Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch

Managing Money When You Don’t Have Any

Poor doesn't always look like this.  In fact, it often doesn't.  Photo from wikimedia commons by Arian Selmani

Poor doesn’t always look like this. In fact, it often doesn’t. Photo from wikimedia commons by Arian Selmani

Ok, so as I’ve said before, now that the Husband and I have a little disposable income, we’re focusing on trying to dig out of the Sysiphean amount of student loan debt I’m carrying, and trying to amass some savings, maybe be able to buy a new car eventually.  And one of the things I decided to do is attend these free “Get control of your money” seminars that my credit union offers at my job.    Awesome, right?

Well, I got a great new notebook and pen, but really they just went over things that we’re already doing or that just don’t apply. I get that these classes are meant as a general 101 sort of thing, and that they have to appeal to the broadest audience necessary, but when their advice is “Quit using those credit cards!” and you don’t even HAVE a credit card, well… not so much.

Another part that got me was that they just didn’t really address student loan debt at all.  I mean, I really doubt I’m that unusual an example.  Several years ago I made the conscious choice to let my student loans go into default, because they wouldn’t accept any less than $600 a month from me voluntarily, but $400 is the most that they could garnish, and that was literally the difference between homeless and not homeless for us.  Between the point where I quit paying, and they started garnishing, I consciously tried to pay off as much other stuff as I could, some store credit cards I got when I was REAL young (less than $400 all told, we’re not talking thousands, or even thousand), some medical bills, stuff like that.

In fact, the last time I dealt with one of the student loan creditors, and he started trying to make me feel bad, as if my credit score was a reflection on who I was as a person, that’s when it clicked, “I WENT TO SCHOOL, ASSHOLE! IT’S NOT LIKE A SPENT IT ON HOOKERS AND BLOW!”  I may actually have yelled that while in a public area at work.  I was kind of fed up at this point.  I’d been killing myself trying to figure out what else we could cut from our lives to afford to cover these loans, but we’d done it all.  We’d cut just about anything we could, and were still broke.

So, yeah, the class was less than helpful, but that isn’t its fault.  I don’t think it’s really supposed to be for people like me, or some of the other folks in there.  I wonder if maybe we could lobby for a master level class.  I don’t know.  

One of the women in the class was there because she’d done all this trimming already.  But she wanted to know how she could develop the willpower to give up her nightly cup of tea at her local coffeeshop that was her one human interaction during the day.

The dude was kind of taken aback by that, as were the rest of us.

But, there is this prevailing attitude that if you’re poor you deserve no joy until you suffer enough to not be poor.  I’ve had some real knock down drag out fights with people about that.  Entire dystopian SF novels have been written about that.  But still this idea persists, that if you’re poor it’s because you somehow deserve it and until you STOP BEING POOR you deserve no joy.  I keep seeing these fucking facebook posts from people who should fucking well know better, going on about how, “What do you mean you’re poor?  You have an iPhone!”  or a couple of years ago when the Republican party was all up in arms because how could people claim to be poor if they had a refrigerator or microwave?

“Well THEIR kids were wearing Nikes!”  How do you know those shoes didn’t come out of a charity bin or from a thrift store?  And even if they didn’t, even if those parents DID “foolishly” spend money to make their kids happy, who the fuck are you to complain about that?  It’s none of your business.  Far, far more of your tax dollars go toward subsidizing lazy fucking rich people who are profiting off the backs of the working poor than will EVER go to welfare recipients.  EVER.  Why aren’t you complaining about that?

It’s the fucking Puritan ideal (for values of Puritan equal to what fucked up fundamentalist dickheads think they were like) that if you’re poor it’s because you deserve to be, not because there are no jobs, or because there is systematic racism or sexism or homophobia.

Which brings me back to the fucking Prosperity gospel.

Look it up, I’m too grouchy to explain it.  But let me just say that I don’t think the dude who cast the moneylenders out of the temple would be too pleased with you all.

The system is broken.  Extremely fucking broken, and as long as the rich are writing the rules, no amount of ‘money managing’ courses are going to help.

This doesn’t mean give up.  I mean, I’m still saving and hopefully I’ll be able to get my loans paid off one day, and we can quit living with that debt hanging over our heads.  What it does mean, is take it easy on the folks who are trying and just can’t beat a game that’s rigged against them from the start.

Being poor isn’t a character flaw.  Quit treating it as such.

And don’t even start on those who game the system.  They make up such an infinitesimal number of those on public assistance as to not even be worth mentioning.  I think the last studies came up with 1-2% of recipients*.  I’m not sure, google it.

*The US Department of Labor reported that 1.9% total UI payments for 2001 was attributable to fraud or abuse within the UI program.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics website, based on the 2012 IPIA 3-Year average data report, fraud was prevalent in 2.67% of cases.   XML and XLS Unemployment Insurance data sheets released yearly available at: http://www.dol.gov/dol/maps/Data.htm

2 comments on “Managing Money When You Don’t Have Any

  1. Ann
    April 3, 2014

    I’m old enough to remember when the GOP’s position on public welfare was to monitor better how much went to certain programs, not to gut or cut those programs altogether. Sure, some politicians wanted to, but they accepted there are some things government SHOULD do to help its citizenry. You know, instead of being all “the only valid government job is the one I’m stumping to be elected for.”


  2. Shelley K
    April 5, 2014

    THANK YOU! First of all, it’s relieving to know someone else has felt the same frustration at the lack of ways one can cut spending. Obviously not happy you have that problem too, but.. I frequently feel like shit because I technically make good money (when I have a job) but don’t really have enough to make any headway because I have debt and expenses I really shouldn’t cut (counseling is pretty important even though some consider it a luxury.. it’s a necessity for me)

    It’s amazingly hard to give ourselves permission to “indulge” in things that are really really important to staying sane and functional. (or even healthy! good food costs a lot!) It’s such bullshit. That woman talking about giving up her coffee was really hard hitting to me.

    Part of my plan to get around the shitty fucking existence we have in this country is for me to lower my cost of living by building my own house out of unconventional materials (cob or straw bales). But even though I think more people should consider it, I don’t think people should have to do that in order to NOT fall through the cracks.


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This entry was posted on February 26, 2014 by in Class, Featured Articles, Morality, Politics.

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