Sign Up: Writer | Buyer
Contact Us

Empire State Building
350 Fifth Ave, Suite 7313
New York, NY 10118
phone: (800) 704-6512

Price: $20.00
Minor modifications of this article are permitted to adjust to the available space or to the publication’s editorial style.
Learning To Be Poor, Part Ii
by Robert Soloway

It’s a funny thing about getting poor. It creeps up on you. When my income first fell, I hardly noticed it. My clothes were still in pretty good shape. My car ran, my appliances worked, my roof was solid, my health was good.

After a period of time, things will break, or break down. I didn’t mind that I hadn’t bought a single article of clothing (except sneakers because they wear out) in about a year, but I could use a few things now. When I go out somewhere, I choose my better underwear and socks. That’s sad. And the sneakers, I bought online, on sale, on close-out. They were originally $70,00 per pair but I got 3 pair for 90 bucks and free shipping. At least I won’t be barefoot for a year.

My dishwasher broke. Actually it didn’t break. A rodent got in my house. I think my cat dragged it in as a gift to me, I’m told, but however it got there, my cat didn’t kill it and it ended up under my dishwasher. Being trapped, it looked for water and found some in one of the tubes, in which it promptly ate a hole.

The truth is, I’m almost glad it happened. I have begun to enjoy washing dishes. The hot water is delightful on my always frozen fingers. I’ve learned to do the dishes while I cook. I cook more too. During the process, while the food is cooking, there is always time for the dishes. Between the heat from the stove and the steam from the hot water, this is the warmest I am all day.

I’ve learned that if you plug up the water in the shower, it warms your toes and the whole room more than if you let it run down the drain. After the water cools, I let it run out. It may not seem like a lot, but my toes are happy for it, and the humidity is good for the air in the winter.

Speaking of staying warm, I always do laundry on very cold days. I’ve disconnected the drier vent so the hot, wet air blows into my kitchen. It warms 3 rooms. True, I have some lint stuck to my ceiling, and things that look like cobwebs have formed in some of the upper corners, but it seems a small price to pay to warm the house. The moisture is great, too. It is almost tropical, but with the smell of clean clothes.

I read a restaurant review today that mentioned a “recession special”. One night a week, there is a Spanish stew plus a glass of wine for $25. With tax and tip that’s a $32.00 meal. Perhaps the reviewer needs to be reminded that the minimum wage is $6.55 and that it would take 5 hours work to clear $32.

Here is the form my eating has taken. I eat a foot-long tuna sub from Subways every week. It is 2 meals for me. $5.40. True, it gets a bit soggy, but it’s edible.

I found a Chinese food take-out place in my neighborhood that has a huge tofu dish with vegetables and mushrooms for $6.50 and I get an extra rice so it comes to $8 with tax. I eat 3 meals from that, sometimes a snack too.

I go to the Dekalb Farmer’s Market and pick up about $6.50 at their cafeteria. That’s 2 meals. I admit, I get a chocolate croissant, $1.29, but I eat half at a time.

I eat chopped chicken and chopped turkey at least twice a week. I have invented 8 different shapes and formats to disguise it. I eat chicken livers and/or thighs every week.

I cook Salmon croquets from canned salmon, $2.19.

I eat Portobello mushrooms (2 big caps), prepared like burgers, about $2.00, once a week.

For vegetables I stick to carrots, cabbage, sweet potatoes, and corn mostly because they are inexpensive, healthy, and they have a good shelf life. I can’t stand throwing food away, and now I can’t afford it.

I figured that for the cost of the $32.00 recession “special”, I eat 10 meals. True I used to eat more organic, and my meals don’t come along with a free glass of wine, but I’m surviving.

My car is becoming an issue. I have had a hole in my radiator since October. The good news is that the hole is in the top and it only leaks about a pint and then it slows to almost nothing. In the winter it doesn’t affect the car at all, as long as I add a little water every week or so. I’ll have to fix it when the weather warms.

My rear brakes are making a noise. Ever wonder why some people have worse driving records than others. Try driving around in an old beat up car. See how many things you start to bump into. Remember that panic stop you made in your ’08 Beamer? The one where you just missed smashing into the car in front of you on the highway? In a 1983 Pontiac with bald tires and bad brakes, that’s an accident, a bad one. Not poor driving, the driver is poor!

I’m suddenly amazed by the cost of entertainment. The local aquarium is $26.00 plus $9 to park. That’s the cheap pass. You can spend $70 on the special tour.

For entertainment, I go to open mic. nights. Some are cheap or free. I make an event out of going to a used bookstore or a library. I think for many in the lower economic class, TV is their only entertainment. That’s unfortunate and also hard on society. The role models on TV are awful.

Okay, so I’ve developed a rash. I can’t even think of going to a doctor. I think it is just dry skin from living in the cold and wearing lots of layers all the time. It is spreading and getting itchy. I bought a skin moisturizer. I have to hope it helps. I get my medical advice online, doesn’t everybody?

I made an extra $75 today. I’ll bet many poor people have little extra, inconsistent sources of income.

I’ve decided to put $50 away for my kid’s Christmas gift, and with the rest, I’m going to heat my house into the 60’s. I calculated that I could probably get away with 4 days worth of heat. Fortunately for me, today the temperature outside warmed up, so I didn’t need any gas. I’m saving my 4 warm days for real nasty weather.

I may even splurge and take a bath. My toes would love that.

Published: Dec 16,2008 16:37
Bookmark and Share
You may flag this article with care.


Featured Authors
Andy Cowan
Andy Cowan, an award-winning writer, whose credits include Cheers and Seinfeld, regularly contributes humor pieces to the Los Angeles Times and the CBS Jack FM Radio Network.
Paul M. J. Suchecki
Paul M. J. Suchecki has more than 30 years of experience as an award winning writer, producer, and cameraman. He's written numerous newspaper and magazine articles. Currently he writes, produces and shoots for LA CityView Channel 35 and his more than 250 articles for are approaching half a million readers.
Coby Kindles
Coby Kindles is a freelance journalist, screenplay writer and essayist. She has been a staff writer at Knight Ridder and a regular contributor to The Associated Press.
Debbie Milam
Debbie Milam is a syndicated columnist for United Press International, an occupational therapist, family success consultant, and motivational speaker with more than 20 years experience. Her work on stress management, spirituality, parenting, and special-needs children has been featured in over 300 media outlets including First for Women, The Miami Herald, Elle, Ladies Home Journal, The Hallmark Channel, PBS and WebMD.
Dan Rafter
Dan Rafter has covered the residential real estate industry for more than 15 years. He has contributed real estate stories to the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Business 2.0 Magazine, Home Magazine, Smart HomeOwner Magazine and many others.
Jack Nargundkar
Jack Nargundkar has been repeatedly published in Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. He is also an author of "The Bush Diaries" published in July 2005.