Every once in a while a cranky person or a troll rolls through here and leaves a comment that refers to me as being poor, and it’s usually used in a pejorative way (“Well, you poor people just always need to xyz….”), but sometimes in a passing way (“Kristen is poor, so she has to cook at home/shop at Goodwill/use freecycle.”)
While I’m not generally offended by these comments (trolls and cranky people do tend to say cranky things and I don’t take them seriously), it does always make me raise my eyebrows and the wheels start turning in my brain, mulling over what it means to be poor and whether I think I’ve ever actually been poor.
So, I’m just going to share my rambly thoughts on the topic and then I’m really curious to hear what you guys think too.
Whenever I’m referred to as poor, my initial thought is, “Goodness, that’s ridiculous! I have so much more than what I need that one couldn’t possibly think of me as being poor.”
And it is true that at this point in my life, a sane person couldn’t look at my bank statement and categorize me as poor. I am in the privileged place where I can choose to live frugally not just to survive, but to maximize our income’s potential. I could spend more than I do, and I choose not to.
But even in the bare-bones days of our early marriage, I still never thought of myself as being poor. I think that’s because even in our leanest days, our necessities were taken care of.
We lived in a one-bedroom basement apartment, but we always had a roof over our heads.
We may not have been able to eat out, but we never had to wonder if we could afford groceries.
Our cars may not have been fancy, but they were safe and reliable.
Plus, we had clothes, car insurance, health insurance, homeowner’s insurance, and a small savings account.
By typical American standards, we weren’t exactly living the high life, but I just still don’t think we were poor. Much of the world’s population would have thought our lifestyle was positively luxurious, actually.
I think in my mind, being poor means being unsure of whether your needs will be met. And I am privileged to have never been there.
(I must add parenthetically that when I maintain that I’ve never been poor, it’s not because I look down on people who actually are. It’s just that realistically speaking, I don’t think I’ve ever been at that point, and I think categorizing my life as one of poverty would be insulting to those who do actually live in poverty every day.)
So, talk to me! How do you define poverty for yourself? And do you think you’ve ever been poor?
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