5 Poverty Catch-22s I Have Personally Experienced 41

Pepper Potts shoe

This has nothing to do with this post. I just like Pepper Potts. She’s my role model.

Being poor makes you poorer. This is not a joke. Someone I follow on Twitter recently shared links to a few articles on the subject — articles explaining why it’s actually pretty damn expensive to be poor in ways that no amount of budgeting can fix and that advice on saving money forgets about. Taking advantage of deals and buying in bulk will save you money — if you can afford to let go of a big chunk of it in one go. Investing in quality is costly, and will get you gross looks from people who think you should buy four cheap things for the price of a good one. Loans and payment plans come at high-interest rates you just can’t afford to take on. Things go bust and pile on and on because you can’t replace them. It goes on and on.

This isn’t even taking into account the hypocrisy behind anti-welfare politics, the social pressure to spend money on socializing itself, the stigma behind admitting you can’t afford something, the assumptions that you’re lazy and don’t want to work if you’re unemployed, the assumptions that you cannot possibly be poor if you are employed, the amount of time and energy it takes out of you to fill out paperwork, the anxiety of insecurity, the prejudice and the shushing and the pretenses.

Frankly, it’s exhausting. If you’re poor and you’re also a minority in some way — neuroatypical in my case; disabled, not white, a woman, trans, genderqueer — it’s even worse. You get told to be thankful for what you have, and you find yourself thinking you’re lucky to have a home, because so many don’t — and then you get told you don’t deserve your lifestyle because you’re not doing enough, and someone who works a job shouldn’t live less comfortably than someone who doesn’t.

You know, because “there are always jobs somewhere.”

My family has been living on less than 500€ a month for over six years. Unemployment benefits are something like 430€ a month, and sometimes family helps us out, but sometimes even family thinks you’re not doing enough to look for a job and provide for yourself and your family. Should you really have a cat? Should you really feed him cat food? Should you really get a laptop? What are you really doing all day online when you could be out there looking for a retail job that no one is advertising? Why aren’t you applying to a job that you’re in no way qualified to do?

All this means, among other things, that when I say I want a steady income, my ideals are lower than you might think. What someone else is used to budgeting for food for themselves for a week is what my mom has to budget for food for four people and a cat for a month. It’s not naiveté that makes me think I can live on less, but experience: I don’t know how to live on more.

Here are five of the reasons:

1. High-interest credits and loans are not even an option if you don’t have an income. Unemployment doesn’t count. Two months of revenue from an online shop don’t count. Financing options from tech giants aren’t available to you. The bank will basically say “no,” and then say “no” another five times for giggles. And you’re not asking for a mortgage; you’re asking for the equivalent of a month’s salary for a menial job.

I mean, maybe I could invest in myself and move out and then make the money back, but I won’t know until I spend money that I don’t have and cannot get anyone to lend me. So I’m stuck.

2. Seriously, buying in bulk saves money. Sometimes shops will have three for the price of two offers on my shampoo, but I only have enough cash for one bottle, so I’m screwed. As someone who sells photography prints and products, I continually have to let go of the idea of bulk printing cards, phone cases or anything larger than 5×7 because getting a discount on 8x10s requires buying ten or more of them and I just can’t spend 20€ on the spot when I need to pay for postage. I’m not even going to get into food deals because you might as well cut me up and throw me to the wolves.

3. Looking for a job costs money you don’t have. Some heavily targeted job-seeking websites (and flat-seeking websites!) charge a fee for membership, so you can’t access the job listings unless you pay. You need decent clothes to go a job interview. You need money to print out your resume. And that’s if you even have a computer, and an Internet connection. That all costs money, too.

4. Stuff piles up and you can’t catch up with it. My sister needs new glasses and she’s still wearing the ones from two prescriptions ago. Now the optician says she should get contacts, which are 75€ per eye for six months at minimum. I, too, was wearing glasses from two prescriptions ago until I found low-cost online sites. Not sure how good these are for my eyes, but at least I can read street signs and the weight of my parcels at the post office.

For a long time, we were behind on bills because we couldn’t just pay two at once and stay ahead of them. Not to mention the bills were due before unemployment came in on the 10th of the month.

The oven stopped working a decade ago. We have since used a) a stovetop oven my mom borrowed from the elderly lady she cares for, b) the microwave, a supermarket deal which has had to be replaced twice, c) an electric oven that my great aunt gifted us and which also stopped working a good two years ago, d) the stove. At least the stove keeps working. On gas butane, which keeps going up and isn’t any less expensive than paying for whatever other thing people use for hot water, and let’s not even talk about the electricity bills, which are fucking ridiculous and hey, you can’t contest unfair bills! Legal fees, what legal fees? And hey, so here’s this 300€ monthly bill I can’t afford to pay, and I could contest it but I have to pay it first because otherwise I’ll have the electricity cut off. I’m not going down this road because it’s an anxiety trigger, and these days we’re “lucky” to pay an average of 112€ a month. From 430€ of unemployment benefits. And then there’s the phone bill, which is roughly 50€ a month, and they try to withdraw the money without telling you when.

5. If there’s no money in your account when a company tries to pay your bill, you get charged extra. My phone company has a 15€ fee for it. I had to pay that fee a few months ago even though for the majority of that month, I’d made sure to keep the bank account stocked with the necessary amount of money for that very bill.

This is just a sampling of the many ways people living under the poverty line are pushed and pushed to stay there, and basically screwed for their foreseeable future, which, as you can imagine, is brilliant for morale and gives me all the energy and motivation in the world to get up in the morning and fight against my situation.

Except that, wait. No, it does not. But at least I have a roof over my head, right? And I bought a laptop I needed to contact my support system and work, so I can’t possibly be that bad off.

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  • aphrodite_mine

    Not only will the bill tack on an “you didn’t have enough in your account” fee, but often the bank adds one too, for the… inconvenience of you not having enough money. Which. Yeah. I am feeling you on all of these.

    • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

      This morning my mom told me the bank had charged me a percentage of what I’d spent using her debit card. So my flight that was 76€ actually cost me nearly 86€. On a DEBIT card. What the hell?

  • http://sarastrauss.blogspot.com/ Sara Strauss

    Thanks for writing this and putting this out there, Lix! People who are middle class (like myself) and rich often forget that it’s not easy being poor and that sacrifices have to be made and things go left unfixed and people judge you for buying one nice thing when the money could go elsewhere. I wish there was an easy fix for these things. I wish it was easier to climb out of poverty, besides winning the lottery, but unfortunately it isn’t. To put it plainly: it fucking sucks! You seem to be braving all this really well and I wish you well! I hope when you get to London that things will be better for you!

    • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

      Thank you for your support. My sweet anons are already showing up so it’s very appreciated.

  • fork

    All this from someone who refuses to work a lower paying job, because you know no income is way better than a little bit of income. Stop sleeping 19 hours a day and leave the house and find something, anything to earn income. Oh and your parents are poor but you dont mind them spending money to feed you.

    • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

      “someone who refuses to work a lower paying job” Not true.

      “sleeping 19 hours a day” Not true (usually).

      “find something, anything to earn income” I did and I am.

      “you dont mind them spending money to feed you.” Well, no. I don’t mind. It’s not like I haven’t given my mom money on countless occasions to buy food, or like I don’t pay for all my own non-basic foodstuffs. When you live with people you care about, you make sure none of you starve.

      • fork

        It is right on your twitter when you were yelling at someone else that you wont work a low paying job. (not those exact words but close) Do you even read what you write out in the world? All the pathetic begging, vulgar language, saying you want to stab, kill and murder people? You want people to treat you as a professional but you refuse to act like one. Isn’t that true Ana?

        • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

          I can’t work a low-paying job in London, because I need to make enough money to live there. This is not rocket science.

          Yes, I read all those things. I’m an angry feminist. And your knowing my legal name doesn’t make the stuff you say any less shitty. It just makes you a person who doesn’t respect my choice of name.

          • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

            (I also think low-paying jobs are bad for the industry, unfair, etc, but that’s a story for another time, I guess.)

  • Vicky

    You could always sell your new mac and tablet and buy your mom a microwave or maybe pay a few bills for the family! It’s kind of obnoxious to talk about your family being crippled by poverty when you have no trouble spending hundreds, or even thousands on new high tech gadgets and holidays for yourself.

    • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

      If I sold my laptop, I wouldn’t have a long-term way to make money.

      I’ve been paying the phone bill since I made enough money to pay the phone bill. My tablet was on sale for less than 200€ and it was for both me, my mom and my sister… and the holiday is an investment in my career because I want to *move* and *earn more money*.

      • Vicky

        So if the move all works out and you start making money in London will you be sending your wages home to help your family or will you upgrade your tablet to an ipad instead? Because that’s what people who are actually poor have to do. Also.. What about food, gas, electricity and healthcare? Do you pay your own way for those too? Because a phone bill is just a drop in the ocean when it comes to having to house, cloth and feed a whole family and a phone is not exactly a necessity. I’m sure if you were really poor you would have done a grocery shop with 200 bucks, not buy a tablet to compliment your top of the range laptop. I’m sorry, I find it hard to have any sympathy for you when you are so self indulgent and frivolous with your money.

        • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

          I had my reasons to buy a tablet, and I’ve actually regretted it a couple of times since, but the truth is, we’re all using it. My mom gets to watch TV on it when my father is in a mood, and my sister can talk to her friends without spending money on texts and phone calls. I get to use Instagram and read. Sometimes the best investment seems frivolous on the outside but actually helps out hugely with general mood.

          I often pay for gas as well, yes. I pay for my own meds when necessary.

          I put together my ideal income and it involves sending a good chunk of it to my mom. I’ve always wanted to help her move out with my sister; not sure how you missed that. My big goal is hiring my mom to assist me with sewing and things and providing her with a proper income.

          I really didn’t buy a tablet to complement my the-cheapest-Mac-there-was laptop. I got a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 for, IIRC, 169€. It was the least expensive I could find that didn’t look like crap, and it did all the functions I was dying to have handy.

          As for your sympathy, you can keep it. I don’t make these posts for sympathy, I make them to raise awareness.

          • Vicky

            Raising awareness for what? Entitled brats who won’t go out and work in supermarket or cafe just to get by like everyone else but instead begs favours and money from internet strangers for a living? I feel so sorry for your parents. You’re not poor, your just lazy, entitled and selfish.

          • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

            Raising awareness for the cost of living with little money, welfare recipients, etc. Maybe planting a seed in brains a little less thick than yours that may be open to the idea that unemployment isn’t laziness.

            I don’t beg for a living. Most of the money I’ve earned online since my campaign (the rewards of which I have been in fact working on, take a look at my Instagram or something) has been through design work. Which is work. I’m also sad that you feel sorry for my parents considering the things I tell about my father all the time, but okay. Sure. You can comment under your real name, by the way, it’s fine.

          • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

            PS I would take a job in a supermarket or a cafe. I’m actually considering low-wage internships even, just not full-time ones since I need to keep designing. I’m not sure where you got the idea that I wouldn’t take a supermarket job. I’ve even applied to some. My mom has applied to many. It’s my father who turns up his nose at anything that pays less than 1,000€ a month. I’m the one who’s constantly saying, that’s 1,000€ we don’t have now.

  • Harper Yi

    The absolute classism and ableism in these comments is absurd. I am upper-middle-class but my parents were immigrants. My mother was so poor in her childhood that they didn’t have a table to eat meals at– they would just empty out the drawers, pull them out, and flip them over and that’s what they ate on.
    Dear assholes who have posted before me, read a fucking economics textbook and actually look into the economics of being poor. The system is not set up for people who fall below a certain minimum income to succeed and get out of poverty. For the neuroatypical, finding work that you can actually do, that doesn’t absolutely traumatize you, that is actually worth the work on your end you’ll have to do to for whatever money you’ll make, is really fucking hard.
    I feel for you Lix, and fuck the idiots who think they are experts at making hard choices they have never been faced with that you deal with every day.
    Excuse my fucking language.

    • fork

      Don’t comment on what you do not know yourself. I have been homeless WITH children to feed. I got up at 3 am every day to go to one of my many jobs to feed my children. I also managed to put myself through college. How did I do it? By not pissing and moaning all over the internet about it. I was too busy working shitty jobs. It was hard, it was a lot of work, but I got a roof over our heads and an education under my belt. Its hard work digging your way out and it can be done, but you have to stop with the pitty parties, get your ass out of bed and DO something about it.

      • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

        This really doesn’t make you any less ableist. Or ignorant of what the job market is actually like right now where I am. You’re just not reading anything I say, are you? Boobs. Boooobs are good. You don’t deserve boobs.

      • Harper Yi

        Did you know that some people are unable to do those jobs without getting sicker? Without breaking down? And no it’s not just a lack of will or strength. They are chemical, medical conditions. Good for you that you accomplished so much, but a lot of people are in circumstances that prevent the from working normally. Lix is working, She is providing her family with income however she can. Talking about poverty does not actually cause poverty. Lix is not hosting a pity party, she’s talking about her life on her blog (what a fucking shocker) and the content she writes on her blog actually allows her blog to be a source of income, so her talking about her life actually doesn’t just NOT preclude her from making money, but HELPS HER MAKE MONEY.

        • fork

          Ohh Im sorry I did not understand. Crappy jobs make you sick, professional I don’t get my hands dirty dont. So sorry.

          • Harper Yi

            Um, no? I’m very confused by your syntax, but it’s not just a division of “crappy” versus “professional” jobs. It’s about the working conditions, the hours, the flexibility, and what your medical conditions allow you to handle. Lix has already expressed a willingness to do manual labor, as she makes clothes with her own hands, so it’s not a matter of her only willing to work from behind a screen either. And you probably have at least a basic understanding of how being sick incurs more medical expenses, so yeah, some jobs will dig you a bigger hole than help you get out.

          • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

            It really doesn’t have anything to do with dirt? Or manual labor? Like I told someone, I’ve applied to jobs in supermarkets and cafés. What I have to be careful about is how hard something will be on my social anxiety. If I’m going to get a job to stop me worrying about money and I end up breaking down every day because it’s so hard on my social anxiety (like these door-to-door salesman jobs are, and those are the only ones that I seem to find here in Spain), what is the point?

    • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

      Harper, thank you. Thank you so much.

  • http://www.octoberjune.com/ Elizabeth Benson

    Lix, I would like to say, I think this post is brilliant. Thank you for writing this out, it’s all spot on! I am so sorry for all of the ignorant, ableist idiots that have commented such rude and unprecedented things. Call me a fucking optimist, but can’t we all get along and understand that no matter what, it’s hard to be a human being nowadays? And it’s a damn sight more difficult when you’re dealing with the problems outlined in your post. I’ve been there, done that, it ain’t fun. I support your endeavors 100% and I really do hope things start looking up. I’m here for you whenever.

    • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

      Thank you. <333

  • http://smilingridm.blogspot.com/ Ingrid

    Lix, thank you for sharing this. This is eye-opening and so honest! It’s very brave of you to put this up in the face of the criticism and scorn that your situation can (but shouldn’t) engender. Poverty is such a complicated issue, especially considering the “catch 22″s you mention! Like Sara, I hope London opens new doors and opportunities for you!
    Much love, Ingrid

    • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

      I was hoping the matter-of-fact tone would keep people from doing their trolling routine, but alas. Thank you for your support. <3

  • Sarah

    I make a few dollars above minimum wage (but don’t work full-time, unfortunately) and have benefits through my job (luckily) and am also in a situation where I don’t have to pay rent…and it’s still a struggle.

    • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

      I really don’t understand how so many people don’t realize that LOTS of welfare recipients actually have jobs. I hear about so many people like you who struggle to make ends meet while still working. It’s awful. :(

  • http://www.thelovelyroot.com Liz Griffin

    Oh, yes and amen and amen again. I know what you mean, 100%! I was just thinking about a job interview I went to 12 years ago. I was in college, broke as broke can be. The interviewer looked me up and down and said, “I just want you to know I can’t hire you on the basis of how you’re dressed. You’re not wearing hose and those shoes are totally inappropriate. I’ll interview you anyway so you can have the practice.” I answered, honestly, that I couldn’t afford to buy new clothes for the interview because I needed the job and I only had $5 to my name. I should have walked out but I allowed myself to be subjected to the humiliating interview. I’ve never forgiven that woman, honestly.
    Now, according to American standards, our family is well above the “poverty line” but I don’t know who decides these things. My husband is the only wage earner and I can’t afford to go back to work (I would, gladly!) because daycare costs are so high (for two kids, twice our mortgage payment. Seriously!). I am so grateful for the roof over our head but fearful everyday of the things that can happen- leaks, broken appliances, rotting windows and doors. But somehow we always have what we need!
    Keep on keeping on, don’t give up. You’ll get ahead one day!

    • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

      That’s horrible. I can see how you’d have trouble forgetting that.

      Man, my windows AND my door have been faulty for years. The door won’t lock/close properly, one of the window handles is held together with a screw and the other window needs to be slammed so it will close properly and not let in the cold. And it’s not even on my radar to fix them. Then there’s the water heater I can’t get to work since it broke and got “fixed” (so I have to ask my parents every time I need to shower, which my anons apparently think is outrageous), the shower that leaks, the two broken armchairs in the living room that pretty much serve as places to put things on because you can no longer sit on them, the broken tab on the floor rod by my desk, the pieces of wall that keep falling off behind my door because of my sister’s habit of slamming it… It goes on and on.

      Most of it doesn’t even register because I’m used to it. Would be nice to be able to get things repaired when they break, though.

      Thank you. <3

  • http://www.lifethroughathousandstories.blogspot.com/ Daphne Populiers

    Hey Lix, I was wondering, does Spain have something like a Food Bank? My dad works as a volunteer for the Dutch Food Bank over here and people in situations like your family can apply for a weekly food box over here. It’s still not a real solution of course, but it’s a little help to people that are in these extremely difficult positions. Even here in The Netherlands more and more people are applying for the food bank, and we are still one of the richer EU countries. Spain has definitely been hit hard when it comes to unemployment percentages. We’re feeling the economic crisis over here too, but it can’t be compared to the situation in Spain. Spain might be a Western European country, a member of the EU, but it truly has a worse economic situation than The Netherlands or the UK for example. I wonder if the people that commented rather harsh on this post are living in Spain themselves right now.
    I hope London is going to work out for you and provides you with the opportunities to build a good life for yourself and your family!

    • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

      We do! I don’t know if there’s a weekly option, but we’ve made use of local food banks a few times when money was tight (er, nonexistent). Thank you!

  • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

    Thank you! I’m self-taught and I’m honestly so proud of my English and my writing skills – I love it when people remark on it. I do sponsored posts every now and then, but I’m definitely working on making more money off blogging. I’m also thinking about magazines/newspapers – I want to write more activism-like posts, but I’m not sure how to go about finding places that will not only take them but also compensate me for it. I did submit this post to BlogHer, though! I’ll have a look at the tips, maybe I can find some sites that way! (I actually got a writing gig from the problogger board in December, but for some reason I completely failed at meeting my deadlines and hold it.) Thank you!

  • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

    I’d never heard of the term ESA, but before I got on meds, my cat was the closest thing I had to it! I became attached so quickly and for the six months I wasn’t sure we’d be able to keep him due to my sister’s allergies, my mom realized just what a difference he made in my behavior.

    My cat eats sardines and ham and the wings and neck of my quails (raw) sometimes, but I think feeding him human food might actually be more expensive than feeding him cat food due to his weirdo tastes.

    My laptop is honestly my sole source of income right now. Even if my tangible item shops generated proper money, I would still need a laptop to manage them. On my old one, I couldn’t even edit pictures – Photoshop constantly crashed, and it was super slow when it didn’t. I couldn’t load blogs at all, which is why I didn’t start blogging properly (another source of income) until I got my Mac. I need my laptop to edit and deliver photography, too. It’s ESSENTIAL. And it needed to be a Mac – which, again, I got the cheapest there was, WITH an education discount – because all the apps I’d accumulated over the years were for Mac. Like, I could have got something else, but on top of hating it, I would have had to spend money and time acquiring new apps and replacing Mac-only ones.

    I’ve gone on about it ad nauseam, but people don’t listen. It’s such a pain.

    I ignore SO many things, honestly. Like I told Liz below, there are lots of things in my house that are broken or faulty. Even my camera lens has a hitch. But people don’t see the things I don’t mention.


    • http://itsemmaelise.tumblr.com/ Emma Tilton

      Ya, ESA is an Emotional Service Animal. But anyways, keep doing you! HCXO


  • Susan

    I am curious as I am going through some medical diagnosis myself. What have you actually been diagnosed with? How do you cope with your diagnosis?

    • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

      Actually diagnosed with? Officially? “Temporary tachycardia.” Also Raynaud’s syndrome and trichotillomania. I’ve never been formally diagnosed with anxiety or depression, though a few years back finally doctors started to throw around the word anxiety regarding my propensity for tachycardia (which has calmed down of late). It didn’t sound like they were talking about a mental disorder, to be honest.

      Another psych I saw once (hated him, wouldn’t go back) diagnosed me tentatively with generalized anxiety disorder, psychosis tendencies, paranoia, and Asperger’s syndrome.

      Honestly, for me, putting a name on what I have and being able to treat it is 100% a good thing. I don’t need to ‘cope’ with the diagnosis – the diagnosis helps me cope with my condition/s. But I’ve had a massive amount of trouble finding a doctor that would take my mental health issues seriously beyond me asking for meds and him going “do you think you’re depressed? You have anxiety? Tell me how you feel so I can pick the best antidepressant for you.”

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  • http://lixhewett.com/ Lix Hewett

    thank you so much for your support. <3

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