I made it through Life at the Poverty Line!
Well, I almost made it. I have the rest of the day, but I’m on the home stretch. And thank gosh it is over! Am I allowed to say that? I am so grateful that I earn enough income (and live in Canada and have a wonderful support system) to allow me to live comfortably, in a safe environment, with fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy food and the occasional treat. It’s been a tough month. A journey of discovery for me and what it means to be brought down by something that you can’t control. It’s been a time of evaluating my priorities, and a lot of time to myself to do this in.
It was interesting seeing people’s reaction to the money topic. I don’t think I realized what a touchy subject it would be until I started writing about it. Everyone has a different experience and relationship with money and I thank all those who shared their personal story with us. It was also interesting taking the big leap from my low-income line of $21.40 to my basic needs line of $4 per day. Then thinking about the extreme poverty line of US$1.25 per day.
Recap of the month
I began by defining different options for the poverty line, and which one I chose to use. I argued why I chose what I did. I talked about giving up a trip to the strippers, and what my background and relationship is with money. I was very clear that “this month does not trivialize the lives and concerns of those people who live at the low income line (and I have a few friends who do). This month is an attempt to understand what it’s like to not have money always there.”
Unexpected expenses came up, I had to pay for transit to give blood, I struggled with eating healthy on a budget. I talked about the international extreme poverty line of US $1.25 per day, the cost of poverty in Canada and the emotional and physical struggles poverty can cause. I was hit emotionally by a few comments about how my $21.40 is too much and reacted accordingly, changing my tactic for the month. I wrote about a different ways of looking at poverty - the Ontario Deprivation Index, international poverty lines, why defining a strict poverty line isn’t always good.
I examined documenting poverty (photographs and videos) and the debate of whether this is appropriate (with a great comment from Nikki about taking photos from someone who works with communities who are poor), sugar daddies, earning extra income, choosing to live in poverty/with no money, ways to eat and live for free, living with debt. I shared some personal stories, here and here, from people living in poverty. I revisited extreme couponing and talked about poverty in war times and poverty and obesity. I tried to learn a lot and share different perspectives.
What did I learn?
How do you really simulate life at the poverty line, when you know all along that it will end in a month? You can’t. This month has no more taught me what it’s really like to be poor as it has made poverty enjoyable. It has, however, given me a glimpse into a world where money is a constant stress and worry and where food and emergencies are the only necessities you can spend on in order to keep yourself afloat (and even then, you’re likely to continue the downward spiral).
I also learned to spend only what I need to, to look at the cost of things, and the live on a strict budget – all skills that are really important. I learned to be more humble and put myself in other people’s shoes. I learned to look outside of my world to see what I say comes across to other people. I learned that poverty can affect physical health, but also mental health, which causes a downward spiral. Being poor takes a toll on you as a person, and it’s extremely hard once you’re in it to get out of it.
Where do I go from here with Life at the Poverty Line?
I am donating a chunk of the money I worked for, but didn’t use this month to local shelters and food banks. Any help to get people off the streets and well fed is important. And I would like to give locally to support my community. I will let you know once I have done a little more research into which charities I’ll be giving to.
I will also be more frugal. I understand the value of money a bit more and how to stretch each dollar. I will continue setting a budget of money I can spend and saving the rest for emergencies or a large expense.
Tomorrow I start A Photograph a Day. I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going to do with this topic!