I try to often remind the kids of my single Mom college days so they have stories to counterbalance the life of privilege they live now. I’m basically the “I walked to school uphill BOTH WAYS!” Mom, to be honest. But I think it’s important for them to understand how much easier it is to save money when you don’t actually need to save money.
The simplest line to draw is the paycheck-to-paycheck line. Our lives changed when we had enough cushion in our bank account that we no longer had to consider when we got paid before making purchase decisions. And that’s where it suddenly becomes much cheaper to live.
Yes. The more money you have, the less money it takes to live. Here’s a few examples I talk about often with the kids.
- PAPER TOWELS: Target has this regular deal on paper towels. I can buy the two GIANT things of GOOD paper towels which are on sale for $15 dollars each (normal price: $18 each) when they do a buy 2 get a $5 gift card deal. So, that’s $36 worth of GOOD paper towels for $25 dollars. Back in my financially challenged days? I would never even spend $18 on a bulk package of paper towels when they were NOT on sale because that was a big chunk of my grocery budget and if I needed paper towels I went to the dollar store and bought the cheap roll that is so think it takes half of it to soak up one spill. So, if you took my 25$ worth of paper towels TODAY, measured the spills it cleaned up, and translated that to how many Dollar Store rolls it would take to clean up the SAME AMOUNT OF SPILLS OVER TIME – it would be at least $40. So it’s cheaper to be wealthy. Not to mention I lived in a tiny efficiency apartment and had NO PLACE for 30 rolls of paper towels.
- GAS: I never filled up my gas tank back in the poor days. NEVER. I got just a little at a time because I didn’t know how much I might need versus how much I might need the other money in my pocket. That meant when the prices was good I couldn’t take advantage of it.
- ILLNESS: Luckily I don’t get sick often, so my years without insurance didn’t result in anything catastrophic. BUT – I had friends who made too much for Medicaid but didn’t get insurance from their employer and so would let an illness get SO BAD they ended up hospitalized when a shot of steroids and antibiotics early on would have made a difference and saved everyone time and money.
- SHOES: I bought Wesley a pair of $5 shoes at Wal-Mart before camp so he’d have something that could be beaten up and abused. They fell apart 2 weeks later. Whereas his name-brand shoes from shoe carnival which cost me $30 lasted 8 months before he destroyed them. (He’s rough on shoes.) Sometimes price is an indicator of quality (not all the time, I’m looking at you OTBT shoes my daughter loves, why you so expensive?) and I don’t think I realized that back in the day with E but I was having to replace his Wal-Mart shoes all the time and now I kind see why. But I had no choice back then.
- THRIFT STORES: I have friends who like to talk about how much money they save shopping in Thrift Stores and that is SO TRUE. But they either work part time or not at all so they can shop around because Thrift Stores don’t always have good buys. You have to make it a regular stop. And when I was working and going to college, making more than one stop for anything was daunting and exhausting. Not to mention the hours of operation didn’t favor someone working and in classes all day. Most Thrift Stores aren’t open late. We got 90% of our clothes and shoes at Wal-Mart because they were open after the computer lab I worked in closed. Yeah, maybe we could have found higher quality stuff for just as cheap at the Thrift Store, but I didn’t have time to shop there so I didn’t get that advantage.
- CARS: One thing I never had to deal with was public transportation. But all of my examples above are made even more difficult if you don’t have a vehicle. You go where public transportation takes you WHEN it can take you and ONLY if that works around your job schedule. Most of the time you buy groceries from the convenience store that is within walking distance because then you don’t have to rely on the bus and ALL of that food is overpriced. These people who try to “live on the food stamp budget” to prove it’s possible don’t limit themselves by moving to a poor neighborhood with only a convenience store within walking distance. Some cities have great public transportation, most don’t. And then there’s rural county areas that have NONE. I’ve always had the luxury of cars which has always made some things cheaper for me.
This is just stuff I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. How hard it is to save money when you have none. And how I wish I had more space to fill up closes with paper towels.