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Sunday, March 7, 2010

20 Ways to Survive Poverty

It's no surprise, if you have been reading the news lately, that more people are finding themselves almost instantly dropped into poverty. Here's some tips for surviving if you find yourself in such a situation:
  1. No matter how much (or how little) you make, always put aside 10% of your earnings into savings.
  2. Take help (food stamps, welfare) only if you absolutely, positively can't survive without it--you don't want to get too comfy and become dependant on such help.
  3. Keep yourself busy; if you aren't working then volunteer, take classes, start a garden or do other things to keep yourself occupied. "Idle hands are the devil's playground" as grandma used to say.
  4. Ratchet back your standard of living to meet your current income. Some people try to support their former standard of living using credit which never works out well.
  5. Study frugality. Millions of people before you have lived (many quite happily I might add) very frugally. There are books, websites, and even classes that can teach you how to embrace frugality and live well on much less.
  6. Never lower your standards. You may end up living in the ghetto but that doesn't mean you lower your standards for your children's schooling, your behavior, your spouses qualities, etc.
  7. Develop quality relationships. A nice thing about "poor people" is that they are often less judgemental than your usual snooty yuppies. They are often the people that will give you the shirt off of their backs if you need it and they will often clue you in about all kind of information (about the neighborhood, the neighbors, etc) which may prove useful.
  8. Keep your goals in mind and work towards them every day. You may be broke and in the ghetto but there is always hope, if you have a clear goal and keep working towards it every day no matter how small the progress; eventually you will end up somewhere better.
  9. Hustle and make money every time the opportunity arises. You may need to scan Craigslist daily, go to the 'daily work, daily pay' office, or go door-to-door asking for lawn mowing jobs but you can't make money if you don't try. The more you try, the more you will make.
  10. Search out the free things that will make your life enjoyable even if you are broke. Go to the free night at the museum, volunteer at a community event so that you will get the opportunity to enjoy the event for free after your shift, check out free community activities such as free outdoor movies, bands on the pier, etc.
  11. Stay out of trouble. There is no denying that when you are living in poverty you will meet many people who are in poverty because of their poor decisions--whether it is get rich quick schemes that always fail, problems with drugs or alcohol, or a penchant for getting into legal trouble. Avoid theses people. You are only as good as the people you hang around with.
  12. Use your time wisely--read instead of watch TV, play educational games with your kids instead of going to the bar or casino, limit computer use to work-related stuff and limit mindless internet trolling. Often times when people are in a crappy situation, they look for ways to escape instead of ways to engage. Keep engaged.
  13. You may be in poverty but you can still look good and presentable. Always iron your clothes and keep them stain-free, polish your shoes, and stand up straight...these things cost very little money but can make you look like a million bucks.
  14. Ask for help when possible. Maybe you can hit up an old friend for a job referral, ask a relative to babysit while you go job hunting, or make your needs clearly known to your spouse instead of just assuming they should know what it is you want them to help out with.
  15. Look for win-win situations to take advantage of. Say an elderly relative needs help around the house and happens to have a small apartment over her garage. Work out a deal where you get reduced or free rent in exchange for taking care of her home and yard.
  16. Take care of your health. Generally if you are in poverty, health care is hard to come by so it only makes sense to take care of your health by yourself as much as possible. Exercise every day (walking is free and easy to do for most people) and eat right (skip the fast food and cook staples such as beans and rice from scratch).
  17. Look for cheaper options for things that are important to you (ie: use free public internet instead of paying for internet at home, watch movies for free online instead of paying monthly for cable, cut down to a pre-paid cell phone if you don't use many minutes, etc).
  18. Get outside. Fresh air, sunlight, and social interaction are better than locking yourself away in a dinky, dank apartment.
  19. Consider relocating. Some places are just dead ends--for jobs, for social attitudes and mores, and for upward mobility. Don't discount the power of changing to a more promising location in order to help yourself back out of poverty.
  20. Don't give up. Being broke can be tough but giving up won't help. Get into a good, supportive church, take any opportunity to improve yourself and your marketability, make living frugally fun with picnics and playing at the park with the kids, hang out at the library instead of the bar...
Being in poverty is a fairly crappy way to live. Most people have ended up here at one time or another in their lives, however there are ways to escape from poverty and many people have been able to do this. You can too.