Friday, June 17, 2011

Poverty Manifesto (Or at least what Dan does)

Dan Waters is a snarky 22 year old queer biracial wonderment who is part White, Portuguese, and Native American (Wampanoag-Kiowa). He currently lives in Massachusetts, and plans to become a Lawyer. That is, if he can survive Algonquin language classes and polyamorous dating right now! He also identifies as Two Spirit, and prefers male pronouns, but cherishes his female body that he was given graciously by the Creator. He blogs at Identity Exposure.

So because of this string of financial pinching, I decided to write up a piece about surviving in a crunch. Well off middle and upperclass people can take heed to this wisdom (yes, for this is wisdom passed down of generations of poor kin, mostly my Vavo [grandmother]), and probably save some money for themselves as well. But this truly is for the folks that are crunching numbers furiously into their calculators, trying to figure out what bill can be paid this month, etc. Some of it is common sense, others will make you go “Oooo…”, and I hope some of the readers will like this. To keep the format simple, I’m employing numbers here. Some similar things will be lumped together, of course. So here are 10 easy things that Dan does during times of severe fiscal pinching.

1) Health is one of the first things many of us lower class folk neglect. Those fancy vitamins your doctor (if you even can afford to see one) aren’t cheap at CVS or RiteAid, regardless of being one of their (literal) card carrying members. I shop for vitamins at Puritan’s Pride. It’s cheap, fast, and a lot of it is buy one get one, so it’ll last you quite a while. Many bottles are in 60-90 pills per bottle range, so one purchase can set you up for two months while you’re waiting for unemployment to kick in. Poor vegans will appreciate the Biotin shampoo that is vegan, both the Puritan Pride’s version and J/A/S/O/Ns. They accept Paypal, and the boxes that come in are completely reusable, which leads me to my next item…

2) Get paypal. It’s free, and can connect to a bank account, debit card, etc. Many websites accept it, and it’s a lot easier than entering your card number constantly. Also, you can get a nifty donate button so people on the internet can donate any amount of money to your account. I have one. Paypal (and those nifty boxes I mentioned) leads to another point…

3) SELL YOUR SHIT. I’m serious. Books and things that are collecting dust can go in the gutter. I’ve parted with my original PlayStation, and many of my games (but I am not giving up my Tomb Raider games! No-sir-ee.) While many stores like Gamestop only offer in-store credit (which is nice for us gamers waiting for the next quarter to come so our new game releases will be here), other places can take it for their parts. Chat up the Gamestop/game stores folks, many of them are collectors themselves and will pay for stuff you’ve got. Heck, that old Tetris game in your basement that was in an airtight lockbox might make some geek pretty happy, and be worth 50 bucks to them. If you are selling online, boxes that you’ve collected or received from shopping are STILL usable, and when opening packages try using a butter knife or shoe horn to open the boxes, to minimize damage and increase usability. Garage sale it up if you have to, as well. Those boxes can become handy signs, and be sure to make it pretty with some of your kids’ markers. Heck, they can even help.

4) Steal pens from work. As a student, I always found that pens mysteriously went away or found a bolthole inside of my backpack. I know, you’re probably going to kick me for this, but I have not been above stealing a toilet paper roll or two from work. Nor have I been above taking a stapler out of vengeance at work either.

5) Small things can be expensive. More hilarious than serious, but I have stolen toothpaste from relatives that I hate. Next time you’re forced at a family dinner, snag some of that minty freshness from their bathroom; see how they’ll like it. Or maybe your cousin’s purple eyeshadow because they saw you eyeing it at Hot Topic and bought it instead and you know purple is so not their color anyway and…Okay, ranting done.

6) Cut back on meat. Meat is one of the most expensive items in the grocery cart these days, and veggies are not far behind too. Stick with staples like corns, beans, and other carb things. When you first go to the store, check the sell by date for the meats. Wait for a day or two before that date to buy the meat, it’ll be on sale, and cook it that day/night. Make a lot to keep for leftovers. Canned soups are also cheap these days, and my friends and I would do this before Big Daddy’s Adam Sandler showed it; we’d dent the cans and mess up the labels. Actually, because we got caught inside the store, we ended up making buddies with one of the deli people and they’d let one or two of us sneak out back to dent the cans and quickly come back in to pay for it. Also, know some people. As a Portagee, I can charm my way into any fisherman’s good grace’s, especially if they know my Vavo or avo [grandmother, grandfather]. I’ve bought cod cheap once for it. Milk, while it can be a staple for some people’s diets, leeches a lot of vitamins and medicine from people and also goes bad fast. It’ll usually end up wasted unless everyone is eating cereal.

7) Another shopping tip, if you want to do something big (like say, dye your hair purple), do what I do even when you have money. Buy things incrementally. I bought my dye and bleach in November, another extra [just in case] bleach kit a few months later, and the toner on the day of the bleaching.

8) If your family is a big soda family, stop. It is expensive. Also, contrary to popular belief, faucet water is typically safe, especially in urban cities. Rumor has it (or word of mouth from an enviromental management major ex) that Dartmouth, a richer and more suburban haven actually has more metals in their water than my town of New Bedford, which is supposedly “Gang central” according to Dartmouth’s cops. If your family still wants the soda, opt for the cans. Why? Because you can recycle them. 5 cents in Massachusetts. Many can depots are located in or nearby grocery stores, so make this part of your grocery habit. This can help cover a lot of the cost of the soda. If your kids really like sweet drinks, just buy some Kool-Aid or fakemeout Kool-Aid, it’s cheap and less sugar.

9) Coupons. I saw that there was a show about couponing, and I merely laughed because I thought rich tv executives must find this shit fascinating because I myself have done it since I could hold a pair of safety scissors. Having my mother, aunt, and Vavo huddled on a dining room table while I dutifully helped cut out coupons from Stop&Shop was one of my favorite past times, and when I learned how to read and found even awesomer deals? Well, let’s just say I was clearly the favorite.

10) One thing that I remembered was the bath/wash schedule. I was a pro at this, mostly because I unlike many of the other kids in our household totally didn’t mind wearing the same underwear two days in a row, or the same pajamas for a week. If water bills are your woes, make a schedule. Kids should bathe every day (or else the school will call), but if it’s a vacation, let them get dirty. We had two laundry days in a household of three families and boy did we work to make it light. I also took baths instead of showers (mostly because our apartment didn’t have a shower, but also because I knew I take too long in them anyhow. If I wanted a shower, I spent the night at my relatives. Free food, and fun shower times), and while my baths took forever and ever (I liked playing in the water), the bill would be significantly less. Of course, that is, when I decided it was time to take a bath.