On being poor (or not)

by Kristen on February 13, 2013 · 213 comments

in Uncategorized


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.)

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So, talk to me! How do you define poverty for yourself? And do you think you’ve ever been poor?

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Joshua’s 365 post: Wildlife Wednesday

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{ 213 comments… read them below or add one }

1 carrie February 13, 2013 at 7:17 am

I daresay no American reading your blog is poor. I have known of poor, for instance I knew a woman who, as a child stole food from the grocery store because her abusive parents couldn’t be bothered to feed her and her siblings. Anyone with food, clothing and shelter is not poor.

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2 Kristen @ A Modern Mrs. February 13, 2013 at 9:22 am

I agree! If your basic needs are being met, you have much more than many others around the globe. I am thankful every day for the roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and clothes on our back.

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3 Carmen February 13, 2013 at 7:25 am

Wow! I agree with everything you say and am actually dumbfounded that anyone would think you were even close to poor.

Like you, I am incredibly blessed with what I have when I consider the world at large. I also think it’s a very healthy attitude to have, but respect the views of others to disagree.

I don’t think I have ever been shocked at anything you’ve posted before, because it never occurred to me that people could ever describe you as poor. Pity, via a lack of understanding of the fortunate to prioritise their finances and live by their values I could understand, but to actually think you were poor: no.

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4 Carole February 13, 2013 at 7:39 am

I think that living under one’s income keeps one from being poor in the literal sense. Some people never seem to “get” that. Sometimes people are poor because of circumstances beyond their control, other times people are poor because of poor choices. To me, you seem financially comfortable and content.

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5 Denise February 13, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Well said, Carole! That’s it in a nutshell.

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6 Rose Hand February 13, 2013 at 7:57 am

seriously?? I have “been there”. Not knowing if the rent could be paid or food put on the table that week. My son was living in a tent last summer until NOVEMBER!! Now, to me..that could be considered poor. However…as others said..a roof over your head, food in your belly, clothing..NOPE!! NOT POOR!!
As of right now I feel completely blessed to have ALL We need, even though we have debt, we have what we “NEED” : )

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7 Gina February 13, 2013 at 8:00 am

I define poor much the same as you – if I have all I need I can’t consider myself so. I have more than some, less than others. I don’t go unfed, undressed, and have a roof over my head and those are biggies. I like frugal shopping and decorating and budgeting in general because it helps me maximize what I have. Plus, it’s fun to be creative with such things. Poopers are poopers, you can’t change ‘em. I think a lot of those comments must be born of pure envy…

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8 Stacey February 13, 2013 at 8:02 am

I couldn’t agree more with what you have written here. Anyone thinking that you were poor has never seen poor. You are careful and thoughtful of your money and time for that matter.

My husband grew up in poverty. They moved often because of not having the funds to “catch up” on rent. At times they didn’t have heat for months in Upstate NY (cold!), in one home there was no running water and they used an outhouse. In high school he was deemed malnourished and finally the school stepped in and helped him find assistance. Mind you, I said him. His mother was too high on pain killers to work and his step father, a carpenter, spent every paycheck and all child support money on Black Velvet whiskey and cigarettes. They had money, not a ton but enough for basic needs. They chose to spend it elsewhere. His Dad turned a blind eye because it was easier than dealing with the truth. He basically raised himself. At 18 he moved out and never looked backed. This is poor.

Living a thoughtful, intentional life is not poor. You have a roof over your head, food in your belly, and your bills are paid. You are doing well! I remind my teenage children of this often when they are complaining about not going to every movie or restaurant. My family and yours are incredibly blessed to have the forthought to not spend every dime that hits their bank account and too know what their priorities are. Poor? No! Smart? 100%!

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9 Tammy February 13, 2013 at 8:10 am

I think “poor” is sometimes an attitude more than it is a description of one’s finances. I haven’t seen that attitude here, though I have certainly seen it on other blogs.

Someone I know recently said, “we’re so poor, we’re so very poor” but then she pulled out her recently purchased Smart Phone…I don’t think most Americans know what it is to be truly poor!

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10 Kate Deals February 13, 2013 at 8:29 am

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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11 Laura February 13, 2013 at 8:20 am

Being poor is not realizing what you really have and realizing what is important has no dollar sign .

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12 Karen February 13, 2013 at 11:17 am

Kudos!

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13 Candice February 13, 2013 at 8:23 am

I agree completely. There is, however, another side to poor in my opinion and that is the people that earn a lot of income but spend it all. They are always broke. It’s a form of poor, not poverty though because their needs are met. We all probably know someone like this. They should be doing just fine on their income, but they overspend and live paycheck to paycheck by choice not necessity.

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14 EcoCatLady February 13, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I totally, TOTALLY agree! Once in my early 20′s I was dating someone who made about $70K/year. At that point in my life I made about $12K/year. Now, you would think that I’d have been the financially unstable one in that relationship, but no. I was the one with good credit and money in the bank because even then I lived beneath my means, and it was me who was always doing the financial “bailing out.” It still makes me shake my head in dismay.

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15 SandyH February 13, 2013 at 8:25 am

Choosing to live below one’s income is not poor—it KEEPS YOU from BECOMING poor.

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16 ks February 13, 2013 at 9:36 am

Ohhhhh yes!!!!! We have always lived like we have less money than we do–and actually, my brother-in-law once guessed our salary and it was half of what we actually make…and I didn’t correct him. But, my husband lost his job 3 months ago, and we’re absolutely fine during this transition period until he finds a new position. Number one, because we’ve always lived below our means. And number two, because we know we have a very nice cushion should we need to tap into it. I’ve actually always preferred to have others think we’re “poorer” than we are–that way, the financial expectations others have of us are low. Sounds strange, I know…but I would prefer for others to think of us as not having much. But, there are others, such as a neighbor who when he lost his job he couldn’t afford to feed his family–quite literally…and we were the “rich” (by comparison) neighbors who would drop off food at their house each week so their kids had lunches to take to school and a dinner on the table every night. Interesting topic.

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17 Kate Deals February 13, 2013 at 8:28 am

I concur that becuase you had ALL of your basic needs taken care of, even in your leanest times, including access to health care as well as loving and meaningful relationships, that you were not poor. Your attitude and willingness to live the way you did/do played/plays a large part in that. I find your life inspirational, there are way too many people that don’t examine their spending and live within/beneath their means. I fear for them should they encounter a long term job loss or health crisis, and also in their retirement. I get the impression that you are a very responsible person with a very fulfilling life, I get no sense of deprivation/poverty in your life. I am glad that you are raising four children the way you are.

I have never been poor. My parents never had a lot of money when I was growing up but their priorities gave me a great childhood. Since then I have always had enough, becuase I was willing and able to work. I feel blessed every day for the gift of physical and mental health as well as a mind that can find/do work.

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18 lisa February 13, 2013 at 8:29 am

Amen! I have never ever thought of you being poor all the time I have been reading your blog. In fact, most of the time I consider you rich beyond compare… maybe not always in material things, but in attitude and gratitude. Your family appears to live in a nice house, eat great food, plenty to play and work with, and have wonderful memories of it all. I agree with Tammy, attitude makes all the difference. I think many in this country don’t know the meaning of poverty. Great blog!

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19 Kathy February 13, 2013 at 8:36 am

Living here in America is such a blessing. They say if you have change in your pocket you are amongst the most weathliest people in the world. We put such value in material things instead of family, health, jobs, etc……
I never consider you poor or myself but wise in the way we choose to live.
We are given many choices but it all depends on what choices we make. Have a blessed day!

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20 Sharon February 13, 2013 at 8:47 am

I put a very high value on family, health, and quality of life. You, my dear, are very rich indeed.

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21 Becky February 13, 2013 at 8:53 am

It is sad that the idea of frugality must equate to being poor to some people. The notion that all Americans must have huge mortgages and the latest I-whatever, is what has led to the current economic troubles. America has the richest “poor” in all of history. I know there are legitimate poor Americans, but to classify someone who exercises frugality as poor, is an insult to all of us. I think you do a fantastic job of maximizing your income and applaud you.

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22 Kate February 13, 2013 at 8:57 am

Social mobility being what it is (or isn’t, as the case may be) in the United States, I think it’s really hard for most people to wrap their heads around what poverty really looks like. They understand what it means to have less than some other people (and therefore shopping at Goodwill, buying things on sale, etc.) but not actual poverty (and therefore, for example, having to choose between antibiotics to treat a child’s ear infection and having heat in the house in the middle of winter).

I would go as far as to say that it influences how we treat and look at poor people. It’s much easier to say “pull up your bootstraps” or “teach a man to fish” in the first circumstance than it is in the second.

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23 Stephanie February 13, 2013 at 9:11 am

Choosing to live well within one’s means is never something a poor person would even be capable of doing. I applaud you for not getting caught up in the massive brainwashing consumerism our society has chosen to define itself by. Shame on those who would try to tell you how to save money and optimize your earnings. They are obviously missing the whole point! Keep doing what you do, because it is teaching a generation how to live well.

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24 Debra Childers February 13, 2013 at 9:17 am

greetings dear friend. I make many of the same choices you make, with a household income of 90K because I want to live a simple, frugal life. I embrace thriftiness, since generosity can flow from that clear spring. I am preparing to embrace two Ugandan orphans who will soon be my grandchildren. They live in life circumstances that appear to our American eyes as poverty, but beneath that exterior is abundant joy. Their riches lie in their faith, hope and optimism. Poverty as defined by economics does not describe the most abiding poverty, which can be masked by earthly riches, and that is a bankrupt spirit, a bitter soul. You share your abundant, blessed life freely with us. You are a generator of hope, joy, beauty and optimism. There is no measure that would define you as poor. I look forward to your continued daily encouragement to choose simplicity as our “new American” way of life. We need to export those values to other countries, not the old values of materialism and greed. Write on!

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25 Kate Deals February 14, 2013 at 7:46 am

So eloquent.

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26 Verging on Vegan February 13, 2013 at 9:18 am

Your critic is obviously someone who doesn’t understand voluntary simplicity, thrift and sustainability. This is probably a person who shops for entertainment, believes marketers when they say ‘you are your possessions’, and is otherwise manipulated by corporate wonks. Sad. I totally agree with your definition of poverty. In some respects, things like cooking at home are luxuries because they require time and resources, which many people are not fortunate to have. I wouldn’t trouble myself with a person who believes wealth and status is so narrowly defined. This person obviously needs to grow and mature more.

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27 Amy February 13, 2013 at 9:20 am

What is that picture?

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28 Reese February 13, 2013 at 12:04 pm

I was sort of wondering how it related to the topic. “Grass is always greener”? Or perhaps an organic way of “reading between the lines”?

It is beautiful, nonetheless. And simple. And it makes me happy. Which maybe, is the meaning of it.

Or maybe it’s just pavers with moss and that’s all it was meant to be ;p

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29 Kristen February 13, 2013 at 4:58 pm

That picture is there because I wrote the post and was like, “Hmm. I need a photo to go with it because I simply cannot post without a photo.” So, I looked through my files and found a sort of nondescript, but beautiful photo and stuck it at the top of the post.

But I like the deeper interpretations you had!

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30 Kathleen February 14, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I thought it was a bunch of meatloaves (on a bed of greens). I looked closer and saw my mistake and felt very foolish!

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31 Kristen February 13, 2013 at 5:00 pm

It’s a mossy pathway at James Monroe’s home, Ash Lawn-Highland.

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32 Kristen @ A Modern Mrs. February 13, 2013 at 9:21 am

I would define poor as not having the funds to pay for necessities. You can’t afford your rent/mortgage, you can’t afford groceries on a regular basis, etc. The hubs and I are barely “comfortable” in the financial sense {one income household}, but we’re definitely not poor. We can pay our bills, but we don’t have anything leftover for frivolous spending. and that’s okay. We shop consignment and thrift stores, but we also purchase new. It depends on our needs, and if a thrifted item is in great condition, why pay an extra $10-$20?

I think it’s a shame people come on here and judge your worth by your choices. Just because someone chooses to spend wisely, or spend/have less than the next guy, doesn’t mean they’re “poor.” {The same can be said for if someone spends a lot… that doesn’t make them rich.} If only everyone planned their purchases more wisely!

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33 Paul February 13, 2013 at 9:23 am

I totally related to what you said about being poor. Being poor is a state of mind. Like you, my basic needs have always been met. For me, I enjoy being frugal because I like the challenge of doing more with less. I of course have my weaknesses and will splurge from time to time, but that’s okay. I’m a big boy now and I make my own decisions.

When people make blanket statements it just reinforces how ignorant they are.
The best thing about being an adult is the ability to have who you want in your life and when. If they don’t know me personally, what they say about me means nothing. They are the ones who are poor.

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34 Lori February 13, 2013 at 9:23 am

People are such “trolls” (using your words, because mine would be much worse!)!! I’ve known people who made well into six figures and considered themselves to be “lower middle class.” They were foolish and ungrateful! I also had an acquaintance who claimed to be poor when they were growing up and in the next breath talked about taking dance lessons for 8 years as a child. I explained that “poor” people cannot afford to send their children to dance lessons, that they are worried about where their next meal will come from! People are so blind of the truth and so quick to label someone as poor (or rich) based on their own biases and how they see themselves. Sorry, I could go on about this for much longer….

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35 Sugarmama February 13, 2013 at 9:26 am

Dear Troll:

Ignorance is bliss! How nice it must be to know it all and pass judgement on those living within their means, looking for ways to get ahead and helping others along the way. Poor people have poor ways. Criticizing and/or name calling a stranger for good, honest advice proves you are lacking in SO much.
Sincerely, me :)

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36 Molly F. C. February 13, 2013 at 9:26 am

I completely agree with the eloquent comments made by your readers. You are so richly blessed by all the things that matter in this life, and are a good steward of what you’ve been given. I’ve been inspired to be more so in my life. Thank you.

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37 Gail February 13, 2013 at 9:34 am

My kids asked us if we were poor a couple of times as they were growing up, probably in reaction to what their friends had remarked. However, we were never in poverty. We had a big and beautiful home, luxuries like vacations, college funds in the making, very good food, extra clothes, reliable transportation. Their friends’ parents chose to use their income on fancy new cars, designer clothes, restaurants more than once in a while, parents-only trips to resorts…We chose to spend on other things.
I had a few years as a child when I did not have extras, but I was not hungry or without shelter or even dolls and books. I am happy to say both of my kids are carefully choosing what they use their money on now as adults with kids of their own.

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38 Joyce February 13, 2013 at 10:49 am

Gail, these words could easily have come from me. I have three kids but they all know the value of a dollar and how to be frugal.

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39 HollyB February 13, 2013 at 9:54 am

Your blog is a daily inspiration to me for the following reasons:

1. You are teaching your kids the value of money
2. Looking for a true bargain can be great fun
3. Re-purposing objects brings out my creative side
4. Reminds me that having a sense of humor helps on those trying days

Keep up the good work!

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40 Clio February 13, 2013 at 9:29 am

Life is such a matter of perspective, isn’t it? I think of you as rich! I suppose I don’t really think of you as rich in a material sense, but more in a quality of life sense. Our family income is high, yet due our immaturity and lack of faithfulness in stewarding the MANY blessings God has given us, our day-to-day quality of life seems lower than yours. Not to complain. We have our needs met and I choose to work minimally and focus on our children so our current circumstances are fully our own doing. All of our needs are meet and we are happy. We just have very little margin. Still, I certainly don’t consider our family to be poor! That seems absurd to me, actually. It is lovely (and problematic) to be so privileged that we can consider a lifestyle choice that prioritizes something other than money (but still results in all of our material needs being met) and consider that lifestyle poor. I would wager that most people who do that have never been truly impoverished.

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41 Liane February 13, 2013 at 10:12 am

The shame of the initial comments is that it belittles economizing. Our society currently values materialism over so many other important things, including time spent with loved ones, skill in preparing something with excellence with one’s own hands, a well managed family and home, quiet contemplation, and financial security. It does not recognize that in most people’s hands, more stuff means less human contact.

It is a luxury to have the time to learn excellence in a skill like home cooking (or sewing or whatever) which can then be shared with your family and friends. Choosing to forgo preservative filled foods, assembly line restaurant meals, another video game for junior, unwatched premium channels, or a new car each year are not sacrifices when compared to sharing companionship with your loved ones, ensuring their health through their food choices and their mental and spiritual health through a managed educationally and culturally full life.

Your blog promotes opportunities to economize, oftentimes in ways that include family members in an enriching manner. It is a delight to share in those reminders and opportunities.

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42 Diane February 13, 2013 at 9:31 am

I grew up poor. I was one of ten children and there were times when we didn’t have much food in the house. I always hoped and wished for a new coat but most times I got the hand me down from someone that didn’t have buttons and was held together by a safety pin. My mother would sometimes just make us a pan of biscuits and a pot of beans but I don’t remember going to bed hungry. I look back on those days now and although I don’t consider myself rich in many ways I am. I learned the lessons I needed to learn and now I watch my pennnies and I let my dollars take care of themselves.

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43 Elle February 13, 2013 at 9:34 am

We didn’t have a lot when I was growing up. My father worked two jobs and my mom knew how to stretch a dollar. I suppose we were poor in the financial sense, but we didn’t know it. Our home was well kept and our parents surrounded us with love, laughter, and learning.

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44 Jennifer G February 13, 2013 at 9:34 am

As Americans we have a very skewed concept of “poor”. If you have enough to have warm shelter and not worry about where your next meal is coming from, then you are not poor. Working where I do we have individuals come in seeking assistance on there utilities. Invariably they also have cell phones & the vast majority smoke. Are they poor? In there definition yes, because they consider luxuries to be a necessity. I will now get down off my soap box.

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45 Chrissy April 12, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Don’t most people in industrialized countries see it this way? The rate of technology usage in Asia is mind boggling….certainly not a necessity. My European friends are OBSESSED with nice clothes…it is actually astonishing to me. My Ugandan friend has a dozen very expensive wigs….lol…. And each would consider these items needs! Perspective rules, I guess. I have never had unmet needs…I am blessed beyond measure.

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46 Amanda February 13, 2013 at 9:35 am

I agree with your definition of poverty. The technical definition is living on less than $1 a day, but that is not useful in our country of high relative wealth.

Like you, I don’t think I’ve ever been poor. I think stability is they key. Even when my husband and I were newly wed right out of college, living on just my intern salary. We didn’t have much then, but everything we needed with every indication that we would continue to rise on the ladder.

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47 WilliamB February 13, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Almost – $1/day (adjusted for local price levels) is the standard for extreme poverty and $2/day is poverty. Neither is much fun, no matter where you are, even if you live in an economy where barter rather than cash is the norm.

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48 Shawna February 13, 2013 at 9:36 am

Very well said!!! And btw… Love the picture of the moss growing between the bricks!!๐Ÿ˜‰

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49 Economies of Kale February 13, 2013 at 9:38 am

I have also never been poor. I have been known to occasionally joke about how “poor” I am compared to my friends who are working full time (I’m a PhD student), but I own an iPhone for goodness sake!

I have never had to worry about a roof over my head or food on the table. I have never been in debt and I have always had an emergency fund for when things have gone wrong. Even though I don’t have health insurance, I am eligible for free treatment in hospitals and by the doctor at my university.

I think people get so stuck on “needs” that are really wants, that when they see people going without those things they automatically assume those people are “poor”.

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50 Peter February 13, 2013 at 9:44 am

Being broke is temporary, Being poor is a state of mind.

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51 Barbara O February 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Peter,
I love that statement; it’s so true. Of course, being truly poverty-stricken is more, but you are so correct about those who think they are ‘poor’ because they can’t afford what they see others having. There are truly poor people among us. We just have a hard time seeing them because we are caught up in our own wants. As young marrieds, we were learning about budgeting and money management and one question stuck in my mind-is that a need, a want, or a desire? Our inability as a culture to answer that question honestly has contributed to quite a bit of our current problems. Not to mention that it’s sorta tricky for me personally sometimes!
My needs have always been met. Therefore I have never been poor. I have been broke, but usually that was due to my choices.
Great post, Kristen!

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52 Jill February 16, 2013 at 11:45 pm

I’m just curious – what’s the difference between a “want” and a “desire?”

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53 Diana February 13, 2013 at 9:44 am

If you have a choice where your money goes, you are not poor. Poor to me means no health insurance, not being able to pay the bills. It means eating pancakes for weeks because you can’t afford anything besides flour. If you have the luxury of photographing your life and then blogging about, you have a significant amount of privilege. That isn’t a bad thing. ;)

For me, I enjoy shopping at thrift stores and making my own meals. I could eat out, but I can make most food better and healthier at home. I could drive to work, but I take free public transit instead. I could have had a wedding instead of going down to the court house. But these things aren’t worth it to me. I’ll be able to buy a house by the time I’m 30 because of ‘pinching pennies’. Car just broke down, I happen to have that kind of cash laying around which gets me a nice discount with my mechanic. Sometimes I tell myself I am poor so I don’t buy things I dont need, but it is so far from the truth.

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54 Michelle Spieler February 13, 2013 at 9:46 am

That is preposterous! Poor? you? I don’t think so. I recently heard the statistic that if you make more than $40K a year (low income by American standards) then you are in the top 5% richest in the world! We are SO blessed in America to have all we need. You, my friend, are frugal by choice, a wise choice, and not poor. Your home is adorable and your kids are getting a great at-home education. You inspire me. Thank you for all you do. You are a RICH woman!

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55 Becky February 13, 2013 at 9:48 am

I was friendly with a former co-worker (we’d go for dinners as a group, etc.) & the co-worker would say from time to time “Husband says I can’t spend any money; that we’re poor this week”. I never really liked that statement – that they were poor. I often wanted to say, “if you’re so poor, why are you stopping at Starbucks 3 times per week and buying salon-sold-only shampoo?”. I’m not opposed to people choosing to spend their money in these ways, but there was no ownership of her choices. What she was really revealing to me, was that they didn’t have a plan with respect to their money.

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56 chubblywubbly February 13, 2013 at 9:49 am

What I consider poor in the USA: Needing to visit the check cashing places because there is not enough money to last the week.

My parents did that quite often when I was growing up so my brain associates that with being poor.

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57 WilliamB February 13, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Your brain is correct – there’s a strong correlation. And using the damn usurious places will make you poorer.

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58 Joyce February 13, 2013 at 9:55 am

Poor is the person who’s heart allows those feelings to flow through. You are an inspiration to so many. I am a grandmother and my life is so far from where you are now, but I love that you live your life like you do, love your husband and children like you do and put your faith first in all your lives. Keep on doing it.

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59 Becky February 13, 2013 at 9:55 am

I actually think about this often. As I look back on my childhood I think I grew up poor, but I didn’t know it then. I was the 11th of 12 children and lived in a home with one bathroom and had multiple children in bedrooms. I have an older brother that is disabled and needed extra time, money, energy and care. My dad was a laborer (who was unemployed most winters) and my mom stayed home. We only had one car and walked most places, I had my first job at 12 so that I could buy things that I wanted myself. My mom was definitely frugal, BUT I never thought of my family as poor. I think that was such a great gift that my parents gave us; it taught us that if we wanted extra things we had to work for them, it showed us to value things and so we took care of them, we planted our own garden, made things from scratch, it taught us to wait and save and that you don’t get what you want instantly. They always showed us that there were less fortunate people in the community and we volunteered. My parents always met our basic needs and always found ways to have us in activities. As a parent no matter how much (or how little) we make I try to be frugal and to try to teach my kids the same values that sometimes seem to be lost in the world.

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60 Sherry February 13, 2013 at 9:58 am

I would say that “we had clothes, car insurance, health insurance, homeowner’s insurance, and a small savings account” is definitely living life grand! I would like to think Im not poor as we have a roof over our head, food in our fridge, however we do live from a fixed income and it sucks but I would like to one day just live a life that is comfortable, with out a financial worry.

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61 Debbie February 13, 2013 at 9:58 am

I agree with you completely. Being frugal does not mean living a life in poverty, it means making the most of the money you have. I’ve heard seemingly well off people make the comment that they don’t “have” to clip coupons anymore even when it would hardly be any extra effort to do so, as in the coupon is right there in front of you. To those people, I always wanted to ask, so you deliberately throw money away? Why? That’s pretty dumb. Why pay $10 for something you could get for $5? I’ve always had the theory that there are two kinds of “rich” people. Those who think they are and those who truly are and know how to make the most of their money.

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62 Terri February 13, 2013 at 10:01 am

Some people are ridiculous. My husband and I are not poor, not even by American standards, and we 1.) cook at home 2.) shop at Goodwill and 3.) use freecycle. Why? Because we have specific financial goals we want to achieve, like having children and retiring early.

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63 Tammy Adams February 13, 2013 at 10:18 am

I hear people talk like that often and you are right. It doesn’t matter who or what they talk about, its negative and I have to ignore naysayers too. Being very smart and frugal, as yourself, keeps someone from being poor. I’ve never been what would be described as poor and not having anything, but I’ve been close and to the point of losing everything. But because the grace of God and realizing what we were doing, life is good. WOOHOO!!

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64 Holly February 13, 2013 at 10:18 am

yes. Although not in poverty exactly, when I branched out to live on my own at 18 I had college to pay for and everything else. At $10/hr full-time and a second job waitressing I was strapped. My bills never went unpaid but there were days w/out tv or food! Why? Bcz at 18 being stylish and eating out and going out with friends (and all the things “not poor” people do were priority). I had maxxed out credit cards and taken loans for school to support my fun time.

Now I am 35. Live nearly debt free and on one income with 2 kids. We have enough money to do stuff but chose not to also. I truly believe most people living “the high life” really are doing so at the expense of an early retirement or under pressures that debt causes. Just because you can does not mean its wise. Like anything else. Why would I pay a premium for a shotty cheap meal when I can cook a better one at home and pocket my savings? Why would I teach my kids that you survive by paying others to do your work? And why pollute the planet when going green is rewarding and fullfilling?

My 4 year old knows the taste of quality food already and asks why the restaurant is so “not as good”. She loves the resale shops because she can get 5 dresses instead of one. Half the time tags are still on the good ones!

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65 Tricia February 13, 2013 at 10:24 am

I would encourage the people who make those kinds of comments to go visit the Dominican Republic or many other parts of the world, as well as in our own country and then they can educate themselves on what being “poor” actually is.

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66 Condo Blues February 13, 2013 at 3:20 pm

I agree Tricia! After living bare bones for many years, my husband and I were able to afford a vacation to the Dominican Republic (I got a massive deal on it too.) After visiting a bate, sugar cane plantation, and a home I looked around my bare bones apartment when I got home and said I have SO MUCH.

I think people like to judge and pick. A neighbor screamed acrossed the yard in my direction about ‘rich people’. At the time I was making over something I got for next to nothing at a salvage store.

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67 Jen D. February 13, 2013 at 10:30 am

I think, for many Americans, “poor” is just a matter of perspective. I wholeheartedly agree with you that true poverty is being unsure of where your basic needs (i.e. food, water, shelter) will come from or how they’ll be met. I spent 3 years teaching at a school where most of the students knew true need and poverty. I’ve also been fortunate to visit Haiti twice for service projects. Not knowing when your next meal will be, or only getting food during the school day, those are examples of poverty many Americans will never have to experience. Lean budgets, purchasing used goods, making meals rather than eating out, etc, these are examples of economy. Whether you have much left over to give generously (which is being a steward of God’s gifts) or are only able to give a little, having all your needs provided is a huge blessing. Being about to spend time with your family, investing in their lives, making time to prepare meals and treats, create projects, etc, these are examples of a lasting wealth that simply can’t be measure by the same measuring stick of material wealth. Thank you for the ways you’ve challenged me to value my circumstances! I too am wealthy, but often lose sight of that in light of “wanting” things, and long for a more content and grateful heart!

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68 Elizabeth Keen February 13, 2013 at 10:31 am

I think this is an interesting discussion. I hear a lot of people in America sometimes saying things like “If you make over $40,000, you are richer than 95% of the world” and I totally agree with that. The only problem is that 95% of the world doesn’t live in America, with it’s incredibly high standard of living and vast number of laws and regulations and taxes. Where you not only usually HAVE to have a car to get to a job (unless you live in a major city with a good public transit system), and if you have kids, some states (like mine – NY) REQUIRE them to be in a booster or car seat until they are 8 years old, which means that if you have three children who are all under the age of 6, it is practically impossible for you to fit them in an economy sized vehicle, necessitating you to get a larger vehicle. Oh, and we have affirmative action in the US, so my husband has a very hard time finding a job that will pay enough to make it worthwhile to send 2 children to daycare even though he has a graduate-level degree (since he’s not a minority or a woman).

So, we make do with a one-income family of a little over $40,000 per year, which is USUALLY enough to pay all the bills and the taxes (our property taxes were $2500 last year). Until a medical emergency happens, and the doctor bill of $3500 comes in the mail and the hospital only gives you three months to pay it off before they send it to a collections agency.

So, we have debt, and no savings to speak of, and we live VERY frugally – no cell phones, cable, or eating out and RARELY, if ever, buying things like a chuck roast, steak, soda, and pre-packaged products. We have not taken a vacation since our honeymoon 10 years ago. None of our kids are in extracurriculur activities.

I still don’t think that we are poor – just kind of broke right now, but I could see how easy it would be to live off the government (we qualify for WIC and foodstamps, but we are not on them), and also how easy it would be to all of a sudden not be able to pay bills because of huge emergency.

I personally think that living this way is good for us – causing us to trust God for everything and teaching our kids about what is a necessity vs. a need. They still have plenty of toys and clothes (thanks to relatives) and my oldest goes to a Christian school because she has grandparents who are generous enough to pay for it (otherwise she would be homeschooled).

I know this sounds like a lot of complaining, but really I’m not. I just want people to understand that even when people say $40,000 a year is considered “rich” to most of the world, it can still be very hard to make ends meet in America today, even when you don’t spend frivolously.

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69 WilliamB February 13, 2013 at 12:46 pm

“Oh, and we have affirmative action in the US”
As a matter of law, we have diversity, not affirmative action.

And I thought that all states require car seats?

Have you considered using WIC and food stamps? They exist to help.

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70 Elaine in Ark February 14, 2013 at 1:30 pm

I’m a taxpayer, and I *want* you to use foodstamps and WIC. I don’t even care what you buy with them. I want your family (and all families) to have enough food to eat.

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71 Chrissy April 12, 2013 at 10:46 pm

I think it is good that she doesn’t use them. She said they are usually making it okay…so not going hungry, if her focus was in TAXES. LOL. We could have also gotten WIC and food stamps. When our second son was born we were intentionally one income, making $28000+ a year. It was tight, sure, but I learned so much about managing our money in those lean years. My grocery budget was to the dime….I put the nickels and pennies left over in the jar where I saved all year to buy our zoo memberships! Lol. I learned a million ways to make beans and lentils and rice and cheap cuts of good quality meat. Most of all….we were proud to do it ourselves. It made adults out of us and we make wiser choices to this day as a result. I always figured government assistance was for people who were starving or incapable in some way. No offense intended,but that is how I was raised to see it. Independence has value.

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72 Lani February 13, 2013 at 10:41 am

When people say things like that…just remember you are rich in the Lord!

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73 April February 13, 2013 at 10:55 am

I guess by some standards we are poor. But, our farm is paid off, we have food, shelter, insurance, vehicles, clothing, utilities, money in the bank…….

Yes, we thriftstore, goodwill, make our own, cook from scratch…..but that is why we have the above.

I have noticed that many of the so called rich are not happy.

We are happy. We are not worried about our next meal or keeping up with the Jones.

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74 Tara February 13, 2013 at 10:56 am

I have been poor enough to have friends donate food to me and to also not know if I could afford to eat. But I never considered myself poor-even then-because I knew I could find the opportunity somehow to survive. I know we have family members who think we are poor because we choose to be a single income family with a stay at home mom and homeschool our kids. We have to be good stewards of what we have and I love that we are teaching our children this. I felt more poor when I had more money than I have ever felt learning to be a better steward of what we have. I don’t mind shopping 2nd hand stores at all and I love how much I’ve learned over the years to restore, refurbish and fix just about everything I own. In fact I just fixed my own Kitchenaid mixer recently. A little ingenuity and effort saved me $300 on a new one, $50 on a repair-man, it saved the environment from having one more item in the trash and I learned a ton. Most people I know would have just bought a new one out of irritation and convenience.

I came across a quote just yesterday in my Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog that just came in the mail that fits this situation pretty darn well:
“Humility and knowledge in poor clothes excel pride and ignorance in costly attire.”-William Penn

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75 Karen. February 14, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Funny … that seed catalog is sitting next to me at this moment.

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76 Deb February 13, 2013 at 10:59 am

So funny, years ago, my dh was in graduate school, we had 2 tiny kids, he was delivering pizzas and working as a Graduate Assistant, I was staying home with the kiddos and we lived in low income housing in a college town….when Thanksgiving rolled around, our church brought us a Thanksgiving basket, my dh was dumbfounded, “we aren’t poor, what made them think we were poor?”…all perspective………..we were very grateful and humbled by the generous gift, but poor is all relative…..thanks for the post!

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77 Anna@stuffedveggies February 13, 2013 at 11:00 am

St. John Chrysostom said it well, “He is truly rich who does not desire great possessions, or surround himself with wealth, but who requires nothing…” “” Homilies on Ephesians, Homily 21

The more you want, the poorer you are!

I have spent a lot of time in the Third World, and seen true poverty. People who considered an empty cardboard box a possession worthy of a fistfight. I am disturbed when Americans who have warm houses, lots to eat, and basic medical care complain of being “poor.”

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78 Jacqueline February 13, 2013 at 11:11 am

I think our culture of debt has skewed our view of what poor is. There are people who believe you’re missing out if you choose to live frugally in order to maximize your income. Even aside from third world countries, the socially acceptable standard of living is so high, that I do know people who look down on my choice of living less luxuriously. But I’ll take that, since it also means I don’t have the “luxury” of credit card debt, car payments, or stress about unexpected expenses.

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79 ~Dorthey February 13, 2013 at 11:12 am

I’ve never really Thought about being Poor really…
On a Strict Budget, Yes !
I remember being down to $18- in my Acct After Bills
We’re paid & a unexpected Emergency….
That $18- on that Fri-Sat HAD to get Us (my Hubby, Myself & our 2 Sm Kids at the Time) to the Next Friday 12noon :(
But like before many times
I looked at my Babies closed my eyes & Prayed & Lifted my Worry to The Good Lord. & that $18- got us Thru the Week….
I still to this Day can’t figure out How But it did !
( I know it was the Good Lord’s Work & beyond my imagination )
I had to feed 4 on $18- & it worked & I felt a Big sense of Releif
After I lifted it to The Good Lord I knew he would get us through it. :)

To Me Poor is a Poor Attitude about LIFE & not Trying
To do anything about anything. The Good Lord Don’t Like Lazy.
Some people don’t care don’t want to work etc.. That’s Lazy !
I Live Simple & I’m conservative on how I dress, & try to live for God & Savior & I Live For ME & my Family Not for Others opinions on me. I too Shop at Garage sales & Goodwill for my Hubby myself & my 17 yr old Boy but we do shop at Reg stores too
But ONLY Sale or Cleareance racks.
& I don’t see anything wrong with it. I Don’t buy the Junk I buy the Nice Stuff but for a Fraction of what it was paid for ;)
Living Frugal is Actually FUN I LoVe to see how much money I Saved & didn’t Pay !!!!! That’s a Rush to me ;)

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80 Crystal R February 13, 2013 at 11:24 am

Compared to some people in the world even at our lowest point we were not nearly as bad, but right after grad school (at the height of the recession) we could not find full time employment and ended up living with my parents (we being myself, husband and son.) While we had a roof over our heads and food to eat and some income (we both had part time jobs), we were poor. If we wouldn’t have had family willing to let us live there we would have most likely been homeless (or been accruing massive amounts of debt as most of our meager earnings – at least 60% of our gross income – would have been to pay for housing). At that time a $20-$50 unexpected expense was worrysome. With no health insurance going to the doctor was a major purchase. Paying for my husbands monthly necessary prescription was 1/6 of our income. It was not a happy time in our marriage, but it did help us grow closer and really learn what wants vs. needs are!
And having been there I’m much more aware of how blessed we are now – we have our own house, I’m able to stay at home with our kids and we have enough to afford some wants.

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81 Lisa February 13, 2013 at 11:27 am

Well said Kristen! I live in South Africa where there are many people who live in extreme poverty. It is a sobering and sad reality and I am grateful for my wealth: happy and healthy children, food security and a warm and dry home filled with lots of love. Choosing not to be a rampant consumerist is, I believe, a wise choice for me and my family and ultimately the planet.

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82 alice February 13, 2013 at 11:31 am

I think you are spot on in how you define poverty and what it really means to be poor. I wonder if those commenters were simply defensive about their own choices and so felt the need to justify them that way. “Only poor people do XYZ.” The mentality is unfortunate because it’s a short step to “People will think I am poor if I do XYZ” and so you end up buying into status symbols and all the marketing and consumerism that comes with it.

It’s interesting, I love your blog and come by all the time even though I make different choices with my income (and you never make me feel bad for those choices). I don’t shop at Goodwill ever because it’s hard for me to find something I will like in my size and is never worth the time. Instead I buy few items, sometimes at full price if necessary, and then wear those items all the time and try to take care of them. I cook often but I also eat out with friends about once a week. Technically I could exercise by going out for a free run in the mornings, but I have found that I lack the discipline to do this and have found an exercise program that I am very good at sticking to, even though it is expensive. Being frugal is about making the choices that fit your life so you have money to spend on important things. My life right now does not include any dependents so my budget works for me. I love your blog because you aren’t being “cheap” for its own sake, but because you have prioritized your needs and wants in a clear way. Organic local food is important to you so you spend more in this area. Saving for your children’s education is important to you. Eating out is not. Anyway, thanks very much for always fostering interesting discussions on money and values!

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83 Karen February 13, 2013 at 11:32 am

Funny that some people consider you poor! On the contrary, I consider you to be quite rich! Rich in love, positivity, creativity, energy, and an eye for beauty. I found your blog when searching for info on furniture painting. I am not one to follow blogs or get very involved in on-line “stuff” (no Facebook for me!) I decided to follow your blog because I think you have a great attitude about life. I envy some of the things you do and don’t think that they are driven only by financial need- it never came across my mind! Keep doing what you do and be happy and proud of yourself!

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84 Gail February 13, 2013 at 11:34 am

My comment above was not intended to be a reply; I hit the wrong button.

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85 Andrea February 13, 2013 at 11:35 am

I am the youngest of 5 kids-my mom was a SAHM, my dad was the only income. As an adult, knowing what my dad brought home back then- yeah- I think we were poor, it was definitely below the poverty level. But we never went without. I think lifestyle and quality of living is a state of mind. My parents were major penny pinchers. None of us kids got cars when we were 16, unless we bought it and paid for it ourselves, including insurance, none of us had fancy label clothing, my parents never owned a NEW car until I was in college (it didn’t hurt that my dad is a car genius). We never went hungry. My parents owned our house, they slowly made improvements over the years. They set examples for everything from my work ethics to financial management. I think those trolls on your blog are jealous that you can do so much with what you have and YOU succeed at being content with what you have. At least that’s how I see your blog, I enjoy your posts, you inspire me to be more frugal whether I need to or not. Yeah money is great to have, but it can’t buy everything, and anyone who has to belittle you is just trying to overcompensate for what the void they have in their life and can’t buy to fill. But what do I know? lol

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86 Gail February 13, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Yes, sadly, jealousy is a strong motivator in human behavior. My husband has taught me not to ever compare what we do/have with what other people go after. I am not sure how he turned out this way, but he is a perfect spouse.

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87 MsH February 13, 2013 at 11:58 am

When I was little, we did not always have enough money for oil, so my mom taped blankets to the door openings and we slept on a mattress in front of the oven. We ate macaroni with canned tomatoes because it was cheap. But always had clean clothes, shoes, and Christmas.

My father was losing his business, but he gave his paycheck to one of his employees for months because that man was a dying alcoholic and needed it more than he did. My daughter calls her grandmother “the giver” because she is always giving of herself.

As a single parent I have had some rough times. I fed my kids well, but scraped change off the parking lot on my lunch “walks” to buy something out of the vending machine. And thank goodness for peanut butter.

Yes, at times in my life, I have been financially poor and have been envious of others who have/had more. But there is always love, shelter, laughter, and our basic needs have been met.

I am proud of being frugal, efficient, and environmentally conscious. I have wonderful, solid, spiritual, and happy relationships with my children, parents, friends, and colleagues. Kristen’s blog is a validation that there are people like us in this world that choose to live happily frugally.

I think poor is the child/adult who values things and status above all else.

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88 Elizabeth February 13, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I have to agree with your definition. You’re only poor if you can’t afford/don’t have life’s basic necessities (including loving relationships). I have never been in that position thankfully.

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89 Rebekah February 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Rich is what I feel you are; rich with life, rich with love, rich in kindness to others, rich with imagination, rich with creativity, and fun! No matter how much money we have in our pockets, many of us love junking around and finding treasures. We love ten dollar dressers or free stuff from someone else’s throw away pile. We love to use our hands to create gorgeous items for our homes or to give to others. We cook nutritious meals at home for our family because we love them. We drive old banger cars because we want to….they haul our treasures. We smile gracefully when judgemental people with poor attitudes are unkind. We are thankful for the bounty of riches we have in our lives; faith, family, and friendship. We share our hearts and our hands with others who are less fortunate. We do not judge people because of their poverty or their abundace of monetary riches. Friends are found everywhere-and friendship is one of our most valued treasures. Thank you for blessing us with your friendship through your blog.

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90 Amy February 13, 2013 at 12:25 pm

First of all, I think that is a shame that people have the nerve to refer to anyone (they don’t know, or ANYONE, for that matter!) as poor. As a stay at home mom with only one income, I know what it’s like to have to do without sometimes. Most of the time, I really don’t feel like we are missing out since the most important things are covered. We can splurge sometimes. but for the most part, we have to live our lives quite frugally and practical. No Disney vacations or cruises for our family in the near future, but we find frugal ways to have fun. As long as we are happy and healthy, I would never consider us poor.

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91 alice February 13, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m interested in your reaction because when I read your comment I got the impression that you view the label “poor” has having some kind of value judgement beyond just describing one’s financial condition? If I read it wrong, I apologize. I learned recently that politicians always talk about the middle class and seldom ever mention the poor (who you would think actually need help), because people self-identify as middle class, regardless of actual income level. This is true of those above and below the national median. I don’t think I’m capable of judging whether any given person is poor or not without detailed financial statements, but I do hope we can acknowledge that poverty does exist and dissociate the condition of poverty from moral judgement. There shouldn’t be shame in being poor, you know? And you can be hard working and frugal yet still be financially poor.

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92 Amy February 13, 2013 at 5:28 pm

I just think people should not judge. Poor is a harsh word to some, I guess! :)

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93 Skirnir Hamilton February 13, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Whether one is poor or not is a statement of fact to me. But then I view poor as being under the poverty line, with some exceptions. IE my parents were technically under the poverty line when I was a child, but we didn’t “feel” poor, because we had a nice place that was paid off, we had reasonable food, etc. IE being poor to me is when one can’t afford very reasonable bills and by that I don’t mean a large house, or steak every night, etc. (Or steak even weekly.)

Have I ever been poor? No, not really. My twin is under the poverty line though and she did consider it an insult when I told her she was poor. I was trying to get her to see that working half time and expecting to live on it, was what made her so jealous of other people and made her feel like a failure. My thought was that if you are happy living on what you make, then work half time. But as you do complain how you want a washer, a dryer, a car, etc. then I think she needed to find a more full time job. My calling her poor was not meant to be an insult in anyway though.

As to calling other people poor, in most cases, don’t EVER do it. I can’t imagine someone saying only poor people do x,y,z. I shop Goodwill (but rarely find something I like in my size.). I shop Aldi’s. I use coupons. (One person frowned at me when she thought I was going to use a ton of coupons. I don’t by the way. Five coupons I think it was at Kroger today, because I typically buy lots of fresh produce, store brand yogurt, and not much processed foods.)

Should I have called my twin poor? I don’t know. It didn’t get the point across and merely insulted her and made her defensive. So probably no, I should not have called her poor. Why does calling someone poor insult them? Why can’t it be a statement of a person’s income without being an insult? Hard to talk about minimum wage and decent paying jobs, if you tell someone that what they make is a low paying job. And yes, when someone makes 6 figures and calls themselves lower middle class, or even middle class in my book, we don’t have an understanding of what being poor or even lower middle class is. Last I looked the median household income was around $45K.

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94 alice February 13, 2013 at 12:43 pm

I absolutely agree! We need to have an honest discussion about poverty and not be insulted or ashamed of it

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95 WilliamB February 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I think the reason that calling a US’an poor is an insult is a consequence of the general perception that this is a country of economic mobility, of self-made persons, of opportunity and hard work that pays off. If all of these things are true, that means (remember I’m talking percepetion) if you don’t have enough, it’s your own fault for not working hard enough.

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96 Skirnir Hamilton February 13, 2013 at 2:15 pm

I agree William. But once you are poor, it is hard to get out of it, financially speaking. My twin works a part time job as most customer service positions won’t promise full time and to them full time is 30 hours a week. Health benefits are not the best. She can’t qualify for food stamps because she has tried to set some money aside to get ahead and maybe get a better apartment, or a car, etc. But lately has been slowly using up that bank account. In order to get food stamps you have to have almost nothing in a bank account, which is a bit nutty. I mean, aren’t we supposed to encourage those in poverty to improve their conditions, not take away the possibility of getting out. I understand we don’t want food stamps based solely on yearly income, but I do think the minimum amount in a bank account should be raised. I believe one can only qualify for food stamps if they have less than 2k in the bank.

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97 WilliamB February 13, 2013 at 7:37 pm

It does get nutty. It’s a very hard question, how to balance between helping those who need it the most and encouraging sensible budgeting and spending. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan had many insightful thoughts to offer on the subject.

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98 Kristen February 13, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Yeah, I think of it more as a statement of fact. Like I said, the reason I am loathe to accept the “poor” designation for myself, even in reference to our early lean years, is that factually speaking, I just don’t think we were poor. I can see how some people would have looked at us then and thought we were poor, though, if they had a skewed view of what poverty actually is.

The more I ponder this, the more I think my mind categorizes poverty as a low-money situation that you can’t really get yourself out of. For instance, in our lean years, without careful spending, we could easily have slipped into a situation where we did have to worry about whether or not we could buy groceries. If we’d opted for an above-ground apartment in a complex, for example, we’d have been stretched so thin, car insurance would have been hard to pay for.

But in our situation, as long as we were careful, we could avoid living like that.

Poverty, in my mind, is more like a situation where no matter how careful you are, you still can’t get ahead and are worried about where your next meal will come from.

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99 Amanda February 13, 2013 at 12:35 pm

I have never been poor, and I don’t imagine I ever will be.

I lived in the Philippines for four years as a child. My sister was adopted from the Philippines when we were two. Until her single mother placed her for adoption because her mother was going blind, my sister had one dress to her name and ate at the orphanage every day. My heart still breaks for my sister’s birth mother. That’s poor.

As an adult I lived in Ecuador twice. Aida, one of my friends in Ecuador, lived in a one room house with her five children. They had three beds, a single light bulb hanging from the sealing, and no bathroom. They ate on the days Aida got jobs washing other’s clothes by hand. Aida had uterine cancer and because of lack of treatment wasn’t expected to live for more than a year. She was poor.

We live frugally, but we have medical care, food, shelter, savings, a secure job, etc. Even if we lost everything, we have family that would take us in until we could get on our feet again. After what I’ve seen of poverty, I’ll never feel any less that incredibly blessed with all I’ve been given. In America I’m middle class, but really I’m incredibly wealthy.

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100 Chrissy April 12, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Yes, yes, yes. My husband’s family is from Pakistan and grew up very poor as well…as in eating rice and mangoes from the tree in the side lot and lentils all the time poor. Nine kids and one meager income poor. They are all here now and the joy they have in their lives here! They talk about the security of our lives…we can go to the hospital and expect a clean bed all to ourself. We go to the store and buy what we need. Until moving here the rarely ate meat. There is poor and there..is..poor.

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101 Tiffany February 13, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I’ve struggled a few times in my life, but I’ve never been poor. And I’ve found the older I get, the less I need. ‘Things’ tend to complicate life.
I shop at goodwill. I refuse to buy a pair of jeans for $60 when I know I can find the same ones for $5. It’s not being poor, it’s being smart with your money……and it goes to a good cause. But I did make a promise to myself, when I go to goodwill to shop, I make sure I bring more to donate than I purchase…… =)

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102 Cheapchick February 13, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Unfortunately most people in the world don’t understand what being rich is. Being rich is having a loving family and a full life – rich is not about money. Money will not make you happy. A loving family and a full life will. Home cooking is the BEST ever. And goodwill/thrift stores, well, no one really knows the rush of finding a great bargain there until you have tried it.

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103 Andrea February 13, 2013 at 12:59 pm

I can understand how you feel. While I have been poor in the sense that several times in my life I have had more month than money and wondered how I was going to feel the kids. I have found that some people just do not understand the frugal lifestyle. It has taken me two kids and a divorce to understand that keeping up with the “Joneses” is not necessary. I used to be one of those cranky and negative people that viewed people who didn’t have the lastest electronic gadget as poor. I have had a complete turnaround in my idealogy. Now I laugh to myself when I hear the comments people make when I tell them I don’t have cable. We can rent the occassional movie if we so desire but we haven’t since last September. I have not only become frugal but I have started simplifing my life. Not only are my children and I happier, we are also healthier due to the fresh, organic vegetables I grow and the home cooked meals. All it took was to really see what our needs were compared to our wants. I get to spend quality time with my children and I am not as stressed.

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104 Cary February 13, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I think you nailed it when you said “categorizing my life as one of poverty would be insulting to those who do actually live in poverty every day.” I try to teach my children that we make choices. Sometimes those choices mean we do without things but we are richly blessed in all that matters, and we have all we need in terms of “stuff”.
God bless you and yours, for a relationship with Him makes us rich indeed. Thank you for your perspective.

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105 Kaitlin February 13, 2013 at 1:15 pm

What an interesting post! Just a few weeks ago I found myself saying that I couldn’t afford something, and afterward I realized how untrue my statement was, and how it made me sound like I think I’m poor. The reality was I could afford the particular something I mentioned but chose not to spend money on it because I placed a higher value on other things. Since I noticed myself making that comment I have been very careful with the language I use when money comes up, because I am not poor, nor have I ever been (there have been lean days, but I still had what I needed), and I don’t want to offend those who do truly struggle to make ends meet.

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106 Skirnir Hamilton February 13, 2013 at 2:18 pm

This is why I try and never use the phrase we can’t afford that when talking to anyone, especially my 15 year old son. I more try to say that the cost isn’t worth it to us. IE no matter how much money one has, one has to decide where they want to spend it. (Okay, extreme poverty there isn’t much choice.)

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107 WilliamB February 14, 2013 at 2:04 pm

The phrase I use is “That’s more than I want to pay for that item.”

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108 Elizabeth February 18, 2013 at 11:09 am

Oh, I love your phrase! I’ve been struggling with this idea with my (small) children – I’m working hard to be frugal, and so I tell myself we “can’t afford” to order in dinner or buy a new tv or whatever. But I realized I’m saying it to the kids and it’s teaching them the wrong lesson. It’s not that we don’t have the money, it’s that the cost isn’t worth it!

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109 Mira Bai February 13, 2013 at 1:18 pm

How interesting that others choose to judge someone’s chosen lifestyle. I have been homeless, but even then I did not consider myself poor. I do not have a lot of money, but like you say, I have a roof over my head, reliable transportation, food to eat, etc. I think “poor” is more a state of mind in many cases. I many be financially challenged, but I am grateful for every minute of every day. :)

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110 Kim Jacobson February 13, 2013 at 1:21 pm

You are so much richer than many because you value the blessing bestowed upon you.

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111 Jo Kramer February 13, 2013 at 1:25 pm

In my area, I get people who will say I shouldn’t shop thrift stores, etc. because I am “taking away from those that really need it”. That comment bothers me. I am not taking away from those that really need it. I am shopping economically so that I have money to give away to those that really need it.

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112 Marah February 13, 2013 at 1:26 pm

I teach personal finance. We spend a great deal of time looking at the myths of what financial wealth is. Most people have it completely backwards. They think that wealth = a high salary and fancy toys. But the best definition of wealth I have ever heard is: “Wealth is the number of days forward you could live your lifestyle if you lost your job today.” Most of the people are not wealthy, they are in massive amounts of debt. 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, 65% only pay the minimum on the credit cards, 95% of cars are leased or financed… most people “owe” more than they “own; their balance sheet tells the real story: they are actually poor. As financial expert Dave Ramsey likes to say, “Normal is Broke, wealth is weird. So if your broke friends are not making fun of your financial plan then you’re off track! Congrats on being weird. ;)

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113 Diane C February 14, 2013 at 12:20 am

I don’t teach personal finance, but I am a lifelong student of personal finance. My “nonsense” detector is on high alert upon reading your quotes. I suspect, for example, that “65% only pay the minimum on the credit cards” is missing the critical phrase: of the people who carry a balance. I absolutely love your “Wealth is the number of days…” quote, but the others don’t pass the smell test.

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114 TracyDK February 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm

There’s a saying that being broke is a matter of income being poor is a state of mind. I know MANY people who have very large salaries and they live paycheck to paycheck and worry about bills and groceries. However, there are many who are well under the poverty level, who might not get to go out, but they always have plenty of groceries. So it’s a state of mind. I’m really big on living below my means. It means that on days that are leaner, I have some extra to cushion. I’d rather not be so indebted that I have to make a huge income in order to just make ends meet.

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115 Katie February 13, 2013 at 1:44 pm

John Scalzi wrote an essay “Being Poor” several years ago that was very eye-opening to me, as someone who has never had to struggle to get by:

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2005/09/03/being-poor/

Thank you for writing about this, Kristen. It’s a sensitive topic, and I appreciate how you can address concepts that touch nerves in an open, but considerate way. Thanks also to the commenters for civilly discussing these things, too!

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116 WilliamB February 13, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Thanks for posting this – I’d lost the link and forgotten his name, which made my google-fu weak.

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117 Katie February 13, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Whoops, sorry Tracy, my comment wasn’t meant to be a response to you specifically!

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118 MmK February 13, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I was to the point of starvation twice before I was 20, I remember the times when we didn’t know if we could survive until the end of the month. We were uncertain of having a home when the first day of a new calender month rolled by. THAT is poor.

This blog and your life is far from that, you take what you are given and make it a truly rich environment. Thanks to some careful planning and a firm idea of what you need, your home is comfortable and encouraging. There is no lacking of heat or food or a roof overhead.

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119 Kathy February 13, 2013 at 1:35 pm

Being a young senior adult and having watched the changes in attitude in our society over the years I understand why someone might think you are poor … It used to be that living frugally was a normal way of living … today we need to have name brand everything … upgrade and remodel every time the trends change … take a cruise twice a year … eat out instead of cook … the “old fashioned” way of living of “homemade” or “make do” or “use it up, wear it out, make it into something else” isn’t popular anymore. A few years ago I worked cleaning upscale houses with a few “Christian” ladies … and as they got to know me and learned that I live frugally … similarly to you … couponing, shopping sales, living simply, not interested in high fashion or $300 name brand purses, that I hang my clothes out to dry as often as I can to save on the electric bill … make my own homemade laundry detergent, only eat out occasionally, etc. they put me down and laughed at me as if I were somebody way beneath them … what a shock their attitude towards me was … and I thought to myself why am I put down because I am trying to take all that the Lord has given me and making it stretch as far as I can … to me those of us who practice frugality should be applauded not looked down on … Like you, I have a nice bank account and live in a nice home in a nice neighborhood and drive a nice vehicle (although not new) … a far cry from being poor … poor to me … financially… is what my grandparents were … a small old home built before the civil war … a makeshift home of sorts but one that was filled with love and warmth … but they were never hungry because they raised their own food and their bills were paid, even though they struggled … they did not have indoor plumbing … when we stayed with them we bathed from an enamel basin. Poor today would be somebody who cannot pay their bills … who has to ask for help to have food to feed their kids, poor would be not having transportation … or living quarters that were horrible … many of us may live paycheck to paycheck but that doesn’t make us poor … the American society needs to change its attitude in how we measure each other … hard working Americans who live within their means should be praised.

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120 Linda Sand February 13, 2013 at 1:37 pm

When I was a toddler my family lived in subsidized housing until my Dad got regular work after his discharge from the Navy. As a teenager, there was one winter where we lived without a refrigerator because we couldn’t afford to buy one which is the closest I remember to truly being poor. But we lived in Minnesota at the time so a box in the back hallway became our fridge and another one on the screened in back porch became our freezer and we had heat in our apartment where we each had our own bedroom. And the man Mom was dating at that time would make her order more food than she could eat so as to have leftovers to bring home to us kids. We never really did without.

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121 WilliamB February 13, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Here’s a case on which to test everyone’s definitions. There was a year or two in my life when I was about broke most of the time. My monthly spending was $630-820, as determined by my income, and boy did that $820 month feel luxurious. I survived on temp and part-time jobs. I shared a 2BR apt with two friends. I had no car, no health insurance and I brown-bagged literally everything I ate at work. I tracked every single penny, including the ones picked up from the sidewalk. I bought literally no clothes in that period – although I did buy books, which tells you something about my priorities. Would this count as poor?

Now here’s the rest of the story: it was all voluntary. I had plenty of resources to draw on had I chosen to do so. I had savings. I had parents to live with and job possibilities in my hometown. I had no debt, for which I deserved some but not all of the credit. I could get away with not buying clothes because I had a good selection to start with. Now again I ask, was I poor?

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122 Skirnir Hamilton February 13, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Technically you were living in poverty, but the poverty line clearly does not take into consideration local living conditions, parents willing to help, etc. Do we call anyone poor who is below the poverty line? That is what I am unsure of. My parents were below the poverty line, but part of it was they had their own business with a bit more deductions than many and they had a house with land that was completely paid off, so much less in bills than some people have. They also knew how to get more money if they needed it. (They had 2 concession trailers and if they were willing to work hard, and hire no help, then they knew they could make some money. Some dates charged so much for concessions though that you didn’t make much after the fees to the fair/festival and the supplies. Hence the no hired help. There were times when it rained or whatever that the hired help was paid more than the parents and their kin who helped work the date.)

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123 Elizabeth Keen February 13, 2013 at 3:26 pm

I would say you were NOT poor. Had something horrible happened to you – say a medical emergency, one or both of your roommates moving out, leaving you to foot the bill, or you being fired from your jobs – you would have had back-up, in the case of your savings and your parents. Poor is when you DON’T have a back-up, when there is nothing to fall back on. And, if you had not had those back-ups, you would still have had “Mother Government” with all her programs to help you make it. That’s probably why most poverty-stricken Americans would not be considered amongst the world’s poor.

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124 Becky February 13, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Right on! Living below our means is smart and makes us good stewards of the blessings that our Lord has given us.

The only way to attain financial security is to live frugally. I have always taken comfort knowing that if we were to lose our financial security, we would still be happy and would be able to re-group and quickly get back on our feet.

Keep up the good work and know that you are right on track!

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125 triciaw February 13, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Kristen I certainly don’t consider you poor. It depends on how you define wealth. You are rich in so many ways…wonderful children, a supportive and loving husband, an education, and your christian beliefs. In my thrity two years of marraige we may have been defined as poor by some standards but to me we were always the wealthiest people around!

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126 Meagan Francis February 13, 2013 at 1:54 pm

What a great post! When my husband and I first got married, I thought of us as “poor”, but really what we were was broke – it was a temporary situation, not a permanent state of being. But living below your means when you have them is neither poor nor broke – it’s just wise!

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127 Susie February 13, 2013 at 1:55 pm

I would never classify you as poor based on what I read on your blog. I have never been poor…maybe I had less than some folks growing up, but I had alot more than some others.

I just wanted to say shame on anyone for publicly commenting on someone else’s economic status. They are displaying bad manners, poor taste and thier own lack of awareness of the value of frugal living.

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128 Joni February 13, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Choices. It all comes down to the strength of conviction…and your choices.
Sure people are going to judge you if you drive an older car, buy goodwill items and grow a garden. This list goes on and on. Choosing to live a simple life, make hard decisions, stand by your convictions and all with a smile is tough.
If you have a good job, and your fellow co-workers are doing things differently in their lives and compare you to themselves…it is a chance to be satisfied with your life. Frugality is so much fun! It is addicting and it is not for everyone. I love your blog!

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129 Kristin February 13, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Even when my husband and I had a very tight budget, we could always put food on the table and gas in the cars. Our cars might have been 10+ years old (we still have a car that is 10+ years old), but they got us to where we needed to go. My husband and I do very well financially now, but we still live frugally. The way I see it, the more we save, the more comfortable and stable our future will be. Can we afford new things? Yes. Do I want lots of new things? No, because I would rather be saving money in our 401(k)’s and savings accounts.

Excellent post. I love when you make me think.

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130 Michelle February 13, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Anyone reading your blog can see that you guys have a beautiful home–including “extras” (piano, guitar, nice cameras). But even more than that, you guys have LIFE in your home! You enjoy each other (date nights!) you enjoy your kids, you enjoy making memories (whether through vacations or just riding bikes around the neighborhood). No, in my opinion, you guys are very, very rich. Aside from basic life needs being met, being “rich” in life FAR outweighs what this world wants to define as “rich”.

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131 Karri February 13, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Kristen,

This is such an important conversation, especially for us in the States. The understanding of what we think of as “necessary” is questionable, I believe, especially when acquiring these things or experiences become more important than being responsible with our income and resources. I have always appreciated your writing because that focus on living intentionally and relationally is difficult to find in our culture right now. It may be that the people who are making these comments are merely noticing the difference between the societal norms, which we often go along with unconsciously, and your intentional choices…and trying to find language and understandings to explain the difference…and maybe those statements are really not-yet-articulated questions for themselves. So…thank you for being so public with your own life so that we all may think more intentionally about our own!

Best,
Karri

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132 the smelly lady February 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Hubby and I recently had this same conversation. We came to the same conclusion as you. :-)

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133 Lindsey February 13, 2013 at 2:15 pm

We were what I would consider poor when I was a kid—hamburger one night and the fried off grease and bread the next night. Having to live in a very ugly part of town because the rents were cheaper. One humiliating summer my mother made us shirts out of pillow cases she scavanged—and she was not a seamstress, so it was a hole in the top for our heads and two holes for our arms and that was it. (Now I wish I were thin enough to wear a pillowcase!!) No medicine or doctor visits for ear aches, we just toughed it through. My father pulling our teeth because a dentist was too expensive. My parents were very young, 14 and 17, but my father kept plugging away with a class every semester year after year and got his engineering degree at 30. By then things were easier and downright (comparative) luxury by the time I was finishing high school. But the fear of being poor again doesn’t leave you. I went to college and grad school and would not date anyone I thought was lazy because to me that meant he might not work and then money would be tight. My friends laughed, saying you didn’t have to marry someone just because you dated them but I knew too many girls from the old neighborhood who married due to pregnancy (or were single parents). I lucked out with a great, hard working man who is thrifty and loving, but I still catch myself thinking I need to be saving the hamburger grease “just in case.” I think when you are poor it is easy to be hopeless and focus on immediate pleasure instead of saving for a future that seems very bleak. I lucked out because my parents believed that with education and hard work you could claw your way out of anything, and they kept reminding us of that. I also think that now it is harder because of television—I knew we were poor but I didn’t sit around for hours watching shows portraying a world where everyone seems wealthier and with very little effort. I must admit I have little patience for people who say they are poor and then I see them with fancy nails and name brand sneakers…

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134 TracyDK February 14, 2013 at 11:37 am

This is the difference between generational poverty and situational poverty. Ruby Payne wrote a wonderful book about it. “The Framework to Understanding Poverty”. You’re children will be affected by your fears of poverty. And sometimes, I think that’s a good thing. I pushes people to strive rather than become complacent. I’m glad your parents believed what they believed and did much better for themselves and instilled in you that same belief, so you truly could live better than they did.

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135 Laura February 13, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Poor is ……living on the streets, freezing cold, being hungry, being unloved, people treating you like you are invisible and they find you offensive,
Go to into London and you will see hundreds of these people, living on the streets, lost in the system, thanks to our government, most are ex-servicemen and people with mental health problems who are not cared for in our NHS system.
It is one of the saddest things ever.

Sorry for the rant :( but it can be a sad world!!!!

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136 Laura February 13, 2013 at 2:23 pm

No doubt the same in most cities, I’ve seen the same in Rome, greece, New York, chicago, Milan, Paris……..

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137 Lilypad February 13, 2013 at 10:55 pm

There just was a count of homeless people last month here in King County (Washington State’s wealthiest county, including the city of Seattle, and home to Microsoft, Amazon.com, Starbucks corporate headquarters etc.) and they found 2736 men, women and children living without shelter that night. That was 142 more than last year. There are no doubt thousands, not hundreds, of people living on the streets of most major metropolitan areas. It’s a tragedy.

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138 Jen February 13, 2013 at 2:27 pm

I was a little disappointed by your post. While I agree the original commenter was rude in calling you poor, I find your post lacking grace. It had a tone of defensiveness, as if you wanted your readers to be sure you had money in the bank. I am sure someone who has a six figure income can rightfully call you poor, but the people you call poor, may call themselves lower class and not poor. I feel this post was in bad taste, especially since most of your other posts are so good. Just my 2 cents

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139 Kristen February 13, 2013 at 4:55 pm

I’m sorry it came across that way-that was not my intent. I must have communicated it poorly, but I really, truly am not offended by being called poor, and I don’t feel defensive. I meant for my response to be thoughtful, not defensive, because that really is how I feel whenever this comes up. I don’t feel angry…it just always makes me wonder, “Have I ever been poor?”, and the answer I always come up with is no.

In other words, I’m not all, “How dare someone call me poor?!? I’m not poor!!!”, but rather I’m thinking, “Whoa! I am blessed with so much more than I need. I’m surprised anyone could look at all I have and think I’m poor.”

If I feel offended, it’s on behalf of people who truly are stuck in a cycle of poverty, because as I said in my post, it’s almost insulting to them to label my situation as poverty.

I hope that clears things up a bit.

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140 Joy February 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm

To me, being poor is the inability to pay one’s regular bills. If you have to juggle what to pay, you’re poor.

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141 Sharon H. February 13, 2013 at 2:43 pm

It strikes me that the people that have criticized you (and me, and others) are really seeking a way to distance themselves from you. If they can produce a wide gulf between themselves and you, it makes it seem as though they are CARE-lessly “wealthy”. In other words they have arrived…no need to save, to be careful, because they have arrived at the point of entitlement, of being able to spend and spend without CARE. Sadly…they are insecure, and truly “poor” in spirit. :(

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142 Glory Lennon February 13, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Agree with you wholeheartedly! If you have more than you need–and really that $7 double decafe mocha late is definitely not in the need side of things– than you are doing better than 90% of the world’s population. Proportion, people, you gotta see things in proportion!

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143 Becoming Annie February 13, 2013 at 2:52 pm

I felt poor as a kid, but it wasn’t that our family was poor, it was that we lived in a really fancy, expensive neighborhood. So, while we had what we needed, a roof over our heads, food to eat, clothes to wear, we did not have the latest gadgets, the most fashionable jeans, and trips overseas while the other kids in our neighborhood did. It made me feel poor growing up.

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144 Lilypad February 13, 2013 at 11:01 pm

I had a similar experience—I never even thought about being “poor” until a large golf course community was built at the end of my street. Suddenly, I met kids who lived in what to me seemed to be mansions and who had incredible amounts of toys and fancy clothes and who got whatever they wanted from their parents. I felt like a country bumpkin after that! And my sister and I began to refuse to shop at Kmart—we thought only poor people shopped there and we didn’t want to be seen there. (Of course, had we seen anyone we knew there, it would have made them “poor”, too, right? :-) )

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145 EcoCatLady February 13, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I find it really interesting that people tend to use the word “poor” as a pejorative. It’s as if having limited financial means is somehow evidence of moral inferiority or something like that.

It’s also interesting and sad that people in this society equate spending with wealth when really the opposite is true. Perhaps the next time you receive a comment like that you should suggest to the commenter that they read “The Millionaire Next Door.” Rich people didn’t get to be that way by spending all of their money!

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146 Cee February 14, 2013 at 9:59 am

The first part of your comment really resonated with me. I’ve been reading the post and the comments and have had this nagging feeling of discomfort. While I think everyone realizes that being truly poor is not good state to be in, sometimes this conversation borders on using poor as a personal attack. And while I have to say, I don’t agree with the person who felt this post was defensive – I think it is a really valid point to raise and is an important a part of this conversation.

My personal definition of poor is not having the first two levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs met – the physiological (shelter, food, water) and then safety (both physically and in knowing that you aren’t in danger of not having the physiological needs met). I disagree with people who define it as not being able to pay the bills, not because they are wrong per say, but because I know people who can’t pay their bills not because they don’t have the money but because they chose to spend it on something else that was not necessary. I don’t consider them poor, except perhaps in judgment.

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147 Kristen February 14, 2013 at 10:46 am

I agree-I don’t think poor should be used as a personal attack. I think of it as a statement of fact, not a value judgment.

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148 Sasha February 13, 2013 at 3:32 pm

I am a single mother of 4, and I have lived at both ends of this scale. I was married we had a nice home, nice cars, no worries when it came to bills. Then to find myself in a car driving with my children, wondering what I was going to feed them and where we were going to sleep. I still struggle, but do I think of myself as being poor? Never , even when I didn’t know what to feed them. Because I am rich in love. Family and friends stepped forward and helped in our time of need. When I think of poor it is someone that has nothing and no one.

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149 Cecile February 13, 2013 at 3:36 pm

You have your health, a lovely and loving family, a roof over your head and food on your table….you are WEALTHY in EVERYTHING THAT MATTERS! The problem with the cranky trolls is MORE is never ENOUGH. Too bad, so sad for them because they are the poor ones, certainly not you!

I am an enthusiastic new reader to your blog. I enjoy it very much.

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150 Lisa February 13, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I think you summed up being poor very well when you said that it involved not being sure all your needs will be met. I’m disabled and live on a fixed (and very limited) income. On paper I’m poor but usually manage to meet basic needs like shelter and food. So even though I’m poor, I don’t feel deprived because I am blessed with the ability to make the most of few resources.

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151 Jill February 13, 2013 at 4:08 pm

I think being poor is, to some extent, a state of mind. If you have shelter, clothes and food, you have more than many people in this world. If you do a lot of home cooking you are saving money, but also eating a lot better. If you shop at Goodwill, you are making the best use of your money. You can also be creative if you redesign the clothes (check the web site NewDressADay.com). If you are living in poverty, you are still richer than many in this world. You have a challenge to change your circumstance and at least in this country you have that opportunity. When I was in my 20′s and unmarried I lived with a roommate and worked 2 jobs. Money was very tight. I went back to school and got my degree and a better job.

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152 The Greatful Mom February 13, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Great question. I agree with your assessment of poverty, and I do think that I am poor. Sometimes we really do not know if our needs will be met, and it can be terrifying. However, I do not think that we live in extreme poverty. We have always had clothing, we have always had shelter, we have always been able to eat (even if it was a full week of spaghetti paid for with spare change found around the apartment). We have never lived without indoor plumbing, or electricity. Sometimes we have not had a vehicle, and our current car is not reliable and needs a lot of repairs, but if it were to break down we could take the bus.

I do look forward to one day being in a better position. I have zero aspirations of being “rich”, but I do want to be stable and know that I don’t have to worry. I want to take advantage of all the opportunities available to me to move forward in life, so my husband and I are working hard and have faith that someday that work will pay off.

When I envision our future, I do picture people looking at us as though we are still poor because I hope we will stick to a budget, shop in thrift stores, drive pre-owed, paid-for cars and live in a home that has the exact right amount space for our family and no more. But I also envision being able to look at our bank balance and know that we will be able to retire comfortably, take a trip if we want to, and handle any emergencies that may come up.

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153 Tracy February 13, 2013 at 4:42 pm

It seems that your commenter is deciding that the dividing line between wealth and poverty should be a measure of your ability and willingness to be wasteful, as if that is something to strive for or to be proud in achieving. Regrettably it is a reflection of a society where immediate gratification is the goal, so we lose sight of what is truly valuable in life.

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154 Marie February 13, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I agree, well said! I myself feel there are lots of ways of being poor and being rich. I feel I am very rich in many ways. As much as I enjoy a nice dinner out and having certain comforts, I’ve enjoyed a hot dog on a stick over an open fire on a beautiful summer night just as much, if not more. I can spend a day at a tranquil pond with a packed lunch and a good book and remember that day years later and the day cost me nothing. There are people who are very monetarily rich, but really cannot see the forest through the trees, those people I find are the shallow “poor” ones. I actually feel sorry for those poor trolls. Funny, some of the best days in my life have cost nothing, and for that I am very rich!

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155 Sheila P. February 13, 2013 at 4:47 pm

First of all, it sounds like the cranky people making that sort of statement are poor in character and that is far worse.
You are very wise in how you live.. Your husband is blessed by how well you use the money he earns to provide for his family. The way you use the money has to make him feel like an excellent provider (not to indicate that he is not) because his family is living with all they need, lots of what they enjoy extra but not excessive and the children have the best person in this world to care for them at home–their mother. WHAT A BLESSING!!!!! I pray my sons’ find a Proverbs 31 woman like you someday.

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156 dawn February 13, 2013 at 5:08 pm

My family did not have much either when I was growing up. My parents had 7 kids and had to live on my fathers pay as a butcher. Like you, we never went without. I look back now and realize how blessed I was. My father planted a BIG garden with a small orchard (always had fruits and veggies. His father was a farmer so we always got meat from them. My mother canned and froze produce from our garden (always had jams,jellies) my father made maple syrup (never store bought for us) and my mother was an awesome cook/baker and seamstress. Did I have the in clothing? No, but I always had warm cloths to wear.
Did I think we were poor at the time? Yes, but I look back now, and I realize I was one of richest kids I knew, for I had both parents and all my needs met. Poor is how you look at it.

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157 Jenifer February 13, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Some days I feel poor because our pay check is lean but others I feel that I am so blessed with my husband, children and home (meager as it is) that I am rich in God’s blessings even while being poor. There are others out there who don’t know the power of God’s love and what knowing him can provide for their lives and those folks can be poor in two ways. At least I have riches in heaven and on earth that can not be measured.

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158 April February 13, 2013 at 6:21 pm

I find it ridiculous that anyone would call you poor. You manage your money very wisely (and inspire others to do the same). Your home is beautiful, you take yearly vacations and you and your family are always well dressed and classy. Making good use of whatever income is smart. In no way does that make you poor or lower class. We may not travel the world yearly but we definitely aren’t poor. We are blessed with so much. Making smart decisions helps us stretch our income further.

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159 Meredith February 13, 2013 at 6:51 pm

This is interesting. I volunteer at a crisis center where we give out food and also help with rent and utility payments. Out of most of the people there, I still wouldn’t classify, well any of them as “poor.” Someone who is poor someone who doesn’t value family, home, work, and life. Everyone who walks in that door is full of hope that they aren’t going to have to come back next week. Grateful that they will have food for the next four days for their kids. Glad that they reached out for help. Not in my wildest life would I consider someone with “hope,” “gratefulness,” and “gladness” poor. You can win a grammy or an oscar, have a mansion and a gold pool, and still be incredibly poor.

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160 BJ February 13, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I define being financially poor as worrying about where your next month’s bills will come from, and not having at least $2,000 in savings for emergencies.

Spiritually poor is a much different matter, and can hurt nearly as much.

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161 Lisa February 13, 2013 at 8:24 pm

My budget is tighter right now than it has been in years. I would still not call us poor. No, we dont go out as often or go on fancy vacations, but I also dont have credit card debt or other unnecessary extras weighing us down either. We pay our bills, for now that’s enough. When things get better we will continue to pay our bills, but will be able to save more. I cant see how that is poor.

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162 bonini February 13, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Poor is having to choose between buying food, meds, gasoline or electricity.

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163 Evelyn February 13, 2013 at 8:40 pm

I have never had much cash or savings, but I have never felt I was poor. I have always been blessed to be able to help those in need, have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and most importantly friends and family that I love dearly. So even though I don’t have “financial” security I have more riches than so many I come across in my lifes travels. Blessed is what I am and hopefully I can share those blessings with others!

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164 Shannon Costill February 13, 2013 at 8:45 pm

I love this post! Most people in the US don’t know what being poor really means. Being frugal does not mean being poor.

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165 Evie's Gardens February 13, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Oh, my goodness. I seriously don’t know where to start here.

First of all… what is poor?

Do you choose to spend your money on foolish things, or feed your family and put a roof over their heads, and prepare for the future… or go blow everything you make foolishly?

I am a Christian… and the Bible speaks of the five foolish virgins… not going to preach a sermon here, but if anyone is interested… look it up… http://www.Blueletterbible.com... will let you search any scripture.

I have no material things, but I am richer than most that I know, because my God gave me life… he makes sure I am fed, a roof over my head, and family and friends. He also provides my needs… didn’t say wants… needs. What more can we ask?

Getting off my horse here. :)

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166 Sheila February 13, 2013 at 9:31 pm

I grew up poor. I lived in a descent neighborhood, but we went hungry and all my clothes were hand-me-downs. Yes I had clothes that most were given to me or bought at the DAV, shoes too. I don’t feel I was as poor as others, but without food I think is where my ‘poor’ comes from. My mother refused to sign up for government food or food stamps, she was too proud. But this woman had the ability and the knowledge to grow food. She was raised on a farm and I’ve witnessed her take a dying poinsettia and make it thrive in dirt from the yard and she refused to because she felt deprived because she didn’t live the life she thought she deserved we all suffered. So yeah we were poor because of stubborn pride which I think is the poorest. I understand there wasn’t money for any extras, but with that knowledge she could have taught us to live. I know I sound bitter, but I’m more angry. She had knowledge that she could have shared and taught to me and my sibling and we could have ate like kings. She couldn’t cook to save her life, my dad taught her. We ate beans 6 days a week, sometimes we even had cornbread. This is what I remember from childhood to the day I moved out on my own. So there are so many ways to be poor and not all is money. I still wear clothes from thrift stores and I don’t mind. I can eat beans now and as long as there is cornbread I enjoy it. I don’t think I would have realized we were not a ‘lucky’ as some kids if we’d been richer in caring. Those that tell you you are poor, are they themselves actually poor, in manners, caring and understanding. Believe me I’ve lived it, left it and now embrace some of the things I learned growing up, but I teach my kids, and grandkids. Maybe that makes me richer than if I had gold. I think it does.

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167 K February 21, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Sheila,
What a great post!

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168 Kelly Kellett February 13, 2013 at 9:44 pm

I don’t read your comments much, because I get your blog as an email, read it, and think (not comment) about it. But I never thought of you as poor. I think of you as a very responsible money manager. I too have frugal tendencies by choice. I also have some “poor” mentalities that I’m intellectually aware of when I think about them, but seem to be rather oblivious to when I’m committing the acts.

I think your definition of poor is excellent. And by that definition, yes, I’ve been poor. Since you asked.

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169 Amber February 13, 2013 at 9:51 pm

I’m a little sad that so many of your readers classify food + clothes + roof as “not being poor”.

I live in poverty. Actually, I live so far beneath the poverty line it’s almost disgusting. Poverty where I live is defined as a single person making less than 18000$ a year. I’ve lived on a social assistance income of 9000$ a year, paying 475$ in rent a month, an average of 200$ electric (Less in summer, more in winter) every two months. That’s 8100$ before food, clothing, or any luxury. I had to beg, borrow, and pawn my only possessions in hard times. I had to forgo decent food, and pick and choose how far I could stretch my bill payments out. I had to cry to my father. I had a roommate who decided when I received a student loan that he was no longer paying his way, and so that student loan went to covering his ass, and then moving, instead of budgeting forward for a school year that I had to drop out of so that I could apply for social assistance again.

I was poor. I was stressed out, I was angry, I was scared all the time. I was hungry and 30 pounds underweight. I was struggling with infection after infection, unable to afford anything that would help fix it (Even in Canada, antibiotics cost money) It is so disheartening and depressing to try over and over to get ahead, only to be told at every turn, “You are too poor to do this.” You are too poor to afford a student loan to go to school to learn a skill to get a career. You are too poor to afford the clothing or transportation costs associated with having this job. You are too poor to keep yourself healthy. You are too poor to actually love your spouse. You are too poor to support yourselves; how do you have pets, you can’t even think of children.

You are too poor to feel good about yourself. Feel badly. You’re on the system, and it’s designed to keep you surviving in a state of terrible limbo where no one with a decent apartment will rent to you, no one with a decent job will hire you, and no one will care when you say, “But I can’t afford to pay that.”

Food and clothing and a roof to not necessarily mean that you are not poor.

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170 Beth February 16, 2013 at 11:47 am

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think folks mean “stable, dependable, can-almost-be-taken-for-granted” food, clothes, and a roof. You clearly couldn’t count on these being present because of the threat that medical bills would overwhelm your month. I don’t think those who’ve been counting food, clothes and a roof as comfort would say that you were not poor.

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171 Amy February 13, 2013 at 10:03 pm

I’ve been broke and I’ve been poor. In college I had very very little money. I remember one week where after paying bills and putting gas in the car I had $5 left for groceries… for the whole week. I bought a bag of rice and a couple cans of cream of chicken soup. That was lunch and dinner. After my 1st husband left I struggled to get a job (He took the car) Our gas had been turned off because he didn’t pay the bill. I lived in that house for 2 months, mid Sept – mid Nov, with no heat. The only thing I had was an electric toaster oven. I put it in my bedroom at night and that kept me pretty comfortable. I had a roommate and when he moved out he left a loaf of bread and a doz eggs behind… I did a happy dance. I ate everything in my pantry. I had no stove, only a microwave and crockpot. I made some weird meals but I didn’t starve.
It took me 2 years to really get back on my feet. Now I choose to shop at Goodwill and Aldi so I can have more money to put toward other things.
I could buy brand name everything but I think going on vacation to the beach with my husband and kids would be nicer. :)
And I LOVE Goodwill. I’ve found 2 pair of Calvin Klein jeans for my hubby, Arizona jeans, aeropostle (sp?) shirts and nike shoes.

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172 Shira February 14, 2013 at 12:30 am

Hi Kristen! I just discovered your blog and loved this post – a great read and one that touches close. I agree that poor is so very subjective and the term is so subjective. The truth is no matter where you go there is always someone who has less than you – and someone who has more. I’ve been all things (we grew up poor) and I can certainly say that at no time have I ever felt poor so long as I had love, a warm bed and enough to eat. I’ll be following along – thanks for a great blog!

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173 KT February 14, 2013 at 2:17 am

Kristen, you wrote, “Poverty, in my mind, is more like a situation where no matter how careful you are, you still can’t get ahead and are worried about where your next meal will come from.” That is about the best definition I’ve heard or read and I agree with it 100%. To me there are 3 kinds of people who live below the poverty line as outlined by the U.S. government.

1. Those with limited income, but use their limited resources to the best of their ability. They take advantage of whatever is offered to them in order to move forward in their lives and eventually do just that. To me, they are not poor; they are living successfully on a very limited income.
2. Those with limited income, but waste and squander their limited resources on various vices: alcohol, drugs, gambling, buying “wants” vs. “needs”, etc. They take advantage of whatever is offered to them and squander that too to get more $ for their wants. They never get ahead and continue to live without some of the basic necessities. To me, they are not poor; they are financially irresponsible.
3. These are the people described in your definition. They have limited income and receive a variety of assistance – like the people in #1. However, no matter how hard they try or how responsible they are, as soon as they get ahead even a little, something out of their control sets them back, putting them deeper in debt. Always 1 step forward and 2 back. It’s like quick sand, the harder they try to get out the worse it seems to get. When you are living on the edge, a car repair, medical event, job loss is catastrophic. These people are poor and probably getting poorer every day.

Lindsay Lohan had to leave her home because she could no longer afford it. She moved in with her mother, whose Mcmansion is either in foreclosure or close to it. Lindsay owns at least one purse that she paid $38,000 for. Financial irresponsibility. She probably feels destitute about now.

I once met a woman who, after a brief conversation, began to express her poor financial status and all of the worries that consumed her. Her husband had been out of work, bills piled up, they got behind in the mortgage, and she just didn’t know how they could dig themselves out. I asked how long he had been out of work and she replied, “One month.” !!!! Worse yet, later I learned they are both professionals, no children, and living in a big house. She missed no work, yet buys everything she sees on the home shopping channels. She absolutely thought she was poor and would be for a long time.

Perception is also the key.

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174 Tina Ray February 14, 2013 at 8:57 am

I find it interesting that people who must criticize (aka pass judgement) on other people, do so when they do not have all the facts or have not educated themselves on the subject before passing on their judgemental opinion. If most Americans lived frugally, would we have had the “Great Recession”? Would the real estate market have taken a dive? Would so many people now be unemployed? I think not. The problem with our society is that we must HAVE HAVE HAVE. I do like to buy things and to get “stuff” that makes my house look pretty to me. However, I do so in a manner that is typically economical to my wallet. Such as buying at garage sales, 2nd hand stores, and the Goodwill. I also shop at Aldi so I can make my money stretch. Does that make me poor? Heavens no! It makes me smart. Sorry that you don’t “get it” trolls. You must have way more money and time on your hands. Do something for the good of your community with it and lend a hand.

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175 ks February 14, 2013 at 9:18 am

A woman at work who just retired told me, “she’s choosing to be poor so she’ll have more time.” I think that’s so true””unless you’re independently wealthy, you can choose money or time.

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176 Terri S. February 14, 2013 at 9:19 am

I don’t understand why anyone would not want to live the frugal life. Just because you are making 75,000. this year, does not mean you will be making it next year!! That has been proven over the last 5yrs.

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177 Beth February 14, 2013 at 9:36 am

It just infuriates me when people say stuff like this. Since when is it a bad thing to be fiscally responsible? To plan for your future, and save money in case of emergency. You should be praised for putting the future of your family above material things. You should be praised for making nutritious food at home and not subjecting your family to chemicals and additives in store bought items. Most of all you should be praised for sharing your suggestions with the rest of us who enjoy living frugally (and happily) on a little bit less. I have seen true poverty, and even some of the most poor among us have the best attitudes of thankfulness and generosity. Maybe the commenter should look inside and see that all the material goods in the world, can’t make you happy.

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178 Denise February 14, 2013 at 10:04 am

Thank You. Though I have never considered myself poor we do struggle at the best of times. I am horrible for noticing what others have that I don’t and thinking “What are we doing wrong?” I try hard to live a frugal lifestyle because: 1) We have a small debt (under $15 000 not including mortgage), 2) I stay home because that is what benefits our family situation, 3) I do work from home but don’t make an enormous amount of money doing so, 4) I’m have returned to College after 15yrs (1 course a semester but the money still needs to be there to pay for it), 5) My children need to learn the value of a dollar somehow & I believe that starts at home.

I do shop second-hand stores, yard sales, kijiji, etc. I do use coupons whenever possible. I do make, as much as my time will allow, as much of our meals from scratch. I shop bulk 1x per month & only for the things I know are a deal. I have a vegetable garden which I try to grow enough food to, especially tomatoes, to can & make sauces.

Personally I envy people who live Frugal and try daily to live by the examples I see/read daily online.

Determined to be Frugal for Life!

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179 Anonymous February 14, 2013 at 10:45 am

Great post!

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180 Madeline February 14, 2013 at 11:37 am

“Poor” is a state of mind.My husband grew up in a multigenerational household with a working dad, a stay at home mom, a car, a huge backyard, good schools in a nice suburb, and his depression era parents made him think he grew up “poor” without “enough.” I was raised with less money and “stuff” and I never realized there were times my Mom could not pay the rent. A relative usually helped us out ,then she remarried, and life got even better. But I always felt safe happy and NEVER POOR!!

Poor is a state of mind.There have been times in my early marriage when we did not have quite enough money but we were NEVER POOR! We ate beans instead of hamburger, shared a car, went to the laundrymat, when our son was little, and had to take out student loans to get our education.(We paid those all back when we got jobs..)

Anyway– only real trolls would consider your blessed,happy, healthy, abundant lifestyle to be “poor!!”

I AM INSPIRED by your family!

As my family inches toward retirement, our frugal ways and our ability to be happy and prosperous at any income level = RICH!!!!

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181 Nancy February 14, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I have some very long (30+ years) friendships with people like that. Their answer for everything is “let’s go pick something up” to eat, or “this is old, let’s buy a new one”. I have thought many times of ending these friendships because after a while it does tend to sckew your thinking. I come here to this blog to remind me of what is normal. The “friends” attribute me not having “things” to me being poor. Income wise, I don’t make nearly as much as their households make, but what I can never make them understand is that even if I had a million dollars in the bank, I still wouldn’t buy all that stuff. A car is a mode of transportation, not a status symbol. I don’t get it.

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182 Erin Hall {i can craft that} February 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm

For me being poor is when you can not afford the minimums in life with ease. We are poor. There are many time I have to choose between buying food, diapers, rent or bills. I am constantly trying to save money and cut back. we have no life insurance on my husband, no savings and no fall back. I have to use my local food bank and my family helps us out a lot but we are not on any other type of government support. That to me is poor.
broke on the other hand is when you spend more than you have.

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183 Lea February 14, 2013 at 5:18 pm

The only time I’ve ever felt poor was when I was without health insurance. I could house and feed myself on a minimal sum but what if I had needed some expensive health care, even my parents may not have been able to help me out.

If you haven’t yet read it, Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed does an excellent job of showing what poor America looks like–people working hard and just not able to get ahead.

On a slightly different note, I just wanted to point out that American advertisers spend billions of dollars creating our desires and wants, often making us feel inadequate and poor. I appreciate your blog and the Anti-Consumer Advocate’s for providing daily ideas about how to “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” and sometimes checking with Consumer Reports to make the quality purchase. Now I’ll get to work on that billion dollar budget for your message…

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184 Sondre February 14, 2013 at 6:47 pm

I grew up in a household with very little money. My father, who was handicapped, worked hard to provide for our needs. We received “surplus” food on a regular basis and on major Christian holidays the pastor from our church brought all the fixings for a complete holiday meal. I didn’t even know we were poor. My parents were loving, caring, faith-filled people. We were rich in what really mattered.

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185 hephzibah February 14, 2013 at 8:42 pm

I may be at the bottom of the U.S economic ladder but compared to the rest of the world even the U.S poor is rich.

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186 Karen. February 14, 2013 at 10:30 pm

This is the most interesting discussion I’ve read in days.

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187 fam February 14, 2013 at 11:05 pm

I really like your message. I could say that we are having some hard time (not poor) at this moment just because my husband and I lost our jobs with in few months of each other. We have been where I’m concern to have something for my kids to eat, where I pray to GOD to keep my kids in good health conditions because we have just lost our insurance but with in all of this mess I know that GOD can squeeze you thigh but he would not chock you. I now that he has something for us to learn out of all this and I can tell you that am to be great full for everything we have no matter as little or insignificant it is. It is hard for us because we are not us to leave with so little but times have change and we need to accept any changes and move on.

God is always with us and it will guide us to move forward even in our harder time.

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188 Yvonne February 14, 2013 at 11:49 pm

You can be rich and still be poor. Some people try to live well above their means, and still fail to cover their basic needs. They spend all the money covering the wants and the needs are never met. I have always been very frugal and feel so blessed for what I do have. I think a lot of people don’t get the point of frual living and never will.

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189 Jo February 15, 2013 at 6:05 am

I HAVE been in that place where I was unsure if my needs would be met, both as a teenager and when newly married. I also firmly believe that even withOUT a comfortable bank account, it’s still possible to be NOT poor with a bit of budgeting and realistic priorities.

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190 Kathe Hall February 15, 2013 at 9:37 am

Great post. I think poor is an overused and misunderstood term these days. I think for many of us who may seem poor ( according to gov standards or just society) are quite the opposite. We are living within our means and enjoying our families and friends and not worrying about what car we drive or clothes labels or gadgets. I am a stay at home mom, blessed to be able for sure. My husband and I find some months tougher than others, but we make it work. We joke all the time that we are poor, but in reality we have no idea what that means or feels like financially or emotionally. I feel lucky and blessed everyday of my life and try to help those who are truly poor. No one should ever know what that is like.

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191 ginnie February 15, 2013 at 11:31 am

While my husband was in the military we had very low pay. There were times we simply had no food in the house with no way to get any. Hearing your little children saying how hunger they were is more than any parent should have to go thru.
So, you are not poor by any means! Being wise with what God gives you is a win win. Sorry, others don’t get it.

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192 Beth February 15, 2013 at 12:30 pm

I just wanted to let you know that I have been thinking about this post for a couple of days now. – thanks

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193 Elizap February 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm

There is a strange phenomenon that happens when people actually are poor. They will do anything to not appear poor. For some this is using credit cards and driving fancy cars, for others it is stealing so they can have the things that to them, prove they are not poor.

A few years ago we were living in a trailer hoping to buy a house. While we were there, we bought several wants. There were literally consolation prize purchases. “See, I’m not poor, I can afford these things…”

Now that we live in the gorgeous house, I don’t feel any need to show anyone I’m not poor. And I’m not even that image conscious.

My son in 2nd grade came home with a new pair of shoes one day. He was given them by the school who had noticed his stream of goodwill shoes. It hurt my pride and I took them the $20 I researched that the shoes would cost.

Thank you for your website. There are so many voices in the world saying we should look and act a certain wasteful way.

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194 Heather February 15, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I have been poor, really poor, as in choosing between food and diapers and wearing the same clothes for years on end, scrounging the garbage for whatever and piling on blankets and clothing to stay warm instead of turning on the heat. I was bullied and beaten up (Emotionally) for not having (Insert whatever) growing up.

Having said that, those were the best life lessons. I like frugal and simple, even a touch of minalism and I am extremely HAPPY. I do have a little family and we have what we need with a sprinkle of a few wants.

People can make fun of me all they want. I don’t need people in my life like that. I suffered severe depression from these people who think it’s their place to make fun of or feel sorry for me. When I came through it, I realized, WHO ARE YOU? You mean nothing to me and as I get older, I get more graceful and you just become more hateful. I am good with that. ; )

Sorry if that seems a little mean but growing older has it’s priveleges.

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195 Skirnir Hamilton February 15, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Okay, what shocked me in your comments was including those who feel sorry for you. I know sorry is not what people want others to feel, but it is a form of recognizing that another needs help. It is what motivates some to help others.

I am still trying to figure out how does one help those with lower income in a way that does not call them poor? I mean, we have heard stories in the comment of the church or the school who wanted to help and accidently offended. We have heard stories here of those too proud to ask or receive help. Those of us who think “There but for the grace of God go I.” or think I have so much, how do I share what should we do? How do we do it in a way that isn’t offensive? That doesn’t call another poor, as this seems to be a derogatory term, even here. IE everyone wouldn’t say they weren’t poor, if in fact they were financially poor, if the word didn’t have some kind of loaded meaning for them.

Thinking outloud here, but come on, we could all be poor someday. Does any of us have enough money in the bank that could cover some medical emergency if insurance refused to pay for some reason? Do any of us have enough money to cover if we get sued by someone else? Do any of us have enough money to cover all possibilities in the future that could be out there? No. So why can’t those of us who have more at the moment share with those who have less and have it not be insulting/offensive, etc.

Sorry, but this issue frustrates the heck out of me. I want to help others, but in so doing, I sometimes accidently offend.

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196 EngineerMom February 15, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Great post!

I’ve had people in real life react kind of like that when I mention we sold our car before moving out to Seattle – the idea of choosing to live without all the bells and whistles of a “typical” American life in order to keep the balance in our checking account happy is a foreign concept to a lot of people.

I’m with you on what it actually means to be poor, though – we have a roof over our head, enough discretionary spending to hire a babysitter for the occasional night out, and I never have to worry about being able to afford groceries or clothes for the kids. In my mind, we live a very comfortable life. It’s not what’s portrayed as “ideal” in the sense that we don’t own a vehicle, we don’t buy brand new clothes every season, pretty much all of our meals are home-cooked or packed, and we live in an apartment instead of a house we own.

But our life works for us – we’re paying off the small amount of debt we accrued moving out here, and when that’s done we’ll be able to save quite a bit. More importantly, we love our life, even the parts that are a little harder without a car!

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197 Ilo R February 15, 2013 at 10:23 pm

In ’95 I married my husband and I have to day the first year we were poor, let me explain. There were multiple months that we had Kraft macaroni (10/1.00) and cheese and ever lunch/dinner meal. We lived in a one bedroom fully furnished apartment in Mississippi. And we walked to work everyday because we had no car. That being said, niw that is has been over 15 years and I have 2 cars, a nice home and enough money to never have to buy Kraft mac & cheese again to survive. I would never consider this site or it’s writer as poor. I look at everything I have and realize I was happier then. So for me, poor is a state of mind…not your income

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198 Juli February 16, 2013 at 8:52 am

I feel like I’ve been poor before. When I was 20 and I only made $25 per week doing a voice lesson but I was running around everywhere trying to make enough money with a home-based (debt based) business. I put as much gas as $20 could get in my car and the other $5 was my tithe at church. Good thing too! Because somehow I was fed even though I couldn’t afford to buy groceries. My parents were kind enough to fill up a couple of paper Aldi bags and send me on my way. I couldn’t pay my rent a couple times either so my mom paid it for me- this was not supposed to have been the arrangement. I felt poor then. Of course, I moved back home after that, got a regular paying job and started to slowly chip away at my looming credit card debt. Eventually I quit the business that was making me poor.

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199 AntiDigger February 16, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Everyone has their own definitions of poor for them and, usually, a different definition of what is poor for others.

I have a fatuous definition of poor for me: not having a working washing machine. It allows me to deny that I’m poor, pretty much whatever my disposable income, so if I’m looked down upon for not being able to go out, not having a fortnight in the sun, I have a ready answer and a story of relative poverty I can tell to allow people to recognise how much better life is now.

Poor, as a reality, would seem to me to be bound up with insecurity: having cut out anything I would consider a frivolity and still living on the edge. Unsure of heat, light, food or shelter, or being able to educate your children are all definitions of poverty as far as I can see, and most of them would cross international boundaries as far as I can see.

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200 Courtney February 17, 2013 at 1:40 am

pshaw to those cranky trolls! my family and i can be described exactly as you describe yourself and i don’t feel poor. sure, its kind of tight sometimes, but our needs are met and we have love! lots and lots of love! so keep on keepin’ on lady, ignore the ignorant.

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201 Marianne February 17, 2013 at 8:52 am

Gosh I have always though of your blog as more of the “how to live on a small footprint”. I would never think of that choice as a definition of poor. Not having a lot of “things” can be a choice you know.
I am thankful every day that I have a roof over my head and food in my belly as I know many who don’t have that.

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202 Diane February 17, 2013 at 9:28 am

Being financially unstable and being poor and 2 different things. The true poor have no resources to bring themselves out of poverty. I feel so fortunate to have my education and skills in certain areas that I can use to keep myself solvent.

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203 Kimberly February 17, 2013 at 11:30 am

I’m always just floored at the judgmental attitudes people have towards others for choosing a lifestyle that they have not. I think in this economic firestorm that most American’s are rethinking what “poor” is. A job, a roof over your head, and food on the table are needs and everything else are wants. Over the last 6 years our annual income has decreased by $45K. Had we not lived a lifestyle of simple and less we would have lost everything…..our home, vehicles, and we would have depleted our savings account. There is definitely something to be said about finding joy and value no matter where you are in your financial journey. Being poor is a state of mind. There is an old saying “if you have your health you have everything”!!!!

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204 Becky February 19, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Some people just have no idea of what it like to be frugal. They think if you “choose” to not spend your money at Macy’s or Belk’s, buying overpriced knickknacks and clothes at retail, and instead, you find enjoyment out of getting the biggest bang for your buck, that you are poor. To them, even trying to “save money” indicates that you must. Shopping for “used” clothing is anathema. Horrors.

However, our American definition of poor is skewed. In America, often the poor are very fat–overweight. In Poland, where I live, the poorest are very thin…why? Because they don’t eat enough. Some say, “Ah, well, the poor in America are fat because they eat the wrong things.” I say, “But they consume enough calories that they aren’t dying of starvation, either slowly or quickly.” Not having enough to eat and choosing to eat the wrong things are two different things.

I heard a man once make the statement, “We’ve never lived under circumstances where we HAD to use coupons at the grocery store.” :) I smiled at that one since I know lots of people who regularly use coupons who don’t have to at all in order to make their money last. To them it is a game–a challenge–like you at Aldi’s. You want to stick to a budget—get good deals and maximize your money. It’s YOUR money–and the idea is to keep as much of it as you can and not give it to the store if you don’t have to.

But along that line, I once read a comment in a newspaper here in Poland that was worded like this (literally), “If you have money to burn and want to take music lessons….” I smiled as music happens to be important in my family and has nothing to do with “money to burn”.

On the other hand, we know a guy who has a new car (payments) but has been homeless from time to time when his girlfriend has kicked him out of her house. Is he poor? A poor money manager, yes, has almost no money, yes, but really poor? I don’t know his whole situation, but he probably earns enough so that he shouldn’t be poor.

But it takes people like the woman referred to in the post to “keep our economy humming” and to buy new so that those who enjoy keeping more of your hard earned money in your pocket can buy their discarded things second-hand.

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205 Pam February 19, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I think you said it very well. I couldn’t add anything else.

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206 JOELLYN February 19, 2013 at 2:43 pm

I love your blog and love to hear your ideas. I have never thought of you as poor – how ridiculous. You’re smart and you live sensibly! Like my mom always said: waste not want not. Keep up the good work.

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207 Megan February 19, 2013 at 7:54 pm

It is a pet peeve of mine when people whine about being too poor for this and too poor for that, but they just took a vacation to Disney or a some weekend at Great Wolf Lodge. I think it is disrespectful to the poor to whine poorness where it doesn’t exist. I know it is a little different from what you said, but I think you are correct in your definition of yourself. We as American’s are mostly all rich by world standards and need to be aware and grateful for it.

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208 Erika March 8, 2013 at 11:40 am

I read an article in grad school titled “Why the Poor Pay More”. So insightful and eye-opening. Just having the privilege to make frugal choices is a privilege of the wealthy. Keep up the great writing Kristin, I have loved your blog for years! Below is the link to the Washington post article:

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2009-05-18/news/36823675_1_poverty-line-middle-class-milk

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209 Sheri March 27, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Reading your entry opened my eyes. I was just saying this morning, I am too poor to afford blah blah blah. Which may be true, because such mentioned blah blah blah is a luxory that a lot of people can’t afford, even those with larger paychecks than mine. It really put my life in perspective. I can pay my bills, bills which include luxeries like expanded cable, extremely high speed internet and even hospital bills for my DOG! There are so many people, also NOT POOR, who can’t even afford that much. I, too, am frugal, and known to be so by shopping at goodwill (so many of my most commented articles of clothings come from goodwill….), using coupons and only buying “On Sale” items. I don’t HAVE to do this, but I choose to, so my dollar can be expanded to pay off the surgery my beagle needed, or to be able to watch AMC or Bravo whenever I want. And really, is anybody who has the love of family and friends and an overly frisky beagle ever really poor? :) Thanks for this post. It was enlightening.

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210 Chrissy April 12, 2013 at 8:32 pm

I think people think you MUST BE POOR if you are not invested in having all new things and a bigger house and a nicer car and a smartphone etc., etc. it is common “American-think” to see excessive possessions as normal and expected….not as luxuries.
We have never had a fantastic income…in fact, with the birth of our second (of three) son, we randomly discovered we were considered wellllll below the poverty level and qualified for many benefits. Bahahaha! It was hilarious to me…I sacrificed and pinched my pennies til they screamed and stayed home with my children (something I wanted so much I was willing to go without new shoes for two years and didn’t think twice….until I had to go to a wedding…lol!) but poor? No. We were broke…we considered it temporary and normal, since at that time we were 27, had only been in our house for four years, and only married for five years….OF COURSE WE WERE BROKE. We were young and just starting. Now we have been frugal for so long we have no debt, lots of savings, a growing retirement and all because we still live similarly to how we did then…except I have bought a pair of shoes in the past year…three, I think, actually. I think “poor” is sort of a state of mind, “broke” is a circumstance you can work with. If I had really embraced our “poverty” I believe it would have been so much harder…it was how it was and we felt so blessed to have the few things we had!
So, no, you aren’t poor and apparently no longer broke either. Lovely! Those that are still in that circumstance…it isn’t who they are, it is just numbers and it means only that life is more complicated in some ways and you have to make decisions very carefully…unless they define themselves that way, as poor and maybe somehow less. I know people that do…

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211 sate June 2, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Yes, I grew up poor. And by poor I mean I only ate at school (weekends were horrible), I wore the same cheap low-quality clothes for years, I attended schools that had bars on the windows and metal detectors at the entrance and never saw a doctor because I did not have health insurance.
I’m not that poor anymore but I understand what being poor is. To me it’s not having the things you need and not having a way to get them/move up. Obviously homeless people but even ones who have more than that. For instance, people who have a minimum wage full time job that pays their bills but does not give them time to go to college or anything else….spending all their time working to barely get by.

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212 Floofy June 3, 2013 at 12:17 am

Thank you for touching this topic and I apologize that I’m late to the discussion.

I will agree with many others and say that if you have shelter, food and can afford healthcare, you’re not poor. For a time in my life, I was poor. I worked 12-14 hours a day for a shady boss who never paid us on time because it was a small landscape company. When he didn’t pay us on time? We drank cheap coffee at Starbucks for heat and shelter until they closed for the night, then we slept at a rest stop. It was tough getting ahead when we didn’t have money. I know very well how it feels to be afraid to sleep at night, because you don’t feel safe. I also know what raw hunger feels like. It’s been years, and we’re still VERY nervous if the pantry gets a little low. I’m happy to say that my family is no longer poor. We live frugal by choice, because we’re happy that way.

You may not be living like a king, but you have a good life. A beautiful home, delicious food(I saved a ton of your recipes), good health and even extra money for the little stuff that we treat ourselves to. You’re doing fine. :) Don’t let people bring you down or goodness, PITY you for not having a sports car or other unnecessary fluff.

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213 OfMonklyLiving June 24, 2014 at 4:12 pm

People seem to neglect the fact that we live in a world that allows us to be vastly resourceful, this allows the creative mind to require less money.

One does not need to buy groceries when one can spend an hour a day or so tending their vegetables, and someone doesn’t need to throw out their dinner table if a leg breaks when they know how to replace it. These are time honored traditions that most of the people in society who look down on others who are less financially dependent’s grandfathers cherished and took pride in.

Let us also give an example for the money driven individuals out there with a simple series of questions.

Q: What do you have when you possess the means to maintain and procure the required materials you need to live healthy, clean, and full while spending little or no money?

A: You have more money.

Q:When you have more money, while healthy, clean, and full what do you have?

A: More freedom.

Now let’s look at it from a commercial, and political standpoint;
We live in a world of overall price inflation. The price of living is gaining in rates. Alongside this we live in a spender’s world. Without money flowing our country stands still. This may seem like frugality and poverty is then bad right? Not at all. In fact it keeps the pecking order that those who wish to be wealthy absolutely adore does it not? I mean, if someone is happy, and healthy, and has the means to have fun and get out there and enjoy life they will not care so much if they’re working at that restaurant serving you the food that you wanted prepared.

From a philosophic and spiritual standpoint it builds character, expands the mind, and creates a stronger and more dependable person. It teaches humility and self worth, as well as respect for others. Again, ideal’s we as a species adore right?

These are all valid points one could use to reply to such attempted tarnishes. But sometimes you may even run into someone who dislikes in blind ignorance alone. For those I have a simple reply.;
You can fight to help your country provide its workers a true living wage, you can take money from your own pocket and share with others to spread the wealth, or you can encourage something that still spreads money through the economy, allows people to be strong and healthy, while providing those services you desire.

And for those with open minds; You could do as the frugal and crafty do, while doing all of the actions above. Thus creating a stronger and better world.

Happy living.

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