Ha. Just kidding.
- When’s the last time you talked to your bank about your overage charges?
Heck, when’s the last time you made a phone call about a late payment fee or overage charge in general? I’ve stayed on the phone for two hours getting a late fee dropped. Why? Because I was broke, and I had to do what I had to do. One time I had to let my rent go through, and I called the bank the next day about the overage charge. Dropped. They don’t want to work with you? Switch banks. I promise you, they don’t like that. Credit card companies work the same way. Just hint that you want to close your account and ask to speak to the person in charge. In my experience if you’re polite but stern on the outcome you want, they’ll work with you.
Just try to keep these kinds of experiences to a minimum. Continuous repeated offenses and no one is going to drop the late fees. Hey. No judgement here. I know you’ve got school books on that credit card or your child’s uniforms. We all have tough months. Just make the calls, be polite, stay on the line, people will work with you. Don’t let them make you feel guilty about it either.
- Use your Medicaid to get mental health counseling.
Along with the shame and guilt from living in poverty from those who refuse to understand your plight, a lot of shame comes with having a mental illness. But if you’re on Medicaid, you have people who are waiting to be of assistance to you. The impoverished are more likely to struggle with a mental illness, due to the stress of actually being in poverty; and this is cause for yet another reason the poor tend to struggle getting out of poverty (But there’s no systematic war on the poor. No of course not!). But regardless of popular opinion, use that medicaid to help you get out of that mindset so you can THRIVE!
- Have you checked out your local library?
Did you know that libraries across the country offer FREE programs that help you gain experience in certain skill sets? Call and ask!
- Have you tried workplaces that will pay for your education?
A lot of jails have programs where they will send you to school to become a Correctional Officer in exchange for you to commit to work for them for two years. Not for everybody. But hey. Also, there are certain medical clinics who will pay for you to become certified as a phlebotomist. Lots of places will do this. Check into it!
- Is it time to go back to school?
Maybe you would be too overwhelmed by the prospect of a four year degree, what with your family and working full time and all. But what about a certification at a technical school for cosmetology or welding? Or what about becoming an EMT or real estate agent? All of these things are quicker to get through and provide a skill set you can use to help you create a better financial situation for yourself. And there’s a lot of financial assistance available to you to make that happen!
I know it may not be the ultimate “thing” you want to do with your life, but hear me out. A better paying job means you are able to breathe a little more. When you breathe a little more, you’re able to dream and think clearly again.
- Have you tried getting further assistance for your light bill?
Some electric companies have discounted electricity plans for families who are low income and qualify for other government assistance. Check into it.
- Have you shopped around for a better car insurance deal?
We went from paying $180 a month to $90 monthly by switching to Geico! No I wasn’t paid to say that.
- Have you called and had your due date switched to later in the month?
On a rather awful month, I called my loan company and had them push my due date for my car payment up by two weeks on a permanent basis. They worked with me, and it helped me with my pay schedule! Saving me from having to overdraft again.
- Have you thought about selling some of your meaningless stuff on Facebook yard sale sites?
I was able to sell $600 worth of stuff in a very tough month through these sites. You get MORE money than you would with hosting a garage sale at your house.
- Have you tried Direct Sales?
I am NOT in ANYWAY a representative for a direct sales company, but when I worked one a couple years back I made $500 a month only working an hour a day. It may not make you rich, but it is great supplemental income for the right person!
- Have you tried other creative methods to make some side cash?
I have nannied, babysat, tutored, taught piano lessons, did some work for my church, became a social media manager, all from home. All only working a few hours a week. You can do it too. Can you crochet? Sew? Do oil changes on cars? Clean homes? Detail cars for $20 a pop? Sell it baby.
- Have you thought about your end result after all this struggle?
You can do all the things I mentioned above and it never work for you, and here’s why. If you don’t have a clear idea for what your end result looks like, all of this will be for nothing. This is especially true for people who live in poverty.
I don’t care what anyone else tells you, they’re wrong. So hear this, please. The reason you may be stuck in poverty isn’t because you’re lazy. Don’t buy that crap. The reason you’re stuck in poverty is because you have no idea where you’re headed or what you’re doing. A lot of people pass through poverty on their way to achieve a goal. A LOT of people, baby. And that can be YOU too.
So the reasons you’re stuck in it is because you’re buying the lies people say about you. You believe the shame and the guilt that comes with not having enough money to pay your bills. You believe it when people call you lazy and a freeloader. You believe it so much that you stopped dreaming. Poverty is 90% a mindset.
My husband grew up in poverty. He drove me down his childhood street in Jacksonville, Florida and named off five of his childhood friends. Three are in jail, and two are dead.
That’s the reality of poverty. Believe me I get it. My husband isn’t supposed to be studying astrophysics right now, and he definitely isn’t supposed to be a justice on the Supreme Court of his college. He isn’t supposed to be making straight As or winning scholarships. Statistically speaking, he should be in jail or dead.
But he isn’t. He’s thriving. And we aren’t wealthy (yet), we struggle all the time. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. He’s gone for fifteen hour days in school and working full time, seven days a week, while I’m starting online classes again and attempting to market a book while also being a mother, wife, shoulder to cry on, social media manager, sometimes babysitter, etc. We’re tired. But we have A DREAM. That’s what keeps us going. That’s what keeps us afloat in the midst of poverty.
I have a feeling you can do it too. YOU have purpose. YOU matter. YOU ARE NOT a freeloader. YOU ARE NOT lazy. Go get ’em tiger. Hold on to that dream and never let it go.