Where I’m coming from
For every experiment, it’s important to know where the subject is coming from and their history. It’s hard to get proper results without this knowledge. So here is a little revealing of my financial history…
I come from a middle class family. My mom was a nurse and my dad owned a small lumber company. We were never rich, but we never lived without. I have never had to worry where my next meal was coming from. I started baby-sitting when I was thirteen, then got a job at a fast food restaurant when I was sixteen. I’ve worked since then, sometimes two jobs to make enough money to afford what I need. I worked while going to university and saved enough money to be able to move to England for a couple of years. It is not cheap to live there, so my experiences in scary shared housing (one house had a ‘grow room’ on the top floor, I lived in the laundry room on a used mattress I found and the bathroom was covered in black mould) were all that I could afford. I also lived in Vancouver, where my boyfriend and I carried two very heavy used sofas over four blocks and uphill three so we had something to sleep on, and cooked pasta in the one (frying) pan we had until we could find jobs. I did my grad work in Australia where I slept on the floor for a month because I couldn’t afford to buy a bed.
I’ve had times when I had to watch my spending and count my pennies. But all of those times were my own doing and not something thrust upon me by circumstance or tragedy. I’ve always had a roof over my head and something to eat. I don’t know what it feels like to lose everything or to be considered below the poverty line. I never want to know exactly what that feels like. I am grateful every day for everything I have. Now I work at a restaurant to pay the bills. I do okay for myself and although I can be frugal, I also have money to spare for dinners out or to buy that special something I’ve had my eye on. I also have an extremely close-knit safety net of people (family and friends) who I know if anything happened would be there to bail me out. Many people don’t have this and I am so grateful every day that I do (a topic I will discuss more during upcoming posts).
I want to be 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. It’s a way for others to see what it’s like to live without, ways to live cheaply, and what happens to me physically and psychologically as a result.
I know that it will be over in a month and that knowledge taints the experiment, but I am hoping the lessons I learn will still come through.