Search This Blog

Help me be NOT poor.

Sunday, January 12, 2014


When you stick out like a sore thumb, everyone becomes a hammer... I know that is a horrible mixed metaphor, but that is how I feel.

As my story got out there, I received more than PayPal Donations and kind words of encouragement.  I've been getting lots of annoyed responses followed by advice that usually starts out like this:

'Why don't you just...'

Some of them tell me their own experiences where everything worked out fine in the end, and I get the sense from their stories that there is a little revisionist history going on.

I get a lot of what I call, 'Bootstrappers'. These are people who start at self sufficiency and work backwards from there.  If you try, you will get a job... If you just make the effort, you will get hired... You just need to get off your ass and pound the pavement... Just take any job that comes along!  Go flip burgers!

A lot of the hasty responses followed a tough love approach, as if the only reason I am not currently working is because I don't want to and this guy is going to get real with me and they're the one that's going to step up and tell me the hard truths that these other pussies are too afraid to tell me.


First off, no job is easy to get right now, even though the labor market is slowly improving, it's still multiple applicants per job.  Another thing that people don't consider is that it is possible for a job to pay too little to except.  Sure, $7 or $8 an hour is $7 or $8 an hour more than what I currently make, but if the hours max out at 28, then I'll barely have enough to make rent, let alone food and utilities and fuel.  If the schedule changes every week then I can't hope to get a 2nd job to add up to enough money for just my basic bills.  Sure, $170 a week after taxes is $170 more than I make now, but it's still less than what I need to live on.  The utilities still get shutoff, even if I have a little money.  I would still get evicted, eventually, even if I had only some of the money.

I'm not exactly living high on the hog, either... except this week where I literally slow cooked a pork shoulder to eat on all week... a weeks worth of food that would not have been possible had it not been for my friends getting me Kroger Gift Cards for Christmas.  Thanks, guys.

I have internet, which despite what some bootstrappers say, I really do need for applying to and following up on jobs.  Obviously, I have electricity, and my heat/water is paid with the rent.

The only thing extra that I have is an $8 per month Netflix subscription and wow, have I got some fierce blowback for that.  Most negative comments go right at the Netflix first.

That's how it is when you're poor though.  Bootstrappers have to believe that you are only poor because of your own personal failings, otherwise, their worldview kind of falls apart.  If you buy anything other than flour, eggs, milk, and maybe a chuck roast and potatoes at the store, you are living it up in the bootstrapper's eyes.

Your life is not permitted joy if you are poor.  Poverty, according to the bootstrappers, is a punishment.  Poverty is for the losers of capitalism and social darwinism.  Not being homeless and a bowl of gruel is all the poor deserve in the eyes of the bootstrapper.

So people pile on and it wears heavily on me.  My back strains from the weight of a world that owes me nothing and sees no reason to help someone who obviously can't help themself.

But I'm lower than my own self dug shovelfuls should account for.  The world fines poverty with exponentially worse poverty. I pay what I can on utilities and I don't just fall behind on what I owe, I have fees added.  I don't compete with people who were just out of work, they get the interview first.  My poverty isn't merely the sum of my misfortunes, there's an added multiplier that makes things exponentially worse.

My misfortunes gain steam and attract other misfortunes.  Car trouble get's patched by friend-of-the-family mechanics who do just enough to keep it running while my family tries to pay the bill.  Family members try to help out, which puts a strain on them.  If they have the misfortune of being short on their own meager funds, then they can't help.  Some friends get tired of your complaining and unload on you for a simple facebook status that didn't warrant the response you got.

It just all piles on.

The month is almost half over.  No February rent. No car insurance that is due in a week. Getting pretty low on food.  What am I going to do, have another Twitter-Thon to raise PayPal donations?  How many times can I reasonably expect others to help?  I'm in a pretty low place right now and I really don't know if I can climb out.


  1. I hear you.

    To anyone who hasn't been there due to circumstances beyond their control, everything is an easy fix - if you just try harder, work harder, apply yourself more.

    Not to mention everyone has a different, personal definition of poor. "We were poor when we were just married, but we made it." You were? Poor how exactly? You may have lived paycheck to paycheck, but you owned a house, fed your family, still had Christmas every year, and were able to save for college. They think just because they made it out of their personal low, you can make it out of yours the same way - even if you're so much lower...

    I know you're doing what you can. I know there are forces beyond your control, and I know how not having enough money compounds problems until they are practically unsolvable. I know how a small problem can become an avalanche that it takes years to dig out of, if you can at all.

    At the risk of giving you more unhelpful, unsolicited advice, I would read those comments as objectively as you can, and then delete them. If you feel you must justify yourself, or if you feel like you just want to make people more aware what it's like so they have a little empathy, do it here on your blog. You've done the best thing for yourself addressing all the bootstrappers here, but it also helps everyone else in your position. We've all been subject to attitudes like that, but I couldn't have said it better.

    The last thing I have to say is rather trite, but it's the only thing I really have. Try to stay positive. You have to believe that you will climb out, or dig out, or claw out, but you will get out. If you don't believe that, all that heavy weight will crush you and you become poor in spirit as well. At that point, it's infinitely harder to do the things necessary to make it. That feeling knocks on my door almost daily, but I have to keep focusing on the things I am doing, the things that have potential, and the other blessings I have. I hope you can continue to do the same.

    On the off-chance that my unfortunately long comment was not un-welcome, you can email me if you'd like to talk,

  2. I dunno man, since I've commented on your Facebook posts I guess I'll chime in.

    I was literally homeless at points in my early 20's. I have gone hungry. Millions have had it worse than me, so I'm not complaining, but I have been low. And I got out of it with lots of luck and lots of hard work. I can admit luck was a factor.

    I think people are getting frustrated with you because they perceive that you have options. You are white, you are a male, you have a college degree, you are not elderly (relative to many unemployed, you are young.)

    I've never had a real job. Once I got past all the waiting tables, retail, warehouse garbage I could never stick with, I've always been self employed. I had to go that route partially because I can't stand working for other people, so I understand why you told Kroger to shove 4th of July up their ass - I get it. But if you're not entrepreneurial, if you want that W-2 job, not doing things like that is part of the deal. It sucks, for sure.

    Do you want to make money? I could make your rent money in two weeks buying stuff at thrift stores and reselling on eBay/Craigslist. Something I've done as a hobby in the past. And I'd show you how to do it if you wanted to know! Do you look for opportunities or do you just sit on Facebook and send out resumes? Because that might work, but damn man, it might not.

    Now, I doubt you'll respond, since you don't respond to any of your comments, and I'm sure you tuned me out after my first couple of sentences, but at some point you'd do yourself a lot of good to listen to people's advice. It's a shame Sam, you could turn this around. You have been dealt a very hard hand at the moment, but it doesn't mean you can't overcome it. I believe that, but I don't think you do?

    The environment for the unemployed is brutal right now, but you've let it get in your head so much that you're screwing yourself over.

  3. How am I screwing myself over, by not selling things on eBay? You mentioned my options... being a young, white, male isn't a job. If I were in executive management, I'd bet that would have a real impact, but I'm very poor, and being very poor is something of an equalizer. My race, gender, and age are not an implicit advantage at this level.

    There's also this misunderstanding about me that I get all 'Whoa is me' in front of potential employers in phone or face-to-face interviews. I don't. I know it's convenient to believe that because it makes giving unsolicited answers easy.

    And of course, anyone can dispel sage wisdom after the fact, but in the moment, the decision to go forward, zig, or zag is anything but clear. I never told Kroger to shove July 4th up their ass. I told them it was somewhat shameful to keep the call center open on that holiday, when it was dead slow on Memorial Day, and it would probably be just as slow on the 4th. That comment went to one non-manager who simply accepted or denied my day off request.

    So in hindsight, anyone would say, 'Don't say that', but in the moment, I really didn't think that the person who ready the comment would forward it to a manager, or they would do anything but take my comment as a private criticism and let it go.

    What is my fault is me being so open. I let people into my life, give them the Cliff's Notes of what is going on, and in return, I get a detailed report of everything I did wrong. I use facebook as an outlet to express my thoughts and feelings. I use this blog to simply document the poor experience. Maybe I shouldn't have facebook anymore. Maybe I should keep my poverty to myself, so I don't inconvenience people who happen to read my posts. At least then, I won't have people dispensing unsolicited advice or answering questions I never asked.

  4. The eBay thing was a throwaway, disregard. Only pointing out that there are ways to scrimp through bad situations. You could also look at the "gigs" section on Craigslist and try to pick up work to get you through until you find something permanent. There are millions of ways to make money online. I told you back in like 2008 you could make money writing online, but you weren't interested because it wouldn't be about things you are passionate about. I have the AIM logs. You wouldn't get rich doing that, I outsource all of my website content anymore because it's cheap and my time's better spent on higher level things, but it's possible to pay the bills doing it.

    Being poor isn't really the equalizer you think it is. There are levels of poor, and you have plenty of privilege. You still have inherent advantages. You have a degree, if you don't want to agree on the other points that's ok, but you have to acknowledge that one.

    I have no idea how you interview. I'm sure you come across as competent.

    If you had come to me before the July 4th decision I'd have told you it would likely get you fired. I know you didn't tell them to shove anything up their ass, do you take everything so literally? It may just be hindsight to you, but it wouldn't be to most people. Most people don't make waves at their places of employment, especially if it's the only thing keeping them from being homeless. Regardless, what's done is done. It's ok to admit you made a mistake. It doesn't make Kroger suck any less.

    And yes, not having Facebook or writing this blog might be a good idea if you don't desire people commenting on your life. But here's the thing, I, and I think others, interpret your posts as basically being "I'm hurting and in an emergency and don't know what to do" and people don't like to see that and so they offer you solutions based on their personal experience. Which have a ton of value, if it weren't for reading about other people's experiences I'd have not had any success in life at all. I am not sure how else people would interpret "I hope I'm not unemployable." or why you wouldn't expect encouragement and advice on such a status.

    But from what I am reading you'd prefer people to read your posts and statuses and just move on, or maybe comment saying "that sucks" or what have you? If I were you I'd feel lucky that so many people give a damn.

    If there's anything I can do, hit me up on Facebook IM. I have made money in the last 15 years in about 1000 different ways, I'm pretty sure I could help. If you are just dead set on getting your resume to the right person and getting a job, that's cool too, and I sincerely wish you the best of luck. It will work out eventually, but you might get evicted first. There are worse things though it may not seem that way right now. And sometimes I think you have to hit bottom to get things figured out anyway.

    1. I am interested in making money 1000 different ways. Would you mind sharing some with me? I don't have Facebook though. I really don't like it :(

      Whatever you decide, thanks anyway!


    2. Michelle, feel free to email me:

      jd a rney@ gmail . com

      (remove the spaces)

      What has worked for me may not work for you, but it never hurts to share info.

  5. I would like to help but first I need to see that you are volunteering to help others in a significant way.

  6. Sorry, but this blog post is what is wrong with your whole concept of blogging about being poor. By offering up a public forum to discuss what you are going through, you're basically saying "EVERYONE LISTEN TO ME, BUT DON'T YOU DARE SAY ANYTHING UNLESS ITS SYMPATHETIC...oh and please click the PayPal link!" People that are especially attracted to reading this will be those that have gone through it. Just by putting this blog out there, makes any comment solicited. I found this blog genuinely compelling, and thought to myself from the onset that this would get a lot of feed back from people who have been through it...and maybe that would offer you an opportunity to look at what you're doing differently. But its obvious help (aside from donations) isn't what you want, more so just a cyber shoulder to cry on. This blog post just comes across as whiny and that you're looking for an outlet to complain versus tell a story. If that's the case then write it in a journal and then publish it as a success story once you've dug yourself out. Don't write and then fire back at the first person who says something you don't want to hear.

    I can't pretend to know what you're going through...and I don't have any concept of what you're doing for yourself to get out of it in between blog posts...and I'm not even going to tell you to save $8 a month and cancel netflix. But if handouts is what you're looking for, this post probably isn't the way to go about it because it completely voids any notion I would have to donate.

  7. Sam,
    I guess I am one of those "bootstrappers" that you referred to in your response. No, I didn't do revisionist history. The experience I related to you was my experience. I won't relate it to you again but I will tell you of an experience I had last year trying to help an unemployed friend of a friend get a job. His name is Kenny. He's been on unemployment for over a year. He shows up at my friend's doublewide here in Sussex County Delaware, looking for a job. He says he "won't even consider anything less than $15.00 an hour." Sussex County, Delaware; a summertime resort community (Rehoboth Beach) where most jobs pay at the most $11.00 an hour. The only jobs available here are either in the tourist industry (which I have as a hotel front desk clerk at $11.25 an hour) of in a chicken slaughtering plant. He wouldn't even consider either job. He was content to sit and smoke (yes, he had enough money for cigarettes) and watch my friends' TV for hours on end while we tried to network for him. Day after day we tried to get him out of the doublewide and away from his trance like stare at the TV to at least put his name in different places. He refused, waiting for the job to come to him. After four months my friends finally had to ask him to leave. I have no idea where he is now and frankly, I don't care.
    Now I know this isn't your situation, everybody is different but what I can say is that you have to have a positive attitude and don't discount any job. Just because I've had any job under the sun doesn't deserve the negative insinuation that I'm a "bootstrapper" and somehow am rewriting history. Have you gone to hotels and asked if they have a night auditor position open? I would start here, go to every hotel you know that you can easily drive. You have to do something. That job won't come to you. That's what this "bootstrapper" did when I lost my bank managerial job. Was it embarrassing to check in the bank president into the hotel on New Year's Eve Y2K? You bet. But you know, I had a job and was on my way to getting back to where I was before I lost everything.
    Sam, there are so many ways out of your situation. As another commenter said; you're young, white and a college education. I was old (59), and a associates degree which meant nothing looking for a job. All I had was my demeanor and willingness to work hard.
    I wish you the best. But give my suggestion a try. What do you have to lose?