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Help me be NOT poor.

Monday, December 30, 2013


As a prologue to my last post, my internet was disconnected just moments before my sister called, telling me she put some money in my bank account so I can get my internet turned back on.

I was pretty relieved to have that fire temporarily extinguished and thought it would be a great time to step outside, get some fresh winter's air, and buy some cat food for Ms. Teschmacher.

Then I saw this taped to my door...

I had to get a loan from a friend and a family member to pay October and November's rent, but I was never able to pay rent for December.  I am now a month behind with next month's due in a matter of days.

Rent is $520

Presumably, $520 would buy me a few more weeks and $1,040 would get me through the first half of February.  I say presumably, because there is a possibility that he just wants me to leave regardless of my ability to pay.

So unless I get a lot of PayPal donations or a good paying gig real fast, my next Poor Blog post may be from the car I'll be living in.  The notice says that if I'm not out by the 2nd(keep in mind that many businesses will close early tomorrow and remain closed for New Year's Day), then he will start formal eviction proceedings.  I may have no other choice than to let the court order me homeless.


The threat of disconnection hangs over all of us poor people daily, especially as we may not be able to pay our full utility bill... or any of it on a given month.

My electricity was set to be turned off by Duke Energy next week.  I owe a total of $178, which includes several months of non-payments, partial payments, and late fees.  Thankfully, I was able to negotiate a 6 month payment plan for the past due amount, where I pay $30 a month + whatever the current charges are.

So I started today with over $150 to my name and that $30 payment brings me back done to $120.

My internet is very behind as well.  Usually, I carry a month past due and end up paying the minimum amount due to Time Warner, which is half.  That 'half' increases every month as new late fees are added into the total I have to at least pay half of.  

I called Time Warner to make arrangements and they were much less flexible.  My total bill is $228, of which, a minimum of $154 must be paid to keep the service from being disconnected... which is supposed to happen today or tomorrow.  Should I fail to pay that amount before they pull the plug, it will cost an additional $36 to have the service scheduled for reconnection.

Remember, I now only have about $120, so... not enough for Time Warner's minimum payment.

I called Time Warner and navigated their prompts until I got someone in billing.  I told her my situation and said I would like to set up a payment plan.  The only payment she could accept was the minimum $154.

So I may not be on the internet for a while, except for a friend's WiFi.  I currently use the internet for job applications and Netflix($8/month).  No internet, no job applications. No job applications, no interviews and no jobs.  No job, no money for the internet.  

It's very hard using a friends internet to apply for jobs because you have to upload resumes that usually reside on my iMac.  Also, I have to go to his place to use the computer, which means it may be several days before I can check on emails regarding jobs and do the follow up I need to be competitive in the job market.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Behavioral Economics of Being Poor.

Note: I made a very simple edit to this early blogpost, and as a result, it shows up as a new post. This was written before I became homeless...

Poor people such as myself make different decisions than people with more money.  Some decisions are simply not possible through limited funds, while other decisions are based on circumstances that change from day to day, rather than careful longterm planning.


Poor people spend a greater percentage of not just income, but total cash on hand, on groceries.  For someone making $72,000 a year, spending $60 on groceries isn't a big deal, but for someone with little to zero income like myself, it's impossible.

I can only take advantage of cheap deals, not good values.  This is due to something known as total ring in the grocery industry.  An exec for Kroger once explained this to me in terms of downsizing certain food items, which was causing a lot of grief among shoppers.  He said that they could sell a big Kroger brand can of coffee at a great price, but that doesn't help a poor person buy that item.  'It may be a great value, but that shopper may only have $20, so they can't take advantage of that value.'  So Kroger made smaller cans of coffee, jars of mayo, et cetera. Poor shoppers like me could then buy more things with my money.

Obviously, the goal here is to buy the cheapest foods, but there is also a focus on calorically dense foods.  I have no real vices, and food is my only real escape.  People will perhaps see this as reckless, but keep in mind that poor people live paycheck to paycheck at best and their next meal is never guaranteed.  You'd go crazy if you couldn't have a supply of simple comfort foods such as snack cakes, chips, or pop to go with your meat and potatoes.

Cheap pantry items are a must, including ramen noodles, mac n cheese, canned tuna, and some simple seasonings.  Milk, eggs, bread, and cheese are essential perishable items. Large cuts of meat can be bought only when on sale and must be eaten for every meal until it's gone.

Also potatoes.  At only $2 or $3 for a 10lb bag, potatoes are not only filling, but a great source of potassium and an unbelievable value.

Eating out

Eventually, a friend will call and ask if I've eaten yet, and after a long pause and a sigh, I answer that I have no money.  Many times, my good friend will offer to pay, mostly because he wants to eat and needs someone to accompany him.  

Sometimes, I'll go out to eat anyway. Again, this does seem irresponsible, but consider being holed up in the same small apartment for days or weeks on end.  I have no money for entertainment other than $8 a month for Netflix.  Same as with groceries, going out to eat is focused on getting the most for my money.  Buffets are the first choice for this reason, even if it isn't the cheapest meal, it will most likely be the only one I eat the whole day.


Only bought as an emergency, like when something rips.  Only one pair of pants at a time.


Cheap as possible. Car loans are out of the realm of possibility. Most cash sales are way too much money, even with family helping.  The cars I've been driving have been either hand me downs or cheap charity cases.  I currently drive a 1997 Dodge Stratus that my sister bought for me from a friend after my previous car, a 1995 Ford Taurus that was a hand me down from my parents, died.  The oil burns off slowly, there is a bad seal in the torque converter, so it drinks a lot of transmission fluid, and the car's coolant system leaks.

Someone making more money would observe that making constant repairs is more costly and time consuming than getting a new car.  A new car is under warranty and doesn't tend to break down, but you need credit and stable income for that.  I, like most poor people, have poor credit, but I'll save my rant on consumer credit scoring for another post.




My cell phone is a part of a family plan with my parents.  When employed, I paid all or most of it.  Now my parents have the full burden.  

I used part of my student loan money in 2006 to get a top of the line 20" iMac with an intel Core 2 Duo processor.  I still have it. Several years in, it started acting up, randomly overheating and crashing.  It turns out that this is a common problem for the Late 2006 iMac, but Apple never issued a recall.  Despite those problems and despite the fact it's really showing it's age(7+ yrs), this iMac was the single best value I have ever been able to take advantage of.  At $1,700 and lasting more than 7 yrs, this computer has more than made up for any shortcomings.

Social Life

My friends are in the band Swear Jar, so I go to their shows and hang out with them quite a bit.  I don't date.  I have no girlfriends.  I frequent no bars or clubs or go anywhere to meet anyone.  What could I possible have to offer someone?  I'm too poor to be anything other than a complete bummer to be around.

Friday, December 27, 2013


I have been unemployed for for most of the last 6 months.

I had a customer service job in a call center, answering questions about food for a major grocery chain.  I wasn't directly employed by the grocer, but through a staffing agency.

The call center operated on a ratio that was 40% Associates and 60% temporary placement.  Management reasoned that they needed such a mix because of all the upward mobility in the call center, as talent would be plucked from their cubicles and hired on to other departments.  I never really bought that argument. I think it had more to do with not having to offer benefits and increased pay to 60% of the call center.

As temps, we were expected to work many holidays that the full-time associates didn't.  Last May, it was announced that the call center would be open on Memorial Day and all employees would have to work their regular schedule.  It turns out that nearly all the Associates called in or used personal days, leaving the temps to staff the call center.

What was so infuriating about this is the fact that it was horrifically slow that day.  Imagine that... all the customers are celebrating the troops and having cookouts and not calling in to ask if their canned corn is still good.  One temp employee was upset that he had to work on a day that the call center didn't really need to be open, so he wrote a mass email...

I am truly sorry we work for such a non caring family of companies and
people who care so little about what this holiday is really about.

That’s right.  They have made every effort to make sure, the real Kroger
employees at their call centers are off for what should be and
with most company's, is *A NATIONAL HOLIDAY*.  Here at The Kroger Company.

They feel the temporary workers, that they don’t have to
pay overtime, or give a different day off to make up for them working on
this day.  They can be the slaves of the Kroger call centers.

Barney is probably rolling over in his grave.

We work side by side with many different people.  White, Afro American,
black, brown, Indian, and American Indian.

I have probably missed someone.  Not my intent to shun anyone.

We have different beliefs, but we are all the same.  We are all American’s.

American’s that would like to be home with their family’s.

American’s that would like to honor those who have given their lives and
limbs to make sure we are free.

My father is a veteran.  My uncles and yes a couple of aunt’s are and were
veterans.  People I grew up with that are gone but not forgotten and many

were and are veterans as well.  I’m sure we have veterans working here as

I’m sure they are proud they work for such a fine caring organization.
Personally, I am sick that we work for such a company.

In previous years, I have taken the time to visit the graves of those that
I no longer can personally thank.

This year I am working.  A real shame when you think what this holiday is
truly about.

Thanks KROGER.  Thanks for only caring about the Kroger employees.

Hang your heads in shame KROGER.  Shame on you for being so uncaring as to
what this holiday is all about.

He was walked out about 15 minutes later... fired.  There were no managers with the ability to fire someone in the call center at that time as they were out... with family...celebrating Memorial Day.  So that means a supervisor got the order over the phone to walk that guy out for speaking his mind.

Well, fast forward a couple weeks and they announce that the call center will also be open for the 4th of July...but you could put in a request to have the day off.

I put in mine and left a little note in the comment section...

My comment basically stated that it was pretty shameful that they decided to be open on such an important holiday when nobody would be calling us anyway.  Only 1 person would have seen my comment and that is the person that approved the day off request.  That person forwarded my note to management, and while I was on my way to work the next day, my staffing agency contact told me to not bother coming in. My contract was terminated.

Now that was a long story to get to unemployment.

In Ohio, you have to be employed a certain period of time and you have to make a minimum amount to qualify for unemployment benefits.  Basically, you have to average at least $200 a week during a 10 week period within the last 6 months.

Unemployment is half of what you made in a week on average and up to $400 a week.  So if you made the bare minimum $200 a week, you would get a paltry $100 a week unemployment.  If you made $900 a week, then you would max out and only get $400 a week unemployment.

I qualified for $232 a week in unemployment compensation and elected to have federal taxes withheld(you know, to keep the roads paved).  After taxes, my weekly unemployment was $208.  Normally, my paychecks were $345 after taxes and I skimmed by without any real savings, so having $137 less every week was a real shock.

Ohio doesn't even give you all your unemployment, though.  For instance, the first week that you file is NEVER paid.  Not withheld for an extra week... unpaid.  I have no earthly idea why they do this.  Also, it takes 3-4 weeks for you to get your first unemployment payment.  So as you can imagine, I was pretty strapped for cash when I got my first payment a month later.

Only the most fiscally responsible people can make an unemployment budget work and I'm bad with money.  So where my much better sister could take the $832 a month & pay all the bills, I couldn't.  I was and still am very inefficient with money.  It just gets away from me, I guess.  I don't smoke and I rarely drink.  I don't do any drugs and my only real vice is food.

So after getting a first unemployment payment that is 1 week light and 3 weeks late, I started to fall behind.  By September, I was a month behind on rent with the building manger threatening eviction.  I applied to work in one of Amazon's fulfillment centers, putting away incoming merchandise.  The work was excruciating and after a few days, I couldn't walk.  I had to call in a couple days in a row while my feet recovered.  I felt so embarrassed and defeated, but this wasn't work I would have ever applied for in any other circumstance.

I KNOW i'm no good at manual labor and standing on my feet all day, but I was desperate.  While I was off, I got calls about 2 jobs I was much better suited for.  I figured that I had a really good chance at one position and the other was more or less a lock and I could take that job if the first opportunity fell through.  So I quit the Amazon job that I couldn't stand to do(literally) and prepared to accept a new, better paying position.

I didn't get either job.

Remember how you have to be employed for a certain amount of time to get unemployment?  Yeah... I know longer qualify.  I've worked a series of temp jobs since then, but nothing that has panned out long term.

In the mean time, I have borrowed money from my sister, friend, and grandpa.  There are no more favors, no more money to borrow.  If I don't get some sort of stable employment very soon, I'll lose my apartment and whatever possessions I can't fit in my car.

Welcome To Poor Blog!

Hi.  My name is Sam and I am poor.

That is an awkward, uncomfortable, and embarrassing thing to admit, but it's true.

When I say I am poor, it's important to note that I am not saying that I have failed to become rich, I'm saying I don't have enough money to cover most basic living expenses.  When I say I am poor, I don't mean that I only make $30,000 a year or that it is sometimes difficult to pay on my student loans.  I have been unemployed for most of the last 6 months.  I am 2 months behind on rent and several months behind on utilities.  I have no savings and I am in real danger of eviction and losing my electricity and internet.

What I intend to do through this blog is document my misadventures and give the more fortunate in this country an uncensored window into one person's poor life.  I'm not sure how often this will get updated and I'll have to decide whether to plan specific posts or merely vent bout the suck, my life has become.

Check back in for more updates...