Poverty and Austerity

I go through phases where I spend time on personal development.  This particular phase involves cutting back and living with a little more austerity. I have cut the cable and rid myself of a home phone. I got rid of my 3G on my iPad. It’s a transition not without its headaches, but I think we are transitioning well.  I simply decided that Time Warner does not provide enough value for the costs they charge. Sometimes you have things in your life that make sense for the time, but no longer make sense.  We often don’t reevaluate these things, and we continue to subscribe and pay for things we no longer need.  (Need is relative.)

I saw a great video about cable companies, reinforcing what I already understood. They are a monopoly, not really interested in innovation or quality programming. You pay a lot of money for 1000 channels, many which are repeated on different bands, and one only watches perhaps 3 of them.  There was much more to the video and it is of great social value to watch it.

Being short of money can really add a lot of stress into people’s lives. I believe people who have enough under-estimate the value of basic financial security and how it can effect every part of ones day.  This morning I was recounting a story to my daughter about shoes.  When she was a baby, as all babies do, she would take off her shoes in the stroller. Inevitably, they would fall out, and a busy, stressed parent might not notice it. One day she did this at a particularly difficult financial period of my life. She was out with my ex-husband.  I screamed and stressed that he better go outside and retrace his steps and he better not come back until he found the missing shoe.  You see, we could not afford to replace them. Things were that bad.  Thinking back on this incident, it seems humourous, absurd to the point of a comical skit.  But at the time, I was very serious.  This is what financial stress can do to you.

I recently read a story about the CEO of Panera & Co. He challenged himself and other executives to live on a Food Stamps budget. This is a good exercise for many reasons.  Just like I’m cutting back on things that I don’t really need, learning how to eek out tasty and nutritional food on a budget like this is a challenge.  In the end, the executive realized it is very difficult to do this, if not nearly impossible. It is hard if not possible to have a nutritionally balanced diet, add flavor, and have variety on this small of a budget.  Some of his fellow executives took time to do their homework by finding deals in supermarket circulars. Imagine doing this while maintaining two jobs, parenting and a host of other responsibilities.  (I’m sure many of these executives have paid help to take care of other things that the poor have to make time to do themselves.)  It’s no wonder poor people are stressed and angry.  It’s hard to get a perspective under so much duress. While I can’t say I was ever at poverty wages, I can relate. I have been in the position where I couldn’t replace worn clothing, where I had to ask my parents to help me purchase diapers, where I had to watch every penny going in and out of my bank account.

While I don’t live in prosperity, my life is a lot easier than it was. I have enough to get by without stressing. For this, I have tremendous gratitude. Sure I have plenty of wants. It’s very easy for me to ignore my wants indefinitely.  This is a result of many things in my past. But as I have slowly learned, having a little bit of creature comforts does go a long way in setting the stage for me to accomplish other goals. One can never underestimate the value of this.

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