This is a VERY hard concept to make people living in the comfort of middle class understand. But I’m gonna give it a shot.
3 years ago, I was homeless for a couple of months and when I finally got a job, I found a rooming house the let me have a 6×10 room for 60/wk. This seemed like a miracle. It was shelter I could afford.
But it turned out to be expensive shelter. Because I had no kitchen facilities in the room. And rules against any kind of heating device in the room. So I ended up buying fast food, which is both expensive and bad for you. If I tried to avoid eating 3 – .99 cent burgers a day, I was into much more expensive range.
In the end, I was able to get an apartment for $375/mo and found that my expenses were only a tiny bit higher than when I lived in the rooming house.
BTW – I only got the apt because of a government program. I did not have the money together for a security deposit. Nor would most landlords look at someone who was evicted.
Where you live is huge. Its not just being able to cook, but also being near a decent grocery that has reasonably priced food. The stores in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods called Dollar General, Dollar Store – all more expensive than Kroger (large grocery store). If you are lucky you have an actual Dollar Tree, where things are a dollar.
Being able to buy a lot of something when its on sale sounds frugal. But I live in a very tight budget. When Toilet Paper is on sale, I can’t buy enough to last until the next sale. I can only buy what I can afford now, which is maybe one extra pkg, maybe no extra. Maybe I’m just glad it’s on sale because the last light bulb went out and that’s not a weekly expense for me, so now I have more money toward new light bulbs.
I’m not buying LED bulbs. I’m buying whatever is cheapest. So my electric bill isn’t going down because I can’t afford the immediate expense of an LED bulb. They pay off in the LONG run. But I can’t plan for long run. I can only plan how this pay check will be used.
Most people without enough money do not have credit cards. Many don’t have debit cards because the banks charge them money to have an account because they can’t hold a minimum balance. Or they have been overdrawn too often and the bank refuses to open an account for them at all. Banks will often charge them to cash a paycheck that is DRAWN on the bank because they don’t have an account. So in order to get the money from their paycheck they need to pay money.
Because they don’t have a debit card, they buy pre-paid cards. These are VERY expensive compared to a debit card. So in order to spend money they have to spend extra money. This is why people in lower socioeconomic areas are using cash. Its cheap. But increasingly you need some form of electronic payment card. For example, if you want to rent a nice cheap movie for a $1 at redbox – you need a card. You want to buy or pay for anything online – you need a card.
I won’t even get started on the corporations whose ENTIRE business plan is to prey on people without money. Check Cashing and Pay Day Loan businesses are one of the moral atrocities of this country.
My point is that its easy to save money when you have money. Its cheaper just get and spend the money you already have. It’s easy to get to the cheaper store. It’s easier to buy a lot of what is cheap to save for the future. It’s easy to cook because you have the appropriate tools and appliances. Its easy to choose because you can still get the other thing in case its necessary. Its easier to buy something that is more expensive now but will be cheaper in the long run.
Mostly though, think about will power. Will power is something we exercise when we feel strong. Being poor is a constant drain on your mental and emotional energy. It’s harder to make a conscious choice to not spend money on a frivolous thing when your life is in tatters. And when you are poor, everything is a choice – this OR this. Its rarely this AND this.
Poor people are seeing all the same ads on TV that you are. They are constantly bombarded with the same manufactured desires that companies want you to feel about their products. Do you think it’s easier for them to avoid those wants because they don’t have money and should be just content? Its actually harder to make a good choice when so many things in your life are bad and when everyday you have to make so many of these choices because every damn thing is a value choice. There are studies that show that every choice you make lowers your will power for the next choice.
Poor people are disproportionately overweight and far more of them smoke. You know why? Because life sucks and when life sucks it is WAY harder to make a good choice. Even when you know what the good choice is. So the poor end up spending too much money on things they don’t need like cigarettes and junk food because life just sucks and you grab comfort where you can. And relatively speaking these are easy cheap comforts.
Being poor is not only more expensive, it is littered with hidden obstacles that are invisible from the glorious heights of middle class American security.
I know. I was born in that security and I lived there until 3 years ago. The middle class is blind. It’s more comfortable that way.
CAVEAT: I’m saying this from a US viewpoint. I have no idea if the same is true world wide, but I’m going to guess that it is.