It’s Cheaper To Live When You Have Money.

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.

4 Comments

  • Rebel In Ontario

    AGREED! I tell my boys (ones a teenager, one is close) about how Dad and I had to decide some mornings on milk or gas…$20 in the account until payday the next day and it was a choice between milk in the house for them, or gas in our vehicles to get to work. Gas always won, so now that they consumer a gallon or more of milk per day and I don’t think twice about when or where I stop to buy three or four gallons at a time, it is easier to save money on milk because I can “stock up” (AKA, milk is my paper towels) 🙂

  • Beth

    Very good blog post. I have thought about this a lot also. It is so absolutely true. It costs more to provide basic needs when you don’t have money, than it does when you do. I can do all that you do. We also discovered another truth. We sound a lot less on food when we don’t let me in the store. Our $225 a week for just 2 people become 150-175 when my husband does the buying. That does include cleaning and household supplies and cat stuff. We do buy a lot of BOGO stuff and donate food to House of the Harvest.

  • Lisa

    This is a great post, and absolutely true. And if you’re working part time, or just hourly without sick leave, then an inconvenience like a car repair or illness turns into lost wages, which can turn into late bill, etc. I know I waste money now that I have it, but in the areas where I used to watch every dime, like groceries, I still have a hard time spending a little extra money. I also still get that fear in the pit of my stomach if the internet or cable goes out, like “Oh no, did they finally cut our service?” even though it’s been fifteen years since we’ve been that broke.

    And I have to confess I’ve been all snarky and judgmental of parents who have kids out late, without ever stopping to think that they may have just gotten off of work, or maybe this is the only time they can catch a ride to the store. Next time I’ll remind myself to be thankful my “broke” years were mostly over by the time I had my kids, instead of being so quick to judge. As my own life gets better, it gets harder to remember that most people are honestly doing the best they can, and not everybody has it as easy as I do, so thank you.