Friday, October 19, 2012

Pissed Opportunity

So I've been trying to find a job.

I have no grand career plans.  Those days are far behind.  I just want to work somewhere with benefits.

When you are self-employed (or self-unemployed), insurance is ridiculously expensive.  Like as much as a small new sedan per year. Seriously.

This may ease a bit in 2014, or it may not - depending on the election.

I applied last week for a job at an employer with whom I have a long and positive history as a donor (in better days) and as a part-time employee (with great reviews).  The base salary is in the low 30s and coverage for my family would be about $500 a month out-of-pocket. True, I am over-qualified, but I would work so hard.  And I would be better than someone who is 25 and will leave in a couple of years.  I'm here to stay.  Not going anywhere. Want to work.

Guess what?

I didn't even get a phone interview.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Reciprocity Problem

Last month, someone did something very kind for our family.

I'm afraid if I give too many details, I might jeopardize my anonymity.  But I will reveal that a highly skilled professional discounted services of close to $300.00 down to $75.00. This individual knows we're having trouble, and just helped. Out of kindness.

I know that many compassionate people do nice things with no expectation of gaining anything in return. This is absolutely the case with last month's bounty.

Maybe it's just the way I was raised, but I want to do something nice in return.  In the Good Old Days, I'd have dropped by a nice bottle of wine or sent flowers. Or simply told the individual, "Don't be silly! We can handle this."

I don't have any skills with which to barter.  I'd offer to admin the FB page, but I'm not particularly tech-literate.

Next time I have spare baking supplies, I suppose I'll take food (although this person is extremely health-conscious and might not appreciate luscious goodies.

If any of you have any ideas - other than writing a great review and sending waves of positivity - please let me know in a comment.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Some days, I wish I wrote an inspirational blog about being poor.

About how the love of family and friends means more than financial stability!

About how with just a little bit of effort everything will start looking up!

About how simple living brings with it a freedom wealth can never provide!

About how a non-consumer lifestyle promotes sustainability!

All true, no doubt.

But today I went to Dollar General to buy a can of soup and I'm not feeling the love.

In my last post, I talked about shame and guilt. Those, I'm feeling.

So I offer a short list of things I now do because of our financial situation - things I SHOULD have been doing all along for the good of our family and the planet and puppies and kittens everywhere. That "SHOULD" hits me over the head like a ball peen hammer every time. I am well aware, rationally, that these practices would most likely not have made an appreciable difference in our bottom line over the last ten years. But I still feel bad.

  • Turning the water off in the shower as soon as I'm wet, and not turning it on again until I am fully soaped and scrubbed.
  • Drinking nothing but water.
  • Using coupons.
  • Letting errands build up and running them on a fuel efficient route.
  • Using every drop of a body care product - even if I don't like it - before I buy another (more on this soon).
  • Letting the lawn grow unfashionably shabby.
  • Being unfashionable shabby, in general.
  • Claiming PGT's too-dingy socks as our new "fitness wear."
If you do these things with money in the bank, you feel all virtuous and green and responsible.  If you do them overdrawn, you kick yourself for not having done them all along.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wineless in Whineattle

Let's start with a premise: Wine is Good.

Here's the flaw in the premise: Bad Wine is not Good.

Here's the revised premise: Bad Wine is Bad.

I love pinot noir, and not just because I watched Sideways. I particularly like pinots from the northwest. One year, for my birthday, I asked for a week with three or four bottles of pinot in the $40 - $60 range. I spread them out at a half-bottle a day for the festive period. Damn, they were good.

I never used to think that much about my wine purchases when I had disposable income. I did, however, think of myself as quite prudent.  I kept my purchases for day-to-day drinking under $20 a bottle.  When our resources started to shrink, I kind of made a game of finding good wine for $10 or less. It was possible.

When the economic whip came down, I thought that maybe I could still enjoy wine. "After all," I told myself, "there are all sorts of wine on the bottom shelf. Some of them cost less than a cup of fancy coffee. People obviously buy them. They must be drinkable."

Reader, they are not.  It only took one bottle of WalMart's $2.97 Cabernet to turn me into a teetotaler. It was truly a foul fluid.  Since I don't drink to get drunk, there was simply no point. Better to buy fresh broccoli.

Now, when I think about that week of pinot noir, I feel ashamed of such carefree spending. Why didn't I hoard the cash instead? The other day, I bought a bottle of wine that cost about $6 to take to an event, and felt horribly guilty - like I was taking food out of PGT's mouth.

That horrible guilt is what I want people to know about.  What it's like to put the same bottle of orange juice in and out of your shopping cart four times because you want fresh squeezed vitamin C but you need something else more. Knowing that PGT will have to get vitamins from a cheap generic multivitamin pill because fresh fruits and vegetables are sometimes just too costly. Feeling like shit because, when it's over 100 degrees outside, you drop two quarters into the Kroger soda machine for a Dr. Pepper Ten because you're extremely thirsty and you still have shopping to do.

Don't think for a minute that I waste money. Think instead that I question every purchase because I don't know if I'll have cash next week. Know that every time I buy fresh vegetables instead of frozen ones, I've stood paralyzed in an aisle weighing the relative merits of fresh green beans for $1.89 a pound versus a bag of tasteless frozen store brand green beans for $1.

And whatever choice I make, I will feel bad. And guilty. And ashamed.

That's what it's like to be poor.

Who, What, Why...

Welcome to Poor Girl 101's first blog post!
I'm a white woman from the south, with a husband (PGH), teenager (PGT), and a small dog (PGD).

Poor Girl 101 is a blog about being poor, right here and right now.  I have not always been in this position; the story of how we became broke may or may not come out here.  Let's just start with the fact that we are behind on our mortgage, indebted up to our ears, and enduring some chronic health problems without the benefit of insurance.  We used to pay our mortgage ahead, enjoy high credit limits, and take good care of ourselves.  If I wanted pistachios, I'd buy them. Not anymore. That's it in a nutshell.

I decided to start this blog for two reasons. First, I wanted people who are doing okay to know what it's like when that stops.  Even though such statements always made me angry, I never used to comment when I'd hear middle-and-upper class acquaintances blame the poor for their problems or, as candidate Romney recently did, label them as irresponsible.  I knew that they just didn't get it.  Maybe hearing stories from an ex-one-of-their-own may create some compassion.  Second, I wanted to give others in our position a non-judgmental place to read and comment.  It just might feel good to have a place to write, "I hate not being able to buy pistachios. I get teary in the nut aisle."

Some of my posts may seem flippant or shallow.  I think it's important to laugh sometimes. Please don't flame me if I write about shampoo and you can't buy beef.  I can't buy it, either.  I just have shampoo on my mind that day.

Hopefully, as I grow more confident, I'll address the harder things. Things like buying store brand white bread for 88 cents because I can't buy whole wheat.  Be patient with me while I get there.

Please comment, but be kind.  This is not the place for criticism or ranting.

Let's be civil.