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Livin’ On Love: What I Want You to Know about Being Poor

 

This is my story of poverty.

This is what I want you to know about being poor. 

When we got married at 21, I was still in school and my husband had just graduated from college. 

When we were trying to decide if getting married so young and broke was the right decision, my Mom told me that we would for sure be “livin’ on love, because we wouldn’t have much else!” 

She was so right. 

Two years into marriage we were both working minimum wage jobs and still livin’ on love. We lived off one income and paid off my student loans in full with the other income. 

To be honest, I didn’t even know we were “poor”. 

We got pregnant with our first baby and decided that I would quit my job to stay home. Thankfully, around this time my husband got a different job that made significantly more money. I thought we had it made. 

The first clue I had that we were still considered poor was when I found out that we could qualify (easily) for WIC. I then learned that we could also qualify for Medicaid and Food Stamps. 

Honestly, I had no idea we were that “poor”. We had two cars. A mortgage. Food on the table for three meals a day, plus snacks. We had paid off all my student loans and we had no debt. We have heat in the winter. We have running water and curtains and sheets on our beds. 

Over the last few years, my husband has faithfully worked the same job, and we have added more children to our family. We are indeed living considerably under the American poverty line. 

After living like this for so long, here are a few things I want you to know about being poor: 

  • I want you to know that qualifying for WIC, Medicaid and Food Stamps does not mean that we are lazy and sitting around just collecting on your tax dollars. My husband works an average of 50 hrs a week and works harder than anyone else I know, and while I do stay home with the kids, I’m certainly not sitting on my butt all day. We both have undergraduate degrees but have chosen jobs in fields that do not pay much. 
  • I want you to know that when you ask me to hang out with you, my first thought is that I would LOVE to. The second thought is, “what will we be doing and how much will I have to spend?”. We have had to turn down dinner outings, hang outs and even weekends away because we simply cannot fit it into the budget. 
  • I want you to know that when you talk about shopping garage sales and thrift stores to get an awesome score, I nod my head along with you. I shop those places, too (and love them!). The only difference is that I shop those places because I have no other choice. We simply cannot afford most things brand new. 
  • I want you to know that we have bought both of our vehicles off of Craigslist. Oh, and most of our furniture, too. My decorating style might be “eclectic”, but that is because I have made do with what I already have, hand-me-downs and second-hand finds. 
  • I want you to know that it hurts my feelings when you offhandedly remark that you don’t have enough money for a specific thing, but the very next day you can drop $150 on a handbag and book a vacation to the Caribbean. 
  • I want you to know that I’ve tried it all to make a little extra money from home. All those “easy ways to make money from home” are not so easy, and require just as much work as a work outside the home job. 

But mostly I want you to know that I don’t hate this life that we live. In fact, I love it. Would I love to eat out more often? Yes. Would I love to book family vacations to warm, beachy location? Absolutely. Would I love to buy myself that desperately needed minivan? Of course. 

However, we are so much richer than our income states. We have learned through the years that stuff isn’t everything. In fact, stuff is worth nothing. We have learned that money doesn’t buy contentment or happiness. We have learned to find free things to do, and have had a blast doing it. We have learned that family vacations ARE possible, they just require a lot of scrimping and planning and saving, and sometimes staying in a sketchy motel for the night. We have learned to hold loosely to our things, and instead to guard the things that are most important: time and relationships. We have learned that working hard and being responsible doesn’t always mean climbing the financial ladder of success. We have learned that saying no sometimes just means saying yes to even better things. We have learned that driving clunkers from Craigslist make for some wild adventures. We have learned to cook things from scratch and shop at Aldi and find the best steals at garage sales. We have become regulars at our thrift stores and consignment sales because that’s where we can find anything we need. We are already able to teach our children budgeting and financial wisdom, along with the hard life-skills of contentment and saying no to immediate gratification. 

So if you look at our income report, you can most certainly label us as poor. But if you look at our lives? Man, we are rich. Livin’ on love and RICH. 

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19 Responses to Livin’ On Love: What I Want You to Know about Being Poor

  1. Jennifer April 11, 2017 at 8:08 am #

    Believe me, I can relate to those early years of marriage with young kids and no money! I don’t regret marrying young and having children right away. We also qualified for WIC at one point. With four young kids, I got way over my head running a home business while Marc was finishing his PhD and pastoring a very small church. You are so right! Making money at home is time consuming and can quickly overwhelm. More poverty came later when we attempted to keep our kids in Christian School. We experienced the terrible enslavement of being caught in the snare of credit card debt.

    But, as with any trial, I feel like being poor bares fruit. My married daughter has learned frugality that is now blessing her in her young marriage. She is used to getting all her clothes at thrift stores and relates to living on a budget. She isn’t used to eating out all the time. All the daughters have learned resourcefulness and seem satisfied with less. I learned the dangers of using credit to solve cash flow problems.

    Now that we have a little more money, I am grateful and thankful. A huge stress is gone (a long with the credit card debt), but I still use a budget!

    • suzannehines April 11, 2017 at 9:34 pm #

      Thank you so much for your comment, Jennifer! I always appreciate your responses and your life advice. It means so much to know that I am not alone in this! I sure hope I can raise my children as you have raised yours!

  2. Esther April 11, 2017 at 8:52 am #

    I love this. Such an honest and raw post and so much truth! This is the first time I’m coming across your blog – do you write more on ways to save money?

    • suzannehines April 11, 2017 at 9:36 pm #

      Hi Esther!
      Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment! I am a contributor for Dayton Mom’s Blog, but you can find me writing more regularly over on my personal blog, The Glorious Mundane (www.suzannehines.org). I don’t focus specifically on saving money, but I do have a few posts about that! The most specific post I have on the topic is this one: http://www.suzannehines.org/2015/10/09/top-15-ways-we-save-money/

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

  3. Amanda April 11, 2017 at 11:17 am #

    Great post! This really resonates with me. I am mid-career and the breadwinner for my family. However, I work in social services which are not exactly known for making anyone wealthy. I have never had new furniture, rarely buy new clothes, my daughter’s clothes are all second hand, and we just bought a ‘new car’ outright: a 10 year old Toyota Sienna. We have no credit cards because we simply cannot afford another monthly payment. But this doesn’t mean that we don’t work our butts off. I have a master’s degree and my partner is a house painter. I still don’t consider us poor. We live within our means, even if that’s much less than what others are able to do. Sometimes I wish I had what others do but at the same time, we have exactly what we need. Even a little more at times. Thank you for your refreshing perspective in a world in which it seems like everyone is able to flaunt their ‘stuff’. Ok, maybe only in America but that’s another topic for another day. Ha ha!

    • suzannehines April 11, 2017 at 9:37 pm #

      Oh, honey…you do NOT get paid enough for your job! My husband and I are also foster parents so we are familiar with social services and how hard you work and how little you make!
      You hit the nail on the head- we live within our means, and we just can’t compare that to others means! We have exactly what we need. Thanks for stopping by and leaving this comment!

  4. Chelsea McKinney April 11, 2017 at 11:38 am #

    Such a great read! You most definitely can not buy happiness! Following your family on Instagram is so fun and brings me joy! You all genuinely look happy and this post shows the same thing! You’re genuinely happy because you’re a small percentage of Americans who’ve learned that the stuff isn’t what makes us happy!

    • suzannehines April 11, 2017 at 9:40 pm #

      Thank you so much for your love and support, Chelsea! Sometimes I wish I had more, and sometimes it seems like no matter how hard we work, we will never have more. But then I just have to step back and realize that it’s ok. Because we have everything we need, and more than that, we have so much character development going on!

  5. Bibiana Rose @mbgblog April 11, 2017 at 12:16 pm #

    WOW! Thank you so much for this post. These are all things I have been thinking about lately and I can totally relate. I have been learning to embrace the life we live and practicing minimalism has been such a blessing to our family <3

    Your new friend,

    Bibiana Rose
    mommybabyglam.com

    • suzannehines April 11, 2017 at 9:44 pm #

      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving this comment! We, too, try to live minimally, but it’s not always easy in this culture! I hope that this encouraged you just a little bit that you are not alone!

  6. Stefanie April 12, 2017 at 12:01 am #

    Perspective is everything my friend, and you have a great one! I remember those hard times quite well. I think living minimally can really teach you valuable life lessons and you learn not to take anything for granted. XOXO

  7. Justine April 12, 2017 at 1:05 am #

    Suzanne! This is everything! I’m a teacher with a Masters. If I wasn’t married in a dual income household, I wouldn’t be able to afford anything! Growing up, my family immigrated from the Philippines. We couldn’t afford the best clothes the coolest toys or to fly to go on vacation, but I loved my childhood and I’m super thankful for everything my parents did!

  8. Rebekah Hargraves April 12, 2017 at 8:38 am #

    Such a great perspective, Suzanne. Thank you!

  9. Stephanie Gilbert April 12, 2017 at 8:52 am #

    I felt like I was reading about myself! We also qualify for all of those things and live very similarly to your family….down to the fact that I wish I could get a minivan lol. But we are so blessed and wouldn’t trade what we do for the world! We are rich indeed!

  10. Lauren C. Moye April 12, 2017 at 11:07 am #

    I can relate to this post so much! We don’t keep cable TV and we don’t go out to the movies a lot. We also don’t make a lot of big purchases. But we are content with our life (minus the fact that we want out of our current apartment.) We may be poor by monetary means, but we are rich in so many other ways.

    Oh yes – since most of our friends are single – I’d like to add to the list, “Please remember that we have to pay double the amount that you do when we do something.”

  11. Rebekah April 13, 2017 at 11:02 am #

    I love this post!! Like you we have found that living on one income can be trying at times, but I would do anything to be able to stay home with my boys and raise them. There are so many benefits to this, and while we might have to give up things for now, we see a big payoff in the future when our boys are grown and know how to handle money, how to save for things, how to use what they have, and give sacrificially to others.

  12. Nicole Banuelos April 13, 2017 at 11:03 am #

    Suzanne, I love the vulnerability and honesty in this post! You have out done yourself once more!

  13. Laura April 21, 2017 at 1:04 am #

    I love this!! This is almost exactly our life, and it brings me to tears to read!! My husband and I were already living what I thought was a very modest lifestyle; myself a hairstylist, my husband a teacher plus our 2 kids. But when we found out we were expecting baby #3 it just wasn’t even financially worth it for me to continue to work with day care costs. Becoming a one income family was difficult at first but has now been the biggest blessing! You don’t realize how much you can live without and still be ok! Living wiith less has made our family more greatful for what we do have, made us realize all the stuff we don’t actually need, and has helped us to manage our finances even better than before. We are closer as a family and appreciate each other so much more. I’m thankful to be home with my children. We don’t eat out too often, but we do enjoy cooking and hosting potlucks with friends on the weekends. We also love to visit parks and go on Nature hikes, and other outdoor activities that are typically free. Over all, we are definitely a family living on love and thankful for it!

  14. Ashley S April 27, 2017 at 11:07 am #

    I’m a contributor for Red Stick Mom’s Blog in Baton Rouge and this post was just shared on our Facebook page. Thank you so much for writing it. There are so many misconceptions about what it means or doesn’t mean when someone makes a certain paycheck. The truth is much more complicated. The reminder that happiness is found almost exclusively in places that aren’t money is a lesson so many of us could learn.