Wednesday, July 9, 2008
A Comprehensive Guide to Being Poor
So, I thought I would take a minute and update you all on how the whole "being poor" thing is going.
Honestly? Not that bad. Don't get me wrong, if someone pops up with an offer for me to never be poor again, I'll take it, no noble misgivings about it.
Now that I've had a taste of both, being poor is not as fun as being rich. Oh no. It's stressful and not very convenient. But it has been a learning experience.
I'm sure some of you remember that I am now forced to live without Tivo and with no satellite television. The first few days of this were a little rough. Big Kid had difficulty adjusting to the inability to pause live tv or to summons whatever show struck his fancy with the push of one button. I went through a couple of days of withdrawal from my Discovery ID true crime channel and missed several Oprahs before I realized that I was now responsible for catching them on time. But miraculously, like the true survivors that we are, we have pulled through, practically unscathed.
Big Kid now enjoys shows like Mister Rogers and Reading Rainbow. I cannot tell you how much more enjoyable these shows are to listen to than Higglytown Heroes or the Doodlebops. We still have Nickelodeon, so we get our daily doses of Spongebob and Icarly, so really, it's almost like nothing's changed. I just watch more A&E now.
We've even decided that satellite and tivo most likely won't be added back into our monthly expenditures. A commenter here once said that her family does without cable so that they can afford lavish vacations every couple of years. Would I rather have 80 extra channels of crap, or money towards a trip to Paris?
Using that same mindset, we canceled all of the extras on our cell phones and switched to a plan with a lot less minutes. We have to be a little more conscious of how long we chat on the phone and we can't text (I never wanted to anyway), but for the savings involved, those are minor inconveniences. We switched to Vonage for our home phone and so far, so good on that front.
Just checking all of our monthly expenses and cutting out all of the extras, saved us over $250 a month. Sure, $30 here and $40 there doesn't seem like a lot, but eventually it is! I'm amazed by how painless these cuts have been too, I'm annoyed I didn't realize I could live without it all before.
For entertainment, we have splurged on the $11 per month Blockbuster netflix-like movie account. We make sure that we watch the movie the day it comes in and we try to drop it off at the store so we get the next one faster. During transit time, we've been stopping by Wal-mart and renting Redbox movies. Do you all know about this miraculous movie vending machine? It's freaking awesome. There's A TON (that's a link, by the way) of discount codes, we haven't had to pay for a movie yet (but they are only $1 per night) and we're good about getting them back on time (so far).
For books, I'm totally on board with www.paperbackswap.com I still have a couple of books to read, but I'm definitely going to do this. You just have to pay shipping on whatever books you send out to others. By the way, if any of you has a copy of Middlesex or Peony in Love lying around, I'll trade you something for it. Email me, I'm dying to read both of those.
Interestingly enough, I think we are eating better than ever now that we're broke. We're forced to plan meals, and eat, or otherwise use, our leftovers. I believe I told you all about Angel Food Ministries(there seems to be a problem with their site right now). Well, we picked up our food and were amazed by what we got for $65! We got a ton of food and it all looks great! It's not just for poor people either, they are able to provide the discount since the food is ordered in advance, and in bulk. So if you have one in your area, you should check it out! If you don't have one in your area, check for SHARE Food Network. I think it is very similar. It is a wonderful service and has helped us out tremendously this month. We're having steak, potatoes and homemade bread tonight...not so shabby for poor people!
We've made other minor changes, too. I've been making my own baby wipes...and this is fine. I've been doing something similar for home cleaning wipes and that works too. I'm embarrassed that I've paid other people to wet paper towels for me for so long. We've also made an effort to not use paper towels unless completely necessary. We have a drawer full of dishcloths, cloth napkins, and wash cloths and we keep the paper towels in a pain-in-the-butt spot to access, so we actually take a moment to realize that a cloth would work just as well and reach for one of those instead. I've also cut all of the fabric softener sheets in half (took one second, works just as well), use the BARE minimum of laundry and dish detergent (noticed no difference) and wash almost everything on LIGHT or COLD (again, no difference.)
I've been getting our produce at the weekend flea market/farmer's market which is right down the street. It's cheap AND it hasn't traveled 1400 miles before landing in my kitchen. We've also practically cut Coke and beer out of the budget entirely. I drink Crystal Light's Raspberry Tea, Raspberry Ice, or pink lemonade like it's going out of style. It's cheap and way better for me than Coke (but I still LOVE me some Coke. Always will.)
We just make a real effort to use less. Luckily, being cheap is also known as being green these days. Not only are we saving money, we're using less and making less of an impact on the environment. I've even washed out some Ziploc bags and reused them. There, I admitted it. Ain't no shame. I'm even seriously considering making my only laundry detergent.
I'm also going to try to be one of those crazy coupon people when it comes to buying household items and toiletries. I thought THIS was a very insightful article on the cycle of coupons and sales. I used to pay to do The Grocery Game which helps you match up coupons to sales, and I'm pretty sure this is the same theory (but free). Hotcouponworld.com also has a ton of useful coupon information.
I love to bargain shop and have always enjoyed spending time on sites like slickdeals.net or fatwallet.com. The trick is not to buy all of the good deals that you don't need. It's fun to score a cheap bargain high. I dragged the whole family to Staples twice this week so that we could stock up on their one cent deals. We were all astonished and giddy when the total was $.04, even the cashier was beaming. So we got a lifetime supply of pencils for $.16 total. Yay us! Good, cheap, productive fun.
The scariest part of this whole unemployment thing has been having to cancel our health insurance. Someone pointed me towards Needymeds.com when I was worried about how I was going to pay for my prescription. I was apprehensive about this and certain it would be a whole big hassle, but I just filled out the application, had my doctor sign it, and received 90 days worth of free medicine in my mailbox a few weeks later. What a godsend!
Luckily, thanks to my awesome, well connected cousin Jules (also the provider of my fake ID, many moons ago), Mr. Ashley might be getting a job with benefits. We should know by the end of the week, so we're keeping our fingers crossed. Things look really good though, they're saying it's just a matter of red tape. Hopefully that will be the beginning of the end of our Adventure in Uncertainty.
I'm also pretty sure that I'll get an awesome writing gig any minute now and I'll be so rich that we'll look back on this post and laugh...and I probably still won't have satellite, or pay for the luxury of pre-moistened toilettes, because I'd rather use that money to stay in a castle or tour some pyramids or rent a yacht for the Ashley's Closet Cruise.