Social Issues

The Story Of Rich Kim v/s Poor Kim

Nikki has been doing some practical math exercises in school that prompted her to ask to go grocery shopping with me so she could practice calculating things like: “Which is cheaper per ounce, big box or little box?”

Now – before you grumble about how irritating it is to hear your friends subtly reference their smart kids…know this: She really just wanted a free cookie. Also? She got bored after the first calculation.


That first calculation prompted a conversation about how often you can save by buying in bulk. And that’s when I jumped at an opportunity to give a lesson about poverty. I honestly jump at these opportunities a lot, which is why I thought I’d share my basic story with you.

The Story of Rich Kim & Poor Kim

When it was just me and your brother back in my college days, sometimes I would go to the store with $20 to buy all of the groceries I needed for the week. That’s when I was Poor Kim. I almost ALWAYS noticed that it would be cheaper to buy the bigger size of something: Milk, Cereal, toilet paper…the necessities…but I never could. I only had $20, so I bought the 4-pack of toilet paper, the half-gallon of milk, and the small box of cereal.

[Edited to add: Poor Kim always bought generic. Big K brand was Poor Kim’s jam.]

Now…think about that over, let’s say, a whole year. I could have saved 45 cents in about 2 weeks if I could have bought the bigger box. What about the bigger milk? And the bigger cereal? How much could that have saved me in two weeks to buy a bigger size? Or in a whole YEAR? So take Kim from 1998 (Poor Kim) and Kim from 2017 (Rich Kim) and look at how much money they each spent per ounce of cereal, per gallon of milk, and per roll of toilet paper and what will you find? (Not accounting for inflation, of course.)

You would find that Poor Kim spent A WHOLE LOT MORE on cereal and toilet paper and milk over the course of a year than Rich Kim did. Rich Kim spent LESS than Poor Kim. Think about that.

THIS is what I mean when I say, “It’s a lot more expensive to be poor.”

Poor Kim never could fill up her gas tank when the prices were low. Hell, I never filled up my gas tank at all. At most I would have a half of a tank unless my Dad had come in town and filled it up for me. [Edited to add: Poor Kim had it good because she did not suffer from generational poverty. Many people never had parents who could fill up their tanks.] I also didn’t have the time or the energy to shop around for sales. I also didn’t have the time to cut coupons, but did take advantage of some coupons from YippeeCoupons: Promo Codes & Discounts. And if I did have time? I was too tired and too depressed from being poor all of the time.

Also – things like tylenol for fevers? That’s something everyone has to buy for their kid at some point. Even if I bought the generic version, it was $4 out of my $400 paycheck. That’s 1% of my paycheck for Tylenol. That’s A LOT. The average person in Huntsville brings home $1100 on a 2-week paycheck. For that person, 1% would mean the same Tylenol cost $11. But it doesn’t, it still only costs $4 for that person too. The person making the average won’t have to stress so much about buying the Tylenol, but when your brother was little? It was a tough thing to need.

So compared to the percentage of your income, being poor is A LOT more expensive than even being average, or middle class. Not only can you not take advantage of bulk pricing or sales at certain times, but everything is a bigger percentage of your income so you’re probably going to have to make tough decisions about whether to pay bills on time.

Remember how we went to Shoe Carnival when they were having the Buy One Pair Get The Second Half Off sale? So you got TWO pairs of shoes for $60 instead of $80? Well…Poor Kim couldn’t even afford to do that so instead, I would buy one $40 pair and just wait until they fell apart and buy another $40 pair. So, the same amount of time passes, the same amount of shoes worn out, but Rich Kim spent less than Poor Kim because Rich Kim has enough buffer in her budget and income to take advantage of sales. Having money can make a big difference to many people’s lives, as it means not having to struggle when it comes to paying bills and just being financially stable. Managing finances and having a budget could help get people back on track. With this being said, this is why options such as investing in your home, for example, could provide a second income and potentially help someone earn extra money that could go towards paying off debt and/or the bills.

Just think of the few ways I’ve explained right now that Rich Kim can spend less money in a year than Poor Kim. And these are just a few of the ways. There are many more. And how is that fair? Poor Kim is the one that needs to spend less, but she spends more.

And this is why Rich Kim pays her taxes and smiles. Rich Kim doesn’t mind being in a higher tax bracket than poor Kim because Rich Kim remembers how much it sucked being Poor Kim. Rich Kim knows “Fair Tax” isn’t actually fair, so she supports a tiered tax system so that she shoulders more of the burden of paying our police and for our road repair than Poor Kim has to.

It’s the least that Rich Kim can do.

12 thoughts on “The Story Of Rich Kim v/s Poor Kim”

  1. Not we just need people to stop responding to this simple explanation of reality with stuff like, “But you could just, you know, not be poor! Bootstraps! Work harder! Stop having nice things ever! Blah blah budget!”

  2. You just wrote a culturally relevant math lesson for my 6th graders. Thank you!!!!

  3. Too true. Along the same lines as the “‘Boots’ Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness” from Terry Pratchett’s Men at Arms:

    The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

    Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

    But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

    This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

  4. Your post is making me tear up, because this is so true and so many people don’t get it…my exboyfriend, for example. When you can’t afford the “bigger, better” thing because you just don’t have the money at that moment. It doesn’t sink in until you’ve lived it and I have/am living it and hopefully, slowly but surely digging myself out of it. I love that you have both sides perspective to be able to explain this to your kids as I will do with mine. Thank you!

  5. Thank you, I really needed this. I was just fretting about having to take another sick day for my kid, but now I remember when taking a sick day = not getting paid for that day at all. It’s been a long time since I’ve haven’t been able to cover my bills, but whenever the lights flicker or internet goes out I still think “Oh, god, are they cutting off our service?” I too pay my taxes and vote for supportive services with pride, because I want everybody to be able to dig themselves out of that situation.

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