Except for a couple of years, I have been living on or below the poverty level for nearly 18 years. So I think I speak with some “personal authority” on how it goes.
It is a mixed bag, but unfortunately you lose more than just money. Many not-so-good traits and habits happen. Living constantly in survival mode has turned me into a skeptic, made me cranky, angry, sometimes rude, pessimistic or overly optimistic, which I know doesn’t make sense. I have learned to watch the optimism because that can too soon change to the opposite.
Money may not buy you love (the jury is out on that one), but without enough money to live on, I do some things others might find crazy or unbelievable. My biggest financial issues don’t usually include food (more on that one in a sec), but health and home (including utilities’ escalating costs and repairs). Despite scrupulous monthly budgeting, my health expenses always go above budget – the last few months hundreds over budget. The latest is my prescription eyeglasses which have to be replaced. My vision (excluding the glaucoma) is the same as when my eyes were tested the end of 2014 when I purchased my new prescription glasses, so getting a new pair of glasses now doesn’t please me, to say the least.
Saturday I had just returned home from the first round of grocery shopping, placed my bags of groceries on the veranda between the front doors and hauled out my keys. The keys slipped from my fingers and fell to the ground. When I bent down to retrieve them, my sunglasses fell off, landing on the soft bags. One frame side (the part attaching to the ear) fell off. I was very angry at God (not watching out for me) and after putting the groceries away and eating a light lunch, I rushed to The Bay Optical where I had originally purchased the glasses. They can’t be fixed permanently because of how it broke off and the company doesn’t make those frames anymore. So, a whole new pair of glasses. Of course, the one-year warranty was up but the optician glued the frame back on and after I went into my poor senior-living status and I asked, she did agree it could be glued on again until I could afford a new pair. Because my vision is the same, so same prescription, the cost is a bit lower – but still more than I can afford now, what with house and property repairs – the eaves trough situation I had blogged about previously and the one property thing I was saving for – some tree and branch removal issues. Hopefully the temporary remedy my son suggested for the eaves trough will work a bit longer than planned. Trees must be done this spring, the earlier the better before leaves appear and plants around the trees pop up.
The health issues escalate the supplements and now there are the monthly eye-drops and having too much income to qualify for the Ontario government drug co-payment play for seniors. The government scrapped the increase on this plan (I would still be above a few hundred dollars in income to qualify). But the deductible starts all over again each Aug.1. Fortunately my son will now pay the difference.
That brings up something on a broader scale. CARP (formerly Canadian Association of Retired Persons) has stated that many seniors don’t get prescriptions filled because they can’t afford them. CARP is lobbying the government for a Canada-wide drug prescription plan for seniors – heck everybody could use one, at least up to a higher income level.
As for food, I do budget and usually stay within it each week, occasionally go a few dollars higher, but then sometimes I’m under budget. Not easy. Here’s my little secret – I ration my food, not only spreading out meat and fish dishes into several meals, but dividing up some fruit such as oranges into two or three meals (depends on the size of the orange). I buy lots on sale and yes, there are some tinned meats and fish in my food repertoire. In spring and summer I have a vegetable and herb garden, so that helps.
The garden is one big reason I continue living in a house. I also like this house (despite the property problems that crop up). My garden, my writing, my family and friends, reading, TV, walking help sustain me. They have to. I can’t afford even a few concerts and plays, travel only to visit family (I am grateful for that) or the occasional day trip to Aurora and the like. Bucket list? Can’t afford to carry through with anything on a bucket list.
Living poor is a struggle. Perhaps the only plus is learning to be resourceful. But at what cost? Your health? And one thing I have learned from experience – mine and others. You can’t depend on God to help. Just look at all the poor people, especially the homeless. God helps those who help themselves? More like, just help yourself – if you can.
Only Child Writes