Thursday, 8 December 2011

The poverty money manager

There's an art to being successfully poor, and I've mastered it.

Many a year, I have lived below the poverty line, putting out at least half my income for rent and utilities. Christmases have often been nail biters with presents bought just in the knick of time and feasts cobbled together on a wing and a prayer.

This year will be no exception.

My husband sells Japanese cars. I am an unsuccessful freelancer being chased by the government for a few hundred bucks, even though I've only made about $4,000 this year. I'm always thinking that the government spends more than it makes trying to collect back taxes from the poor, staffing phone banks with bored operators and nasty collection agents who are getting paid more in a month than I make in a quarter.

We also have a few extra expenses. The car needs new bearings. The pug needs to be assessed by the vet after developing the odd habit of fainting for no good reason. There will be added household expenses once Wheels is born and living the $10 Life in the basement with her struggling parents.

Hopefully, our coffers will be temporarily full thanks to a last-minute contract we got. The bills will be paid. The presents will be bought. A stint in debtor's prison will be averted.

I was once told by a credit counsellor that I was one of the best money managers she ever came across. I can pinch a penny until it squeals and gives off interest.

I live a relatively stressless life, but I've had to develop coping mechanisms, which you might find handy should you be looking for a light at the end of the financial tunnel. It takes patience and discipline to be the poverty money manager, but here are some tips to get you back on track AFTER the Christmas season.

  • Stay out of malls. There is no point making yourself sick by looking at the things you cannot have. Do your shopping at your local strip mall with the ghetto Loblaws instead of going to farmer's markets and big box grocery stores. Our local grocer doesn't have the good stuff half the time anyway, so I never, ever, miss those wonderful packaged delights and deals.
  • Buy discounted meat and veg. It can't be any worse than the sprayed, injected and waxed stuff you see on the shelf, right? As long as it's not smelly and there are no worms, you are good to go!
  • Shop at Value Village. If you need a warm new winter coat, don't go to Sears where it will cost you $400. You can get the exact same coat for under $40 at VV. I have an Eddie Bauer ski jacket I bought for $20 and I've had it for eight years and it still looks brand new. It probably belonged to some rich bitch who didn't like the color. Me, I'd buy chartreuse for $20.
  • Invest in a big screen television, a gaming system, a computer and premium cable and you'll never have to go out again. Home theatre offers hours of entertainment; you save gas and snack money. I know this sounds like a big investment, but it saves you buying new clothes, even washing. Pretty soon you will be happy and smelly with a few dubloons still in your pocket. Computers are the best! You can save thousands on hookers.
  • Start drinking liquor. Making your own margaritas is far cheaper than drinking bottles of wine and beer. One short one and you're lit for the rest of the evening. Margarita drinking also saves on condoms.
  • Get rid of your friends and invest in pets. Pets require you to stay around the house and entertain them. Friends want you to go out and spend money. Dogs just want to be snuggled, fed and walked. Friends want to try new things, find new activities, window shop, participate, EAT.Goodness gracious, we all should have given up friends long ago.
  • Take out a gym membership. The gym provides hours of fun for $50 a month. You can swim, do yoga, workout on machines and watch hot bodies. If you go every day, as I do, it will cost just pennies a day. And you don't need any friends!
  • Write a blog. It's free and you're spreading joy to one and all. Bloggers live virtual lives, dwelling within their own imaginations. Who needs friends when you have yourself to play with?
  • Self-medicate. It really is, truly, the only way to successfully survive poverty.

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